I started homeschooling my daughter when she started kindergarten, after homeschooling my oldest son, who has autism, the last semester of his senior year in public high school. Halfway into Laura’s kindergarten year, a tragic event stopped us cold in our tracks – my husband was shot and paralyzed in an attempted armed robbery.
As his caregiver, I felt (at the time) like I couldn’t give him 100% and homeschooling 100%, so Laura was enrolled in the local public school for the remainder of kindergarten, and for the next two years. A double-whammy diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD, coupled with chronic migraines, re-opened our homeschool almost three years ago.
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Laura has thrived in homeschool for third and fourth grades. Yes, she could have done better on tests, but homeschool is where she thrives (and her migraines went from 15 a month in public school down to about four a year).
When I started homeschooling, I had tons of questions: curriculum? Dedicated homeschool space? Socialization? Do I follow my state’s course of study?
Because of recent events in our nation, there is an unprecedented rise in the number of homeschooling families. This post serves to answer some questions I had as a new homeschooler and provide some resources.
What about socialization?
With public schools’ mandated masks, six-feet-apart, have lunch and PE and specials in classrooms, not to mention library, the socialization question is now moot. If homeschoolers have other homeschooling friends over to play, do seatwork together, or work on joint projects, they will have more socialization than kids in public school. With my daughter, because she is with adults most of the day, she can carry on conversations with adults and kids alike with confidence. Don’t worry about this.
Dedicated homeschool space?
If you are blessed to have a space in your home that can be a dedicated homeschool space, by all means, go for it. I live in a three-bedroom, two-bath house where the “open concept” is alive and well, and the living room/dining area/kitchen are all open to one another. Now, the smallest bedroom doubles as a guest room/office, so I still don’t have a dedicated homeschool space, and continue to use the dining area.
The dining area is right off the kitchen (again, open floor plan) and I really like this. Laura can do seat work while I put something in the slow cooker for dinner, or wash dishes. I’m right there within earshot and sight line if she has a question or wants to talk through the lesson.
We have a small shelf in the dining area that holds this year’s curriculum so we don’t have to dig for it. We have another cabinet that holds resource books and things we don’t use all the time but still need to have handy. A chalkboard and dry erase board on the wall complete the ensemble. When we read books together, whether it’s literature, history, or science, we go to the sofa to read as it’s more comfortable and we can both read along in the same book. When we watch a YouTube video to explain a concept, we watch it from the sofa.
Our entire home is meant for learning – we have science experiments in the kitchen, large craft or art projects strewn on the living room floor, and the dining table is for seat work. This works for our family.
There are many choices for curriculum. You can do an all online curriculum, or buy printed, all-inclusive curriculum. You can do what I do and put together an eclectic curriculum based on your child’s needs and where they’re at academically. Or, you can do all three. The most important thing is to do what is best for your child, even if you have multiple children – each child is an individual with individual needs. Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan.
The beauty of homeschool is that you as the parent choose the course of study. You don't have to follow a set course of study from any state. With high school, if your child is interested in going to college, have him choose two or three colleges or universities that he's interested in applying to, and work with your teenager to develop a high school course of study based on those college/university requirements.
Budget is also a consideration. You can have a completely wonderful and acceptable homeschooling curriculum without spending a lot. Or anything. Just because someone buys a $500 curriculum doesn’t mean that any better – or worse – than someone who spends $20 on curriculum.
I like old-school textbooks that existed before common core was common. So, for the third year in a row, I have purchased some textbooks for my daughter on EBay. Her math, science, and English textbooks for 5th grade have all been purchased, and I spent less than $20 on the entire lot.
For spelling, I find spelling lists for her grade level on Pinterest, and create activities for them. A good dictionary book (not the Internet) provides definitions which she writes down. For cursive writing and spelling practice, I use this website to create cursive writing worksheets that are her spelling words. I use this website to create word finds and crossword puzzles. Playing board and card games and Hangman using her spelling words helps her learn them, too.
Laura will have some new subjects this coming year, such as Spanish. I utilize Schoolhouse Teachers for her Spanish class, and as supplemental material on other subjects such as history, unit studies, and grammar. Schoolhouse Teachers is wonderful because they mail a quarterly magazine, included with your membership, about homeschooling that is rich with ideas and encouragement.
For set curricula, I like to buy from a website where I can browse and read about each product, such as Christianbook.com. For some subjects or as supplemental material, I use Evan-Moor workbooks which are an incredible resource for all grade levels.
When Laura reaches high school levels, I’ll use 7 Sisters Homeschool, which has no-busy-work curricula and is all PDF based. They host a wide variety of subjects written by veteran homeschooling moms.
As you can gather from my daughter’s diagnoses, special needs is a thing in our house. Actually, all four of my children have special needs, though the three oldest are adults and have moved on to their own houses (and, one got married!). It can be downright exhausting to parent special needs children, let alone homeschool them.
I have found that my daughter thrives at home, where there is less stress and zero bullying. Still, parents who are homeschooling children with special needs require encouragement and inspiration. That is why, with the Lord’s incredible help, I’ve developed the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference, the first of its kind in the nation. Featuring over 20 speakers presenting over 30 sessions on homeschooling special needs, including the incredible Temple Grandin in a keynote. The conference boasts all pre-recorded videos for your convenience, and lifetime access to boot, for just $22. For more information, click here. To register, click here.
In public school, kids have “specials” – library, PE, music, art. Homeschoolers have these things, too. We go to the public library once a week, Laura is constantly making art projects that tie into what she’s learning in history or science, and she goes outside to play, and play hard, for PE. We’ve also been known to incorporate health lessons in “physical education.” She also learns life skills, such as doing her own laundry, cooking (she loves making eggs for her own breakfast in the morning), and baking. Just today she finally (!!!) chose an instrument to learn, as we told her she needed to choose one for the fifth grade. She chose the ukulele!
For attendance, we use the AppleCore online attendance that is a perk of membership with Schoolhouse Teachers. When Laura starts ninth grade, it will be used to house her grades, too. The AppleCore program then takes her grades and generates an official high school transcript. I tell you, the annual membership for Schoolhouse Teachers is one of my most favorite -- and utilized -- resources.
Homeschooling can be a delightful time, if you relax and allow learning to happen, at any time. For us, homeschooling is not between the hours of 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. It is 24 hours a day. We focus less on education and more on learning. Every experience can be a learning experience, and that is the attitude we choose to adopt.
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I wish you all the best!
© 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Many homeschooling groups and organizations are reporting higher-than-ever interest in homeschooling. With the rise of children being pulled from public school to be homeschooled, inevitably, there will be younger siblings who will want to "do school," too.
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The last thing parents want to do is discourage little ones from learning. Preschoolers like to imitate their older brothers and sisters, so foster a love of learning by incorporating them into homeschool too. Here are a few ways to do just that (and help you teach your homeschoolers at the same time).
Maintain a schedule
Most, if not all, children learn best when on a schedule. It doesn't have to be down to the hour or minute, after all, this isn't public school. For homes blessed with preschoolers and older kids, try to get the older kids up first to start their day. For little ones who wake with the sun, get the older kids up, too, and have "morning time." Incorporate a family read-aloud while you eat breakfast. You can include a devotional during this time, too. Make sure that naps for the youngest member of the family are not ignored or rushed, and mealtimes are on a set schedule.
Include reading time
For children learning to read, or to improve on their reading, have them read to the preschooler while other children do different work at the dining table or a dedicated homeschool space. This gives the reader good practice and involves (read: entertains) the youngest.
Reading to children, of all ages, helps them to visualize the words in their minds and learn them. Even older elementary and middle school students enjoy being read to (and so do your high schoolers, though they would never admit it).
Some precocious little ones will want to do their work, too. After all, they see their older siblings with workbooks and books and manipulatives, so why should they have all the fun? You can acquire pre-k workbooks for children so they can do their lessons, too. Age-appropriate puzzles, blocks, and educational toys are all great things to keep on hand.
It's important to remember that before the age of seven, kids learn mainly by playing. Even children in kindergarten need a great deal of play time -- that is how they learn best. So the educational toys, puzzles, and toys that boost the imagination such as puppets, kitchen sets, and dolls aren't just for "playtime" -- they're instrumental in learning.
Music and art
Music and art are crucial to mind development, in all ages. When writing, I often play Christian concentration music in the background to help me focus, and when homeschooling, I do the same thing for my daughter. Playing instrumental music softly in the background helps develop a peaceful atmosphere in which to learn. Preschoolers thrive in homes where music is appreciated.
Buy too-large plain tshirts to use as smocks, and let your preschooler paint with easy-clean paints in the kitchen or outside. Use brushes that are meant for little hands and be sure to display their artwork when dry.
If you can find a music class for little children, by all means, enroll him or her. Or, if you can't find a class, ask around and try to make one. Or, if all else fails, buy some kiddie instruments and teach them how to play. Recorders, drums, and little guitars are easily found.
Homeschool is all about learning
Your older children need to have some one-on-one time as you teach them, and your preschooler needs you too, and cloning can't be done. The best thing is to work with your preschooler's need to be included, and make sure your other kids know that any help they need that requires complete attention will have to wait for naptime. When homeschooling, it doesn't have to be between the hours of 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Homeschool and learning can be spread throughout the day. The important thing is to cultivate a love of learning throughout the home and with all the members of the family -- even the youngest ones.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan for children with -- or without -- special needs. You're not bound by any restraints on time or subjects so the child can move at his or her pace -- actually learning, not regurgitating facts quickly forgotten.
There is a problem with homeschooling special needs children, tweens, and teens, and that is a lack of assistance and encouragement. Parenting a child with special needs is hard enough; homeschooling a child with special needs can be unmercifully brutal. Homeschooling parents of special needs children need to be encouraged and inspired and know they are not alone.
When my oldest son was in the middle of his senior year in public school, in the special needs department because of autism and bipolar disorder, he had some pretty severe behavior issues that were directly related to being bullied. While I didn't officially homeschool him (as in, withdraw and make a homeschool), I did facilitate home-bound studies and teach him much more than was required -- it was my first foray into homeschooling. He walked at graduation that June and received an occupational certificate of completion.
Now, I teach my youngest daughter in our [official] homeschool. She has dyslexia, chronic migraines, and ADHD. Irregardless of the specific special needs, it's impossible to find a homeschool conference dedicated to teaching special needs of all kinds.
As a mom with four special needs children, who is a homeschooler and a homeschool blogger, I am ecstatic to announce the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference. My nine years' worth of event planning has helped me recruit giants in the homeschooling blogging community and special needs advocates such as the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin.
I know, full well, that parents of special needs kiddos have a very difficult time going to in-person conferences -- that's why it's online. I also know that live online conferences are hard, too, because you have to be committed to sit at the computer and watch live sessions. Special needs parents don't have time for that. All the sessions for the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference are pre-recorded, so you can pause, help a child, go to the bathroom, and not miss anything.
The conference brings participants over 19 speakers with over 30 sessions on encouraging and inspiring homeschooling parents of special needs children, tweens, and teens. A few sessions include:
I am so excited to announce the keynotes of the conference. Not only is Durenda Wilson sharing her wisdom in the keynote "Unhurried Homeschooling: Why We Need to Slow Down," and Lee Felix of Like Minded Musings is speaking on "3 Keys to Parenting the Heart of Your Special Needs Child," and Carol Anne Swett of Homeschool Answer Mom is speaking on staying the course and overcoming doubt during your special needs homeschooling journey in her keynote "Homeschooling When You Can't See The Finish Line," but renowned autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will be sharing her thoughts on teaching special needs children of all ages in a conversation she had with me.
I am so honored to have these incredible men and women -- giants in the homeschool blogging world and special needs advocates -- join me for this first-ever Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference. Participants will receive lifetime access for the sessions, plus a digital swag bag of coupons, printables, and freebies from speakers and sponsors. In addition, participants will have access to a social media group for interaction and community-building, because, you are not alone.
Sponsors of the conference are Homeschooling One Child, BJU Press Homeschool, True North Homeschool Academy, Powerline Productions, and HSLDA.
This conference is just $22. For just $22 you as a homeschooling parent of a special needs child can be encouraged and inspired to keep on homeschooling your precious gifts -- your children. The conference goes live on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, so don't delay! To register for this incredible conference, click here today.
The homeschool community is very mommy-centric: most of the parents doing to active, daily teaching of homeschooled students are, in fact, moms. But dads have a wealth of wisdom and guidance to impart on their children. Let's look at four ways to be an awesome homeschool dad.
To write this post, I asked my husband, Greg, his thoughts on what it takes to be an awesome homeschool dad.
First on Greg's list is patience. "Understand that you had to learn it too," Greg said. While reinforcing multiplication tables, for example, take it at the child's pace. Make learning fun instead of a chore.
Look on your role as a homeschooler as just that: a homeschooler, with your wife, instead of "principal" or "administrator." Both parents are homeschooling the children, not "my wife homeschools our kids," but "we homeschool our kids." You, dad, are as much homeschooling your kids as your wife is.
Your kids may learn differently than you, and that's okay. "Just because flash cards didn't work for me, doesn't mean they don't work for my child," said Greg. It's important to be creative and teach according to your child's learning style. Plus, being creative helps inject life into homeschool and fosters a love of learning. Partner with your wife on making homeschool a place where learning is celebrated and enjoyed.
Be an active teacher. Greg has a degree in horticulture from The Ohio State University, so he likes to plant seeds and actively teach Laura by doing. A lot of learning is not via textbook or lecturing: it's by the simple act of life. Making a garden (whether it's out in the yard or in pots on the patio) together is an important life skill to learn, and it's by the act of doing it that Greg imparts knowledge onto our daughter.
As a full-time wheelchair user (Greg was paralyzed in an attempted armed robbery in 2015), he enjoys playing wheelchair basketball and tennis. During the times he plays tennis, he makes it a point of taking Laura with him, and now she is learning tennis. She goes with us to basketball tournaments out of state, and during those trips, she's learning logistics (packing and loading a car), listening to audiobooks, social interaction with other people of different abilities, and how to travel. All great things to learn.
Most importantly, as a full-time wheelchair user, Greg is constantly modeling determination, dedication, and a positive attitude for our daughter. Life throws some awful curve balls at us many times, and it's in those times that we can either choose to curl up in a fetal position and whine, or deal with it. Either way, character is being shaped. The question is: what shape?
Support and love your spouse
By far the most important thing awesome homeschool dads can do is to support your wife and be a homeschooling couple. Go to homeschool conventions together, explore catalogs and curricula together, and talk with other homeschool dads. Take a day off work and homeschool the kids while your wife takes some much-needed alone time. Understand that housework takes a beating due to homeschool; take it upon yourself to look at housework as being the responsibility of everyone who lives in the house, not just your wife. Don't "help" your wife by washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms, as that implies it's all her responsibility. Just do it--without anticipating or expecting praise.
An awesome homeschool dad loves the Lord first with all his heart, mind, and soul, and his wife second, his children third, and honors his work fourth. When an awesome homeschool dad puts relationships in that order, he cannot fail.
In Jesus' Name,
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This post is sponsored by College Prep Science. Copyright 2020 by Greg Landry.
College admission standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are critically important for two reasons - they are an important part of the college admission decision and academic scholarships are often based on this score (higher score usually means more scholarship money). This score may make the difference in a college acceptance decision or in thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.
I started helping homeschooled students with ACT prep over 14 years ago as I helped our children and then students from other families in classes. Now, more than ever, it makes sense to laser focus on the ACT.
First, a little background. Most colleges and universities require that students take either the ACT or SAT and that the score is reported to them as part of a student's application process. All colleges and universities will accept either test for the application process. Some students take and report both. Since 2012, more students take the ACT than the SAT and that gap widens every year. The SAT is rapidly losing market share.
While a majority of students used to prepare for and take both tests, more and more students are now focusing all of their preparation on the ACT and only taking the ACT. The conventional wisdom used to be that you should prep for, and take, both tests. The rationale was that because of the differences in the tests you may score significantly better on one than on the other. Actually, that rarely happens (although my anecdotal experience is that homeschooled students tend to perform better on the ACT). The scores for the vast majority of students who take both tests are very similar. Some would suggest that students should take the PSAT because of the chance of becoming a national merit scholar. But the chances of that happening are very, very small and in my opinion not worth the potential downside except in rare situations.
Several reasons I believe students should laser focus (and become an expert) on taking the ACT:
Then, submit one (the best) of those 11th / 12th-grade scores to colleges to which you're applying. 99+% of colleges only require that you submit one of your scores. A few colleges require that you submit all of your ACT or SAT scores but state that they use your best score for admission consideration. Also, admissions personnel that I've had contact with view taking the test multiple times as a sign of a student's determination and perseverance - qualities they want to see in a student.
The experience of taking the ACT multiple times over several years is so important! Imagine the difference between students who take the ACT for the first time in 11th or 12th grade vs. students who are thoroughly familiar with the test when taken in 11th or 12th grade because they've prepared for it for years and have taken it several times! It's huge!
If your student is beyond 9th grade and hasn't started preparing for and taking the ACT yet, no worries - they can get started now and still make significant progress.
Homeschool dad, scientist, and former college professor, Greg Landry, offers live, online homeschool science classes, Homeschool ACT Prep Bootcamp, the Homeschool Mom’s Science Podcast, in-person two-day science lab intensives nationwide, freebies for homeschool moms, and homeschool print publications that students can be a part of.
It's been one of those days: Laura didn't want to write spelling definitions, she wanted to write them three times each.
She didn't want to read science, she wanted to do a lab instead. She didn't want to...fill in the blank. We've all experienced days in which homeschool was just...well, hard. Gone were the visions of happy children around a table, merrily notebooking with lab books and unit studies...no, in our house, Laura's whining about the injustice of learning decimals while the bushy-tailed cat jumps on the dining/homeschool table, scattering worksheets and thoughts all over the floor.
The distractions of social media are ever present, plus the absurdity of having to make yet another meal that creates yet more dirty dishes...and there's curriculum for next year to think about, labs to plan, lessons to print....let's not forget that we need to formulate an intelligent response to that Harvard woman who wrote that homeschooling article, even though we'll never meet her or send the response in.
Boy! Homeschooling isn't for the weak!
Here's a thought, a deep one, so lean in close: sometimes, I lose myself in the tight-knit, wonderful, and delightful homeschool lifestyle and forget that it's downright difficult to teach my daughter. I get so wrapped up in the homeschool lifestyle that I forget about homeschooling.
It's a bit like marriage, really: we get so wrapped-up-in-love with the idea of marriage that we forget marriage is all about work. Marriage is hard work, but it is worth it. Same with homeschool: it's hard, productive work in which you get to see lightbulbs go off in your child's eyes as they understand concepts, and then they want to talk about them for hours.
A while back my husband, daughter, and I went to Ulysses S. Grant's house in St. Louis, Missouri, then a few weeks ago we were in a store, and she saw a book about him. Even though the book was on an adult reading level, her interest was piqued. It's a glorious thing to talk at length with your child about a historical figure, and have her hold her own in conversations.
We all have seasons in which we consider hanging up our laminator and calling it quits on homeschool. I think, though, that has more to do with us as parents than the kids. If we parents have some sort of deficit in our knowledge, we get anxious when it's time to teach that subject, so we say, "Oh, I couldn't possibly teach my kid Algebra, so we'll only teach through middle school, and she can go to public high school."
Or, we listen to our kids whine all day about missing their friends...listen, here's an unpopular thought: YOU are the parent. YOU know what is best for your child. If your child is missing his friends, by all means, let him hang out with his friends and make new ones at homeschool-related activities. But don't give up -- homeschool is a marathon, in which the prize is far off, but it will be there. It's not a 150m dash or a sprint down the street. No, it's a marathon that lasts years.
My daughter just turned 10 years old. She's in the fourth grade. My husband said to me, "We'll only have her eight more years!" Oh, how that frightened me. Only eight more years to teach her all that she needs to know in math, language arts, history, science....I couldn't be more wrong. We have eight more years to give her a solid foundation on which to build a love of learning that will be with her for the rest of her life, and that foundation is being built even now.
I want to encourage you--this hard homeschool season you're in is just that: a season. You can do it! If you need to take a day or two or a week off, do it. Take a mental health day. Explore curriculum catalogs with your child. Use your love of homeschool to inspire your family, especially your child. Clean off the dining / homeschool table, organize your homeschool spaces, and tackle what 's next.
If you do feel inadequate to teach, though, let me address that: you are not inadequate to teach your own child. That is a lie from the pit of hell. God gave YOU the children to raise, not someone else. You are not inadequate. All throughout school, I didn't so well at math, so it was drilled into me that I couldn't do math. Do you know that hurt me throughout college? I used every C, D, and failing grade I made as confirmation bricks in the wall of my personality. It was only when I started homeschooling Laura that I learned I could do math, because it was all in the way I taught her. I encouraged my daughter and told her that her worth is not based on math or science or reading ability, but who Jesus says she is: a child of God, a daughter of the Most High King, who is made in His image: smart, bright, inquisitive, and kind, among other adjectives.
You are not inadequate. You are the perfect person to teach your child, because God entrusted you to be his or her parent. God had no one else in mind other than you to raise and teach your child. If God has called you to homeschool, He will provide the resources, the knowledge, and the wisdom to do so. Trust Him. Trust yourself.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
My daughter, Laura, loves science. Because of her love of science and her short -- uhm, developing, attention span, I've had to get a little creative when looking for science resources. Because we're a Christian family, it's very important that any science resources also support a creationist worldview.
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Home Science Tools
When I taught a Science of Slime event at homeschool group, I bought some beakers, droppers, and test tubes from Home Science Tools. They were a resounding success, and many of the children asked if they could take them home to use for their own homeschool science labs. They have so many cool science-related tools, labs kits, and supplemental curriculum material -- you get ideas just from their catalogs!
Right now, in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, one way to help your kids understand the virus is through Home Science Tools' Coronavirus Education Kit. This kit, made for grades seven and up, is an excellent educational tool to better understand virus transmission & response. It includes six hands-on activities.
Schoolhouse Teachers' website has phenomenal science courses for all grades. The courses range from animals, biology, botany, Charlotte Mason preschool science, dinosaurs and the Bible, to a great deal of in-depth, video chemistry courses. I am using their "Experiencing Weather" course to supplement my daughter's science unit on weather--so they can be stand-alone science curricula, or used as supplemental material.
With Earth Day coming up, it's a great opportunity to teach your kids about conservation, recycling, and animals with a 32-page ebook from Evan Moor. This "Theme Pockets: Celebrate Earth Day" printable ebook, for grades 1st - 3rd grades, has three pocket projects that help your students celebrate Earth Day while they practice basic skills. Activities are designed to help students connect information about conservation of resources, recycling, and endangered animals with their own lives. While you're on the link, check out all of Evan Moor's products. Again, just browsing will give you some food for thought for future studies.
Year Round Homeschooling with Misty Leask
Year Round Homeschooling, owned and created by homeschooling blogger Misty Leask, offers a wealth of lap books, unit studies, and other materials on most subjects, including science. Her science studies are great and fun ways to incorporate science into your homeschool, such as "Ocean Explorers: A Unit Study on Oceans." Misty's "Living Healthy: A Middle School Health Curriculum" will definitely be a unit study for my daughter next year when she's in fifth grade. It goes over such sensitive subjects as personal hygiene, nutrition, fitness, puberty, emotions, and safety.
Kristin Moon Science
Dr. Kristin Moon is a scientist by training who left the lab to be a stay-at-home mom, and discovered homeschooling along the way. She has homeschooled her two sons from birth through high school graduation, and has an incredible website called Kristin Moon Science. On her website, she offers online classes in which "students proceed at their own pace through the material. Videos, experiments, hands-on activities, and links to additional information are included to enhance the learning experience. Periodic quizzes ensure that material is mastered before moving from one topic to the next," according to her website. She also provides a science shop, live, online classes and tutoring (!!!), and a science simplified blog. Her Facebook page is a fun follow, full of information that you'd want to share with your kids.
NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is not just a government website about the space program. It offers first-rate science and STEM resources, too, for all grade levels. The NASA At Home program enables you to watch videos taken from space, virtual tours and apps, and even the "Be a Scientist" program, in which there are "opportunities for citizen scientists to contribute to ongoing research," according to the site. Opportunities include searching for brown dwarf stars and planets, tracking changes in climate research, and searching for particles of interstellar material. Sounds very cool!
I hope you can check out these six science resources. Science is all around us -- it's a joy to see that awareness awaken in my daughter, as a way to give God the glory for His creation.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
People who have autism not only thrive on structure, they crave it. If I have learned one thing as the mother of a child with autism (although that "child" is now 25 years old and like to remind me that he's a "grown man,"), it's that life is a lot easier when the structure of the household is autistic.
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This does not mean the child with autism rules the roost. This means that the structure of the day is built upon a schedule for the child with autism instead of making the child conform to the schedule. One enables a special needs child to grow and trust; the other is a recipe for meltdowns and terribly bad days.
As I write this, the entire world is reeling from the Covid-19 novel Coronovirus. Kids in public school are at home during online learning whilst their parents are either at work being essential or working from home and trying to help their kids at the same time. Homeschoolers are not able to physically go to co-ops, group classes, lessons, or enrichment activities. This is a time of upheaval for us all. If we take the anxiety we feel about these days, we have a glimpse of what people with autism feel on a daily basis when their schedules are upended.
How can we help our children with autism in homeschooling? Here are ## ways to do just that regarding scheduling and organization.
Develop a schedule and write it out, either using words or simple pictures. Often, even in kids who can read, having a visual schedule helps iron out exactly what needs to be done. Using if-then statements on the schedule gives an immediate reinforcement. For example, IF spelling is done, THEN you may have a five minute break.
An incredible resource that I found when Sam was first diagnosed, and I've been using ever since, is the website Do 2 Learn. Their visual schedules resources will help you develop and print the schedules you need. It's a good idea to laminate the schedules so they will last. Marking off items on the schedules as they're completed, using dry erase markers, will help the child keep up with it.
For example, let's say your child is in the 4th grade, like my daughter, Laura. Here's a sample homeschooling schedule for Laura, who's able to keep up mentally where she's at in any particular subject:
Break - 10 minutes (timer)
Break - 20 minutes
Done for the day
If Laura had autism, I'd change her schedule to this:
Bible -- RightNowMedia.com, Ruth study
Spelling -- Week 8a (1-10)
Math -- Adding fractions with like denominators
Break -- 10 minutes (timer) -- Use the bathroom
Grammar -- subjects and verbs
History -- Civil War
Break -- 20 minutes (timer) -- Snack, feed/water cats
Science -- rocks, lab
Reading -- Read [insert title here]
Done with homeschool
Now, to decrease the amount of paper you're laminating, it would be wise to laminate just the schedule and subjects. You may even put times of when you start. You can write what is happening in each subject on removable file folder labels and fix them on the laminated sheet, beside each corresponding subject.
The key is to not deviate from this schedule. Ever. To each subject, you can add the actual daily assignment (Math -- Adding fractions with like denominators, page 368, 1-10) if that would help.
If this was a visual schedule, you would put an image where the subject would be.
Visual schedules are also great to laminate and post in the bathroom for reminder strips for morning and nighttime routines, like putting on deodorant, teeth brushing, etc. Laminating a strip and taping in the shower for showering reminders (shampoo, face, chest, armpits, etc) also can help. Sometimes kids of all ages who have autism need gentle reminders of what is next.
For homeschooling a singleton with autism, schedules give you (the parent) the added benefit of being the schedule being the bad guy. If the child gets off track, instead of you telling the kid to get back to answering reading comprehension questions for history, you can ask gently, "What does your schedule say? What should you be doing?" Always get him to look for himself on the schedule. Eventually, he will look at it for guidance on his own.
I mentioned something in that last paragraph that I'd like to touch on. Sometimes we think we have to teach history from textbooks or what-have-you, but realistically, some kids just cannot read that well or that long. Downloading history-related reading comprehension worksheets get two jobs done: it's history, and it's reading.
Most people with autism have special interests. Those are great tools to use to help a kid learn. Right now my son Sam is obsessed with Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. He reads all he can on those two inventors and watches documentaries on them. He's reading, he's engaged, he's learning -- it's not part of homeschool (he is adamant that he's 25 and doesn't want to be 'homeschooled'). But he's learning when he least expects it.
Discover your child's special interests and engage him with that in many different ways. For a special interest of trains, you can dive into the history of trains which is a large part of U.S. history, the science of trains (steam, physics, mechanics, diesel, electricity), reading, math, and even environmental and urban planning. There's so much learning that can be accomplished if we work with the child instead of fighting against autism.
Keeping your child's learning area as organized as you can, utilizing methods that work for your child. Some kids like to work out of binders; others prefer spiral-bound notebooks. Others like the tray method, where you keep subjects divided into letter trays or even shoeboxes, and move from task to task that way.
Require your child to keep his stuff together. Put this on him -- this is part of life skills, to keep essential tools where you can use them.
If you homeschool in your dining room or area, as I do, have a small shelf in your dining space just for homeschool materials. We even have a school lamp on top of our shelf that we turn on when school is in session. It helps us to be mentally and physically 'there' so to speak. Make sure that you have dedicated space for materials like pencils, pens, markers, highlighters, and anything else you use. While it's frustrating for us not to be able to find what we need to do a task, it's catastrophic to someone with autism to be unable to find a pencil when doing math problems.
The key with homeschooling singletons with autism is to minimize stressors -- which, ironically, is stressful for us. I understand all too well how stressful parenting someone with autism can be, and I've learned the hard way that if we can make it easier on the person who has autism, it's easier on us all. The key is to incorporate structure through scheduling and organization to help the person with autism correctly anticipate what is coming up next.
Praying you through,
(c) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHT RESERVED
With most of Americans at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, children who normally attend public school are at home with parents who are balancing schooling, trying to work from home, and keeping tabs on a house that is not used to having all the people there, all the time.
So how do veteran homeschoolers deal with home management while homeschooling?
I'm laughing as I'm writing this because as I write this, I look over my open concept living-dining-kitchen area in a combination of shock and awe. My daughter is beside me at the dining table, putting together a Junior Ranger building block kit, the washing machine and dishwasher are running behind me in the kitchen, and the living room looks like it's been attacked by a whirling dervish called a cat tornado, which is extraordinarily accurate.
There are some things I do, though, to get a handle on managing house cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, and generally not losing my mind. I don't always do these things every day, because life happens, but flexibility is the name of the game.
Clean as you cook
When I cook, I clean. If I use flour, when I'm done with it, I put it away. If I use a measuring cup for just water, I dry it and put it back in the cupboard. Now, it would be exceedingly helpful if others in the household did this too, but alas.
My dining area is right beside the kitchen (again, open floor concept) so when my daughter is working on an online educational game, I am five steps away from her, refilling the dishwasher, putting things away, or starting dinner in the slow cooker. When dinner is over, most nights, I'm too tired to clean the kitchen again. So the dirty dishes get put in the sink with hot soapy water to soak. Before I go to bed, I either load the dishwasher or just let them sit.
Complete transparency here: I have a lot on my plate, from homeschooling, to referring my daughter and my 25-year-old son who has autism (but developmentally he's nine), to helping my paraplegic husband when he's home from work. Sometimes, doing dishes is a low priority.
I am a firm believer that children need to have chores. It teaches responsibility as well as life skills for when they are on their own. In my house, chores like scooping cat boxes; feeding and watering the dog and cats; emptying the dishwasher; taking the trash to the dumpster (and on Wednesdays, to the curb for pickup); mowing the grass; cleaning the hall bathroom (since it's used by the two children at home); and picking up the floor to be vacuumed are all done by my son Sam and daughter Laura. Laura, since she is the only one being homeschooled, also has to keep the weekly homeschool supply shelf organized.
There's another reason for chores. I cannot do it all, and I'm not the only one who lives here. Even my paraplegic husband, though he works outside the home, folds laundry and takes care of his para supply cabinet.
Having systems or routines in place for every day tasks help a lot. I usually put a load of laundry in the wash in the morning, while the dishwasher is cleaning the dishes that have been soaking last night. Soaking the dishes is a pre-wash to the dishwasher; because I do this, I can run the dishwasher on the "express wash" cycle, which saves on water and electricity. Running the washing machine in the morning means by lunchtime that load of clothes is going into the dryer. By the mid-afternoon, it's folded and put away.
Usually, I take any meat out of the freezer that I want to cook for dinner that night to defrost -- or to put in my slow cooker. As someone who has autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses, utilizing my slow cooker in the morning when I have energy helps me in the afternoons when it's time to cook dinner, when my energy is depleted.
MInd you, all this is happening while I'm working with Laura on spelling words and talking her through her math lesson and assigning her problems to do in her math book. We take any reading that needs to be done to the sofa -- she learns best when I read her science and history chapters to her first, then she reads them, and answers the chapter questions.
Managing a home and being actively involved in your child's education is a delicate balancing act. The key is to set your priorities, plan, and work the plan. Enlist your children and husband's help and make home making a family affair.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
With the global pandemic forcing cancellations and closings, many parents are pulling their kids from public and private schools to homeschool. But where do you begin? Can you even homeschool without a set curriculum?
The short answer to that last question is yes. Unlike homeschools of thirty years ago, we are blessed with a wealth of information at our fingertips through the Internet, smart televisions, and tablets. We can create a eclectic and powerful blend of curricula for any student, at any level, with tools found on the Internet and, quite possibly, our own homes.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that provide resources for homeschooling families My family and I receive a small commission from sales from the links mentioned, but I do not share any links that I do not personally recommend. Thank you for your support.
To homeschool, before you pull your child out of public school, you need to visit the website of your state’s department of education and search for homeschooling. States have different rules, and so you will want to follow what your state requires. As soon as you can, complete the paperwork and send it in, and you will most likely be required to give a name for your homeschool. This is relatively simple – just don’t use your last name, as that takes away a certain level of credibility, if your child goes to the same school as his or her last name.
As soon as you receive the documentation from the state announcing that your homeschool is active, print out the official statement from the Department of Education and take it to your child’s school. You will need this document to formally withdraw your child from that school. You are now a homeschooler! Congratulations!
Now let’s talk how you can homeschool. Don’t believe that you have to imitate public school; in this case, imitation is not flattery. You will want to take a few days off and ask your children what they want to do in their homeschool. If a child is allowed to learn a specific interest, there’s a high likelihood it will stick. For example, if a child is interested in chemistry, don’t say “Oh but you’re just in 10th grade; juniors take chemistry.” If a child is interested in chemistry, by all means, let him learn it! If you have a second-grader who loves trains, by all means – incorporate that into homeschool! There is a wealth of knowledge to be had about trains: spelling, math, science, history, all of it can be incorporated into a study of trains.
There are many online resources that are free or low-cost to use for curriculum to get started. The main thing is, you do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars to homeschool. Here are some resources:
Do you have a dictionary in your home? That can be a spelling book. You can do an Internet search for grade-level spelling words and, using the dictionary and other resources such as word search and crossword creators, have a complete spelling curriculum. Add in writing definitions (again, the dictionary) and sentences (that would be writing), then slide in writing the words multiple times each, both in print, in cursive, and typing them, and you have a multi-sensory spelling curriculum.
A simple grammar curriculum I use a great deal is from Schoolhouse Teachers. In addition to many other courses, their language arts and grammar courses are wonderful online resources to teach your child. At the end of the courses, they receive certificates of completion that document their progress. There are many self-paced courses and some are video-based.
In addition to Schoolhouse Teachers, 7Sisters Homeschool offers a no-busywork e-book-based curriculum from 20+ year veteran homeschool moms. They offer a huge amount of language arts and other subjects for several grade levels.
In addition to Schoolhouse Teacher’s phenomenal science resources, Home Science Tools offer first-rate science tools, equipment, and projects to supplement your curriculum. For curriculum, you can use Education.com for science projects and worksheets up to fifth grade (they also have many other subjects, too). Teachers Pay Teachers is a good site, too – you can do a search for any subject, including science, and choose the free option, to get a plethora of resources and worksheets ready to download and print. This site goes up through 12th grade.
In addition to Education.com and Teachers Pay Teachers, which also feature math worksheets, you can teach math with simple at-home instructions. All you need is paper and pencil to make worksheets for counting, addition, and subtraction, and you can download and print multiplication tables to use for multiplying and dividing. For young children, you don’t even need paper and pencil – just play, count, and play games to teach them numbers.
For higher maths, MathPlanet.com is an incredible, free online resource that offers courses in pre-algebra, Algebra I and II, Geometry, SAT, and ACT prep.
Reading to your children is the best way they will learn to read. Seriously. If they have books, there’s no need to visit the library or bookstore, or order books online. Just have them read their own books. You can read them too, then ask them questions to make sure they comprehend what they read. Audio books are great, too, for long car rides or just to play at home instead of having the television on. Don’t forget classic literature.
Want to ensure your child learns a foreign language? Schoolhouse Teachers offers incredible courses (many with video instruction) in French, Spanish, Latin, Latvian, American Sign, and English as a Second Language. Why not learn it with your child so you can practice together? My daughter, Laura, just told me she wants to learn Spanish next year in fifth grade – and I intend on learning it with her. I also would love to learn American Sign Language to better communicate with hearing impaired people at my church and in the community.
Who says physical education has to be a structured class? Go outside with your kids, and shoot some hoops. Talk a walk around the neighborhood. Have the kids time themselves while running races. There are so many things you can do with “PE” – just make it fun!
With so many activities being canceled or closed with the Coronavirus pandemic, extracurricular activities should really be examined heavily before diving into them. Still, this is a great time to show love to neighbors and friends. If you know of someone who is ill (it doesn’t have to be a pandemic), show some love to them by mowing their yard or taking their trash to the curb or dumpster. Service can be a big deal in homeschool. Baking, cooking, cleaning, and car maintenance can all be part of homeschool. In baking alone, reading, science, and math are all part and parcel of baking a cake, whether it’s from scratch or a box.
Homeschool is not just about academics – it’s learning how to deal with life, in the ups and downs. You cannot learn perseverance from a worksheet – it must be modeled. What better way to teach your kids determination than by homeschooling in the hard times?
© 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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