I’m so excited to finally be able to get this post out. The primary reason we have decided to homeschool is because Jedi & Monkey both have significant special needs. Jedi has autism and sensory processing disorder, and Monkey has other special needs that will likely be reassessed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum in the next couple weeks. However, when we started our homeschooling journey, we made the mistake of setting up the room like we would for any typical child–tables & chairs, assignments that I knew were going on but that Jedi had no way to know what was coming up, lots of things that required handwriting, etc. Needless to say, Jedi was having a very difficult time concentrating and being able to make it through an entire school day without becoming overstimulated. So, with the help of Jedi’s occupational therapist and primary psychologist, we’ve come up some accommodations to hopefully help to make things a bit easier for Jedi.
One of the things we did right was make sure that every piece of curriculum was as hands on as possible. Jedi is neither an auditory learner nor a learner who can comprehend just from reading. However, if he can create something with his hands, or manipulate objects in a meaningful way during the lesson, he can usually remember and process the lesson. Some of our curriculum choices are:
Math: Rightstart, level C
Spelling: All About Spelling
Science: REAL Science Odyssey (Life, Earth, & Chemistry)
History: History Odyssey & Hands on History
Geography: Expedition Earth
Art: Artistic Pursuits
Handwriting: We use Handwriting Without Tears. We also use the book “730 Journal Prompts” for daily journaling, and the book “Veggie Soup: I’m a Writer and Didn’t Even Know It” for random handwriting.
Typing: Typing Instructor for Kids
For Monkey, we also stray slightly from Montessori for things she has more difficulty in. Right now, for letters, we are using Confession of a Homeschooler’s “Letter of the Week”, and also using a workbook that has a different mini-book for each letter of the alphabet.
Because both of the kids need a lot of gross motor sensory input, we have transformed our entire finished basement into a 1000 sq ft learning space–a quarter of it is our main classroom, with another quarter being the office (with the computer). The other half is split between a small art room, and a large indoor gymnastics area with a balance beam, mini trampoline, thick mats, and a gymnastics bar. Not only does it help get some gross motor “wiggle breaks” in, but gymnastics has been a form of therapy for Monkey since she was 11 months old. It is her out, and when things aren’t going well for her, all it takes is some time on the mats to turn things around. We also use FitDeck exercise cards randomly throughout the day to give the kids a brief wiggle break. Frequent breaks for exercise often help to calm, focus, and ground the kids.
One of the other things we’re working on is getting Ipod Touches for both Jedi & Monkey. This should help a lot with social, behavior, emotional regulation, and academic subjects that they might be having more difficulty in. Hopefully soon, we’ll have the money saved up for them and I can post my review of some autism-friendly apps. 🙂
For those of you homeschooling special needs kids, what things have you personally found helpful in your homeschooling journey? As we know, it’s often different than the experience of homeschooling typical kids–not only are your work days often interrupted by daily therapy sessions, but there are often accommodations that need to be made to help learning be effective.