If you’re like most parents who homeschool their children, you spend hours selecting the right curriculum and planning lessons you know are fun and engaging. Your planner is bursting, you’ve used copious amounts of ink printing out materials for your children and your bookshelves are organized and ready for use – it’s time to start school! About ten minutes into the first day, you realize you left one thing out of your planning – the actual kids.
Planning the right curriculum and style of learning for children with special needs can be even more difficult. Luckily, you are not alone! With the technology explosion in recent years, specialists who focus on special education resources such as; online classes, parent guidance, different therapy options and special education tutoring have made it a LOT easier.
This article discusses 3 Ways To Keep Homeschooled Children Focused;
1. Know Your Children;
It sounds easier than it is. When planning lessons, keep a few things in mind:
- Age – The younger your children are, the shorter the lessons should be. A lively, focused 15-minute lesson will have far more impact on a 7-year-old than a meandering, 45-minute one. Often, a child with special needs struggles to focus for long periods of time no matter their age. The whole purpose of special education is to provide the academic experience that maximizes their learning needs. For children enrolled in special education, start with shorter sessions and pivot accordingly.
- Number – If you are homeschooling multiple children, use resources that work with multiple ages whenever possible. Also, keep in mind that some of the best learning takes place while teaching. If you have older children, include them in lessons taught to their younger siblings.
- Learning Styles – It’s important to know how your child best learns. It’s important that all kids practice each learning style, knowing that one is an auditory learner and another is a visual learner. This tactic will help you create lessons that capture their attention and provide information in a way that optimize retention. All children learn differently. When teaching a child with special needs, discovering their learning style may take a ton of trial and error. Often an IEP (Individual Education Plan) details the steps needed to ensure maximum academic success, however this lifeline to special education services doesn’t always include the full picture.
2. Be Realistic;
Kids are not built to sit still for long periods of time. Often this is even more true when teaching a child with special needs.
- Build regular movement and exercise into your day and into your lessons. After a session of reading, play a game of Simon Says or something that gets your kids moving for 5-10 minutes before moving on the next subject.
- If, after several attempts, material you’re using is simply not holding your children’s attention make a change. Sometimes you will fall in love with an approach but your kids will hate it. Let it go, pivot, learn and constantly improve. Remember, success should never be measured against the ideal. Instead focus on where you and your children are today, and compare it to where you started. This different perspective will most certainly keep everyone moving forward and inspired to reach the next level or goal.
- Use a timer. For some children, setting a timer when they begin their work motivates them to focus and get it done. If they insist on getting up and wandering around, bring them back to their work, reset the timer and start over. Do this consistently in the beginning and they’ll figure it out.
- One of the biggest reasons people choose to homeschool their child with special needs are the lack of resources available in the public school system. From one-on-one learning to additional support and resources, a child with special needs often requires an approach unique to them. If you ever find the progress slowing and seeming to hit a brick wall, REACH OUT FOR GUIDANCE. Again, you are not alone. Special education resources are plentiful and additional one-on-one support from a special education tutor is a mouse click away.
3. Plan For Distractions;
The thing about homeschooling is, life happens. New puppy? School is going to be chaos for a while. Upcoming holiday? Let’s face it, Santa is more interesting than gravity when you’re eight.
- Accept (and plan for) days where it’s just better to call it an “unschooling day.” If the morning starts with everyone (you included) in tears and appears to be getting worse, just stop. Go to the park, the zoo, anywhere. A change of scenery can make a world of difference.
- Keep things interesting. On a beautiful day, get the sidewalk chalk and do math or spelling in the driveway. Let kids work on a dry erase board.
- Weird is okay. Some kids are quirky. If your child does better work standing at the kitchen counter, go for it. If you have a super-fidgety child, try having them sit on an exercise ball at a kid-sized table while they work. The effort to keep their balance is often enough to get them focused. If you are doing a lot of reading aloud, bring out coloring pages, squishy balls or rubber bands for the kids to fiddle with while you read. (Keep these items to use only during these sessions.)
Homeschooling A Child With Special Needs Takes Time, Patience, Creativity;
Don’t despair if your child lacks focus – they all do, especially children with special needs. Get creative. What works for one child will not always work for another. It takes time to recognize what is reasonable to expect of your child and how best to fulfill those expectations. You will be modifying your methods as long as you are homeschooling. If you understand and accept this fact, you are well on your way to success.