Jun 01

Special Needs and Homeschooling

Several families that I know that are homeschooling are doing so because they have at least one child that was struggling in the public school system- myself included.

My story begins with my oldest son who was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities early on in his school career. We did everything that we could to help him, including putting him on medicine to enable him to sit still for long periods of time. I would also volunteer in his classroom at least 3 days a week ,with his little brother strapped to my back, while I helped out.  It was painful to watch him sit there and struggle with his work in those early years, and in the later years watch him cower in his seat hoping that the teacher wouldn’t call on him. Other times, he didn’t  want to go to recess because he was picked on terribly by the kids that I had just helped out in his class. Talk about “mama rage”- I had it a lot back then.  It also hadn’t helped that up until then we had moved every couple of years due to his father’s job. If I only would have thought for a moment and realized that I could have done just as good of a job as he was getting in school maybe I could have saved us all a lot of headaches and tears!

He was still behind for his grade when I pulled him out after 5th grade, but we have chipped  away at that gap since then and are almost caught up. I feel great that I can adapt his studies to the way he needs to be taught, instead of him having to struggle through it. I believe that the most important thing that you have to have to homeschool a child with special needs is patience.He may not get it the first ten times you explain it (or even the first hundred times), but eventually he WILL get it. There is no ridicule from his peers to make him shrink into his seat in fear of being picked on by choosing out of the norm classes. Only the love from his parent telling him that he can do this problem or spell this word.

If you are reading this article, then you are one step ahead of most -and myself include. I waited almost too long to pull my boys from the school system. Just in time for my oldest(currently in 8th grade), and because of that my now 3rd grader will reap the benefits!

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May 15

Art in 3rd Grade?

This subject is a easy one for my family. We are an artistic family -my husband is an artist, I do varies levels of artistic things, (stained glass, pottery, crafts) and the boys really love to sit and draw. Art is such an enjoyable subject for us, that we often go to museums and the boys enter art contests. My husband gives them weekly classes on different painting techniques and along with it he tries to provide a small dose of art history, and sometimes he likes to add fun art games. But for some families this is one subject that gets left behind or outsourced to make sure that it is at least covered or skimmed over.

For those families, I can tell you that the internet has a wealth of knowledge (as you already know) on teaching children art or the fundamentals.  Our online core subjects program offers an online companion program that teaches art  and some interesting facts about artists. My husband,who is very knowledgeable when it comes to the classic artists and techniques they used, was impressed with the art knowledge that my youngest son told him the other night at supper. This wonderful online art curriculum helps him see the artists and the art history come to life right in front of him.This year he will continue to use this program and take the classes with his dad for his art. But for those of you who do not have an artist in the family I would suggest that you search online for a center near you that can give these important lessons to your child. Even if they are not going into an art profession, they might find it relaxing or a de-stresser later in life. Think about when you were little and you were given a box of crayons and paper.  Remember how you enjoyed yourself making up wonderful worlds and pictures? Later in life – – maybe even after you have retired – – you may just grab some paints and pastels and start right back expressing yourself again!

Don’t forget the art in your 3rd graders homeschool curriculum!

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May 01

Read, Read, Read

Does your child devour books at an alarming rate? Is it any book, all books or just ones with a certain theme? It is always interesting to me to see what books my boys like every year, since it feels like just yesterday they were learning to read. Some are old favorites while others are new editions recommended by friends.  One of my friends was worried about the amount of fantasy that her son was reading, so it got me thinking about my own boys and what they were reading on a daily basis. I already knew for the most part that they are both into fantasy, magic or animal themed books at the moment. And like her son they were really reading these books fast – –  they just couldn’t get enough of them. So should you worry if your child goes down the path of only wanting to read one type of book?  My opinion is no, you should get them to summarize the books that they read. It may be easier for them to write about books that they choose, rather than ones I force upon them. You may remember how we had to endure book reports in school about books we had no interest in. At the 3rd grade level, you child should be able to put into words some form of an summary. But if it is too hard for them at the moment to put into words a summary of what they are thinking, then perhaps have them do a review of the book. Listing the things that they liked and didn’t like may be more enjoyable for the both of you!

I do however require other reading during the course of the year with books that I pick out. Some are fiction and some are non-fiction, and we try to go through them together especially if it is an particularly dry subject. For example, when we were reading “Treasure Island” in its original version, some of the words that were used in there were new to me as well as my son. So we would look up the words together and try to decipher their meaning in the story, a learning experience for us both. I find that if my son sees me struggle with something, and I just pick up the dictionary or get on the internet to figure out what they are saying,he will do the same when he is reading on his own. Another great thing to do with the classics is to try to get them in audio format, so that you both can sit back and listen to the story together. (and look up the words together too) Perhaps, you could even have a book club with other homeschooled child (his peers) and let the group pick from a list of the classics and non-classics to read as a group.

Whatever you do, do not  stop reading in your house, it is an important family activity to do together!

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Apr 15

End of the Year Testing

Although ours is nothing like the EOG’s so common in public school (thank goodness!), end of grade testing is still something we dread at our house. Some states have required testing while others do not. Find out from your local homeschool laws what is required from you.  It can still be a stressful thing for a child who doesn’t have tests regularly to have to sit and do testing for a couple of hours over the course of a week. The testing that my oldest son was given in school made him sick almost every time he took them. First it was the months and months of force feeding the questions from the tests, then all the talk about the test. Then, finally,the actual test that required my ADHD child to sit for many hours without a break and complete quiet.  It was torture for him!

But now with us homeschooling I researched the the testing in our state that best fit his needs instead of requiring him to conform to everyone else’s needs. There is a wealth of resources on this topic at many of the online 3rd grade curriculum sites. They have articles, links to sample tests and reviews from other parents on the different kinds of tests.  For my boys, I chose the Woodcock Johnson test for three reasons. First , it was given by someone else besides myself. I felt after a year of working with the boys it was better for me to have someone else who is qualified to administer the test. Second, it is a more interactive type of testing with reading aloud, or writing; which works great for my boys. And lastly, this test takes your child as far as they can. They don’t start and stop with their current grade they are allowed to see where they actually are. Last year my youngest,who was always labeled as average all his subjects in “school”, showed that with all of our hard work the year before, he could go many grades above where he should be. I don’t believe in teaching to a test. I want to know what they have actually retained over the year and what the areas are that we need to work on.

So discover what works best for your family and you will see the advantages to yearly testing.

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Apr 01

3rd Grade History Ideas

When you are teaching history at home to your 3rd grader, you may want to start with pre-history, United States history, or even your own state history. No matter what you choose it can be one of the most memorable subjects that you and your child study. I know that I am learning as much as my sons are, and we have been enjoying learning about it together. We plan a lot of field trips and then discuss what we know about each place. Then he writes how that place was different for the settlers, and in the 1920s and now. It amazes us both how well people did without the simple luxuries that we are afforded today. And with teaching history to my 3rd grader, I have found that if you can involve them in what they would do during a certain time they have a better retention for it. Another especially interesting subject in history for him is the Egyptian history, not only are we learning about the life and times of Egypt but also the fun subject of the gods. I mean really what is better for a young boy but a half man ,half bird creature to study , and the stories and pictures he came up with were priceless!

There are so many ways to make history come to life, including field trips or live demonstrations. There are also are numerous online web sites now that let them role play during different periods of history. My son has role played both as an American settler trying to make it through those first years and as a farmer back in Mesopotamia . These tools help today’s kids retain more history then just reading a history book. (at least that is true for my boys)

Yet another way is to tie literature into your history lessons. It can be doubly rewarding to your child to have a story ,whether fiction or non fiction, that can enlighten them about a key figure in history.  We have an internet-linked history encyclopedia which gives us both links to websites and additional reading on any subject.

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Mar 15

Math in the 3rd Grade

Math is another subject that varies for each student. It  depends on where your child is at with their 3rd grade math curriculum. Some children will be all the way through division and starting on basic word problems. Thus getting ready for  more complicated math when they start 4th grade math curriculum, while others who were not through their long addition problems or multiplication can work more intense this year on these problem areas. Hopefully by this point your child will have the fundamentals of math down. But if they don’t , then this can be the year that you catch them up. A good way to make sure that they have down the basics is to give them a placement test offered by many online schools. Or even enroll them in an online program for the 3rd grade to give them a refresher course.

Our 3rd grade year has been one of mostly review. While my son excels in multiplication and word problems, he still has issues with division problems.  So I have enrolled him in a very entertaining online program that will allow him to review math for three grades at a time. He only needs to go through the areas that still give him trouble. This allows him to feel like he is moving forward in the areas of math that he excels at and then gives him the time to “get” the process in other areas.

Most of elementary school is about learning something new so that our children will be ready for the challenges ahead of them. Be patient if your child doesn’t get a concept that they seemed to grasp earlier in their academic career. If necessary, come back to the concept if they seem to be banging their head against the wall on it. When they were younger we never worried if they would understand something. We knew that it would come in good time. Now we need to be aware that even though they are older, some things that they try to accomplish might take more time. When they enter middle school, you will notice that they will have a lot of review, so don’t worry if your 3rd grader needs extra time now.

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Mar 01

3rd Grade Spelling, Vocabulary and Writing Curriculum Ideas

These three subjects are the ones that give me the most problems, mainly because they were my weaknesses when I was in school. I don’t want to pass that on to my boys; I want them to be well versed and have the necessary grammar skills to succeed in life. I have put a lot of time into discovering new ways to teach these very important subjects.

Spelling always comes first! Even though there is this wonderful invention called Spell Check out there now, it is important for everyone to be an average speller. Some children and adults excel in this subject, spelling words I don’t know if I could even pronounce! But for those of us who actually have to work at spelling, it can be very tedious. For my 3rd grader, we have weekly tests and we also still work on phonics. Yes , 3rd grade is still young enough for me not to worry too much, BUT it is a weakness of his(ours) so we are in a constant state of review. We also found online spelling games that help him out when we have words that he just isn’t getting. They usually help him get over that hump.Our favorite online free program at the moment for spelling is SpellingCity.com.

I tend to combine vocabulary and writing into one subject in my house. The beginning of the week we have a list of new vocabulary words. To make it more productive for us they usually have something in common, to allow us to combine them into a writing lesson, as well. Last week, we did vocabulary on the snake world ( a favorite subject at the moment) using words that, later that week, we inserted into a short story about snakes and their cousins. When my boys complete their stories I usually have them read them out loud to me so that they can get comfortable with sharing these (sometimes hilarious) stories.

Third grade is a wonderful time, for kids to develop a love of everything writing. I love it when they open up their minds to me through their stories. It gives a sneak peek of what is come.

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Feb 15

The Big S word

Its not a bad word for those of us that know the truth. I am talking about socialization. This word is usually the first thing out of most people’s mouths when I talk about homeschooling. They would say ”Well I couldn’t homeschool because my daughter is a social butterfly” or “My son wouldn’t want to homeschool because he would miss being on his sports team”. I usually chuckle a little when I hear these people talk, because they really have no clue. Even my own family was worried that if I pulled my boys our of school they wouldn’t be socialized enough. To all these people I usually say “ I am searching for the home in homeschool because we are never at home!” I heard this once from a veteran in my homeschooling group and I was like “Yes I get it!” I mean with all the field trips, classes outside the house, sports, music and other things we do- we are never home!

I have to admit that the first year I homeschooled the boys I signed them up for every class or field trip within a 100 mile radius.  I was determined to show my family that we were interacting with other kids!  I also put everything up on Facebook, although I guess a personal blog would have worked just as well to show all the interesting places that you can go to when you are not on a typical school schedule. It worked quickly!  Soon, I had “Oh how lucky the boys are” and “ I wish I could have been homeschooled, so I could have done that.”

So if you are ever given the question “What about socialization?”you can rest easy knowing that we all have had that same question and have gotten through it!

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Feb 01

3rd Grade Language Arts

When it comes to 3rd grade language arts you have an endless amount of resources available. While there are many online homeschool curricula that offer all-in-one packages, I prefer to use an online program called Time4Learning to covers the basics. Then I am free to supplement with areas that interest my child in areas that he may need a little more practice. My son especially likes Language Arts done this way due to the fact that he needs to see the problem. He is able to watch his lessons through cartoon based guides, which is an excellent way for him to learn.  Since he has a very comedic personally, it was very important for me to find a program that can teach through humor as well.  We succeed when we found this program.  It is a very smart way to teach kids who are not able to learn as well through workbook or textbooks. These types of programs are a wonderful addition to our curriculum.

We also add several other media for teaching. While it may not be all workbooks we do include several that help cover more in depth in any subject that he finds interesting. Like for example, when we were reading history about early American authors, which  both of my boys became interested in knowing more.  Luckily for us, this local museum had an exhibit on the early American authors which related very nicely to what we had already talked about at home. This lead us into The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for our reading aloud time. We love to get the audio book from the library and let a professional read to us. Our spelling and writing for the next two weeks became about the life of Tom Sawyer, it was a fun subject to talk about with the boys. Of course, there was some language and references to slavery in the book, which were accurate for the time period, but not politically correct. After that we found some movies on slavery, both documentaries and old movies, which further showed my boys about the how and why, the authors wrote that way. Another way we took our Language Art lesson even further was to research on what kids (boys especially) did during the time frame of the book. My boys whittled wood, painted a fence( OK so it was a mini fence we made but it worked!) and made a raft of sticks(for their army men) to float down the creek.

Simplifying the homeschool process comes down to choices – – finding that happy middle ground where your child can excel in the sometimes tricky subject of language arts.

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Jan 15

Finding a local homeschool group

When searching for a local homeschooling group you may need to “try” a few out before you find the one that fits your family. We did this search, and it took us several hit and misses before we found a group that fit our needs. There are usually many to choose from within cities and fewer to choose from in smaller communities. But don’t join one simply because it is close by, you may have to go out of your way to find one that fits.  I know several “long-distance” families that joined our group because it fit their needs better than one right down the street. Some homeschoolers try to meet all their support needs by belonging to several different groups. But if all this fails you should think about starting your own group-I have found that where there is one family in need of support,there is always another!

Another alternative to local support groups is an online support group. They usually have a wealth of knowledge and a diversity of members willing to share what they know. I have found several parent support groups online to be very helpful when I needed an answer or when I needed to rant about something so I could get on with my day.  The links and curriculum reviews I have received from different sites has saved me both time and money since I began homeschooling. There are even a couple of sites out there for your child to socialize with other children online.

We all need help when it comes to asking questions of veterans or others in the homeschooling field. Homeschooling for religious reasons is only one of many different rationales for educating a child at home. The public school system doesn’t work for all students anymore, I don’t know if it ever did, but I know that I can ,with the right support make a difference in the lives of two boys!

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