One of the amazing gifts of homeschooling is the ability to adjust your child’s education to fit their needs. I have been blessed with six special learners … so far. By creating schedules and plans to meet the needs of the learner, I can help them succeed and actually learn something! This is called scaling education. We want our children to learn and retain information, and to be able to use the information in the future, right?
It’s not about test scores, advanced placement classes and spelling bee awards. That stuff is fun, but not the main focus. As parents, we want the best for our children. Each family may define “best” differently, but the end goal is to raise a confident adult that contributes to society.
The first step is to decide what work load your child can handle. Just because he may be a senior, doesn’t mean he will have the same course load as other seniors. Scaling education takes into account the amount of work, not just the kind of work.
Scaling Education for Elementary
Elementary is the time of discovery. Think exposure, exposure, exposure! Academic tasks should include reading, writing and arithmetic. Teach these subjects at their level. Throw in some fun field trips, hands on activities, and real life experiences. Read aloud a lot! And be sure to provide free creative play time. Kids learn through play so don’t skip this part!
Scaling Education for Middle School
During these years they start putting all the information together to make sense out of the world around them. Continue the reading, writing, and arithmetic. Keep teaching at their level. Be sure that you are addressing their learning style. Two great books on this topic are The Way They Learn and The Big What Now.
Don’t stop reading aloud. Sarah Mackenzie has a wonderful book on reading aloud called The Read Aloud Revival. The play time will now turn into science experiments and history projects.
Scaling Education for High School
I believe high school is the most challenging when you have a special learner. There is a lot more pressure to meet certain expectations. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal. High school is a great opportunity to focus on life skills, preparing your child for adulthood. We still include read alouds as part of our curriculum. Audiobooks are a great option, as well, for the more difficult books.
If college is in view, start as early as you can learning test taking skills, writing a 5-paragraph essay, and algebra. Those are the three areas that most special learners struggle with. This is very frustrating when they can do their area of study very well, but can’t get there unless they get through those three components.
Don’t homeschool alone. There are many support groups and services available, which will depend on where you live. First place to look is your local homeschool groups. Being surrounded by like-minded people on the same journey is very encouraging. Facebook groups offer another source of support, especially if you would like support on a particular learning challenge.
There are therapies available for different needs. Most insurances cover these and make a great addition to your homeschool day. I have an occupational therapist that comes to my house twice a week. It may require a bit of creativity on your part to find services, but many times it’s worth it.
Tutors are also available, especially in the older grades. Money is often a factor here, but I believe that God provides. There are also many books available to help you do therapy and tutoring at home. Pull dad in to help because more than likely he has a different perspective and teaching method.
Every homeschool parent wants to magic answer to “What curriculum should I use?” There isn’t a magic answer. I’m sorry.
But I see this as the beauty of homeschooling. We aren’t stuck to one method or one curriculum. We have the freedom to choose what fits our child and our teaching style the best. I will say that I never found a boxed curriculum worked well for my special learners. I had to pick and choose for each subject. What worked for one kid, didn’t always work for the next one either. We really get to know our kids well through this process.
I currently have three elementary students, ages 4, 6, and 9. All three of them participate in our local Classical Conversations community. One day a week they go over their memory work, have a fine arts lesson and a science project.
The four year old simply does our Classical Conversations memory work and then he’s off to play.
The six year old is doing 1st grade work, for the most part. After memory work, he will play a math game and then I attempt to work on reading with him. Some days go better than others. He’s a sensory seeker and very busy.
The eight year old is very focused and a hard worker, but has dyslexia. After the math game, he diligently works on reading. He is currently using IEW’s Primary Arts of Language. We also are reading Life of Fred math books.
Middle School Example
My 6th grader also attends the Classical Conversations community day. There she also has a class where memory work, fine arts, and science project is covered. In the afternoon she attends the Essentials program where three components are taught: English grammar, math drills, and writing.
At home she completes writing assignments and does editing exercises. She works on her math drills, because that’s a weak area for her. We also use Life of Fred and other math workbooks for building fluency. Her biggest struggle is her ADHD tendencies and staying on task. She has a schedule to follow, but honestly I spend a lot of my time redirecting her.
She also is an active 4-H member, piano student, choir participant, and on the King’s Kids Junior Mission Team. We will also be using BookShark’s Election Lapbook this year. These experiences are part of her learning and growing journey. It’s a careful balance of too much and not enough.
High School Example
My senior has dyslexia and dyscalculia, making academic work challenging. She’s always struggled through school, but was recently diagnosed. We use a lot of audio books or read aloud sessions. She uses 4-H for electives and participates in the King’s Kids Senior Mission Team.
For math we have returned to memorizing math facts. She also uses CTC Math for exercising her math skills. She started our with Life of Fred Algebra and Geometry, but it went over her head.
She also is completing Driver’s Ed as part of her high school coursework.
We are using BookShark’s History 100 course, intended for 8th-9th grade students. The reading level is right for her and still covering a great selection of American History. She completed Government, Constitutional Literacy, last year with her brother. It was very helpful that is was a video course and he helped read aloud the course work.
Signing Naturally 2 is her foreign language this year. Her oldest sister is deaf, so this gives her an opportunity to improve her signing skill and give her a foreign language credit. It’s always good to have an easy class so your student can feel a win.
This kid loves science, but doesn’t always understand the higher level subjects. Honestly she’s on her third science curriculum for this year. But we found something we are loving! For Biology 2 she’s completing Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the Body with Art curriculum. It’s a mix of video, text, hands on activities and drawing. A perfect fit for her learning needs.
Be thankful that each child is unique. Enjoy each moment you have and that you have the opportunity to homeschool your child. God will give you the tools you need. He picked you out to be your child’s parent. He knows what he’s doing, even if we don’t always understand it. Please let me know how I can helping you with scaling education.