__Due to ongoing health issues, the Special Needs Homeschool site has not been updated. The resources here are timeless and I hope you continue to visit and share! I am hoping to get back here as soon as the dust settles to update and revive SNH. In the meantime, the SNH Facebook page and group are hopping with resources and support.
I've been asked many times how we homeschool. It's not something that is easy to explain but I'll do my darnest! When we first began, our decision was based on my son's school not being co-operative with his IEP. Also, they told me would never learn to read and my expectations that he would learn was high. He was 6 years old at the time and diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Since then, we have learned he has Tourette Syndrome, Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My youngest has everything my eldest has and he has dyslexia.
Needless to say, our approach to homeschooling reflects their needs and their peculiar way of learning. The school at home approach definitely was not working. We did begin this way, I spent the money on curriculum and teacher manuals, desks and chalkboards, and bulletin boards (I would have bought the bulletin boards anyway because I ran a home child care). I had set schedules and regular quizzes for assessments and wrote out full daily journals to keep track. It was exhausting for them and me!
How we do it now depends on the day, the subject, the topic, the mood, the ages of the boys...it changes from day to day or year to year.
At the moment (2010):
J decided to attend High School and since we didn't think his special needs would be accommodated in the system, we found an alternative: http://www.virtuallearning.ca/ It's a school that is through a board of education and meets our provinces requirements for a High School Diploma.
T is very much child lead and sort of patch work educated.
This is where the explaining comes in, what we've done the past with our eldest and how T is learning now.
Every August I check our Ministry of Education guidelines for each child's supposed grade level (age matching grade if they were in school) and every year I'm amazed. I was told my eldest would never learn to read and to not even bother teaching him. Just teach him life skills in the hopes of some day he will be independent enough to live in a group home. I'm so happy I didn't listen to that reasoning! I don't teach according to the Ministry of Education guidelines. I just check it so I can see how smart my boys are!
Since this could get confusing, I'll explain what we do with an example so the explanation is simplified and I don't trip over my own words. It is such an easy way to learn and I don't want you thinking you couldn't do this because anybody can do this!
I'll give the example of the time J wanted to learn about the Solar System because this was the turning point for us in the way we homeschool.
He started asking questions about the planets. My sister in law bought him a book set which outlines each individual planet with facts and is for a grade 1 to 3 level of science. That set him on a path of learning.
He wasn't reading yet so I read the books to him. Then we went to the library and picked out books about the solar system. We didn't worry about grade levels or reading levels, actually I think we picked them out on the basis of how cool the pictures were. We would read one book and look at the pictures in another. We created word searches on grid paper using the names of the planets so he could pick up on the word recognition. He had words everywhere-on the planets, in the books, at the library, on the field trips, etc...He learned to read during this time.
We searched the Internet for planet websites that taught any subject, as long as it had a planet theme, he was happy. We made planet books, a solar system using different sizes and types of balls in the attic learning room, then a paper one by copying and pasting images into Microsoft Word and typing the planets facts on each one and hung it from the ceiling. We picked up a cheap telescope that didn't work at all but my son happily used it in the house to see the planets hanging from the ceiling. We visited a planetarium to learn more and went to an astrology club to use real telescopes and see the 'real' thing. We visited NASA's website for images and information on satellites and checked out their kids section.
Our math was counting the planets, adding and subtracting the planets, measuring the planets (the paper ones-now he's 14, if we didn't it again we'd be measuring the sphere!) We played memory with homemade planet cards. We sequenced by putting the planets in order. We learned how to tell time at the same time we learned how the planets revolve around the sun.
Science was easily covered on the topic of planets itself but we also studied gravity, heat from the sun and the seasons.
History was covered by the 'discovery' of planets, how the stars were viewed in different cultures over time as gods, times, etc
Geography was how the sun shone on one side of the earth and it was dark on the other. That opened up a whole world of 'we aren't the only ones here' and he loves Geography and studying other parts of the world to this day.
These are the lessons I just remember off the top of my head, it was a while ago. We learned so much more than this because the topic lasted close to 5 months. He took his passion of planets and I took the resources I could find and we put the two together. Fireworks! It was no longer about what he learned, it became a matter of HOW he learned. That 'how' expanded over into all his learning!
The process taught me that we don't have to follow a curriculum. We just have to love what we're doing. My son developed a love of learning. I learned to give resources that matched his learning styles and strengths. The only costs we had were field trips and some were free. We could stop when he was tired, needed a break, or it just wasn't 'going in'.
Now we learn everything like this. Sometimes the topic of interest lasts a day, sometimes months. It's free so I don't worry about the stuff we didn't use and they can bop from one idea to the next keeping their motivation to learn at peak level.
What about gaps?
I don't remember everything I learned in grade school from grade 1 to grade 12 and through college, night courses, etc...do you? Of course there are gaps!
It's not about covering Fractions because its in the curriculum outlines that is important. Its knowing how to learn about Fractions when the topic comes up to learn it. For example: My eldest could not grasp fractions if his life depended on it. I kept trying to get him to learn it over and over throughout the years when I got in the 'what about gaps' panic mode. This last year with his online learning, he had to learn Fractions in order to pass his grade 9 math class. He knows his strengths lie in visual spatial learning with an interactive approach. He also knows how to Google search! He put the words in 'Visual Fractions' and learned it. Three hours later he knew basic Fractions right through to the Grade 9 level he needed to complete his assignment. Does that make him super-intelligent like he has super-learning powers? Of course not. He just knows how he learns, how to find the resources he needs to learn it and how to apply those resources to accomplish the outcome he wants. He passed his first semester with straight A's by the way. Not bad for a child who 'would never learn to read'.
We have gone months without any real educational plans put together because we move around a lot and the responsibilities of sleeping and eating and packing and unpacking took priority over the fun part of learning. That hasn't stopped the boys one bit! We learned to do math by counting boxes, measuring things to see if they will fit in the box, mapping out floor plans for unpacking, figuring out mileage and price of gas for the road, reading newspaper classified sections to shop around for houses, etc... they learned to pull out educational things in the circumstances around them.
We do have mandatory things as part of our day. The things that are scheduled are: daily devotional, eating, sleeping, chores, their therapy, brushing their teeth and showers, etc...the everyday things that are part of a healthy life.
It's not what they learn, it's how they learn. We 'tailor-school' meaning learning is tailored to their individual needs, our circumstances, and day to day life. We didn't fill their heads with educational requirements, we lit a fire of life long learning that will carry them in anything they do for the rest of their lives.
I hope this explains how we do it and gives you hope that you can do learn to love to learn!