Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why I Think You Are Enough To Homeschool Your Special Needs Children

James studying Life of Fred
I LOVE reading other people's blog posts and insights on homeschooling!  It is always interesting to see different people's perspectives. One item that recently got my attention is a post by Pam Barnhill titled "Dear Self: Why you stink at homeschool consistency." I wanted to post my thoughts on this as a mom that homeschools her VERY differently-abled children.

In her article she says:

Homeschooling won’t work unless you do it consistently. As in most days. As in not taking off more unplanned days in a year than your husband would be expected to take from his job.

Go ahead — count up his paid time off — that’s your grace period for the school year (not counting your holidays and planned time off). Anything more than that you can consider “excessive.” Hey, I promised you tough love.

I have to say I don't agree with this.  First off, I am an unschooler; well, kinda. I look at my children and ask them what they want to study.  Knowing them, their interests, and learning issues I select a few different curriculum for them to try and test-drive. They have the final selection. I want to give them control over what they are learning since I OFTEN feel like I am not doing enough!  I mean, there are three of them with learning difficulties and just one of me. In the end, I had to remind myself of a few simple facts.
  1. If the kids were on homebound from a public school the school would only offer 4 hours a week of instruction (one hour a day, Monday through Thursday). If you question the school on this, their justification is, that direct instruction is MORE EFFECTIVE than classroom instruction. 
  2. Even a public school only completes 180 days of instruction per year. Why do I feel compelled to do more?
Now, for the record, I will address item two first; I tend to homeschool some over the weekends and all throughout the year. Do I keep track of the days or hours? No, in my state we are not required. I homeschool this way for the children so they do not forget the information (got two with memory issues). I do keep a record book on what we have covered, but it for my records. 

For item one, dang, it took me awhile to come to grips I was enough to educate my children! I remind myself the public school thinks one hour a day, four days a week is enough, AND I KNOW I provide more direct instruction to my children each week per child!  Does it feel like enough, no; but,  in reality I know it is. How?  When I had to enroll my children into public school last year to qualify for money from my state to homeschool my children were tested. ALL the teachers and administrators were IMPRESSED by the amount of knowledge my children had for their learning difficulties. That, that right there, let me know I was on the right tract. Do you know how often I directly teach my children? About an hour a day, 5 to 6 days a week, and they are learning!  They spend about another hour or so a day, on their own, reading or playing educational games. That is all I homeschool in a day!  Will that always be enough learning for them? I doubt it, but it does work for us to at least fourth grade. 

Then Pam goes on to discuss a few main points:

You lack good morning habits
  • Okay, I think there is a point here. It is good to have a habit or routine. I do have a schedule for my children but in that schedule there is free time, outside play time, and time to hang out with their parents besides meal times.
You don’t treat your homeschooling as a job
  • This I am GLAD about!  I mean my job was STRESSFUL!  I do not want to approach homeschooling with the same feelings of stress I felt for my job. I also want homeschooling to bring me joy.  I don't know about you, but I did not have a lot of joy going on in my job. I want homeschooling to be as fun as possible, for both me and my children, while still engaging them in learning. Do watch that you are homeschooling more days than not but I can't begin to tell you how much learning we can manage in the car or in a doctor's office! I have the kids chant times tables in the long car rides or practice their American Sign Language in the doctor's office. Learning CAN be done on the go!
You are ruled by perfectionism
  • Bawhahaha!  I WAS ruled by perfection, but the quads have beaten it out of me!  LOL  No, really, I was a VERY perfectionistic person and wanted to have everything in a certain way/spot. I still have some issues with that. Heck, I was just telling my husband I wanted my own tool bag so I can have my own tools in it. I want to know where the tools are, and that I can ONLY get mad at myself if I have something missing. Silly? A bit; however, it would make me happy. I feel this way about homeschooling sometimes too.  I NEED something to get a lesson done (usually these are ingredients for a chemistry experiment) and if I can't get what I need then I WON'T get the lesson completed. After awhile I figured out, if I do not have what I need, I can look for the experiment on YouTube. Did you know there are a TON of videos on there showing a vast array of chemical reactions???  There is no need for me NOT to do the lesson. We can watch the video.  Is it as fun, no; however, we still get the lesson covered and this tired mom can hit the store over the weekend and pick up what I'm missing.  I guess what I am saying is: Where there is a will, there is a way!
You don’t have a plan
  • I should mention here, I rarely have a firm plan. I mean I schedule out our time, but it is something like this:
    • 8am - Get up and Get Ready
    • 8:30am - Eat breakfast
    • 9:00am - Life of Fred
    • 10:00am - Occupational Therapy
    • 11:00am - CodaKid
    • 12:00pm - Fix and Eat Lunch (follow by free time)
    • 2:00pm - Grammaropolis
    • 3:00pm Science
    • 4:00pm Outside Play
    • 5:00pm - Tutor (along with free time)
    • 6:15pm - Dinner
    • 8:00pm - Get Ready for Bed
    • 8:30pm Daddy Time (He reads, play a game, or covers History for me)
    • 9:00pm - Bedtime!
  • The schedule above is James's schedule for today. You see we cover some subjects, have some free time, have some play time, and some time with Daddy. Notice Science is general because I have not completely decided what we are going to cover. I ask James what he wants to cover or investigate in science and we study his topic of interest. In my state there is a homeschool requirement that we teach Reading, English, Science, Social Studies, and Math. There is nothing in the law stating how much time I have to spend on each topic, what topics we are studying each day, nor do I have to meet the educational requirements for my son's grade (he is basically in fourth grade). So I tend to study the things the kids want and in the order they want to cover them. I just make sure we cover each of the five subjects required by the law each week. Simple! I write the things we study (even Life Skills, YouTube videos, and educational apps) in my planner for each child. According to my state law there is no need to keep a record, but I do anyways, so we can look back and see what we have accomplished in a year.  Homeschooling, is often, only as complicated as you make it. Keep it simple on yourself and your children!
You’re trying to do it alone
  • This is the closing point of Pam's article. I completely agree with her!  It is SO hard to homeschool your children without someone to bounce ideas off of when you get stuck! Teachers have each other in the public school system and they get professional development. What do we get?  Maybe a homeschool conference and Pinterest (which is sometimes hard to live up to!) for our professional development! Not in the same league at all!  The best things I can tell you to do is to network with other homeschooling parents. Hopefully this means you can find yourself a local buddy. Having another harried mom you can visit ,and have some caffeine with, is super nice!  I'm still working on finding a local buddy. I do network with large homeschool groups. This includes a few local groups I created along with a few larger groups on Facebook. The best one I like is Special Needs Homeschool. It is a large group and many of the parents in there are happy to help point you in the direction. If you need to help with curriculum choices or just to help you figure out your homeschooling style (I'm eclectic or modified unschooling) Special Needs Homeschool will help you out. There are a few Facebook pages I really like including: Eclectic Homeschooling, Homeschooling/Unschooling, Practical Homeschooling, Homeschool Snark, and SEA Homeschoolers. These are a suggestion just to get you started!  Keep looking for more resources that fit your needs!

    I would love to hear you opinion and I hope you found this post helpful. 

For the Audio Learner

Joseph is my audio learner. He can learn ALL sorts of information from a song or singing a small rhyming ditty. He just AMAZES me what he can learn from song since he LOVES to hum and tap a beat! He was counting money today. This is a super hard task for him. He has been watching this YouTube video on money so while he was sorting money he hummed the music from the money video. This is how my little guy thinks! I swear, I think he hears EVERYTHING I say to him in more of a melody (tone and modulation of my voice) than the actual words. So here are some resources to help you audio learner get started:


For a $15 annual fee you can stream many books from My Audio Homeschool. They have Classic books, old-time radio theater, historical radio and television broadcasts, and more make My Audio School a treasure trove for educators, parents and students alike. Each book on My Audio School is broken down, chapter by chapter, allowing children to listen to their daily assignments in manageable chunks. Links are provided for those who prefer to read the book online, or for parents who want to burn a book to CD, subscribe in iTunes or download it to an MP3 player.

Bookshare is an awesome program but you have to have someone verify your disability (school psychologist, psychologist, or doctor) and Bookshare is only for a limited range of disabilities such as dyslexia, low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents you from holding a book.

Audible is an audio book services that is available to anyone. Amazon has a subscription service that costs $14.95 per month. That gives you 2 credits for the first month and then one credit per month plus 30% off any additional purchases.


These Addition and Subtraction rhyming cards help to teach your child their facts with little rhymes and hand clapping.

Times Tales uses multiplication stories to help your child remember their upper times tables.

Sing and Learn offers an array of audio resources across multiple grades.
The BBC has a ton of audio resources for learning including podcasts, a program called Numbertime (teaches Pre-K math)

Mr.R's World of Math and Science has math and science songs, poems, and stories.

Flocabulary offers a variety of subjects put to song and video over a range of grade levels along with books and CD.

A+ Interactive Math has an auditory component to its lessons. The visual lessons and graphics are all accompanied by the audible explanation. Every question is read every lesson is spoken, it is simple and easy to follow and incredible comprehensive! Before you begin you can take the Adaptive Placement Test to see where your child is at and what learning gaps they have.


The Mystery of History is a religious based instruction but it has a nice audio component (MP3 download) so your audio learner can listen along with reading the text. The audio version comes in $10 instructional segments making it very affordable.

This list is FAR from complete. There are a TON of resources out there!  I would love to hear what you have found. I will also keep coming back to this post and updating it over time. As always, the links to the various resources are embedded into the post and I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Burden of the Sibling of Special Needs Children

From L to R: Margaret, James, & Joseph
In my case all the children are special needs but James is, by far, the highest functioning child of my three surviving quadruplets. Though it feels vastly unfair I have all ready told him he may have to be the caretaker of his brother and sister one day.  Nothing like that settling into a nine year old's psyche. Sigh! I wish I could live forever and not saddle him with this possible burden but I doubt I will live to be Methuselah's age!

All this was brought up last night during dinner.  James was discussing that he wanted to visit Tokyo. He was talking rather animatedly about the subject and then stopped and looked at me and asked, "What would I do with Joseph?" I asked him what he meant and he said he would worry about taking Joseph with him and how would he keep Joseph safe if he was not there. At that moment, my heart broke a little. It makes me sad that James thinks Joseph is so disabled he would not consider taking Joseph with him. Joseph is actually quite a smart little guy. And James was concerned on who would watch Joseph while he was gone!

James asked me if I could watch Joseph. I told him, if I was around, of course I would watch him!  Then he asked what he should do if I was not around and I said he would have to find a reliable caretaker for him. Margaret said she wanted to go to Tokyo too. James said he would take her ONLY if she would listen to him and stay close. That is brave of him since Margaret is the wanderer and I can see her getting distracted and lost in Tokyo.

This conversation poignantly reminded me that having disabled sibling(s) may be a life-long burden for one of the other children. I am going to do the best I can to plan for Margaret and Joseph. I pray James will find, and marry, a very understanding wife! In the meantime, we live our life with purpose and plan for the future.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Educational Versus Medical: Why You Need to Understand the Difference!

Photo Credit: www.samuelmerritt.edu

Medical Versus Educational Diagnosis

The word diagnosis is thrown around a lot when it comes to educational issues. This is VERY important: the school CANNOT make a MEDICAL diagnosis for your child! When the school says your child has autism and they will provide special education services to your child they are NOT medically diagnosing them with autism! What the school is saying is that your child fits the educational definition of autism as defined by your state.  

Under federal law (IDEA) there are only 13 categories that are recognized. These are autism, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), intellectual impairment, other health impairments, orthopedic impairment, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment (including blindness).  A school will only provide special education services IF your child falls into one of these categories.  Also, each state may have further refined how each category is defined making things more complicated.

A medical diagnosis is made when someone fits a medical definition for a condition.  This definition is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V).  We are currently on the fifth edition.  The medical diagnostic criteria for autism is:

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):
  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understand relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
There is more to the definition but you get the idea.

You will often see a doctor use a ICD 10 billing code. Autism is F84.0. For medical billing you WANT SPECIFICALLY F84.0 versus F84.5 which is Asperger's syndrome. Why? Because your insurance company will probably reimburse you for F84.0 but not for F84.5! It is very important to pay attention to medical billing codes! Medical billing codes dictates what an insurance company will cover in the way of therapy and equipment. If you ever want to look at 

Related Services

These are the services you get from a school district like occupational, speech, and physical therapy.  These are the most common related services but there are many more that you can get in the educational setting.  I want to explain the difference between medical therapy and educational therapy.  This is VERY important for parents to understand since it is the source of many disagreements parents have with their local school district.

Medical versus Educational Model of Therapy

Educational Model
The Educational Model focuses on the skills impacting educational performance in all subject areas. Deficits are addressed through an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan that is agreed upon by the school-age child’s educational team. This model will focus solely on the outcome that enables a child to benefit from his/her educational program. Therefore, the school therapist(s) [Physical Therapist (PT), Occupational Therapist (OT), Speech Therapist (ST), or a combination thereof] will direct therapy so the child will gain skills to maximize his/her opportunities within the school environment. Therapy services are provided in school and most often within a group or classroom setting.

Eligibility: Eligibility for related services must be based on assessment, an educational need for service, and there must be approval of the IEP team.

Medical Model
The Medical Model generally focuses on the impairment regardless, of severity level to ensure that the child can successfully perform the basic activities of daily living (i.e., putting on their clothes, feeding themselves, speaking clearly their wants and needs, walking). Services are performed on a one-on-one basis in an outpatient clinic.

Eligibility: The physician or other certified practitioner along with a child’s parents/ guardian and licensed therapist determine the severity and impact on developmental areas or self-care skills and develop a Plan of Care (POC) for the therapist to follow.

Why is this Important?

Personally, I prefer medical therapy. Why?  The child gets direct one-on-one service with a therapist, there is no need to call a meeting to determine service, and the parent gets to help determine the goals of the therapy while educational therapy has the goals determined by others. I have rarely had my children in public school to take advantage of educational therapy.  We tends to stick with medical therapy. When they were small (4 years old) we got both educational therapy through the school and medical therapy from our insurance.  Yes, you can do both!  I HIGHLY urge you to do both if you have the opportunity! Why? Because it is practically impossible to get too much therapy!  Therapy is VITAL to resolve educational and sensory issues that impair learning! Even now, while we homeschool, therapy is the main goal for my children; not academics! They can learn better when their issues are addressed so it's worth spending the time on therapy.

I know this is a brief explanation but I hope this helps you understand the subtle but important differences in the medical versus educational model of therapy.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  You can also join my Facebook group at IEP Assistance and Special Needs Parenting Advice.