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Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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Custom Fitting A Program For The Learning Disabled Child

By Tom and Sherry Bushnell - Fall1994

When a child looks "normal" society expects ordinary skills to be learned on time. It is frustrating for those families who must "hide" for fear not measuring up to normal homeschool standards. Well meaning folks may give them advise such as ----Perhaps you let them play outside too much. -----Be more structured----Maybe you are too structured

----Don't push so hard ----

However, these mothers know in their hearts that it has nothing to do with the "program", and everything to do with the abilities (or lack of them) of their child.

It is always amazes us how people measure children with learning disabilities by what they CAN NOT do instead of what they CAN do. Learning disabled children are much more normal than abnormal. The amount of skills that are lacking are relatively small compared to all of the skills they have mastered. 

With this in mind, let us look at finding curriculum that will work for our children.

1. We need to find out how our children prefer to learn. Is it by sight, touch and exploring, hearing and looking at pictures? Use different combinations. It's not good to put our children in a box by saying, "Sally is a kinesthetic learner, so we only use touch as a mode of learning".

We don't mind picking and choosing from a variety of curriculums. Using this practice to our advantage, we can custom fit a program for each child. Homeschool fairs are a good way to see the resources. Networking with other parents is another great way to become familiar with what works. Let's present interesting information and let our children assimilate it. They'll find the best way to retain it.

2. Being wise stewards, lets use what we have on hand. The majority of beginning concepts (ABC's, 123's) can be taught with household materials in fun and interesting ways. Try the hardware store before the expensive catalogs! This may take more preparation, but including our children in the process can be the beginning of their concept recognition.

3. Is phonics is not clicking with your child? Try a combination of sight words and phonics to give some success. If that doesn't work, try word keys (parts of words are memorized) ARL Assured Readiness for Learning on page 45 is a good program and very inexpensive! The Linda Mood Bell program has also been highly recommended for intense phonics teaching (also on page 45).

4. Using a hands-on-approach is fun even for those children who are not learning disabled. Child motivated learning works. Let's play it smart by throwing away old conceptions of "school" and have fun! It almost sounds too good to be true, but a good majority of the usable information our children need to survive in this world cannot be gleaned from text books! It also helps when we put aside the "this concept is to be learned by this age" mentality and to once again...relax. How many fairly normal children do you know who cannot actually count by age 12. These skills will come. And even if they are never really mastered..... people learn to cope without those particular skills. A rule of thumb we use is: If concepts are being presented in a simple fashion and we are at the point of despair of ever grasping it STOP. We'll try a month or two later. Perhaps even a year or two! It is not worth getting to the point of burn-out. Learning should be interesting and fun......not a battle ground, with the makings of World War Three!

If our children are consistently self willed and refuse to listen to our words or they are unable to sit still while we work together, training them to have some self control is the first step before actual teaching should take place. As home -schooling parents we are faced with the importance of establishing a healthy learning relationship with our children. It is not the school's responsibility anymore. The ball is in our court to find exactly where the problem lies and to eradicate it! If we spend 6 months on behavior and we feel is a well spent 6 months. Now we can start learning together. It takes time and consistency to teach our children to sit still. We start in the morning after breakfast during Bible time. We share a cup of tea or juice after we've eaten and the little ones are finishing up. For 10 - 15 minutes we read the Word, discuss the passages and pray before the day's explosion of activity begins. Over a period of time this 10 minutes can be expanded into 20 or 30 with age appropriate activities. The basic message......STAY!!!

As our children (special needs) learned to quiet themselves and just plain sit still, we reaped great harvests in other areas too. Self-control, patience, and listening skills are among the fruits we have seen.