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Tips for Homeschoolers
From parents who homeschool children with special needs

Do you have a child who has trouble remembering what he or she learns? Do you have a child who has problems with social skills? Do you have a child who is impulsive and doesn't seem to learn from consequences, even if he or she understands cause and effect? Then your child might be one of the thousands who were affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs. One out of every ten children were exposed to "risk" drinking by mom during pregnancy, and one out of every 100 has some significant long-lasting effects that might only show up as learning disorders and behavior problems. I have attended a training on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders by Teresa Kellerman, and this information has proved to be very helpful to me in homeshcooling my alcohol/drug exposed foster children. Here is where you can find out about her workshops: Fasstar Enterprises Workshops. --Susan

I have become aware of a discrepancy that I only too late realized with my own daughter and her school - that is, I assumed too much intelligence and too much professionalism on the part of the school. Only too late did I realize that these were people who didn't like their jobs, really didn't care about this child, and who had been only saying or doing whatever it took to make me think that they were on top of things, much like my teenage son's response when I ask him if he's done his homework and if he needs any help. Excluding me from the process made that illusion easier for them to pull off, but not any more likely to happen. It wasn't that they didn't understand FASD. They didn't, but the problem was that they didn't WANT to understand FASD. They wanted to go home. And they wanted this problem to go away. I don't know how to fight that. My gut instinct is to shake them by the shoulders, but I'd probably get arrested. How do you motivate teachers to teach and to learn about teaching? How do you get them interested? I thought about some kind of elaborate sticker chart with tupperware and avon prizes, since they spent a lot of time in the lounge discussing both. -- Claudia Barker


I'm willing to bet that 2 hours of quality education time is the max some of our kids get. When Randy Joe was in third grade he got suspended for stealing for three days. They sent his work home & we were done in 45 minutes. I took it back to the school that afternoon & asked what they did the rest of the time. They couldn't answer. I was so upset because I thought that was the work for one day & found out that was for the three days. No wonder he was in trouble so much that year... he had time to be. I wish now we would have pulled him & homeschooled him. --Teri Sipe


I've had great success just with being consistent, simple in directions, being sensitive to "dd days" (example, on a day when she's "scattered," we paint, dance, do "phys ed," science-hands on, and the subjects she really enjoys. I also read aloud on those days. On days she's "focused," we do our more formal work.) I've found she's a better learner with "hands on" learning -- example, math we use things to count, subtract, add, etc.

I think a mom/caretaker knows a child with special needs better than anyone. Be flexible, yet firm -- be willing to change the days activities, but stress that we have school from x to x hours.


Someone asked about homeschool curriculum for the summer. I homeschooled for nine years. Until our daughter reached high school, we patched together a curriculum from workbooks available at school supply stores. In high school I adapted the ABEKA VIDEO program for her. I tried some packaged curriculums occasionally but they did not really fit her needs.

Hint # 1: Somewhere around the start of the fourth grade I got smart, or really exhausted and stumbled on a pearl of wisdom - I let our daughter go to the store and pick out the workbooks SHE liked for each subject. I would kinka look things over and hand her books for her level. The books she chose sometimes surprised me but they seemed to fit her style of learning and her special needs. She used them anyway. Nowdays most book stores have workbooks from various publishers that are grade level appropriate.

Hint # 2: Kids with FAS need structure but need choise within that structure. I kept lists of acceptable activities for exercise time, school time, choise time, quiet time, etc. During school time she could work on any subject she chose. Sometimes she would go a week working on only her history projects. Then she would not do history and would get caught up on the other subjects. I think she needed to do this because of her difficulty in transitioning between subjects. Commonly, she would spend her whole school time working on one or two subjects. Her schedule might look like English,literature, and composition on Monday, Wed, Fri with Science and Math on Tues and Thurs.


We have tons of flash cards representing everything from math to language, time telling, money, etc. Sometimes I'll put a particular category on the table and the boys do matching games, and then compare them either to each other or to something in the house, ie, the clock. We have an easy-to-read analog clock we purchased from Discovery Toys in the dining room where they can see the clock from the table. The calendar is also there, and my safety wheel when I make another one to replace the one that was destroyed.

I also have a Time and Place house and it's great for teaching about time, weather, seasonal changes, etc. It has very clear information regarding day and night and it's a very visual program. It also has a directional game there that I found kindergartners found fascinating, and were able to master it by the time they reached grade one. Someone asked about homeschool curriculum for the summer. I homeschooled for nine years. Until our daughter reached high school, we patched together a curriculum from workbooks available at school supply stores. In high school I adapted the ABEKA VIDEO program for her. I tried some packaged curriculums occasionally but they did not really fit her needs.


Bumper sticker for Mom who homeschools one special child (from Claudia B):
(click here)

"I want one for my van. My daughter would love it. The little stinker has her friends bugging their parents to homeschool them now. I overheard her in church Sunday telling a girl who was complaining about her teacher that she always gets her teacher's attention. She also was showing them how to do an outline for a report. Maybe I'm not screwing this up too badly." -- Teri


Why do our kids, that are so delayed, have to try and keep up with kids that don't have the brain damage our kids do? If they are three, going on one, or twelve going on six or seven, why can't they be at the one or the six or seven age level? It seems like so much is forced on our kids at such a young age because everyone else has their kid in school. They have to learn so fast. This doesn't necessarily mean your situation. You just got me thinking on my soapbox line of thinking.

I'm lucky enough to get to stay home and homeschool my five little FAE kids and they can grow at their individual levels. Just to see how they all were doing I asked the kids some questions. My three year old can't talk yet, well he's just starting a little. My four year old amazed me. I asked her if she knew who the president of the United States of America was and she told me George W. Bush. I asked her what his job was. She said he works; he asks people if they want to do what he wants them to do. I asked my 5 yr. old, the most damaged one, I think, and she didn't know anything and didn't even want to try to think. My 6 year old said the president was Bush but he didn't know what he did. My 8 year old, the one with head injury so bad they have had to do two eye surgeries to help some of the damage that was done to him besides the FAE, told me the president was George Bush. I asked him if he knew what his job was and he started bawling. Can you imagine the hard time he'd get if he did that in school? Poor kid, it was stressful because he didn't know. I told him it was okay if he didn't know, I was just wondering if he knew, no big deal. I had them all by me one at a time so they didn't hear each others answers. So many different levels of abilities at pretty close to the same chronological age. But the mental age varied greatly, depending on the amount of abuse, be it physical or alcohol and drugs, etc.

I don't think schools are geared to deal with that. My 19 yr. old learned that he was stupid, dumb, couldn't do anything right, and wouldn't ever amount to anything in life. His words were always "I can't" and "I'm dumb" and "I'm not worth anything". That's what he learned in school before I started homeschooling him in fourth grade. I've tried hard but I've never been able to get those thoughts completely out of his head. --Carol


I know a lot of you send your kids to school and a lot of you have your kids medicated and you struggle with the schools. That's your choice and if it's best for you then that's what you do. Some of you can't do any different, but for those that can, you may want to try homeschooling sometime. It saves a lot of the hassles and my second batch of kids (my husband calls it our second litter) are growing up happy and willing to try most anything. We don't have it easy. They are all FAE. They have fits and tantrums and can't sit still very long and all those other FAE and sensory problems and RAD and ODD, etc. You've heard me vent now and then, some of you anyway. I think it helps to have them in a peaceful home setting where they learn they can do good because the goals to reach are for them, not for a class of 20 kids. It's individual and I don't set them up to fail. I set them up to succeed, however small that success might be. My eight year old got to help Dad mow the lawn today. I think he walked about 2 inches taller tonight. He was worth something. He could do something to help and he felt the joy of a job well done. I totally believe in homeschooling these special kids. --Carol


Dolch Word List (220 comon words in large print for learning to site read)


The joys of being homeschooled: Tips for kids from Sharon H.

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Last update: August 10, 2004