It’s been just a little over 12 weeks since we made the decision to start homeschooling – it hasn’t been a smooth transition and there are days it hasn’t been very easy and then, there are days that are great!
I found a curriculum from Homeschool Your Boys and was rather excited to start using it. I found it great as a basis to start with. It gave ME the ideas, and structure I could use with Xavier. I also didn’t force him to do activities I knew were beyond his ability and tried modifying them to meet him at a more basic level. Sometimes this meant doing fewer activities in a day.
Then I hit a slump, Xavier really struggles with a lot of the activities, the activities were also not enough. At Xavier’s age and ability, his concentration isn’t great (we are working on that). Xavier also gives-up very fast if he sees that he struggles with things. So for us, in our home, we could easily do with at least 10-15 activities a day. Depending on the activities they may drop if they keep his attention for a long time – like cutting. I don’t know if it’s the danger in the scissors that he likes or the ‘destruction’ it creates for him, but Xavier LOVES to cut and this can keep him busy for about 20 minutes! Of course he’s using 2 hands to cut and can’t cut on straight lines yet, but for now, that’s not our goal!
Teaching Xavier colours, numbers, shapes, letters and counting is NOT an easy task. In fact, anything new is a challenge because he has the speech and language delay. I have to constantly remind myself that Xavier cannot even say the words, let alone retain the details of the ‘lesson’. I’m sure that if he could at least talk and say the word, retention and learning may come easier. I know that all of this will only come right with ALOT of repetition. It took him 5 months to start saying words through constant repetition, it’s going to take about the same time or longer to get the numbers, alphabet, counting, etc into his head.
At one of Xavier’s OT sessions, I had mentioned how lazy and uninterested he is to draw or colour in. She advised that I take a step back and do more fine motor exercises with him so that he can gain confidence and that that would help correct his grip and thus his willingness. So, I did. Giving him pieces of spaghetti to put through a straw is one of his toughest tasks but with lots of praise and encouragement when he wanted to give up – he just continued doing it. So we continue.
The other ‘lightbulb’ moment for me came when he actually coloured in a picture of Cow a ton better than he has ever done – now, I do not give him blank pieces of paper to ‘draw’ on, I give him pictures and he doesn’t understand ‘in the lines’, so I get him to colour in the ‘eyes’, ‘ears’, ‘bum’, ‘tail’, ‘feet’, etc. This keeps him interested and he learns new body parts or features that way.
I guess this is the learning we’ve had to do with homeschooling, and I’m learning everyday. It’s finding what works for your child, and not what ‘should’ work. As Lauren said to me, “it’s HOME schooling, not school at home”.
Finding resources for homeschooling special needs isn’t an easy task. But, I came across a Skills List which Hands on Homeschooling (another curriculum) has so kindly posted on their website for each age group and I’ve made notes on where the 2 & 3 year olds should be according to the list. Xavier will be 3 in November but cannot do a quarter of the things on the 2yr old list (which they say generally a child reaches by the time they turn 3).
My objective with the skills list is not to compare my child or make myself feel more despondent. It was merely a means for me to take a step back and give us a goal. A means to measure ourselves and to achieve those things listed on the skill list. Because, lets face it, as ordinary parents without teaching qualifications (I am strongly considering studying along these lines) we don’t know what to look for! I was once milestone obsessed, now the charts are there as a guide to help me work on achieving those goals in whatever time frame it takes!
So, where are we with homeschooling? I’ve dropped the curriculum for the most part ( I will probably use it at a later stage again). I choose a theme for however long I feel is necessary. At the moment we’re doing animals, last week was farm animals, Xavier gained a new word “Cocka-Doo” as in rooster and he even got to see and touch them which re-enforces what he’s learnt. Even Memphis has learnt to say “moo”. This week is Zoo animals.
I choose a book for the WEEK and we read the SAME book EVERYDAY within the theme and the same song everyday! I know some may think the children will get sick and bored of the same book/song everyday, but I feel this is OUR route. The reason I’ve chosen animals is because part of school readiness is that your children can name the basic animals and their sounds. Xavier needs a lot of repetition, so this is what he’ll be getting from now on. The other activities are spread out across the days/weeks to add variety. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to teach the Alphabet, numbers, shapes, etc.
I do a lot of gross motor with the boys as well, a lot of the ideas are taken from our OT sessions and what I learnt at Clamber Club when X was a baby.
I’m still juggling around with the routine, but I think Xavier needs a schooling routine – similar to a child with Autism, I think structure and routine gives them the confidence they need to feel comfortable in their environment. So this is a work in progress – how best to plan our day. However, I never interrupt them if they are really just enjoying themselves and playing by themselves. It’s important they get this right too!
So, yes, I’ve taken a few steps back and going to the basics and modifying the information at my disposal to suite us! Yes, there is also still lots of room for improvement, I have a lot to learn still. My motivation lacks some days when Xavier is uncooperative but I’m working hard on that. (that’s for another post).
I have to remember that we are still in the ‘formative’ years, he’s still a little boy and that I cannot force him to learn. But hoping that the ways we do things will help his brain make the connections it needs to and that they stick.