In the previous post we talked about how to help students with special needs through homeschooling.  The homeschool setting allows for flexibility to plan instruction with their needs in mind. It also allows individualization that may not be possible in a traditional classroom setting.  It also opens the possibility for even more creative types of instruction.

Here are some ideas for how to plan instruction effectively for your child with special needs:

Modifying Pace and Scheduling

Students with learning differences may need more time to learn or practice content. In a traditional school, these students may receive time and a half or double time on tests and other assignments as an accommodation. However, what is generally not considered is the length of time learning activities may take during class time. As a result, students with special needs may find themselves with a lot more homework than others because they didn’t finish the classwork during the allotted times. The lesson schedule is often quite tight, and the teacher may need to move on before some students have fully grasped the concepts.

In your homeschool, you have the option to modify both the schedule of lessons and the length of time that is spent on each lesson. You can allow additional time for activities, projects, assignments, and tests. Most importantly, you can do all of this without drawing peer attention to the fact that you are providing extra time in each case. You can simply adjust the pace of the instruction to the needs of your child.

To provide additional time without sacrificing content, you also have the advantage of spreading out instruction beyond the limits of a traditional school day. You can add in breaks and use evenings and even weekends to reduce the cognitive burden of long periods of instruction. You even have the flexibility to spread instruction throughout the year and reduce the “summer slide” of regression by having shorter but more frequent vacation periods. All of these strategies can allow your child to experience more success while building self-confidence!

Individualizing Instructional Strategies

Homeschooling your child with special needs also allows you to individualize instruction more than may be possible in a traditional classroom. Knowing your child best, you can bring in aspects of your child’s personality, interests, preferences, and strengths. You can also teach learning strategies that are most likely to work. For example, if your child likes to draw, you can ask your child to illustrate written assignments, create diagrams and concept maps, and try “one-pagers” (poster-like collections of pictures) to capture concepts through imagery. Be sure to have him/her capture the strategies that work in a strategy toolbox (a small recipe box works) or strategy notebook.

In addition to sharing specific learning strategies with your child with special needs, you can also keep these four teaching strategies in mind:

  • Big Pictures: Students with learning differences may have difficulty “seeing the forest through the trees.” Start with the big picture and then work on details. For example, present the overall learning target, the paragraph, before working on sentence grammar.
  • Pre-teaching: Students with learning differences, especially those with limited background knowledge, may benefit from the use of pre-teaching strategies:
    1. activating prior knowledge and experiences;
    2. clarifying/correcting misconceptions;
    3. using “before learning” graphic organizers;
    4. introducing vocabulary terms prior to reading/learning about the topic; and
    5. providing background knowledge through field trips, simulations, films, or other media/experiences.
  • Direct Instruction: Students with learning differences may have difficulty inferring what exactly is to be learned. Be explicit when teaching skills. For example, teach phonological awareness in a very systematic, direct way.
  • Chunking: Students with learning differences may find learning easier with information divided into conquerable pieces. Break lessons into smaller steps. For example, teach long division as a series of distinct steps (perhaps with a memory “trick” to help with remembering the steps).  Chunking not only makes learning more effective, but it also reduces anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Planning Engaging Activities

Students with learning differences may be reluctant to learn for many reasons. As a homeschool parent, one of your responsibilities is to help motivate your child. One way this can be done is by supplementing verbal input with visuals and other sensory inputs to provide multi-sensory experiences.  Doing this will reduce the impact of any specific sensory deficits while also creating more engaging learning opportunities. For example, use photographs, videos, and even cooking to expand on information that has been presented or read.

Homeschooling also allows you to go beyond traditional lesson formats to include alternate forms of learning, such as field trips, outside lectures and workshops, and a variety of learning environments.  Take advantage of this freedom, especially if your child with special needs has had negative in-school experiences in the past. Make homeschool “less like school” while maximizing learning. The world is your classroom!

Watch for subsequent blogs for homeschool parents of children with special needs related to delivering and assessing instruction, providing effective feedback, and including additional content areas that may benefit your child with special needs!

Homeschooling also allows you to go beyond traditional lesson formats to include alternate forms of learning, such as field trips, outside lectures and workshops, and a variety of learning environments.  Take advantage of this freedom, especially if your child with special needs has had negative in-school experiences in the past. Make homeschool “less like school” while maximizing learning. The world is your classroom!

Watch for subsequent blogs for homeschool parents of children with special needs related to delivering and assessing instruction, providing effective feedback, and including additional content areas that may benefit your child with special needs!

Sign up for our newsletter to get regular insights and practical advice about homeschooling, skill-building, and after-school enrichment.