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Trade that IEP for a Homeschool Curriculum

When my family made the choice to homeschool our kids, it was no small decision. My son had been getting needed therapies through a lengthy Individualized Education Plan (IEP) since the age of seven. He was also in private therapy for extra help the school could not or would not agree to provide. Trading an IEP for a homeschool curriculum was scary. It was the right decision and one of the best I've ever made. One of the best parts was choosing a boxed curriculum that it is open-and-go, meaning your homeschool day is pre-planned for you. That might seem like a tall order for out-of-the-box kids. Yet after using Timberdoodle for several years with my own, I believe Timberdoodles custom kit builder is a powerful tool you can customize to fit your family’s preferences. Here are a few things you might consider. It allows you to piece your curriculum together getting the level you need in each subject while maintaining that discount you get from buying it all together.

1. Discover Your Child’s Learning Style

You know your child the best. Consider your custom kit a road map to homeschooling and use it as a launching point to create a learning environment tailored specifically for them. With neurodiverse kids, the opportunity to teach to their strength is particularly important. While they may struggle with attention challenges in a traditional classroom, as their teacher you can choose curriculum and activities to keep them engaged.

  • Do they learn visually?

  • Through song?

  • Or are hands-on activities more their style?

Your handbook offers suggestions for activities to suit all learning styles, but you can always add others to supplement what best meets your student’s needs. My kids love critical thinking games. We use them as brain breaks. Learning styles are also a consideration when choosing a math curriculum. In our house, Math-U-See blocks often become cities or even people who talk with one another.

2. Allow for Interest-Based Learning

Many differently wired kids may get laser focused on a topic or a subject and enjoy spending a lot of time in one area or finishing an entire week’s worth of reading in one day! You might consider a loop schedule if this works for your family, focusing on one subject at a time, rotating so you never feel behind. Our family likes to supplement topics our kids are very interested in with library books, crafts, or videos. Supplementing works well if you happen to get ahead in reading or you’d like to delve deeper into a history or science topic. That is actually one of my kids favorite parts of homeschooling. The ability to stay learning a specific subject or topic until they are ready to move on. Instead of Ancient Egypt and mummies being a blip in a year long study, we can actually study them all year.

3. Chunk Your Work

When my son had an IEP in public school, one of his accommodations was for his work to be broken into chunks to help him focus. Chunking can mean doing a few questions at a time or writing only small amounts. It can also mean working on a different aspect of it over a period of time or days to finish larger projects. (Like a 5-paragraph essay) When teaching our kids at home, we can chunk their work into a smaller, more manageable day than a typical, lengthy school day. But for wiggly kids, sitting still for even short periods of time can be difficult. I’ve had luck breaking our day up into shorter sections:

  • Ten minutes of schoolwork, followed by a brief break.

  • Ten more minutes, then break.

  • Finish the math sheet, play one of our critical thinking games

  • Read while riding your hoverboard

  • Color while listening to a Read Aloud

Chunking work can also mean physically chunking:

  • Cutting Activity Sheets into sections

  • Covering sections with another paper as you go

  • Writing individual questions on notecards or on a white board

  • Using task boxes as a fun way to promote independence and break work into manageable sizes. (They’re great for spelling word activities and math manipulatives.)

4. Make Your Handbook Work for You

Remember you’re on your own timetable. Your handbook is set for 36 weeks, but the pace and timeline is up to you. Make sure you are meeting your state’s homeschooling requirements, but generally you can take longer (or less time) to complete your curriculum if you like. You may fly through some subjects but go more slowly on others. That’s ok! In our family, we work at a different pace in each subject. My kids are stronger in Math and Science, so we generally finish it before the 36-week mark. So, our days will still consist of some science and math by doing experiments or games to keep things fresh in their minds. It's also fun.

5. Put the Right Tools in Your Teaching Toolbox

When you’re working with an out-of-the-box thinker, you may need some out-of-the-box tools to keep your lessons on track. A few that have helped the Instructor’s Guide work for our family include:

  • Visual timer: Using visual timers can help kids with ADHD and other neurotypical thinkers see time–and they provide a tangible reminder for you of how much time and attention your student can really devote to an activity.

  • Laminated pockets or a laminator: Using any sort of material that helps you turn an Activity Sheet into a wipe-clean activity can help add variety and fun. Writing on a vertical white board can also help if your child has poor hand strength.

  • A sensory diet: Think beyond the fidget spinner. A variety of sensory tools–or the right sensory diet, when appropriate–can help make your homeschool day run smoothly. Whether it’s starting your day with outdoor play, offering frequent breaks for heavy work around the house, or a simple basket of fidgets during Read-Aloud time or wobble cushions for seat work, there are many ways to incorporate this into your day. A tip we like in our family: write a sensory break right into your schedule and check it off as you move through your day.

  • Alternative work areas: You’ve probably heard of using a yoga ball as a desk chair. But if your child is struggling to sit at a table, how about ditching the table altogether? Take table subjects to the floor, outside, or to whatever spot suits them best. At our house we love clipboards (with paper holders) for outside school time.

6. Reach Out and Speak Up Because You Are Not Alone

At times, we can feel alone on this homeschool journey. But there are others who have been on journeys similar to yours, and mine. I’ve learned so much from other homeschool moms. Don’t be afraid to be honest, ask questions, and share your experience. Remember you are creating something beautiful in your home. Your Timberdoodle handbook is a tool you can use to help in your homeschool journey. Remember everyone is different and nobodies homeschool journey will be the same and that's O.K. There are many that have come before you and many that will come after. We as homeschoolers are a tribe. We are here to help don't be afraid to ask.

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