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How to Gracefully Transition Your SPED Homeschool into the High School Years

By Peggy Ployhar

How NOT to Transition
I wish I could say I was calm, cool, and collected when I transitioned my oldest into high school, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was a massive bundle of nerves.

To make matters worse, in my pursuit to try to turn my frenzied state into a systematic approach for the upcoming transition, I signed up to attend a “How to Homeschool High School” workshop for typical students. I subsequently left that full-day seminar almost in tears because I felt the outline I had been given to follow was a near impossible task to require from my son.

Needless to say, I have made it through the high school years now with two struggling learners and am on the home stretch in homeschooling my youngest who challenges me on the other end of the spectrum as a gifted learner.

Over the years, I have learned a lot of lessons about what is really important to know when making a transition into high school for an atypical student and what you need to throw out the window OR put off until a later day so you don’t lose your mind.

Below are my biggest transitioning tips I want to pass along so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made.

10 Tips for Making Your Homeschool Transition to High School Successful

1 – Start with the Right Perspective and Make a Preliminary Plan
To start out your 1st year of homeschooling high school, in a much less stressful state than I did, here are 5 perspective setting points to guide you.

  1. Focus on where your child is at NOW, not where you wish they would have been when starting their high school transition.
  2. Develop GENERAL graduation expectations you and your spouse feel your student MUST accomplish before you will allow him/her to receive a diploma
  3. Include your student’s aspirations, skills, and interests in your plan.
  4. Don’t even look at putting together a transcript until the end of your 1st year. This time delay will allow you to get a better handle on what pace your child can keep, and it will put a lot less stress on both of you as you during this transition year.
  5. Each year focus on 3 main goals and make those goals measurable and relative to the items you have determined above in your preliminary plan. Fill in with other classes and learning activities once you feel your student is making progress on these critical goals.

2 - Take One Year at a Time
It would be wonderful if we and our children had a clear-cut idea of where their lives are headed once they transition out of high school, but very few do. Instead of setting your plan up for failure by laying out a 4-year transition plan before you start your first year of homeschooling high school, it is best to write your plan one year at a time with a projected outcome you can tweak along the way.

I would also warn against not having a plan at all. Check out this short video for a bit more information on how to go about creating a 4-year transition plan one year at a time, while still maintaining a focus on your student’s education. This video will take you through how I took one year at a time in teaching my oldest child.


3 - Develop Your Whole Child Through the Process
Too often the high school years get so overloaded with academics, we sometimes forget how important the non-academic parts of our student’s education are. Teaching a young adult how to cook, clean, do yard work, maintain a budget, develop their own faith life, drive, work with other people, and so many other adulting life skills will round out your student for everything life will require of them after they graduate.

4 - Follow the Checklist
We at SPED Homeschool have developed a SPED Homeschool High School checklist to help parents easily remember all the important things to keep in mind or know when homeschooling a student with special educational needs through high school.

5 - School However Long It Takes
High school for many students with special needs or learning disabilities goes beyond their 18th birthday. In most states, you can homeschool your student as long as you deem necessary for their transition into post-high school life. You will want to check with your state homeschool laws or HSLDA to ensure this is the case for your state, but also keep in mind that the IDEA allows for students to receive special education services up to age 21 (22 in some states), so many states allow the same at least for homeschooled students.

To further encourage you on this point, I suggest watching this video entitled “Is 18 the Magical Graduation Age?”

6 - Don’t Be Afraid to be Creative
One thing too many parents do without even realizing it is move towards a more formal approach to education when their student enters their high school years. Just because high school is taught in traditional schools with a more compartmentalized approach, that doesn’t mean you have to force your homeschool to mimic a traditional school for your student to receive an adequate education.

I used unit studies all the way through high school with my oldest child, and doing so offered him the hands-on approach he needed to stay engaged with his learning. If you want to find out more about how to homeschool high school using unit studies, watch this video.

7 - Don’t Let the Transcript Hold You Captive
The high school years can be a great time for your student to discover what they love to do and what they don’t. Taking a less rigid approach to homeschooling in high school will allow your student to learn some new skills without feeling like a slave to them if they end up not being his cup or tea. At the end of the year, it is much easier to clump a series of related learning activities into a creatively labeled class instead of forcing your student through an entire year of learning a particular aspect of a subject he lost interest in back in October.

8 - Derailments Happen
In some cases, things happen during your student’s schooling career that keeps her from obtaining all the plans you had hoped she would achieve during her homeschool high school career. When this happens you must remember this derailment doesn’t mean you have failed your child or her future will be bleak because her education has been derailed.

I say this all calmly now, but when my second oldest told me he was done with school at age 16, I was anything but calm. To read more about that story and how God has been working out his plan through that derailment, read my article “When Your Student Derails Your Homeschool High School Plan.”


9 - Keep the Bigger Picture Always in Front of You
When you start to stress, take a step back and make sure you are not stressing over the small stuff. Pray, ask God for a renewed perspective, and remember to give the most attention to helping your student achieve his main three yearly goals. The rest will fall into place when you keep your focus and trust in God to help you through each step of these homeschooling years.

10 – Stay Connected
You can’t do this alone because it is too easy to think you are the only one struggling to teach your student day in and day out. You need fellowship! The SPED Homeschool Facebook support group is a great community to come and connect with other parents who understand what it’s like in your homeschool because they live out the same scenarios in theirs.

If you follow these 10 tips you will be able to transition into these wonderful years with your student much more gracefully than I did. I have to say these were my favorite years of homeschooling my boys because I was front and center in their lives as they moved from being children to adults. I pray your years ahead will be equally blessed as you persevere forward into your own homeschooling high school years.

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The Missing Link in Special Education Homeschooling Instruction

By Peggy Ployhar

Recently I received a call from an exasperated mother who was desperately trying to find a way to teach her son. After homeschooling for 14 years and graduating her oldest, who was also a struggling learner due to a brain injury, she felt she had exhausted her teaching arsenal and was still coming up short in being able to teach her younger autistic son.

Questions to Revelation
Our conversation started with this mother asking if I knew of any different curriculum options she could try. But, instead of offering my best advice on curriculum, I led her through a series of questions to find out what teaching techniques had worked with her son and what his main interests and hobbies were. At first, her responses to my questions centered around all the curriculums she had bought in the past that were now filling her shelves, no longer being used for one reason or another. But, as I continued my questioning, she started deviating from talking about curriculum to talking about her son and the success he had experienced through their homeschooling endeavors. Eventually, our discussion moved into ways she could use the curriculum she already had, employ the services of her local librarian to find books focused around her son’s interests, and start building learning around those interests.

As our conversation came to an end, this mother confessed to me, “Maybe I just need to change how I teach my son instead of trying to find another curriculum.” Of course, this conclusion had been the main goal of my questioning.  But, if I had just told her to change her way of teaching at the beginning of our conversation, she wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about. It was only after leading and letting her discover the importance of individualizing her son’s education, that she truly understood how teaching her son was more about what she did instead of what she used.

The Homeschooling Advantage of Differentiated Education
Did you know in a survey done in 2002 of special education homeschooling parents “the majority of survey parents (58%) designed a curriculum for their children.” As a matter of fact, this same study reported that “All the parents in the case studies designed the curricula for their children based upon their ability and interest levels.” And, “most of the mothers criticized packaged curricula.” Now, you must understand that back in 2002 when this survey was conducted, there weren’t many homeschool curriculum options specifically targeted to teaching children with learning challenges.

It is interesting to note though, that in 2012 when special needs homeschooling curriculum was starting to abound across the country at homeschool conventions and book fairs, Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI summarized in an exploratory study of homeschooling outcomes the main advantage of homeschooling both learning disabled and gifted children was “The informal environment that homeschooling provides allows ‘differentiated instruction,’ not a one-size-fits-all version that is typical in public schools where teachers must meet the varied needs of twenty or more students in the classroom. The personal approach of schooling at home provides a natural environment to customize the curriculum for learning disabled and academically gifted children alike.”

In looking over many studies and surveys, including those cited above, as well as drawing from my decade of experience in consulting with special needs homeschooling families, it is easy to conclude that differentiated instruction, utilizing student specific accommodations and modifications, is not only the best way to homeschool a struggling learner but a homeschooling freedom that’s particularly advantageous to utilize with children who do not adapt well to traditional teaching methods.

A Widening Gap
I apologize ahead of time to anyone I may offend with my following remarks, but the reason I feel many special education homeschooling parents have moved away from implementing specific differentiated instruction has to do with special needs homeschooling curriculum developers who market products towards a specific diagnosis or learning disability. Now, I love curriculum and do feel parents can benefit from using both regular and special needs homeschooling curriculum, but when a parent believes a specific curriculum will teach to their child’s specific need to the point the curriculum itself provides the necessary differentiated instruction, that is a problem.

Too many homeschooling parents have reasoned themselves out of providing specific and individualized instruction for their child because they believe their special needs curriculum is providing enough learning variation on its own. Unfortunately, with the vast spectrum of learning disabilities and challenges confronting special needs homeschooling families, it’s impossible for curriculum providers to create materials able to meet the specific needs of all these unique children.

The Missing Link From a New Approach
Ultimately, parents who homeschool children with special educational needs will find the most effective way to teach their child doesn’t come in a package. Rather, it comes from being a student of their child, learning how to implement specific teaching strategies and methods and figuring out which ones work best in teaching to their child’s needs, locating resources that work with their child, and coaching their child one-on-one through the learning process.

We at SPED Homeschool have started the process of creating resources that connect parents to the training and support needed to properly modify, accommodate, and adapt curriculum and teaching methods to better fit the unique needs of their students. Our articles, live training broadcasts, podcasts, and support group are already helping hundreds of families every day in their special education homeschooling endeavors.

We are continuing to dream and pray about SPED Homeschool’s future impact. Our ministry started because we trusted God would lead the way and provide the means to make the dream He gave us come about. If you feel God is leading you to partner with SPED Homeschool as a donor, team member, or partner organization, please reach out and email us today. Together we CAN link special education homeschooling families to the necessary resources, training, and support that leads their children to success.

This article was originally written for Schoolhouse Rocked. The author approved editing and reprinting of the original content.

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Encouraging Growth in the Developmental Stages of Communication

By Mary Winfield

In my last post, I covered the basics of the DIR Method and why I think it is important for homeschoolers. One of the parts of DIR is to understand the developmental level of your child and how to use that knowledge to set attainable goals. So, in this post, we are going to dive a little deeper into this specific area of the DIR method.

The Nine Developmental Levels of Communication

When I worked in a private school for children with special needs, I was placed in the classroom that specifically focused on helping children with communication problems. We were taught nine different developmental stages for communication because communication is the basis for all learning. Here are those levels.

1 - Self-regulation and Attention

Typically reached between 0-3 months, this child can use their senses to stay calm, focus for short periods of time on one particular activity, and interact with another person.

2- Social Engagement and Relating

Typically reached between 2-7 months, this child can develop a relationship and attachment and interact with affection with another person.

3- Reciprocal Interaction

Typically reached between 3-10 months, this child can open and close circles of communication and express intentions, interests, and needs

4- Purposeful Problem-Solving Communication

Typically reached between 9-18 months, this child can use more complex circles of communication by combining gestures, actions, and words to gain a sense of self and problem solve.

5 - Creating and Elaborating Ideas

Typically reached between 24-30 months, this child can create ideas, pretend play, and convey emotional intention through play.

6- Emotional Thinking

Typically reached between 36-48 months, this child can make bridges between different emotional ideas.

7 - Triangular Thinking

Typically reached between 5-7 years, this child can start to process the idea of multiple causes for emotions or events.

8 - Gray Area Thinking

Typically reached between 7-10 years, this child can understand that emotions can be felt in varying degrees.

9 - Self-Reflection

Typically reached between puberty and early adolescence, this child starts to define who they are and to have an internal standard to relate back to their experiences.

Keep in mind, the given age markers are when typically developing children are likely to reach these milestones. So, in working with a child who has special needs and developmental delays you should not hold them to these standards; it is only a marker for your reference. Even typically developing children don’t reach all these markers by these indicated age ranges.

But now, what do you do with this knowledge?

Have you ever seen anyone pull taffy before? It is pretty mesmerizing to watch. When it is done by hand, a hook is attached to a wall. Then the candy maker takes a big ball of taffy and hooks part of it to the wall and stretches it. Then he puts it all back together in order to hook it in a different spot and stretch it again. It is a constant routine of stretching, relaxing back to normal, and then stretching again.

That is how you should think of these milestones. Your student will have a developmental step that they are comfortable staying within. That is a good baseline. You should then try to expand and stretch their capacities to the next step while still allowing your student to come back to what is comfortable before things get too frustrating. To read a more in-depth post about how to effectively teach using this combination of stretching and resting, visit this post.


One Day at a Time
It is also important to keep in mind that some days are going to fall below what is normally comfortable for your student. That is okay! We all have bad days or days when we don’t feel like ourselves, and your child will have those too. Work where they are and expand as much as they can take. The taffy puller doesn’t break the taffy, only stretches it. You want to do the same for your child. Stretch them, but don’t cause them to break with frustration. Knowing where your child is, what the next step is, and how you can work with them to reach that next step will allow you to help your child reach new goals in their communication.

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How To Determine Which Hand Your Homeschooled Student Should Be Writing With

By Amy Vickrey, MSE

I am not a handwriting expert nor an occupational therapist; however, in my 11 years in the classroom and in teaching my own son, I have learned many things about teaching a child to write. A lot of people worry about which hand their child should use. And the answer is....whichever is most comfortable for him/her. To begin with, I work really hard when a child is little to place objects in the middle to allow the child to determine on their own which hand to use with a tool. This allows a child to develop their own sense of handedness.

As a teacher in PreK classrooms in multiple states and settings, I always worked to allow and encourage children to experiment with using both hands to do activities. Most children pick a dominant hand between the ages of 4-6. However, my own son, who is now 6 ½, still has not picked a dominant hand. While he is right eye and right foot dominant, he still has not picked a dominant hand. Knowing that we have a family history of left-handed and ambidextrous people on both sides of the family, I decided to work with him on developing his left-handed writing and cutting skills as he seemed SLIGHTLY more proficient with his left hand. However, when I did this, I did not consider the accommodations he would need to be left-handed in what is essentially a right-handed world. As a result, I have had to learn to make some accommodations and changes to curriculum as well as visuals we use.

Simple Changes that Make a Big Difference
When I made my son's first school work checklist, I put the checkboxes on the right. That’s where I, as a right-handed person, would have wanted them so I can see what I am checking off.

Soon, I realized that for my left-handed son, this was not going to work. So I tried to modify it to see if it helped…

However, my son, who is ASD, took issue to the fact that I was modifying his schedule to create boxes on the “wrong side” as he saw it. So the following week, we started with a new checklist, including a new picture picked out by my son…

Left-Hand Accommodations Expanded
In talking with other parents about accommodations they have made for left-handed children, simple things such as binding a notebook on the right instead of left-hand side can make a big difference.

When we do handwriting, sometimes the way they set up the page doesn’t work for my son, so I copy the page, cut out the list of words and tape them along the side so he can copy from the right instead of the left.

I also learned to stop and think about the shape of writing tools. I bought some awesome rock crayons from a company started by an Occupational Therapist, only to discover that they lend themselves to right-handed individuals rather than left-handed. I was disappointed, but it made me realize that not everything is designed for left-handed use. I even bought left-handed scissors, which made a huge difference. Fiskars brand scissors can be used for either hand, but left-handed scissors are still more comfortable for left-handed use. Also, when we sit down to work together, I always sit on my son’s right side so his left hand is free to write and move without bumping into me.

More Information to Explore
Want more information on how to determine handedness and how to accommodate left-handed students? Check out these links:

Left-Hand Teaching Help:
5 ways to support a Left Handed Student
10 Objects Left Handed People Struggle With
Teaching Left-Handed Children
Tips for Teaching Left-Handed Children to Write 

Determining Handedness in Kids:
How to Determine If Your Child is Left or Right Handed
Spotting a Left-Handed Child
Activities that Can Help Develop Handedness

And remember, the most important thing is how comfortable your child is with his/her tools. Play-doh, paper tearing, playing with stickers, pouring sand or water in and out of containers, and just scribbling are all important parts of building muscles for writing too. So have fun, and enjoy exploring handedness with your children!

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Living Out Your Calling WHILE You Homeschool

By Peggy Ployhar

Do you ever wonder if you will ever accomplish your life’s purpose? Does it feel at times like homeschooling stands in the way between where you are now and the dreams that God has laid on your heart?

Encouragement From Experience
A while back I interviewed Melanie Wilson, an author, speaker and homeschool mom of 6 and talked about “How to Not Lose Your Identity as a Homeschool Mom.” During our discussion, we touched on how God tends to use the crazy things He takes us through to actually lead us towards our purpose, not away, even when we don’t understand how all of it will come together in realizing the dreams He has given us.

Here is that segment of the interview:

Encouragement From the Word of God
During this segment, I also touched on the fact that I had recently shared a devotional with the SPED Homeschool team and board along these same lines. So, to further encourage you in this area, here is the devotional I was talking about:

How Do I Live Out My Calling?

I think many Christian books inaccurately elevate what God's purpose for our life should look like, twisting God's purposes into worldly standards of a lifestyle with a purpose.

This past week while I was reading through Jeremiah 1, I was reminded that God's call is very different than a vocational call or a means of employment. Look at what God tells Jeremiah about how He has called him:

"I knew you before you were born" (Jeremiah 1:5)
"I consecrated your purpose before you were born" (Jeremiah 1:5)
"I have appointed you" (Jeremiah 1:5)
"I send you" (Jeremiah 1:7)
"I command you" (Jeremiah 1:7)
"I am with you to deliver you" (Jeremiah 1:8)
"I have appointed you [at this specific time for this specific purpose]" (Jeremiah 1:10)
Just like Jeremiah, before you were born God knew you, He had plans for your life, and He appointed you to have a purpose in His kingdom. That purpose was not a single thing, but rather an appointment your entire life will eventually reveal when your days are finished. It is not something you can put in a box and show off to others, rather it is a humble walk of obedience.

Since we can't see the big picture of what our life is going ultimately accomplish like God can, we can only guess at what our life's ultimate purpose is. Spending too much time focused on what our purpose is takes away from our current appointment, and EVERY appointment is a critical part of the bigger picture...EVERY walking, trusting, and obedient step.

The reality is God sends us and commands us (Jeremiah 1:7) and no matter what we face while being obedient in our following, He will also deliver us (Jeremiah 1:8)...and it is in living in that obedient trust wherever life takes us day by day, or even moment by moment, we are living out our purpose.

Encouragement From Prayerful Consideration
As I prayed over these verses, here is what I ended up writing in my notes the morning God put these scripture verses in front of me to study:

Your life is NOT your own, it never has been. Fear is not an option if you are wanting to live out your MUST trust and obey ALL the time.

The choice before each of us is this: You can spend the rest of your days living in God's victory being what you were made to be by living for Him, trusting Him and following Him as an anointed tool in His kingdom. Or, you can walk away from that anointing and never accomplish what your life was designed for. If you choose this second path you will always live in conflict knowing you are not fulfilling God's desired anointing. You will never truly experience rest, and peace will always be fleeting.

Encouragement From Looking at Life from the God’s Perspective
The night after I had written these things down in my journal, I was at the grocery store and the cashier for the line I was in was having a conversation with the woman ahead of me about living the perfect life on a tropical beach. He decided to continue the conversation with me, which unfortunately for him didn't get the same response as it did with his previous customer. Instead, I asked him if he would really be happy doing nothing for the rest of his life. I know it wasn't nice to rain on his parade, but in the end, he did confess that it would sure be an empty life if he didn't do something with purpose.

God's purposes are all around you today. Look for them, ask Him to reveal them to you so you don't miss a single one. It is living out these daily purposes that you will accomplish the ultimate purpose God designed you for...and it will be way more powerful of a testimony than just doing a few "great things" in the public eye before your numbered days have been lived out here on earth.

Encouragement From Others
I hope this devotional has encouraged you to keep up a faithful walk before God. Homeschooling is NOT an easy calling, especially if you are homeschooling a child with special educational needs. But, you can always trust that if God has called you to homeschool He did not make a mistake or give you dreams He can’t work out amidst you teaching your child.

If you want to be further encouraged in this area, make sure to watch the full interview with Melanie Wilson. And, I recommend becoming part of our SPED Homeschool Support Group to receive daily encouragement in your special education homeschool calling.

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Crossing the Homeschool Bridge to High School

By Tracy Criswell

Homeschooling a child with different needs can be overwhelming, especially during the junior high years. Then when you get to eighth grade, you and your child have to start thinking about high school. I have already been through this once with my oldest son and am ready to start this journey with my oldest daughter next year. Both children are different and unique learners. My oldest son is a very traditional learner with anxiety. You can give him a computer program or a textbook and guide him; however, my oldest daughter is a very non-traditional learner. She has ADHD, anxiety, an undiagnosed learning disability, and scoliosis. Even though each child is different, there are many things you can do to make the journey of crossing the bridge into the high school years easier.

Bridges are Unique
It is important to remember each child is different. Each child has his/her strengths, weaknesses, and different learning preferences. It is important to identify these and not compare your child to each other. This has been a struggle for me. I have to keep reminding myself that my daughter will follow her own path during her high school years. She might take a different path to follow her postsecondary goals than her big brother, and that’s okay.

Bridges Lead to Different Places

Ask your child what they are interested in. They don’t have to be 100% certain at the end of his/her eighth-grade year, but it is important for your child to have an idea of what he/she is interested in. This information will also provide as a guide of which jobs your child might be interested in. When you have discussed this with your child, it is important to provide opportunities during ninth grade to explore those careers and possibly do some prevocational job visits. At these job visits your child would have the opportunity to find out what is required for each job, what type of postsecondary education is needed, and whether or not the job is truly a great fit. If you have any family or friends that work in those interested career fields, your child could interview them too. The more information and knowledge that you provide your child will help him/her make a better-educated decision about what he/she wants to do after high school.

Bridges Designed Well, Last

It is important to sit down with your child to create a plan of which classes to take for ninth grade. These classes should include the basic subjects (English, math, science, social studies, etc.), especially if your child is planning to attend a two or four-year college. Electives (classes that allow children to explore different interests and life skills) are just as important as the basic subjects. For example, my oldest daughter that will be a ninth grader next year will be taking the following classes: English I, pre-algebra, Biology I, World History, Spanish I, Concert Band, Pep Band, Career Exploration, Introduction to Art, Computer Skills, and P.E. It is important to note that homeschooling secondary children with special needs will not take the exact classes that my daughter is taking. At this point, she is interested in becoming a makeup artist, which might require a two-year degree and/or apprenticeship. Many children will change their mind several times during high school in what they want to do for a career. My oldest son, who will be a senior next school year, has changed his mind many times and now has narrowed it down to two different careers that he is interested in. Remember that nothing is set in stone.

Bridges Take Time to Build

I would also suggest you purchase a four-year planner and a grade book (unless you choose to use a portfolio where you keep samples of your child’s paperwork, projects, etc.). During high school, as a homeschooling parent, you will need to make sure to record grade for a transcript, find a curriculum, compile books read, organize volunteer activities, find extracurricular activities (church, scouts, 4-H, band, choir, sports, etc.), record awards earned, and help your child apply for part-time jobs. For my oldest son, I shared the four-year planner with him since I used it to inform him what his assignments were. My oldest daughter I am planning on purchasing a 4-year planner for my records as well as a yearly student planner for her. This will help her learn time management and scheduling skills.

Bridges Transport from One Place to Another

Finally, it is important as a parent of a soon-to-be high schooler to remember to take a deep breath. Everything will work out. Remember you are there to help your child work towards his/her postsecondary goals (after high school education and career). At the end of your student’s high school journey, you will be amazed how your child has changed over the past four years. It goes by too quickly.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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Writing, Reading, and Other Homeschooling Essentials

By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed

“Ever since the dawn of time, man has needed to work.” Thus began my eleven-year-old son’s thinking paper. The topic: why he should have been cleaning out the garage. We long ago forgot the details of that day, but we never forgot the opening line of that paper!

How did my son learn to write? How does anyone learn to write? Some children, it seems, learn to write as easily as they learn to read, as if without instruction. Others would rather do anything to avoid placing words onto paper. Most fall somewhere in between.

Dysgraphia, this decade’s ubiquitous cousin to dyslexia, offers insights into the writing process for any student. When a child faces neurocognitive impediments to writing, we are all forced to look more closely. What comprises effective writing instruction for any student?

Attend to Readiness
Good writing instruction begins long before we ask a child to hold a pencil. Whether for the beginner or for an older child’s remediation, we must evaluate, teach, and retrace steps in writing readiness to assist skilled writing. We focus on pincer grasp, finger dexterity, and hand strength through clay or playdough, coloring, and scissors exercises, as in SC Level B and Scissors books.

When this readiness is achieved, we work on simple pencil grip, posture, and proper letter formation. We practice so this becomes automatic over time. Working memory has limits for any child, but especially for the child with challenged cognitive function. If we can automate fundamental processes, writing can flow more creatively. “Basic processes need to be made unconscious and automatic as early as possible in order to free the mind.” Hirsch Jr., E.D’s excerpt from The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them.

Teach the Essentials
Simply providing our students with language models, good literature, and “literary experiences” is not sufficient; we must strengthen their skills for this task. During the primary years, we teach correct spelling, punctuation, penmanship, and sentence composition. We practice, practice, practice these skills to mastery. Generations ago, this was obvious. Today we must remind ourselves.

The good news is this: Thoughtful writing benefits even more than a student’s compositions. The act of writing produces neurocognitive benefits.

See results of the following research contained in these writings:

We must engage our children in the act of writing, beginning with the basics, as soon as we strengthen their fine-motor skills to readiness.

Remember the Humanities
We can teach writing skills explicitly, even as we introduce literature, art, and music for the mind, character, and soul. All comes together to improve the child’s intelligence, moral development, and understanding, and this improves his writing. “Reading makes a full man,” said Francis Bacon, “conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man.”

In classical education, we combine writing with literature and the humanities. We bolster this with the mental disciplines of arithmetic and mathematics. We lead our children to the natural, moral, and theological sciences to give them a lifelong, invaluable gift of true education.

With special teaching strategies and extra practice, we can give this gift to many of our children who face challenges. These challenges include English as a second language, asynchronous development, medical conditions, learning disabilities, sensory impairments, speech and language difficulties, intellectual disability, and autism. Some children will need significant accommodations, but we need not place accommodations above education. Occupational or cognitive therapies should never supplant faithful instruction.
Enjoy the Impact

Teaching writing can bring great joy because words can bring great joy. Words can offer wisdom, comfort, and grace, whether through the well-crafted thinking paper, a poem written in sympathy, or a simple thank-you note. We remember this when our students learn from Simply Classical Writing: Step-by-Step Sentences Book One and Book Two, Bible editions.

The written word connects us as human beings. Even more importantly, God revealed Himself to us through the Word. My children and I were reminded of this as we recently read: “Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” His Word brings light and life, hope and comfort, joy and gladness to all mankind. And this has been most certainly true, ever since the dawn of time.

This article first appeared in The Classical Teacher, winter 2017 edition. Reprinted with author’s permission.

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