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Mastering the Art of Record Keeping in Homeschooling
by The SPED Homeschool Team Record-keeping is an art, not a science. What works for one family may not work for another, and your system may need to evolve over time. Peggy Ployhar, founder of SPED Homeschool, and the rest of our team have compiled a list of records and documentation we’ve kept over the years. Requirements vary from state to state, so make sure you know what’s required for homeschooling in your area. Even if certain records aren’t required, keeping examples of your children’s work is valuable for tracking their progress. Remember, your system can change from year to year. Checklists for Planning and Tracking Booklists Calendar Daily or weekly lesson plans Daily or weekly checklists Grading rubrics Necessary supplies Student tasks/assignments Teacher prep tasks Unit study items Syllabi Scope and Sequence from curriculum or homeschool co-op Schedules By unit Extracurricular activities Monthly Per student Student activities Therapy Travel and field trips Weekly Yearly Grading Report Cards Rubrics Spreadsheets with project and test scores Transcripts Records Annual goals or focus Binder Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Student Education Plan (SEP) Picture collages of a student’s year in review Pictures or scans of assignments, tests, stored on Cloud or Google Drive Yearly testing summaries (required state standardized testing) Yearly portfolio boxes Our Pro Reminders Work Smarter, Not Harder Team members Amy, Dawn, and Melissa recommend saving lesson plans and daily checklists. These are not just planning tools but also records of your school day. Melissa shares, “Every day, my son has a checklist of ten assignments to do for school. He is seven and, while that may seem like a lot, most assignments take under 10 minutes! Most days, he is free to skip around on his checklist, and he frequently completes his reading or math before we start our school day. This list has been one of the best ways to make homeschooling a smooth experience.” Dawn adds, “Keeping track can help you and your child see what needs to be done and gives everyone a way to visually see what is expected.” Utilize Technology Amy utilizes technology to keep records and share them with people outside the immediate household. “I take pictures of tests, work samples, and activities and upload them into organized folders in a Google Drive dedicated to this purpose. I share those folders with the relevant people, and they can view them as needed. I include samples from all required areas, as well as an annual email about our focus and main curriculum for the year. I also include evaluations and results from any standardized tests we participate in, and for any therapy my boys are doing. I even have a folder for extracurricular and other fun activities.” Mastery Over Grades Team members Cammie and Dawn believe in mastery. Cammie explains, “I’m a strong believer in mastery as well as following directions. As a result, a student will only receive an A or an incomplete. This makes grading simpler and reinforces learning.” Dawn reminds us, “If they don’t do well, the beauty of homeschool is we can go back and relearn until they master the material.” By staying organized and flexible, you’ll be able to effectively track and support your child's progress through their educational journey.
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How to Track Homeschool IEP Goals
By Amy Vickrey, MSE After gathering your documents, writing your goals, and deciding on accommodations, you're ready to start working towards those goals. Here are some frequently asked questions to help guide you through the process. How do I know what progress is made and when my child reaches their goal? Tracking progress is as individual as the goals themselves. Some goals can be monitored through a portfolio of work showing the student’s progress over time. Be sure to date each work sample and note any accommodations used. Other times, a tally sheet or checklist might be useful. The key is to document everything so you can clearly see the progress. What happens if my child is not making progress? If your child isn't making progress after a significant period of time (which could be a few weeks to a few months), consider changing your approach or providing more support to help your child achieve the goal. Check out my article on levels of support: "Is it cheating when I help my homeschooled child?" Over time, gradually reduce the support to foster independence. You can also re-evaluate and modify the goal if needed to make it more achievable, or carry the same goal into the next year. What happens if my child progresses quicker than I expected? First, celebrate! Then, set a new goal for the next skill you want your child to achieve. Although these are commonly referred to as “annual goals,” children develop at different rates. Sometimes focusing on a skill helps a child master it faster than anticipated. In that case, move on to the next goal, but always take time to celebrate achievements! How do I report these goals on report cards? If you issue grades or report cards every 6 or 9 weeks, write a quick summary for each goal and/or objective. This helps you compile and summarize all the data you've gathered, providing a single page of documentation at the end of the year. This summary will also assist you in setting goals for the following year. Additional Resources Check out our IEP Tools Pinterest board or explore these links for more ideas: SMART IEPs Setting Annual IEP Goals: What You Need to Know IEP Goal Tracking Sheet By staying organized and flexible, you'll be able to effectively track and support your child's progress towards their educational goals.
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Embracing Your Homeschooled Student's New Goals
By Dawn Spence As the new school year approaches, it brings along the opportunity for setting fresh IEP goals and objectives. Whether your goals are a continuation from the previous year or entirely new, starting a new school year with new objectives is an opportunity for your child to embrace challenges and growth. Here are four ways to kickstart the year with enthusiasm and motivation for new goals. Break Down the Goals Introducing all goals at once can be overwhelming. Allow your child to ease into new objectives by focusing on one goal at a time. Incorporate enjoyable activities like read-alouds or games to provide a positive experience alongside challenging tasks. Take it Slow With a full school or physical year ahead, there's ample time to work towards achieving goals. Designate specific days for different subjects or goals to create a manageable schedule that suits both you and your child. Flexibility is key in adapting the schedule to meet evolving needs. Make it Exciting Infuse excitement into the learning process by approaching goals with enthusiasm and joy. Transform goals into engaging activities or games to make learning enjoyable. When faced with challenging goals, turn them into exciting challenges that your child will eagerly tackle. Be Flexible Recognize that not all methods will work for every child. If a particular approach isn't yielding results, be open to adjusting strategies. Involve your child in the decision-making process and seek their input on what methods or tools would best support them in achieving their goals. IEP goals serve as a roadmap for the academic year, guiding progress and growth. Embrace the journey of learning alongside your child, allowing room for adaptation and growth for both of you. With patience, enthusiasm, and flexibility, you can create a supportive environment conducive to achieving success.
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4 Steps to Writing Fail-Proof Behavior Goals for YOUR Student's IEP
By Alicia Goodman, PhD, NCSP From the moment children are born, they engage in interactions with others. As infants, they express themselves through cries and coos, gradually learning to attract attention. As toddlers, they explore mobility and engage verbally to foster friendships. Through the tween and teen years, they assert their independence. By the age of 18, an average individual will have experienced approximately 78,840 interactions (based on data extrapolated from a 2018 study by Zhaoyang, R., Sliwinski, M., Martire, L., and Smyth, J). That's a significant amount of behavior! Behavior, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary (2021), encompasses "the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others." This article focuses specifically on behaviors perceived as unpleasant or unwanted, which affect others. We aim to address such behaviors by identifying the desired behavior within a given context. Let's introduce Emma, an eight-year-old who regularly visits her grandmother's house. During drop-offs, Emma clings to her parents and pleads for them to stay. Although she enjoys spending time with her grandmother and engaging in activities together, she struggles with separating from her parents. Many children experience separation anxiety, manifesting in various scenarios such as leaving for school, attending playdates, visiting relatives, or bedtime routines. Step 1: Define the Target Behavior Begin by objectively defining the behavior you wish to see. Instead of focusing on stopping unwanted behavior, articulate the desired outcome. For instance, a suitable goal for Emma might be "Emma will independently exit the car and enter Grandma's house with one prompt from a parent." Step 2: Determine When the Behavior Occurs Consider when the desired behavior should occur. In Emma's case, it might be during Tuesday and Thursday morning drop-offs or upon receiving a one-hour warning. Establishing clear parameters ensures consistency and ample practice opportunities. Step 3: Establish Baseline Data Assess the frequency of the desired behavior to establish a baseline. For example, if Emma currently achieves the goal in 2 out of 10 drop-offs, her baseline success rate is 20%. Step 4: Set Achievement Criteria Define the percentage of success required to achieve the goal. Consider setting smaller targets or objectives within the goal. For Emma, a goal of achieving the desired behavior 75% of the time over a two-week period may be appropriate. Understanding that behaviors serve as a form of communication underscores the importance of addressing underlying factors. With targeted intervention, empathy, structured support, and realistic expectations, unwanted behaviors can diminish. It's crucial to recognize our capacity to influence behaviors not by coercion but by adapting our approach and responses. Bonus Tips for Promoting Success: Involve your child in goal development and explain the purpose behind each goal. Pre-teach expectations, role-play, and model the target behavior. Address any skill deficits that may hinder success. Encourage your child to track progress on the goal, fostering a sense of ownership. Break down larger goals into manageable subgoals or objectives. By implementing these strategies and fostering a supportive environment, you can empower your child to navigate challenging behaviors effectively.
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Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications
By Amy Vickrey, MSE Once you've completed the preparatory steps and crafted your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, the next step is to consider the tools necessary for your child to attain those goals. This is where accommodations and modifications play a crucial role.  Accommodations Accommodations are straightforward tools designed to assist your child in working at their level without altering the curriculum. Here are some examples: Time: Providing extra time, an additional day, or breaking up tasks into smaller chunks over several days. Alternative Scheduling: Offering extended deadlines for projects or allowing flexibility in scheduling, provided all tasks are completed. Change of Setting: Providing a quiet workspace for assignments or tests, whether it's outdoors, on a beanbag, or at an easel. Change of Presentation: Altering the method of presenting material, such as using videos, hands-on activities, or specific computer applications. Varying Response Method: Allowing different ways of providing answers, such as orally, while in motion, or through interactive games. Cues and Supports: Providing visual aids like schedules, planners, checklists, grading rubrics, multiplication charts, calculators, or communication boards/apps. (Note: Some states may classify certain items, like calculators or communication boards/apps, as assistive technology.) Modifications Modifications involve adjusting the curriculum to suit the student's needs, often by simplifying or adapting the material: Presentation of Material: Utilizing special education materials or curriculums, such as Simply Classical. Adapted Materials: Simplifying content and vocabulary, reducing the number of vocabulary words introduced, and using leveled or simplified texts, especially in subjects like science or social studies. Grading and Testing Altered: Selectively assessing crucial parts of a lesson instead of the entire content, thus focusing on essential concepts for the learner's understanding. (For strategies on grading, refer to this article.) Considerations Here are some additional factors to consider when selecting accommodations and modifications: Plan to Document: Incorporate documentation of accommodations and modifications into your daily routine by consistently noting what tools are used. Critical Review: Assess the necessity of accommodations and modifications for your child to achieve their goals and reach their potential. Testing Considerations: If testing is required, either voluntarily or mandated by state regulations, ensure awareness of permissible accommodations or modifications aligned with your child's grade level. With careful consideration and implementation of accommodations and modifications, you can support your child's educational journey effectively.
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Enhance Your Museum Experience: A Guide for Families with Specialized Educational and Accessibility Needs
Embarking on a museum trip with a child who has specialized educational or accessibility needs can be both exciting and challenging. To ensure a smooth and enriching experience, careful preparation is key. Before heading out, it's essential to lay the groundwork at home. Simple strategies such as creating social stories, packing a quiet bag with familiar items, and introducing exhibit materials through at-home lessons can help ease anxieties and build anticipation. Upon arrival at the museum, navigating the logistics becomes crucial. Inquire about handicap parking, accessible entrances, and any special accommodations available. Familiarize yourself with the museum's food policies and explore options for dining, ensuring your child's dietary needs are met. Confidence in navigating the museum's layout is vital, so take advantage of downloadable maps or virtual tours to plan your route in advance. Understanding the different spaces within the museum is also essential. Be aware of areas with sensory triggers such as loud noises or bright lights, as well as quiet zones for relaxation. Utilize educational materials provided by the museum to prepare your child beforehand and enhance their learning experience during and after the visit. Partnering with organizations like the International Association for Creation and SPED Homeschool can provide valuable resources and support. Explore options for guided tours or audio tours, and inquire about admission discounts or special passes to make the trip more affordable. Finally, don't hesitate to communicate your child's specific needs to museum staff, as they are often willing to accommodate and ensure a memorable visit for all. By following these comprehensive preparations and utilizing the provided resources, families can embark on museum adventures with confidence, knowing they've laid the groundwork for a successful and enjoyable experience tailored to their child's unique needs. Here is the link to watch our interview on YouTube with the President of IAC, Steven Policastro https://youtu.be/-UgbOayZEg4
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How NOT to Transition to High School
By Peggy Ployhar 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 all three of my differently wired learners. Over the years, I have learned a lot about what is really important when transitioning into high school for an atypical student, and what you need to throw out the window OR put off until later so you don’t lose your mind. Below are my biggest tips for transitioning, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. 10 Tips for Making Your Homeschool Transition to High School Successful Start with the Right Perspective and Make a Preliminary Plan To start your first year of homeschooling high school in a much less stressful state than I did, here are five perspective-setting points to guide you: Focus on where your child is now, not where you wish they would have been when starting their high school transition. Develop general graduation expectations you and your spouse feel your student must accomplish before you will allow them to receive a diploma. Include your student’s aspirations, skills, and interests in your plan. Don’t even look at putting together a transcript until the end of your first year. This time delay will allow you to get a better handle on what pace your child can keep and reduce stress. Each year, focus on three main goals and make those goals measurable and relevant to the items in your preliminary plan. Fill in with other classes and activities once you feel your student is making progress on these critical goals. 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 after high school, but very few do. Instead of setting up for failure with a four-year plan before you start, write your plan one year at a time with a projected outcome you can tweak along the way. Develop Your Whole Child Through the Process High school years can be overloaded with academics, but non-academic education is also crucial. Teach your young adult life skills such as cooking, cleaning, yard work, budgeting, faith development, driving, and working with others to round out their education. Follow the Checklist At SPED Homeschool, we have developed a high school checklist (see the attached document) to help parents remember all the important things when homeschooling a student with special educational needs. School However Long It Takes High school for many students with special needs or learning disabilities extends beyond their 18th birthday. Most states allow homeschooling as long as necessary for their transition into post-high school life. Check your state’s homeschool laws, but keep in mind that the IDEA allows for special education services up to age 21 (22 in some states), so many states allow the same for homeschooled students. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Creative Many parents move towards a more formal approach to education when their student enters high school. However, you don’t have to mimic traditional school. For instance, I used unit studies all through high school with my oldest child, offering the hands-on approach he needed to stay engaged. Don’t Let the Transcript Hold You Captive High school is a great time for your student to discover what they love and what they don’t. Taking a less rigid approach allows your student to learn new skills without feeling enslaved to them if they lose interest. At the end of the year, it is easier to group related activities into a creatively labeled class rather than forcing your student through a subject they lost interest in. Derailments Happen Sometimes, events during your student’s schooling can derail your plans. This doesn’t mean you have failed your child or that their future is bleak. When my second oldest quit school at 16, I was anything but calm. However, I have seen how this apparent derailment has worked out in God’s plan. Keep the Bigger Picture Always in Front of You When you start to stress, take a step back and ensure you are not stressing over the small stuff. Pray, ask God for a renewed perspective, and focus on helping your student achieve their main three yearly goals. Trust that the rest will fall into place. Stay Connected Don’t do this alone; it’s easy to think you are the only one struggling. You need fellowship! The SPED Homeschool Homeschool Heroes community is a great way to connect with other parents who understand what it’s like because they live out the same scenarios in their homeschools. If you follow these 10 tips, you will transition into these wonderful years with your student much more gracefully than I did. These were my favorite years of homeschooling my boys because I was front and center in their lives as they moved from children to adults. I pray your years ahead will be equally blessed as you persevere into your homeschooling high school years.
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Homeschool IEP Accommodations How-To
By Amy Vickrey, MSE, MEd Accommodations are a frequently used term when children struggle with academics, but it can be challenging to determine the right accommodations for each individual child. An accommodation is simply a change in the way a child accesses the information they need to learn. To determine appropriate accommodations, consider annual testing, psycho-educational assessments, therapy assessments, parent observations, performance on schoolwork, and behaviors that arise in specific situations, such as sitting for long periods or during certain academic subjects. Accommodations can address needs that are academic, behavioral, cognitive, or related to executive functioning. Finding the right accommodations might be a process, or you might find one that helps on the first try. Guiding Questions and Tips What are your child’s strengths? Strengths can be used, sometimes creatively, to support weaknesses. What are your child’s weaknesses? Activities and materials should not be so hard that weaknesses cause frustration. If your child is struggling, it’s okay to back up to an easier level before moving forward. Focus activities on one skill at a time. For example, if you are working on writing, focus on writing. If you are working on spelling, it’s okay to spell out loud or use letter tiles if writing is physically challenging. Pair a strength with a weakness. For example, if reading is a challenge, pair a physical book with an audiobook or read the book aloud together. Allow your child to verbally respond to questions if writing is frustrating, unless the goal is specifically to write. Consider a lesser accommodation first. For example, use a math chart before a calculator or raised line paper before a computer. Give yourself permission to skip or change activities that do not work for your child. No curriculum is perfect. Make it fit your child instead of trying to make your child fit the curriculum. If your child struggles with reading, it’s okay to read the questions and answer choices to them in any subject, including reading. This is an allowable accommodation for most standardized tests in schools. Ask questions! Ask other parents what has worked for their children in similar situations. They may have an idea you haven’t tried yet. Ask your child! Often, children know what is easy and what is hard for them. Sometimes they have creative solutions that adults wouldn’t think of, or that they find fun and motivating. Children can learn from videos and educational games, sometimes more than from a workbook. Some children need to be moving to learn. Make learning interactive or allow for movement and creativity in seating arrangements. Remember, behavior is communication. If your child’s behavior changes during specific activities, it may be their way of saying “this isn’t working for me.” Use as many senses as possible. Even just chewing gum or snacking can sometimes make a difference in the learning process. The more senses are engaged, the more pathways are built, and the easier your child will remember the information later. For more information and tips on accommodations, check out these additional resources: Creative Ways to Homeschool Special Education (Video interview) Creating a Unique Homeschool Learning Oasis (Video interview) Whether you need simple accommodations, such as reading questions aloud, or more creative solutions, thinking through these 14 tips can help guide parents to effective ways to support their child. By accommodating weaknesses and focusing on strengths, your child can achieve their goals. Supporting weaknesses and reducing frustrations lead to a love of learning, which encourages lifelong learning and helps children become independent adults who can find answers to questions they encounter. Amy Vickrey is the Training Manager at SPED Homeschool.
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How to Create a Hands-On Unit Study
By Dawn Spence When I taught public school, the one thing that inspired me the most was creating units. A fellow teacher and I developed a space unit for our 40 fourth graders, and the learning and excitement our students expressed made teaching come alive. When I started teaching my twin girls in preschool, I knew that units were the way to go. I created units on the ocean, fall, winter, and the zoo. It was the most memorable year of teaching. I still enjoy doing units with my kids, filled with lots of interactive learning and activities. Creating a unit is not hard, but it does take some planning. When you write your unit, you can use it as your only curriculum. Planning Your Unit Topic First, plan out what excites you and your learner. If the learning is engaging and holds your learner's interest, the learning will follow. I found “fall” to be a unit that can be adapted to both older and younger students. “Fall” also works well for all types of learners. Map Subjects Next, map out what subjects you want to include in your unit. You can easily involve core subjects and much more. When I created my “fall” unit, I included math, science, history, language arts, reading, and art. You can make the lessons simple or complex. I would draw a map and under each subject, list what I wanted to cover. For example, math using pumpkins was hands-on and made everyone eager for school in the morning. If your state includes Good Citizenship, you can add that as well. Don't forget to include field trips to bring your unit to life for your learner. Also, decide how long you want your unit to last. Develop Lessons Now, it’s time to develop your lessons. This step can be fun and overwhelming. There are so many activities you can add to your unit and many places to get ideas. I started with Teachers Pay Teachers, File Folder Heaven, and homeschooling blogs. I gathered ideas, and sometimes the activities I saw inspired me to create my own. I have created a sample graphic organizer to help with your planning. (Click here to download this free document.) Determine Assessments Lastly, decide how you want to grade or assess your learner's progress. You can create a lapbook, and at the end of the unit, your student could present what they learned with a hands-on project or report.  Units can be a great way to have fun while learning and engage your student. I also found that I could see my child’s interests and what excited them to learn. Have you created a unit study that you would like to share? If so, comment below or share it as new content on the EmpowerEd Home Resources page. Restrictions apply based on your membership level.
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Homeschooling Outside: Hands-On Spring Learning Activities
by Peggy Ployhar Having spent most of my life in cold northern states, the arrival of spring always brings a sense of excitement. The opportunity to get outside and indulge in outdoor hobbies that were mere dreams during the winter months is something I eagerly anticipate. For this springtime learning activity blog, I want to share some ideas on how to enjoy the warmer weather while taking advantage of the incredible learning potential the outdoors offers for your children. Whether you prefer gardening, science, exploring, or art, these top free activities from the SPED Homeschool Spring Pinterest board provide a plethora of fun and educational outdoor activities. Gardening An Introduction to Plants for Kids This resource offers a variety of multi-sensory activities, field trip ideas, and video suggestions that can keep you studying plants for weeks! Getting Your Hands Dirty Gardening Unit From seeds to literature about gardening, this unit covers everything, including learning about the critters that help gardens thrive. Plant Studies Spring Dandelion Unit Explore dandelions through notebooking, experiments, art projects, and recipes. Easy Seed Science Activities Discover 10 creative ways to study how seeds grow, complete with hands-on experiment links for each. Insect Studies Ant Unit Study This unit includes books, videos, art projects, and more, all focused on ants. Grasshoppers and Cricket Study Combine literature and science to learn about these fascinating insects. Animal Studies Montessori-Inspired Bird Unit Hands-on bird-themed learning activities suitable for various levels of learners. A Frog Unit Study Teach your children about frogs while incorporating language arts, math, science, and even lessons on godly character. Exploring Survival Themed Books Unit Studies for Teens and Tweens A great list of books and accompanying unit studies to inspire your older students to take their learning outdoors. Nature Walks & Scavenger Hunts Explore over 30 ways to hike, hunt, and discover the great outdoors. Nature & the Arts Art & Nature Study with Beatrix Potter Study nature through the lens of Beatrix Potter's work, combining art and nature exploration. Claude Monet Unit Study Use this extensive list of resources to study Claude Monet and learn how to create art inspired by nature, embracing the principles of impressionism. Be sure to check out all the SPED Homeschool Pinterest boards for even more creative and inspiring ways to homeschool your student with special educational needs.
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Why Art Is Essential in Learning
Why Art is Essential in Learning  By Dawn Jackson, M.Ed     What is art? Is it an experience of learning for your child to see life in a new way, or is it just a big mess mom has to clean up at the end of the day?    Honestly, as a homeschool mama of three we made some pretty big messes. I remember the beautiful themed murals on the kitchen wall that housed the animals we were learning about, the homemade play dough and hundreds of rubber stamps in our collection that we used to make beautiful art and cards to share with those we loved. I thought it was just fun and something my own artist brain needed to work out every day to unload the overwhelm I often felt. Little did I know the impact it was having on my children and their innate need to play and stay curious.     I was driven to get homeschooling perfect. I wanted the best curriculum, I wanted them to learn everything they would need for life; but what those art days were teaching them and me was beyond anything I imagined or dreamed.   The benefits of art play are so fantastic and powerful, it’s hard to even write it all down. To begin with, watch something powerful in the brain occur when paint hits the paper, then add water from a spray bottle and watch it move around. If you feel brave enough, give them a straw and let them blow wiggly lines all around. Later, when it dries, go back and draw in eyes, silly features and bodies to create their own creatures. Wow!  What just happened? To begin with, curiosity was given wings, invention was given flight and spontaneity was celebrated. What are the lessons learned here mama? I know what you are thinking…   I like to remember, especially as a teacher/coach to keep in mind the objective of what I am teaching my students. What is the take away that they would gain or could gain with lovely experiences in art? How can art teach a child and help them to see life around them?   I have used art in many different ways with children. As a therapy to help them express feelings, as a form of spontaneous play, to tell a story, to see life through a master artist or just relax.  It really is a beautiful expression of life our creator, the greatest artist of all, has given us to learn to see the world around us in a new way. These are lessons we can expect our children to take away from their art experiences.     Yes art is messy, it takes thinking out of the box a little to get the right supplies and to put away our own voices that say we are not creative. One thing I share with parents is, get lots of different fun things for your children to try. Don’t skimp. Use different papers, grocery bags, old discarded books, make journals, paint, use oil pastels, chalk. Anything that has a different texture can be challenging for some children, but a good experience in the long run. You can learn more about your child while doing art and how they think and feel and approach new experiences then tracing letters, (that can be art too). You never know, you may have a budding artist that you never knew.    The best thing about doing art with your child is how much joy it will bring to your heart as you learn to become a child again, and when your child hears that twinkle in your laugh, they too will feel the courage to join in on the fun.  Maybe today you will make a practice of making art every day. So go outside and don’t forget to take the chalk box with you…enjoy!! 
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Do Homeschool Students Need a Public School IEP?
By Sarah Collins, MSOT, OTR/L, from Homeschool OT and Casey Waugh, OTR/L In early 2017, my eight-year-old was hit directly in the eye with a Frisbee. He saw it leave his friend’s hand but didn’t realize it was about to give him a swollen, black-and-blue eye. Around the same time, he asked me, “Mom, how do you read when the words are moving on the page?” As an occupational therapist, I recognized that he wasn’t succeeding in his educational or social goals. It was time to seek help. As homeschoolers, we can tailor our children’s education to their needs, adjusting the pace, curriculum, and environment. However, building a team that includes doctors and therapists can be beneficial. When struggles specifically affect educational performance, a public school IEP can be warranted. 1. What is a Public School IEP? An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, outlines a special education program to help a student progress and succeed in learning. It’s created for students with disabilities or learning differences that impact their performance socially, behaviorally, or functionally in an academic setting. IEPs are developed by a team that includes educators, parents, and sometimes the student. To receive an IEP, a student must have a disability identified in IDEA (the federal law governing special education) that adversely impacts their academic progress. If you suspect your child has a learning difference, your local school district can conduct a full educational evaluation. We began this process by contacting the Director of Special Education in our school district. A simple email requesting assistance led to scheduled testing within 60 days. My son spent three half-days at the school with a psychologist and occupational therapist for standardized reading, comprehension, and motor testing. 2. Why Would a Homeschooled Child Need a Public School IEP? If your child struggles to progress despite schedule changes, movement breaks, curriculum adjustments, and pairing motivating subjects with challenging ones, an IEP might be helpful. A thorough educational evaluation can determine if there’s an underlying reason, like a specific learning disability or processing concern, for your child’s struggles. Evaluations may include input from other professionals, such as occupational therapists. If an IEP is deemed appropriate, services might be provided at home or at a public school. For our son, the diagnosis was “reading delay, unspecified,” indicating he was behind his peers without a specific reason identified. The school recommended testing accommodations, dual enrollment for Wilson Reading System instruction, and monthly OT sessions. For us, the most important part was securing testing accommodations for future exams like the SAT or ACT. 3. If a Homeschooled Child Has a Public School IEP, What is the School’s Responsibility? Under federal law, school districts must evaluate and identify children with disabilities and develop IEPs for those in need, including homeschooled children. However, the way services are offered varies by state. Some states consider homeschooling a “private school,” which affects the support plan. In our case, we declined certain services as we felt we could provide equivalent instruction at home based on my expertise as an OT. 4. If a Homeschooled Child Has a Public School IEP, What is the Parents’ Responsibility? Parents play a crucial role in the IEP team, particularly in homeschooling. You can adjust accommodations and modifications to meet your child’s needs without going through the school. Depending on your state, there may be specific requirements for tracking and recording information and completing assessments. An IEP is reviewed annually, but you can ask questions or request changes at any time. It’s helpful to organize your data and list major concerns before meetings. Since our son’s assessment provided a diagnosis and recommendations, Pennsylvania law requires us to use a homeschool evaluator with a special education background. She reviews our goals each year and provides a written assessment, which has been helpful for us. 5. What Should a Homeschool Parent Expect at an IEP Meeting? IEP meetings involve the entire team to develop an education plan for your child. Meetings typically last at least an hour and include special education and general education teachers, a school district representative, someone to interpret evaluation results, and any related service providers. You should receive a draft IEP ahead of the meeting. The draft can be adjusted, allowing the meeting to focus on problem-solving and addressing major concerns. IEPs can be revised throughout the year if needed. As an OT and homeschool parent, I’ve experienced IEP meetings from both sides. A few surprises included: A general education teacher who didn’t know my son had to be present because the law requires it. Special education services with specific time requirements, despite our different educational setting. Getting an IEP can provide valuable information for developing home education plans and accessing services and accommodations. Author Bios: Sarah Collins, MSOT, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with experience in pediatrics and home health, and a homeschooling parent. She founded Collins Academy Therapy Services, aka HomeschoolOT, to educate parents on creating homeschools designed for students' needs and to train occupational therapists to serve the homeschool community. Find Sarah online at Homeschool OT, on Instagram, and in her Facebook group. Casey Waugh, OTR/L is an occupational therapist from Pittsburgh, PA, specializing in feeding, sensory processing, and parent education. She provides individualized supports for parents of children with sensory differences and helps navigate the special education process as a Master IEP Coach. Find her on social media @ottimewithcasey