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Homeschoolers, like all educators, often fall into the easy trap of spouting educational jargon until it becomes almost meaningless, especially to newcomers. We forget, perhaps, that everyone was once a newcomer.
The term "unit studies" is an especially slippery
fish of a term, because it can mean so many things. It may refer
to a relaxed, interest led frolic through a subject, initiated by
a child's interest in, for instance, cars. The child reads about
cars, draws cars, examines the insides of cars, takes cars apart,
measures cars, studies the math and science of cars, bakes and
eats car shaped cakes, and builds a model car.
Whatever your methods, a unit study will mean researching a specific topic intensively, and attempting to "cover all the bases" of subjects required by your curriculum. For instance, in the car unit study, your child can practice and learn math (car maintenance records, cost of repairs, etc.), language arts (collecting and reading manuals and car magazines), social studies (different cars of the world), music (songs about cars), and so on.
Cars would be a particularly difficult subject for me to teach, as I am singularly helpless around anything mechanical. Children have a way of becoming interested in subjects that their parents (and other teachers) know nothing about. (Imagine that!) That's one reason you will see my interest-led learning bias crop up so often. Motivated kids can learn anything, whether the adults teach them or not.
One daughter loves dance, and I trip over my own feet. But we've borrowed videos and enrolled in community ballet classes. My main job is to help my kids find the resources (books and computer programs) and mentors (knowledgeable teens and adults). I can learn about resources, and how to find them economically. And you can too.
You may decide to choose unit study topics for your children; if you do, may I suggest you give them a choice of several? If they make the final decision, they will show more interest and excitement in the project.
Or you could ask your children to make lists of ideas to explore. You could also brainstorm along with them. What have you, parents, always wanted to learn? If you love learning, you will model lifetime learning skills.
Finally, pick an interest, any interest. Don't worry if it isn't the unit study to end all unit studies. There are plenty more where that came from! See topic6 Start Your Unit Studies for resources.
You've probably heard educators talk about learning styles. What do they mean? Your learning style just means how you learn best. You may be a visual learner (looker), an auditory learner (hearer) or a kinesthetic learner (doer).
Perhaps you are just looking for ways to help your children with school homework. Or you may be a veteran homeschooler of fifteen years, with ten children (If so, please share your knowledge with us!) Either way, the more you understand about the learning style of each individual in your family, the easier it will be to learn together!
Lookers and hearers sometimes have trouble working with their hands. They can learn better when they strengthen all their senses. Hearers can jump rope in time to a multiplication video. Visual learners can explore real world math.
Doers can practice their sight skills, perhaps through the use of a computer. Doers can also learn quickly through educational software.
If you can't learn in a traditional way, find another way. Doers may hate handwriting, but tolerate typing on a keyboard.
Most people use several or all the senses to learn, although they may be stronger in one area. It’s funny how you seldom hear much about smell and taste, the neglected senses for learning. Explore all your senses. The Bible says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Of course I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, but I can relate somewhat to parenting a child with special needs. Our youngest spent her first months in the hospital. She started out not breathing, and with low vision, and was given several diagnoses of rare syndromes. If you get a chance, you might enjoy my column on Special Needs Preschool in the January 2005 edition of Mary Pride's Practical Homeschooling magazine. Also check out Mary Pride's list of Homeschooling support groups at Homeschool World..
Our family homeschools in Ohio. Requirements vary by state and sometimes also by district, but it is legal to homeschool your child with special needs. Get in touch with your state homeschool organization, also HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Assoc.) and NATHHAN (which is the national org. for homeschoolers with special needs), http://www.nathhan.com/ . It is important to network with others who homeschool in your area;
Homeschooling with special needs is a challenge; but I often hear from friends with kids in school programs that they also suffer many difficulties. Through the grace of the Lord and the guidance of many, many faithful friends and family members, we're able to homeschool with special needs, a day at a time.
Homeschooling Attracts Families With Special Needs
I'm often surprised by the number of parents contacting me over the Internet for information to help a child diagnosed with autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or learning disabilities. (This interaction was the reason I wrote this page!)
Homeschooling will naturally attract (and always has) families with unique children, as the institutional schools are set up more for conformity than non-conformity. In this regard, the "learning disabled" child and the "gifted child" share much in common.
If you have studied strategies for teaching both groups, you may discover striking similarities. So even if you don't have a labeled child, you may find some great learning tools by checking out some of these resources!
Although controversial, many parents find that alternative health approaches, such as nutritional therapy, can be quite effective in the treatment of ADD, ADHD, and hyperactivity. For instance, "Magnesium and calcium are the two most common mineral deficiencies in children with ADD/ADHD, if your child suffers from stomachaches, headaches, muscle pains or restless sleep, it's likely he or she has a deficiency of magnesium and/or calcium."--Leo Galland, M.D., "The Nutritional Approach," Let's Live magazine, September, 1998.
There is speculation now that one cause of autism, ADHD and communication disorders such as apraxia could be EFA (essential fatty acid) deficiency. Studies are currently underway. In America, EFAs are only now beginning to be added to infant formulas, while I understand they have been included in formulas in United Kingdom for some time. Recently parents also report that adding amino acids, specifically L-Carnosine, have helped their children's speech.
Here are some web sites that talk about EFAs:
The Good News About Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs
In spite of the high prevalence of homeschooled children with learning differences, homeschoolers consistently score higher than average overall on standardized tests. I expect this trend to continue. In addition, studies show that in homeschools, income and the parent's level of education make no appreciable difference in test scores.
If your child has never been to school, and you have trained him in self-directed, interest-led learning, by around third grade he may be able to take over much of the responsibility for his own education.
Your job will be to watch, guide, answer questions, help him obtain supplies he needs, and occasionally prod (encourage?) a bit. If this is the case, you may be very familiar with unit studies, or if not, you may soon realize that your child has been doing unit studies all along, without realizing it. As he approaches adulthood, the transition to college or career will be a natural progression from his interests and unit studies.
If your child has attended school extensively, or if you have a
school-like atmosphere at home, you may find that you need to
constantly keep the child "on task." Some parents feel
the necessity of even sitting with a teenager six hours a day, as
a tutor. If this is the case, and you don't mind, then why worry?
If you fear insanity and burnout--and perhaps wonder if you'll
still be sitting like this when he's thirty-- don't despair. There
is no better time than the present, and no better way to train for
adult responsibilities than a unit study.
Hint: Try mixing special needs resources up. Use some of the techniques for Kids labeled learning disabled to teach your gifted preschooler. Try some of the gifted programs on your learning disabled child. In my opinion, all kids are gifted by God; and we all have our limitations. Many of these items can be borrowed through inter-library loan; it’s worth a try to ask your local librarian.
General Special Needs Resources:
Special Needs Education, Therapy and Health
Kids with special needs need…parents! According to Marisa Lapish, speech therapist and author of Straight Talk, wrote “the home environment is best for teaching and learning…” Find out more about how families can help meet special education, therapy, and health needs at home, at the following web sites:
Toilet Training Kids With Special Needs:
· Toilet Training Made Semi-Easy (by father of son with DS) http://www.ds-health.com/train.htm
· More on Toilet training, http://tinyurl.com/lzlf
· Tips from other parents, http://www.cdss.ca/wwwboard/messages/2352.html
· Potty Learning with Delays Video, http://www.eplibrary.com/pottylearning/
· Toilet-training time doesn't have to be stressful http://tinkletoonz.com/news.htm
· Toilet training notes http://3service.freeservers.com/toilet.html
· Toilet Training Kids with Disabilities, http://www.personal.kent.edu/~depeters/data/toilet/toilet.htm
Giftedness Education: Accelerated Learning for Gifted Students
Why Not Homeschool High School and College?
Perhaps you are just considering unit studies and homeschooling. Or your youngster has always been homeschooled. Either way, most parents express concerns. "Will my child's homeschooling be accepted as a "real education?" Or will my child be considered a misfit, a drop out?" What happens when my child becomes a teen? And of course the big “C” question, “What about college?”
Yes, what about college? Studies show an alarmingly liberal bias at America’s universities—and an agenda to change the hearts and minds of Christian youth against the hearts of their fathers. See books such as Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth and Freefall of the American University.
All the more reason to consider Homeschooling college, and credit by examination. You can save money and time, and pick your choice of textbooks. Give your child a range of views, instead of the unbalanced, one-sided liberal university view. Check out textbooks:
If your child is twelve years old or younger, it is not too
early to think about college. The good news is that many
universities view homeschoolers in a positive light. The proof is
in the pudding, so to speak, and homeschoolers that paved the way
did well academically and socially--better than their peers. I
recommend Cafi Cohen's book, "And What About College."
There is a link to it (as well as a section of resources for
homeschooling teens) from my "Books" section and Links
page at A Wise Steward's Homeschool.
The National Home Education Research Inst., at http://www.nheri.org/ has prepared an information booklet that I think you will find helpful.
Homeschoolers really don't need to go the GED route, unless they want to. According to the Office of the General Counsel, the Department of Education, students who have graduated from home education are free of compulsory attendance, regardless of age. In addition, home educated students (if not considered truant by the state) can "self certify"--meaning that no third party verification is required. To find out more, contact http://www.hslda.org .
Many colleges have accepted transcripts prepared by homeschool parents. Dr. Inge Cannon's web site, http://www.edplus.com includes information on creating transcripts and issuing high school diplomas. Also check out http://www.boxfreeconcepts.com/edserv/ and http://shop.jostens.com/ for diplomas.
"It is true that your home school -- and therefore your diploma -- is not accredited. What is accreditation? Accrediting agencies -- and there are many different ones -- set minimum standards that schools must uphold to receive and maintain accreditation. This allows them to guarantee that a credit issued by one school in the group will be equivalent to and accepted by other schools in the same group. The process of accreditation takes years to complete. It surprised me to learn from Inge Cannon of Education Plus that many public high schools are not accredited. The fact that your homeschool does not have accreditation is not a negative thing. The standards you have set for educating your child are not the same as those of any other school, and you have no reason to try to prove that they are."--http://www.homeschooldiplomas.com/canyouissueadiploma.htm
All Education Schools (http://www.alleducationschools.com ) is a complete online guide to education programs and careers. Use this site to search for schools by location, program type, or specialty, then read detailed fact sheets on featured schools of education, and contact admissions officers by requesting information. Contact colleges that interest you, and ask about their requirements. Visit the college web site for information. Also visit the Baker’s Guide to Christian Distance Education, at http://bakersguide.gospelcom.net/ .
Some colleges require SAT or ACT testing. If you wish, you can find many resources to help study for these tests. Check into the requirements for several colleges that you are interested in. Also consider any possible scholarships that may require SAT or ACT testing. Neither the SAT or ACT was necessary in our son’s case as he already had accumulated credit by examination (through CLEP and DANTES) before enrollment. Realistically, students will be limited in the amount of time they can devote to studying for tests. We made the decision to spend the time accumulating college credit, instead of studying for college entrance exams. Many colleges with open enrollment and consider students “adults”—regardless of age--if they already have some college credit.
Check out information about free scholarship money available to homeschool students at http://www.homeschoolzone.com/faq/free.htm . Find a free search program to locate scholarships for college at http://www.fastweb.com , http://www.hobbsschools.net/parent_place/resource_links.asp , Student Services .Visit the Financial Aid Information Page. Check out College Board's Web site. Children of federal and military personnel can find out about the Federal Children's Scholarship Fund at http://www.feea.org/ . For information on college and taxes, visit http://www.ed.gov/offices/OFSFAP/Students/taxcuts/credits.html .
Call the U.S. Dept. of Education's toll-free number, (1-800-433-3243) for information about Federal student aid programs, or write to the Federal Student Aid Information Center, P.O. Box 84, Washington, D.C., 20044, for the free booklet, Funding Your Education.
Homeschooling College, Distance Education, Life-Time Learning Credit and Non-Traditional College
If you like homeschooling, you might love homeschooling college. Check into non-traditional methods for reducing college costs and graduating early. Look into ways students have received college credit for life experience such as extensive unit studies, portfolio evaluations, internships, travel, and ministry work. For information on credit for prior learning and life experience credit, check out http://www.nationalponsi.org/ and http://www.collegeispossible.org/ . Teaching Home magazine has an excellent article on homeschooling college, at http://www.theteachinghome.com/newsletters/vol_2-no_83.cfm .
Many homeschoolers use the portfolio assessment method to evaluate their youngsters; did you know that you can also receive college credit through the same method? Read Earn College Credit for What You Know, by Lois Lamdin, to find out more. Get it from The Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, or through the inter-library loan program at your local library.
Read more about the issues surrounding Christians in college, and the college at home option, at http://firstname.lastname@example.org . Need to see more proof about the decadent modern college culture? Check out examples at http://www.collegeprowler.com/about_the_guides.asp
Read Ben Kaplan's book, How To go to College Almost For Free (Stratford Publishing: 2002) and books by John Bear such as College Degrees by Mail and Modem.
Would you like to earn your degree in half the time, and for less money? What about receiving college credit through internship experience, life experience, and independent study? Accelerated Distance Learning: The New Way to Earn Your College Degree in the Twenty-First Century, by Brad Voeller, shows you how to accelerate your education, by maximizing your multisensory learning pathways (learning styles), memory, reading speed and comprehension. Voeller earned a four-year, fully accredited college degree in less than six months, and for less than $5000! If you've homeschooled high school, you can homeschool college.
"Some students have completed their entire degree by just taking three GRE exams and five general CLEP exams. Using this method, you could theoretically complete an entire bachelor's degree within a few days!"--Brad Voeller
Keep track of your educational activities. Then use portfolio assessment to qualify for college credit. Thomas Edison State College and Charter Oak State College sell handbooks and offer information on building portfolios. Check with the colleges that you are interested in. Ask if they will accept portfolio credit, or transfer credit earned through portfolio assessment. Learn more about documenting learning through portfolio assessment.
Read Voeller's book, to find out more. Voeller also offers special reports, including Accelerated Distance Learning for Home-School Students, and Accelerated Distance Learning for Christian Students. http://www.GlobalLearningStrategies.org.
College Credit By Examination
Looking for a way out of the College Agenda? Take a test and receive college credit. Save money on college through CLEP, GRE, DANTES, and Advanced Placement (AP) testing. Best of all, learn the information any way you want—you pick the materials and texts. (This is a good way to get a more balanced education, free from political correctness, pagan religious rites and liberal bias.) If you can’t afford textbooks, try http://www.freeuniv.com/index.html .
Check out these programs and books (Order from web site sources or through inter-library loan) that were created to help you earn credit for what you already know:
The College Credit Recommendation Service, www.acenet.edu/clll/corporate/index.cfm ), evaluated and recommended college credit for more than 9,000 courses, examinations, and certifications administered through business, labor, government, associations, and other organizations.
The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, http://www.cael.org/, publishes Earn College Credit for What You Know, a book for adult learners interested in acquiring credit for prior learning. The Pocket Guide to College Credits and Degrees includes information on applying your learning experiences in the real world to a college degree.
Try these free study resources and guides, if you're interested in obtaining college credit by examination. If you homeschool high school, take some practice tests. You may be surprised at how well you can do!
Here are some study materials that are not free, but still considerably cheaper than most college courses:
http://www.istudysmart.com/ (also offers a free distance learning guide)
Contact Excelsior College, http://www.excelsior.edu for a list of textbooks and test descriptions for college credit tests and a practice sheet with sample questions.
For (Graduate Record Exam (GRE) information, contact http://www.gre.org .
Find out about DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSSRs), http://www.getcollegecredit.com
Thomas Edison College Examination Program TECEP, 609-633-2844
Ohio University, Office of Independent Study, http://www.ohiou.edu/lifelong .
Get a free official downloadable CLEP guide from the College Board: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/clep/prep.html
More free CLEP, DANTES, and other credit by examination study guides, courtesy of The Air Force and Peterson's: http://www.petersons.com/airforce/books.asp?sponsor=8
Free on-line credit by examination test practice, for tests such as CLEP General Mathemactics, at http://www.4tests.com/exams/examdetail.asp?eid=8
Check out information on CLEP guides, homeschooling and College at http://www.davidandlaurie.com/
Check out more college information and links at An Eagle's Nest Homeschool Links Page .
If you're ready for a unit study, begin to think about the method of implementation. Share your topic on the Wise Steward's discussion board or in the Chat area.
Decide what research methods you will use, and how you will implement any lessons. Will the lesson look more like school, or more like a hobby?
How does your family learn best? If you wish, take a personality or learning style test, either with your children or without. How do any similarities or differences with your children help or hinder learning together?
If you like, send me any new resources you have discovered (that weren't already listed here), and I will try to include them in A Wise Steward's Homeschool Links page.
Education Links and Resources
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Copyright 1997-2005 Melissa L. Morgan
Christian Book Distributors offers a huge selection of bargain-priced homeschool and educational resources and books. Portions of your purchases help support this web site. Thank you!
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