Filling in the Gaps in your child’s education

filling in the gaps in your child's education

It happens. Maybe you switched curriculum mid-year, maybe you transferred from a brick and mortar school to homeschool, maybe your child has special needs, maybe you just flat out missed some spots. Gaps happen. Filling in the gaps in your child’s education does not have to be stressful or intimidating. Here are a few ideas to fill in the gaps gently and easily.

Ideas for Filling in the Gaps in your Child’s Education

Catch it next year.

So much material is reviewed each year. If your child’s educational gap is not a glaring one, you may be able to just hone in on it more firmly next year. Take a look at your curriculum for the coming year, identify when that particular topic will show up and make sure you allow plenty of time to cover it thoroughly. Sometimes, a “gap” could just be that your child wasn’t developmentally ready to handle that new skill or concept. Just being a few months older could make all the difference for your child when you are filling in the gaps in their education.

Tackle it during the summer.

Keep in mind, I’m not even suggesting that you have to do a full school load all summer. But if there is a subject or a topic that you feel warrants a little extra attention, spend 20-30 minutes a day. Just that little bit of time for an extra month or two may help your child leap forward in time for the new school year.

Reinforce it with extra activities.

I use this technique with my daughter. Her “gap” is actually an on-going weak area for her: spelling. Because of her dyslexia, spelling is her nemesis. She is easily a year or two behind in the subject, but she’s making progress. My technique is constant exposure. Spelling is not a single subject that she does for specific time each day; it’s something I subtly add anywhere I can. I had her do typing lessons everyday, and not just for the keyboarding skills; I wanted her to see and make words correctly. Each week, she made her own list of words by hunting words of a certain length:  a list of four letter words one week, a list of five letter words the next week, a list of six letter words, etc. She also had a couple of different spelling apps that she used throughout each week (Dyslexia Quest and Simplex). Next year, I’m adding a formal spelling curriculum that provides a lot of non-traditional practice (A Reason for Spelling—we are both very excited about this program). And I’ll be adding calligraphy and zentangle word-art projects for her to work on. By exposing her to spelling in all of these different areas, we are reinforcing her weak area. This is an area that may always need a little extra attention, but she’s making progress.

Filling in the gaps in our child’s education does not need to send us into a panic, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a minute to assess how much help your child may need and then give one of these ideas a try. Have some other ideas for how you’ve filled in the gaps? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’d love to add them to my list.

Surviving Homeschool Curriculum Overwhelm

homeschool curriculum overwhelm | finding the right homeschool curriculum

I recently got to venture to a large homeschool conference with a homeschool vendor hall of over 120 exhibitors. That’s a lot of books and a lot of options. As we visited with one vendor, just 30 minutes after the event opened, the vendor mentioned having a tearful conversation with a new homeschool mom who was already overwhelmed. As fun as all those options can be, it’s also a whole lot to take in. If that’s you, tearfully surveying all those options and feeling completely lost, here are a few tips for surviving homeschool curriculum overwhelm.

Surviving Homeschool Curriculum Overwhelm

Realize it’s trial and error, not pass or fail. Our success does not depend on our choices in the vendor hall or in our online shopping cart. We don’t need all of this to succeed, and we won’t fail if we make the wrong choice. Even an experienced homeschooler makes choices that don’t work out as well as they’d hope. It’s just part of the process, constantly making adjustments. But you have time to find your stride, and you won’t ruin your child’s education in a day, or a month, or a year. There are plenty of free resources to fill any gaps or rough edges you may discover as the year rolls on.

Remember it takes time to educate a child (as in 12 years!) It was comical to walk the aisles of the vendor hall and see all the promises the different products made: master multiplication in 10 days, learn a new language in a month, teach grammar in 15 minutes—you get the idea. Educating our kids can seem urgent, and in our frustration it’s easy to want a quick fix to our struggles. But the reality is, it takes time to teach our kids. I’m not saying these tools aren’t helpful and even amazing, but we set ourselves up for burnout and frustration if we plan our year according to these promises. Even with a great curriculum, it may take you longer than 10 days to master multiplication, and that’s okay.

Recognize that books and lesson plans are just tools. I’ve made a meal in someone else’s kitchen before, without my go-to tools and favorite appliances. It’s possible, not always convenient and maybe a little frustrating, but definitely possible. Homeschooling is the same way. Any of these tools will work to get the job done. Some of them may not end up being your favorite go-to item, but the real curriculum we teach from is life itself. There are so many hours and opportunities to teach what your child needs to know, and so much of it will happen when and where you least expect it. Maybe it will be from that shiny, new exciting publication you picked up from the vendor hall, and maybe it will come from the walk in the park this summer. 

I remember the days when there weren’t as many choices and options, when my mom did the best she could with what she had and improvised. And a lot of the options and resources we have today are because of those brave moms who innovated and improvised. I’m so thankful for them! I’m thankful for the richness their ideas have brought to my kids’ education. Surviving the homeschool curriculum overwhelm begins with seeing these as what they are—options, a wide range of good options. Start somewhere; and in one sense, it doesn’t matter exactly where. 

Read more about finding curriculum for ADHD and recognizing your child’s learning style.

Handling Unfulfilled Expectations, Disappointments, & Failure

unfulfilled expectations | parenting through meltdowns and anxiety

Disappointments are a part of life.  Unfortunately, we have to face that reality pretty early in our existence.  If I could pinpoint the number one reason for meltdowns, anxiety, and emotional outbursts with my kids, it would be unfulfilled expectations. From my oldest to my youngest, they each have certain expectations of what the day will be like, how their siblings will play with them, where we will go, what we will eat, etc. And if any of those expectations don’t happen, it can get pretty ugly.

I can hardly blame them. After all, even as an adult it’s often not easy to process unfulfilled expectations. I know the usual advice is to set “realistic” expectations, but the reality is that no expectation is truly realistic.  After all, when I have to combat Murphy’s law, my own forgetfulness, people’s short comings (including my own), ADHD multiple times over, and all of the chaos that comes from parenting three kids, the only realistic expectation is getting up in the morning. (And even that occurs earlier than I expect most mornings.)  So how can I maintain my sanity and help my kiddos understand a healthy way to process and deal with life’s disappointments? The answer to unfulfilled expectations is not really what I am expecting but WHO I am expecting it from. 

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” ~Psalm 62:5

wait upon God | Psalm 62:5 | unfulfilled expectations

You see, it really is ridiculous to think that I can expect anything from anyone else when I can’t even meet my own expectations.  And while I could easily blame a number of people and miscellaneous factors for my unfulfilled expectations, the truth is I’m a sinner—and so is every one else, except for One.  That One is the only One who is perfect, holy, and unchanging.  He is the only One who can fulfill and even exceed expectation.  He is the only One in whom my confidence should rest.

When my expectation is in the right place, the tempest of my emotions can settle.  No longer am I expecting my children to realize I have needs or to be motivated to clean their rooms and finish the dishes on their own; no longer am I expecting myself to have everything under control and to remember the 1001 things I need to be doing; no longer am I expecting my husband to never have a bad day on the same day I have one or to come to my rescue and meet all of my emotional needs.  Instead, I wait for, rest in, rely on the One who knows all, controls all, provides all. 

I have to believe this and live this out with my kiddos. Together, we have to lay all of those expectations in His hands and trust Him to work out the details. So we’ve started praying a simple prayer together:

“God, this day is not going the way we expected.

Please help us to trust you with the day you’ve given us instead.”

Our only “realistic expectation” is that God will come through for us and provide us with everything we need for everything we will face. When He is our only expectation, we receive only fulfillment.  After all, how could we expect anything less from the One whose name is “I AM”?

Homeschool Theme Days: Teddy Bear Picnic

teddy bear picnic | homeschool theme day ideas | hands-on homeschooling for ADHD and active learners

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t always cooperate with our homeschool theme days. If your spring picnic gets rained out, indoor picnics can be just as much fun. There are lots of possibilities for theme ideas. Recently, I had a dear friend in church, a retired teacher, suggest a homeschool theme day “Teddy Bear picnic” with my kids. She and my kids put it together, and I got a lunch date with my hubby! (I am so blessed!!) My daughter was in charge of decorating. My youngest gathered teddy bear guests. My oldest prepared a report with facts about bears. I helped gather our bear-themed books, and my friend brought a teddy bear craft. My kids had so much fun, they were bummed when I came back home! Lol! So here are a few ideas for your own teddy bear picnic.

Homeschool Theme Days: Teddy Bear picnic

Decorate with a blanket, teddy bears, and some homemade bear prints. My daughter drew her own bear prints, cut them out, and created a trail of bear prints to our picnic. We kept it simple, but the kids had so much fun taking this on themselves, gathering teddy bears and donating blankets to the cause.

Gather bear books and activities. Winnie the Pooh, The Ice Cream Bear, Going on a Bear Hunt, Paddington—there are so many fun bear classics that could make the list. We didn’t get to all of them and will probably soon have a Winnie the Pooh picnic at our favorite nature spot as soon as the weather cooperates. My friend brought a very cute teddy bear craft and found a fun teddy bear picnic song on Youtube

Include older kids with bear facts. My oldest is a writer and took this project very seriously, searching our home library for a variety of bear resources. He chose to write and read his two page report, but there are plenty of other ideas as well. Have your older child make a display board, write their own teddy bear story, or present bear encounter “survival tips.” 

I love adding these fun spontaneous days to our learning, but the key is always to keep it simple and flexible. Pick your favorite book (or books), spread a blanket, and have some fun! 

Want more homeschool theme day ideas? Check out these posts:

Star Wars ideas for every subject

Spring and Nature activity ideas

St. Patrick’s Day ideas

Dr. Seuss theme ideas

Recognizing your children’s learning styles

recognizing learning styles | discovering how your child learns best

A huge part of homeschooling is much more than teaching material; it’s teaching a child how to learn, how to teach himself. Learning styles play a key part in this process of learning how to learn. By teaching to my child’s unique learning style, I’m not just catering to her preferences, I’m teaching her how she learns best; I’m equipping her with tools for life. What’s more, teaching to my children’s learning styles allows my children to be comfortable with who they are and how they learn. It’s okay if my daughter doesn’t learn the material in the same way her older brother does. They each learn in their own way, and they’re both learning. My daughter doesn’t have to feel stupid or incapable because she doesn’t learn the same way someone else might.

But sometimes, the whole realm of learning styles and modalities can be really overwhelming and confusing. How do you figure out which learning style fits your child? What if your child is in between styles or a little bit of several?

An Explanation of Learning Styles

At it’s very simplest, learning styles can be divided into three broad categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. A visual learning style could include both graphics, charts, and pictures, as well as words; it’s any learning preference that involves sight. An auditory learner primarily learns by hearing, preferring spoken directions over written directions and audiobooks more than reading books. The kinesthetic learner is your hands-on learner, learning through exploration, experimentation, and anything that involves doing or moving.

The trouble is, sometimes these categories can be a little too broad. I have two visual learners, but they learn in two entirely different ways. One is visual with language and loves words, and the other would much prefer pictures and graphics. For this reason, many people find learning intelligences or modalities to be more helpful: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, etc. Confused yet?

Knowing how your child learns doesn’t have to be confusing or technical. Who cares if you’ve got the proper name for it? Just know how your child learns best. You can figure this out without a complicated test.

1.  Watch your child play. Watch your child interact with information.

Do you have a child who can memorize anything put to music?

Do you have a child that never reads directions but follows the pictures in those directions instead?

Do you have a child that skips the lego instructions and pictures altogether and jumps into building and exploring?

Do you have a child that likes to order and arrange pieces and information before getting started?

Do you have a child that loves texture and messes and must touch everything?

Do you have a child that learns best in a community or group rather than alone?

You don’t have to know the learning style terms. Just know your child. As you watch your child play legos or organize a game with other children, what strengths does your child use? If your child loves music, add music to your curriculum. If your child loves to explore, hand him some manipulatives and have him work out a math solution before you hit the workbook; or give him a science experiment kit and journal rather than a textbook. If your child learns by pictures, make sure your curriculum includes lots of visuals.

2. Ask for your child’s opinion (if your child is old enough).

I have learned more about my kids by getting their feedback on what curriculum options I’m looking at than perhaps anything else. I’ll show them two or three options that I am considering, and they will readily tell me which they prefer. They know I make the final decision, and they can’t always tell me why they prefer one over the other. But as I notice what they are choosing, it gives me tremendous insight into how they learn best.

Also, as I recognize and praise what my kids are doing and how they learn, they are usually quick to give me ideas of how they’d like to add that to our homeschool day. When my daughter excitedly told me she could spell “Mickey Mouse” because she can sing the Mickey Mouse Club House song, we both knew we needed to add some tunes to our spelling time. When my son excitedly draws and sketches maps for his novel that he’s working on, I recognized we needed to add more drawing to our other subjects. When my daughter could not get the concepts of area and perimeter straight, we did an abstract art piece instead, with perimeter shapes in marker and area shapes in tissue paper.

There is nothing like finding a curriculum or method that allows your child to learn in his way, that allows him to succeed in learning and to love it. Homeschooling allows you to celebrate who your child is and to capitalize on that uniqueness. And best of all, it’s not complicated. It’s just a matter of recognizing what makes your child unique.

Finding the right homeschool curriculum for ADHD

finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD

I love homeschooling my ADHD kiddos, but it’s challenging for sure. Even with diet changes that have been more effective than their ADHD medications ever were, it’s still a challenge. If you can imagine with me, I homeschool Flint Lockwood (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Dory (Finding Dory) with Winnie the Pooh keeping an eye on meal times and snack options. It’s noisy, high energy, messy, and loads of fun. Certain days are rough; some days rocket and dive and veer into a range of extremes: anxiety and emotional melt downs, high distractibility, zero self-regulation, etc.

If you are homeschooling or are thinking of homeschooling an active or challenged child, finding a homeschool curriculum can seem even more daunting. How do you know what will work? Will they be able to stick with something for the entire year? Can we make it through all the subjects when we can’t make it through a single meal? But let me reassure you, finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD isn’t as hard as it sounds.