Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

 

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)

Educational Games and Resources by subject

 

My active kids love to learn (or show what they’ve learned) with games. Educational games have been an important part of our unit celebrations for years, and this year, I’ve included more in our daily routine to help us get through our Monday struggles. While we don’t use those educational games as our primary curriculum, I definitely want to incorporate more of them into our regular curriculum next year.

Which means I’ve been scouting, keeping an eye out for top-notch educational games to add to our collection. I’ve got a pretty good list going with lots of great educational game ideas for the different subject areas. Not all are necessarily on my wish list, but they make it onto yours. So I’m including all of my scouting work here for you. 

Educational Games for Math
  1. Sector 18 (formerly Number Rings)*
  2. Fraction Matchin’
  3. Smathor Mobi Max
  4. Even Steven’s Odd
  5. Incan Gold (division)
  6. Pizza Fraction Fun
  7. Race to the Treasure (grid coordinates)
  8. Number Ninjas

* We own these games, and I absolutely love them!

Educational Games for Science
  1. Into the Forest (natural food chain relationships)
  2. Hit the Habitat Trail (animals & habitats)—on my wish list!
  3. Sci or Fi Files
  4. Some Body Human Anatomy game—on my wish list, too!
Educational Games for Social Studies/History

My list here is pretty short, but there are a ton of free games you can find online. A couple of my favorite websites to search are Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool and Ellen McHenry. We’ve also gotten a number of favorites through our notebooking activity packs from Homeschool in the Woods. We also own a pack of Professor Noggin ancient history cards that we used for history Headbandz game at our last unit celebration.

  1. Passport to Culture
  2. Professor Noggin cards series
  3. Classical Historian history card games
Educational Games for Language Arts
  1. Pharaoh’s Phonics
  2. Rhyme Out
  3. Story Cubes
  4. Alphabet Island
  5. Word Pirates (spelling)*
  6. Bananagrams (own it, and love it!)
  7. Stepping Stones: the Expository Writing Game*
  8. The Storymatic Kids
  9. Tell Tale Pocket Game
  10. Cooking up Sentences: parts of speech game *
  11. Comprehension Blast Off game (reading comprehension skills) *
  12. Create-a-Story Board Game

*These games are on my wish list as well!

Another great resource to look for hands-on learning resources and educational games is TeacherspayTeachers.com. What other resources, websites, and educational games do you recommend? Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments as well. I’d love to know what your favorites are.

Using literature-rich curriculum with dyslexic and ADHD kids

literature-rich curriculum with dyslexia ADHD | Tapestry of Grace with special needs | classical homeschooling with learning struggles

I’ve made a lot of curriculum adjustments over the years, but one constant for us has been Tapestry of Grace, a classical, literature-rich curriculum. I love using a literature-rich curriculum in our homeschool—with busy, loud, active ADHD kids, one of which is also dyslexic! In our classically-inclined, charlotte-mason inspired homeschool, we use tons of books, lots and lots of them. Living books, classics, historical fiction, and engaging nonfiction books line my shelves, spill onto the floor, cover our dining room table, and sit by the door (in hopes that we’ll remember to return them to our library.) 

Using a literature-rich curriculum immerses my kids in a culture of reading. Reading is not a school subject. It’s not a checkbox on their assignment sheet. It’s our lifestyle. We read books together and on our own. We listen to books. We talk about books. We buy books. We borrow books. We make room for more books. Why choose a literature-rich curriculum like Tapestry of Grace for kids who are active and have language-struggles?

Three reasons to choose a literature-rich curriculum:

Exposure

We currently don’t use a “textbook” for any subject. Instead, we learn history, science, literature, etc. from library books, lots of library books. Last year, each of my kids read about 50 books each. We are on par for at least that this year, and that’s just for school; that doesn’t include the “just for fun” books. Using a literature-rich curriculum allows my kids to be constantly exposed to books. They are surrounded by them, and reading is a normal part of life—not just school but life itself.

This constant exposure to language through stories (whether audio books, read-alouds, or books they read themselves) has tremendously helped my daughter especially. She’s a strong, confident reader in spite of her challenges. She knows she doesn’t read as quickly or as easily as others, but she loves stories. And the exposure through so many senses and with so much variety, strengthens her understanding and skill in an otherwise challenging area for her.

So what does this exposure look like practically? I select several books for each kid on our topic that we will be covering for 2-4 weeks. For my oldest, I’ll suggest a couple of titles that I’d like him to read each week, chapter books often taking 2-3 weeks. Then, I’ll “strew” the other books around the house to tempt him to read more on the subject. Because my daughter requires a different approach, I’ve recently just assigned all the books for the term and allowed her to work through them at her own pace. She’s using (and loving) this funschooling journal along with her reading. She gets to creatively draw a picture, write a sentence, or choose some copywork from her book of choice to record in her journal. 

Variety

Honestly, I don’t think my busy rambunctious kids would be readers if we had chosen a traditional curriculum with textbooks and readers. The key to engaging my ADHD kiddos is variety, and Tapestry of Grace provides such fantastic variety. My kids are exposed to classics, biographies, picture books, historical fiction, encyclopedias, and more. Although my kids love books in general, they don’t love every book and are sometimes skeptical of a book I’ve assigned. So, I’ve instituted the “five chapter” rule. For all fiction, they must read at least read five chapters before they can decide whether or not to finish the book. In nearly every case, by the time they got to chapter 5 they were totally engaged. In some cases, the book even turned out to be a favorite. For nonfiction books, I don’t require them to read every word. They read for information, to learn certain facts, or to discover facts that interest them. In both instances, the variety of books means that there are books that appeal to all of my children for one reason or another. It also means that my kids have often discovered they were interested in a book or subject that they didn’t think they’d like.

The variety also allows my kids to connect with the subject matter in their own way, to make their own connections based on what interests them. My daughter connects with art, beauty, nature, and animals of a culture. My son connects with wars and weapons and inventions. They remember different things about the different time periods we are studying together. This has been awesome because as we share as a family what they’ve been reading and learning, we get such a wide spectrum of information.

Shared Experience

Books create memories. My kids have favorites they love to re-read. They have favorites that Daddy alone can read to them. (Babaji is a favorite from when they were very little that they still love to have him read—in character.) They have books that we share together as read-alouds. Books makes those moments special for us. Books bond us together, all snuggled on the couch listening to a story, or side by side each with our own book as we wind down for bedtime. Tapestry of Grace allows for tons of great book selections to always be available at every reading level. I don’t insist that every book be “read.” We have fond memories of listening to Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Railway Children as audio books. And I don’t insist on reading every read-aloud myself. My kids read-aloud, too. This year, we’ve read selected chapters from the Story of the World and Grandpa’s Box to go along with our ancient history studies. It allows me to give the input and emphasis of our study, to draw out the major themes we are studying, but it also allows them the opportunity to contribute as well.

I have very fond memories of reading aloud with my mom, chapter by chapter through multiple books all the way through college. Even now when we visit each other, we select a book to read aloud together. I love those memories with my mom, and I love those memories with my kids.

There are so many reasons for choosing a literature-rich curriculum, even with a household of ADHD and dyslexia. My kids read upside down on the couch, under tables, outside, in giant refrigerator cardboard boxes with flashlights, or in the most cock-eyed positions. And we still stay very active, with lots of hands-on projects to supplement all that reading. But the constant exposure, variety, and shared experiences from using a literature-rich curriculum have been treasures to my family and to my kids.

How do you know if a literature-rich curriculum is a good fit for you?

  • Don’t let reading or attention struggles rule this out for you.
  • Do consider how committed you are to reading as a lifestyle. If you look at a literature-rich curriculum as simply school assignments to get done in a week, you will probably both hate it.
  • Do consider access to a good library. Honestly, a good one is worth paying for if you aren’t local. A good library allows that maximum exposure and variety without breaking your budget. I could never afford to keep my kids in books without our local library (and that’s where we find our great audiobooks).
  • Don’t assume that a particular learning style will prevent a child from enjoying literature. Instead, use that learning style as a means to enjoy literature.

It would be easy to see all that energy and assume my kids would never sit down long enough to read. But that just hasn’t been true of our family at all. Books are a calming constant. It wouldn’t be home without them.

Want to know more about how we use Tapestry of Grace with ADHD/dyslexia? Check out these posts:

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids

Celebrating progress with unit parties

Homeschooling a Child with ADHD (and everything that comes with it)

homeschooling ADHD | parenting ADHD

Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging on so many levels, and honestly the hyperactivity and distraction is a walk in the park compared to the rest of the package. ADHD rarely comes alone; it’s accompanied by depression, anxiety, rage, sensory processing issues, auditory processing issues, and a slew of other “disorders” and “syndromes.” And as if our kids weren’t challenging enough, there are the additional challenges of battling our own insecurities and mommy guilt, as well as battling what other people are saying and what we think they are saying.

So homeschooling a child with ADHD is, as you might assume, rather chaotic. It doesn’t look anything like I had imagined. And though we are in a much better place today then we were a couple of years ago, I remember the days when I doubted that I could do this. There were days when I felt like I did more counseling than actual homeschooling. There were days when one child would fly into a biting, scratching, head-banging rage, another child would be screaming inconsolably, and my toddler would be smearing poo all over the house. And I wasn’t sure I’d survive the day. But you know what? My kids learned, even when I didn’t think it was possible.

We learned in short spurts (10 to 15 minutes per subject).

We learned creatively and actively.

We learned when we had a chance, in the good moments.

And because of the environment of having that one-on-one attention and plenty of time to burn that excess energy, my kids have done well academically. Our ADHD kids are smart.

And while medication was not the long term answer for our kids, I’m thankful for the gift ADHD meds gave to my family during that time. It helped me to see who my children really were in the midst of that overwhelming fog. It gave me the chance to get my head above water and rethink our lifestyle and habits and routines. It wasn’t perfect: some days the meds worked, some days they seemed to be too much, other days they weren’t nearly enough. But the meds worked enough to help clear the haze and allow me to see that there could be some dietary links.

About a year and half ago, we began an elimination diet and I journaled religiously—everything we ate and every behavior. After awhile, some patterns emerged. It took several months of watching those patterns and eliminating different foods. But eventually, both my older kids went off meds and my youngest (never on meds) also had dramatic improvements in his temperament and sensory issues. My daughter’s journey took a little longer and involved a few more supplements, but eventually she was able to reach a healthy baseline. Are they cured? No, the dopamine and seratonin issues show up in the DNA; it will always be there. But we are able to manage their challenges best right now with diet and supplements.

My kids are still a very active, loud, dramatic, funny, personality-plus crew of hooligans. They still have BIG EMOTIONS that we have to work through. But in spite of all of the challenges, we’ve had the chance to see the treasure, too. You see, ADHD rarely comes alone; it comes with creativity, innovation, humor, imagination, and a wild sense of adventure. We are never short of laughs and unbelievable antics. My life is full and rich (and loud) and never dull, not for a split-second.

homeschooling active learners | ADHD | parenting ADHD

Is homeschooling the right option for your ADHD child? Only you know that. But I definitely don’t regret having homeschooled ours and the opportunities they’ve had to excel in learning in spite of their challenges, to love learning because we can keep it short and active and customized, to have meaningful friendships that allow them to be loud and quirky and every bit who they are. Can you homeschool a child with these obstacles? Sure you can. Just like you can wake up each day and parent. There are good days and bad days in homeschooling, just like there are good days and bad days in parenting. There are days when it is the most amazing experience ever, and there are days when I wonder what on earth I’m thinking. But there’s not a single day when I wouldn’t do absolutely all I could for my kid.

So if I could have a moment with myself of two or three years ago, if I could tell you what I’ve learned over the last few years, I’d say it’s okay to feel inadequate and helpless and imperfect. It’s okay to not know the solutions right now. It’s okay that you aren’t the “fun mom” or the “creative mom” or even the “patient mom.” You are still the perfect mom for this job, because God chose you for this child. And He doesn’t make mistakes. ADHD doesn’t come alone; and you are a key component in the journey.

If you are new to this journey and need a friend, I would love to hear from you. I also highly recommend the book Superparenting for ADD.

Want to follow more of our journey?

Motivating Your Child with Anxiety

child with anxiety | homeschooling ADHD | homeschooling dyslexia | motivation

Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned our top motivation-killers at my house: Big Emotions and creativity. Today, I’m revealing the last of our big three: anxiety. I’m not sure if the anxiety at our house is rooted in the ADHD or the dyslexia or something else entirely, but anxiety has been a real motivation-killer at several different points in our homeschool. How do you get your child moving again when anxiety has her totally shut down?

While a lot of the same ideas for motivating an intense child will also work for the anxious child (our anxiety is usually emotionally intense), there are a few things I do differently when dealing specifically with my daughter’s anxiety.

5 steps for motivating your child with anxiety

  • Reassure first. Don’t reassure with logic! (I’ve mentioned before that I am really working on this.) Know your child and what that child needs. Reassure with affection and sentiment: “I love you and it’s okay. We will get through this together.” I think, perhaps more than anything, my anxious child needs to be reminded that she’s not alone, that I’m there supporting her through all her struggles.
  • Validate her feelings and assure her that you will do all that you can to prevent her fears from becoming reality. “I can see how that would be devastating, but I will not allow anyone to laugh at you.” “I can see why you would be terrified, but I will make sure that [whatever the fear] doesn’t happen.” While my natural instinct is to tell my child that what she feels will never happen and logically explain why that fear is absurd, this just doesn’t have the same outcome as telling her that I will not allow that fear to occur. Sometimes, I can’t make that promise. It’s not in my realm of protection. In those cases, I reassure that if it were to ever happen, we would overcome it together, that she wouldn’t be facing that situation alone.
  • Be for her, not against her. I mentioned this in my post about motivating your intense child. Of course, we are “for” our children. But it is easy to default to an “us against them” when the work isn’t getting done. By positioning myself as the ally, I and my child work together against the obstacle or natural consequence, instead of against each other. I am not punishing her with the consequences; the consequences are hers. But I want to work alongside her to find a strategy to help her make good decisions and avoid those consequences.
  • End on a positive note. Humor, a secret code word between the two of us to reassure her in anxious moments, a treat (food heals the soul), a hug—anything that seals the deal and provides a little nudge of momentum. 
  • Set up the learning environment to reassure the child the next time you encounter that obstacle. When we begin a subject or an assignment that I know my daughter is naturally anxious about, I begin by going over what we’ve discussed before, and remind her of what we are doing differently this time to make sure that her fears are not a reality. Reading used to be our anxiety-subject; then it became spelling. For a long time, she would burst into tears and shut down at even the sight of an assignment that required spelling. Slowly, we’ve worked through the anxieties from both of those subjects. And the other weekend, she picked up a spelling book on her own on a day off to work through some of the activities! Talk about a miracle! Though she is not completely confident in spelling, we’ve definitely come a long way. 

Motivating a child with anxiety takes an enormous amount of patience. And I have to remember that even though the fears don’t always make sense to me, they are very real to my child. I’m not always grateful for these moments. I’m not always patient. I’m sure, at times, I’ve aggravated and intensified some of those feelings by handling it the wrong way. But as I look back over the weeks, and think about what God is doing in my life through this journey, I appreciate so much more how God handles my fears.

How illogical are mine most of the time! I have an almighty God who knows and cares: what do I have to be afraid of? And yet, God doesn’t launch into all the reasons why those fears don’t make sense. Instead, He assures me—”Don’t be afraid!” And He’s there for me—”I will never leave you or forsake you.” In the end, these are the verses and promises that both my child and I have to come back to. She and I are both scared, anxious little sheep, but He is the good Shepherd of us both.

Display Boards for whole family learning

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace

We’ve had so much fun with display boards recently that I just had to give you a peek at the action. As part of our Tapestry of Grace curriculum, we’ve been learning about the cultures and people of ancient Palestine during the time of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. I love doing as much of our learning together as we can, so I assigned both of the older kids this display board project for their writing assignment. Immediately, they were all on board.

Preparation for the Display Boards

My preparation, overall, wasn’t bad. I printed off the Teacher Notes from our curriculum and highlighted the portions for them to read through for the writing part of the assignment, picked some images to print from Google images, and picked up some display board supplies at our local supply store. Each child picked their board, including Littlest, my preschooler. He wanted in on the action, and I figured getting him his own poster board would keep him from “participating” in the other kids’ projects in ways they would not prefer.

Directions for the Display Boards

We chose four cultures that had the most information available: Canaanites, Hittites, Philistines, and Phoenicians. And I gave them 3 weeks to work on it.

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards

For my fifth grader, I assigned a paragraph for each culture. Other than providing his materials and showing him a few sample projects, I really did not do much more for him. He likes his independence.

For my third grader, I only required a couple of sentences for each culture. Because of her skill level and dyslexia, I helped her quite a bit more. I read the information to her rather than have her read it, and she used a new favorite app of ours to write her sentences. (Dyslexia Aid allows her to speak her sentence into the app, and it gives her the text for her to copy into her projects.)

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards

dyslexia app | dyslexia aids for writing

For my preschooler, I gave him permission to use any left-over photos the big kids were not using. He got his glue stick and scissors and went to town. I love it! The red scribbles are his map of Palestine.

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards | preschool

In Love with Display Boards

Seriously, we are in love with display boards, and I keep asking myself why I haven’t tried this sooner. My daughter has already asked about a hundred times if she can make another one. And it was an easy way to incorporate everyone at their own skill levels, interacting with the same information, which after all, is why I love Tapestry of Grace to begin with. I love whole family learning, and I love getting to put that learning on display.