The last two years have been so difficult for my youngest son.
A mix of physical and mental health issues made “Back to School 2016” and “2017” the least of our worries.
I am so very grateful to say that he is feeling better, much better. We are beginning to get back into a routine that has less to do with medication management and meltdowns, and more to do with learning.
It’s been a much-needed breath of fresh air, and it has both of us more excited about the new school year than we have been in a long time.
Because he is feeling so much better, I have felt more freedom to plan and to really think through how to best help him learn this year. (I think in the past, I have only planned the minimum, not wanting to feel disappointed and discouraged when we weren’t able to do all the things.)
The truth is, he is behind in most subjects. He is struggling to keep up, in most subjects. Of course he is. Two years of chronic pain and constant anxiety will do that to a learner. Add his learning differences into the mix and it can feel a little daunting to us both at times.
At twelve, he is headed into sixth grade. I would love to report back in June and say it was his best homeschool year yet. He is one of the hardest workers I know. He deserves it.
With that in mind, I want to share our curriculum choices and basic plan for the year.
As I thought about how to organize our learning choices, I decided it would be best to give you this information in the way that I think about it as I plan for my son.
Rather than subject by subject, I tend to think about my son’s learning in three main categories –
The Life Skills
These categories help me plan, and also allow me to adjust on the tough days while adding-in more learning on days when my son is doing well.
Today, I will share our choices, with links to more info, within the context of these three buckets.
Homeschooling Middle School: Our Sixth Grade Special Needs Curriculum
Notes: I have used all of these programs in various capacities in the past. They continue to be my favorites for teaching Language Arts. Brave Writer is a perfect fit for my son’s learning differences. All About Reading is the only program that has really allowed my son to make significant progress in reading (so much so that we are almost ready to move into Level 3!) and the online component of Reading Eggs rounds out his learning.
Notes: I just shared an entire post explaining why we made the switch to Teaching Textbooks and we are still going strong with this program. This is the only completely new to us curriculum choice for this year.
Notes: We have used Oak Meadow off and on and I am happy to have it back in the line-up for this year. Their sixth grade history curriculum centers around Ancient Civilizations through the Middle Ages. It takes an around the world approach (not just Greek and Roman). Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus has about a million options for hands-on ancient civilizations study and she is planning to add even more for this school year. Beautiful Feet is my favorite for just about everything – we plan to finish up the geography study from late last year in the Fall.
Beautiful Feet – History of Science
Notes: Again, Beautiful Feet. The History of Science Study is so much more robust than I first realized. Not only are there wonderful read alouds about real people (so much preferred to a textbook for my little guy!) but there is a whole book of coordinating, hands-on science experiments as well. In addition, we are continuing our focus on Human Anatomy. Because of my son’s chronic illnesses, I have found it to be extremely important for him to know and understand his body. Plus, adding the TOOBs makes it fun!
Audio Books, and more Audio Books
Art – Sparketh and Picture Studies
Notes: I write about these all the time, because we are using these layers all the time. We will continue these interest-led studies throughout the year. I call this section “The Layers” because I feel like all of these items layer on top of our “Basics” quite well. The truth is, most of our learning time is spent in these types of learning activities.
The Life Skills
Family Would You Rather – Mary @ Not Before 7
Outside Speech Therapy
Student Planner Consistent Use
The Reptile Room
Notes: This area is the one that makes the greatest impact in our overall days, and ultimately, progress in learning. If my son is anxious or struggling with life skills, it is very difficult for him to focus on math. As such, I have tried to be as specific as possible in my planned approach for therapies and life skills for the year. The Reptile Room is completely new. Since we moved, we now have space to house all of my son’s pet reptiles in one room. This is huge! It means we start our day taking care of the animals. We also end our day taking care of the animals. Book-ending our learning with something that is interesting and fun has made transitions so much easier for my son.
I know many of you are also navigating the beginning of your homeschool year. Maybe you are in a good place, like we are. Maybe you are struggling as we have in the past. No matter what your current circumstances, I’m glad you are here.
My hope is that this list might make things a little easier. It can feel lonely for the homeschooling mom of a child with special needs this time of year.
The curriculum choices we see online look different than what we are facing. The sample schedules look different than what we know our kiddos can handle. Even the tone feels different in Facebook groups and curriculum round-ups, with all the pictures of smiling, happy kids gathered at a school table together.
Please let me encourage you –
A special needs homeschool may look different, but that doesn’t make it less than.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful school year.
Looking for Big Brother’s High School Curriculum Plan?
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.