my project4peace

Homeschooling in the Desert with Intention and Hope and Special Needs

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A Model for Collaborative Montessori Communities- Elizabeth Academy


In the Media | Elizabeth Academy.

I hope you will enjoy watching the possibilities that are here in this program and applaud Elizabeth’s Mom, for taking it on and creating something beautiful that we can learn from.

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Avoiding Power Struggles with Children


Avoiding Power Struggles with Children.

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Apps for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities | DyslexiaHelp at the University of Michigan


Apps for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities | DyslexiaHelp at the University of Michigan.

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A little encouragement on homeschooling children with Special Needs…copied from HSLDA website

Nurture the Spirit of the child and you won't lose your way.

Nurture the Spirit of the child and you won’t lose your way.

Updated October 2009

By Christopher J. Klicka
HSLDA Senior Counsel


I. Introduction


Teaching your child with special needs is a privilege—but it is also hard. It requires from the parents much sacrifice, patience, and unconditional love.

We cannot forget to consider what the child with special needs experiences as well. Living with a handicap such as blindness, cerebral palsy, a speech impediment, autism, retardation, a disease, or one of many types of learning disabilities is difficult. It is a daily struggle emotionally, mentally, and many times physically. The child’s self-esteem is constantly put to the test. Some handicaps or learning disabilities can be overcome with consistent and focused effort. Other handicaps can only be managed and may never go away.

Living with multiple sclerosis these last few years has helped me appreciate the struggles of a physically handicapped person. Every day it is hard for me to simply walk, put my socks on, or stay in 80-degree weather for any length of time. The emotional drain is intense. The need to think and plan for logistics to achieve normal movement is a heavy burden. The quality of life from a human perspective is diminished. Hiking in the woods or camping is too hard, going to the beach is incapacitating, and participating in most sports that I love is out of the question.

Personal attention and love by my family is more important to me than ever before. I know a child with special needs truly needs this extra support and reassurance. Homeschooling your special needs child makes that intense, loving support possible.

We have seven children, including a set of twins who were supposed to have died in the womb. Yet God answered our desperate prayers in a miraculous way. Amy, whose head was caved in, spine twisted, and was not hooked up right, completely recovered in the womb and was born alive at 2 lbs. 13 ounces. Although Amy was miraculously delivered, she was mentally much slower than her twin sister, Charity. At 6 years old, Amy was not ready to read like her sister and required much more time, attention, and love. Sending her to an institutional school would have devastated her fragile self-confidence. Teachers could not possibly give her the one-on-one attention and love she needed.

In light of these experiences, I am convinced that homeschooling children with special needs is the most effective way to successfully teach them and is the ideal environment in which they will learn and thrive.

II. Parents Excel in Teaching Their Special Needs Children

Objective studies demonstrate that parents are providing a superior form of education for their special needs children by teaching them at home. Contrary to the claims of the education elite, parents do not have to be specially certified or have special qualifications to teach their handicapped children at home.

In fact, in one of the most thorough studies performed thus far on the subject, Dr. Steven Duvall conducted a year-long study involving eight elementary and two junior high students with learning disabilities. He compared one group of five students that received instruction at home with a group of five students who attended public schools. He was careful to match the public school students to the homeschool students according to grade level, sex, IQ, and area of disability. Using a laptop computer, Dr. Duvall sat in on teaching sessions and took an observation every 20 seconds, creating tens of thousands of data points that were then fed into a statistical analysis package. Normally his research included a second observer who double-checked Dr. Duvall’s readings.

Dr. Duvall recorded and analyzed academically engaged time by students during instructional periods. He also administered standardized achievement tests to them to measure gains in reading, math and written language. His results show that the homeschooled, special needs students were academically engaged about two-and-one-half times as often as public school special needs students! He found the children in the public school special education classrooms spent 74.9 percent of their time with no academic responses, while the homeschool children only spent 40.7 percent of their time with no academic responses. He also found that homeschools have children and teachers sitting side-by-side or face-to-face 43 percent of the time, while public education classrooms had such an arrangement for special needs children only 6 percent of the time. This was a tremendous advantage for the homeschoolers.

His study further demonstrated that the homeschool students averaged six months’ gain in reading compared to only a one-half month gain by the special public school students. Furthermore, the homeschool special needs students during the year gained eight months in written language skills compared to the public school counterparts who gained only two-and-one-half months.

Dr. Duvall summarized, “These results clearly indicate that parents, even though they are not certified teachers, can create instructional environments at home that assist students with learning disabilities to improve their academic skills. This study clearly shows that home schooling is beneficial for special needs students.” 1

It is interesting to note that Thomas Edison was expelled from public school at age 7 because he was considered “addled” by his public school teacher. He lasted only three months in formal schooling. Over the next three years, his mother taught him the basics at home, and as Edison himself stated, “She instilled in me the love and purpose of learning.” 2 Without any special qualifications, Mrs. Edison helped her son overcome his disabilities to be come a great inventor.

Once again we see homeschooling works for any child!

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Insight or Rambling? Perfection or Chaos? Never sure.

Curriculum? – Special Needs Homeschool. This article has helped me take a breath.  Observation is the key here.  There are very specialized programs that have been successful for children with specific challenges.  Use all of your observations that you have made about your child to help you decide on how you will approach their learning.  As a Montessori Teacher that is now homeschooling, without the many materials of the classroom to work with, and a student that is 13 years old, who has had virtually nothing presented to him successfully or respectfully since he was 8….I’m a little anxious to get it right from the start.  At least I have the years of IEP meetings under my belt. Right? Those were useful.

Here’s the way I look at it, (please suspend judgement, as I’m just trying to sort it out myself),

He can find anything in the house, remembers where everything is, and knows what everyone is doing and what they are supposed to do.  He reminds me of what I need when I walk out the door, how I was going to give back Aunt Janet’s bag, or how someone left their pearl necklace at the house and he will tell you when on Emergency 51 (a love of old TV series)John Gauge forgot to put the oil cap on before he and his partner ran off on another emergency.

He loves/hates high intensity emotions!  Lucille Ball was therapy.  This was important to recognize and it took me forever to figure out.  I was for much of his life very entertaining until I discovered the Nurtured Heart Approach.  What he lost in a very entertaining mother (of course in times when running down the street screaming looked like a viable option), he gained in the restoration of parents who learned to spend 0 energy on the bad stuff and 150% of the energy on everything else including…”I can see that you are sitting at the table in front of your work, your showing determination!” Surprisingly (actually shockingly) more effective than any number of negatives like: “Your not going to get your work done if…”, “what choices are you making right now?”, “Get back to work.”  Or my favorite used by all of his Special Education teachers “Focus!” kind of ironic since much of why he is in that classroom is because he can not focus.  Of course there are many more. His emotional intensity, excitability, and his constant attraction to the same, showed me what how I needed to proceed or at least guided me to the work that now has been very successful, respectful and has brought joy back to our relationship. It is not easy, nor are we perfect, but it is dramatically better and I now feel as though I have a clearer path.  By the way, this method, though there are many that will speak of their personal success with their children, was not ever suggested by any of the specialists we went to see over the last 10 years.

On days that he has swimming and has gymnastics he is more organized in himself, his speech seems more organized and he seems grounded and calm.  This doesn’t come with a long walk or vigorous play for him.

For him, throwing a ball back and forth between activities, standing on a basketball while watching a video, or listening to me read, helps. I found that out by watching him for successful moments in many different areas.

He needs a motivator.  I know because he said “could you please tell me that if I get my work done I get to watch 2 TV shows” (Dick Van Dyke and Emergency).

He can’t count well but he can see and manipulate quantities.  So we use Right Start Math.  He loves funny things, so we use Life of Fred to build critical thinking in math.  He loves intensity  plus visuals to get the juices flowing and the curiosity going, so we are heavy users of YouTube,, TEDWatchKnowLearn, Netflix , Jason Project, Space Lab with Bill Nye.  He has memory issues so we can watch more than once, we can pause to discuss, or re-watch (because he was preoccupied with a buzzing noise and missed the first part).

He lOOOOVes to act.  So he can re enact, show with his hands to help his words, and this he remembers well.  He’s kinesthetic, but coupled with experience, emotion and intensity.  He can’t just walk around the letter and know it or feel it.  Those are great strategies, but he needs it all amped up and with a context to live in so he can remember it.  We also signed him up with a very small, and community oriented theater with a director that believed that community has lots of different members and everyone belongs and makes a difference.

He loves to serve others, he’s a good judge of character and can see an agenda a mile away.  He is energetically tied to everything and everyone.  Check your energy at the door.  He is loyal.  He will take care of you in surprising ways, and can give a toast at the dinner table that is strikingly thoughtful and calmly stated.  He has trouble managing his energy, but he’s like a his own private party.  It’s loud, there’s dancing, and exuberant hugging, there’s sure to be breakage but his global positioning somehow guides him and nothing is bruised or broken by amazement.  Gifts amidst chaos.

He uses small stones to hold his “memory place”.  He attaches meaning to a rock or something else and that takes the place of his memory challenge.  For example a rock can be a sound, a word, an answer on a multiple choice quiz, the name on a list of names etc.  He can’t hold it in his mind yet but he can hold it in the rocks.  He uses it when writing sentences, sometimes a rock can be the missing whatever.  It’s a mental placeholder. So on our “classroom shelf” sits a silver box of rocks which my husband and I purchased well before children, and used to call our “silver box memories”. Who knew?. We are currently working on improving his visualization skills so that the rocks can be in his head, so to speak. (I’m not sure but I think my father accused me of such at one point, and then you might too.)

We go to  learning specialists, carefully selected for kindness, a generous personality, and a willingness to think on their own and observe carefully. In the area of Language we felt that trained practitioners were a necessary part of his learning. And through observation of his success (defined as joyful participation, independent work, and progress) with Montessori Materials and it’s sequential sequence, LIPS, and former practice with Spalding, and his enjoyment of  Talking Fingers and Wordy Qwerty, not to mention all the scientific studies that point to the same,  that a Systematic and Sequential Program for the 5 components of learning to read were imperative if learning to read were to be possible given his challenges. We have chosen LIPS, and Seeing Stars and a program call Read Live plus the available Montessori Language materials in sequence on the shelf for independent work. He gets LIPS from a Tutor and I do the Seeing Stars program at home.  I intend to get training as soon as it’s feasible. For learning to type we still use Talking Fingers. I wish that I could see 10 years in the future and be able to tell you how successful all this has been, but like you I can not, and I remind myself that neither can most of the professionals we have seen.  I must believe in him till it hurts and believe in myself as much.

We are still settling on an overall curriculum to guide us, I am looking at the Montessori 6-12 curriculum from Keys to the Universe, and doing the online training. (This would provide a foundation, but the materials and the environment and community would be limited), and Oakmeadow Curriculum which has a focus on the interconnectedness of all things.  This big picture of our place in the world is a helpful context for which to stick his  bits of information that are sometimes hard to hold on to and hard to relate to the other bits.

I remind myself frequently that I took many college prep classes at a private high school, got good grades, passed many tests, went to college and use a fraction of what I learned today. I remind myself the sum of my life is not the Standards of Education, not my profession, not my possessions, but the amount of joy that is in my life.  Joy for me comes with nature (which is sadly lacking) good friends, great information, inspiration, happiness in my children, and at peace with myself as a parent, a friend, a wife (also sadly lacking), and satisfaction that I am making a difference in the world (working on that). Right now I am settling for inspiration, information, and good friends, the rest is in the improvement stages. For the life I’ve been drawn to, I have what I need, and what I don’t have I can find, after that I just need courage, and perhaps a course in writing.

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Montessori is Special Education


I wonder what encouragement I will find in the pages of this book?

This his book was written so many years ago, yet in Montessori Schools today Children with Special Needs seem to be limited to very high functioning children, with few behavior challenges.  It seems to me that as a teacher the question of the other children getting what they needed is always present, am I serving everyone?  Is it out of balance.  But yet at the same time I grapple with my belief that communities include everyone.  How do we learn to be whole citizens in this community if we do not learn how to engage with, have time for and include all members of the community.  How can this not be part of our schools?  Is it what we value? Is it how we have chosen to define successful individuals that gets in our way.

A decision to see a person as whole, and deserving of our kindness and respect, to see their greatness requires us to have a new understanding of what it is to be human.  What it is to be of service. To let go of old ways.  Haven’t we done this before?  Isn’t this basic misunderstanding at the root so much disparity in the world are we really a better nation because “more” people have an opportunity.  Can’t we really shift our perception enough that all people have opportunity to be accepted in a community.  Can’t we make it just as shameful, and unacceptable that our space whatever it is was not designed to include all individuals.  Can’t we stretch our greatness to recognize what’s missing when individuals with various disabilities are missing from the room.  Seeking diverse communities has always made us a greater nation, a greater community, a greater school, a greater group.  What needs to happen?  Often it seems when great change must take place it is the mistaken goal or model that needs to be restructured.  Greatness comes from our ability to see beyond our current circumstances to a possibility that exceeds those constraints, (something our most vulnerable do on a daily basis). A nation of greatness must see the greatness in each other, by the wholeness of it’s individuals.  We make others vulnerable when we create a world in which the value is determined by others.  One’s vulnerability is proportionate to the constructs of the society in which it lives.  What kind of society, what kind of being do we wish to construct.

When all else is gone, what will bring us the most joy?  How can we remember, as we seek to “pay for our lives”, that joy exists in the ability to be ourselves, be loved, and be able to serve and love others, and seek that, that builds us in our own vision. Isn’t this what Montessori saw?  It costs nothing to be kind, to be patient, to be giving, to be compassionate, to have empathy. We have become a nation that everything has a price tag. It is costing us our humanness and our potential greatness.  It is an invisible force that has altered the nature of all things.  What we lack in money is always made up for in the richness of our joy in each other.  If we shifted our success meter to exist in the richness of our community, the level of service, compassion, joy  it would have to include everyone, and it could build a community of individuals that care for each other, are empowered and enriched and nourished by each other.  Special would just be an important element in the mix.   It is an important part of the mix.  The fact that it is missing, and it’s members absent from the community on the whole, our community is disable, lacks the very elements that would exist if these members were wholly a part. It is something we hide from, don’t want to know about, fantasize that all is well with, so we can live in this illusion of success.

I believe that a transformation of this kind is happening all around us.  Like waiting for a bud to bloom, or an egg to hatch, or a child to have that “aha” moment, we will unfold this possibility.  The seeds have already been planted the ground has been made fertile, and now we just nourish, encourage tirelessly, invite, and trust in its inevitability.  This I say as I deal with my own impatience, perceptions, and abilities with still the hope of practicing in good faith that that I believe in.  If I don’t stay compassionate with myself, I might just give up, however. It’s a new day, patience arrived as always at my bedside and so here I am again, and in the company of so many I trust. Good company it is.


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Montessori Nuggets: Montessori and the Special Child

Montessori Nuggets: Montessori and the Special Child.