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1/12/2012 9:47:08 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Your Struggling Learner: Calming Your January Jitters

HSLDA Homeschooling a Struggling Learner

January 12, 2012

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Calming Your January Jitters

by Betty T. Statnick, M. Ed.
HSLDA Struggling Learner Consultant

You have come to the stark realization that the current school year is almost half over, but the student you are homeschooling is not at the mid-point of his textbooks or workbooks in most of his academic subjects. You are about to push the panic button because your aim was that he complete those books this year.

You do realize that he has some learning problems because some formal testing has shown that to be the case. You are grateful your state of residence does not require that a homeschooler take a standardized achievement test at the end of each school year. However, you do want your child to achieve his maximum potential, and you are certain that would not happen if he had remained in his previous school setting.

You have asked me, “What should I do? I have already told him we have a lot of catching up to do; you will have to do lots of workbook pages each day in certain subjects (four pages in spelling, four pages in English, maybe two pages in math).”

My response to that has been, “Unless you are under a program from a curriculum provider which mandates otherwise, there really isn’t a requirement that a student work every single page in a workbook.”

I have explained further that I have been known to draw a large X on the workbook page when I am convinced that the student has already mastered the material or concept and, therefore, does not need to work that page. Or, instead of X-ing the page (drawing a large X on the workbook page), I will circle (at the bottom of the page) the page number to indicate what I call a “provisional skip.” That means the student can skip that page. However, if his later work demonstrates that he has forgotten that concept, I require him to go back and work that page. I do review the concept with him before I have him work that page, and I “grade it” ASAP.

Another thing I have done and also recommended to other homeschooling moms is that they be their student’s secretary and write the answers the student dictates to them. This can relieve a lot of stress for students who know the answers but have sensory processing problems and also fine motor difficulties.

In her book about sensory disorders, Sensational Kids, (page 269) author Dr. Lucy Miller states

“The frequent occurrence of combination disorders is most likely a result of the brain’s structure. The brain’s systems are interrelated which means that a physiological or biochemical problem in one area can affect operations in another area. Any traveler who has ever suffered through a weather disruption can imagine how this works. When thunderstorms shut down Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, even distant airports are affected because air traffic is an interrelated system. A neurological disorder is the equivalent of a thunderstorm in a key hub. Although disruption can be limited to a single area, it’s common for multiple parts of the system to be disturbed.”

Some excellent resources I am currently reading/re-reading come into play when I recommend that a parent sometimes function as the child's secretary:

1. Sensational Kids—Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D., OTR of Kid Foundation. This book is available online.

2. The Sensory-Sensitive Child by Karen A. Smith, Ph.D. and Karen R. Gouze, Ph.D.

Both of these authors are psychologists who are also parents of children with sensory processing disorders.

3. Teaching Your Special Needs Student: Strategies and Tools that Really Work by Judith Munday, M.A., M.S., learn@helpinschool.net

This author has included in her book a very practical section (pages 30–50) entitled “Choosing Curriculum Materials.” In it she lists important principles to consider when selecting curriculum materials including this one: “The materials used by special needs students should contain open, clear page layouts; ample visual helps for instruction; appropriate reading levels; enough space in which to write without crowding; and a logical sequence of new content presented at an appropriate pace.”

Please know that the HSLDA Special Needs Consultants are available to assist you in homeschooling your children.