It’s been a crazy few weeks with school closures and offices/businesses converting over to virtual resources in light of the global virus pandemic. And just like that, most of us parents suddenly find ourselves in the position of having to become a homeschool teacher, whether we are trained for it or not. The quarantine/social distancing mandates have been tough for everyone, but it is especially hard on kids with special needs, who thrive on routine. It is also hard on the parents who have now been thrust into the role of therapist, administrator and teacher, while still trying to balance all of the other responsibilities in life.
Many therapy offices are moving over to online sessions, which can provide assistance to some degree. However, my son was receiving his therapy mostly through public school services, which is now shut down and could very well stay that way until the Fall. Since we are currently without any services, I adapted my own homeschool and therapy schedule to target skills at home. It’s not perfect, but implementing this schedule has at least provided us with a structure and opportunity to curb any regressions in his growth.
Here is a sample of what our daily homeschool schedule looks like:
- 7:30 am: Wake Up/Eat Breakfast
- 8:30 am: Get Dressed
- 9:30 am: PE
- 10:30 am: Bible Study
- 11:00 am: Language Arts
- 11:30 am: OT or Speech/Language Therapy (rotate each day)
- 12:00 pm: Eat Lunch
- 12:30 pm: Recess
- 1:00 pm: Math
- 2:00 pm: Finish for the Day/Electronics Break
- 3:30 pm: Chores/down time
- 5:30 pm: Dinner
- 7:30 pm: Bath
- 8:00 pm: PT/Foot Exercises
- 8:30 pm: Bedtime Reading
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PE is our first subject of the day. The reason I chose this to kick off the day is because we live in Florida, where it gets hot outside fast. If we don’t start early, we will be covered in sweat with any outside activity. My biggest goal during this time is to get my son exercise and plenty of movement. It is also a bonus if we can get him outdooors in the sunshine, soaking in the Vitamin D. Here are some of the activities we choose from for our homeschool PE options:
- Go for a bike ride
- Go for a walk (we live near horses and we go feed them often)
- Race each other in the yard
- Play on the swingset
- Kick a soccer ball into the net
- Go on a hunt for heavy sticks or rocks to practice distance throwing
- Lift a sandbag or light-weight dumbbell
- Ride the scooter
- Jump on the bed like a trampoline
- Make up obstacle courses
- Pretend we are attending “Captain America’s Boot Camp” which involves squats, ankle weights, push ups, etc.
If this quarantine extends closer to the summertime, I’ll be looking into more backyard equipment to purchase from Amazon, including a bounce house, slip n’ slide system, and possibly a new basketball court. Being at home every day can get pretty old and boring quick. I want to have a few fun things on hand from time to time to give my kiddo some other alternatives to electronics. Provided below are some of the Amazon options I’m looking at for my son.
Though my son was in public school where Bible Study is not included in the daily curriculum, I choose to keep it central to our home classroom. Each day, we pick a bible lesson to read. Now that my son can read fairly proficiently, I instruct him to read a story to me and then we talk about the story and include a time of prayer. I feel like this time in the bible also counts a little towards “Language Arts,” since we are reading and exploring story-telling and comprehension.
Two books I’ve used for him are found on Amazon. One is geared towards a much younger age group, but it is still a favorite for him to pick out stories and read. The other children’s bible is the one we are using for him to transition to older themes.
Another program I recently discovered by a mom who shared this resource with me is a free Global Family Kit from Mercy House Global. This kit includes stories, maps and photos from families around the world in poverty areas. It also includes a gratitude journal. I recently ordered this kit as a way to teach my kids about the world with different perspectives. Though this kit could technically count as “Social Studies” lessons, I felt it appropriate to include in our bible study session. What a neat opportunity to share global compassion and charity.
For Language Arts, I’m sticking with a focus on reading and writing stories. Our school district will be sending out packets to assist us soon and I am hoping these packets include sight words and spelling standards that should we should be practicing each week.
In the meantime, there are some free resources we are using to practice reading comprehension and grammar online. My son is more motivated to focus and cooperate when material is presented to him on a computer rather than in person. Therefore, I rely on some of these websites in addition to our home library of first-grade level books:
My son recently only recieved OT once a week through public school. However, I feel that our time at home will offer us the opportunity to work on it more often as a part of our day. I rotate and trade off between speech therapy and occupational therapy each day. In OT, there are three main areas I am focusing on for my son: fine motor skills, gross motor skills and self-help skills. My son is also a sensory seeker, so I don’t have a set time of day for working on sensory skills. I usually just keep a handful of sensory tools around the house for when he is craving the input. I also find that PE first thing in the morning helps get some of those sensory-seeking wiggles out.
For fine motor skills, I focus on having him cut shapes and lines with scissors to promote scissor skills. Also, we work towards strengthening the hand with different tools, such as theraputty and exercise bands, as seen below.
For gross motor skills, we work a lot on carrying and transporting large objects, as well as heavy work, like pushing and pulling movements in the body. My son’s needs seem to mostly include the activities that support the proprioceptive system. One tool we use in the backyard is a heavy sandbag my husband made for our son to throw around. It is just heavy and bulky enough to require coordination and strengthening of the upper muscles, while allowing him to pretend he’s the Hulk “like daddy.” Additionally, we try to encourage exercises that strengthen the core. Some games that help with this that we like to play inside involve using our little scooter board, as seen below.
For self-help skills, I’ve been identifying chores around the house that are age-appropriate for my son to help me. This week, I’ve had him sweeping, carrying the trash to the cans, and pushing the wheelbarrow outside for me. This is a great way to teach him life skills, while also reinforcing coordination and dexterity. I also continue to encourage him to do as much for himself as he can without my help. For example, I always have him attempt to dress himself first and then I come to the rescue if he gets a leg stuck every now and then. We will also probably start trying to work on tying his shoes soon, since this is a skill that has fallen on the back burner during the rush of the typical school-year schedule.
On the days that we cover speech/language therapy, I find this area to be the most challenging to target. My son’s greatest needs are the social/pragmatic language skills. This is very difficult to teach in social isolation. He needs to be with his peers to practice these skills. Obviously, this isn’t an option right now during the quarantine. Therefore, I’ve had to come up with some other ideas based on recommendations from his speech therapist in private practice.
Most of our time in this “therapy” is actually spent playing board games. These games help enrich language comprehension while also enforcing social skills, such as turn-taking and learning how to lose a game graciously. Here are some of the games we are playing currently that promote great language and social development:
Math has been a struggle for my son for some time now. With teaching math at home, I have some concerns about trying to teach him Common Core standards when that is not the way I learned math growing up. I am focusing on the simple skills, therefore, that I know will still help him and keep him moving forward in math, regardless. Flashcards are a huge focus for us right now. Each day, we take about 5-10 cards at a time and rotate them over and over again until he has his addition memorized. This has actually been something I’ve been wanting to work with him on for a while now, but just haven’t had the time.
Additionally, I purchased a set of small foam blocks from the Dollar Store to use for counting and teaching addition and subtraction that we work with each day. My son loves working on a computer, so any math games he can get his hands on help motivate him to practice math. Therefore, I use a couple of other resources online, as well, include the following free websites:
This sums up our typical homeschooling day. Obviously, you can adapt this schedule to what works best for your child. This just provides a general overview of how we include learning in our day while facing these uncertain times. Be on the lookout for more detailed blog posts in my At-Home Therapy series, where I will focus on more tools and strategies for speech/language therapy, sensory issues, occupational therapy ideas, physical therapy, and more.
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