NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

 Home | Login | Contact Us | Resource Room

The Curriculum Dilemma

By Tom and Sherry Bushnell

What a privilege to live in America. The choices we have in food, clothing, cars, and even homeschooling curriculum are astounding.

However, what is meant to be a pleasure and a blessing, can readily become a curse as we face yet another summer of choices...choices that in the past with our learning delayed child, haven't worked.

Since there isn't a one-size-fits-all, perfect Christian curriculum for the learning disabled, or even any curriculums just for Down syndrome children, the autistic or cerebral palsy child, how do we choose the right one for our situation? Interestingly enough, the approaches the professionals make toward different learning problems are not all that different. In fact, a good professional will readily do what works to implement understanding and learning in a child, what ever the disability might be. A different approach, sometimes off the beaten path for a specific disability might just be the key.

Here are some tips that mothers who have faced this same dilemma when it comes to choices have to share.

•Watch how your child learns. Does he like videos, can he easily remember visually introduced information instead of audible? Do they prefer to watch something being done instead of told how?

Buy items and materials that cater to your child's learning mode. Forget the rest, however good the bargain.

•Use what you have on hand for as long as you can. Just because a new year begins, doesn't mean the "required" hundred dollars or more on each child must be spent. Use what is around the house to teach early principles and reinforce early learning concepts. For instance, no fancy curriculum is needed to teach basic math. Don't be talked into buying a text book for kindergarten math. Use blocks, spoons, the thermometer outside, your set of kitchen measuring spoons and a big bowl of apples.

•Choose a costly curriculum only after you have researched whether or not others with your child's disability have been successful using it. Many of the expensive, all purpose curriculums, that work for normal children, move much too fast to be convenient for us moms. If we do use the typical curriculums, let's be aware that we need to break the assignments into much, much, smaller bites. Forget the seat work, writing assignments and abstract extra activities if your child has motor problems that cause trouble. Throw out the questions that require heavy research or extra books. By the time we toss and X out, gleaning the few questions that are not out of reach for our children, we might as well have written or put together our own curriculum. (That's not a bad idea, there's not a better way to tailor make a learning environment for our children.)

•Don't over buy resources. Plan on engaged seat work or book learning for a disabled child being only 1 hour a day. This can be broken into several 15 minute segments. If you need to put something into a plan book for the state's records, use other hands-on "learning" to fill in your requirements.

•Before you buy the resources for the year, think ahead. Be sure you have a handle on which subjects or delays are the most important for your child to be working on. Emphasize one or two areas at a time, even though your child's needs may be in many areas.

For instance, if language is really important this year, emphasize reading to them by asking pertinent questions that must be answered more than yes or no to.

•Think about trading with someone else. Many resources are used once, or very little, by one child and are quite fit for more use. This includes teacher's manuals, puzzles, learning toys, matching games, busy centers, learning boards, and books. Put an ad in the NATHHAN NEWS or local homeschool newsletter. Put an ad on the church bulletin board to locate items.

•Curriculum Fairs. As tempting as it may be to buy impulsively at homeschooling conferences, don't bring in your purse! It is easy to be sold on expensive resources, watching the enthusiasm of others. They may not be the best use of our funds for our special needs children. It is so hard to think clearly when we are faced with soooo many choices.

•Which brings us to the next tip. You may already have experienced this, but most of us homeschooling special needs children do not buy our resources at curriculum fairs. IF we go to a conference or fair, our motives can not be to find our year's program. This is one major way special needs homeschoolers differ from the main stream of homeschooling. Instead, as mentioned before, arm yourself with ways to "arm-chair" shop.

Order catalogs from various sources, even though you may never buy the products. A lot can be learned from catalogs such as speech and language companies. They often have tips and product reviews that can be a real eye opener to us in educating ourselves about our child's particular needs.

By shopping in a relaxed state, you will always get more for your money, AND you are getting more for your energy (which in our estimation is just as valuable as money!) It has been our experience that we may be vulnerable to "conquer" the homeschool curriculum fair shopping spree.

•This is probably a no brainer, but be sure we are not tired, or have low blood sugar levels when we shop. This means we pick a time when we can think clearly, are not fuzzy or tired. Putting wrong numbers in the order blanks can mean costly and embarrassing errors. Ordering for one child twice, or because of our guilt of last years failures (or successes) we may, in our tired minds, order too much or too little. WE SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE!! Ooooops!

•Pray for guidance. The Lord will give you wisdom and grace if you ask for it. He may even surprise you by leading you down a path that you had not thought of, as we listen to our husbands' suggestions and use self-control in not over buying. Wisely using resources at home is a blessing to our family, as the money can be used to special additions that can really liven up days that seem to move too slowly.

•Have you noticed that through the elementary years information repeats itself, only in more technical form? For instance, punctuation is taught in the first grade and in the sixth. Use a black board to teach concepts with everyone's attention looking up. This eliminates entire text books if we can attentively tune in to where each child is at. We can word our concept in such a way that each understands at their level.

Unit studies is another way of doing this. Christian Cottage Schools (ad in this magazine) has a unit study that might be interesting to look at. KONOS is also another program known for unit studies.


P.O. Box 1534

Richardson, TX 75083

(214) 669-8337

On the next few pages are some resources to start with. Ordering these catalogs will give you a good education and a library of sorts to reference from. If you need more specific resources, try the NATHHAN lending library at The catalog has books by subject and number.