been happiest in homeschooling when we have taken the time to prepare a
"curriculum" ourselves, geared for each child.
Jordan, our 11 year old son with Down syndrome,
has some great interests. Unfortunately they are not found in text or workbooks
from a curriculum company.
His interests are: goats (animals in general),
trucks and tractors. He has a one-track mind, so switching from one subject to
another in the scope of an hour is almost impossible. He spends a lot of time
just trying to orient himself to subject matter. It can take him up to 10
minutes just to settle down and focus on something. Once he's there, we can
usually count on about 10 or 15 minutes of learning time.
We have learned to incorporate learning into
Jordan's everyday life, not just at "school time". When he is "into" something,
we can talk about it, point out details, and discuss differences.
To give an example:
Jordan has had a pretty good morning. It is
raining. We discuss appropriate clothing for cold rain and he has gotten up and
done animal chores with his older brothers. He sat down to breakfast on his own
initiative without a personal invitation. He has been motivated to help with
dishes and it is now time for school.
This week we want to learn about weather (rain,
snow, sun/hot), the number 5 and reading his name. In speech we'll work on his "r's"
and for skills we want to review making his bed.
We pop a video on storms/weather into the VCR.
Everybody watches. Afterward Jordan's attention is centered on weather and we
point out the rain, rain drops, rain gauge, rain coats, how cold it is today and
the possibility of snow or sun later in the day. Tomorrow we will show the video
We use a manual with kindergarten concepts loosely
as a suggestion book, measuring to see what Jordan is capable of and what he
needs to learn next.
Counting to 5: All of us that can count (5 of us
can count to 10 or more) remember to help Jordan count on his fingers to 5
several times during the day. This means that information is being reviewed 10 -
18 times daily and each of us had to do it three times or less. We use our large
family to an advantage in this way helping our special needs children learn and
review things such as the days of the week, counting, ABC's etc. This way the
burden is not so overwhelming to one person (Mommy!).
We have printed Jordan's name and several other
words he will be learning this month on strips of card stock. They stick on the
refrigerator. Several times during the day as Jordan is passing through, we will
point out the word. When he is reading it consistently, we will introduce
another word that looks very different. We will gradually reduce the print size
until Jordan is reading small type, but for now he can only focus on letters 1
Over the course of the month we will practice
Jordan's "r" sound production. We do this by helping him say "eeeeeee and then
rrrrrr" because he does not use the back of his mouth readily. The "eeeee" humps
up the back of the tongue and the "rrrrr" slides right out. We will only use
words that start with "r" first (like red) and then in the middle of the
word (hungry) and then finally the end (better).
Although Jordan does like to color and fill pages
with scribbles and circles, he does not yet have the fine motor skills to print.
Transposing a letter from blackboard or book to paper is impossible. We do not
attempt any seat work from a curriculum or text book. Yet Jordan does have a
curriculum. It is our own design and fits Jordan's needs to a T.
We are using a kindergarten manual for reference
and supplementing as much hands-on activities as possible. In fact, Jordan's
engaged learning time is almost all learning new skills. He is very observant
when he is concentrating. (A little too observant, as he has started the truck
and tractor lately!)
In spending time teaching Jordan to make his bed,
since all 5 boys sleep in one room, we will rely on his older brothers to 1,
provide example and 2, teach Jordan one step at a time such as pull covers up.
We will prepare Jordan's bed to make it easy for him to make such as make all
sides accessible or tuck in the comforter on one side. We will use a thick
comforter instead of several blankets and a sheet. 3, we will hold Jordan
accountable for the skills we know he has already learned, with plenty of good
natured review. Teaching new skills is a highlight of Jordan's week. He loves to
be given responsibility and be able to do things the older children can do.
Free time is important for all children and we
really feel that expression of interests for a good measure of the day for those
children who can handle it is beneficial. We simply channel the interests. No
free rein on the videos, or brother's tools, but we set limits and supply
resources for them to explore. This is the precursor to a skilled, responsible
child. And yes, special needs children can be sensible and wise by learning to
Our second son, Josh, makes log furniture. He has
found a handy and willing worker in Jordan, as Jordan is capable of using the
small sander and saving Josh hours of sanding on his chairs and benches. Jordan
loves to wear every piece of safety equipment that goes with the job...hard hat,
Organizing Jordan's day is all common sense. This
is precisely what putting a curriculum together is like too. When we are setting
up a curriculum, we look at interests first, then information to be
learned. We have tried it the other way around. Spoon feeding facts and info is
not as successful as starting with interests and tying facts around the
When introducing new interests we do so by
presenting a variety of resources on a consistent basis. We have noticed that
our children's interests have a direct correlation to our interests as parents.
Cooking, gardening, tractor/auto repair work, goats, reading, bible history and
study are just a few everyday happenings we have seen our children personally
take interest in recently. This has a good and bad side. Since we have eyes and
ears ready to imitate us in word and deed, we as parents have been known to take
up an interest or skill in hopes our children would also. We have also been
known to put aside interests too! Expectations are important in character and
learning, but we want to really be careful that what we are hoping our
children will learn, is in line with what they are able to do. Sometimes
we have to let our hopes and dreams of what we wanted our children to accomplish
die so new ones can come to the front.
In designing curriculum, we know that our children
have so many untapped skills. Our non-disabled children are ready to soak up
interesting facts about just about everything. Our disabled children need more
prompting and exposure, so our expectations in a curriculum need to be really
flexible as we follow the Lord's leading and our children's abilities and
The how-to's of putting together our own
curriculum is briefly numbered as followed:
A. We pray for the Lord to open our eyes and
to lead us in the right direction.
B. We talk together as mom and dad, finding out
observations from each other. Usually we do one child a night. We observe
interests, abilities, character, safety knowledge, health issues, therapy needs,
and anything else pertinent to daily living and learning.
C. We use a notebook writing down skills and
concepts we'd like to see learned in the next year, month and then week,
sketching out a rough I.E.P.
D. Getting input from brothers and sisters, we
separate the soon-to-be learned skills into sections that everyone can help
with, so the burden of review, review, review is not on Mommy.
E. We create a special 3-ring binder that holds
all of our child's pictures and papers. This has a picture of the child with
their name. They get to design the cover.
F. We add to the curriculum books, videos, tools
and other learning resources as funds allow.
G. We write out a 1 month curriculum, with rough
goals for 3 months, observing daily for adjustment.