Meet Amy, an elementary teacher, education resource creator and blogger, turned into homeschool mom of a teenager in middle school with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning disabilities. Read how she is helping him learn in the ways he learns best!
Tell us about you and your family.
My name is Amy and I am a Jesus loving wife and mom. I was born and raised in Texas and love living here where the grass is green almost all year long, the sky is blue most of the days and the sun loves to shine. Well – I don’t really love the 100 degree weather but 9 months out of the year is great! I am married to a great guy that is a teacher and basketball coach and a self-published writer in his spare time. We have one awesome kid who just recently turned 13. I’m still having some trouble with being the mom of a teenager, but I’m working through it. As a family we love to spend time together, and have been enjoying our “new to us” 20 year old RV. We’ve got some fun camping adventures planned!
As for me I have a pretty eclectic background. I practiced law for 10 years before working to get my teaching certification. I left my legal career for the elementary classroom and truly found my passion. Now I get to use my passion to teach my son and feel so blessed to be able to do that. I am also an educational resource creator, blogger at Teaching in Blue Jeans and Who Needs Perfect, and I enjoy photography as my hobby and creative outlet.
How long have you been homeschooling?
We are finishing up our first year of homeschooling. My son has really struggled in school and the traditional classroom just wasn’t the right fit for him. Although we have prayed about homeschooling in the past, God did not open that door for us until this year. So instead of sending him off to middle school, we started homeschooling. I went from kindergarten teacher to middle school teacher. That was quite a jump!
Tell us about your homeschooling approach with your middle school son.
This is a tough one for me to answer because I’m not sure that we follow one and only one approach. I’d have to say that our approach in eclectic but based off my son’s learning styles and learning needs. As a kiddo with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and other learning disabilities my focus is on helping him learn in the ways he learns best. For us that means lots of visual, hands-on activities, audio books and read alouds, games, incorporating technology and lots of repetition. We truly do a little bit of everything to make a unique and eclectic approach that works for us.
Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?
When I started the year I had full intentions to follow a traditional school year calendar. This just made sense because my husband is in education and we wanted to be off when he was off. However, as we’ve gone on I’ve realized that the routine and consistency is so important for my son. So we are doing a year-round calendar but schooling shorter days during the summer. Schooling year-round also gives us a little buffer if we want to take a little time off here and there or plan a camping trip (although there’s always something to learn camping too).
Tell us about your homeschooling routine.
I try to keep our school days fairly routine and structured but with flexibility. This is the type of environment that my son does the best in so it works for us.
After breakfast, we start our morning with devotion. I can’t think of a better way to start our day that in God’s Word and getting our hearts and minds ready for the day.
We then jump into our core subjects. We have a few things that are computer based (history, typing, math facts practice) and I like to use those to break-up the things we do together (reading, writing, math, science).
For the most part we do all of these things everyday Monday through Thursday. On Friday we attend a local co-op for elective classes. Though co-op my son gets to choose 3 elective classes per semester. He also sings in our church choir and attends weekly rehearsals for music.
Our homeschooling happens mostly in…
our school room. Last summer we turned out office into a school room so that we would have a dedicated space for school. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, my son was coming out of a schooling experience that he didn’t really like. I did not want the entire house to remind him of school. I wanted a dedicated place that we could go to work and then close the door when school was done for the day. Second, I knew that my son needed a place that was meant for school without the distractions of toys, technology, TV and really anything else. Living with ADHD is tough and I wanted to help him focus on school during school time by limiting distractions.
What have you picked for your curriculum next year?
For the most part, we will be doing the same curriculum that we used this year because we loved it all so much. The only changes will be in math and science. Here’s what we will be doing:
Reading – Wilson Reading Method (great reading program for students with dyslexia). This program focuses on the “how” of reading and follows a very deliberate and consistent approach to reading for those kiddos that struggle in this area. As for the literature part of reading, I like to incorporate novels into our schooling that relate to what we are learning in history and science.
Writing – Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Continuation A. I can’t say enough great things about this writing program. If you have a reluctant writer then you must look into this program. Although not advertised as such, I can honestly say this writing program was created for boys! Due to my son’s dysgraphia we chose to start on Level A (rather than Level B which would have been his correct grade level). After completing the Level, then the second year you do the Continuation course for that same level. I am also supplementing Continuation A with their Ancient History book so that we can connect some of our writing to history too!
History – Veritas Press Online Self Paced History – New Testament, Greece and Rome. History was an absolute favorite this year and my son begged to do it. As we finish up Old Testament and Ancient Egypt the excitement is already building for next year’s study. I have a feeling my “all boy” boy is going to love the study of Ancient Greece and Rome. As I previously mentioned I like to expand history by incorporating literature and writing into the topics we are learning about. The Veritas Press curriculum provides a list of suggested readings. I use some of these as well as others that I find that I think will interest my son.
Science – Exploration Education’s Advanced Physical Science. Next year we will be diving into the worlds of chemistry and physics with this hands-on science curriculum by Exploration Education. I found this program at a homeschool conference that I attended before we ever started homeschooling. When I saw it I knew that my son would love it because of all the hands-on activities, but I had already decided on human anatomy as our science study for year 1 (we used Apologia for this). As I started to prepare for year 2 chemistry and physics was the science focus and when I ran into Exploration Education at a different conference I immediately knew this was the curriculum we would be using!
Math – Next year we will be trying something new in math – Teaching Textbooks. I have heard lots of great things about this program and think that the computer aspect of it is something my son will really enjoy. I will be near by and ready to help as needed. I also know that sometimes we need extra practice and repetition for those math concepts to stick so I will be ready to supplement with that as needed.
Typing – Touch, Type, Read and Spell. This is a great typing course that adds an element of reading and spelling to it – which is perfect for dyslexic kiddo. My son’s dysgraphia makes the physical act of writing tough and typing is his first choice when it comes to putting words onto paper. So if he is going to choose to type most of his work, then we are taking a typing course so that we can be efficient at it (Mom’s requirement)!
Bible – Veritas Press Self Paced Bible. This was a total add on class this year because my son loved the history program so much and I was so impressed with how much he was learning. So we decided to add the Veritas Press online bible class late in the fall. Although we continue to do devotion time together, this added dose of bible is great and great fun!
List 3 books about homeschooling that really impacted you.
I honestly don’t know that I have even read 3 books about homeschooling. I generally tend to do what comes naturally to me or makes sense to me. If it works – great! If it doesn’t work, I do a little research and then try something else. I’m much more likely to read blog posts than I am a book!
Your family is going on an unplanned trip, not much time to pack, you must homeschool the kids while traveling and you can only take 5 of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?
- The laptop computer would have to be the first thing I take. There is so much of our current curriculum that we can continue to do with it (history, bible, science, math, typing). We can also use it for working on writing papers, etc.
- The book / audio book we are currently reading
- A journal for documenting the trip
I know that is only 3 things but the first one covers so much of what we do. We are after all going on a trip which means we likely won’t be doing school in the same sense as if we were at home. So we will have this to use as needed, but we will enjoy our trip and learn from the things around us while we are gone. And that my friends – is just an honest look at how we roll.
If you had the chance to start homeschooling all over again today with the knowledge and experience you have now, what would you do differently?
I would definitely have started with a year-round approach in mind. We started the year off great and pretty quickly found our routine. All was well until the holidays when we took time off. Not only did the lack of routine effect us, but getting back into the routine was really tough. Just about the time we did – Bam! Spring Break. It was about that time that I decided a year-round approach would better serve us. A little school routine everyday (not on the weekends) even is my husband was off school.
The other thing I would do differently would be giving myself a little grace. This first year has been amazing, but tough. Coming out of the classroom as a teacher I have had to work hard to “deschool” myself and my son. My ultimate goal was to help my son learn to love learning again, fill in some gaps he had and help him build on his learning. We absolutely did all of these things but not without my self-imposed speed bumps.
Thanks for taking the time to read about how we homeschool. If I can pass on any advice I’ve learned it is this: everyone’s homeschool journey is a little different and that is OK! Find what works for you and don’t ever feel like you have to do it just like someone else does. I think our eclectic approach to homeschooling puts this into practice pretty well.