Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Homeschooling Challenges

I am having a hard time with deciding what to do with homeschooling.  Emma is easy.  She has no learning delays so I am doing the paperwork to have her do one of the online schools.  However, Larissa is more of a challenge.  We had tried the online school and she struggled so much that we took her out of that program and chose our own curriculum. On our own we were able to get her caught up in language arts (however she lost those gains once she went back to school).  Math is a totally different matter.  She will not be able to catch up in math.  Honestly I don't see her being able to take the graduation test in math. Her challenges with math are that severe.  Even the school didn't know what to do with her.

I have been told that the online school will give her online resource.  I know that means more work when she is struggling with stamina as it is.  She isn't going to the brick and mortar school because the program doesn't work for her.  Would it really make sense to put her in a virtual school based on that very same school.

How do I deal with the math issue?  What does that issue hold for her future education? We encourage all our kids to go to college.  Not all of them do but they have the capability to if they push themselves.  With her inability to do math she would not be able to succeed in college.  I am really frustrated and can't find anyone who can give me some good answers. If you don't fit a certain mold then the public education system isn't prepared to deal with you.

It is hard because she looks so healthy.  She looks and acts like there is nothing wrong with her. Last year the school didn't seem to believe that she had any challenges until I finally taped one of her seizures and showed them to her.

I have seen the impacts of those seizures this summer.  She went away to camp for three nights.  On the first day I got a call from the camp telling me that she had a headache and was not feeling well.  I know that this was the impact of not enough sleep and too much activity.  It was fun activity but that didn't matter, she struggled to do a full day of camp.

Last week the kids went to Winshape camp.  It was a day camp and the kids all loved it.  However, on the first day I got a call from a crying Larissa. She was only able to make it to noon before her headache set in. We did strategies for the rest of the week and she was able to finish out the week. However there was a cost.  We medicated her with pain reliever before she left, got as much sleep as possible, got permission for her to stop an activity and take a break when needed.  When I talked to them about her problems with stamina they looked at me like I was crazy.  Like I said, she looks so healthy. But she does have a debilitating condition. It is just not visible.

Back to schooling.  I have been putting it off all summer, what to do with Larissa and school.  I started the process for enrolling her in the virtual school but now I have serious doubts.  Any homeschoolers out there with suggestions?  Any homeschoolers with kids with special needs? I would love to have some input.


  1. Have you tried Math-U-See? It is a very simple, straight forward, hands-on approach. I would go all the way back to the Primer level and try it. Let her build some confidence and shore up foundations. It may not help, but it is worth a shot.

    1. Funny you should mention that, I was looking at that today.

    2. I was going to recommend Math-U-See as well! It is a terrific program and the creator of the curriculum, Steve Demme, came up with it to help his own son who has down syndrome. I've met him at homeschool conventions and heard him speak, he's a wonderful Christian man. My kids love the program and have not always liked math.

  2. Hi Felicia. Not a homeschooler so nothing to offer curruculum wise. I am wondering though why a maths challenge would mean failure at college. Surely there must be a non maths based course. Maybe playing to Larissa's strengths so she feels and really experiences success and making sure she has a functional knowledge of math would work?

    1. I guess that in my mind there is a distinction between college and a trade school. At this point we are looking at the trade school route for both Anthony and Larissa. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that trade school is such a bad thing, sometimes it offers better employment than a college degree in many areas. I do have concerns about Larissa's stamina and employment if we can't ever get her seizures under control. To get a high school diploma here you have to pass the math and language arts tests. I don't think that either of them could pass the math portion. I am helping Joselin with the GED right now and it makes me wince too. Anthony is starting to really bottom out in his math as well. Is math a genetic thing? Sure feels like it.

  3. Hi Felicia,
    Math ability is definitely influenced by genetics, and can be affected more than other cognitive areas by certain types of brain damage (FASD and hydrocephalus for sure, I'm not sure about seizures, but it might depend on location?).
    Have Anthony and Larissa been evaluated for specific learning disabilities? If their math scores are significantly lower than other areas, they could be diagnosed with a "specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics", which is also known as dyscalculia. Having an official diagnosis could either exempt from certain tests, or enable them to get accommodations.
    Whether Larissa has a learning disability in math, or just learns math more slowly than the average child, I second Emily’s recommendation for Math-U-See. My favorite thing about it is that it can be used at whatever pace works for your child – I use it at a very slow pace with my son who is intellectually impaired, while my math-loving kid zips through it.
    I think it would be a wise decision to avoid online schooling with Larissa. Our experience with online schools is that they include a lot of the “busywork” typical of public schools. If Larissa is limited to just a couple hours of focused academics, her work should be as streamlined as possible.

  4. We are doing Montessori style program at home with the twins. It's surprising what missy has learned using the beads and abacus. My daughter could give you info. Math u see is good. But it is labor intensive for mom. I have used math it with my kids and like it, but it might not be useful for you. We are going to try Life of Fred math with James on top of his Montessori. I think he can follow the story line. We'll see.

  5. Hello Felicia,
    I have just finished reading all of your blog, which I loved, and now you've asked a question that I can actually be of some help on--I hope! I have a Ph.D. in math and taught math at a university, including teaching math to the students who were planning to become elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers. And I'm currently homeschooling a grandson.

    First, not all universities require mathematics. If you do a Google search on "colleges that do not require math" you can find information about that.

    Second, from working in a university that did have a math requirement, I know that while a policy may look firm on paper, there is actually a great deal of flexibility when a student is seen to be hard-working and sincere. For example, we had a "returning student" in her 80s who just could not seem to learn math. We put her in an independent study, where she did a project to fulfill her math requirement. Similarly, a young student with documented traumatic brain injury was given an "independent study"--another project-- to fulfill her math requirement.

    Third, I agree with the person who recommended going all the way back to the beginning of the math curriculum that you choose. It's often the case that a student has somehow missed some critical pieces of information along the way, and if those can be filled in, many difficulties are resolved.

    I would *not* recommend a lot of memorizing of steps. Forget the addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts for now. Let Larissa use a calculator. Help her cook, using a recipe. Use physical objects that she can handle (sometimes called "manipulatives"). It's reasoning that's important. Don't even call it math. You know Larissa better than anybody. You were able to get her to grade level in language. You may be able to do the same with math, by noticing what works for her. Montessori-style work is good for many children. I haven't used Math-U-See, but I notice it is heavy on work with manipulatives. This may work for Larissa if she has a more hands-on learning style.

    Most people, even those who say they can't do math, can reason enough to solve the day-to-day problems that they encounter. These problems may not be expressed in the symbols of formal mathematics, but they are really mathematical problems. For example, most people can figure out how to double a recipe, or if they can't, they know that they can make the recipe twice. If you can, try to find out if it's the symbols or the reasoning that Larissa has trouble with.

    In case it turns out that Larissa can't do this sort of reasoning at all, so what? She is still a wonderful person who will contribute to society in her own way, and who can have a happy, fulfilled life. Math, and academics in general, is important mainly during childhood and teenage years. After that, it has far less importance as people build their families and work in their careers.

    Best wishes with your homeschooling.

  6. I was homeschooled K-12, and I used Wynroth and Math-U-See, and later Keys to Math. I have a PhD in neuroscience now, and my sister, who ended up going the trade school route, also was able to keep up with these math options. I use Wynroth now with my ED/ID adopted son, who is in 6th grade, but we're at about a 1st/2nd grade level in math right now.