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Struggling Learners or Special Education – What’s the Difference?

Struggling Learners or Special Education – What’s the Difference?

 

Struggling Learners vs. Special Education

Many parents ask questions about the difference between struggling learners and special education.  A struggling learner is working at or just below grade level. It might take them longer to catch on, they might need a few more examples.

Struggling Learner

When our children struggle with reading, writing, and math, it is sometimes hard to know what exactly is going on.  Is it just this concept they are struggling with? Does math (or reading) come easy, whereas other things are harder?  Especially if it is your first child and if you have never taught children before, it is hard to know how much help you may need or if you should just “wait it out.”

When our struggling learners are younger, it can be difficult to decide whether to seek help or not.  

Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP, suggests considering the following things:

  • At least 7 ½ to 8 years of age?
  • Is the child a boy or girl?  Boys sometimes take longer to mature and be ready to learn.
  • Can your child say (not sing) the ABCs in order, differentiating L, M, N, O, and P?
  • Can your child hold a pencil?
  • When your child writes, does he reverse letters?
  • Does your child have a desire, an eagerness to learn?
  • Is a younger sibling catching on to concepts faster or catching up?
  • Does your child like to be read to?

By around 10, children should be moving from learning to read to reading to learning.  This means they should be able to read the words without much difficulty on age-appropriate levels and begin to build an understanding of what they are reading and learn from it.  

So what about older kids who need some help?  At what point should you be concerned?

Can your child:

  • Look at a set of objects (or fingers) and tell you how many are there (without counting, up to 10)?
  • Know math addition and subtraction facts or a quick strategy to solve them (not counting fingers).
  • Know multiplication and division facts or a quick strategy to solve them (not skip counting from the 1x place).
  • Understanding multiples and factors
  • Understand decimals and fractions
  • Tell time on an analog clock (not digital)

All children learn differently, and it is true that some children simply need time and repetition to be ready to learn certain concepts.  

So when is it important to seek testing and/or services for struggling learners?

  • When it will benefit your child to get them needed therapies
  • When your child is preparing for a trade school or college/university that requires a current “diagnosis” for support
  • When you choose to utilize services available from the local school district (this varies by state and district)
  • When there are state services that are available to you with a diagnosis (such as audiobook programs available to those who have vision impairments or dyslexia diagnosis)
  • To seek recommendations to better understand how to help your child learn (at these times, seeking out someone who understands homeschooling would be beneficial).
  • Your child becomes overly frustrated by their limitations and struggles.

Special Education

A  Special Education student, however,  generally has a specific diagnosis (Autism, Down’s, Intellectual Disability, severe ADHD or Dyslexia, and many others).  These students generally are 2-3 grade levels or developmentally 2-3 years behind their peers in specific areas or across all areas.  

When do I need to seek out a diagnosis?

When a parent asks me if they should seek out a diagnosis, I ask them to consider the following:

  • Why do you need a diagnosis?
  • What questions are you hoping to answer with a diagnosis?
  • How would a diagnosis benefit you and your child?

A diagnosis might be beneficial if:

  • You utilize public school services (some states allow this even for homeschoolers)
  • You will be eligible for services or resources not currently available without a diagnosis
  • You need a diagnosis for your state due to testing regulations
  • You are preparing for college, and a diagnosis is required for needed accommodations for classes or testing (the testing usually has to be less than 3 years old going into college)
  • You don’t know what to do or how to help your child, and you are looking for help in how to approach teaching them
  • You know something is “off” or “not right” or a “problem,” but you can’t quite put your finger on what’s going on. The hope of naming your unrest will bring you some peace and hope to help your kiddo.

What do I do after I receive a diagnosis?

No matter how prepared you think you are going into an evaluation process, receiving a diagnosis comes with a mix of emotions.  You are relieved because you discover something is going on (and you weren’t just THAT crazy mom after all). However, parents need to be prepared.  

There is always a grieving process that comes with receiving a diagnosis.  There will be anger, sadness, and doubt, and eventually, you will feel stronger and better equipped to help your child.  

Here are some tips to help you through this process:

  • Don’t make any immediate changes that aren’t necessary.  Give yourself time to adjust before changing the educational setting (especially to homeschool from public school or vice versa), curriculum, or how you approach things.
  • Educate yourself.  Find some articles, a video, or a book to read on the specific diagnosis. Even if you know a lot about it already, it helps to see the information through the new eyes of KNOWING what is going on.
  • Find some support.  Facebook groups and friends are great places to start.
  • Say some prayers.  The road will be long and hard, even armed with a diagnosis.  Prayers for understanding and peace go a long way.

How to find support…

One of the most important things to do as a parent of a child who struggles or has special needs is to find a support group.  Friends who will pray with and for you, families going through similar struggles, and a good sitter are all important. Here are some great ideas for finding support:

  • Church – a lot of times you can find support through a church.  From support groups to an hour to be an “adult” on Sundays while your kids are in Bible Class can do a lot for how you feel the rest of your week.  Talk with them about your needs and advocate for yourself and your child.
  • Facebook groups – Not all Facebook groups are the same, but there are some wonderful ones out there.  Some I recommend to parents:
  • Friends – Find your “Tribe.”  Friends who can understand and be the shoulder you lean on when things get tough.  Parents going through similar situations are great because they are in the trenches with you.  Being able to offer support at times can be beneficial too.

Struggling Learners and Special Needs students will take more faith, perseverance, and resources but be encouraged! There are more resources, books, conferences, and groups now than ever, including small group classes offered live online through True North Homeschool Academy. We also offer Special Needs and Struggling Learners Academic Advising. We would love to link arms with you as you seek out what’s best for your Struggling Learner or Special Needs student!

 

Original article written by: Amy Vickrey, MSE.

 Amy holds a Master of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language, and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.

Special Needs Credits & Transcripts

Special Needs Credits & Transcripts

You have a special needs kiddo, and they are in high school. They are not quite up to grade level in Math or English, or it takes them a few years to get through what is traditionally a one-year program. How do you award special needs credits and special education transcripts?

The basics and therapy eat through your week, there is no time for extracurriculars, and the list of concerns goes on. Special Needs parents have unique life challenges, including creating a Special Needs Transcript for their High School years.

Twenty-Five Clues Hinting at Learning Disabilities that Hint at Learning Disabilities. Need a helping hand? Our SPED Academic Advising will save you time and money!

Creating a Special Needs Transcript

The Basics of a Special Needs Transcript

  • Vocational Transcripts are often 19 credits total, compared to a 24-credit College Prep or 28-credit Honors Transcript.
  • You will want to list 4 credits of English, 3 of Math, 3 of Science, 3 of History, 1 of PE, ½ credits of Health, Speech and Computer and Bible, and other electives.
  • A credit is generally considered to be 120 hours of work. You can organize this work by book study, lessons, practice, time logs, recitals, performances, hands-on work, etc.

You can list courses and subjects using a traditional 4 x 4-course grid (which you can find on our True North Homeschool Tribe FB Group) with the subjects along the left-hand side and years along the top, or you can list courses by subject area. My only caution is that if your students hope to enter the military, they might not accept a by-subject transcript.

Transcripts, Special Needs, and Graduation

Your special needs student may be unable to handle high school level classes or struggle with what would be considered traditional high school work in a specific subject area. It is perfectly acceptable to list courses that your students are capable of, regardless of the level of “grade.” If your student is 15 and capable of 4th grade English, list English on the transcript and give them full credit for an entire year’s work and the grade they earn.

According to Federal law, children with disabilities have the right to stay in school until they complete their school program or until they turn 21, whichever comes first. That is good news as you manage and balance life skills, academic and vocational training, and therapies. Give yourself – and your student! – the time they need to develop and succeed!  

Can therapies “Count” for Credit?

Absolutely! You can log PT and OT for PE credit. Special needs tutoring or educational therapies can count towards credit in subject areas. You can use logs to keep track of credit hours.

How About Hobbies and Electives?

Inevitably, parents underestimate what their students have done and what they can do. Dramatic or musical theater can count towards Speech, Music, Drama, etc. Working in a computer repair shop can be logged and count towards Community Service, BCIS- depending on how detailed and involved the work was -or sales and marketing.

I worked with a student a few years ago who, at age 16,  could not manage to write a complete sentence. This same student successfully co-owned and operated a model train store with his Mom. He had customers worldwide who understood that his speech impediment would in no way impede the high quality of service and attention to detail that he would offer every customer.

The Power of the Parent

So many parents of Struggling Learners and Special Needs students go above and beyond looking for resources, experiences, tutors, and therapies that bolster and build their student’s ability to succeed. Too often, the parent doesn’t understand how to transcribe these experiences, travel, therapies, and P.E. opportunities into credits.  Boy Scouts, 4-H, etc., and other similar programs can translate into many academic credits. Think creatively!

Now, where to start?

Parents of struggling learners and Special Needs are often thrust into a world that requires much research and goes beyond normal. High school can be especially daunting. But you don’t’ have to go it alone! Connect with other Special Needs parents and homeschooling companies that partner with Struggling Learners and Special Needs.

Our favorites include SPED Homeschool and our Special Needs Academic Advising, Classes, and FB Group: Survive and Thrive Special Needs Homeschool.

Our Special Needs Academic Advising program was created to come alongside struggling learners and special needs families. We will do a credit evaluation (and find those “hidden” credits you may have overlooked), recommend curriculum, classes, and programs, develop a Personalized Learning Plan, and provide the support you need to manage to homeschool successfully.

The world of Struggling Learners and Special Needs can be tricky to manage, but thankfully, with the resources available today, you don’t have to go it alone!

Why Homeschoolers Hate Math

Why Homeschoolers Hate Math

I sighed and dropped the math materials onto the table. My children’s laughter and wriggling twittered into silence as their faces now reflected my own anxieties. I was burdened with perfectionism, lack of confidence, and my own math-relationship baggage. There are several reasons why homeschoolers hate math. Perhaps this is the main one. 

What’s Your Relationship with Math?

Charlotte Mason explains “Children are born persons…with possibilities for either good or evil” and that parents-teachers are “limited to three educational instruments – the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.” Our children may be born with talents that make certain skills easier to learn than other skills, but they are not born with love or hate of any subject. Their attitude is shaped by their experiences and environment, and Charlotte calls this atmosphere.

Our children have a bad relationship with math because we have not properly introduced them to the subject. We prejudiced them against it from the start with mutterings, sighs, anxiety, and frustration. We must revisit and repair our own relationship with math so we may model and nurture a proper one.

Repairing Our Relationship with Math

Let’s start at the beginning:

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness….And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

In the first 4 verses of Genesis, we see form (or shape), volume, measurement, time, and the beginning of symmetry and pattern – all mathematical distinctives. When we see the application of math in the beauty of creation, might we begin to enter a place of wonder and delightfully infuse this into the atmosphere of our home education? One may enjoy nature without fully understanding it, and the same applies to math. If we approach the subject with a sense of discovery (instead of dread), we begin a lifelong interest in something larger than ourselves.

Understanding and Application

No matter our level of mathematical talent, we can develop our math skills as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of how math is hidden all around us. What we do understand, we may then apply. Those who understand more will be more adept at application, and that is their gift and responsibility. We are all limited in our understanding, and it is an act of humility to actively learn what we can while appreciating those who can go further.

Once we have corrected the atmosphere, we may move on to the discipline of habit. Math requires attentiveness, focus, and regular interaction. The disciplined student will reap the rewards of steady growth in mathematical comprehension as well as the skill of precision and the virtue of patience. Mastery is the goal at each level, and repetition of levels may be necessary. 

Growing with Math

We must grow past the initial memorization of processes and move into the understanding of principles. The question now becomes “Why do we solve this problem in this way?” Now it’s important to either understand math or partner with someone who does. Hire them, barter with them, but do what it takes to acquire personal assistance in comprehending mathematical principles.

When partnering with a text, tutor, or teacher, be sure that learning and assessment are purposeful. Do not fall into the trap of doing math just to say it was done, move on, and do more math. This is the fallacy of the teachers in 2 Timothy 3:7 who cause others to always learn but never come to a knowledge of the truth. Math comprehension is just as important as reading comprehension and doing math because “that’s the way it’s done” is like only knowing sight words. Move into comprehension.

Math is our Friend

Dear Parent, if you never moved past rote math and into the beauty of understanding, please stop hitting your head on the wall and begin to model the path of the humble learner. Normalize the humility of not knowing all the things and still being curious. This is the presentation of living ideas – noticing symmetry in nature, measuring ingredients while adjusting a recipe, counting fingers and toes, planting seeds at the correct depth and distance, and asking the lady behind the paint counter how to calculate the number of gallons needed to paint the room you measured together. Let me introduce you to my extraordinary friend, Math.

Just use the coupon code: July4TNHA5 at checkout and save 5% off of your entire cart. No exclusions. Including our award-winning CTC Math classes! 

The coupon expires soon, so go ahead and start planning for Fall 2022 and your best homeschool year ever with True North Homeschool Academy. 

Article was written by Mrs. Tamara Pool.

Tamara Pool

Tamara Pool

TNHA Teacher: Latin I, section II; Medieval World History, National Latin Exam Prep, and Study Skills

One of Tamara’s favorite things is encouraging parents and inspiring teens to pursue deep relationships with God and family and embrace their educational journey. Tamara has served as a writer, conference speaker and homeschool consultant for over 10 years. When she’s not teaching, you’ll find Mrs. Pool enjoying family time, making (or tidying) a creative mess, or studying for her Master of Arts degree in Classical Studies.