Episode 35- Transitioning from Public School to Homeschool

Thinking about homeschooling? Or maybe you started homeschooling recently after pulling your kids out of public/private school. Maybe you are wondering if your transition is natural or you feel alone? Lori and Kathleen talk about their experience with the transition, such as leaving behind old ideas about what education really is. Grab a cup of coffee and join us for this episode that was listener requested!

Episode 35 (2)

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Show notes:

I met Lori at the Mom’s Tea I hosted once a week where we drank coffee and cried. This was a place where Moms could talk about what was going on in their lives. We mostly said, “me too”.We did studies together, but often went off on tangents.

The lessons: Everyone needs a support system.

It’s okay to cry.

Find someone who has been homeschooling for a while.

Your ideas about what education looks like may change.

One of the myths about homeschooling is that your kids will always love it.

You don’t have to replicate the public school.

What’s your Homeschool Style?

Don’t go to a curriculum fair alone! Go with a seasoned homeschooler!

Find out what your child needs and then base your choices on him, not what everyone tells you is the best.

It’s okay to go back to the beginning and teach foundational things that your kids missed.

Find your own family style and personality.

Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap!

Get your kids asking questions!


Homeschooling Special Needs Children

*This is condensed from a talk I shared at the THESIS Mom’s Tea.


Special Needs-In the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.

Special needs impairs the child’s ability to function in day to day activities at home and school. I call them capital letter syndromes. ADD, ADHD, SPD, Asperger’s, Autism, Attachment Disorders.


Should you homeschool your special needs child?

“Objective studies demonstrate that parents are providing a superior form of education for their special needs children by teaching them at home. Contrary to the claims of the education elite, parents do not have to be specially certified or have special qualifications to teach their handicapped children at home.

In fact, in one of the most thorough studies performed thus far on the subject, Dr. Steven Duvall conducted a year-long study involving eight elementary and two junior high students with learning disabilities. He compared one group of five students that received instruction at home with a group of five students who attended public schools. He was careful to match the public school students to the homeschool students according to grade level, sex, IQ, and area of disability. Using a laptop computer, Dr. Duvall sat in on teaching sessions and took an observation every 20 seconds, creating tens of thousands of data points that were then fed into a statistical analysis package. Normally his research included a second observer who double-checked Dr. Duvall’s readings.

Dr. Duvall recorded and analyzed academically engaged time by students during instructional periods. He also administered standardized achievement tests to them to measure gains in reading, math and written language. His results show that the homeschooled, special needs students were academically engaged about two-and-one-half times as often as public school special needs students! He found the children in the public school special education classrooms spent 74.9 percent of their time with no academic responses, while the homeschool children only spent 40.7 percent of their time with no academic responses. He also found that homeschools have children and teachers sitting side-by-side or face-to-face 43 percent of the time, while public education classrooms had such an arrangement for special needs children only 6 percent of the time. This was a tremendous advantage for the homeschoolers.

His study further demonstrated that the homeschool students averaged six months’ gain in reading compared to only a one-half month gain by the special public school students. Furthermore, the homeschool special needs students during the year gained eight months in written language skills compared to the public school counterparts who gained only two-and-one-half months.”

Dr. Duvall summarized, “… This study clearly shows that home schooling is beneficial for special needs students.” 1 (All info gleaned from HSLDA.org)

Four points about homeschooling special needs children.

  1. Go with your gut and don’t let outside opinion bully you into doing something that isn’t right for your child. You know best. You probably were the first one to have an inkling that something wasn’t quite right. Mom’s have the insight into their children that no one else has. If someone else says, “oh, my kid does that.” and you know that what they are talking about is an occasional meltdown and your kid can’t make it through two minutes of a certain environment without melting down ten times, trust your gut, not the lady you met at the playground for five minutes. Find someone who empathizes and talk to her. Look for info and follow the trail of research for your child. You are his advocate. It's not about

2.  Homeschooling special needs children is tough. Make sure you take time for fun for both you and your family. It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child and enjoying the trip.

3. Find what works for your child and don’t be harassed by “What your Child Needs to Know books” or academic texts. Teach at their pace and level for best results.  If you set the bar too high, you will both always be frustrated or at war. Comparing kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf.  It drains the life blood right out of you. Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates.  Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays.  Get help for your special needs child if you need to.  Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him.  I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children.  I want my children to reach their potential.  I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.

If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare.  CELEBRATE!

If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid.  CELEBRATE!

If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered. CELEBRATE!

4. Social/emotional education is just as valid and necessary. If you have an Aspie, three grades ahead in math doesn’t mean they’re doing that well in every area– it’s okay to work on other things. Role playing, social books, practicing outside the moment (training) helps. Before I took my kids to the library for the first time, we practiced at home. We used our schoolroom/dining room/ library for the library. We practiced whispering and finding books. Our tiny local library had a system for the kids. There was a tub of wooden rulers on the table and each time a child took a book off the shelf to look at it, he marked it with a ruler so he could return it later. I think we practiced that part a little too much, because after mere minutes in the library the shelves were full of rulers and the kids had huge stacks of books, none of which they really wanted! Be careful what you emphasize in practice. For the kids who need help practicing social skills or who can’t handle too much stimulation in public, lights, sounds, etc., it is better to talk them through exactly what is going to happen.

All of these are great practices for any of your children. Those who have special needs may need them more, but every child needs an advocate, someone who will take the time to practice outside the moment, someone to cheer them on and celebrate with them. It doesn’t hurt to help all of your children to sort out what is socially acceptable.

Don’t forget Mom and Dad, that you are the parent. Take the reigns. If you think homeschooling is best for your special needs child, then the evidence is for you not against you. Find a support group or a homeschool co-op that offers what your child needs.

Why Read Aloud?


Why read aloud?

I’m (Kathleen) beginning a series on Wednesdays entitled “Why Read Aloud?” and I have a long list of topics beginning with seven reasons to read aloud (which may take seven posts). Audrey is posting about reading aloud on Tuesdays. Thanks for joining us!



Audrey, Amerey, Hunter, Jerry, Ania and I sat in the common room in the orphanage (Children’s Home) in Sulejow, Poland. The Guire family lived there for a month while we awaited the adoption of a sibling group of four. I pulled out our current read aloud, Johnny Tremain.

“I sat down to read with Audrey, Amerey and Hunter. Jerry sat down with paper, markers and Ania. He made a giant ‘A’ on a piece of paper and showed it to her.

“This is an ‘A,’ Ania say ‘AAAAA.’”

She looked at the pretty paper and the giant “A” and dutifully repeated, “AAAAA.”

Jerry drew a beautiful red apple. He showed Ania the picture, “Ania, this is an apple. Apple begins with A.”

Ania admired the beautiful apple by examining it from two inches away, tilting her pumpkin head down as if it were weighted, then she leaned back and repeated, “AAAAAAA,” more reverently than the first time.   

She adjusted her okulary (glasses) and pulled up her jumper and tights with one squeaky, grunting, heaving motion as Tata Jerry made dotted lines on the paper. He then showed her the “A is for apple” paper a third time and pointed out the strange lines, “This is how you make an ‘A,’ Ania, see?”

“AAAA,”  Ania replied as she appraised the paper again.

“You can make an A like this,” Jerry inserted the pencil in her hand and guided her tracing effort.  Her nose grazed the page, her ponytails painted the paper as she strained to focus and control her chunky hand. A wobbly letter ‘A’ remained on the paper when she raised her head.

She regarded it proudly as she repeated, “AAAA.” Jerry leapt from his seat to share his earth-shattering success with me.

“Ania just learned an ‘A,’” he reported joyfully, “I think I’ll teach her the color red now.”  He turned to gaze at his star pupil, who had magically produced her brand new kindergarten safety scissors and chopped the “A is for apple” page to bits!

“Pocosch, Tata!” she yelled. She smiled at her pile of bits of red apple paper, “Di me carton, Tata!” [Give me paper, Daddy!]. And so, Ania’s American education began, one bit of colored paper at a time. “- Positive Adoption; A Memoir


  1. We learn the language from hearing the language

Ania didn’t speak English and the Guire family spoke some rudimentary phrases in Polish with a great deal of assistance from our interpreter. She was being introduced to English on letter at a time and through listening to the read aloud. In the evenings, we did round two of read alouds with all the children. Gregory’s favorite was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we listened to it over until he began to repeat phrases.

Reading aloud is a great way to learn a new language, but it is also how we learn our native language. We learn a turn of a phrase, context, vocabulary and all through hearing the written word.  Reading aloud activates the brain.


“Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area is “a watershed region, all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” said the lead author, Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.” –www.blackenterprise.com


The brain is being activated in the left hemisphere, it is logical, literal (it likes words), and linear (it puts things in sequence and order) ( Read The Whole Brain Child for more info on this).

When a child hears more sophisticated language then he can speak, it stimulates the left hemisphere of the brain. His vocabulary grows. The more he hears, the more he knows.

Since children acquire language primarily through the ear, the words they hear are central to their ability to understand and use words in speech and create meaning from words in print. If children don’t regularly hear new words in new contexts, they will not be able to add them to their mental storehouse of words. Moreover, children will be limited in their abilities to read and write based on the number of words and language structures they have in their minds (Orr 2000). “-www.education.com

Why read aloud? To grow the left hemisphere of the brain, increase vocabulary, learn words in context, broaden verbal abilities and most of all, connect with your child (which also grows the brain, but that’s another post). So, grab a book, a comfy spot and read!

Reading suggestion for the day:


Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday! Join us!




Adult Coloring Books or So I can think

I colored furiously, my crayon going back and forth and way out of the lines. I looked at my neighbor’s perfectly colored picture and broke down in tears. The teacher came back and knelt down next to me. “Kathleen, do you know how to color?” How to color? What? 

I was four years old. I didn’t know there were instructions in how to color. My parents were both educated people with  Masters and Doctorates between them. Our home was full of music, books and lots of discussion. Not much coloring. I had started school early at the finagling of my mama to stay with my sister (and Irish twin) eleven months my senior. My fine motor skills had not caught up with the five and six year olds in my class.

After a quick tutorial on how to color, kind teacher had another student proficient in the art give me a practice session in the hallway. I was amazed. Turns out, it was all about coloring in circles and outlining. I was hooked on coloring.

Fast Forward to adulthood and homeschooling my children:

When I began reading aloud to my children, I discovered a wonderful coloring resource- Dover Coloring books– which range from coloring wild flowers, Shakespeare scenes, history, nature, flags….you name it!


Adult coloring books are all the rage right now!  The Guire family isn’t following suit, but continuing on the path of coloring while we learn. Why should you color? Daughter Ania has been using her adult coloring book while listening to college lectures “so I can think,” she says.

Adult coloring 3

Why should children/adults color while listening to school lessons?

  1. Coloring gives the body something to do while the brain listens and relieves the stress of trying to pay attention.

“A lot of my fellow graduate classmates bring these coloring books into the classroom setting as a tool to focus more on lectures,” Citerella said, explaining that more professors are beginning to welcome this behavior. “For my internship, I find the clients who are fidgeting and cannot sit still ask for coloring the books in order to concentrate on group discussions”- Theresa Citerella, an art therapy student at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. (via The Therapeutic Science of Adult Coloring Books How This Childhood Pastime Helps Adult Relieve Stress)

2.  Coloring, given the right materials, reinforces what the student is learning.

Whatever you are studying, you can find a coloring book that relates to it. Studying the Civil War? Order some Dover coloring books on the subject. My girls love the fashions of the time while the boys appreciated the battle related books. Introducing your children to Shakespeare? Let them color some scenes from the well known plays while you read to them (I suggest starting with Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children for an introduction to plot lines, I read from this to my high school Shakespeare book club before we read the actual play aloud). Here is a great coloring book to accompany the reading: 

Color in a Dover coloring book about the Civil War while reading about it! 

3. You (the teacher) do not have to keep stopping to tell your children/teens to stop fidgeting while you are reading.

If kids are coloring while you read, you probably won’t have to stop and tell them to sit still as often. This ties in with reason number one, but I think it needs its own point. We adults often expect children to sit still for long periods. I can’t. Right now, while typing this, I am getting fidgety. I want to go outside and walk because I have been working in a chair  for far too long. I schedule my days to include many moving around and getting the blood circulating times. Kids don’t know how to verbalize this need so they fidget.

Just a warning- make sure all of your colored pencils are sharpened before you start your lessons or you will be in competition with a pencil sharpener.

*Today The Whole House is giving away an adult coloring book to relieve some of your stress!

How do you enter? It’s simple. Share this post on Facebook and tag TheWholeHouse.  If you don’t do Facebook, just comment on this post to enter. Drawing a name from all who share at 9pm.

Make sure you join us tomorrow for a new series on feminism!

Just Be Quiet! (Three Word Wednesday)

I woke tangled in the bed sheet, my mind racing….

I forgot to…

Tomorrow I have to, because I forgot, it was on my list!

Worried thoughts choked me. I sat up, too a deep breath and looked around. Nothing to fear. No monsters. No giant to do list chasing with sharpies dancing around my bed.

Just the calm, quiet of three o’clock in the morning, at least in the external world.

My inner monologue still yelled,

You didn’t finish teaching this subject yesterday!

You didn’t….

You didn’t do that either!

We mamas have a constant inner monologue that can turn into Berating Dude with a side kick named Guilt. Our plates are so full, our schedules stuffed full of educational opportunities, chores, meal planning, not to mention extra curricular activities. All this positive stuff can cause negative stress if we are not careful.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of [a]witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us,

[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [a]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].- Hebrews 12: 1,2

What if we ran the race that was set before US- not the one we felt entangled in? What if we stripped off every encumbrance, those things that mentally and physically hold us back?

what if..

Those thoughts that say:

You’re going to mess up your children if you teach them at home!

You’re too disorganized to keep it all together!

You  don’t do enough ‘real’ school!

Everyone knows what they’re doing except you!

You can’t teach Algebra, you can’t even DO Algebra!

In the middle of the night, that middle of the day slump, when everything has fallen apart and you’re looking forward to nap time or that second third cup of coffee, those thoughts shove open the doors of doubt. Tell them to JUST BE QUIET!

Talk back to them if you have to!

I am the Mother chosen for these children. I am appointed to raise them and by God’s Grace, I am the best person for the job.

I am as organized as I need to be for today, if I didn’t get it today, I will try again tomorrow. God has ordered my days. I may plan my ways, but the Lord directs my steps.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life],
But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.- Proverbs 16:9

Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him],
And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance].- Proverbs 16:3

God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). If I need changing, He can do it. If He doesn’t change me or my circumstances, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me regardless of my circumstances or present season.

I don’t have to be a master of every subject in order to homeschool. I just have to be intelligent and resourceful enough to find resources to help my student master these areas. 

And …. I know the GREAT I AM, who is able to supply all the needs of my students.

These are just some buckets of water to toss at the fiery darts of the wicked one. If you are struggling in your thought life on your homeschooling journey as I do, take a few minutes to search the scriptures for some more water of the Word that pertains to you specifically!  You can do this!  You have the one who created the heavens and earth on your side. He does not grow weary. He doesn’t wrestle with His bed sheets at night. He is there, present with you, right now. He will never leave you, nor forsake you.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor!