At Home Learning With Out of the Box Kids

One thing is certain: if you are homeschooling a child with special needs, there is no magic curriculum that will perfectly fit your child.  Our homeschool includes multiple learning disabilities, Autism, ADHD, and giftedness to name a few of our challenges.  My children are above and below grade level in different subjects and it is difficult for a school to accelerate and accommodate different needs at the same time. Having a wide variety of challenges keeps our homeschool interesting to say the least.  

The Number one reason we love homeschooling is because of the flexibility to adapt curriculum to fit each unique child.  Homeschooling truly is the most personalized education experience we can give our kids. I have found its best to assume my students want to learn and succeed, which means when they struggle or are continually frustrated it’s a good idea to take a step back and evaluate the learning method for the topic, not push through the material. In our 7 years of homeschooling we have learned a few tricks to adapt existing programs to meet our needs as well as how to pick and choose what fits one.  

If you already purchased a complete program, or someone gave you one to help you get started, it’s easy to feel guilty if you stop using it when it is a bad fit.   One program we tried, stressed me out and my student in tears by week 2!  I stopped using the provided lesson plans and adjusted each subject’s materials to fit my child and we started again with more success.  We loved reading the stories together so we kept that, but the daily writing was too much, so we swapped it out for a more appropriate stand alone workbook.  

One spring I struggled about taking a summer break because all 3 kids were in the middle of their math books.  One kid spent half of last year doing remediation before starting the current book. Another one switched programs mid-year. The third, finished his book early and actually is a third of the way through the next grade level.  In the end we stopped where each was and picked up mid book the next fall.  I as the teacher had to adjust my expectations. It’s not about checking off the boxes, it’s about mastering the material.  The pace at which mastery happens is the right pace for the child.

We use a morning time format for school time, and often my kids want more than the scheduled amount of readalouds so we read extra, and twice now have finished our history readings for the year early.  The students set the pace of the learning and when it’s interesting and they ask for more we do more, and when we finish a subject ahead of schedule we can replace it with one that needs more attention.  It all works out in the end.  

There are a lot of ways to adapt boxed curriculum to work for our out of the box kids.  It just takes some out of the box thinking on our part.  Sarah Mackenzie says it best, in her book Teaching from Rest, “If I’m teaching my child first and letting the curriculum serve me, however, then we master each concept slowly and carefully before moving on, and we actually learn a lot that way.”  

May curriculum serve you and be your tools to teach your kids the way they learn best.  May it lighten your load by giving you a framework to guide your children to learn and grow.


Cynthia Heren–  Homeschooling mom of 3 Out-of-the-Box kids for 7 years and counting.  Writer at about lIfe and homeschool with Out of the Box kids. Normal at our house includes 2 trampolines, 5 sizes of pencils and indoor and outdoor swings and a whole room full of LEGOs and homeschool. Find me at My Blog, or  Facebook and Instagram

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