Imagine starting a brand new job. One that is technically complicated and requires a depth of knowledge and understanding that you do not yet possess. Also- you will not have a supervisor, or training before you start. Did I mention you possess no credentials or certifications in this area either?
This is the reality for most of us parents turned Special Education Teacher overnight. (Thanks Coronavirus, you really shouldn’t have). I joke that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides students with disabilities a, “Highly Qualified Teacher.” Ummm, then I’m fired immediately. Since that ISN’T an option, let’s talk about some ways we can make this less stressful for you and your children and more successful for ALL.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – This is not a Plan A for anyone. Not for Teachers or students or parents and caregivers. It’s not even a Plan B or C or D. It just IS. We didn’t have time to prepare, mentally or logistically. Some are also trying to work full time from home WHILE teaching. Do not expect perfection or anything close. Just do your best. Start each day with a clean slate and do your best again. Sometimes my best is 100%. Sometimes my best is 64%. Just roll with it. Your mental health and your child’s mental health is so much more important than what they might learn right now.
Don’t recreate the wheel. Unfortunately, there is no continuity in materials provided for students across the Nation. Some teachers are expected to become eLearning instructors and do daily instruction via the internet. Some families have received packets of materials. Some haven’t received anything. Right now, even education’y people aren’t sure how we are going to collectively do this going forward. A good plan takes time. Don’t stress over creating materials from scratch. Sasha Long, at The Autism Helper has created an absolutely PHENOMINAL Emergency Home School Kit. It’s absolutely the best thing out there, containing materials that would most likely cost at least $100+ in her store. She understands autism better than most people, and she wants to help parents get materials and knowledge in our hands. Some key features:
- Schedules and calendars
- Visuals out the wazoo (behavior supports, social stories, token boards, and other things that should look familiar to your learner).
- Training tools and videos- these are extremely informative and are used as part of her Professional Development Group
- And EIGHT WEEKS worth of differentiated curriculum in Math and Language Arts. WHAT?! The curriculum has 5 different levels, so you can individualize your selection based on your learner. Sasha will help you guide you by explaining how to pick an appropriate level.
My son Parker and I reading a Social Story on the Coronavirus included in the Emergency Homeschool Kit.
Sasha is offering this kit as pay what you can, from 0-$20. If you can spare a little, it is absolutely worth the investment. She understands that not everyone is in that position though, and doesn’t want you to let money stop you from getting these materials.
I also recommend you check out her Teachers Pay Teachers store to see if there are any materials for specific subjects or goals you are working on. Chances are- she has it. My son Greyson has an IEP goal related to money. She has an amazing Money Mega Pack that I LOVE and can be adapted to any level. Printing multiple copies of the money worksheets was one of the first things I did when I heard school was being closed.
Structure and routine are your BFFs. My first tip is schedule, schedule, schedule! (Remember- this is included in the Emergency Homeschool Kit.) Pick a schedule type appropriate for your learner. THIS ARTICLE, by a Special Education Teacher, can help give you ideas. I love to look at my schedule daily, numerous times a day. It decreases anxiety, and is self-regulating. It lets me know what to expect from my day. Many kids with autism are the same way. I like to keep some of the routine the same. This helps keep a predictable environment for your learner, in a time when everything else can feel so out of our control. I also like to add, remove and exchange elements as needed, and to keep my rigid learner from becoming too rigid. Using a schedule, and having clear expectations of when it is time to work alone can help limit regression. I like to add in activities that were familiar to my boys’ school day- like Go Noodle videos to break things up.
I recommend starting your day something fun and engaging. It makes the beginning transition easier. And I rotate difficult/unpreferred activities with preferred ones. Have a set work area. Since my son couldn’t tell time when we originally homeschooled, I would simply have a printed sign on our kitchen table that said, “School” so he knew when our kitchen table was school, and when it wasn’t. I made sure the area was clear of any unnecessary distractions.
Reinforcement is KING. Not just for your student but for YOU. Do a preference assessment and see what you like. I’m drawn to late night chocolate or salt, retail therapy, and time alone to read a book or watch TV.
Take things one day at a time and do what works for you. Seriously. If getting ready in the morning helps you feel better- do it. If pajamas are your school dress code- do it. You know what you and your child needs, so just do that. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Some people get real laminate’y and fancy. If that isn’t your love language- don’t sweat it. Your child will remember this time with you more than your organization of materials.
Plan at a time that works for you. When I homeschooled my oldest son, Grey- I quickly realized that the night before was not the time for me to make sure materials were prepped. I was too tired and overwhelmed. Morning worked best for me. You do what works for you.Put on some Blue’s Clue’s or hand over an ipad with Minecraft on it and build some planning time into your morning.
And DON’T think- How am I going to do this for 8 weeks (OR LONGER!?) That doesn’t help, and is a recipe for frustration and instant overwhelm. FOCUS ON TODAY. Today you can do. And some mornings, that will feel like too much, so focus on the hour. At least in California, technically Homeschool only has to be three hours total. And that could include reading and PE. This does not need to be an engaged from 8-3 type of activity.
Be open to the experience. I’ve been in these trenches before. For a year and a half, I homeschooled my oldest son, Greyson. It wasn’t a choice I wanted to make at the time, but I knew I had to. I went through all the feelings… which included anger, frustration, sadness but mostly fear. Fear of screwing it up. Fear of not being enough. Fear of not having enough patience and skills. But the truth is, I never expect perfection from my boys, but I do expect them to try their best. Why should I expect any less from myself? I made lots of mistakes, and learned many things in retrospect. And that is all part of it. If you aren’t making mistakes, you probably aren’t doing it right. It’s hard. But I wasn’t prepared for how rewarding it was also. How much it bonded Grey and I. How much fun I had learning about how we learn.
Parents, we are truly living a page from future History books, and we all are attempting to navigate this particular wilderness together. Alone but together. You got this. I promise. If there’s anything I can do to help- please let me know.
Another Momma in your Village,
(And proud mother of 2 boys on the autism spectrum.)