• What is Odyssey of the Mind? by Michelle KretzschmarOdyssey of the Mind is one of the activities offered by HERO. To get an official version of what is Odyssey of the Mind, visit the Odyssey ...
    Posted May 7, 2009, 10:39 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • A Brief Overview of Homeschooling By ERIC DigestThe following article is from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement which is part of the Department of Education. While somewhat dated, the article provides a ...
    Posted May 7, 2009, 10:38 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Ten Signs that You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child by Jerry Mintz ( parents do not realize that the education world has changed drastically since they were in school. Back in those days, schools were smaller ...
    Posted May 7, 2009, 10:37 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Homeschooling Teaching Strategies Homeschooling Teaching StrategiesBy Office of Educational Research and ImprovementThe following article is from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement which is part of the Department of Education ...
    Posted May 7, 2009, 10:36 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Convincing a Kid Convincing a KidBy Eileen MynesDuring summer school in San Antonio, certain schools open their cafeterias to any child seeking food. School lunches are given at no charge, so ...
    Posted May 7, 2009, 10:24 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • No Thank You, We Don't Believe in Socialization No Thank You, We Don't Believe in SocializationBy Lisa Russel©2000 Lisa RussellUsed with PermissionI can't believe I am writing an article about socialization, the ...
    Posted May 5, 2009, 6:17 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Homeschooling Children with Down Syndrome Homeschooling Children With Down Syndromeby Amy DunawayI must preface this piece to let you know that I am not an expert in homeschooling, special education, or Down syndrome ...
    Posted May 5, 2009, 6:14 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Why I Homeschool Why I HomeschoolBy Jennifer LambertI have a 5-year-old daughter and I am home-schooling her, much to the shock and horror of my family, who are ...
    Posted May 5, 2009, 6:13 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Too Much Involvement Harms Our Kids Too Much Involvement Harms Our KidsBy Jennifer LambertSports, art, language, Scouts, dance, music…we all want the best for our kids, but are we harming them by offering ...
    Posted May 5, 2009, 6:12 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar
  • Music and the Mind Music and the Mind by Dee DickinsonThe article below was published (1993) by New Horizons for Learning (PO Box 15329 - Seattle WA 98115-0329) and used with their permission ...
    Posted May 5, 2009, 6:08 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar
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What is Odyssey of the Mind?

posted May 7, 2009, 10:38 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar

by Michelle Kretzschmar

Odyssey of the Mind is one of the activities offered by HERO. To get an official version of what is Odyssey of the Mind, visit the Odyssey of the Mind website at My quick version is that it's a creative problem solving competition that requires kids to be responsible for all work and ideas. In other words, no parental assistance a la school science fair projects. Any help from non-team members, whether in building a structure or the providing the original idea for the structure, is considered "outside assistance" and can be penalized.

The way it works is that you form a team of five to seven kids. The team then selects a long term problem to work on and present at a regional competition. There are five problems to choose from and you can see a summary of the problem on the Odyssey of the Mind website. The problems range from the very technical balsa wood structure problem to the completely theatrical performance problem. The team works on the long term problem during the year and practice for a spontaneous problem that they will receive at the tournament.

The great thing about Odyssey of the Mind is that it has something for everyone's interest. All problems require and eight minute skit to present the solution. There is always a need for acting, props, and scripts. Two of the problems always require technical work as well in either building a structure or a some sort of car. You don't have to act if you don't want to and you don't have to build either. The critical aspect is that you will have to work on a team. This is a team problem solving competition and requires everyone to learn to work with one another.

The actual process starts in August. During that time period I will have information sessions at the library explaining what Odyssey of the Mind is about and doing spontaneous problems with the kids. After the information sessions, we meet weekly for a couple hours working on team building and problem solving skills as well as more spontaneous problems. During this time I encourage everyone to give serious thought to if this is how they want spend their time for the next few months. As we get closer to competition (end of February, beginning of March), it becomes a major commitment. The teams will meet more often and individual members will have more responsibilities to complete on their own.

 I don't actually form teams and allow them to pick a problem until the end of October. The main reason is that once a team starts working on a long term problem, everyone who works on it is required to be listed on the roster. If we already have seven members and someone quits, we cannot replace them. That's why I want everyone to take their time and decide that Odyssey is right for them before they make a commitment. Basically, I spend the first two months trying to scare everyone off. Last year we started with 20 kids and ended up with ten.

There is no "typical" problem solution. The first year, our team made puppets and was the only team to do so at the competition. The second year, they made "launchers" that propelled paper machier "green house gases" into the atmosphere. Last year they made a set of "Mars Rovers" that was supposed to complete an obstacle course. This year they built a device out of pvc pipe that could extent and transfer items from area to another. And none of these solutions looked like any of the other solutions presented at the competition.

The competition is fun and we have done well enough each year to send at least one team to the state competition. However, if you are going to spend six month working on this project, you can't being doing it just to win. Odyssey of the Mind is really about the process rather than the solution. In solving the problem, the team members learn to think for themselves, how to compromise and interact with others, and how to come up with ideas when they don't think they have any. It is absolutely nerve-racking for the parents since you can see such an obvious solution but can't say anything although many have experimented with telepathy with mixed results.

If you are interested in Odyssey of the Mind, you don't have to do it on my team or even with HERO. We have had HERO teams form in both Bandera and Floresville. You don't even have to have five kids, two of our teams had only four.  I would be happy to help out anyone who is interested in forming a team.

A Brief Overview of Homeschooling

posted May 7, 2009, 10:37 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar

By ERIC Digest

The following article is from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement which is part of the Department of Education. While somewhat dated, the article provides a balanced overview of homeschooling.

Home Schooling. ERIC Digest, Number 95. A small but growing number of school-aged children will not routinely spend time in a school classroom this year. Instead, these children engage in HOME SCHOOLING--that is, they will pursue learning at home or elsewhere in the community.

There is no one way to do it. One family may begin with opening ceremonies to signal the start of the daily routine and follow a scheduled curriculum. Another family may opt for child-led learning, where parents provide help as the child expresses interest in a topic. Usually parents provide supervision and help, but most children assume increasing responsibility for choosing and carrying out projects as they mature.

Most families involved in home schooling organize activities with other families. Some children spend part of their time at a local public or private school, or a nearby college.

WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF HOME SCHOOLING? Schooling at home was a necessity in an age when there were a limited number of schools. After schools became universally available, some traditional groups, including the Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, still elected to keep their younger school-aged children at home. The Amish kept their older children out of public schools, preferring to train them through life in the community.

In the 1970s, other families opted for home schooling, despite easy access to schools. In the early stages of this contemporary movement, most were pursuing a philosophy of child-led learning, as articulated by writers and educators such as John Holt. Later, many families with strong religious convictions also turned to home schooling.

HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE HOME SCHOOLED TODAY? On any given day, roughly half a million school-aged children are probably learning outside of a school classroom. They make up about 1 percent of the total school-aged population and almost 10 percent of the privately schooled population. This estimate assumes modest growth since the fall of 1990, when data were collected from three independent sources--those state education agencies (SEAs) that have data; distributors of popular curricular packages; and memberships of supportive associations. Since each source represents the tip of an iceberg, upward adjustments were made based on surveys of home-schooling groups (Patricia Lines 1991).

Because many children are home schooled for only a few years, the percentage of children who reach age 18 with some home-schooling experience will be larger than 1 percent. Until a well-designed household survey is conducted, however, it will be extremely difficult to estimate this percentage.

To estimate the number of children engaged in home schooling within its borders, a state could begin with its own database, if it has one, then supplement it with surveys to assess how many families file reports or other papers required of home schoolers. States cannot assume 100 percent compliance with filing requirements. If a state does not collect data, an assessment of families who are members of state and regional associations could serve as a starting point.

IS HOME SCHOOLING LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL? Today all state compulsory-education laws explicitly make home schooling a valid option, or the state interprets compulsory school-attendance laws to include "attendance" at a "school" located at home. States have also liberalized requirements for the home teacher. For example, parents do not need teaching certificates, and only Michigan requires the involvement of a certified teacher. Even in Michigan, however, court decisions have restricted the scope of this requirement.

With very few exceptions, all states require families to file basic information with either the state or local education agency (SEA or LEA). Many states have additional requirements, such as the submission of a curricular plan, testing of students, or, less frequently, education or testing requirements for parents.

In the past two decades, some states have charged parents with violating compulsory-education laws. Parents have responded with lawsuits asserting a constitutional right to direct the education of their children. Some courts have stricken compulsory-education laws for being too vague or have found that more restrictive regulations exceeded the state education agency's statutory authority. Other courts have allowed prosecution of parents when their educational program does not meet state requirements.

The United States Supreme Court has not explicitly ruled on home schooling, but it did rule against compulsory school requirements in WISCONSIN V. YODER (1972), a limited decision involving the Amish. More generally, it has also upheld the right of parents to direct the education of their children.

WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO HOME SCHOOLERS? Other like-minded families constitute a major resource for home schoolers. Local support groups form whenever there are more than a handful of families pursuing home schooling in a particular locale. There is at least one state-level association in every state, and in some states there are a dozen or more regional associations.

Other resources include libraries, museums, colleges, extension courses, parks departments, churches, local businesses, mentors, private schools, and, in some states, public schools. Books and other educational materials are also important. Many private educational institutions offer curricular packages, books, and other materials for use in home schooling.

Several states have innovative learning options. In Alaska, teachers in Juneau work with students located all over the state, staying in touch by mail, telephone, and through occasional home visits. In California, children can enroll in an independent-study program through a public school then base their studies in the home. Washington and Iowa require public schools to enroll children on a part-time basis if they apply.

Some districts have organized education centers where families may obtain resources, find instructional support, and/or sign up for scheduled classes. Other states or districts also allow part-time enrollment, "shared schooling," "dual enrollment," or similar forms of part-time school attendance.

HOW WELL DO HOME-SCHOOLED CHILDREN PERFORM? People disagree on whether home schooling is advantageous academically. Research has not determined whether the SAME children would perform better or worse in a public or private classroom, or in a home-schooling arrangement. Analyses of test scores are available, based on data from states that require testing or from home-schooling associations. Data from both sources may not be representative of home schoolers as a whole, however, because not all families cooperate with state testing requirements and private efforts rely on volunteers. Keeping these caveats in mind, virtually all the available data show that the group of home-schooled children who are tested is above average. The pattern for children for whom data are available resembles that of children in private schools.

People also disagree about whether home schooling helps or hinders a child's social development. Children engaged in home schooling spend less time with same-aged children and more time with people of different ages. Most spend time with other children through support and networking groups, scouting, churches, and other associations. Many spend time with adults other than their parents through community volunteer work, running their own businesses, tutoring or mentoring arrangements, or other activities.

There is no conclusive research suggesting that additional time with same-aged peers is preferable to more time with individuals of varying ages. Limited testing of a self-selected group of home-schooled children suggested above-average social and psychological development.

HOW DO PUBLIC EDUCATORS, POLICY-MAKERS, AND THE PUBLIC VIEW HOME SCHOOLING?The practice of home schooling is controversial. The national Parent-Teacher Association opposes the practice; in 1988, the National Education Association adopted a resolution calling for more rigorous regulation of home schooling. And the National Association of Elementary School Principals has maintained that education is "most effectively done through cohesive organizations in formal settings." Since 1983, it has condemned home-schooling in its platform.

Other groups, such as the national American Civil Liberties Union, maintain that parents have a constitutional right to educate their children at home. Although they didn't necessarily approve of home schooling, a majority of Americans responding to a Gallup poll nonetheless said parents have a right to engage in home schooling. State legislatures agree, and many have amended their laws to provide greater flexibility for home schooling.

Patricia Lines is a Senior Research Analyst with the National Institute on Educational Governance, Finance, Policy-Making, and Management, OERI.

An expanded version of this ERIC digest is available in P. Lines, "Homeschooling," in Private Education and Educational Choice, edited by James G. Cibulka Greenwood Press, forthcoming. This version will contain more detailed information on home-schooling associations and references.

RESOURCES Clark, Charles S. "Home Schooling," CQ RESEARCHER 4, 33 (September 9, 1994): 769-92.

Lines, Patricia. "Estimating the Home Schooled Population." Working Paper. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Research and Improvement, October 1991. 20 pages. ED 337 903.

Mayberry, Maralee; Knowles, J. Gary; Ray, Brian; and Marlow, Stacey, HOME SCHOOLING: PARENTS AS EDUCATORS. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 1995.

McCarthy, Martha. HOME SCHOOLING AND THE LAW. Policy Bulletin No. PB-B15. Bloomington, Indiana: Education Policy Center, Indiana University, 1992. ED 349 702.

VanGalen, Jane, and Pitman, Mary Anne, eds. HOME SCHOOLING: POLITICAL, HISTORICAL AND PEDAGOGICAL PERSPECTIVES. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1991.

This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract No. OERI RR93002006. The ideas and opinions expressed in this Digest do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI, ED, or the Clearinghouse. This Digest is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.


Title: Home Schooling. ERIC Digest, Number 95. Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073); Available From: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, University of Oregon, 1787 Agate Street, Eugene, OR 97403 (free; $2.50 postage and handling). Descriptors: Academic Achievement, Child Development, Civil Liberties, Elementary Secondary Education, Family School Relationship, Government School Relationship, Home Programs, Home Schooling, Nontraditional Education, Private Education, School Attendance Legislation, Social Development Identifiers: ERIC Digests

Ten Signs that You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child

posted May 7, 2009, 10:36 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar

by Jerry Mintz (

Many parents do not realize that the education world has changed drastically since they were in school. Back in those days, schools were smaller, class sizes were smaller, dropout rates were lower, violence in school was almost unheard of, teachers were not terrified of showing affection to the children, or of teaching and discussing moral values. Even through rose-colored glasses, we know that school back then was no picnic, was far from perfect, but at least the teachers and usually the principal knew every student by name at a minimum, something which is not necessarily true today. Because our public school system has now considerably deteriorated, many parents, teachers, and individuals have taken it upon themselves to create public and private alternatives to that traditional system which is definitely failing. It is important for parents to know that they now have choices, alternatives to the neighborhood school. How do you know that it is time to look for another educational approach for your child? Here are some of the signs:

1. Does your child say he or she hates school? If so, something is probably wrong with the school because children are natural learners. When they're young you can hardly stop them from learning. If your children say they hate school, listen to them.

2. Does your child find it difficult to look an adult in the eye, or to interact with children younger or older than they are? If so, your child may have become "socialized" to that very narrow group which many children ordinarily interact with in most schools, and may be losing the ability to communicate with a broader group of children and adults.

3. Does your child seem fixated on designer labels and trendy clothes for school? This is a symptom of the shallowness of the traditional schools' approach, causing children to rely on external means of comparison and acceptance, rather than deeper values.

4. Does your child come from school tired and cranky? This is a sure sign that their educational experiences are not energizing but are actually debilitating.

5. Do your children come home complaining about conflicts that they've had in school and unfair situations that they have been exposed to? This is a sign that your school does not have a proper process for conflict resolution and communication.

6. Has your child lost interest in creative expression through art, music, and dance? These things are generally not encouraged in the traditional system today and are not highly valued. They're considered secondary to the "academic" areas. In some cases, courses are not even offered in these areas any more. This tends to extinguish these natural talents and abilities in children.

7. Has your child stopped reading for fun, or reading or writing for pleasure? Are your children doing just the minimum for homework and going off for some escapist activity? This is a sign that these spontaneous activities are not being valued in their school and another sign that they are losing their creativity.

8. Does your child procrastinate until the last minute to do homework? This is a sign that the homework is not very interesting to, is not really meeting his or her needs, and is tending to extinguish their natural curiosity.

9. Does your child come home talking about anything exciting that happened in school that day? If not, maybe nothing exciting is happening for your child in school. Would you want to keep working if your job was like that?

10. Did the school nurse of guidance counselor suggest that your child has some strange three lettered disease, like ADD, and that they should now be given Ritilin or some other drug? I suggest that it is more probable that the school has the disease, EDD--Educational Deficit Disorder, and time to get your child out of that situation!

If your child has exhibited several of these characteristics, it is time for you to start looking for an alternative. In most parts of this country today, there are many options to choose from. For example, 30 states have now enacted legislation which allows groups of parents and teachers to create charter schools, schools which are not stuck with having to fulfill the myriad of state regulations but can create their own individualized approach. Four years ago there were only five of these charter schools in the country. By the end of this year there will be more than 1000 of them! Also, there are 4500 magnet schools throughout the country, public schools which specialize in a an area of expertise, and draw students from a wider area.

In most communities there are many private alternatives quietly offering a different educational approach. For example, there are over 4500 Montessori schools based on the experiential approach designed by Dr. Maria Montessori, and hundreds of Waldorf schools which puts equal emphasis on traditional academics areas and the arts. There are hundreds of independent alternative schools, many emphasizing participant control with parents and students taking responsibility for their own educations.

Many public school systems have a variety of alternative programs within their systems. These are divided into two general approaches: 1. Public Choice; those programs which are open to any student in the community. Sometimes they are called Schools Within Schools. 2. Public At-Risk; those programs for children who have had a variety of problems coping with school. These programs run the spectrum from helpful to dumping ground. Examine them closely before making a decision to enroll.

Parents of over a million children in this country have checked off "none of the above" and decided to teach their children at home. It is now legal in every state and does not require teacher certification. Homeschooling has taken a variety of approaches. Some try to create "school at home" with a fairly standard curriculum, the main difference being that they can teach it one-to-one with their children. Some families have signed up with a curriculum which has been designed by an umbrella school. This school will help the parents with the curriculum and in some cases, grade homework, providing a basic curriculum for the parents to follow and helping with any report forms that are necessary. A third approach is one which is called "unschooling." In this case the parent bases their educational approach on the interest of the child and builds on that rather than a pre-set curriculum. It could be said that in some of these cases they design their curriculum "retroactively," keeping records of the activities throughout the year and at the of the process dividing the experiences into the appropriate subject area.

Overall, since most states require some form of testing of homeschoolers, it has been shown that remarkably, as a group, they average in the 85th percentile compared to the 50th percentile of the average public school student. There are now so many homeschoolers around the country that virtually all homeschoolers are part of some kind of homeschool group. Some of these groups have coalesced into homeschool resource centers and some of them will operate as often as four or five days a week. Generally, colleges have discovered that homeschoolers make such good students that they welcome homeschooling students to apply to their schools. As more and more parents become aware of these choices and as they make these choices, we hope that the system will evolve into one which meets the needs of an increasing number of students. Meanwhile, don't wait for that system to change. Take responsibility for your child's education. Find out what your choices are and choose what is best for your child.

None of these signs by themselves should be taken as a reason to panic. But if you have noticed several of them, you should certainly explore educational alternatives.

This article can be reprinted with permission and contact information.

For more information or a consultation on Educational Alternatives, please e-mail the AERO office at:


Contact Info: Tel: 1-800-769-4171 (U.S. Only) E-Mail:
417 Roslyn Road, Roslyn Heights, NY 11577

Homeschooling Teaching Strategies

posted May 7, 2009, 10:35 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar

Homeschooling Teaching Strategies
By Office of Educational Research and Improvement

The following article is from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement which is part of the Department of Education.



The term “homeschooling teaching strategies” refers to approaches to teaching that can be used with home-educated students. Selecting the right strategy for individual students can positively impact the students’ learning and retention, thinking skills, motivation to learn, internalization of selected values, and development of constructive character traits. Although little research has been done specifically on homeschooling teaching strategies, homeschoolers can find research-based guidance from general education research literature and experience-based literature prepared by homeschoolers. This digest looks at several homeschooling teaching strategies.

Definition of Homeschooling

“Home-based education” may be a more accurate term for homeschooling, in that it can be described as (a) a commitment by parents to personally raise and educate their children, (b) family-based and usually parent-led (but sometimes student-led), (c) conducive to individualization, and (d) generally not taking place in conventional classroom and institutional settings (Lines, 1998; Ray, 1999). Homeschooling families often participate in community activities and use resources open to the public to enhance the education of the children.

The number of homeschooling families continues to grow rapidly in the United States. An estimated 1.5 to 1.9 million K-12 students were homeschooled in the United States in the fall of 2000 (Lines, 1998; Ray, 1999, 2000a). The practice of homeschooling is also expanding in other western nations and beginning to take hold in some eastern nations, such as Japan (Large, 2000; Ray, 1999).

Themes From Relevant Education Research

Before selecting specific teaching strategies, homeschooling parents may benefit from considering four key themes from education research. These concepts provide a foundation for effective teaching practices in institutional school settings.

1.        Active Teaching. Teachers can make a difference in students’ learning by being proactive and exhibiting particular teaching behaviors. These teaching behaviors generally include (a) careful planning, (b) choosing appropriate teaching strategies, (c) actively involving students in the learning process, and (d) regular and effective monitoring and evaluation of student learning (Eggen and  Kauchak, 1988; Slavin, 1991).

2.        Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). Teachers must know and understand (a) child development and learning and age-related human characteristics, (b) the strengths, interests, and needs of each individual child, and (c) the social and cultural contexts in which a child lives so that learning can be made meaningful, relevant, and respectful of the child (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1997).

3.        Teaching Strategies Theory. Researchers and teachers have found that no single teaching approach works in all situations. That is, the effective teaching strategy (or model) depends on the teacher (e.g., personality traits, teaching strengths, and preferences), the student (e.g., interests, learning strengths and limitations, dominant learning style), and the content to be taught. A teacher should choose a particular strategy (e.g., mastery learning, direct instruction, inquiry training) depending on the combination of each of these three factors (Eggen and Kauchak, 1988; Joyce and Weil, 1986; Slavin, 1991).

4.        Tutoring. Researchers, teachers, and historians generally concur that one-to-one tutoring is, in many ways, the most effective teaching strategy available for most purposes. Tutoring enhances both the tutor’s and the student’s academic performance and attitude toward subject matter (Cohen, Kulik, and Kulik, 1982; Fager, 1996).

Homeschooling Teaching Strategies

Many studies have shown that home-educated students perform above the public school average in terms of academics, and research suggests they are doing well in terms of social and emotional development and success in adulthood (McDowell and Ray, 2000). Few research studies, however, have focused specifically on effective teaching strategies in homeschooling. Still, much information on teaching strategies can be found in experienced-based literature written by homeschoolers. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are several of the most common teaching strategies or pedagogical approaches that homeschoolers have reported using successfully (e.g., The Teaching Home, 2000). Parents regularly mix elements of multiple approaches.

1.        Classical. Teach the tools of learning (i.e., grammar--mastery of a language, dialectic--logic, and rhetoric--the expressive and creative use of language) so they may be used in the study of any subject.

2.        Lifestyle of learning. Teaching and learning are treated as a seamless and organic part of living within a family, geographical community, local faith community, and nation--that is, the “real, everyday world.”

3.        Schooling at home. Parents generally teach as they were taught in schools. There is a high degree of structure. It often involves active teaching with the teacher having a clear-cut and outstanding role. There is no significant integration of subject areas.

4.        Structured/mastery learning. Content to be learned is clearly presented in (usually) consumable booklets (or via computers) in a sequential, step-by-step manner while immediate feedback to the learner is emphasized. Often the parent is viewed more as a moderator or administrator than as an active teacher.

5.        Unit studies. These emphasize the concept that all knowledge is interrelated and learned more easily and remembered longer if it is presented and studied in a related way. Subject areas (e.g., math, history) are blended together as the teaching is centered around a common theme or project.

6.        Unschooling. This approach emphasizes giving children as much freedom to explore and learn about the world as parents can comfortably bear; it does not mean allowing them to misbehave (Holt Associates, 2000).

7.        Worldview. This approach emphasizes that all education is value- and belief-driven and no form of education or schooling can be otherwise. It purposely and explicitly integrates a particular worldview in curriculum materials, activities, and ways of thinking. An example is “The Principle Approach,” which focuses on researching a religious writing to identify basic principles or truths, reasoning from these truths through an academic subject (e.g., history, politics), relating the principles to the student’s own character and self-government, and recording in writing the application of the principles and ideas to life and living (The Teaching Home, 1998, 2000).

These homeschooling approaches involve many of the elements of effective teaching strategies promoted by educational researchers and theoreticians. Their use and emphasis on academics (Blumenfeld, 1986) appear to be working well. Keys to the students’ success appear to involve the following interdependent features (Ray, 2000b): (1) “... learning at home becomes an interactive process rather than a series of tasks to be tackled” allowing for rich student-teacher conversation, individualization, taking advantage of teachable moments, and ensuring mastery before moving forward (Thomas, 1998, p. 127; Tizard and Hughes, 1984); (2) tutoring (e.g., concentrated time on task, individualization), (3) social capital and value communities, (4) increased academic engaged time, (5) positive, multi-age social interactions, and (6) high parental involvement (Haury and Milbourne, 1999).

Choosing Homeschooling Teaching Strategies

Many parents gradually grow into a teaching strategy (or strategies). They are open to modifying their strategy as they, their individual children, and their family change over the years. The following guidelines can help parents identify which strategy is likely to work well for them.

Parents should consider:

1.        Reflecting upon and articulating a personal philosophy of education. They can do this by (a) reading about the philosophy of education, homeschooling, and their personal worldview, (b) talking with close friends and family members about education, (c) considering their own educational experiences, and (d) writing down their key educational beliefs.

2.        Joining a local homeschool support group that supports their philosophy of education and includes experienced homeschoolers.

3.        Subscribing to a local homeschool newsletter and at least two homeschool magazines that are supportive of their basic philosophy to learn how other families practice home-based education.

4.        Examining their personal preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and interests with respect to their complementary roles as communicator, parent, teacher, and learner.

5.        Thinking about their children individually and as a group with respect to their personal preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and interests in their roles as communicators, children, learners, and students of subject matter.

6.        Seeking outside help (e.g., National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network, face="VERDANA, HELVETICA, ARIAL" size="2">) if they have children with an unusual need (e.g., learning disability, giftedness, special interest).

Parents should then move ahead with confidence in their best judgment. As they teach and guide their children, they will have ample opportunity and time to observe and evaluate their children’s  learning, attitudes, and progress (i.e., academic, social, emotional, and spiritual). Teaching strategies can be modified based on what seems to work best for their individual families.

References identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in microfiche collections at more than 900 locations.  Documents can also be ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.

Blumenfeld, Samuel L. (1986). How to Tutor (2nd ed.). Boise, ID: The Paradigm Co.

Cohen, Peter A., Kulik, James A., & Kulik, Chen-Lin. (1982, Summer). Educational outcomes of tutoring: A meta-analysis of findings. American Educational Research Journal, 19(2), 237-248.

Eggen, Paul D., & Kauchak, Donald P. (1988). Strategies for teachers: Teaching content and thinking skills (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Fager, Jennifer. (1996). Tutoring: Strategies for successful learning. ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED431840.

Haury, David L., & Milbourne, Linda A. (1999). Helping your child with science. ERIC Digest. ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED432447. Retrieved 8/11/00 online

Holt Associates. (2000, June 15). Personal communication. See:

Joyce, Bruce, & Weil, Marsha. (1986). Models of Teaching (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Joyce, Bruce, & Weil, Marsha. (1986). Models of Teaching (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Large, Tim. (2000, September 2). Stay-at-home kids shunning the system. The Daily Yomiuri, p. 7. Retrieved 11/22/00 online

Lines, Patricia M. (1998, Spring). Homeschoolers: Estimating numbers and growth. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment.

McDowell, Susan A., & Ray, Brian D. (Eds.). (2000). The home education movement in context, practice, and theory [Special issue]. Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2).

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8: NAEYC position statement. Washington, DC: Author. (Retrieved 8/11/00 online

Ray, Brian D. (1999). Homeschooling on the threshold: A survey of research at the dawn of the new millennium. National Home Education Research Institute Publications, PO Box 13939, Salem OR 97309, online

Ray, Brian D. (2000a). Home education research fact sheet IIe. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute.

Ray, Brian D. (2000b). Homeschooling: The ameliorator of negative influences on learning? Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2), 71-106.

Slavin, Robert E. (1991). Educational psychology: Theory into practice (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

The Teaching Home. (2000). What methods do homeschoolers use? Retrieved 8/17/00 online, What educational materials are available?, or start at; see also, The Teaching Home, 1998, March/April, Choosing curriculum: Special section, pp. 41-53. (The Teaching Home, POB 20219, Portland OR 97294).

Thomas, Alan. (1998). Educating children at home. London, England (and New York, NY): Cassell.

Tizard, Barbara, & Hughes, Martin. (1984). Young children learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.,  National Home Education Research Institute (Author)

ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education, Digest EDO-SP-2000-6.

Convincing a Kid

posted May 7, 2009, 10:23 AM by Michelle Kretzschmar

Convincing a Kid
By Eileen Mynes

During summer school in San Antonio, certain schools open their cafeterias to any child seeking food. School lunches are given at no charge, so I took my 6 year old to the local elementary. She had been expressing a desire to go to "real" school where she just knew that the children had more fun.

Emily demanded that she navigate the line just like all the other 1st graders, so I sat back and smiled while other adults showed her what to do. As my "wild child", (ADHD), she could use some additional evidence that rules applied to everyone and did serve a purpose. When she finished the line, she skipped to our table, and started giggling and pretending that her food could talk.

Suddenly, a harried teacher stood near us and spoke sternly in a loud voice, "EMILY! Quit playing around and get back in line!"

Emily froze, mortified. She resembled Bud Abbot in one of his monster movies from the 30s and 40s. She dropped her carrot stick onto her plate. With huge eyes and slack mouth she slowly turned to the teacher -- who ignored her, because she was actually dealing with one of her own charges. My older daughter and I struggled to retain our composure.

With adult like seriousness and dramatic gesticulations, she now explains to one and all how homeschool is best for children.

No Thank You, We Don't Believe in Socialization

posted May 5, 2009, 6:16 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar

No Thank You, We Don't Believe in Socialization
By Lisa Russel
©2000 Lisa Russell
Used with Permission

I can't believe I am writing an article about socialization, the word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we're homeschooling, our kids won't be "socialized." The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning.

The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader. Having been a "reader" for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I've never known two 6 yr. olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because "We are not here to socialize, young ladies."

Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I've ever had. If we're not there to socialize, then why were we there? I learned to read at home. If I finished my work early (which I always did,) could I have gone home? If I were already familiar with the subject matter, would I have been excused from class that day? If schools weren't made for socializing, then why on earth would anyone assume that homeschoolers were missing out?

As a society full of people whose childhood’s were spent waiting anxiously for recess time, and trying desperately to "socialize" with the kids in class; It is often difficult for people to have an image of a child whose social life is NOT based on school buddies. Do you ever remember sitting in class, and wanting desperately to speak to your friend? It's kind of hard to concentrate on the lessons when you're bouncing around trying not to talk. Have you ever had a teacher who rearranged the seats every now and then, to prevent talking, splitting up friends and "talking corners." Were you ever caught passing notes in class?

Now--flash forward to "real life." Imagine the following scenes:

Your employer is auditing the Inter-Office Email system and comes across a personal note between you and a coworker. You are required to stand at the podium in the next sales meeting to read it aloud to your coworkers. The Police knock on your door, and announce that because you and your neighbor have gotten so close, they're separating you. You must move your home and your belongings to the other side of town, and you may only meet at public places on weekends.

You're sitting at a booth waiting for a coworker to arrive for a scheduled lunch date. Suddenly a member of upper management sits down across from you and demands your credit cards. When your friend arrives, you just order water and claim you're not hungry, since he stole your lunch money.

You're applying for a job and in an unconventional hiring practice, you are made to line up with other applicants, and wait patiently while representatives from two competing companies take their pick from the lineup.

You're taking your parents out for an anniversary dinner. After you find a table, a waiter tells you that seniors have a separate dining room, lest they "corrupt" the younger members of society.

You go to the grocery store only to find that since you are 32 years old you must shop at the store for 32 year olds. It's 8 miles away and they don't sell meat because the manager is a vegetarian, but your birthday is coming up and soon you'll be able to shop at the store for 33 yr. olds.

You'd like to learn about Aviation History. You go to the library and check out a book on the subject only to be given a list of "other subjects" that you must read about before you are permitted to check out the aviation book.

You're having a hard time finding what you need in the local department store. The saleslady explains that each item is arranged alphabetically in the store, so instead of having a section for shoes, you will find the men's shoes in between the maternity clothes and the mirrors.

Your Cable Company announces that anyone wishing to watch the Superbowl this year must log on a certain number of hours watching the Discovery Channel before they can be permitted to watch the game.

You apply for a job only to be told that this job is for 29 year olds. Since you're 32, you'll have to stay with your level.

In a group project, your boss decides to pair you up with the person you don't "click" with. His hope is that you'll get learn to get along with each other, regardless of how the project turns out.

These absurd examples were created to point out how absolutely ridiculous the idea of "socializing" in schools is. Many people had a friend who they stayed friends with all through grammar school-WHY? Because their names were alphabetically similar, and they always ended up in line with each other. As an adult, have you ever made friends with someone simply because your names were similar? How long would such a friendship last and how meaningful would it be, providing you had nothing else in common?

People often use the bully as an example of why it's so important to let kids "socialize" at school. If that's so important, then the bully needs to go to JAIL after a few months, because self-respecting society simply doesn't put up with that, nor should my 6 yr. old. Sure, there are crappy people in the world, but the world does a much better job of taking care of these things. A bullying brat in the first grade will still be a bullying brat in the 6th grade. He will still be picking on the same kids year after year after year, unless he moves to a new town. How long would the average adult put up with a bully? Personally, as an adult, I have only come across one grown up bully. I choose not to be around this miserable woman. So do many other people. THAT is real life. If she were a coworker, I would find a different job. If she worked at a business I patronized- not only would I refrain from doing business with that company, I would write a letter to the bully, her manager, the owner and the main office. A kid in a classroom has no way to emotionally protect themselves against such a person. I would never expect my kids to put up with bad treatment from a bully in the name of "toughening them up." For what? So they can be submissive wimps when they grow up too? So they can "ignore" their miserable bosses and abusive spouses? In real life, if an employer discovered that an employee was harassing the other staff members, that employee could be fired (pending the 90 day evaluation) or relocated. In real life, if you are so dreadfully harassed by a coworker you can seek legal recourse independently. In a classroom, the teacher and other children are often powerless.

The idea of learning acceptable social skills in a school is as absurd to me as learning nutrition from a grocery store.

As Homeschoolers, the world is our classroom. We interact with people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. We talk to and learn from everyone who strikes our interest. We use good manners in our home and I'm always pleased when others comment on the manners my children have picked up. I believe good manners to be an important social skill.

Respecting common areas is also of value to us. We often carry a grocery bag with us on walks, in case we find trash that needs to be discarded. When we're waiting at a bus stop, if there is trash on the ground, we make a point to carry it onto the bus and discard of it properly. Once, while waiting at a bus stop-we saw a grown man drop his popsicle wrapper on the ground. He was 2 feet from a trash can-my daughter looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers. I told her (out loud) "It must have blown out of his and from that little wind, because no-one would throw trash on the ground on purpose. I'm sure when he's done with his popsicle, he will pick it up and throw it away correctly- otherwise, we can take care of it so we don't have an ugly world." He did pick it up, rather sheepishly. I can't imagine expecting my children to have a respect for the cleanliness of common areas in an environment where bathroom walls are covered in graffiti and trees are scratched with symbols of "love" of all things.

Another social skill we strive to teach our children is that all people are created equal. I can't imagine doing that in an environment where physically disadvantaged children are segregated into a "special" classroom. Or even children who speak a different language at home. They are segregated and forced to learn English, while never acknowledging the unique culture they were raised in, and not enabling the other students to learn FROM them. Learning, in school, comes from the books and teachers. We will learn Spanish from a BOOK, not from a Spanish-speaking student; and not until 7th grade.

I have never felt it would be beneficial to stick my 6-yr. old in a room full of other 6-yr. olds. I believe God created a world full of people of all ages and sexes to insure that the younger ones and older ones learn from each other. A few years ago, we were living thousands of miles from any older family members, so I brought my kids (then 5 and 2) to an assisted living facility, so they could interact with the elderly. Staff members told us that many of the older people would wake up every day and ask if we would be visiting soon. We always went on Wednesdays. My daughters learned some old show tunes while one of the men played piano, and the others would sing along. If I didn't have to chase my 2-yr. old around, I would have had plenty of women ready to share the art of crocheting with me (something I've always wanted to learn.) If a friend was too sick to come out of their room during our visit, we would often spend a few minutes in their room. I always let them give the kids whatever cookies they had baked for them, and I ended up cleaning a few of the apartments while we visited, simply because I would have done the same for my own Grandmother. Every room had pictures from my kids posted on their refrigerators. We called this "Visiting the Grandmas and Grandpas" and my daughters both (almost 2 years later) have fond memories of our visits. I'm sure that if we were still visiting there, my unborn child would have a thousand handmade blankets and booties to keep him warm all winter.

I don't remember any such experiences in my entire School life, although I do remember being a bit afraid of old people if they were too wrinkly or weak looking. I never really knew anyone over 60. I never sped down the hall on someone's wheelchair lap, squealing as we popped wheelies and screeched around corners. I never got to hear stories about what life was like before indoor plumbing and electricity, from the point of view of a woman with Alzheimer’s, who might believe she was still 5 years old, talking with my daughter as if she were a friend. I never got to help a 90 yr. old woman keep her arm steady while she painted a picture. And I never watched a room full of "grandma's" waiting for me by the window, because we were 15 minutes late.

On a recent visit to an Art allery, we noticed a man walking back and forth, carrying framed artwork from is old pickup truck. I asked my 6 yr. old if she thought he might be the artist. We both agreed that was a possibility, and after a little pep-talk to overcome her stage fright, she approached him and asked. He was the artist, and he was bringing in his work to be evaluated by the curator. We all sat down and he explained some of his techniques and listened to her opinions about which piece she liked best. He told about how he enjoyed art when he was 6 and would "sell" pictures to family and friends. He recounted how he felt while creating a few of the pieces, and how each one has special meaning to him. He even let her know how nervous he was to show them to the curator and how he hoped she found them as interesting as we did. As he was called into the office, a group of thirty-four 3rd graders filed past, ever so quietly, while their teacher explained each piece on the walls. The children were so quiet and well behaved. They didn't seem to mind moving on from one picture to the next (The problem with homeschoolers is they tend to linger on things they enjoy). They didn't seem to have any questions or comments (Maybe they'll discuss that later in class). And they never got a chance to meet the gentleman in the pickup truck.

I hope my kids aren't missing out on any "socialization."

©2000 Lisa Russell
Used with Permission Lisa Russell; A Gen X homeschooling mom, writer, wife, daydreamer, U.S. traveler, hiker, poet, artist, web designer, and whatever else suits the moment. Lisa Russell can be contacted at: or:

Homeschooling Children with Down Syndrome

posted May 5, 2009, 6:13 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar

Homeschooling Children With Down Syndrome

by Amy Dunaway

I must preface this piece to let you know that I am not an expert in homeschooling, special education, or Down syndrome. I am only an expert on my own children, with and without a diagnosis or label. I am with them 24 hours a day. I am THE expert in their needs. I know them better than any professional. I am passionate about having their needs met in the best manner available. No professional can match the commitment that I have to my children. I want them to be the best that they can be. I have compiled these resources over the years seeking ways to better prepare my children for life as adults. This is what has worked for me. I hope that you will find something here that is useful for you and your homeschool. For those of you searching for the best ways to meet your child's educational needs, I hope you find useful information here to consider as you make your decision. Homeschooling is an option for thoughtful consideration, but not necessarily the best option for all families. The family unit as a whole must be considered when making a decision of such magnitude. It is my hope that all of our decisions will be met with respect regardless of the educational option we choose.

The benefits for the home educated child with special needs are numerous.

   1. They receive the one-on-one teaching that will enable them to grow academically. This cannot be matched in the public school setting.
   2. The program designed for them by the person who knows their needs intimately. Your home program will best suit their individual needs. You can create a balanced program that does not sacrifice academic skills for life skills.
   3. The child can learn at his/her own pace to allow their needs to be met properly. Concepts can be taught with the repetition necessary for mastery using a wide variety of materials ensuring success appropriate to the child's needs and developmental age.
   4. Your child will have the opportunity for successful learning experiences that will motivate them to develop persistence in learning difficult concepts.
   5. The child learns academic and functional life skills in the best of all venues-real life. My daughter learns quickly when the concepts are meaningful to her life. Fractions are "important" when it comes time to share her beloved pizza.
   6. The child with special needs can learn where they are safe from peer ridicule. Children with Down syndrome often make unintentional mistakes because of processing difficulties. Your child can make mistakes where it is safe to do so-their own home.
   7. You can pick and choose whom your child socializes with. Homeschooled children are not limited to socializing with only their peers. Homeschooled children tend to socialize with children and adults of all ages for a wide variety of experiences. Homeschooled children are less affected by peer pressure.
   8. Character development and behavior issues can be dealt with by providing an environment where limits and consequences are consistently enforced. Many children with Down syndrome lack the inner self-talk of their "typical" peers and need to learn to make proper choices. Homeschooling can offer atmosphere where the choices and consequences are articulated as necessary to make the best choice available and wrong choices can be discussed and dealt with consistently.
   9. The spiritual needs of children with Down syndrome can be met best in our own homes where they will be exposed to the love and word of God. In a world where our children with Down syndrome are seen as "disposable" and somehow less worthy, they need to know that God has a plan for them and loves them unconditionally. God does not make mistakes! "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14, NIV.
  10. The health benefits are tremendous. Children exposed to Early Intervention in group settings and the public school system are constantly exposed to every viral/bacterial illness present in the community. Homeschooled children with special needs can avoid many of these common illnesses which are always present until they are older and better able to tolerate them. There is plenty of time in our children's lives to build immunity. Though primarily a nuisance to typically developing children without Down Syndrome, these common bacterial/viral illnesses are a major concern for our children with Down syndrome. Children with Down syndrome are susceptible to frequent upper respiratory infections with recurrent otitis media (ear infections) due to structural abnormalities which can undermine speech and language production. These frequent upper respiratory infections are not conducive to a productive learning environment. Even minor illnesses affect our children's ability to learn and process information.

As you begin this journey into the world of homeschooling children with special needs, I encourage you to educate yourself in several areas. Educate yourselves on the different educational philosophies, teaching methods and learning styles. There are many good books available to introduce these areas. They are available in most of the homeschool catalogs and the public libraries.
A few general homeschooling titles include:

The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias
    Discusses learning styles.
How to Home School: A Practical Approach by Gayle Graham
    Discusses planning for success, knowing children's learning styles and needs.
The How and Why of Homeschooling by Ray E Ballmann
    Answers common questions, helps you make knowledgeable decisions when choosing curriculum and practical teaching guidelines, offers support group information and much more.
The Big Book of Home Learning by Mary Pride
    Discusses products, catalogs, organization, philosophy and methods available to home educators today. Her titles include:
    Volume 1, Getting Started
    Volume 2, Preschool and Elementary and
    Volume 3, Teen and College.

These books all introduce you to the world of homeschooling.
See your local homeschooling support group's introductory package for further recommendations.

Educate yourself about Down syndrome. Children with Down syndrome have much in common with the typically developing child. Children with Down syndrome progress through all areas of development though generally at a slower rate. Research has shown that children with Down syndrome have a unique learning profile requiring strategies to support learning.

Educate yourself about IEP (Individualized Education Plan) development. IEP's are not required outside of the realm of the public school system. The IEP is a wonderful tool, especially if your child's skills are scattered at different levels of development. The curriculum for a child with special needs is determined by the child and is displayed in the IEP. An IEP is a personalized roadmap. It is what will lead you to where you want to go.
A good IEP will lend credibility to your home program if you follow the pattern set up by the public schools if your program ever comes into question by school officials.

Purchase a developmental scale. The Brigance is a diagnostic inventory of skills. Many families with a child with special needs can use this diagnostic inventory to test and keep track of skills for their child. The inventory does not compare your child to other children like the achievement tests do. The Brigance gives performance objectives that help you to design an IEP for the following year using the results from your testing. It does not require a special tester. Brigance has developmental scales for all ages. It can be found at Curriculum Associates, 1.800.225.0248 (for catalog) or:

Another good developmental scale is one developed by VORT. They publish the HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile) Series. It has Assessment Stands (an inventory) and activities for learning for early education & elementary school ages.
VORT has developed a Behavioral Characteristics Profile or BCP for special education professionals. The BCP is a curriculum-based assessment & planning guide. I purchased the BCP Activity Guide and the BCP Assessment Record booklet. I use them a great deal for planning and breaking skills down for teaching. VORT can be reached at:

    VORT Corporation
    PO Box 60132
    Palo Alto, CA 94306
    Ph. 650.322.8282

Sample pages of their publications are available on their website.

The developmental inventory will tell you where your child's skill level is within selected areas (fine motor skills, gross motor skills, self-help skills, academic, etc.) along the developmental scale. This will allow you to set individual long-term goals for your child. Have expectations that are reasonable. Work near your child's success range to prevent frustration while allowing success in learning.

Create short-term objectives to meet these long-term goals. Seek measurable ways to display and keep track of short-term goals for record keeping. Children with Down syndrome do not learn as much incidentally as their typically developing peers. They will need more direct teaching which requires planning and structure to prevent gaps in learning. Most of what children with Down syndrome know someone has directly taught to him or her. In the development of an IEP you will break down skills into small steps that are easily taught sequentially.

Develop evaluations or a task analysis for these skills to keep track of progress. A task analysis breaks down skills into steps that are easily taught. Each step should be mastered before teaching the next step. Sometimes progress seems slow when educating a child with special needs. They often grow in one area and in favor of another. As I update my skills evaluation forms each month, I am easily able to track the progress we are making. I have something tangible to show for my child's progress. This is how we demonstrate what my child has learned over the course of specified time.

Decide what methods and materials you will use. Purchase curriculum with your goals and your child's strengths in mind. You will find no curriculum specifically targeting children with Down syndrome though Bob Jones University Press offers pilot programs for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten math and language. They have adapted their curriculum for children with Down syndrome and other challenged learners.

Many curriculums can be modified to meet your child's needs. Included in this package is a sample of modifications made in the public school system for special education students. I think there is some valuable information present for modifying curriculum for our home educated students. Joyce Herzog, author of Choosing and Using Curriculum For Your Special Child, has a long list of curriculum modifications (and much more) in her book.

You may find more information about modifications to curriculum in the archives (February 1999) of the Down-Syn Listserve at:

The Down Syndrome Listserve Archives (for general online Down syndrome support) can be found at:

LD Online has a web page with examples of accommodations/modifications that can be utilized by the home educator:
LD Online publishes a free monthly electronic newsletter that often has information pertinent to educating children with Down syndrome. Subscriptions are available at their site.

I have found the Down Syndrome Educational Trust of Great Britain to be an invaluable resource for materials regarding educating children with Down syndrome. They have a wonderful online library that can be accessed after a simple registration process at:
They also have a series available for purchase called Down Syndrome Issues and Information that includes much specific information regarding meeting the educational needs of children with Down syndrome. They also offer software, teaching materials, books, journals, periodicals, and games. For a catalog access their website or reach them at:

    The Down Syndrome Educational Trust
    The Sarah Duffen Centre
    Belmont Street
    Southsea, Hampshire
    England PO5 1NA
    Phone: +44 (0)23 9285 5330
    Fax: +44 (0)23 9285 5320

Another resource that I have found to greatly benefit our homeschool is a book called Effective Teaching Strategies for Successful Inclusion, A Focus on Down Syndrome. It is published by the PREP Program in Calgary, Canada. This book describes the obstacles to learning for children with Down syndrome and offers specific teaching tips to help overcome those obstacles. It is available from The PREP Program. See the resource guide for more specific information.

It is generally felt that children with Down syndrome learn best using a hands on approach with activities that are meaningful to our children-especially in the early years. My daughter is visually oriented as are many children with Down syndrome. She is learning to read rapidly using the sight word method and phonics described in the book Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein.

One method that has been extremely important for successful learning experiences in our home and used by many in the field of educating children with Down syndrome is errorless learning. It is defined as teaching new tasks by guiding the child through each step correctly, not allowing them to fail. As your child becomes more capable, the prompt or cue can be reduced until it is not needed. One of the keys to errorless learning is errorless teaching. Errorless teaching uses the same language with each lesson and repeating the process several times (as long as it takes) following the same steps, in the same order, using the same words. Hopefully, this method will develop a strong base for higher levels of learning such as problem solving with a trial and error approach.

Most curriculums will have to be adapted to allow successful experiences. Using repetition with expansion and reinforcement of previously learned skills is recommended. Use as many channels of input as possible-visual and auditory, with hands-on materials while making the best of opportunities available throughout the day to put learned concepts into practical use...all keeping a positive attitude! Research has shown that because of short-term auditory memory deficits, language supported by visual (ie. pictures or words) and/or symbolic movements (ie. sign language) will help our children learn and remember. I use a wide variety of curriculum to vary presentation and keep motivation high.

Memory training is important to our children with Down syndrome. As our children enter the formal school years the deficits become more pronounced. Start visual and auditory memory training early in the preschool years to enhance the learning process. The Down Syndrome Educational Trust has some excellent memory training exercises available in their Down Syndrome Issues and Information Series. They also have a book available online, Memory Training for Children with Down Syndrome, which discusses memory difficulties, strategies, and skills.

Much has been written about learning styles. I believe they are most easily understood by breaking the learning styles into three groups: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

The visual learner needs to see something to best understand it. They often roll their eyes to the side as they are being talked because they are trying to picture it in their mind. They like to write things down and need quiet in order to concentrate. Visual learners often learn to read easily.

Auditory learners need to hear something to learn it best and like a lot of auditory input. They like to tell you things sequentially in complete detail. They love to talk!

Kinesthetic learners need to touch in order to learn. They learn best by doing and interacting with the item. They often need to reduce visual and auditory input and work alone with "hands on" items.

Some homeschoolers choose to use educational consultants to help them design their home program. Members of NATHHAN and HSLDA may find some assistance in locating educational consultants by inquiring at those organizations.

The neurodevelopmental approach is used by some homeschooling families with children with Down syndrome. The neurodevelopmental approach develops very specific home programs for infants, children, and adults. The program is designed to specifically address inefficiencies in neurological development, visual and auditory perception, tactile sensitivity and perception, mobility, manual function, speech and language, social development, behavior, and academics. Program activities are designed to influence dominance, increase processing, encourage development, and teach academics. I do not have a lot of knowledge regarding this approach. I have seen amazing results in the area of early literacy.

I believe that record keeping is very important. I create an IEP yearly. I update my IEP evaluation forms monthly. I keep meticulous records on our word processor of daily activities. I print out all of these forms and place them in a three-ring binder so that they are readily accessible.

Seek support. Contact your local homeschooling support group for others homeschooling children with special learning needs. NATHHAN (NATional cHallenged Homeschoolers Associated Network) is a Christian, non-profit organization dedicated to providing encouragement to families with children with special needs that are homeschooling. They publish an online or hard copy quarterly newsletter. They also publish a family directory, updated each year. They have a large lending library by operated by mail. NATHHAN'S mailing address is:
P.O. Box 39
Porthill, ID 83853
or on the web:

New York has a group for parents homeschooling children with special needs. PICC, Parents Instructing Challenged Children.
Barb Mulvey is the director and they put out a quarterly newsletter, either email or hard copy. PICC also has a lending library and a packet of information pertaining to homeschooling kids with special needs in New York State. Membership is not limited to NY.

Pennsylvania has an organization supporting homeschoolers of children with special needs. H.A.N.D.S ON!, The Homeschooling Advocacy Network for Differently abled and Specifically Challenged Children.

Educate yourself on homeschooling and the law. Homeschools are considered private schools in the state of Illinois. As I began homeschooling I researched the Individuals With Disabilities Act. A website for that information is:

Visit the State of Illinois Department of Education on the web at:
or their mailing address is:
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777
Ph. 217.782.4321

These web sites discuss special education and the law:

We should all be aware of the needs and rights of children with disabilities. Our children can receive therapeutic services from the local school district in the state of Illinois. This includes speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiologists' and social workers' services.

For more information on your child's right to services please see: I think it is important to be aware of the information contained within this act as it may be relevant to our homeschools.

I have purchased several books from Woodbine House (1.800.843.7323) that have been helpful in setting up my education plan that speak directly to the special needs of children with Down syndrome. These books also take much of the mystery out of services provided by occupational therapists, speech therapists, & physical therapists. The titles include:
Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein
Communication Skills in Children With Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin, Ph.D.
Classroom Language Skills for Children with Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin, Ph.D.
Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome by Patricia C. Winders, PT
Fine Motor Skills in Children With Down Syndrome by Maryanne Bruni, BSc, OT

I decide which services I wish for my child to receive and search for a therapist in the private sector. With some effort, I have found therapists willing to work with us using a home program with annual or biannual visits-or more if needed. Professionals are wonderful resources! I would encourage you to search for professionals that are homeschool friendly. HSLDA or NATHHAN may be able to help you find such a professional. In our case, it was a matter of interviewing professionals by phone to find one who agreed with our philosophy and was willing to work with us.

Homeschool Legal Defense Association has information regarding the laws in each state. It is recommended that people homeschooling children with special needs join this group. HSLDA is an advocacy organization, established to advance home school and family. freedoms. The annual membership fee is $100.00 (discounted if you belong to NATHHAN or most local support groups). Each member receives legal protection for his own family if needed. Founded in 1983, HSLDA is operated by Christian attorneys who teach their children at home. For a free brochure and application form write to:

    PO Box 3000
    Purcellville, VA 20134

There are at least two other legal defense organizations available. They are The Pacific Justice Institute ( and the Rutherford Institute ( They primarily defend civil liberties. Your best defense against intrusion by state officials into your homeschool is to be aware of and follow the laws and to keep good records.

As you research homeschooling your child with special needs you will discover many areas of controversy within any given subject. That is why I urge you educate yourselves as best you can so that you can make informed decisions about fulfilling the needs of your children. My way is not the only way. I only offer it to you in hopes that it might be of some use to you. There is much published material for you to research.

I feel I must address an issue that may be of concern to you in making this decision and will likely be a concern of others. The first question I am asked by others after finding out our unconventional educational choice is "What about socialization?" First, let's define the term. Socialization is the process by which the norms and standards of our society are passed from one generation to the next. Socialization is probably best achieved in your own home where the standards are generally higher than those in the classroom. Socializing is the gathering for communal activities where friendships are formed. Socializing is generally the concern of the well-meaning folks and for some new homeschoolers. I must tell you that the opportunities for socializing are endless and not a problem. From the activities of the homeschool support groups to the usual Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, AWANAS, Sunday school, park district programs, church activities etc. you will never run out of social activities. I have found all of the above open and inclusive to children with special needs. The only problem is, more often than not, there are TOO many social activities for us to keep up with. Home educated children are well known for their ability to socialize with people of all ages.

If you are new to the homeschooling world, this may all seem overwhelming and unattainable. This is absolutely not the case. Record keeping may seem formidable to some. I have seen records ranging from very detailed to boxes filled in with pencil listing the day's activities. It doesn't have to be complicated. It needs to be useful and pertinent to your homeschool.

Homeschooling our children with Down syndrome successfully is a process dependent upon our educating ourselves to find the best ways to meet the needs of our children. As I move forward on this homeschooling adventure, I am always learning something new that improves what I do in my homeschool. My own "education" has resulted in tremendous personal growth and added great dimension to my children's education. It has been a wonderful journey benefiting everyone! Homeschooling a child with special needs is challenging at times but extremely rewarding. Teaching academics and life skills in the home will give your children a rich educational experience with individualized attention needed to meet their needs. Homeschooling is an exciting option available to parents of children with Down syndrome. Others have traveled this road before us and blazed an exciting trail that is ever widening as others join in on this wonderful journey. You will not be alone!

IEP Adaptation Checklist

Modify Format by changing the following:
Changing essays to multiple choice
Reduce multiple choice to _____ choices
No True or False
No Essay
Provide a word bank (very important one for gen ed classes by the way)
Matching in groups of five
Fill-ins in groups of five
Accept short answers
Open book or open notes
Other: _____________

Allow students to record or dictate answers
Reduce spelling list for spelling tests
Do not penalize spelling errors, except on spelling list tests
Extend time frame or shorten length of test
No scantron answer sheets
Read test to student
Provide study guide prior to test
Type written tests
Test over smaller units of test material
Key directions are to be highlighted
Take test in alternative site
Allowed to use calculator

Uncluttered worksheets
Give directions in writing and verbally
Write assignments on the board
Do not penalize for spelling errors, except on spelling test assignments
Show samples as models, visual models
Reduce assignment
Read written work to student
Allow student to word process assignment
Provide alternate assignment/strategy when demands of class conflict with student capabilities
Avoid penalizing for poor penmanship
Allow to use manuscript
Allow parental assistance with homework
Communicate homework expectations with parents
Check for student's lesson comprehension
Shorten tasks to accomplish longer tasks

Teach to the student's learning style:_____________________________
Read text aloud
Small group instruction
Provide an accurate copy of notes or key points written on the board or overhead
Model lesson being taught
Utilize manipulatives
Highlight critical information
Pre-teach the vocabulary
Do not call on to read aloud in class
Check students lesson comprehension
Study guides
Study buddy

Use pass/fail
Use a modified scale
Credit for partial completion
Consider effort in assigning grade
Credit for participation
Copy of midterms to Special Ed teacher
Copy of all midterms to parents
Teacher will notify special ed. teacher when grades drop below C-

Taped textbooks or other class material
Highlighted textbooks
Special equipment: calculator, computer, word processor/spell checker
Large print books
Two sets of books
Assignment sheet or planner
Behavior monitor sheet
High interest: low vocabulary readers

Avoid timed activities
Preferential seating
Cues for staying on task
Provide a quiet place to work
Opportunity for physical movement
Seat next to a good role model
Daily check-in time with special ed teacher

This is a sample of an IEP adaptation checklist taken from a public school system.

My Child

    My child has some special needs,
    but that is part of God's design.
    I just need to remember
    that God's will is best, not mine.
    My child is not a burden,
    he's a blessing from above.
    Sometimes we face a struggle,
    but our lives are filled with love.
    Put Jesus at the center,
    and forget your selfish ways.
    The Lord will surely bless you,
    and help you through your days.

    Beth Lohse

I Never Told My Son He Couldn't Dance

    I never told my son he couldn't dance.
    I never thought he didn't have a chance.

    I never told my son he might not read.
    I only sought to plant the seed.

    I never showed my son a star.
    That, I felt, was way too far.

    I never taught my son to fly,
    But I gave him wings with which to try.

    I never questioned God's intent.
    I only hoped my time well spent.

    We never know what life will bring.
    I only know that I must sing.

    I never told my son he couldn't dance.
    That is why he had a chance.

    Kathie Harrington, M.A. C.C.C. SLP
    (mom of autistic son)

Resources for Home Educators Of Children with Down Syndrome
Woodbine House
    6510 Bells Mill Road
    Bethesda, MD 20817
    Their website is
    They have a variety of books dealing specifically with DS.
    A few examples are: Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome, by Patricia Oelwein and Communication Skills in Children with Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin. Other titles from Woodbine House:

    Classroom Language Skills for Children with Down Syndrome
        Libby Kumin
    Fine Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome
        Maryanne Bruni, BSc OT
    Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome
        Patricia C. Winders, PT
    Medical & Surgical Care for Children with Down Syndrome

    The books from Woodbine House are wonderful for setting goals and IEP's.
Love and Learning
    Joe and Sue Kotlinski
    PO Box 4088
    Dearborn, MI 48126-4088
    Parents of a child with DS have developed a teaching technique, which enabled their daughter to read over 1000 words by age 4. This method utilizes videos, audiotapes, and books to help develop language, reading, and comprehension skills. They also now offer a computer program called "ABC, Words and More." This program offers the same beneficial characteristics as the tapes and books plus it is personalized to display your child's name, address, & phone number. It tells the current day of the week, what day was yesterday and what day tomorrow is. It includes word/picture matching games and much more.

The Down Syndrome Educational Trust

    A charitable organization based in the United Kingdom that works to advance the development and education of individuals with DS. They publish two periodicals:

        * Down Syndrome Research and Practice
        * Down Syndrome News and Update

    They publish academic papers online that are accessible after a simple registration process.
    Three books are available online at

        * The Development of Language and Reading Skills in Children with Down Syndrome
        * Meeting the Educational Needs of Children with Down Syndrome
        * Memory Training for Children with Down Syndrome

    They also publish a series of books, Down Syndrome Issues and Information discussing many developmental and educational issues.
    Their library is accessible for a fee.
    DownsEd also publishes a catalog of their books, teaching materials & games, computer software, videos, and journals & periodicals.
    The Down Syndrome Educational Trust now has discussion list/chat capabilities.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
    A newsletter published quarterly. The articles are designed to encourage as well as equip home educators to teach their children with special needs. In addition to articles written by Learning Handicaps Specialist Sharon Hensley, the TCIO includes articles from individual specialists and authors, as well as helpful resources. Cost: $12.00

    AVCS Books
        P.O. Box 4110,
        San Jose, CA 95160-1100

    *This newsletter has been discontinued but Sharon Hensley can be reached at:
    This site has a bookstore with resources & books for teaching children with special needs. Old issues of her newsletter are available for sale.
National Association for Child Development, Inc.
    NACD uses the neurodevelopmental approach and develops very specific home programs for infants, children, and adults. The neurodevelopmental approach utilizes a neurologically based targeted eclectic treatment methodology.

The following books are available online at:

    * The Development of Language and Reading Skills in Children With Down Syndrome by Susan Buckley, Portsmith Polytechnic, 1986
    * Meeting the Educational Needs of Children with Down Syndrome by Susan Buckley
    * Memory Training for Children with Down Syndrome by Sue Buckley, John MacDonald, Glynis Laws, & Irene Broadley

I printed out the above books for easier reading.

When Slow Is Fast Enough, Educating The Preschool Child by Joan F. Goodman
Ms. Goodman questions what we are accomplishing in Early Intervention programs, suggesting that in pressuring children with special needs to perform more, sooner, we undermine their capacity for independent development and deprive them of the freedom we insist upon for the non-delayed.

Homeschooling Children With Special Needs by Sharon Hensley
Written by a homeschooling mom of three, one with autism. She has a Master's Degree in Special Education and has worked with a variety of special needs. This book is divided into 3 sections: Getting the Facts (defining special needs,) Tackling the Issues (stages of grief, siblings,) & Planning Your Program (resources.)
Available from or AVCS Books, PO Box 4110, San Jose, CA, 95160-1100.

The New Language of Toys, Teaching Communication Skills to Children With Special Needs by Sue Schwartz Ph.D. and Joan E Heller Miller, Ed.M
Available from Woodbine House. Activities using toys to stimulate language development in children with special needs from birth to age six.

NATHHAN Resource Guide
A compilation of resources for families choosing to home educate their children with special needs, available from NATHHAN

Choosing and Using Curriculum for your Special Needs Child by Joyce Herzog
An introduction to the basic factors to consider in selecting material for a child with special needs.

Learning In Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog
Practical Teaching Tips and a Christian Perspective of Education. Joyce has been teaching children with special needs for 25 years. She has a Master's Degree in Learning Disabilities and a Ph.D. in Humane Letters. She is the author of The Scaredy Cat Ready System. She is now consulting and speaking about teaching children with special needs for homeschoolers.
Her website is

Communication Skills In Children With Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin
Available from Woodbine House

Teaching the Infant with Down Syndrome by M. Hanson
Written by a parent, includes chapters on "Breaking Behavior into Small Steps" & "Beyond Infancy," It includes systematic steps, goals and activities to promote walking independently, jumping, kicking a ball, running, eating independently, receptive/expressive language development, etc.

Strategies for Struggling Learners: A Guide for the Teaching Parent by Joe Sutton, Ph.D
Dr. Sutton is a certified educational diagnostician and president of Exceptional Diagnostics, a testing and consulting firm serving students with learning, attention and behavior difficulties. Dr. Sutton is also the author of Special Education: A Biblical Approach. His website is:

Effective Teaching Strategies For Successful Inclusion. A Focus on Down Syndrome. A Resource Guide for Educators and Parents
Published by PREP Program, Calgary, Canada
The PREP Program is a Calgary based school and resource center for children with Down syndrome. Don't let this title fool you. This book is full of insights and teaching tips for our children with Down syndrome. $20.00 (Canadian) $15.00 (US)
Available from: The PREP Program
1001-17 Street NW
Calgary, AB T2N 2E5

Helps For Special Education Teachers. Curriculum and Activities to Promote Basic Skill Development in Special Needs Children
Written by Eileen Shaum, this book is designed to be used by teachers/parents of preschool children. This book lists goals and objectives with activities for the stages of development from early childhood through first grade level. IEP's are discussed with many helpful hints regarding curriculum planning, teaching tools and techniques. Available from Rod & Staff, 606.522.4348

Circle of Friends II Bringing Love and Hope to Those with Down Syndrome.
Over 500 pages of practical information and resources on Down syndrome. Includes information on breastfeeding, EI, parenting perspectives, medical information and more. Available from the NuTriVene website:

The Source for Down Syndrome by Catherine I. Chamberlain & Robin M. Strode
This book contains in-depth information on how Down syndrome affects learning and language development. It is packed with helpful tips, therapy techniques, & skill strategies.
Available from LinguiSystems.

The Child with Special Needs by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD & Serena Wieder, PH.D
This book came highly recommended from a variety of people. It does not speak specifically to homeschoolers but covers a variety of topics. From the cover: "Based on two decades of practice and original research into developmental disabilities, this essential work helps parents and professionals "get beyond the label" and understand each child's unique profile. The authors' new insights regarding human development and learning have enabled them to create a step-by-step approach that initiates and sustains the child's mastery of the most important developmental milestones."
This book uses a developmental model that engages the child at his/her level.

Most of these books are available through the NATHHAN Lending Library. I read extensively from this library in my initial research into homeschooling my child with special needs. I then purchase some of these resources to have on hand in my own home. Barnes & Noble has a fairly large selection of special needs books. They are also happy to special order books for you.

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Why I Homeschool

posted May 5, 2009, 6:12 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar

Why I Homeschool
By Jennifer Lambert

I have a 5-year-old daughter and I am home-schooling her, much to the shock and horror of my family, who are almost all public school teachers.  I used to teach outside the home and at first, I was completely overwhelmed at teaching my own child.  The first month or so of formally home-schooling, I told myself that I was just doing this because she has a late birthday and could not begin kindergarten this year because she missed the September first cutoff.  I was worried that she would be bored because she absorbs information quickly and she is very social.  She goes to the park often and takes classes such as French, gymnastics, art, and T-ball, to accommodate her social needs and for the subjects at which I do not feel adept.  So far, boredom has not been a real issue.  I recently made the decision to officially home-school my daughter; our goal is to home-school her for at least K-2 and then to reevaluate her needs and what a school could offer her.  I based this decision on several factors, both societal and personal.

The societal concerns for my family are the exposure to undesirable behaviors and values.  I desire not to shelter my daughter from the world, but to teach her Christian values and certain behaviors which have seemingly become unimportant in today’s society such as respect, politeness, and good manners.  These ideas are often torn down and ridiculed in a secular public school environment.  I realize that exposure to certain attitudes is healthy, but I wish to monitor the when and how.  I decide with whom my daughter spends time rather than her picking up poor habits and bad behaviors from questionable classmates. I hear horror stories from friends and acquaintances about their children’s problems at school with bullies, uncaring teachers, difficult administrators, and more. These just reinforce my desires to home-school.

The problems public schools have vary from outdated age grouping and wasted instructional time to overcrowded classrooms and inattentive teachers.  As a certified teacher in English for grades 6-12 and having taught in public and private Christian schools and college for over six years, I faced these problems from the inside and struggled to be a good teacher.  I now face problems as a parent and teacher of a gifted five-year-old.  Almost all public and private schools have an age cutoff for attendance of September first.  Even if my child had been born earlier, she would have faced these and other difficulties in a public or private school kindergarten this year.  Much time is wasted from 8 AM to 3 PM in an ordinary school day, such as transitioning to various facilities or activities, repetitive lessons, and disciplinary issues.  Standardized testing seems to be the sole purpose of schools.  School administrators do not seem to care as much about the "higher-end" students because they require more resources and effort.  I know most gifted kids are bored and feel left out or forced into leadership roles they do not want so teachers can focus more on other children’s needs.  Overcrowding creates challenges for teachers and students.  Teachers cannot accommodate the instructional or personal needs of individual children and maintain classroom management with thirty or more students in a room.  My daughter does not have to face any of these stresses because she is home-schooled.  I provide for her instructional and personal needs in the special ways that best suit her.

My daughter is very independent and learns with different styles: primarily visual, musical, and kinesthetic.  Her abilities are at different levels in various subjects.  For instance, she is reading at a third grade level and doing math at a second grade level while she struggles with writing and art.  Some profound concepts in science and social studies are fascinating to her and she cannot learn enough, while other simpler topics bore her.  She loves the freedom she has to explore what interests her at her own pace. It is actually much easier to accommodate her as a parent and with home-schooling since I can monitor her closely and adapt what we learn to her level, interests, and needs.  As a certified teacher in gifted education, I can steer my daughter to activities that she would never be exposed to in a school environment.

            Despite the criticism I faced from family and the difficulties I have experienced in the transition to home-schooling my daughter, I have seen the fruits of my efforts in the past eight months. I am proud of my daughter’s accomplishments academically and socially.  I know I did the right thing in deciding to home-school her, and she and I both have learned a great deal.

Too Much Involvement Harms Our Kids

posted May 5, 2009, 6:11 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar

Too Much Involvement Harms Our Kids
By Jennifer Lambert

Sports, art, language, Scouts, dance, music…we all want the best for our kids, but are we harming them by offering the best for them, what we never got? My family is no different. My five year old daughter wants to take every lesson and class that is offered in our community. I felt I should oblige since I never had these opportunities as a child.  Thus enters guilt.

I became a taxi service, chauffeuring her to gymnastics and ballet, T-ball practices and games, art lessons, and French classes. Thankfully, the music teacher came to our house! Since I homeschool, I scheduled lessons during the afternoon whenever possible. Nevertheless, evenings at my house were often spent in meltdowns because everyone was over-tired and irritable. We missed our evening meal together at the dinner table several nights a week due to T-ball. Saturday mornings, we rushed to T-ball games. After four months of this, I said, “Enough!” I had to downsize my daughter’s schedule for our sanity.

I made my daughter choose a couple lessons she wanted to continue for the time being. She decided to keep the French lessons and T-ball. I canceled the music lessons, gymnastics, ballet, and art. This was better almost immediately. She still asks almost daily for horse-back riding lessons. She begs to take Spanish classes and get back into gymnastics. She wants to dance. She longs to learn how to play the violin and piano, even though she wouldn’t practice before. She’s five years old! There’s plenty of time for her to develop into the virtuoso she believes she can be. Right now, she just needs to play and be a child as much as possible. I now cherish our evening meals together and our (mostly) free weekends as a family.

Music and the Mind

posted May 5, 2009, 6:06 PM by Michelle Kretzschmar

Music and the Mind
by Dee Dickinson

The article below was published (1993) by New Horizons for Learning (PO Box 15329 - Seattle WA 98115-0329) and used with their permission. For further information, visit the New Horizon web-site at http://www.newhori

Music is the manifestation of the human spirit, similar to language. Its greatest practitioners have conveyed to mankind things not possible to say in any other language. If we do not want these things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest possible number of people understand their idiom. Zoltán Kodály

Recently a number of reports have appeared that attest to the connection between music and academic achievement. In a study of the ability of fourteen year-old science students in seventeen countries, the top three countries were Hungary, the Netherl ands, and Japan. All three include music throughout the curriculum from kindergarten through high school. In the 1960's, the Kodály system of music education was instituted in the schools of Hungary as a result of the outstanding academic achievement of children in its “singing schools.” Today, there are no third graders who cannot sing on pitch and sing beautifully. In addition, the academic achievement of Hungarian students, especially in math and science, continues to be outstanding. The Netherla nds began their music program in 1968, and Japan followed suit by learning from the experience of these other countries.

Another report disclosed the fact that the foremost technical designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are almost all practicing musicians.

A third report reveals that the schools who produced the highest academic achievement in the United States today are spending 20 to 30% of the day on the arts, with special emphasis on music. Included are St. Augustine Bronx elementary school, which, as it was about to fail in 1984, implemented an intensive music program. Today 90% of the students are reading at or above grade level.

Davidson School in Augusta, Georgia (grades 5-12), which began its music and arts program in 1981, is #1 academically in the country. Ashley River Elementary in Charleston, North Carolina is #2 academically, second only to a school for the academical ly gifted.

I personally experienced the relationship between music and scholarship when I was director of the Seattle Creative Activities Center many years ago. At that time, we did not have the research at hand to explain why many children who were taking musi c and painting classes suddenly began to excel in math at school. Other children began to improve in their language arts skills.

Today, the research emerging from the cognitive sciences gives us useful information to explain those connections. As a result of technology which allows us to see the human brain while it is in the process of thinking, we can observe, for example, t hat when people listen to melodies with a variety of pitch and timbre, the right hemisphere of the brain is activated. It also “lights up” when people play music by ear. When, however, people learn to read music, understand key signatures, notation, and other details of scores, and are able to follow the sequence of notes, then the left hemisphere “lights up.” Significantly, it is activated in the same area that is involved in analytical and mathematical thinking.

Why are the Arts Important? 1.They are languages that all people speak--that cut across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers and enhance cultural appreciation and awareness. 2.They are symbol systems as important as letters and numbers. 3.They integrate mind, body, and spirit. 4.They provide opportunities for self-expression, bringing the inner world into the outer world of concrete reality. 5.They offer the avenue to “flow states” and peak experiences. 6.They create a seamless connection between motivation, instruction, assessment, and practical application--leading to “deep understanding.” 7.They make it possible to experience processes from beginning to end. 8.They develop both independence and collaboration. 9.They provide immediate feedback and opportunities for reflection. 10. They make it possible to use personal strengths in meaningful ways and to bridge into understanding sometimes difficult abstractions through these strengths. 11.They merge the learning of process and content. 12.They improve academic achievement--enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking. 13.They exercise and develop higher order thinking skills including analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and “problem-finding.” 14.They are essential components of any alternative assessment program. 15.They provide the means for every student to learn.

The work of Dr. Paul MacLean at the National Institute of Mental Health gives us further insights into the value of music education. His triune brain theory suggests that the human brain is really three brains in one. The smallest part, about 5% of the brain, the reticular formation, is the gateway for most sensory input and is devoted to maintaining the operation of automatic body process, such as respiration and heartbeat. It is also the seat of habitual or automatic behavior. The second part, the limbic system, is another 10% of the brain and is the seat of the emotions, certain kinds of memory, and glandular control. The largest part, the cerebral cortex, which is about 85% of the brain, is devoted to higher order thinking processes.

MacLean points out that the limbic system is so powerful that it can literally facilitate or inhibit learning and higher order thinking. It appears that positive emotions, such as love, tenderness, and humor, can facilitate higher order thinking skil ls; whereas negative emotions, such as anger, hostility, and fear, can literally downshift the brain to basic survival thinking.

The relationship to music education is clear when we observe students joyfully making music together and when we gather information about their academic achievement in other areas. A study by Bloom on gifted musicians reveals that most had very posit ive early learning experiences with teachers who were patient, supportive, and loving. Task-masters came later in their lives.

Further research from the cognitive sciences by Dr. Marian Diamond, Berkeley neurophysiologist, offers information that the brain changes physiologically in relation to learning and experience--for better or worse. She has found that positive, nurtur ing, stimulating learning experiences that offer opportunities for interaction and response can result in richer neural networks, which are the “hardware” of intelligence. The dynamic quality of making music can be one of those kinds of experience.

I believe that it is essential that music must be taught throughout the curriculum, and not just in separate areas such as orchestra and choir. That is one way we can assure sufficient future participants in those classes, and a way we can offer oppo rtunities for all students to develop their capacities more fully.

How is this possible at a time when many teachers are graduating from schools of education without any background in music? It is important for everyone committed to the importance of music education to join together to convince those schools of the need for that background. Meanwhile, much of the new technology now available can be implemented by any teacher. For example, Amanda Amend, music educator at Grinnell College, has developed a series of videotapes called Your Musical Heritage. Th ese tapes utilize accelerated learning techniques to communicate the content in dynamic, imaginative ways.

Kathy Carroll, Washington D.C. science teacher, has developed a cassette tape called Sing a Song of Science, which was produced by the students at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. That tape is useful in itself, and can also stimulate student s to create songs of their own to learn or review material.

For older students, the Warner Audio Notes computer programs that run on a CD-ROM, currently include Beethoven’s String Quartet #14, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Brahms’ German Requiem. The Voyager Company has produced Stravinsk y’s Rite of Spring and Beethoven’s Symphony #9. These programs allow the viewer to follow the score as the music plays, make it possible to listen to any instrument alone, analyze the score, and learn about the composer and more about the composition using pictures, text, spoken commentary, and various interpretations of the music.

There are many ways to incorporate music in the curriculum of any subject, whether it is to provide a rich background for literature and writing courses, concrete ways to learn fractions and other mathematical concepts, understanding of other cultures , and accelerated ways of learning foreign languages and other subjects.

Dr. Georgi Lozonov, Bulgarian founder of accelerated learning techniques, has researched the most effective music to use in his system. He has found the Baroque and Romantic music offer the ideal background for enhancing the learning of any subject. In using this system, corporate training programs and schools often cut learning time in half.

All teachers today are challenged by the increasing diversity of their students, and they all need more effective ways to work with these differences. Music is a language that everyone speaks and understands. We are all born rhythmical people--we li ved with our mother’s heartbeat for nine months before we were born. We all live with the rhythms of our respiration and heartbeat. The human body and voice has surely been used in early artistic self-expression not only by ancient humans, but by every child today.

At Chicago’s inner-city Guggenheim Elementary School, the faculty and students are finding new success in learning through the visual arts and music. Attendance is high, test scores are steadily rising, and enthusiasm is pervasive throughout the scho ol. At the Horton School in San Diego, music has been used extensively to teach all the students to become bilingual in Spanish and English.

If we are to make a strong case for music education, we cannot do so merely by focusing on its cultural value to civilization. We cannot do so by just discussing what it does for the human spirit. We must begin to use the information at hand from th e cognitive sciences. We need to carry on research on the academic achievement of music students and make that information broadly available to all those engaged in educational planning and practice. We need to note the results of music education in the improved development of higher order thinking skills, including analysis, synthesis, logic, and creativity; improved concentration and lengthened attention spans; improved memory and retention; and improved interpersonal skills and abilities to work with others in collaborative ways.

And then we can discuss the joy of learning that comes from listening to and making music. Peak experiences, in which what people are thinking and what they are doing, merge [and] are often experienced by musicians. These “flow states” result in lea rning which becomes its own reward. When all educators recognize the value of music as an integral and essential part of the curriculum, we will see more opportunities for all students to be successful.

Dee Dickinson is CEO and founder of New Horizons for Learning, an international education network based in Seattle, Washington. For further information, call or write New Horizons for Learning, PO Box 15329, Seattle WA 98115-0329. (206) 547-7936.

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