Homeschooling Special Needs Preschoolers

My sweet friend Caroline has been given the gift of an extraordinary preschooler.  I recently asked her to share with you how she maintains a peaceful home while homeschooling a special needs daughter.

I have two daughters: Gillian is seven and Emma is three. Gillian has moderate mental retardation and sensory processing disorder. Her mental level at this time is that of a two-year-old. We decided to take on the wonderful task of homeschooling her when she was four. Little did I know that I would be doing preschool work with one child for more than three years. I am becoming somewhat of a pro!

In order to have peace in our home we have to keep the routine going. It is so easy for me to just get caught up doing other things that I let the routine go and soon look back and realize there is no sense of peace in our home or our school.  I am just coming out of one of those times.  The last month has been filled with everything but the routine that we so desperately need.

So what is that routine that keeps this peace in the air? It is simply doing the same thing day after day after day. Gillian requires lots of consistency in her life to stay calm. She has different routines in place and if we veer away from the routine she gets confused and just shuts off. 

After taking a bath I always have Gillian put all the tub toys in a bucket before she gets out of the bathtub. She knows the routine so when I tell her it’s time to put the toys away and get out she does it right away. Well, the other night my husband was getting the girls out of the tub and he told Gillian it was her turn to get out. She just stared at him, so he told her again to get out and she continued to just look at him as though she was confused. I explained the routine to him and once she was told to put the toys away and get out she did immediately.

An Easy-Going Routine

We do many of our daily activities with a routine. I like lists where I can cross off what has been done. We don’t really have a set schedule, just a list of things that need to get accomplished in our own time. This has worked best for us and kept me sane and peaceful in our home. I can take my time working with Gillian on getting dressed, brushing her teeth, etc. It just works better for all of us to not be bound by time constraints all the time.

I used to go about my day doing my chores and being apart from my children.  Emma would be doing something in her room and Gillian would be doing something destructive in another room.  I would get done with what I was doing and find Gillian pouring water all over the coffee table.  While I was cleaning up that mess she would be in my room emptying out all the videos from the cupboard. While cleaning up that mess she would go into the bathroom and unroll the toilet paper roll into the toilet clogging it up. This is what everyday was looking like and I was frustrated and exhausted! 

In order to avoid this kind of day the girls became attached to my hip. Not literally, of course, although sometimes it would be nice to have some velcro. They follow me throughout the house doing whatever I am doing. Not only am I avoiding "Gillian messes", the girls are learning how to do all the chores around the house. We do the laundry together, make the beds, and do the dishes. When I am getting ready in the mornings they sit on our bed and watch a movie or read books. If I am doing something they don’t know how to do I have them sit and watch me so they will eventually learn how to do it. I have found that this puts all three of us girls in a much better mood. They love doing the chores with me and we play and sing as we are doing them, laughing and being silly.

Simplifying Schoolwork

We don’t do a lot of actual school work.  Most of what Gillian does right now is therapy and learning daily life skills.  The only sit-down work we do right now is "Handwriting Without Tears".  My struggle with doing work that required my complete attention with one child was what to do with the other child? This is where blanket time has come in handy.  While working one-on-one with one child, the other child sits on a blanket nearby with either a couple of books or some flash cards. They get to pick which one they want which makes them more excited about it. This keeps them quiet and I am able to get more accomplished with the other child.

What we do is extremely simple.  It does not take a lot of planning on my part, mostly patience and diligence.  Those are good virtues that I am more than willing to learn!