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Homeschooling: Special Needs
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May 2016 Newsletter

Fresh Picks of Curricula and Resources

to Help Your Kids Bloom and Grow

Faith Berens, M.Ed. Faith Berens Faith Berens, M.Ed. Kristy Horner

By Faith Berens and Kristy Horner
HSLDA Special Needs Consultants

If you are like us, every spring you are already thinking ahead and trying to plan for next year. ‘Tis the season to peruse materials, revisit priorities, and put down some preliminary plans for the summer and coming school year.

So, Kristy and I thought we would share some fresh resources we have spotted this year at co-ops, conferences, and by conferring with fellow homeschooling moms.

Faith Barens, M.Ed.

Let me share with you that just before Thanksgiving this past year, our family moved! Yes, you heard me correctly—in the middle of the school year, just before the holidays! It has truly been a year of transition for us, and without going into all the crazy details let me just say we have spent a good amount of time car schooling this year!

Each kid has a backpack filled with his or her personal school supplies, notebooks, textbooks, games, and activities. Additionally, there are utility bins and tote bags in my car that contain audio books, children’s books, CDs, sketch books and colored pencils.

Some of our top picks for take-along learning games which teach language, visual-spatial, problem-solving and critical thinking skills include the following:

  • Spot It!
  • Color Code
  • Travel Tangoes
  • Games on the Go, Mental Blox, and Memory Moves (Discovery Toys Inc.)

If you can relate—if you have had (or are in the midst of) a time of transition, you may find this article, from Vicki Bentley, HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens Consultant, helpful, “When Life Broadsides Your Homeschool.”

Or for helpful ideas on time management,

While car schooling for much of the year was neither ideal nor my vision of what I wanted our homeschooling to look like, God has given me the strength and flexibility to make the most of the travel time. And as Mary Jo Tate so reassuringly shares in her book Flourish, God has helped me to “find peace in the space between the ideal and reality” (p.19)!

I actually had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Mary Jo this spring at a homeschool conference, and she is the real deal! If you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, burned out, or simply need some fresh ideas of how to “juggle all the balls” I highly recommend her book Flourish to help with planning and prioritizing for your upcoming school year! In the appendix of the book, schedule forms, self-evaluation forms, planning forms, and goal setting forms are provided, and I have personally found those so helpful. 

Mary Jo also provides one on one “life coaching,” so she can help you with planning, organizing, goal-setting, and management issues within your homeschool. Mary Jo can be reached via her website. Also check out her Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

While in Indiana to speak at the IAHE (Indiana Association of Home Educators) conference this past month, I came across the brand new Writers in Residence curriculum created by Debra Bell and published by Apologia. This resource is an exciting new language arts curriculum that is writing-focused and aims to guide students toward finding their unique, God-given writing voice. This curriculum looks very motivating and inspiring, and I believe it will be a wonderful to guide students in the writing process, particularly those who may be hesitant, lack confidence, or interest!

Summer is a great time to travel, explore, and go on field trips that perhaps you did not have the opportunity to take in during the school year. Apologia offers an engaging, spiral-bound Field Trip Journal that is like a scrapbook. Be sure not to miss this!

For more on field trip ideas, be sure to check out the following:

Looking forward to summer and a new year (minus the car schooling)…
Faith and Kristy

Learning on an iPad? There’s an App for That!

by Kristy Horner,
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant and Blogger

Summer is a great time to relax, have fun and ration electronic devices.

That’s right, I said it. My kids love being outside, but once it’s 95 in the shade and they are tired of reading, they make a mad dash for their screens! I’m going to admit that we have more than one of these devices per person in our house, and they are often the pastime of choice around here! However, there’s only so much Lego Batman and YouTube Kids toy reviews I can allow before shame sets in.

While the age of electronics is booming and so much of what we see about it is negative, I’d like to point out the positives! If your kids love technology like mine and most of my friends’ kids, keep reading to discover some “guilt free” apps for children. This really could change the way you look at screen time!

Earlier this year I discovered the Lego StoryStarter and StoryVisualizer, and that was a massive hit. We incorporated Legos and technology into our Language Arts and never looked back. (Click here to read about the Lego curriculum!)

So now, I want to take the iPad (and other devices) a step further and use it as trickery—I mean, a tool! I’ve found some apps that are beyond useful, affordable and best of all, will keep you from feeling guilty on those extra hot or ultra-rainy days when you hand over that oh-so-desired device! You know the saying…”all things in moderation,” right? After you check out these apps below, you just might have a slightly different perspective!

Targeted Deficit



Speech Tutor, Apraxia Ville,
Articulation Station

Reading Comprehension

Voice Dream Reader
News-o-Matic, Reading Trainer

Executive Functioning

Toca Nature
Time timer
Google Keep

Auditory Processing

Leo’s Pad, Following Directions by Teach Speech Apps, The Storybuilder App

Focus & Attention

Stop, Breathe, Think
Focus 45

Visual Discrepancies

Pick Up Sticks
Look Again (Lite)


Snap Type, Clicker Docs


First Then Visual Schedule (FTVS), ChoiceWorks, Visual Routine, Autism Xpress, SOSH, Brain Pop

Print Disability

Voice Dream Reader

Social Skills and Communication

If, Social Skill Builder series

Fine Motor Skills

Write My Name


Dyslexia toolbox, Learning Ally Audio


ProloQuo2Go, Talk Tablet, Talk assist


Simon Says, Brain Jump Pro
Visual Attention TherAppy (Lite)

Sensory Processing

Sensory Processing Therapy-Tool, Fluidity HD, Brain Works

Mental Health

Breathing Bubbles, Breathe2Relax, MindShift



These are just a few of the incredible apps that exist for your favorite device, and many of them assist in multiple areas of concern. If you want to go all out, you can even invest in a fun learning system such as the OSMO learning system for the iPad. The system uses a combination of manipulatives and free apps that will have them willingly sharpening their drawing, visual-spatial, vocabulary, spelling, and fine motor skills!

Also, don’t underestimate the assistive features that are already on your current devices. For example, speech to text can be helpful for those with speech and articulation struggles, closed captioning for auditory processing, and text to speech to assist the visually impaired. You can even use guided access to lock a user in an app until the four-digit passcode is entered. How handy is that?

By incorporating technology, these apps can help you and your student navigate learning struggles. Think of it as a way to sharpen the mind without dulling the excitement! In fact, you may end up with so many amazing apps that you need an app to manage them! (And yes, there’s even an app for that, it’s called Extensity!)

May your summer be full of ice cream and guilt-free device time!

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