05 July 2017

Summer School Curriculum for a Kindergartner with Down Syndrome - Review

We've been hard at work doing our summer homeschool for three and a half weeks now, so I feel a bit more confident about offering a review of the materials we are using.

A. Mapping out lessons ahead of time is the most important part of summer homeschooling. It takes me less than an hour on a Friday afternoon to map out and gather materials for four days worth of work for Abigail. It makes school run way smoother and gives me accountability on days when I'm not in the mood or she isn't in the mood and we skip a subject or day.

Using my planner or a blank notebook instead of a proper lesson planning guide was a good choice. At first I regretted not having purchased one, but once I got the hang of what I was doing, I was fine. Having a place to keep everything organized is also very important. I bought this binder (under $10 at the grocery store). If you can make one at home to save money, great, but if buying a new items helps, it's worth the money.

B. Dry Erase Sleeves
These inexpensive dry erase sleeves are the second most important piece of our summer curriculum. I don't know if it's the reduced friction, how fun markers are, or just getting to erase the page when she's done, but Abigail is significantly more motivated to work when her sheet is in a dry erase sleeve with matching marker. It doesn't increase the number of pages she does a day, but she moves much quicker and more happily through her least favorite subjects this way.

Her handwriting is also better and we do almost no hand-over-hand when using these.

Ahh, that beautiful grip makes me swoon!

1. Math
Summer math is going over spectacularly. Abigail loves math and the materials I got were spot on. Her book is expensive for a math book (I paid $15 vs. $5 for other comparables, but right now Amazon has it listed for $11), but was totally worth it. It most closely follows the worksheets she brought home from school during the year, so she's very familiar with what is expected of her. She dives in and usually only needs little help and direction from me to complete the worksheet.

We also have found great success using a worksheet I found on Pinterest, and using flashcards to make up an addition problem.

Abigail loves math, so we do 2-3 worksheets from her book and one activity per day. The activity is 3-4 addition problems using counters in one of the above methods or we'll count to 100 by 1s and 10s.

Eleanor wanted me to take her picture with the poster. The poster was worth it too.

2. Writing
Writing wasn't going very well when we first started, but I modified it the materials and now she loves it. It turns out I could have put together her handwriting curriculum much cheaper. Her Handwriting Without Tears book was also pretty expensive ($14 vs $4-5 for a basic tracing book), but I sprang for it because it written by an occupational therapist and went over the nitty-gritty on how to actually write the individual letters.

I thought Abigail would benefit from the letter breakdown, but she is not. This book is her least favorite part of school. If we don't use the dry erase sleeves, we do the worksheets 100% hand-over-hand. It's slow and painful.

This $3.59 tracing book I got at my local grocery store (Meijer) for Eleanor, actually, combined with this $8 ream of handwriting paper is the most effective writing course for Abigail right now.

This one was hand-over-hand. It was also a bit long for her to complete in one sitting.
I write out a short story with sight words Abigail already knows or her name, address, and phone number. We put them in the dry erase sleeves and she actually enjoys them. Per day, we do one page that I made up and then as many of the Tracing Trails pages as Abigail wants, it's usually about 8-12 pages (4-6 pieces of paper, front and back). I decided to shelve the formal book for the year - I'm saving it for another year or another kid.

3. Reading
Reading was a mixed bag - some good calls, some bad - plus I overestimated how much work we'd do each day with reading. Overall, the materials I got were super cheap, so the bad calls weren't much of a financial hit.

This little book series was totally worth it at about $15 per set of 25 books. We could have gotten away with just one series, it turns out, since First Little Reader's Level A is harder than the set she was using in school, but, really, you can never have too many books anyway.

We read one book per day. I tried to do some activities based on the books, like matching verb flash cards to the right pages, but she wasn't understanding. I also tried to have her make up sentences using flash cards I made up or a package of inexpensive flashcards ($2.99) on Amazon, but she wasn't getting that either. I don't know how they teach reading in school, but I am not doing so hot replicating it at home.

I had to remind myself of my goal (help keep what knowledge she's got), so we've paired down reading to one book per day and then twice a week, we run through the bag of flashcards her teacher sent home for the summer, which she already knows.

Then once a week we'll do some activities with flash cards to have her unscramble the letters in her first and last name (separately) and the numbers in her house address instead of the school flash cards, and the last day per week, we'll go through the alphabet and talk about what sound each letter makes.

Abigail happily "reads" books on her own for at least an hour per day anyway, in addition to the times Matt and I read to her, so she is getting a ton of healthy exposure to books even if I've paired down the formal curriculum stuff.

4. Extras
Basically, none of the extras were worth it.

Sensory sensitive girl hates the pencil grips.

We have used this blue wall hanging about twice in 3.5 weeks. Abigail has a hard time getting the flashcards into the pockets with her fine motor skills issues, and she doesn't even really want to stand up and move around, she wants to sit at the table and get to work. In fact, I made up a word sounds game that involves walking around and rolling giant dice that she does not like either.

The calendar was cheaply made and is now completely destroyed. The girls were playing school each morning and it just took so much abuse that it gave up and died. I don't want her to lose her days of the week and months in the year, but I'm not sure what direction to go.

Lastly, we also don't need a formal school area. Since the table and chairs were something we already owned, there was no cost to be lost. But if a lack of proper school space was ever a concern, please know that I could easily move this upstairs to our kitchen table and be just as successful. School is not so loud that it would wake the baby.

We spend about 30-45 minutes per day doing school and Abigail is always the one to initiate when we're done. We do school for four days per week and then try to do a field trip on Friday. (It's pretty hit or miss on whether I feel like chasing all three of them for a few hours in public.) The girls often ask to do school again throughout the day and always on the weekend. Sometimes I break out the Tracing Trails and dry erase sleeves, sometimes we read books or play a game, or sometimes I throw them outside. I don't want anyone getting burnt out, and I don't want the girls getting bored with the books.

I tried to do some summer homeschool with Abigail last year, getting Catholic Icing's Preschool Curriculum, but every attempt I made left everyone frustrated. Now that I'm trying again and simply imitating what she does in school, I'm actually successful, and I've really come to realize how much specialized training a special education teacher really has. I cannot teach Abigail because I don't know what I'm doing. It really solidifies my confidence in our decision for her education. It also confirms for me that the more involved I can be in her daily school, the more I can support it at home.  Local public school + an involved mom is definitely how Abigail will get the most out of her potential.

It also makes me realize that I could homeschool Eleanor if I wanted to. I think I have it in me to give her a good education, at least in elementary school. But I also realize that I don't want to homeschool her; it's not my first choice. I think she would get a better education when taught by an educated, experienced teacher who enjoys his or her job. I still don't know if we'll do public or private Catholic school, but thankfully I have a few years to decide.

In the meantime, we are just going to keep chugging along this summer with the goal to keep Abigail's skills tucked safely away inside of her.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Yay! Way to go, Babe!