Family Style vs. Individualized; Special Needs, too

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  • Twinsmomxtwo

    This is a long one…

    So, I’m considering a return to SCM. Mainly due to its simplicity and manageable amount of books to be read (as compared to Sonlight). I have two 13-yr olds (7th grade-ish) and two 10 year-olds (5th grade-ish).  I’m struggling with how to incorporate both family-style and grade-level learning with the same SCM materials, mainly the History/Bible.

    A little Back-story…We’re coming from a wonderful year of CC in 2019-2020. We really thought we would be in it through HS.  This year my 13 yo twins should have been in Challenge A. But due to Covid we could not return to that community. Since ideally the Challenge programs need community, I opted to keep them doing Foundations & Essentials with my younger twins (age 10) another year. We’re also using Sonlight for in-depth History & Bible.  At this point we have dropped foundations and are ready to drop essentials as well.  And we’re WAY behind with Sonlight…feels like we’ll never get past the Revolutionary War.

    My dilemma… My 13 year-old daughter is craving independence and challenge.  I’ve considered trying to do CC Challenge A at home with her but I don’t WANT to do that.  Her twin brother is ASD – he seems to have zero reading or listening comprehension, and works at much slower pace than her.  My 10 year old twins are pretty equal with each other so I know how to handle them.  But everyone is very competitive during any family learning times, with narration, or answering questions…anything.

    I need some help in 2 areas:

    1) figuring out individualized SCM programs for my 13 year olds, since they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum – 1 advanced; 1 special needs ASD

    2) how I can do some family-style learning with them without the constant competition, while also tailoring some of it to their respective grade levels & needs?  I already plan to add Laying Down the Rails for this reason (and many others).

    Thank you in advance for any advice you are willing to offer. 🙂

    – Jennifer

    Karen Smith

    Are you meeting each child where he/she is at as an individual, not by age or grade? For your 13 year old daughter, allow her some independence. With history, you will read aloud any family books to all of your children, then assign the appropriate grade level books to be read independently by your older daughter and maybe your 10 year olds. Your older daughter could do a written narration on the family read aloud, while you listen to oral narrations from the others. You will probably need to read the grade level books to your older son. If the grade level books for his age are not being comprehended by him, then drop down to a lower grade level. Likewise, if your older daughter needs to be challenged more, feel free to choose books from a higher grade level for her to read.

    There are different ways to keep oral narration from being a competition. One way is to have each child narrating only tell part of what was read, then the next child picks up where the first child left off. The second child tells the next part, then the third child finishes.

    Another way is to ask each child a different narration question. Maybe the first child is asked, “What did you learn about George Washington in our reading today?” The next child is asked, “Tell what you know about the capturing of the fort.” And the third child is asked, “Pretend you are a soldier. Tell about your experience capturing the fort.” There are endless possibilities to vary the questions.

    Education is all about teaching the child, not the curriculum. Don’t let the curriculum, someone’s expectations, or a child’s age be your master. If your child is progressing in his schoolwork and finds the lessons enjoyable, then you are providing a good education for him. You will also be developing a life-long learner who enjoys learning for learning’s sake.



    Thx for the reply.  I am trying to meet them where they are.  I don’t want to push any of them beyond what they’re capable of but I also don’t want to hold anyone back.  The latter is my tendency, and I know that can hurt them, too.  They will be tested over the next few weeks with Woodcock-Johnson tests to help me better understand how they learn so I can better reach them and meet them where they are.

    I love your suggestions and will be implementing them!  I plan to try giving my 13 yo daughter more independence by having her do the history book readings on her own with written narrations, as well as SW/ULW and Science assignments.

    This leads to my next question – should I separate her out for Science and do her own?  I’m hesitant mainly because of where we are in the school year.

    We’ve been doing science all together with Apologia Young Explorer Series Human Anatomy & Physiology.  Could I continue that with her and have her do it independently, or switch her to Apologia General Science? (I like the 3rd Ed w/the NB but it’s been out of stock).

    With my 1o yo’s I’ll likely have them read aloud the history books to me and we’ll orally narrate for now, along with guided SW/ULW & Science lessons.

    For my 13 yo SN son, I will likely handle him similarly as my 10 yo’s.  He needs a lot of hand-holding, and shorter periods of reading out loud to comprehend & digest the material.  Sometimes he does really well with written narrations, better sometimes than orally.  He thinks slower and I think being able to think and write at the same pace works better than feeling pressured to “think faster” to get an oral narration out as everyone waits.  So, maybe guided written narrations…?

    I can say that they are all enjoying the SCM history readings a lot more than the SL history spine readings.

    Thx again!

    Karen Smith

    It sounds like you have a good plan!

    For science, I would stick with Apologia’s Young Explorer Series Human A & P. If your daughter would like to do it independently from the rest of the family, go ahead and assign it to her. When you finish that course you should consider having her do a middle school or high school level course, separate from the rest of the family. Apologia’s Physical Science, 2nd edition by Dr. Jay Wile (You will have to buy it used.) is a middle school level science that is a good transition from an elementary course to a high school level course. Of course, feel free to choose something else if you like. 🙂

    I like your plan for your son. If he does better at written narrations than oral narrations, let him write them. You can use the rubrics in the Teacher’s Guide for Using Language Well to guide him in his written narrations. Feel free to modify the rubrics to fit him if he needs to move slower with what he is held accountable for in his writing. It is more important that he gets his thoughts on paper than that he has the mechanics of grammar and sentence structure perfect. Grammar and sentence structure will come with time. If you have not already read it, I encourage you to read Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass. Karen Glass does a fantastic job of explaining what narration is and how to do it from beginners to high school and beyond. There is even a chapter on narration with special needs students.

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