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Accommodations in the classroom

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    Accommodations in the classroom

    Hello everyone, I’m new to this forum but have been reading and digesting the themes of Simply Classical for about a year. I have four children, three of whom are students in a 4-year old laboratory school which follows a Classical Christian approach. My oldest two are on the academically gifted end of the educational spectrum, and my 7yo is repeating K this year. He has been in vision therapy for over a year, and we’ve been struggling to identify the origin of some behavioral issues that mainly occur at home. He seems to always test on the border of every issue we face. His most recent diagnosis is borderline intellectual functioning, but I confess I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the testing given what we already jnow about his processing. Anyway...he struggles with working memory and processing speed alonside the vision issues. His school is willing to field our ideas and think creatively about special needs,but it’s a new process for them. My main question right now is: to what extent could aspects if Simply Classical be integrated into the traditional classroom?

    I have homeschooled before, and we are not opposed to that route for our son, but I also see an opportunity to forge a path for other families with special needs along with a more general hole in Classical schools when it comes to these students.

    Any advice?

    Thank you!

    Re: Accommodations in the classroom

    Good morning and welcome to the forum!

    A few thoughts:

    You mentioned behavior problems occurring mainly at home. This could indicate that he is working very hard to "hold it together" at school. If he is reasonably polite, respectful, and hard-working at school, you are doing a good job at home! Even so, he might benefit from covering behavioral concerns more explicitly through instruction. We off a new 14-week study of social skills. Myself & Others: Lessons in Social Understanding, Habits, and Manners. With visual aids and simple lessons reinforced most winsomely through children's literature, one of these sets (Book One or Book Two with read-alouds) might serve you well over the summer.

    Yes, the current version, WISC-V, "penalizes" children with weak processing or working memory. If you have those reports accessible, look instead at his highest subtests. Where did he score on those? Which subtests were they? What did those measure? This, along with your own observations, will give you a better glimpse into his cognitive strengths. Keep in mind, however, that processing and working memory do impact a struggling child, especially in the classroom. This leads to your question about modifications....

    Often full inclusion in a classical Christian school is relatively easy from preschool through 1st grade or so. Writing demands are low. Preschool and primary teachers often give clear, simple directions. Nearly all students are wiggly and still learning about lining up, hanging up coats, organizing learning materials. Somewhere around 2nd or 3rd, full inclusion can be more challenging unless the integrated student is truly on par with (or even excelling) peers academically. At this time, the school has many options:

    1. An aide -
    This can be a volunteer parent or a paid aide, one hour per day, one hour per week, or full time, depending on the student's needs and the availability of an aide. At a large classical Christian school I visited in February, a student's parents SO wanted their son (autism, ADHD, learning difficulties) to continue in the school, the parents agreed to hire a full-time aide to "shadow" every class. The aide is a loving mom of 7, former homeschooler, whose children attend the school. She also happens to be the headmaster's wife! Everyone in the school loves this arrangement, and the young man continues to brighten those around him with his quirky wit and eagerness to learn.

    2. Careful teacher selection -
    Often the only accommodation is careful, preferential placement with a superb, master teacher each year. Larger schools will have the one best, most orderly, most welcoming, most compassionate, most accommodating, most effective teacher per grade. Such a teacher will simply "make it work" through his or her expertise in the art of teaching. He knows when to place a struggling student nearer the board, nearer his desk, in his own study carrel, or near an especially giving student who will take the struggling child under his wing. He knows how to write assignments on the board or in the struggling student's personal notebook, rather than assume he heard everything spoken rapidly and aurally, as some teachers might.

    3. Assistance to willing teachers -
    If you can find a willing teacher and give her good assistance, this is the next best thing to a master teacher. A willing teacher will attempt new things, even with extended trial-and-error, to help the student succeed. And, yes, there are many accommodations, strategies, and approaches she can be taught to use. Interestingly, by including some of the modifications such as these for one student, she might improve her teaching for all. Keeping students engaged and moving through the lesson, keeping her own talking (teacher-chatter) to a minimum, and presenting information in a multi-modal yet orderly format -- all of these will help your son.

    4. Resource help during the school year -
    Sometimes an hour or two with a special teacher, tutor, or trained parent can help remedy study skills, reading fluency, math facts, or other areas that may be easier to practice in a tutorial setting. For this, you could use the existing curriculum but take a tutorial approach. The student would be pulled during the school day or might receive help before or after school. This could occur daily, a few times weekly, or once a week depending on his needs.

    5. Separate but equal -
    If your son reaches a point at which he cannot remain successful in the regular classroom, and if you know of other struggling learners in the school, you might consider advocating for a classroom in which the Simply Classical Curriculum could be taught. This could be for core subjects (reading, math, Latin, writing) or for all subjects.

    Parents' responsibility
    The school will be most receptive to your requests if they know that you are fully behind both your son and the school. Make clear that you will be willing to work with him at home 15-30 minutes per evening, help him with "light schooling" or daily reading over the summer, and otherwise support their efforts.

    Full-time homeschooling is, of course, an option many parents choose. This can be a year-at-a-time decision. Perhaps you try keep him in school and try some of the above accommodations but feel he is still slipping through the cracks. Or perhaps you decide to homeschool him for a year with a view to re-integrating after you strengthen his confidence, knowledge, and skills. If you decide to do this and need help with SC placement, we can help. If you decide to keep him in the school with his siblings, we support this too. The greatest deciding factor will be the answer to this question, "Where will he receive the best education?"

    We share your vision to assist our classical Christian schools to more effectively integrate our children with intellectual, learning, or behavioral challenges. Let us know if we can help further!


      Re: Accommodations in the classroom

      Thank you for your helpful comments, Cheryl! I’m eager to discuss these options with my husband and the school. I’m also interested in the Sodalitas Conference this summer and may try to get there to soak up the ideas and experiences of others dealing with special needs in a Classical context. It’s so refreshing to be part of a conversation within a broader community; as I’m sure you know, championing Classical education for all students can be a lonely quest. Thank you for your leadership in this sphere!


        Re: Accommodations in the classroom

        I'm going to link back to another post that may be helpful.

        My boys attended our local HLS cottage school this year for the first time and did beautifully. Over the course of the year, we learned that one son has dyslexia and dysgraphia, while his identical twin brother has auditory processing disorder. During the summer, I'll be emailing/meeting with the staff and likely the teachers to navigate accommodations while teaching the boys to advocate for themselves.

        At HLN, Angel shared a letter from a mom with twins who have dyslexia. This may be helpful for you and the school staff to work together to meet your son's needs. <3
        Plans for 2019-20

        DD1 - 24 - College Grad and rocking her own bakery business
        DD2 - 13 - 8A Louisville HLS Cottage School and MPOA
        DS3 - 11 - 4A Louisville HLS Cottage School
        DS4 - 11 - 4A Louisville HLS Cottage School
        DD5 - 7 - MP2, Louisville HLS Cottage School
        DS6 - 5 - MP K



          Re: Accommodations in the classroom

          Hello again! We met with my son’s school over the summer regarding accommodations for his needs ((many of your suggestions were included—thank you!), and we’re in week two of 1st grade at his classical Christian school. I’m going to the school Monday through Thursday mornings to do 30 minutes of vision therapy with him while the other students are doing their morning cantabile time. The therapy time is working well for the most part, teacher is willing to try what we’ve asked, special writing paper ordered, etc... but the transition back to school has been SO HARD. My son cries and hits every morning when Daddy leaves early to take our 7th grader to cross country practice. We fight about homework (which he doesn’t want to do), and his aggression levels towards all of us at home have risen. I feel like we’ve taken a nosedive in how we’re doing as a family. I’m struggling to be hopeful and patient (pep talk, please?!), and frustrated as I wonder why we’re dealing with so many emotional outbursts when my son’s diagnosis is “borderline intellectual functioning”. Is school just too hard? Am I being impatient? Should I just wait it out? Is this just a “long obedience in the same direction” that I haven’t learned yet? Any advice and encouragement welcome!


            Re: Accommodations in the classroom

            Welcome back! What does his teacher say? I would start there. Ask her if he seems to be comprehending academic instructions, organizational directions (lining up, prepping materials for the next lessons), and behavioral expectations? Does he have any friends? Is he having trouble with any of the other children, or do his difficulties seem to be largely academic? Ask her what she is seeing. Clearly something is upsetting him.

            What are your impressions when you visit? You might consider staying beyond the 30 minutes to observe everything in the classroom.

            Other thoughts:
            I would not be fooled by "borderline intellectual disability" as if it is not impactful. Rather, both his working memory and processing along with overall understanding may be quite low compared to the other children in his classical classroom. He has already repeated K, so moving back to K is not an option. It seems you must become a stealthy detective to uncover what is going on as quickly as you can. If possible, I would observe most of the day tomorrow.

            If you have not yet had a heart-to-heart with him, I would also do this. Keep it open-ended, so you're not leading him. "You seem troubled by something at school. Can you tell me what it is?" See what happens.

            Of course you will ensure the usual culprits are not issues: good nutritious breakfast before he leaves, nutritious lunch, avoid blood sugar dips, be sure he has no screens after dinner that might impact his sleep, get him to bed early with a good, calming routine so he can awaken refreshed. And so on.

            Homeschooling may be a necessity, but first it will be essential to unearth what is going on in his mind and body or in his heart. Praying for both of you.

            Please let us know what you can determine. Then we can go from there --


              Re: Accommodations in the classroom

              Thank you, Cheryl! I met with my son's teacher on Friday after school. She says he is doing very well in the classroom! He is following directions, playing with classmates, etc... He took his first spelling test on Friday with an aide who allowed him more time in a one-on-one setting and scored 10/10, even writing them down as well! I was skeptical about spelling due to visual processing problems, but he did great with this first list of word families. So it sounds like things are going well at school; it's just that our time at home doesn't match this at all! It is difficult for me to tailor everything to my son's preferences. He has an older sister who is academically gifted (read: impatient with him) and in the throes of junior high and puberty (AHHHHHH!), another sister who is very kind and helpful to him, and a 3yo brother who is VERY three. He shares a room with his brother, so it is sometimes difficult to get them settled down at night. We do our best to keep him rested and ready for each school day.

     husband and I feel like we are losing our minds; our home is not peaceful, and it feels like we're failing at everything we want for our kids. Our son's aggressive behaviors and fits are often just one piece of the puzzle. I get so frustrated when I feel like I know the things that help him, but I simply cannot do them all because he is part of a family, and there seem to be needs everywhere I look. It's such a difficult balancing act.

              Our school has a new counselor, and we are considering looking to her for some help with our son. From my interaction with his teacher, it seems like everything is on the right track at school. Maybe he is just using so much energy doing that that he falls apart at home. If so, may the Lord give us grace to carry that burden and help him succeed. I did ask about observing the class and may do that soon, but it does not seem that there are any significant problems popping up at school right now.

              Thank you for your encouragement and prayers.


                Re: Accommodations in the classroom

                Hallelujah, we awoke without screaming/crying/hitting this morning! Vision therapy also went well today. Whether this is a brief respite or it’s just taking some time to get into a new routine, I’m thankful for the grace!


                  Re: Accommodations in the classroom

                  This is good news! Some of his difficulties might ease as he adjusts to the transition from summer to school. If not, you might want to consult with his pediatrician specifically about his behavioral concerns. As you mentioned, the school counselor might be another good resource.

                  Watch the "mommy guilt" of thinking that you need to be ultra-flexible, bending to all of his needs, ever-adaptable. He may respond better to more standard expectations with predictable boundaries, such as bedtimes, consequences for anyone (hormonal or orherwise) who is disruptive or rude. You can set the parameters, just like they do in school.

                  Keep things easier on yourselves at home. If everyone benefits from having you and the two boys go to the park or playground after school to run and play while your daughter has some quiet time, you can do this. Maybe your husband can take the boys to the YMCA or to an indoor climbing gym on the weekends, so you and your daughter have the house to yourselves. You have the freedom to place harmony at a higher priority than tailored interventions, at least for now. You are right: This is a family! Carving out your own quiet time or time to refresh in whatever way you refresh, will help everyone. Encourage your husband to do the same.

                  If electronics are dominating, put these in their proper place. The boys should have no screens before bed. Your daughter's "drama" may be eased by helping her with limits. Ironically, when you step back to focus on the family's health & well-being, you might help your son, rather than only looking at it from the other way.

                  His school success is very encouraging. Whatever you have been doing is transferring to the school setting, so take heart! If you ever felt you could add something, M&O Book One might be a good bedtime routine for the two boys in their room with you. You could make sure pj's are on, teeth brushed, close the door, conduct the very brief lessons, read the book, and then have lights out. This one big change might be worth the reasonably small effort.