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Simply Classical, simply the best book on educating special needs!

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    Simply Classical, simply the best book on educating special needs!

    Cheryl Swope, if you're on here, thank you so much for writing this book. I have 5 children, ages 14ds, 12dd, 10ds, 6dd, 3dd. my 12 yr old daughter, almost 13, faces numerous challenges physically (dwarfism), mentally (full scale IQ in 70s), emotionally (anxiety and borderline personality) and more. She greatly struggles with comprehension of the most basic explanations at times and has much difficulty with math. She goes to NILD therapy, attends Classical Conversations with her siblings, and is overall at a 2/3rd grade level. While I classically educate my other children I admit resorting to a less-than-beautiful curriculum for her. While her siblings learn Latin, Logic, have dialectic discussions with me, her days are filled with copywork, workbooks that don't vary, books that aren't of much literary value (so hard for her to understand even books like Peter Rabbit and Aesop's although she reads at a college level, comprehension tested around k-2nd grade). And yet, she is sensitive, is aware that she doesn't 'get things' like her siblings do, and is quite lonely and depressed. As I'm reading your book (almost done), I'm filled with hope and excitement to change this with God's help! I ordered third grade core curriculum from Memoria Press and am organizing it now. I'm convinced this is the way to go but I'm facing some anxiety on how to get it all done.

    My eldest son is very smart but has had a persistent thorn in the flesh. He also has comprehension and word retrieval issues which requires me to spend much time in explaining and discussing. Classically, I love this process, however, it takes a lot of time and brain power for me as I haven't studied this much in, like, forever! He is in CC's Challenge I program which is absolutely wonderful and a huge blessing. Straightforward subjects such as Latin, math, Logic, science don't require much help from me. Literature, composition, and economics and debate do. Needless to say, I'm busy.

    I also homeschool my 5th and 1st graders. My 5th grader is doing much better but he really struggles with ADHD and Tourette's Syndrome. Learning to work more independently, taking ownership of his work, and chiropractic adjustments have been a great help!

    I guess all that to say, while reading your book, I felt like I wanted to do it all but just don't know how. I was glad to see that you don't do every subject every day so that's helpful.

    Do you have any advice on juggling multiple chidren with differing needs that require some degree of attention? Maybe just a lot of prayer!? LOL Again, I can't recommend your book enough. I've already shared its insights and suggestions with many people and I know that it will be helpful to many of my friends who desire to give their chilrdren an education filled with truth, beauty, and goodness but didn't know how.

    Hi, Julie.

    Yes, I'm here! Memoria Press is my “homebase.” I help moderate this Struggling Student Forum, a gathering of families endeavoring to provide a classical education with their struggling or special-needs children. We started this discussion forum about a year ago, even before Memoria Press published Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child.

    Thank you so much for your response to the book! If you would be willing to help, please visit beneath the existing customer reviews to “Write a Review.” We need 80-100 reviews to help encourage those uncertain about reading, but the book is so new, we have only 11! I appreciate the help anyone can give.

    Yes, you are busy! We have other large homeschooling families here who might have suggestions for daily logistics. We also have other families with more than one special-needs child. Feel free to ask specific questions as they arise.

    For now, let's look at each child separately:

    Your 14-year-old son

    He seems to be doing well with CC's program. You note he works with relative independence in Latin, math, Logic, and science. This is wonderful! Given his difficulties and your own very real limitations with mental energy and time, you may need to consider two strategies for his remaining years of schooling: 1) prioritize and 2) obtain help. For example, composition is high priority. If he is like many boys with learning difficulties, writing does not flow easily. You will do well to devote continual time to this, and he may even appreciate your helping him learn how to write well!

    For other areas, help might come in the form of online courses such as those offered by Memoria Press, greater involvement with CC, independent study at lower levels (MP's grade 5+ books are often quite substantial), or the Great Courses at the high school level, 800-832-2412, My son and I have found the Great Courses especially helpful for his study of American history. He loves history and can exhaust me rather quickly with the level of depth at which he wants to learn this subject! He watches the DVD lectures when he exercises and listens to the CD's in the evenings. The Great Courses annual sale (up to 70% off) lasts until August 26th this year. Teaching your son to use his own leisure time will prove very helpful for the remainder of his schooling.

    Your nearly-13-year-old daughter

    Yes, let's quickly help move this sensitive young lady from “anxious, lonely and depressed” to satisfied, achieving steadily at her own level, and loving learning again! Your daughter, if she is similar to mine (also full scale IQ in the 70's), encounters social challenges and has few real friends. For this reason, my daughter becomes sad and lonely whenever I do not nurture her with constructive, engaging content that helps take her “outside” of herself. Her schooling – and the materials you select – will be so important.

    Choose the most essential elements of the Memoria Press 3rd-grade curriculum package you ordered, because she might not be able to complete everything. You may need to revise the math lesson plans, but this will help her. Emphasize the enrichment activities you think she will most enjoy. You might also begin a “favorite things” notebook in which she records daily, whether in writing or drawing, one or two favorite things from each day before she goes to bed. This will help reorient her thinking.

    Reread the sections in Simply Classical on finding her independent level and be sure her homework is only within this range. Teach at her “instructional level,” and be sure (even at CC) the content does not continually reach her frustration level. If it does, you might need to consider some adaptation there.

    Be sure to provide your daughter with uplifting, light-hearted, yet beautiful activities for her own leisure time. If she likes music, visit You'll hear a sampling as soon as you access the website. I just had the privilege of speaking with the producer of this lovely music last week, and he was thrilled to know that his poetry-set-to-music is being enjoyed by special-needs children! I would recommend for her either Back to the Garden or A Child's Garden of Songs. (Your younger girls might enjoy this music for many years, as my children did.) All of the lyrics are children's poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson, perfect for a recitation or two. You could let her choose which poem she would like to learn.

    Your 10-year-old son

    You are already helping him work more independently. As you well know, ADHD can make studying a challenge. If he is practicing organizational skills, study skills, and good work habits, this will benefit him quite a bit!

    Your younger girls

    You might consider having a 20-minute-a-day period during which your oldest daughter reads to either or both of the younger girls, if either would be receptive to this. You mentioned that your oldest daughter has some difficulty with comprehension, but she has strong decoding/reading skills. If this is true in her oral reading, this might help alleviate some of her loneliness, as she begins to be your “helper” in homeschooling. If this seems unlikely right now, perhaps begin with 10 minutes. In whatever way she begins to help, she will begin to see herself as essential to the family. If nothing else, she can do as my own daughter does: Tuesdays Michelle sharpens all of the pencils for homeschooling. Thursdays she makes pudding for the family's special dessert. In my daughter's case, she will always live with us, so when she spends her leisure time as “domestic assistant,” she practices skills that truly help our family.

    One thing needful

    Overall, for your own sake and for theirs, remember the One thing needful. For our special-needs children, classical education without Christian education can be unbalanced and, frankly, unforgiving. No matter what else is accomplished in a day, especially for your oldest daughter, your children need to know that they are loved and forgiven. Your Christian studies through Memoria Press will assist this, as will reading Bible stories.

    My favorite resource for your oldest daughter's reading comprehension level: A Child's Garden of Bible Stories, by Arthur Gross, We enjoyed this as a read-aloud, and then my children read this orally for reading practice. Lovely illustrations, gentle stories, with plenty of comfort.

    Feel free to follow up or ask additional questions for anyone on this forum.

    Blessings to you-


    Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child
    Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., with Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith


      Could not agree more

      Julie, You sound like me earlier in the summer. After I read Simply Classical, I was elated because I was given hope. My children have been in CC too. My two with challenges, low IQ, are not able to participate in challenge because it is too rigorous for them. Because of this I felt like I could not classically educate them. Cheryl has given me hope for my girls, what a gift. I tell everyone about her book. She introduced me to MP. I ordered the 2nd grade package for my girls. I love how it looks. The lessons are very straight forward, clear, and uncluttered. The girls are just as excited as I am! I have five children as well and just may switch them all over to MP next year. Another thing about MP that I love is that it is so well thought out. The lessons are so cohesive and integrate with each subject so well. We start school on Monday. I would love to hear how your year goes. Susan


        Thank you!

        We started school on Monday so I haven't been able to respond but thank you so much for taking the time with such a thoughtful answer! I will consider everything you've suggested. I do love the 'favorite things' book idea. She ends up being so moody and sad but I know that she journals a little. I loved seeing the poetry that Michelle writes and think of my daughter who loves to draw.

        Yesterday, we started and I was very successful at overwhelming her. Yup, great job mom. We got to 3 subjects and cursive. Math: All we did was a math placement test that she scored perfect on except 1. Bible: She read a little in the Golden Children's Bible - we didn't even look at the questions or anything. Took some breaks. History: She read from her book and waited for me to discuss. Then I could see that she was getting flustered because her brother has the same book and he was totally getting it, answering his workbook, and enjoying it. I took her to the living room to read together alone, but instead of reading, she just burst into tears and held her head. She gets confused and overwhelmed when too many new things come too fast. In this case, I didn't notice her cues because I had 3 other students waiting for me and a crying toddler who wouldn't leave me alone. I ended up crying that evening, not just because of how crazy the day went, but because I just feel so inadequate for her and my other kids sometimes. I feel so badly when she is genuinely sad. Breaks my heart.

        I know that the Lord helps me and He gives me grace to continue, but some days it's very hard and discouraging. I am an avid reader and Classical christian home educating advocate! I LOVE studying, I am reclaiming my own education! I am reading Homer, and C.S. Lewis, and Caldecott because I WANT to and enjoy it. I want this for my children because I feel for the first time in my life that THIS is the way to educate body, soul, and spirit: loving God and all that is His creation, the truth, beauty and goodness that is to be found in all realms of life, all subjects, all endeavors.

        I am taking it one step at a time. I'll cut back even more and give her some more one-on-one time. I make her tons of lapbooks because she loves discovering the new pages, turning the little flaps, etc. I will make sure that those are part of her discovery of beauty and delight as well.

        Susan: Thanks for your encouragement as well. I am so glad to hear that you have chosen to use MP and love it so far. I'm looking forward to getting into it more.



          Some thoughts:

          First, given your daughter's sensitivity and age, she may be struggling with the greater self-awareness that comes as a teen. (How much more difficult as a teen with special needs!) She may need much assistance with issues related to self-knowledge right now.

          If you haven't yet read the Comfort and Hope sections near the end of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, I would encourage you to do so. Consider especially a reading of "The Little Lame Prince" with her, as described by my husband in one of the chapters. She may need many such discussions over the next few months. As she realizes her limitations, this will be painful; however, she can then begin to see herself more truthfully for the purpose of appreciating her unique role of service within the family and, eventually, the community.

          Also -- some children at your daughter's age (nearly 13), given hormonal changes and sometimes concurrent mood-related difficulties, benefit from a medical examination with a specific emphasis on mood stability. If a medical evaluation reveals an imbalance that might benefit from medical intervention, such support could assist all of your good efforts in schooling, in helping her find enjoyment in learning, and in pursuits of greater self-knowledge. If nothing is uncovered, at least you have ruled this out as a contributing factor. Such a discussion might be something to consider with your pediatrician or your daughter's specialists.

          Remember much of this school year is new for all of you! I always find the transition periods, such as from school-year-to-summer or summer-to-school-year the most difficult, even though we maintain much of our schedule year-round. After we establish a good rhythm and begin to accomplish something, we all feel much better.

          Slow and steady ...


          Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child
          Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., with Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith


            I think that you're right. We have been trying to find help in this area in our small town but haven't found anyone yet. I will consult with my pediatrician though. When I read your husband's letter, I immediately found and read "The Lame Prince". What a touching story and one that I will be reading with my children for sure. Thank you so much for responding. I can't tell you how much that means to me right now.


              an index

              For Julie or anyone who has not yet seen this, Tanya shared an Index to Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child. In looking through past posts tonight, I realized that the index became rather buried in our forum, so I wanted to "bump" it for anyone who might find this useful. Please see below.

              First, a quick note --

              We're back home from our computer-free weekend. For anyone who listened to the Audio Interview, we all loved the outdoor production of Hamlet. We finished reading the play in its entirety on our long drive Friday and attended the live performance in an outdoor Wisconsin theater with friends.

              At one point during our reading, I asked my daughter why Shakespeare's work has endured so many centuries despite the variance in historical contexts. (I paraphrased the question, so she would understand what I was asking.) She hesitated a moment and then answered in a single word: "Insights." So true. The insights into the human condition revealed through Ophelia's madness (my daughter and I felt heartbroken during this scene), Hamlet's suffering, Horatio's loyalty, and King Claudius' poignant prayer make the play powerfully timeless.

              For a great book of synopses before seeing Shakespeare's plays: E. Nesbit's The Best of Shakespeare: Retellings of 10 Classic Plays.

              And the index to Simply Classical:

              For those of you who have purchased Cheryl's book in its first-run, I am attaching the index here. This may help you in navigating through the book.

              Happy reading!



              [If for some reason this link does not work, see the attachment to the thread entitled "Any date on when Cheryl Swope's...."]


              Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child
              Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., with Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith



                Sometimes I receive questions privately. The most recent inquiry involved changes to Simply Classical referenced in some earlier posts on our forum. The individual wondered whether the current edition of Simply Classical includes the changes. The short answer: yes.

                Many of these changes occurred even before the book was published in May, because moms on this forum made suggestions from the proof copy. We listened.

                Since then, additional minor changes have been made. For example, when you purchase today, you will receive the Index posted here.

                We do continue to tweak as needed, but any substantive additions will be posted as free downloads on this forum, as we did here with the Index.


                Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child

                Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., with Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith


                  I was asked to clarify further whether any changes will be made to the book's current version.

                  Just a day or two ago, I sent Tanya some final edits. Most of these changes involve items not essential to the reader, such as a change from a semi-colon to a period or the addition of quotation marks in a quotation. While my daughter and I were housesitting for relatives recently, I combed through the book, page-by-page, to find such needed corrections.

                  Two significant changes involve rewording the Introduction and adding an Epilogue. In each, I describe more clearly the impact of autism, learning disabilities, and schizophrenia on daily functioning. Based on feedback here and elsewhere, I think this is important. I have asked that the Epilogue become a free download. Perhaps we can provide the new Intro too, for anyone interested. I do not know when these will be available.

                  Regardless, I am very happy with the version currently offered through Memoria Press,, Educational Resources.

                  In the new Epilogue we invite readers to join us on this forum for ongoing support.