If you’ve been around This Little Home of Mine for awhile, you’ve seen the age-leveled homeschooling posts I’ve shared over the years. These posts include a peek into what homeschooling looks like in our house for each age and stage, and now I’m excited to have put together a peek into our journey of homeschooling my daughter, Aubrey, who has Down Syndrome.
In 2016, we found out our daughter had some pretty special chromosomes. Whether or not we would homeschool her wasn’t even a question. After receiving her diagnosis, she began working with a variety of therapists. From the start, our day-to-day life and her therapy activities were woven together, creating a seamless transition into her school-age years where her therapy goals would drive much of what we did together during her school lessons.
Many children with Down Syndrome need additional support with:
- Fine Motor Skills
- Gross Motor Skills
and in this post I’m going to share how those three areas have served as the guide as we homeschool Aubrey.
Homeschooling: Down Syndrome
Something to keep in mind for those of you who may also have a child with Down Syndrome: Every child is unique! Your child with Down Syndrome is going to have their own specific amazing strengths as well as unique ways where they need additional support. Please know that in this post, I’m simply sharing our specific situation. While I hope you will find this post encouraging and possibly walk away with some fresh inspiration, please remember to keep your own unique child in mind, working closely with any doctors, therapists, etc. who know and understand your situation in a way that I don’t.
General Recommendations From Our Family to Yours
- I highly recommend play-based therapy – this has made all the difference for my girl. Not only has it reached down and met her in her world – as I believe all therapy situations should – but it has literally taught her how to play, supporting her as she experiments with pretend play, a super important part of child development.
- If at all possible, be involved in your child’s therapy sessions. For the first few years, I sat in on every session, taking notes, snapping pictures, asking questions as I was able – all so I could successfully model the activities at home. These days, I pop in and out of the sessions from time to time – making sure not to be a distraction – but gathering what I need to be able to reinforce her goals in our day-to-day. This is everything!
- Avoid toys, activities, and resources that limit your child. As you browse my top picks here, you will see very few toys that do the work for the child. Focus on open-ended toys that will gift your kiddo with the opportunity to be creative.
If you would like to read more about specific speech tools, therapeutic resources, etc. we’ve used with Aubrey since she was baby, I shared the beginning of Aubrey’s oral motor journey here. Yes, ARK Therapeutic tools continue to be a huge help to us. If you have questions about which of their products would be helpful to your child, your speech therapist will be able to offer recommendations specific to your child.
- ARK Therapeutic (We’ve also saved these favorites here.)
- Pretend Play Toys
- Bubbles, Pinwheels, Recorder
- Feedback Phone
- ABC See, Hear, Do
Fine Motor Skills
For Aubrey, Fine Motor Skills has been her strongest area, but still an area where she benefits from additional support. (Remember, your child may have different strengths.)
Both her occupational therapist and her eye doctor have been helpful in explaining to me where we need to focus as it pertains to fine motor skills. Fine motor activities have been a huge part of Aubrey’s homeschooling life thus far – strengthening her mind and muscles for those traditional school skills as well as various other life skills.
Fine Motor Favorites
- Nesting Blocks
- Magnetic Tracing Boards *similar to the one pictured*
- Hot Dots
- Little Writer App *available in the Apple Store
- Spike the Hedgehog
- Melissa and Doug Lacing Cards
- Button Art
- Fine Motor Tools
- Learning without Tears Multi-Sensory Writing Tools and Activities
Gross Motor Skills
In addition to Aubrey’s physical therapy sessions, we enjoy family outings that provide her with additional opportunities to engage with the world around her. Our favorites spots:
- splash pads
- pick-your-own farms
- hiking trails
When our diagnosis was brand new, it was especially encouraging to my mama’s heart to see other kiddos with Down Syndrome enjoying life with their families. At the time, it gave me so much peace, and I hope that if you’re walking through a similar time right now these pictures will calm your anxiousness a bit.
My number one piece of gross motor advice? Keep your family moving, and as much as is possible to your specific situation, make sure everyone is included.
Gross Motor Favorites:
- Rubber Kickball
- Riding Toys
- Balance Bike
- Wiggle Car
- Stepping Logs
- Wiggle Cushion / Bilibo Chair
- Stomp Rocket
Looking for Specific Curriculum Recommendations?
So far, we have used:
- a smidge of Abeka (what I used with my other kiddos)
- ABC See, Hear, Do (Highly recommend for teaching letter sounds!)
- Learning without Tears (Love the multisensory approach)
- Loads and loads and loads and loads of read-aloud books – I read aloud to my kids every day! (How do I put big, bright flashing lights around this bullet point? It might just be the most important recommendation in this post!)
Much of what we have done – and will continue to do for some time – can be found in my Five Senses Letter-a-Week Activity Guide. These activities that span across the curriculum have been a fantastic fit for her, and I’ve loved watching how we’ve been able to extend them more and more each year as she grows. (Yes, there are loads of read-aloud book recommendations included in this guide.)
I’ve also recently put together this batch of Sensory Flashcards to use for lots of different activities we do together! (Psst…not just for preschoolers! We’ll be using these for awhile, I’m sure.)
Aubrey has enjoyed:
- library story time
- children’s theater shows
- music lessons/music therapy (Another fantastic speech/language opportunity!)
- kids choir at church
- pee-wee soccer
- swim lessons (Amazing for strengthening her body!)
From the day we received Aubrey’s diagnosis, I have been researching, researching, and researching – and this stack of books here has been pure gold! I consider these books to be must-haves. I continue to use them as Aubrey walks through different developmental stages, and they have been so helpful to me.
As Aubrey continues to grow and develop, I look forward to updating this post with additional resources and information that might be helpful to you, but as we close this out for now, I want to encourage those of you who may be doubting your ability to homeschool your child with special needs.
Prior to having Aubrey, my husband and I had a very limited understanding of Down Syndrome. Those early days were filled wit lots of questions and concerns about the future. Maybe you’re sitting in that place right now with a diagnosis your family has received. Friend, I understand.
God will be so faithful to you. He has not asked you to walk your story out alone.
In fact, He is right there with you, and He is going to provide you with strength as you seek to understand your child and research ways to help them learn. As you trust Him, you are going to have a front row seat to watching Him work out even the tiniest details of your story.
His promises are true. His heart is for you. The love He has for you and your child far surpasses anything you can comprehend. Your days spent learning with your child may not always be easy, but you are going to look back someday and cherish them…and I’ll be standing there with you. We’ll probably shed a few happy tears and then sit down with a cup of coffee and talk about how God carried us and never left us without a single thing we needed.