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Homeschool parents Self Advocacy

Parent Perspective: Self-Advocacy

Teachers tell me my dyslexic daughter is a good self-advocate, and I know it’s an important skill. By high school, self-advocating isn’t just knowing what you need and asking for it, which can be hard enough. It’s also planning and managing one’s self, teachers, specialists, the testing center, scheduling, technology, paperwork, and stress — all while being subject to skepticism and accusations of an unfair advantage.

Self-Advocacy and Accommodations

After all that, sometimes the requests are denied, deemed not to be “reasonable accommodations.” Some people ask, “Does she really need that? Can you prove it beyond a reasonable doubt?” Without accommodations, she’ll get by, some people say, as if merely getting by is a valid educational goal.

Self-advocacy at school is mentally and emotionally exhausting; it’s extra work for students in an area that can already be difficult. As a parent of a student with learning differences, it feels like the added burden of having to be your own advocate is just another barrier, another test of worthiness.

Eyeglasses Analogy

Consider the analogy of a student who is failing in school but just needs eyeglasses — a tool, an accommodation. With glasses, the student can see more clearly and begins to succeed. It’s accepted without question as to whether or not they really need the glasses, or if the glasses are a reasonable accommodation. Nobody says they’d “get by” without those glasses.

The Burden of Self-Advocacy

Students who can be accommodated with corrective lenses don’t have to self-advocate. Nobody asks for formal documentation, eye test results, or the qualifications of the optometrist. Nobody needs to know if the diagnosis is an astigmatism, myopia, or hyperopia. Nobody insinuates that the glasses give an unfair advantage or that the student should just practice seeing without glasses. Nobody would say the student can wear glasses sometimes, but not when taking a test or taking notes in class.

In order to “see,” my child needs tools such as voice-to-text and text-to-voice as well as other accommodations. Yet, she has to leap over many hurdles to get there. Yes, my daughter has learned to self-advocate at school, but I wish she didn’t have to.

  • Parent of LD High School Student

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit in 2023

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as executive function and social-emotional learning, organizing time and materials, UDL, and goal setting. Learn more and register today

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

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focus Homeschool parents

Interviewing an EF Expert, Part 4

Top Tier Admissions(link opens in new tab/window), a company devoted to empowering students from around the world in the college and graduate school admissions process, recently interviewed ResearchILD’s very own Shelly Levy*, M.Ed., M.S., who is a leader in the field of learning development. Shelly’s interview is a rich resource on executive function, and we will be diving into pieces of it here on the blog over the next few weeks. Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3.

What can a parent do to help a teenager with executive function issues?

Shelly’s response: There are a number of ways you can support your teenager with executive function issues.

Open the lines of communication

Before getting to the learning, students need to feel safe and supported. Ask questions to show them you are on their team. It is important to approach the conversation with curiosity and demonstrate that you want to keep communication lines open, especially when the going gets tough.

Help create a comprehensive list of assignments

Some of the questions you ask your student can reveal how comfortable they are accessing their assignments (it might be different for each class). Once they know how to find and submit assignments, you can offer to help create a comprehensive list of assignments on a Google Document.

Help identify productive workspaces

It’s important to examine what spaces help your teen feel most productive. What seating and lighting do they prefer? What supplies and snacks are most helpful to have nearby? Help your student build their self-understanding by identifying things that help and hurt their ability to focus.

Break assignments into small, manageable parts

All long-term projects and papers are made up of multiple steps that occur in different stages. It can be difficult to know where to start and which steps need to be completed first. Help your student break down assignments into small, manageable parts and create a realistic timeline.

Recognize progress

Celebrate your teen’s efforts and successes along the way, no matter how small!

Seek external support when necessary 

Shelly also recommends that an executive function coach or educational specialist can support students and teach them the executive function strategies they need for success in high school, college, and beyond.

For more information, check out the SMARTS blog posts with resources for parents and homeschooling.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

*Shelly Levy is the Director of SMARTS Training & an Educational Specialist at The Research Institute for Learning and Development in Lexington, MA. She has been in the field of Special Education for over 30 years.

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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EF Conference Goal Setting Homeschool parent perspective

EF at Home: Goal Setting, Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series on EF at Home: Goal Setting. You can read Part 1 here

When children create personalized and achievable goals that are CANDO (Clear, Appropriate, Numerical, Doable, and with Obstacles considered), they are positioned to succeed. Here are some practical tips for helping children set effective goals and monitor their progress.

Begin with Simple Goals

Start with straightforward goal areas that are motivating for your child. These might include:

  • Sports or Activities – Set goals related to sports or activities that your child has chosen and for which they are already motivated. Perhaps your child is trying to earn scout badges or master a certain instrumental piece or sports technique.
  • Household Projects – Set goals as a family (e.g., household cleaning or renovation projects) so you can work together to achieve success. You can also set individual goals for around the house (e.g., organizing a room or training a dog).
  • Academics – Begin with goals that are likely to be met easily to build confidence; then move toward goals for challenging tasks or subject areas. You can start by setting goals for homework completion for one day or for studying for a particular test.

As you focus on any goal area, remember that you want your child to see results and feel accomplished. Be careful about goals related only to outcomes (e.g., grades, points scored, medals) that may depend on the behaviors or standards of others. Instead, target goals that connect to the process of improvement (e.g., studying or practicing for so many hours per week).

Practice Monitoring Goal Progress

Setting goals is just the first step. If we write down a goal and put it in a drawer, it never gets done. Once your child has set an effective goal and identified short-term steps to reach it, you can help your child monitor and reflect on their progress. Use a calendar or planner to remind you and your child to revisit the goal and discuss whether progress is being made.

In the beginning, you will have to support your child in developing realistic self-assessment. Your child may say, “Yup, I’m doing it.” You may need to gently correct the assessment by asking questions about the timeline or the completion of short-term steps leading to the larger goal. You may even need to provide information about what you have observed—at least in the beginning. As your child practices checking goal progress, you can provide less direct support while encouraging your child to decide how to celebrate accomplishments.

Wrapping Up

Goal setting allows us to have a say in what we want to have, be, or do. By teaching children strategies for goal setting, along with sharing our own use of goal setting, we can start them on the path to goal-directed accomplishments!

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
EF Conference Goal Setting Homeschool parent perspective

EF at Home: Goal Setting, Part 1

To children, goal setting may seem like one of those things that adults do—and maybe only those highly successful adults that children see on television or in the movies. Many adults, in fact, simply have dreams (goals without deadlines!), and very few adults truly understand how to set effective goals and implement them. How then can we possibly expect our children to become good goal-setters?

Goal setting may not be part of the school or homeschool curriculum—but it could be. Either way, goal setting is something you can practice with your children at home. Here are some suggestions.

Teach a Goal-Setting Strategy

Start with suggesting a goal-setting strategy that is both easy to remember and effective. In the SMARTS Curriculum, we teach CANDO goal setting, which includes the following five criteria:

  • C – Clear: Goals must be clear and specific. Avoid words like “better” or “more” that simply show a direction. What, actually, do you want to accomplish?
  • A – Appropriate: Goals must be realistic, based on where you are starting, and also relevant to what you need or want. Make sure goals are next steps rather than “pie-in-the-sky” ideas of what you think might be nice.
  • N – Numerical: Goals must be measurable, so you can check whether or not you are meeting your goal. Can you use a number or percentage or some other amount to quantify what you are trying to do?
  • D – Doable: Larger goals must be broken down into short-term goals so that you can reach (and celebrate) those short-term goals along the way. What are the steps you need to take to accomplish what you want?
  • O – Obstacles Considered: Goals must be considered in terms of obstacles that might arise and possible solutions to those obstacles. What is likely to get in the way? What do you have going for you?

By teaching and modeling goal setting, your child can learn an important life skill. To learn more about the SMARTS Curriculum and information for homeschoolers and parents of school-aged children, we invite you to attend the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4, 2022, to hear from Michael Greschler, M.Ed. and Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

Wearing Your Shoes: Teachers Collaborating with Parents to Promote Executive Function at School and at Home

In this workshop, Michael Greschler, M.Ed., and Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., will explore the impact of differing perspectives between teachers and parents/guardians, as well as practical strategies for collaborating with families to support students. Participants will learn strategies from the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum, review strategy instruction materials developed to support EF at home, and explore hands-on activities for bridging the gap between school and home.

Tune in tomrrow for Part 2 of this blog post to learn practical tips for goal setting and monitoring progress toward goals.

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
College EF Conference Homeschool Social-Emotional Learning

37th Annual EF Conference Highlight: ResearchILD and SMARTS Specialists 

ResearchILD is excited to host a number of educational specialists, SMARTS experts, and teacher trainers at our 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4. These speakers will share practical strategies that you can bring into your classroom on Monday morning.

These pre-recorded concurrent sessions will be available starting the week of October 24. Conference attendees will have unlimited access to all concurrent sessions and the recordings of the live plenary sessions through January 15, 2023.

Wearing Your Shoes: Teachers Collaborating with Parents to Promote Executive Function at School and at Home

Michael Greschler, M.Ed. & Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

In this workshop, we will explore the impact of differing perspectives between teachers and parents/guardians, as well as practical strategies for collaborating with families to support students. Participants will learn strategies from the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum, review strategy instruction materials developed to support EF at home and explore hands-on activities for bridging the gap between school and home.

Executive Function and Social-Emotional Learning: Strategies for Perspective Taking, Self-Understanding, and Self-Management

Shelly Levy, M.Ed. M.S. & Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed.

In this session, we will discuss the relationship between emotion and executive function, as well as ways of teaching EF strategies to promote emotional regulation. We will address strategies for developing perspective taking, self-understanding, and self-management. Attendees will develop a more nuanced appreciation for the impact of negative emotions on students’ performance. They will also learn how to teach executive function strategies in ways that promote engagement and motivation and empower students to become more independent and successful.

Beyond Jokes and Riddles: Cognitive Flexibility Across the Grades and Content Areas

Donna Kincaid, M.Ed.

This session will focus on practical strategies for improving students’ cognitive flexibility in academic and social situations. We will model a number of effective and easy-to-teach strategies and discuss their application across academic domains.

Transition to College: Promoting Students’ Self-Understanding and Executive Function Strategy Use

Joan Steinberg, M.Ed.

During this session, we will discuss the importance of self-advocacy as students initiate adult relationships with professors, medication providers, therapists, and executive function coaches. Our students will talk about the differences in academic demands between high school and college, and the need to shift mindsets and develop new habits for these changing demands. In addition, we will discuss a variety of planning and time-management strategies that have been used by our students and customized for different learning profiles.

Learn More

To hear from these presenters and more, we invite you to attend ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4, 2022.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Homeschool parent perspective Remote Learning

Parent Perspective: The Gap Between Home and School

Alana Bremers, parent and ResearchILD Intern, discusses how educators and parents can bridge the gap between home and school.

“My brother grew up with learning differences, and when my mom went to visit him in kindergarten, he was alone at a table with a pad of paper and a box of crayons. The rest of the class was on the floor listening to a story the teacher read.

My mom looked at the room. All the kids had their names self-written, decorated, and hung up on the wall; except, of course, my brother. No one thought to help him write his simple, three-letter name. He had dyslexia but could still participate. 

This was decades ago, but really it’s just the first chapter in a long story. My mom had to fight for everything he got out of school. If she had never visited him in school, he would have been ignored completely. Needless to say, he did not enjoy school.

In teacher training programs, we are trained to do better for students like my brother. We learn about behaviorism, conditioning, Pavlov, and Maslow. We design strategic interventions for struggling students and incorporate methods for scaffolding. We develop pride in our profession and power to help kids shape their futures. We have the best intentions, yet forget these kids belong to another world for most of their lives.

If a child is struggling, shouldn’t the first step be to ask the parents for insight? Is it appropriate to become a mentor to a student without becoming familiar with their parents? Wouldn’t it be helpful to make curricula available to parents and information about their children accessible? How do parents and teachers become team members in support of academic success?

As a future teacher, I want to positively transform the lives in my classroom. I want to be the teacher who inspires a generation of students to be kind and confident. Parents and teachers are on the same side: the side of happy, healthy, kind, intelligent, thoughtful kids. 

We know that relationships are fundamental to learning, and this is true both at home and at school. To be successful teachers, we need to forge positive relationships between home and school. Creating a consistent flow of information and sharing of strategies and ideas sends a message to our students that we are committed to setting them up for success. Especially for early learners, having a positive relationship with parents can help build trust and bring consistent messages from the classroom into the home.

Parents buy a lot of parenting books, read blogs, and ask for advice. They welcome partners in raising happy, healthy, successful, and kind children. Bridging parents and teachers, while respecting students, is rewarding for kids and will, therefore, help teachers achieve classroom goals.”

  • Alana Bremers, ResearchILD Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Homeschool parent perspective Remote Learning

Parent Perspective: Reentry and Learning Loss

Alana Bremers, parent and ResearchILD Intern, shares her thoughts about school reentry and learning loss after homeschooling her children during the pandemic.

“Between not being able to access specific standards and curriculum from my local district and the uncertainty of this pandemic year, I have no way of knowing how my kid will fit into school next year. 

If I can believe the recent assessments that my daughter took from a free, online program that claims to track specific state standards, she will be a full year ahead in math and two to three years ahead in literacy. She is even passing science tests.

With hesitation, I feel great about this year of homeschooling my children. We appear to be managing a large amount of quality learning in a fraction of the time. While I was initially scared about failing my kids, I’ve instead reinforced bonds between my children and myself. I’m even lamenting our return to in-person schooling next year.

As I consider our school plans for next year, there are a few things I am keeping in mind. No matter what happens, I will continue to leverage free public curricula. These programs can be used to guide homeschool programs, and they also allow parents to be a productive part of any student’s learning experience. If parents can easily access information about where their children stand academically, we can be stronger advocates for high-quality education and more immediately recognize when our children fall behind.

I also think that parents need as much access to data as possible. Is the school providing professional development training opportunities and attracting quality teachers? If I leave a district and enter a new one, is there something I can do to prepare my kids to seamlessly transfer?

So many news stories discuss kids struggling in hybrid or remote learning; however, parents and schools need to learn from what worked this year if students are going to successfully re-engage with learning. One recent news story even reported students with ADHD are thriving in less distracting online learning environments.

How can we continue to apply the positive lessons we’ve learned over the past two years with hybrid and homeschool learning models? Teachers and parents should continue to make expectations, goals, and realities all easily accessible, public information.”

  • Alana Bremers, ResearchILD Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Homeschool parent perspective Remote Learning

Parent Perspective: Learning to Homeschool

Alana Bremers, parent and ResearchILD Intern, explains how she learned to homeschool during the pandemic.

“While deciding to homeschool my kids wasn’t easy, once I made the decision, I took it very seriously. I wanted to make sure that I developed a plan that would support my new teaching responsibilities, both academically and socially.

The social dimension of homeschooling has been great as I’m able to teach both of my kids together. We can play games, read to each other, and spend time using online learning programs.

We also have more flexibility in our daily schedule, so I’m able to make sure we have time for swim lessons, socially distanced play dates, or general fun. We have two sports days a week and family time on weekends. Homeschool counts time reading and playing games as education, and we can even count play as physical education. As a mom, I felt confident in my ability to keep my kids engaged with their friends and enjoying life.

Structuring their academic lives was a bit more challenging. However, as a teacher candidate, I felt like I could do the research and get this done. I had an interesting experience trying to untangle the local standards for education. After a few frustrating hours, I gave up, instead focusing on the standards of New York because their curriculum is available online, for free, with interactive learning assistance. New York state is very open about exactly what kids are expected to learn.

Connecting with other homeschool parents has been invaluable. I have found tremendous support from the general homeschool community and administrators of various curriculum products I use.”

  • Alana Bremers, ResearchILD Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Homeschool

Homeschooling: Building Executive Function Strategies, Part 2

Homeschooling is an ideal environment to address the executive function demands of both the home and school setting. Here are a few practical strategies for integrating executive function into homeschool teaching. (For more ideas, check out part 1 of this blog.)

Adapt Executive Function Strategies between Settings

As a homeschool teacher, you can help your child deepen their understanding of strategy use by applying strategies introduced in an academic setting to the home setting, and vice versa. For example, the strategy your child learns to estimate and prioritize their homework can be used to plan a weekend trip. Likewise, organizational strategies can be used for a bedroom closet or a homeschool workspace. 

Create Opportunities for Strategy Use

Since you are both teacher and parent, you have the opportunity to make time to help your child practice using executive function strategies and reflect on how effective the strategy was. Homeschool parents also have unique insight into the level of support that is necessary. For example, you can step back from planning your homeschool day and ask your child to take the lead. Provide support by adjusting the steps in a project to where your child can handle breaking it down and scheduling it for completion. You can offer calendars and other resources in the environment and then urge your child to use the tools available. These purposeful opportunities ensure that your child can successfully apply the strategies they are learning.

Role Model Your Own Strategy Use

One of the most important teaching strategies you can use to build executive functioning in your child is to role model when you are using your own executive function. (This true for both homeschool teacher and parent roles.)

Kids greatly underestimate the time parents and teachers spend doing tasks that require executive function processes. When students see parents and teachers, and parent-teachers, using strategies, they understand that even adults face executive function demands and need strategies to be successful. Share the strategies you rely on, such as your menu planning and agenda book, lesson plan schedule, and grading process. Make executive function visible and part of your daily conversation.

Using these methods, you are not teaching executive function strategies for the sake of teaching them. You are teaching them when a strategy is needed to help your child with a challenging academic or household task. This makes the learning of the strategy relevant, and a successful result can be very motivating for your child to use the strategy in the future.

By generalizing strategy instruction across academics and home, you can help your child build a strategy toolbox for any setting—home, school, clubs and activities, sports, college, career, and beyond!

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Executive Function Homeschool

Homeschooling: How to Build Executive Function Strategies, Part 1

Executive function is used everywhere! At home, school, the office — even on vacation — your executive function processes keep you moving along. Executive function demands and strategies, however, can vary across settings, especially at school and home. Here are some ways to integrate executive function strategies into academic tasks and everyday activities when homeschooling.

Executive Function at School and Home

An executive function process such as goal setting can look different in school and at home. Students set goals related to grades, projects, or extracurriculars at school, often using templates and scaffolds created by their teacher. At home, students set goals related to chores, extracurricular interests, and their unstructured time.

When executive function expectations and supports are different at home and school, executive function difficulties may arise. Students who receive direct executive function strategy instruction in school may find the connection to home gets lost. Students who have parents who support their executive function at home may not find those same levels of support at school. (Watch our free webinar “Executive Function: The Bridge Between Home and School” to learn how to understand and support your child’s executive function needs.)

Strategy instruction is most effective when children understand that strategies can be used across tasks, subject areas, and settings. Here are some ways you can connect executive function strategies between academic tasks and activities at home.

Promote Metacognition about Executive Function

As a homeschool teacher, you are constantly observing your child’s executive function strengths and challenges. When helping your child understand their strengths and challenges, focus on the positives and assure your child that there are strategies to help with the challenges. This sets the stage for strategy instruction as your child is aware of strengths but also knows that there is a reason for learning strategies that will help with challenges.

Teach Executive Function Strategies within Academic Tasks

Armed with the knowledge of your child’s executive function strengths and challenges, you can integrate strategy instruction into academic subjects as needed. For example, if your child struggles to manage time to get homeschool work done, teach your child to categorize activities into “have-to’s, want-to’s, and hope-to’s” to organize that day’s tasks. Integrating executive function strategies into projects or tests can also help set up your child for success. 

Introduce Executive Function Strategies in the Home

As a homeschooler, you know that learning is no longer limited to school hours and tidy school subjects. You have the flexibility to create teachable moments throughout your day. These are perfect opportunities for you to introduce executive function strategies within real-world applications. For example, if your child is struggling to keep a closet neat, bring in an organizational strategy—like the SMARTS 4C’s strategy—at that moment.

These are just a few ways to incorporate executive function into a successful homeschool. Check out Part 2 for more strategies you can try.

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer and Consultant

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org