All four of my children have some sort of learning difference, which means they need imaginative learning projects to succeed. The oldest two struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Four doctors diagnosed my younger daughter with high functioning Asperger’s at age 6 and my youngest son struggled with regulation issues and Sensory Processing Disorder. (He also displays some Aspie traits, which led me to use subscription boxes to help him overcome.) So, I learned early on that certain types of homeschooling just wouldn’t work for them. After reading several books and being a student of my children, I figured out the core teaching needs of Aspie kids, which are not that different than the needs of ADD kids. Both learning differences require immersive, relevant, hands-on, imaginative learning projects.
They need imaginative learning but…
But, just setting them loose doesn’t always work, either. These special kids need a framework or some sort of structure, especially Aspies. Otherwise, they struggle with basic things like starting a project and knowing when they’re finished. And, they like to know what you expect when you give them a task. They also tend to be concrete learners. That means they struggle with abstract concepts. They need to see it to understand it.
It also means that learning in one situation doesn’t transfer to another situation. In fact, they often have to relearn it. For example, learning math on a worksheet doesn’t transfer to real-world application. To them, it is two separate things. Understanding these things about them made unschooling easier. And, satisfying their learning needs was fairly easy when they were small. But, as they got older, I sought out curriculum that met certain criteria, especially for writing and math.
Criteria for special needs writing programs
If you have ever worked with children with ADD, you know that these kids can smell twaddly worksheets a mile away and they start running! And, kids with Asperger’s tend to have obsessive interests and unless you can find a way to integrate their interest, they’re not interested. So, the writing program I chose needed to be relevant to the child, not the teacher. It also couldn’t be loosely tied to another school subject.
It also needed to include real projects, not writing assignments that the child knows end up in a box in the garage. Children with ADD need a reason to care. They don’t tolerate boring, fake, or contrived anything. Just like children with Asperger’s, they have strong interests, too. Those interests motivate them and actually help them focus. They willingly give themselves to imaginative learning projects chosen by them, and disappear for hours.
And third, the program still needed to teach good writing. So, the instruction had to be cleverly woven into the child-directed writing projects. That’s hard to do without coming off hokey. But, I found the perfect writing program! Better yet, they now have three writing programs.
Imaginative Learning Projects from Clear Water Press
For one, this company is different. The instructor is an award-winning author, not an English teacher. Personally, I feel a published author knows more about good writing than an English teacher who has never published anything. And because Daniel Schwabauer incorporates craft into the lessons, they not only teach but entertain. My sons loved the short, video lessons. No blackboards, no lectures, just Daniel in costume using real movie clips, old manuscripts, and challenges to teach kids about the creative process. Now, you can stream the video content instead of purchasing DVDs like I did. These are professionally produced, non-cheesy, but very theatrical short lessons. They form the meat of all of their writing programs.
Explore their programs
Clear Water Press not only uses engaging video to teach the creative process of writing, but Daniel gives kids ownership of their writing by incorporating real projects. In One Year Adventure Novel, teens actually write a full novel over the course of a year and it counts as one full high school English credit. My son loved that. He loved that he was working on something real and that a real author gave him concrete guidance on how to bring his own idea to life. The extras offered–the Novel Contest and the Student Forum–gave him important feedback that motivated him to improve. For additional writing tips and encouragement, they also offer a Summer Workshop writing camp and ongoing training webinars for teens in the One Year Adventure Novel Program.
But One Year Adventure Novel isn’t the only writing program they offer that uses imaginative learning projects. They also offer Cover Story and Byline. My daughter used Cover Story and got to create her own magazine about fairies. She loved learning how to make essays, interviews, and short stories really pop so people would want to read her writing. Creating her own imaginative learning project around one of her interests helped her grow as a young writer. It encouraged her and she went on to write another one about unicorns! They also offer 5 Cover Story contests to further challenge and motivate students in the creative process.
In addition to the two writing programs my children used, they also now offer Byline. Byline teaches journalism skills through time travel. It incorporates all the same high quality, engaging methods that the first two programs used. Kids can listen to the free Byline podcast, a super immersive and relevant way to get into the program. And, they can send in their best reporting to the Witherspoon Award.
If you have a special needs student, this is the best option I have seen. It teaches the creative process of generating ideas and communicating them in a way that people care about. But, it does it in a relevant, engaging way that your teens care about, too.
Grab your new writing curriculum and save 10%!
Save 10% on imaginative Language Arts courses from Clear Water Press with code JULIETEN. Valid through July 30, 2021, on curriculum orders of $100 or more.