Blog Archive

This post contains links to products on Amazon. If you purchase items through these links, I receive a small percentage of every sale.

How Do You Meet the Needs of Your Individual Students with Varying Skills and Abilities?

This post may contain affiliate link.

Last week I wrote an EXTREMELY LONG post about meeting the needs of your individual students.  Each day I've thought about the post since, I've cringed.  I wasn't happy with it at all.  Today I deleted it.   Instead I'm writing a bunch of smaller posts with a better balance of quality and quantity. So here goes...

I have four very different kiddos with very different skill levels and abilities.  Dinomite, age 7, is incredibly smart in the areas of science and history.  However, he really struggles with language and math.  He has delays in fine motor skills.  His muscle tone is a little low.  Dinomite is Autistic and has been flagged for a learning disability in relation to his writing.  He also suffers from anxieties and Neophobia.  Bulldozer, age 5, is very smart, and also Autistic, with auditory processing issues and ADHD tendencies.  His fine motor skills are delayed.  He has low muscle tone.  Princess, age 4, is brilliant, with an IQ of 131.  She is reading, writing, adding, subtracting, telling time, counting money, diagramming sentences etc.  Unfortunately, Princess (adopted through foster care), suffers from PTSD episodes on a regular basis. She has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of Affect.  Her behaviors can be extremely trying and often get in the way of her success as a student.  Sunshine, age 2, (also adopted through foster care), is more delayed than any other child we've had.  Still in the process of being diagnosed, she is quite the puzzle.

How do you meet the needs of your individual students with varying skills and abilities?

Here's what we've chosen to do:

1.  Use a Montessori inspired approach to learning.
Our kiddo chooses their own work each day.  There are several activity trays set up on shelves.  Activities vary in level.  Each kiddo progresses at their own pace.

2.  Incorporate motor development tasks within the daily learning time activities.
Each of our units includes motor development activities.  In the Montessori world these are referred to as Practical Life Activities.

3.  Keep writing to a minimum.
It may sound crazy, but it has helped immensely.  The kiddos know that they will write in their journals each day, in the capacity they are able.  They also complete two worksheets with minimal writing required.  All other activities are free of writing.

4.  Use hands on manipulatives with visuals.
These activities have proved to be extremely successful and beneficial for all of our kiddos.  Those who struggle with writing are not hindered in areas of study, due to a writing component they're unable to complete.  One who learns at a more advanced pace and is still very young, is able to understand more complicated subject content, because of the manipulatives and visuals.

5.  Eliminate testing and grading.
My kiddos know how to complete an activity or they don't.  Each week I try to design activities that require the kiddos to generalize information they have learned.  Completion of the activity shows mastery of the skill.  I continue to present a specific activity until all kiddos have mastered it.  When it comes to their writing, spelling, math facts, etc. I don't correct their work.  Most often they're able to self correct, using a control, as spoken of in the Montessori Method.  When there is not a control, they progress naturally.  They're able to develop the necessary skill.   I learned long ago not to expect a child to master a skill at a specific time or age.  They will do so when they are ready.  In my opinion, it is unfair to grade a child's speed of development.

I would love to learn about the ways you meet the needs of your individual students with varying skills and abilities.  Every child is different.


  1. I am so surprised you deleted it! I read the whole thing while drinking coffee and sitting in our classroom. It came at the perfect time, as I have been struggling with getting it right in our routine. It was so helpful to me. And helped me to really take note of my own son's sensory needs that I was not in tune with. All week I have been noticing when my own son needs a cuddle or a wrestle, or even when he needs to put his feet in our sand tray that is meant for letter writing. Thank you for the post, even though it's gone! LOL I will take a look at your new smaller posts also though. :) And btw, our homeschooling is going much better now that I am allowing those much needed breaks and honoring what his body and mind are seeking. Like a night and day difference!!!!

  2. Danielle, I'm so glad you enjoyed the long post. I'm even more excited it helped you. The thing is, there was so much in long post I didn't mention. I only focused on Dinomite, which is only seeing part of the whole picture. When I went back to write part 2, I just couldn't get anywhere. If I break everything down, I can include more detailed information on each part of the long post, which I think will be more beneficial in the long run. I can also cover other topics like behaviors etc. which I didn't even begin to touch in that post.

    I am so excited you're seeing a night and day difference. It's amazing how new perspective can change everything. Your comment has made my day! Thank you!

  3. Meeting the needs of each individual child can be very difficult.

    My method is to sit down individually for a tutoring time each day in my homeschool, while the other children work on school independently or play. It's given me daily one-on-one time to focus on each child.

    The activity trays, however, are a brilliant idea. A friend of mine used something similar for her children and was thrilled with the result.

  4. I definitely need to do more fine motor activities especially knot tying. I agree with all of your suggestions. My favorite; no grades or tests! Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library!

  5. I admire how you are able to find ways to meet the needs of all the children, though they are all at different levels and have different needs. I have trouble meeting the needs of just my one kiddo!

  6. I loved this post. Every child is different and I truly think the Montessori approach makes a huge difference in most children's lives. I don't think I'd do nearly as well as you do with 4 children though! :) I deal with only 2 and it's sometimes a struggle to keep the little one out of the big one's trays! :)

  7. I agree the Montessori approach is a game changer!
    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!