By Jill Camacho

Allowing Yourself to be Vulnerable is Difficult
Live longer than just a few years, and you already know that! I’ve shared often on my blog and social media channels that I think it’s important to stay connected to people in real life as well as online, but I know it’s hard! Challenging as it may be, it’s also important.

We have a double whammy as homeschooling parents and special needs parents. Both of those things can become very isolating if we let them. It’s easy to focus on past hurts and busyness, allowing an “us vs. them” mentality to creep in. Being isolated, however, also puts us at risk for homeschool burnout and depression. This is coming from a self-confessed introvert- even we need a community around us on a fairly regular basis.

In an attempt to remain connected to other moms in real life, I’ve recently been hosting a Bible study in my home with women from my neighborhood. Before starting the study, I polled everyone, allowing them to vote for their top two choices. We Saved You a Seat won hands down.


It’s Not Just Us
The study centers on developing and maintaining lasting friendships. The fact that all these moms selected this study tells me we’re pretty much all looking for a meaningful connection. It’s not just us special needs parents who are lonely or isolated. Although it’s hard because it takes being vulnerable and getting out there to build strong relationships.

Being open and vulnerable is a key part of developing deep relationships. Jesus modeled the need for vulnerability in the ultimate way – coming to Earth as a helpless infant. He always goes before us, and He knows exactly how we feel. We can trust that He has felt all that we have felt, are feeling, and will ever feel.


Feeling Alone
One week, our study discussed feeling alone even in a crowd of people. As a special needs parent, I find this especially relatable. I shared with my group a shocking (at least for me) recent event in our special needs journey. No one in that group could relate, I was almost certain of it. These are the sort of things that we sometimes just feel like, “No one else I know is going through this. I’m just trying to get through one problem at a time, on my own.”

We don’t, however, need to do that…

Parenting is hard.

Special needs parenting is hard.

No matter where we fall on the parenting spectrum, we certainly have something in common with every parent around us.

It was hard to share, but important to share, allowing them into my world. For us to be supportive of each other and truly get it, we need to share those hard parts with trustworthy people. How else can they pray for us and hold our hands through it?

We need to share the painful, ugly, sticky moments in our lives with people who care and be that same person for them. We need a tribe around us to make the most of homeschooling and special needs parenting.

 

Built for Community
It’s scary to risk being turned away or judged. I encourage you to keep trying to connect with other moms though. Keep looking and putting yourself out there to find the friends God has in store for you. Talk about your “stuff” with them, even if it’s hard.

Sure, use some wisdom regarding how and what you share. Just make sure you don’t keep walls between you and the rest of the community. It won’t save you from any pain. Being made in God’s image, we were designed for community, and there’s simply a gap in our lives without it.

Connect with SPED Homeschool
If you are looking for ways to connect with other special education homeschooling parents, make sure to check out our Connect With Us page to learn all the ways you can become part of our community.  We will see you there!

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

Summertime can mean it is HOT!! While outdoor activities are popular, what happens when it rains or the weather becomes too hot to be outside? How can we change things up to make being inside more interesting? What kind of field trips can we plan that will be successful?

Hands-on learning is so important at any age, and field trips are a great way to experience that! 

Here are some ideas for some field trips that your kids will look forward to:

  • Visit a farmers’ market
  • Visit a museum
  • Visit the zoo or aquarium
  • Visit your local fire station (call ahead)
  • Visit with your local police station (call ahead)
  • Go to the park
  • Explore local hiking or bike trails
  • Check out summer library activities
  • Carnivals or county fairs
  • Go to the flea market or garage sales
  • Play miniature golf
  • Go roller skating or ice skating
  • Eat at an old-style diner with a counter
  • Visit an ice cream shop
  • Go to the matinee at the movie theater
  • Visit a free “introductory” class for gymnastics, swimming, or karate
  • Look for free activities at Home Depot or Lowes (some require pre-registration online)
  • Check out Vacation Bible School classes at local churches
  • Visit local bakeries
  • Visit smaller theme parks (Here we have Morgan’s Wonderland and ZDT’s Amusement Park, both of which are less expensive than big name places like Seaworld)
  • Indoor gyms such as Rock the Spectrum Kids’ Gym

If indoor or at-home activities are more your family’s style, try some of these:

  • Have a reading day – read books or listen to books
  • Have a board game day
  • Build forts and tents
  • Make ice cream
  • Make a bird feeder or bird house
  • Make homemade pizza (either with homemade or store-bought crust)
  • Make your own popsicles
  • Read joke books or create your own jokes
  • Create your own movies
  • Create your own photo creations using publisher or powerpoint
  • String beads (use alphabet beads for spelling words or to practice name)
  • Build lego (or other blocks) castles
  • Have a building “contest” to see who comes up with the best design – multiple awards available! Most creative, biggest, or wildest
  • Make oven smores (place graham crackers on a sheet pan, put chocolate on top and marshmallows on half of them, place under broiler until marshmallows start to turn golden brown, make sandwiches, and enjoy!)
  • Have a pajama party – put on pajamas early, make snacks, and enjoy favorite or old movies!
  • Play with cardboard boxes or baskets – they can be cars, trains, or many other creations!


 

Hope you have a good time this summer incorporating some new field trips or having some indoor fun!


Check out our Pinterest board or these links for more ideas:
8 Fun Indoor Activities for Hot Summer Days 
50 Indoor Activites for Kids on a Rainy Day
14 Indoor Activities to Help You Beat the Heat

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on GuideStar

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By Mary Winfield


When teaching your child to form letters, it is important to use a variety of different methods and to keep their personal interests and sensory profile in mind. There are endless ways to teach letters, but here are some good ways to get you started.

Step 1: Building Letters
Before your child starts writing, it might be helpful to learn to build the letters. This helps a child to learn what the letters are and how to form shapes without the pressure of actually writing. This step is also great for kids who struggle with the fine motor skills needed to write. You can build letters in many different ways.

One way is to cut straight and curved foam pieces to be used to form letters. We have also just used building blocks and strips of paper too. But, be aware when using blocks the formed letters look a little crooked sometimes!

Another way you can build letters is to do polka dot painting. You can use the polka dot markers or you can just use a clothespin, pom pom, and paint. Sometimes “writing” the letters this way is also more fun since your child doesn’t have to have completely steady hands. Polka dot painting can also be used to fill in an outline of a letter as a way for your child to become more familiar with letter shapes. You can also use small stickers to do the same thing.

One more way to build letters is to use playdoh. Have your child roll the playdough out and then use the snake-like roll to form a letter. Wikki sticks or pipe cleaners are more great options for building letters this way.

All of these t activities will help your child learn how to form letters and develop fine motor skills more independently.

Step 2: Tracing Letters
Once your child grasps how to build letters, it is time to start practice in writing them. Most kids will still need some prompts to form letters at this stage, yet they are still ready to move beyond building them. This is where tracing comes into play. And once again, if you get creative, there are many ways to practice writing through tracing.

One tip I picked up working in schools was teaching children to write using a yellow highlighter and then having them trace over it with a pencil. The highlighter is visible enough to have them trace, but not bold enough that it gets in the way. It is also wide enough for them to follow without getting frustrated. Teachers love this method also because copies of the highlighted writing come out a light grey, which is also good for tracing.

Another fun way to trace is to write the letters on a chalkboard, and then have a child “erase” the letters with a wet Q-tip. This gives the illusion of writing while erasing since the letter will then be darker on the chalkboard than the surrounding areas. Bonus points for this activity is that it is easy to clean up!

Step 3: Writing Letters
Once a child has learned the shape of letters and has the fine motor skills, it is time to start writing! I have found the best way to keep a child interested in the task of writing is to decrease boredom by writing in as many creative ways as possible.

Sensory writing is my favorite! Writing letters in sand, dirt, pudding, shaving cream, whipped cream, or anything else you can find is awesome for grabbing attention! A Ziploc bag of paint (Pro tip: don’t forget to tape the bag shut!) will allow them to do this over and over again with a minimal mess.

Use a variety of writing tools and surfaces. Use markers, paint, chalk, pens, and pencils! Write outside on the sidewalk or on a wooden fence. Write on paper taped to the wall. Tape paper under a table so they can write laying down. Write on colored paper, dry erase boards or a blank journal that is all their own. Use dry erase markers to write on windows or mirrors. Write on fogged up windows in the car. Write everywhere!

Writing allows us to leave our mark on the world. It is how we pass down knowledge and ideas. It is how we communicate with others (especially if the social aspect of communicating is hard for us). I mean, when someone finds wet cement or a dirty car, what do they do? They have to write in it! Don’t give up teaching your child to write because in the end it has the ability to open up a whole new world of communication.

An all-inclusive guide to writing is Handwriting Without Tears that many families find helpful. The app Letter School is also great. You can download free printables for a Hands-on Handwriting Binder that walks a child who is learning to write through building letters, tracing letters, and writing independently here. You can also check out our Handwriting board on Pinterest for more ideas.

Learn some pre-writing pointers from the first installment of this series in this post. 

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By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

One of the most puzzling situations a mother finds herself in is when she has a child who can read the words in a book but cannot answer the questions or tell her what has just been read. These moms frequently hear the phrase, “I don’t remember,” when queried about the reading material.

When working with bright, hardworking 4th through 8th graders in my reading class, I often had students who were experiencing this particular reading difficulty.

I realized that these students were not proficient at converting the words they were reading into a “movie” in their head, as the rest of us do when we read. They were merely doing “word calling” much of the time. I found that “movie making” was a skill that could be developed in them, using an easy fifteen-minute a day exercise. This exercise did not involve paper or pencil, but only the use of their brain. “Word calling” is a left-brain auditory task, while creating a picture or movie of those words is the responsibility of the right brain hemisphere. I merely showed them how to create a seamless flow of words to pictures as they were reading. You can do this at home very easily.

Converting Words to Pictures
When a child or teenager regularly reads a passage well, but “can’t remember what is said,” we know that he is using an inefficient strategy for comprehension. He often is trying to remember the exact words he read, rather than converting the words into pictures.

Whether he is reading for recreation or information, he must change the words he reads into images in his mind. The more these images involve the senses (sight, sound, smell, feel), the greater will be the comprehension of the passage.

Daily Training Sessions
The following steps can be used with a student to develop his ability to change the words he hears or reads into pictures for good comprehension. You will be surprised how fast his comprehension skills will improve after just a few weeks of these “training sessions.”

This method works well with one child or a group of children or teenagers.

STEP 1: PARENT/TEACHER READS A PASSAGE ALOUD
Choose material to read to the child that is interesting and very descriptive. Standing in front of him as you read to him, have the child sit upright and keep his eyes upward, creating a “movie” in his mind. You can pretend that you are looking at the projection screen in a movie theatre to further aid him in his “movie making.” Read a sentence or two aloud. Then ask him a few questions until you are sure he is seeing the pictures of the words you read, in detail.

For example, this is how your training session might look if you are reading aloud a passage about a beaver. The first sentence you read may be, “The beaver is the largest rodent in North America.” Stop reading, and point to the imaginary screen, and say, “On our screen, let’s draw a quick sketch of North America. Now put the beaver on that map.”

Your next sentence in this passage will read, “An adult beaver weights from 35-70 pounds.” Stop reading and point up to the imaginary screen and say, “Now, use the ‘zoom lens’ of your brain camera and write ‘35-70’ on the beaver’s coat. Let’s use white paint to do this. Is your paint dripping? Oh well, he’ll wash it off soon.”

The next sentence in the text will be, “Because of its large lungs, a beaver can remain submerged in water for fifteen minutes. Stop reading and look up at the screen and help the child see this in his head by saying, “Now we need to change our scene. Let’s make a picture of a pond, with beavers around it. Do you see it on your screen? Now have one of the beavers slip into the pond. See him down on the bottom of the pond. Picture a large clock next to him. Have the hands of the clock move from twelve o’clock to twelve fifteen.”

As you do this training, instruct your child how to “move” his pictures and “freeze” them when he wants to notice something. You both will have great fun with this!

When you get to the end of a passage you’re reading, instruct your child to “rewind” the movie, to answer some questions about the passage. As you ask the questions, direct his gaze upward as he reviews his “movie” for the answers. This is the exciting part. Your child will be amazed at how easy it is to answer the questions.


STEP 2: THE STUDENT READS ALOUD TO YOU

After your child has demonstrated proficiency in converting words to pictures as he hears them, he is ready to read the words himself while creating his “movie.” Select a reading passage that is easy for him to read so that he can concentrate on making pictures rather than sounding out new words. Repeat the process you used before, stopping him after he has read a sentence or two, to ask him some questions about his “movie.” Direct his gaze upward to see what he just read. Be sure he gives you detailed pictures. As this becomes easier and more accurate for him, you can increase the number of sentences he reads before you ask questions.

STEP 3: THE STUDENT READS SILENTLY
When your child is successfully reading aloud while making good pictures in his mind, you can have him read a passage silently, asking him to stop every few lines or so, and asking him to tell you about the pictures he has made. If the pictures are detailed and accurate, you can have him read to the end of the passage uninterrupted. At the end of the reading, have him “rewind” his film and tell you all that he has read. You will be surprised at the things he remembers! His “words to pictures” process will soon become automatic. The upward eye movement will soon be unnecessary for the storage and retrieval of reading material.

Remember:
No pictures = No answers
Few pictures = Few answers
Great pictures = Great Answers


This strategy is simple but very effective. Expect to see great changes in the comprehension and retention of reading material in your children.

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By Dawn Spence

One thing that I think all homeschooling parents can appreciate is free and affordable resources. There are many resources at our fingertips, but I am highlighting my top 5 resources that are great to use for your special needs learner.

1.Worksheetsworks.com
This is a new favorite of mine, especially because it is free. I do not use it as much for worksheets, but I use it for making handwriting sheets that my daughter can trace or copy. You can make traceables of your child’s name, copywork for Bible, and helps for learning cursive. The possibilities are endless with this website. To find this aspect on their website, type “print handwriting” in their search feature and then start creating.

2. Teacherspayteachers.com
This site provides so many hands-on resources, powerpoints, and lapbooks. You can search for your topic and add the word “free,” and you will be amazed at what is out there already made for you. You can search autism, speech, or special education, and all you do is buy and print. After you make a purchase, you can review products and earn points to pay for future purchases. If you are creative you can also post your original ideas and sell them.

3. Filefolderheaven.com
This site was created for kids with autism and developmental disorders that need hands-on tasks. What I really love about this website is that they break down their products by units, seasons, and holidays. There are bargains and also free downloadable products. They are ready to print, laminate, and go. They provide adapted books and behavior supports as well.

4. Mamajenn.com
This website and blog are run by a homeschooling mom. She provides crafts, how to projects, and much more. If you use My Father’s World curriculum, she has so many free printables to supplement your Bible, science, and copywork. I am so grateful that she did the hard work and shares: what a blessing!

5. Hubbard’sCupboard.com
This website states that it is a joyful journey into learning, and it is! There are so many resources for reading, science, social studies, and more. The audience is toddlers to kindergarten but can be accommodated or modified to meet your child’s needs. There are printable books and phonics lessons. I like the way they list a book and then explain how they used it. There are even family projects. 


If you know of other great free or affordable websites please leave a comment so that we can share with other families or create a visitor’s post on our public Facebook page with any resources you think would benefit our community.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed

All of our children benefit from hearing good stories. Stories convey messages we need to hear. Some of these messages resonate with our children who face significant challenges or differences in their lives.

Compelling Different Abilities
Some children with special needs can comprehend only those messages conveyed through simple picture books. Let us choose even these books well. In Frederick, by Leo Lionni, we read about a little mouse who cannot assist his family in the usual manner of hard, physical labor. He is not strong like the others. He is not a leader. He is not mighty or impressive. He seems like someone who does not contribute. Instead, in days of distress, little Frederick writes a poem. We feel our hearts warm as Frederick shares his small but unique gift of poetry with his family. (My poetic daughter appreciates this book.)

Compelled Beyond Circumstances
A compelling story can elevate our minds far beyond our circumstances. Perhaps most appealing of all, by connecting us through stories to better understand the human condition, frailty, and redemption, literature reminds us we are not alone.

An older or higher-functioning child may appreciate more complex stories. My son, a young man with autism, learning disabilities, and mental illness (schizophrenia), sometimes wonders about his usefulness in the world. He read A Wrinkle in Time, and he urged me to read it. I finally did. The main character in A Wrinkle in Time, a teenage girl named Meg, is bright in mathematics. However, Meg is “different” in many other ways. Her social difficulties leave her feeling lonely. She gets into trouble at school. “I’m a delinquent,” Meg concludes grimly. Meg grapples with thoughts that waver from honesty to self-pity. “I think I’m a biological mistake.” “I hate being an oddball.” “I try to pretend, but it isn’t any help …”

Meg’s mother tells her, “Oh, my darling …, your development has to go at its own pace. It just doesn’t happen to go at the usual pace.” Later in the story, in the midst of a grave challenge, Meg receives comfort as from an angel: “My child, do not despair. Do you think we would have brought you here if there were no hope? We are asking you to do a difficult thing, but we are confident that you can do it.” As A Wrinkle in Time unfolds, the reader gains wisdom through both the Holy Scriptures and through classical writers. “Nothing is hopeless,” we read from Euripides. Over time, love and loyalty compel Meg to move outside of her own despondency and into active courage.

Meg’s new friend Calvin has delighted in Meg all along, just as we as readers do. Calvin, too, is a little quirky and often felt an outsider. Not any more. Upon meeting Meg and her rather odd family, Calvin exclaims with relief, “Isn’t it wonderful? … I’m not alone any more! Do you realize what that means to me?”


Looking for More Good Stories?

For comprehensive literature lists categorized by a child’s ability, see Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child. For good sets of read-alouds see these fiction and non-fiction read-alouds. For a special-needs program uniquely centered on good books, see the new Simply Classical Special-Needs Curriculum.

Stay Connected
Don’t forget to get connected with the SPED Homeschool community on Facebook, YouTube, Podomatic, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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Donate today on GuideStar

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By Peggy Ployhar

My last article on parental integrity started a mini-series within the larger series of articles I am writing on parenting anger. The reason I have embedded this mini-series within my articles about parenting anger is that children will often close their hearts towards parents who have habitually lashed out at them in anger. Thus, restoration of that parent-child bond becomes essential to the process of healing and moving forward in both your parenting and homeschooling efforts.

A Flipped Perspective
Authority’s orientation from a human perspective is upside down when compared with God’s viewpoint on this issue. After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus said the following about authority:

“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’ feet. For I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you.” (John 13: 13 – 15)

From God’s point of view, authority comes from the bottom up, not the top down. It is asserted through humble service, not a dictating decree.

An Example of Authority
Consider this example: Say you were starting a new job where you had the ability to pick one of the two managers you could work for, and who would ultimately give authority over your working environment. Here is how Manager A and Manager B say they operate their departments:

Manager A likes everything to be done her way. She has all the processes in place, and that is good because she has spent a lot of time making sure those processes are the most efficient way to do the job. As an employee working for her, Manager A just asks that you follow the procedures, get your work done, and work the system she has developed to the utmost of your capability. She knows her tried and true ways are the best at getting things done and is glad to have you fill one of the roles on her well-oiled team.

Manager B loves to see people work together, so much so he is willing to roll up his sleeves and help when needed. Manager B also has put together some well thought out procedures, but he also knows he can’t think of every scenario where people and processes can be most efficient. Because of this, he desires to get the input from his team members on ways the processes can be improved and built into better and more efficient procedures for getting the job done. He knows each employee can contribute to the working environment, and he welcomes your input as a member of his close-knit team.

Which Would You Choose?
Looking at those two examples, which manager would you give the most authority to by taking the job under his/her command? If you are like most people, you would say Manager B because he leads through humble service, not as a dictator like Manager A.

Unfortunately, angry parents are often stuck in a similar dictating mode like Manager A when it comes to dealing with their children. And, even though they don’t desire to handle interactions with their kids in this manner, sometimes old habits are hard to break. Instead of trying to break an old habit, I found creating a new habit to fill its place was much more effective. Thus, began my servanthood authority turnaround strategy.


A Turnaround Strategy

I created a servant strategy with each of my children by focusing on an activity each boy cared deeply about. For my oldest, that activity was Lego building which I personally found quite enjoyable. But with my second child, playing superheroes and dressing up in costumes was a bit more of a stretch. But, these activities were not about my enjoyment, they had a greater purpose – to connect with my children and show them I was willing to get down on their level to understand them better.

Over time my children started to realize I wanted to interact with them more like Manager B from the example above. When we were spending time playing together, we were also deepening our relationship. These relational bridges developed as we played together strengthened my boys’ abilities in releasing authority of their lives to me. This transition did not happen because I demanded it, but rather because over time each one started to understand I really grasped who they were. Our time interacting helped me to get to the root of what they liked and how they thought, and thus they realized I really did have their best interest in mind when making the decisions I needed to make in parenting and teaching them.

It is never too late to start a turnaround strategy with your child. Be purposeful in building relational bridges by getting involved in what your child is interested in, no matter how much of a stretch that is for you. You will never regret invested time and energy to reconnect with your child.

Check-up and Check-in
When we pick up this mini-series next time, I will be focusing on the topics of love and acceptance and how each of these relational elements will be the glue to hold the integrity and authority you have been working on reorienting in relation to your child.

Until then, make sure to go back through each of the articles in this series (see the list below) and do a quick check-up on how things are going at each phase. Also, make sure to tune into some of our upcoming SPED Homeschool Conversation broadcasts that focus on various topics that will help you teach to the specific needs of your student.

Parenting Anger Series Articles:
Why We Should Be Talking About Parenting Anger 
Parenting Anger Demystified
The Parenting Anger Escape Door
Shifting Parenting Anger from Controlling Mode to Training Mode
How-To Effectively Instill Godly Character in Children Using Parenting Anger 
Integrity: Step 1 in Cultivating a Child’s Heart for Instruction
Humble Authority: Step 2 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction
Unconditional Acceptance:  Step 3 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction   
Forgiveness & Mercy: Step 4 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction
Honor: Step 5 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction  
Time Management: Step 6 In Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

As summer is in full swing, we start thinking about water fun and water activities. But what if we are in an area with limited water resources or, like my family, limited financial resources? There are many options to incorporate water play both indoors and out no matter what resources, or lack thereof, you have to pull from. 

Ideas for Incorporating Water Play into Your Summer:

  • Use a bucket or Rubbermaid tub to create your own “water table”
  • Use plastic cups, funnels, bath squirter toys, etc. to work on pouring from one container to another (great for building writing muscles)
  • Add hand soap, gentle dish soap, or food coloring for additional fun
  • Add letters or numbers to your “water table” for letter identification or spelling activities
  • Write words, letters, numbers (or anything else!) on the bottom of rubber duckies or other floating toys for water learning
  • Do a “car wash” and wash bikes and other ride-on toys
  • Use spray bottles or squirters with colored water to “draw” or “write” spelling words, letters, or numbers
  • Add food coloring to a bottle of bubbles and blow bubbles on paper for beautiful, creative art work
  • Cut sponges into strips and tie them together with string to create “balls” that can be used for fun water play games. Use a bucket to hold the water for your game
  • If outdoor is not an option, you can add letters and numbers to bath time and allow for additional time to play games with them in the bathtub
  • Water bag pinata – fill the bag (a grocery bag if you want to reuse/recycle) with water and enjoy the shower it gives when it breaks!
  • Water balloon ___________ (fill in the blank with your favorite sport). I’ve seen baseball, volleyball (with hands or with sheets), and tennis, but you could do any sport you wanted.
  • Play in the rain (make sure there is no lightning or thunder in the area to stay safe)
  • Go kayaking or canoeing
  • Visit the local swimming pool or splash pad
  • Make your own rain with the hose or sprinkler (follow any water restrictions for your area)


    I hope you enjoy some fun in the sun this summer (or just some water play indoors) and remember play is an essential part of learning!! Have a great summer and pass the sunscreen!

    Check out our Summer Pinterest board or these other resource links for more ideas:

    Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

    Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

    Donate today on GuideStar

    (all donations are tax-deductible)

     

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    By Jennifer Cullimore, The Therapy Mama

    I love being with my children, and as a single, homeschooling mama with no family around I am literally with my kids 24/7. However, one Saturday morning a month and for three days in the summer, they are blessed to go to a church program for “Special Saturday” and “Very Special Bible School”. I’ll be honest, I love these days. It just does my heart and soul good to get a little bit of “me” time.

    Very Special Vacation Bible School
    Today started in a frenzy. We overslept and were frantically trying to get out the door. One of my daughter’s anxiety about leaving me was through the roof. Many tears were shed in the 20 minutes it took us to get ready. Begging ensued to allow her to stay home and yet I had to stand firm.

    When we finally arrived this is what I saw. I saw balloons and welcome signs and bubble machines blowing bubbles everywhere. I saw gold stars lining the sidewalk and approximately 30-40 volunteers of all ages waiting to cheer for each child, give them high fives and welcome them. When I hit the door, I saw more than a hundred more volunteers. There were two for each child. They literally stay with their “buddy” for the morning. They take them to set activities, but if the child can’t handle it, they do whatever they are interested in. I saw some meltdowns occurring and the volunteers pulling out all the stops to try every trick they knew to turn the situation around. Today I saw the hands and feet of Christ.

    A Little Break Means a Lot
    I stood for a while watching a little guy have a rough meltdown and I thought about how much work goes into this ministry. An incredible soul named “Gigi” oversees it. I met Gigi years ago and she has been Jesus with skin to our family. I knew exactly what Gigi would say if I could have stopped her in that meltdown moment to commend her for her work. She would say, “Jennifer, it’s the least we can do when you parents do this every day”.

    The truth is, it is hard work. Every single bit of it is hard work. They spend countless hours preparing the facility, training volunteers and most of all preparing hearts. But the blessings are abundant. They get to see the smiles, the laughter, the joy on every face. They get to see moms and dads breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their child is safe and being well cared for. They get to see the camaraderie of the parents watching the other parents and realizing that they are not the only one walking this journey. They get to see the change in the children and volunteers as they are touched by each child. They have a newfound acceptance for others and they are more grateful for their own health and abilities.

    Blessed by Being a Blessing
    I wish I could spread this news to every church. I’ve encountered so many that want nothing ’t want to modify or change anything. But I wish I could let them know what they could gain by opening their hearts and doors to those with special needs. I wish I could let them know that they would get a very glimpse of the heart of God. For now, I will continue to pray that someday this will be the norm. I will share what special churches, like our “Christ Presbyterian” does and I will show deep gratitude for these angels that have been put in our path to do special needs ministry.

    Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

    Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

    Donate today on GuideStar

    (all donations are tax-deductible)

     

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    By Kimberly Vogel

    As parents, we need to know what rights we have in our local district. I received misinformation when we started on our journey. When my kids were in public school, we didn’t receive many services. Trying to get help in our district is tough, whether enrolled in the school system or homeschooled. That being said, all districts have their own policies, but all fall under the IDEA laws.

    IDEA Funding
    According to the IDEA laws, we can ask for services even if homeschooling. Testing is one of those services. The first time I called our district to get help for my daughter, they wanted her to be enrolled as a full-time attending student. I didn’t know then that is due to IDEA money allotment. A school district is required to use 20% of their federal money for private (homeschool fits in that category) students. Then districts use that for testing or other services. I didn’t pursue services at that time, but a year later paid for private testing.

    7 Tips for Using the Public School Testing Option
    If you do decide to ask your school district for help, keep these following tips in mind.

    Know Your State Laws

    Once the district receives a written request for testing, many states require they respond within a specific number of days. In Texas where I live, once the district receives a request for testing, they have 30 days to respond. Other states have different guidelines, and unfortunately, some also have long waiting lists. It is best to learn your specific state laws before you begin so you know exactly what to expect. HSLDA has a comprehensive page to help you understand state-specific laws related to special education and homeschooling.

    Be Ready to Advocate
    Some districts require proof of need. If a child is homeschooled, they don’t have a teacher (that works for the district) to confirm that testing is needed. Some districts ask parents to jump through hoops at this point to get testing.

    All Testers are Not Equal
    If your child has high anxiety or other social or emotional needs, some testers do not take as much time to ensure your child feels comfortable. It’s crucial for your child to feel comfortable before testing begins. If your child seems overly stressed, and the tester’s environment or personality is not helping, I would advise rescheduling. Even if it means losing the opportunity to test with the district. An inaccurate test session is worse than no test session at all.

    Diet and Rest Make a Difference
    Make sure your child is rested and well-fed with food that is high in protein and low in sugar before testing. No sugary cereal or drive through greasy meals, go for things like eggs, bacon, cheese, yogurt, or fruit.

    Ease Testing Anxiety
    The way you discuss testing with your child will help with their anxiety. I explain that it’s not like a regular test where you get a grade with the possibility to fail, but it’s a series of activities to tell us how their brain works. I explain that God created all of us with strengths and weaknesses and these activities will tell us exactly where they excel and where they struggle.

    Institutionalized Schooling Bias
    Unfortunately, there is a catch phrase that is sometimes used with homeschooled kids when they are tested by an “unfriendly to homeschooling” diagnostician. It states that there is not enough information, and any low scores may be “due to a lack of teaching”. This phrase can also be used for students who miss a lot of school, so it’s not just for homeschoolers; however, it sure does feel that way when it’s in your child’s report!

    Data Never Lies
    There is good news – the most important data is NOT what the diagnostician says, but what the numbers tell us. If you do get the dreaded phrase of “lack of teaching,” the numbers will still tell the real story. You can take the results to someone familiar with reading test scores and find out what they think about the results. My gift to SPED homeschool is reading one test report a month free of charge. If you want to find out what your test scores mean and what you can do to help your child succeed – contact me.

    The school district you live in might recognize a reason to test your child, or they might turn you down. But they are required, by law, to look at each case. Before we homeschooled, we asked if they would test my daughter, and we were denied. The teacher requested it, but there was not enough reason according to the school’s diagnostician. It’s not a given that they will test, but you can always ask. No matter what the attitude towards homeschooling in your district, don’t give up hope. You can find the resources you need and we at SPED Homeschool are here to help. Connect with us today!

    Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

    Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

    Donate today on GuideStar

    (all donations are tax-deductible)

     

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