SPED Homeschool Team

 

Dawn Spence

My first year of homeschooling, I allowed myself a lot of grace and just had fun. We used unit studies to grow and learn together. Learning both about the subjects we were studying and how homeschooling worked best for each of us. We were all on a new learning curve and needed to have patience with each other. I based success in the daily victories; on how well we were adapting. Now seven years into our homeschool journey, that first year is still my favorite. We all have many fond memories as we launched out on this fresh adventure and laid the groundwork for our version of school in our home.

 

Cammie Arn

My first year of homeschooling was while the army had stationed us in Germany. I was so nervous. I had no clue what I was doing. The concept of reading to my children and having it count as school was more of a foreign concept to me than many of the customs I had adapted to while living in a foreign country. I had much to learn.

Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned that first year, now over 20 years ago. Homeschooling looks nothing like public school. I didn’t need to know everything to teach my children. Instead, I learned alongside them. I discovered that when you are up all night with a baby; it is okay to count a bedtime story to my five-year-old as that day’s reading. We didn’t follow a syllabus, we just learned when we could. It seemed to work well.

Over the years I have learned many more lessons that have also reduced my homeschooling anxiety. One is that it is okay to skip lessons if your children have already mastered the concept.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Homeschooling was something I said I would never do after I attended my first homeschooling conference when my oldest child was still a toddler. A friend from church invited me to this small gathering in 1999, hoping I would catch the vision. Instead, I decided I did not fit that mold and pursued private education for our children. Fast forward to 2003. My oldest child was halfway through his kindergarten year and the principal of his school suggested my husband and I independently pursue testing for this child who was struggling so much in school that a regular part of his day now involved at least one trip to her office. It was after this testing we added an unfamiliar word to our family vocabulary, Autism, which eventually convinced us of the best educational choice for our son, homeschooling. 

Looking back at that pinnacle moment in our lives, now 18 years in the past, I am grateful I could move beyond my idea of who I needed to be or look like to teach my son. My narrow vision of homeschooling in 1999 almost kept our family from the most amazing journey in which I have had the privilege to learn and grow alongside my children and develop deep and lasting relationships with them that probably would not have been possible if I had sent them off to school.

 

Is this possibly your first year homeschooling? We hope our stories have encouraged and inspired you.  Want to hear more stories from our community? Join one of our Support Tribes or hop onto our weekly Special Needs Moms’ Night Out, every Tuesday evening from 9pm to 10pm CST.

 

 

 

 

 


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Ashly Barta

 

I never thought I would homeschool. I was a public school teacher and believed wholeheartedly in everything the public school offered children.  As a teacher, I knew what I was capable of and what I knew in my heart to be right.  I saw teachers and administrators working day in and day out to help the children in our school district thrive.  Then I had my oldest son.

They diagnosed my son with epilepsy before he turned one-year-old. Our life in those early days after his diagnosis are a complete blur to me.  We tried medication after medication, seeking specialists out of state and more testing than I can remember.

My husband is active duty military and with his job it became clear I needed to step down from my full-time role as teacher and manage my son’s care.  We enrolled in Early Intervention and received occupational therapy and speech therapy.  I fell into a rhythm and we thrived.  I was in an area that I had many colleagues and I knew how to find the services we needed.  This helped so much! 

We were fortunate my family was available for extra support since this epilepsy diagnosis was not but a minor blip on our radar.  Then we received news from the military we were moving across the country! 

My mind was flooded with unanswered questions. How do I handle preschool enrollment in an unfamiliar state?  How would his IFSP transfer? So many questions we needed to find answers to.  Luckily I enrolled our son in a special education preschool in our district, and at first glance it seemed like a wonderful program. 

That preschool year started out great, but as the year progressed the classroom added more children until it became clear the teacher had become overwhelmed and needed help.  This situation frustrated me with the lack of services that were not being given to my son, even when his needs were clear on his IEP. 

We had two IEP meetings before Thanksgiving and each time I left defeated and in tears.  The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement.  Why?  He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.  The school was not offering anything to make me feel like public school was a better fit.  My husband and I agreed that he would come home and we would try preschool at home. 

 

The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement.  Why?  He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.

 

Then, before we knew it, we were moving again. Another unfamiliar state and new schools.  I again started the enrollment process only to find our district in this new state could not find the right school for my son.  The school close to our new home did not have a school nurse, the school in the opposite direction was at capacity.  The solution was to enroll him across town.  I just could not believe we were fighting to enroll our son in kindergarten. 

Then it hit me. It does not have to be this hard.  I went home and started researching.  I was a kindergarten teacher before I was his mom. How hard could teaching our son at home really be?  No one I knew homeschooled their children and no one I talked to really understood how I could even consider this crazy idea. But I was a determined mom. 

What I found was that our current state did not require an affidavit until age 6, so my rationale was that if I messed up this year, we could try kindergarten the next year in the public school.  My son could work at his own pace.  We could customize his education and set goals meaningful to his unique needs. 

Fast forward to the current school year. We are finishing up our 5th year of homeschooling.  We actually homeschool our daughter too.  She has always been a homeschooler and when you ask if she would be interested in attending public school she replies with a “no, thank you.”

The joy and peace homeschooling has brought our family could never stand up against the fear I felt that first year.  Epilepsy has taken so much from our family, but it gave us the gift of homeschooling. Our children are closer than ever, we have freedom to explore and travel, and when the military shakes up our lives we have consistent education in our home.

I believe my children have been able to blossom because we do not place them in a fish bowl of only children their same age, which is unnatural if you think about actual life.  They get to interact with children and adults of all ages.  They are not compared, rather they are celebrated for the individuals they are.  They are 100% comfortable with who they are.  They are free to express themselves without the fear.

Thinking about homeschooling?  Research your rights, services available to you in your area within your budget, school district or insurance based.  I also suggest sitting down and making a list of strengths and weaknesses that your child has. This will help you find curriculum and activities to fill your day. 

The best part of homeschooling is the flexibility you have at your fingertips.  Home environments offer flexibility that a classroom never can.  You can take breaks as needed and create your schedule to work around things like doctor or therapy appointments.  Find friends in the homeschooling community that you can lean on and learn from.  Therapists are also a significant source for activities and help.  Isolation and exhaustion in special needs parenting is a real threat, so finding that community whatever it looks like is key. Lastly, celebrate!  Create moments to celebrate every day.  Dance, make pancakes with sprinkles, and clean up that mess later!  We get to stop, slow down and enjoy the adventure with our children. 

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Community Member Nick H.

 

Last year I became a homeschooling father to a 7-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy.  My son’s mom had already started the home school process with him, but as circumstances dictated I took over from there.

At first, I assumed homeschooling would hold a kid back from the sped up progress that traditional school settings achieve.  I could not see how a few hours of school work at home compared to 8-hour traditional school days could equate to greater learning outcomes.  This year has taught me that equating time to learning was wrong.

Being a father who homeschools has given me an alternative view on homeschooling and the advantages it provides my son like one-on-one teaching, reduced distractions, and individualized accommodations. 

 

…I have learned how much easier I can accommodate for the needs of my son at home versus the process an equivalent accommodation would require in a traditional school.

 

Homeschooling has given me a new appreciation for education.  As a parent of a child that has Cerebral Palsy, I have learned how much easier I can accommodate for the needs of my son at home versus the process an equivalent accommodation would require in a traditional school.

Teaching as a homeschooling parent isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. The way my son interacts with his mom and I during his schooling is amazing. He seems so much more focused and confident in doing his schoolwork. Watching him grow and learn has been the biggest highlight on my new homeschooling dad journey.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dyana Robbins

 

Whether your homeschooling years are ending because you are launching a graduate into the world or leaving homeschooling for reasons as varied as the ones that brought you to home education, there are adjustments and feelings to reckon with when your homeschooling season comes to an end.

My homeschooling years ended abruptly two years ago when my oldest son asked to attend school for his 9th-grade year. Making the decision to send him to the large public school behind our home wrenched my heart. There were good reasons to send him, but my heart struggled with the possible consequences of that choice. I consoled myself, knowing my youngest son was still home and that I had more years homeschooling him. And then, we took a job opportunity in Singapore and my homeschooling years were suddenly over. I’ve grieved those years learning at home together. Thankfully the Lord has greatly comforted me through this time of transition. In light of the wisdom I have gained through this transition in our lives, here is some encouragement from one mother’s heart to yours.

 

Homeschooling is Only Part of the Plan

When my son went to public school, it posed many challenges for him. His learning challenges meant that he was not at grade level and required an IEP. He had never had to navigate large groups of same-age peers alone. His first day was truly terrible in almost every way. Fear and pain made me want to pull him from school immediately.  But, by spring, he had found his place; succeeding in his classes and finding a group of great friends.

Our son graduates next year from an international school and I marvel at all he has accomplished. He gets the credit for his work ethic and resilience, but I know that homeschooling helped him develop both. The years we spent laboring together over reading, writing, and spiritual formation have borne the most wonderful fruit. As I mourned and worried about our son starting school, God was unveiling new horizons for our family.

However long your homeschooling season was, you can trust that good will come from the investments you have made in your children. If homeschooling ended before you were ready, know that God is not surprised or unprepared. He knows what the future holds for you and your family.  His love is providing for all of you even as you make unexpected changes.

 

Life After Homeschooling is Wonderful Too

Honestly, many days of homeschooling were not wonderful. There were times I cried, prayed, and believed I could not keep teaching at home. But the whole experience was wonderful. Life is like that; we have pain woven through our routines and joys.

Two years after homeschooling, I have reclaimed parts of myself that were willingly laid down so I could homeschool my children. I have more time for friendships and am resuming a career I love. My life now is filled in different ways than when we homeschooled. I still miss those sweet years but rejoice as our family moves forward together, embracing new opportunities.

 

My life now is filled in different ways than when we homeschooled. I still miss those sweet years but rejoice as our family moves forward together, embracing new opportunities.

 

Releasing and Resting is Part of the Parenting Process

The bonds we make through teaching our children can be lifelong. My sons still listen to me and my husband carefully and they respect our guidance. I know other families who credit homeschooling with forging spiritual and family bonds that have lasted generations. What I have observed is that these families also let their children go well.

By encouraging teens to make their own decisions, even when you don’t agree with them, is part of this letting-go process. Trusting God and the truth that has been planted in your child’s soul, not the ability to make perfect choices, is how to successfully navigate this transition time as a parent. The examples other parents have provided in this area have helped me navigate our family’s unexpected changes.  I hope they encourage you too.

 

As I write this, we are living in some crazy times that have put us all through various transitions and have us considering many different educational options for our children. Ultimately, there are very few things we control.  But, God is still on His throne. His love for His people is unfailing.  As we release our children and other beloved things in this season, remember that He is always making things new…our children and us too.

 

 

 

 

 


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