Ingredients

  • 2 cups cranberries (wash in cold water)
  • 3-4 cups sliced apples (Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal (I use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup flour (I use almond flour)
  • 1/3 cup butter

Faith Berens – Gluten Free


CranApple Casserole Bake

Our family makes this recipe every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a traditional side dish, lovingly prepared and served each year at family gatherings when my Aunt Betty was alive. Aunt Betty had the gift of hospitality and she absolutely loved hosting for the holidays. Sadly, she passed away due to kidney cancer several years ago, but one way we help keep her traditions going is to make some of her favorite recipes.

 

Directions:

Sprinkle lemon juice over apples. Combine cranberries, apples, granulated sugar, and salt and place in a Pyrex baking dish 9×9 or 9×13.

In a separate bowl, make a crumble out of the brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, and butter and spoon on top of the apple mixture.

Bake for 1 hour

Image provided by: https://www.needpix.com/photo/945891/cake-streusel-cake-baked-cake-mould-bake-sugar-coffee-party-streusel-sweet-dish

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup corn flakes

 Jace Clark – Sweet Potato Skeptic


Sweet Potato Casserole

This is a traditional recipe that I received from a lady at church. I have been making it for over 20 years and it’s always a popular request. I didn’t even like sweet potato casserole until I found this one!


Directions:

  1. Mix together the sweet potatoes, eggs, regular sugar, nutmeg, milk, and cinnamon.
  2. Place in 9×9 buttered dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  4. Mix topping (butter, brown sugar, pecans, and corn flakes) in a separate bowl.
  5. Spread topping over  potato mixtre and bake an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees

 

 

Ingredients

  • 4 apples
  • 4 oranges (seedless)
  • 2 bags of cranberries
  • 2 cups raw honey

 Peggy Ployhar– In-the-Raw


Raw Cranberry Relish

This cranberry relish recipe is one my grandmother and mother made every holiday season and one I have incorporated into my own family holiday cooking schedule. Not convinced yet? My husband used to hate cranberry relish, now he looks forward to it every holiday season.

 

Directions:

  1. Wash, seed and cut the apples into wedges (leaving on the skins)
  2. Wash the oranges and cut into wedges (leaving the rinds on – trust me)
  3. Wash cranberries
  4. Using a food grinder, grind all the fruit together
  5. Mix the honey into the ground fruit
  6. Let sit at least 8 hours before serving

Hint: This recipe freezes very, so I make a double batch before Thanksgiving and then freeze the other half for Christmas.

Image provided by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbrons/5216172956

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb diced smoked sausage
  • I can corn or other veggies
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives
  • I can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 4 cups of rice
  • 4 1/2 water

Cammie Arn – Instant Pot Meal


Sausage Rice Casserole

Makes for a great meal when you are tired of Turkey.


Directions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a large rice cooker or Instant Pot. 
  2. Use the white rice setting on my rice cooker or the rice setting on my Instant Pot.

 

Ingredients

  • Chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Dawn Spence – Sweet Finish


Toffee Fudge

This is what we had when we got together for Christmas Eve. My mom always made finger foods and this wonderful toffee. It reminds me of my grandmother who was an avid cookie and candy maker. But, now that I eat low-carb and sugar-free I have added some substitutions as well below.

 

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle the bottom of a 9″ square pan with chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews.
  2. In a saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Stir constantly for 7 minutes exactly.
  5. Remove from heat and spread over nuts.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes.
  7. When chocolate is melted spread evenly and cut into squares.
  8. Refrigerate until cool and set.
  9. Remove and break into squares.
  10. Keep in an airtight container.
    Omit nuts if desired.
    Omit chocolate for tender nut brittle.

Low-Carb Option: Substitute 3/4 cup brown Swerve for the brown sugar, change the butter to Earth Balance and use Lily’s dark chocolate chips or Enjoy dairy-free chocolate chips.

 

 


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Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 4 oz. coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup carrot, cooked and mashed
  • ¾ cup plum, peeled and processed in a blender
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

sweet potato pie

Dr. Jan Bedell – Low-Carb Alternative


No-Crust Sweet Potato Pie

My support person, Michelle, created a cookbook for her son when he was on the Spectrum Balance Protocol diet. This came from that book.

  • This recipe is for children and adults who have multiple food sensitivities.
  • This recipe is gluten-free, corn-free and processed sugar-free.
    If you are also dairy-free, leave out the cream cheese.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with a hand mixer and mix well. Pour into pie pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until firm. Serves 6. (Recipe submitted by Michelle Thompson, author of Dinner for David.)

 

gingerbread men with tea

Ingredients

  • ½ cup margarine
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ½ cups flour (or 1 ½ cups flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Kathy Kuhl – Traditional Holiday Favorite


Gingerbread Men 

This is our favorite for Christmas. I have a reindeer cookie cutter and add a red hot to create Rudolphs.


  1. Cream (or partially melt) margarine, sugar, and molasses. If melted, let the mixture cool.
  2. Add egg.
  3. Sift in remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir.
  5. Chill.
  6. Roll out ¼ inch thick and cut.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
  8. Cool on cooling racks.

Yield 2 trays.

Tip: roll all the dough to the same thickness, or thinner cookies will be overcooked before others are done.

 

Ingredients

  • Gluten-free pretzels
  • White almond bark
  • Yellow M&M’s

Cammie Arn – Gluten-Free Fun Treat


“Eggs & Bacon”

We are a little non-traditional at our house!

  1. Place 2 pretzel sticks next to one another on a piece of waxed paper or baking mat
  2. Top with melted almond bark
  3. Place 1 yellow M&M on top
  4. let it set up

Enjoy!

 

apples image

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies
  • Apples
  • 1/2 cup butter

Hint: Use a cooking apple that will not turn mushy when cooked, such as Macintosh, Granny Smith, Jonathon, etc.

 

Dawn Spence – Gluten-Free Fruit Treat


Baked Cinnamon Apples

One smell of this apple dessert and I knew that the holidays had arrived. I miss my grandmother but this recipe helps me remember fond memories.


In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cornstarch, and red hots to a boil.

Fill a 3-quart baking dish with sliced apples

Pour the hot liquid over the apples

Dot the top of the apples with 1/2 cup butter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, let cool 15 minutes.

chocolate biscotti

 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup lentil flour (green, red or brown – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
  • 6 large eggs 
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (divided)
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Peggy Ployhar – Hidden Healthy


Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Before our family even started down the road to healthy eating, this recipe was one of my children’s favorites – actually not this exact recipe as I have modified it over the years to make a more healthy version. I have really been surprised that no one has even noticed the changes, but then again with this much cocoa powder in a recipe, you can mask a lot of ingredients.

I make this recipe at least three times every holiday season plus multiple times throughout the rest of the year.

 

Instructions:

  • In one bowl mix all the dry ingredients – flours and powders.
  • In another bowl cream together the butter and Sucanat.
  • Next, add in the eggs and the vanilla to the butter mixture.
  • Now slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, add in the dry ingredients. First off by adding in 1 cup of chocolate chips. (You will need a really heavy-duty mixer to handle this dough.)
  • Now dump out the dough and finish off the mixing by kneading the dough with wetted hands until the dough gets glossy. (This is also a good upper body workout!)
  • Next, separate the dough into two pieces and then roll each piece out on parchment into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, 4 to 5 inches wide and as long as you need for length.

Then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

When the 25 minutes are up, remove the cookies from the oven, cut them again, separate each slice and lay them on their sides on two baking sheets.

Then return the cookies to a 275 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour to dry.

 While the cookies are on their final bake, heat the remaining 1 cup of chocolate with the coconut oil in a double-boiler until melted

Once baking is done, spread the melted chocolate onto the tops of the cookies.

Let cool, then eat…if you can wait that long.

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

The special demands that naturally occur during this time of year can make celebrating the holidays with special needs children difficult. From food to family, each event can be a minefield of potential reactions, meltdowns, and misadventures. Or, with the right perspective and a few adjustments, the holidays can be as meaningful as they are meant to be. Hear from our SPED Homeschool Team Members as they share their tips for celebrating the holidays with their special needs children.

 

 

Dawn Spence

Family and holidays can be a complicated adventure. From medical needs and allergy needs, I used to find myself apologizing for needing things a certain way. Fast forward 8 years and I realized that no apologies are needed, and I meet our family’s needs without skipping a beat. I had to allow myself to be okay with the way things were before I could expect anyone else too. I know when my daughter has had too much, and we leave guilt-free. We bring foods that meet our allergy needs and even make extra for everyone else to enjoy. Being with family can be stressful, but at the same time, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the life you have been given.

 

Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.”

 

 

Cammie Arn

The holidays in our home aren’t typical. We don’t have large extended families to travel to or to visit due to either distance or death. Instead, we have created new family traditions such as making a birthday cake (both regular and gluten-free) for Jesus at Christmas or homemade Belgian waffles with homemade fruit syrup.

 

We participate in a “feast of nations” at church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Some dress in modern-day clothing representing their home country and bring a dish to share. Having an international church does help with this for sure. There have been times when this was thanksgiving for us.

 

One really neat idea is to do Christmas around the world in December. You can learn about a different country every day, study how they celebrate Christmas, and possibly try a special Christmas treat from that country. End your study by praying for that country.

 

How do we handle the food for all this fun? We find out what food is being served and modify from there. At potlucks, I always bring food tailored to our family’s needs to eliminate reactions. So far so good.

 

Holiday chaos? Not us. Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.” We watch a movie at home and have pizza. Pretty much no exception. We also have a “no work” rule on Sunday that helps our family decompress and prep for the next week.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

Our family dynamics are a bit different than most, and because I am the oldest of 14 with 10 adopted siblings, we don’t often have to explain anything to our family about how to deal with atypical behaviors of our children. Recently, we spent a few days with extended family at an indoor waterpark resort in the Wisconsin Dells and at one point my youngest sister went missing. Immediately our family flew into action with various members each immediately stepping in to stake out the campus, contact security, and canvas the facility. It didn’t seem out of place at all to switch from “vacation mode” to “search and rescue” mode, and once the call came in that my sister had been found and was being returned to her room by a helpful Good Samaritan, my husband stated nonchalantly to me, “Just another vacation with the Prenosil family.”

 

I don’t share this story to make it seem like this episode wasn’t a critical undertaking for everyone involved, but over the past 30 years, our family has developed a culture of caring for one another where no one asks why we just respond in love and concern. We are all in this together, whether it is caring for our adopted siblings or for each other’s children who also struggle with extreme food allergies and difficult to handle diagnoses. If you are just getting started on this special needs journey I want to encourage you that over time you can develop the support team you need just like our family has, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little your immediate and extended family will learn the most by following your lead, so gently show them the way. Pray for their hearts to be softened towards the circumstances that surround the needs of your child and what you feel convicted to do as their parent and teacher for the best possible outcomes for their future. In turn, they will follow, but do understand it may take many years for them to come around and be the supportive family you desire for them to be for you right now.

 

 

Celebrating the holidays with your special needs children does not have to take the magic out of the season. Careful planning, simple celebrations, and supportive family can make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn

I’m often asked how exactly I do it all. I mean I do have 8 kids, 4 of which are still in my homeschool and 4 who are adults. Parenting doesn’t stop at the diploma, trust me! In addition to homeschooling, I serve on the SPED Homeschool Team, teach a girls small group at church, teach two classes at our weekly co-op, volunteer in the nursery for the local homeschool choir and I work 3 part-time jobs. My husband’s schedule is much the same. I say all this to say that even with all this, I still don’t do it all. No one can. We can only do our best. But there are a few tips for making a large family homeschool run more smoothly.

Tips for Your Large Family Homeschool

 

Large Family Buddy System

This is my biggest secret!
I currently assign two sets of buddies. My children’s ages are 4, 9, 15, and 16, so I usually match my 15-yr-old with my 4-year-old and my 16-year-old boy with the 9-year-old. Currently, my two big kids serve their buddy a meal before serving their own and help with getting clothes out of dressers if the younger child can’t reach.

 

Large Family Laundry

My seasons here have ebbed and flowed as I added babies or sent an older one to work. We have always had 3-4 bedrooms in our home, so I assigned laundry days by the bedroom, leaving sheets and towels for Saturday. The buddy system also comes into play for laundry. The big kids in the bedroom wash and dry or hang out the laundry for the littles. This has greatly cut down on laundry room congestion.

 

Large Family Meal Planning

Planning for meals is crucial. Whenever possible, I cook overnight while I sleep. I generally have several crockpots going at the same time. My last cooking session included pinto beans, potatoes, and spaghetti sauce all cooking at the same time. Then, these meals were packed for lunch or frozen for later. I prep individual ingredients for later use as often as I can, such as, precooked frozen meat, diced pepper, and onions.

My other trick is theme nights. It’s helps the grocery budget too. This is my current routine:

  • Monday Italian
  • Tuesday Sandwich night/Soup and Salad
  • Wednesday Mexican
  • Thursday Breakfast for Dinner/Casserole night
  • Friday Pizza
  • Saturday Chicken/Pork Chops/Roast
  • Sunday leftovers

 

Large Family Homeschool

I schedule the same subjects to be studied across all ages so that I only have to keep up with one lesson plan. The different grade levels come from the depth of the particular assignments, but the content is the same. 

  • My big kids read out-loud to my littles
  • We go to co-op weekly to provide accountability 
  • We take every day as it comes but use scheduled weekly goal sheets for each student
  • I do my very best to not compare my children to each other or other children 

 

Large Family Relationships

Number one rule in our house is to never go to bed angry. I spend a great deal of my time while children are young training them about right from wrong. We do our best to draw any squabble back to the Bible. This includes lots of teaching on forgiveness and the benefit of not holding grudges. We talk about servanthood beginning at home and doing our best to put others needs before our own. Showing kindness, sharing and teamwork is how we roll.

 

The large family homeschool life has its challenges, but with a few simple routines it can run more smoothly. Plus, the rewards of a large family sharing life together make the normal chaos worth every challenge.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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Steve Demme

 

In December I had the privilege to witness a powerful event, a blessing. A father, who had MS and was unable to stand, blessed his son and bride at their wedding. I was amazed and inspired to hear the scriptural truths pour forth from this elderly saint’s heart and mind as he blessed these two newlyweds. Without a script, that godly affirming father spoke truth over, and into, the lives of this devoted young couple for at least five minutes.

 

I felt as if I was on holy ground as I witnessed this event that had been videotaped fifteen years earlier. I also had trouble processing what I had just witnessed. The words and evident love and affection between father and son impacted me at a deep level. It has now been several weeks since I watched this sacred utterance, and I am still trying to assimilate what I observed.

 

A little background. This grainy family wedding video was being shown to a group of ministry leaders at a conference where we were seeking to find out ways that we could teach and encourage fathers. As one man succinctly stated, all of the current social ills of our society stem from fatherlessness. And yet here we were, observing a sacred example of a godly father affirming and blessing his son and his new daughter-in-law.

 

The father, who was the vehicle for this heavenly benediction, had not been raised in a godly Christian home. Yet, he desperately wanted his children to have every spiritual advantage that he had not received. To that end, he read books on raising godly children including The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

 

“…deep down I crave the affirmation that only a dad can bequeath. In the past few years, the Spirit of God has satisfied this longing by making me know in my heart that I am an adopted son of my Heavenly Father.”

 

When the video concluded, the son, who was the recipient of those inspired words, stood and addressed us with words of comfort and hope. Many of us were wishing we had received a similar blessing from our earthly father and he comforted us by pointing us to the word of God. In Ephesians 1:3 the Spirit informs us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” While we may not have received a blessing from our earthly Dads, in Christ, we have been given, “every spiritual blessing”.

 

Then this man, who I will identify later, imparted a vision and hope for the next generation, as he told us what it was like being the recipient of such an anointed blessing. He said that many children live FOR the blessing of their father, while he lives FROM the blessing of his father.

 

I think about what motivates me and other men. Many of my friends and I are looking for approval and acceptance from our Dad. I could tell you many examples but one sticks out to me. I was watching the US Open, on Father’s Day, with my brother and my dad. Ken Venturi, who had won major championships, bared his soul and told how he longed to have his father say “well-done son.” For him, golf had been the vehicle to earn this praise. But regardless of how well he did, his father never affirmed him, until one day, when the son despaired of life, his dad told him “he had always been number one in his book.” Those simple words changed his life.

 

I am one of many who would dearly love to have a written or verbal blessing from my earthly dad. He did the best he could, with the resources that he had, and I rise up and honor his memory. But deep down I crave the affirmation that only a dad can bequeath. In the past few years, the Spirit of God has satisfied this longing by making me know in my heart that I am an adopted son of my Heavenly Father.

 

Now I am a father, and it is my earnest hope and desire that my sons will experience life not looking FOR my blessing, but living FROM my blessing. You and I are living in troubled times, but also wonderful times. For the Spirit of God is turning the hearts of fathers to their children, children’s hearts to their father, and all of our hearts to our Heavenly Dad.

 

Today, I’m thankful for my earthly dad and eternally grateful for my Heavenly Dad.

 

Author’s note: The man who received the blessing was Stephen Kendrick. He related that his frail father had also pronounced similar blessings at his brother’s weddings. Part of the blessing was that his sons would be fruitful in reaching thousands with the gospel. If the name is not familiar, these Kendrick brothers have produced several inspiring movies pointing thousands of people to Christ, including Fireproof, Courageous, and War Room.

 

We are excited to announce that Steve Demme was recently elected as the 2020 SPED Homeschool board chair. This  article was originally printed on Steve Demme’s website, Building Faith Families, but was reprinted with permission from the author.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

One of the greatest misconceptions about teaching is that the power of education lies in the training of the individual or in the quality of the material used to teach a child. Even though both of these things would rank as highly important factors, the single most important has nothing to do with what our educational system has trained us to value most. Instead, it has to do with a very humble and natural homeschooling superpower any parent can draw from, the ability to care and to show those you are teaching you are committed to their learning process.

 

Over the years of consulting with homeschooling parents, I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship. Take it from someone who knows. Because I started our homeschooling journey with parenting anger struggles , my homeschooling superpower was deeply buried. I was not set up for my optimal teaching effectiveness, so the ideas I have to share below are from my attempts to connect with my children.

 

I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship.

 

Below are 5 ways you can strengthen your parent-child relationship, or homeschooling superpower, to increase your teaching effectiveness:

 

Listening Time

As a parent we often do most of the talking, but how much do we seek to actively listen to what our children want to say? Do we dig deep enough to learn what they are thinking about and why? Setting aside regular time to just listen to your children’s ideas and thoughts with probing questions that not only show you are listening but that you want to invest time into learning about the things that matter most to them.

If your child seems hesitant to answer your questions, one idea I found very helpful was to use puppets. My son responded well to puppets, and of all the puppets we had on hand, his favorite was Lamb Chop who was made famous by Sheri Lewis. For some reason, he opened up and shared his heart with this little lamb and this back and forth conversation became a regular part of our evening schedule.

 

Play Time

Playing with your children may come easily, or it may be an excruciating experience for you to even think about, but if you put your best foot forward to delve into one of your child’s favorite playtime activities the reward will be great.

Putting on those superhero costumes, playing hide-n-seek, taking time to build a fort and then spend the afternoon in it, or assembling Legos into engineering marvels speaks volumes to your child about the worthiness of their favorite activities as well as your approval of him/her and what he/she values.

 

Reading Time

While you may already read out loud with your children, you may not go any further than the text, or if you do then you may only ask your child about the story itself. I would suggest you go a step further and ask your child which character in the book they relate with the most and why. Ask them if they feel the character was treated as he/she thinks the character should have been treated and what led them to that conclusion.

As our family was preparing to move to a farm and was living for the summer in our travel trailer, we read the book Farmer Boy as a family in the evening. While the book itself was very intriguing for all of us to read together, it was the questions and discussions we shared after each chapter that drew us all closer together, as we shared our thoughts and dreams about the new life we were all about to embark on.

 

Shared-Activity Time

Sharing a common activity with your child creates an unbelievably tight bond. I have seen parents join martial arts classes, art classes, and computer classes with their children. The beauty of sharing an activity with your child is that these types of experiences have open ends for both of you and allows not only the opportunity to achieve new goals together but also commiserate about shared failures.

 

I started doing aerial silks with my daughter last year and will attest that a shared activity has greatly increased the bond between us. Our shared activity provides the two of us not only an activity we can do together but also a new topic to add to our day that allows us to connect at a different level than the typical parent-child conversation.

 

Travel Time

Time in the car, camper, plane, hotel, and rental house puts your child in a place that is out of their comfort zone, in a more confined space, and usually further away from their typical digital input than their normal. These times lend themselves to deep conversations, curated experiences, and building long-lasting memories.

 

A few years ago, I took a three and a half week trip cross-country with my daughter. We drove from Texas to Colorado, then to North Dakota, next to Minnesota, and from there we took a plane trip with my mother (all three Margaret’s – Margie, Maggie, and Peggy – to NYC to see the slights and a Broadway show) and finally drove back to Texas. That trip was a turning point in mine and my daughter’s relationship.

 

Any of these suggestions is a great place to start building your relationship with your child. I would suggest starting with one that would work best with your schedule right now, and then over time slowly adding others as opportunity allows. Most of all, enjoy the extra time you have been given to spend with your child. It is an incredible gift that will stretch you as well as bless you both!

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Communication is more than just speaking; it is the underlying framework that determines how well we relate with others, the wider community, and the world we live in. It also affects how well we learn. After all, the majority of education involves either written or spoken communication. So when a child struggles with communication skills, learning can become particularly frustrating. However, not every child’s struggle with communication is the same, and thus how we address communication skills in our homeschools is as varied as our children.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Over the years of homeschooling, we have focused on communication skills from many angles to help our children master various aspects of communication.

 

Social Communication
Since our oldest struggled with understanding social cues, we often used role-playing or acting in our homeschooling lessons so he would grasp more than just the facts about what we were studying. It was often crucial for him to see and experience the cause and effect relationships between one person’s actions and the community those actions affected. These activities were essential in helping my son realize the world involved the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others as well as himself. Immersion learning in the homeschooling environment was something we took advantage of to the fullest when it came to teaching social skills and social outcomes.

 

Pronunciation
Our middle child struggled with pronouncing certain letters with accuracy from a very young age. Integrating speech therapy into our homeschooling schedule was important to help him work on these skills with a trained therapist. Over time he overcame his struggle and even went on to compete in speech and debate during his high school years as well as publish a podcast with a friend.

 

Descriptive Communication
Our youngest was speaking in full sentences and conversing with adults before she turned one year old. For this reason, we didn’t suspect she would experience any communication deficits, but as she worked on writing projects or created presentations she started to discover how much she struggled to use words to elaborate her ideas. As an artist, she has incredible visual-spatial skills and can draw just about anything described to her, but in reverse she has a hard time putting together words to describe what she did to create a drawing or to teach someone else how to draw using her techniques. To stretch her in this area, part of her homeschooling curriculum has involved writing creative short stories, teaching art lessons to her peers, and presenting research reports.

 

Little by little you can stretch your child in your homeschool in the area of communication skills; and as you do, your child will gain greater confidence in navigating relationships, learning environments, and opportunities for greater self-discovery.

 

Tracy Glockle

To join us at our dinner table for a meal, you wouldn’t suspect that any of my kids have problems with communication skills. At our house, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. However, for one of my children, in particular, language-based disabilities have made communicating rather difficult.

 

Communicating emotions is particularly challenging for this child and often results in more aggressive behaviors. We spend a lot of time working through those emotions and finding the words to help her express how she is feeling healthily. After she has calmed down, we will revisit the situation and role-play how it could have gone differently, coaching her with words to use to express things. It hasn’t been an overnight success, but through the years we’ve seen her grow in her ability to express things.

 

Academically, the communication challenge has shown up in writing. We have not gone the traditional route of teaching writing at all. For most of her schooling, I have not used a curriculum at all. We’ve merely practiced writing together as part of her other subjects, and for many of those years, I scribed what she orally dictated to me. Eventually, she has taken on more of the writing herself. For this child, nonfiction writing is a much more natural realm for her to learn how to put words and thoughts together because it does not involve the added challenge of creating something original. She can research facts and retell true stories, learning all the same elements of writing and gently scaffolding her communication skills.

 

Dawn Spence

Being a teacher and then a homeschool mom I have experience with all kinds of students. Children communicate in many different ways and learning to listen to how they communicate is key.

 

My eldest son was an early talker and still is very verbal. This helps me when homeschooling him. He would rather talk about what he learned than write it down. That is a great skill to have to summarize his thoughts out loud but becomes a struggle when it comes to writing. Though he is a reluctant writer, allowing him to see that his words have meaning and that writing them down gives them more power gives him the nudge he needs. We do a lot of brainstorms and use graphic organizers to help in his writing.Blocks provide you with everything you need to build a larger page. They contain a variety of content elements, such as images, buttons, headings, and more. These elements are arranged in rows and columns, which provide a useful structure, as well as a sense of balance within the overall composition. You can modify this structure using our intuitive drag and drop interface, which allows you to rearrange content to your heart’s content.

 

My twin girls are very different in their communication as well. My girls as twins have always had a special non-verbal communication between them and still do to this day. My oldest twin has a speech delay which has, of course, affected her communication. Her sister always wants to interpret, but we’ve had to discourage this so she could work on her speech. We used sign language, pictures, games, and therapy to help her communicate. As her communication grew she became less frustrated and began to try more. She is 10 and can verbally communicate her needs and her wants. She continues to grow and excel.

 

My youngest twin is very inquisitive and wants to know about the world around her. She communicates best through her writing and her art. She has dyslexia but is an avid reader which helps her communication immensely.

 

The beauty of addressing communication skills in our homeschools is that we can look at our children as individuals. We can help them to learn through their preferred communication and help them to grow in the areas where they struggle.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dawn Spence

When babies are born they communicate in cries to get their needs met. We lovingly meet their needs and wait to hear their first words. Sometimes those words take longer to hear or may come in a different form. My daughter has a global developmental delay, and even though we know why she has a communication disorder, waiting for her to be able to communicate was frustrating for her and us as well. Finding strategies to help your child with a communication or language disorder helps lessen their frustration.

Strategies for Helping with Language Disorders

 

Sign Language

When she was younger, my daughter had a speech delay and needed a language and a voice. We started using functional sign language with my daughter such as more, finished, work, all done and stop. Then we moved on to colors, animals, and everyday language. Giving my daughter a way to communicate her needs helped her to have a voice. We used Signing Times, and she would watch the videos and learn to sign the new vocabulary. The songs and the characters made learning enjoyable, and it kept her attention.

 

Pictures and Schedules

To a child with language deficits, the everyday life and busy schedules of the day can be overwhelming. My daughter would be overwhelmed with activities and expectations, which would then lead to a meltdown. I had to learn that her frustration with the difficulties of communicating and understanding our day led to her meltdowns. She needed structure and an order to her day. We made picture schedules of her day from therapy to meals. We took pictures and laminated them and had them posted around the house. Her day in pictures and what was expected of her became a tool and gave her day meaning. I also took pictures of her doctors, therapists, and places that we would visit frequently. If our schedule would be different or involved a doctor visit, seeing the picture would help with her anxiety. I used hands-on tools in anticipation of going to the dentist. I found that situations where new things that she may not expect needed more tools of preparation.

 

 

 

She practiced brushing off her sugar bugs to help her get prepared with the unexpected and the anxiety. The more we talked and practiced for the doctor visit the more relaxed and successful it became.

 

Giving Time

My daughter has both an expressive and receptive language disorder. This basically means that she struggles with understanding what others say to her and with expressing herself. I know that she needs me to give her time to respond to what I say and time to put her words together. When I ask my daughter a question, I give her extra time to answer. Using verbal and visual cues helps her organize her thoughts and her language. I can see on my daughter’s face that she knows what to say but needs help getting it out. I have learned that I need to stop and allow her the time to gather her thoughts. If she still needs help, giving her options or verbal cues helps her to produce her answer.

 

Having a communication disorder has no time frame and it takes patience for everyone involved. Give lots of praise and give your child grace and time and love. Using these strategies to give your child a voice and the opportunity to work through the frustrations of learning to communicate gives them more than just tools for language; it speaks to them a language of love.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Assistive Technology, or AT, is defined as “any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities” by the Assistive Technology Industry Association . For individuals who struggle with communication disabilities, AT solutions can greatly increase accessibility and educational success, as well as improve other important life functions. Below are some great resources to help you find the perfect communication assistive technology for your homeschool student.

 

Communication AT Guides

Download or read online this free PDF Communications Guide from the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. Included in this 62-page guide is everything you need to learn about the various types of communication devices available, how to access your child’s needs as well as his/her ability to utilize various AT devices based upon functionality, sensory, implementation, and even environmental considerations. Additionally, this guide breaks down specific tech providers, their products, compares features, and provides links for viewing these AT products online.

Another similar guide can be found in a series of articles from iCommunicate Therapy starting with this article on this page. These articles provide a summary of communication AT devices from high-tech to low-tech devices as well as breaking down those categories into specific device types and what individuals benefit most from using them.

 

Communication AT for Children with Autism

Communication difficulties for children on the Autism spectrum includes some unique variables, therefore it is best when looking for communication AT for a child on the spectrum to take those considerations into account. This article by the Autism Parenting Magazine, Assistive Technology Devices for Children with Autism, does a great job of walking a parent through the various reasons children on the spectrum can benefit from using communication AT as well as what AT works best for certain communication issues. 

Autism Speaks has also developed a 2-page PDF,   Assistive Technology for Communication Roadmap. These pages provide an overview of assessing a student for a device, choosing a device, device funding pathways, and training a student for successful use.

 

AT Communication Apps

If you are looking for an app that is iPad or iPhone specific, this article from Friendship Circle provides a list of their Top 7 Assistive Communication Apps in the iPad App Store. This article includes general descriptions of the apps, pricing, and customer ratings.

On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for an app to put on an Android device, the first 4 of the 6 apps listed in this article by Easter Seals Tech,  6 Android Apps for Special Needs, are great communication AT apps to consider. 

Finally, if you are still trying to wrap your mind around what incorporating assistive technology for your homeschool may look like or if your child is interested in how other children use AT devices for their communication needs, I would encourage you to check out the Pacer Center’s YouTube Channel. Their channel has lots of videos highlighting personal stories of children and how they use AT for greater accessibility.

For children with communication disabilities, assistive technology may bridge the gap and allow them greater opportunities in homeschool and life.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today