Ashly Barta

Have you ever felt the longing to add to your family? The thought of adding to your family either by birth, adoption, or fostering can be an important life decision, adding military life into that equation can make it a bit more difficult to navigate.   Military life has its advantages and disadvantages; deployments, frequent moves, financial strain, and little to no family support.

I recently visited with a friend that went through the adoption process while she and her husband were stationed overseas.  Not all adoption agencies are willing to work with couples that are not currently residing in the country so make sure to do your research.  My friends were able to use a social worker local to them in Germany who then worked closely with the adoption agency in the United States to bring about their adoption. 

The adoption process for them was long and hard at times. It consisted of a lot of paperwork and many hoops they had to go through to show they would be good parents.

When I asked my friend what she would want everyone to know about the adoption process, she said, “I would want people to understand that there is a lot of heartache and loss in adoption. The ache of couples just wanting to be a family, the heartbreak of the mother having to make this choice and eventually our little people will have that heartache and loss.” In the end, the gift is so worth it.  Your child is a gift, your love and respect for the birth mother is a gift, and the knowledge gained from the experience is God’s gift.

My friend also spoke to me about the titles they have chosen to use in their adopted family.  We call our guy’s mom, his tummy mommy but as he grows older that may change. She is his mom. She created him and chose to give him life.  We are his mom and dad, we are all he has ever known. So in their house, they have mom, dad, and tummy mom.

Your child is a gift, your love and respect for the birth mother is a gift, and the knowledge gained from the experience is God’s gift.

For those wanting to adopt I would suggest looking into all the possible ways you can adopt before deciding on a specific path. Foster to adopt, infant adopting, as well as international adoptions are each unique and not one is right for every family that feels called to adopt. Learn and understand the processes of each before jumping in. Start saving now if you plan to do an infant or international adoption. Look into grants, hold fundraisers, have yard sales, every little penny helps.

Also, make sure to find an agency that truly cares for the expectant mother’s well being. Understand that it can take tens of thousands of dollars to complete an adoption from beginning to end, and in infant adoption, the expectant mother may choose to parent after you’ve been matched and are attached to the idea of this baby being your child.

My friend ended our conversation by stating, “Do not let PCS dates, fear of moving, or fear of deployments stop you from pursuing adoption and/or foster care.  Just as everything else that comes with military life, don’t put things off until you have a better schedule, better job, better location, just let your heart speak for you.”  I have to agree. One call is from higher up the chain of command and He will always work things out for the best.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dawn Spence

I had the privilege of interviewing the Northcutt family and want to share their beautiful adoption story with you.

 

What opened your heart to adoption?

My husband worked in the social work field and we had friends that worked in the field too. Too many times my husband, his co-workers, or friends had to sleep in their offices with foster kids because there were no foster homes to take them in.

When my husband took another job, after 13 years in the field, I said we are going to foster because now I can do something about it. We said we would take one of each (we have 2 bio kids one of each) but were licensed for 6 total (state’s limit for our space). The first call we got was for part of a sibling group of 6, they needed 4 beds. I didn’t have the heart split them up, so we accepted them into our home and that was the start of our adventure. We were parents of little ones again.

This last year we completed our first adoption. Our son came as a very tiny and sick NICU baby that we brought home when he was 3 days old. I walked into his hospital room and the nurse looked at me and called me mom. That was weird and very unexpected. I asked to hold him and as I held him the nurse stood there and said: “Well mom he needs a name”. I looked at my husband and we knew this baby would be ours forever. How did I know this? I don’t know, it was just a God thing.

We have fostered for just over 2 years now and 29 beautiful babies have walked into our hearts. We have adopted 1 and this year will probably adopt 2 to 4 more. Why adopt them all? Because God commands us to take care of the orphans and this is our homeschool family’s adoption journey. We have been called to love these children. 

 

How did adoption change your homeschooling life?

We homeschooled our 2 biological kids. I graduated one at the age of 16 and she is now a senior at SHSU, at the age of 19. We have another in high school who still lives at home. Our homeschool day looks nothing like public school. We have 5 toddlers/babies right now who are all under age 3. My son gets an education that no curriculum could ever provide because of our home environment. I am a school teacher at heart and we did a lot of table learning when he was younger, but it is very different now.

I look forward to starting the homeschooling journey all over again with my littles because I learned so much when we homeschooled our older kids. Like the things I wish we could have done differently as well as things that were just perfect that I look forward to repeating.

My older kids will be better parents and more compassionate after being part of raising these littles. They have more life skills than any curriculum could teach. Both of our kids tell us they are thankful we opened up our home to love other children because it showed them so much about how to really love. We know we can’t save the world, but we can make the world look a little better for at least one child as we love them.

I don’t sit and teach my son anymore, but mostly that is because he is in high school and his lessons are self-paced. I give the bones of what he needs to do to him and then he finds the time to get his schoolwork done. Sometimes getting his schoolwork done is very hard because of everything that goes on in our home with fostering and raising babies. We are on the go a lot so he does school in the car, sometimes while holding or feeding a baby, or while watching the babies play. I help him when he needs it but my son is very self-driven so that doesn’t happen often.

 

Both of our kids tell us they are thankful we opened up our home to love other children because it showed them so much about how to really love.

 

What is the best part of adoption for you?

I can’t pick just one thing, so here are two:

1) Getting to enjoy my newly adopted son while he grows, laughs, learns, and is healthy. He is 17-months old, he is not sick anymore, he is absolutely spoiled, and I am beyond blessed that he calls me Mom.

2) Getting to watch my big ones love on these babies with Christ’s love.

 

What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is thinking about adoption?

If you are thinking about adoption then just do it. Don’t wait. The timing is never perfect in our eyes. You will never be financially stable enough, have enough room in your home, or any other excuse you can come up with. If we don’t step in and do our part, who will?

We adopted our son as an infant but we did that because God sent him to us as an infant. This year we hope to finalize an adoption for a sibling group of two girls ages 2 and 7. We will possibly adopt another sibling group of two special needs boys if they cannot return home.

All of our kiddos have some major trauma in their pasts which in itself causes a lot of special needs. My biological kids are Neurotypical so I am by no means qualified to parent a special needs child, but who is ever qualified to parent right out the door? You learn as you go, and you just figure it out.

Don’t be afraid of adopting because you are not sure you can handle a child’s needs. We are moms and dads and God has equipped us for whatever He calls us to do.

As my husband says, “Don’t think about the what if’s. Think about who, and how that ‘who’ needs you right now.”

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

I had the privilege this month of interviewing my parents, Joe and Margie Prenosil, who have been special needs adoptive parents for 30 years! I hope you enjoy the insight and wisdom they have to share from their many years of experience as they have loved and cared for my siblings.

 

How long have you been parents? How long have you been adoptive parents? Was it always your intention to adopt?

We have been parents for almost 50 years, and adoptive parents for 30 years. As far as our intention to adopt, after 4 years of providing foster care, it was something we started to consider. At that point in our foster care services, a baby came into our care who no one wanted to adopt because of the complications he had with severe cerebral palsy. We decided to adopt him and thus Nicholas became our first adopted child.

 

Because you have specifically adopted children with special needs, what challenges/obstacles did you face early on? And, what resources did you find the most helpful for navigating them?

Our challenges started with finding what resources were available to us from our county and state as well as various specialized clinics. The first thing we found helpful was to expand our foster care work to also include our county. This step greatly increased our learning curve regarding what resources and connections were available locally that were most beneficial for each obstacle that came our way. 

The first obstacle we had was learning all the medical information needed to treat and comfort the children we cared for. It was a medical education that took many years for us to feel like we knew what we were talking about regarding various medicines and adaptive equipment.

Our second obstacle was identifying where to acquire handicap equipment and transportation. The most useful resources we discovered while working with individuals who helped foster parents in our county.

One final obstacle, but one that benefited us the most in subsequent adoptions, was learning our state referral chain for requesting assistance. In our area, we were to go to our county Case Manager first before requesting services from the state Adoption Assistance Specialist.

 

What were some of the things you learned from parenting your biological children that helped parent your adopted children?

First was realizing there was a developmental difference between typical children and special needs children. Once the differences were identified, it was a matter of determining whether to seek advice or accept the condition and adapt from there. 

Daniel, our fourth biological child, had some special needs so parenting him provided a bit of a transition gateway for our adoptive special needs parenting skills. Daniel was dyslexic and hyperactive. Sometimes his difficulties were too much for others to handle. Because of his struggles, we often had friends and family ask whether we were going to bring him with us when we came to visit. Daniel took special needs classes in high school and Margie did most of his reading to accommodate his Dyslexia.

 

“…be ready to acquire ‘new’ skills for yourself. 

 

What were some new parenting strategies you had to learn after adopting children with special needs?

When requesting services or equipment, we learned we needed to share the worst incident instead of the best-case scenario for that child. Also, we learned not to assume that we would always be available to provide the service or help and to also build in requests for helpers. 

We also learned to hire PCAs (Private Care Assistants) as teens who came from large families. In general, these youth were already trained through regular family life to care for their siblings, so all we had to do was additional care training that met our child’s specific needs.

Another strategy we learned was to fully understand what your school district does and doesn’t provide. Two of our children were able to receive in-home services from the school district because of the severity of their conditions.

 

How have you managed family life, church, school, extra-curricular activities, and respite time over the years? Do you have any advice for other adoptive families of children with special needs on how to best juggle these demands?

Family Life: We didn’t adopt children older than our birth children, thus we limited the competition. Our adoptive parenting years started as our birth children were starting college and lives outside our home. Full-time help came over a period of years. First, we hired a full-time PCA using a waiver and then eventually were able to add our youngest son on as hired help. When our son left for college, we were able to hire a full-time PCA that stayed with us for thirteen years. She helped to coordinate other PCAs, cover homecare when we needed to assist a child away from home, as well as respite time for us. She left after the deaths of two of our totally disabled children.

Since then we have relied upon young adults from 16-20 years to fill the gap. Plus after the decrease in PCAs and Margie heart attack, the county helped our ability to work with an agency to hire and maintain staff by reclassifying our home as a group foster home. We are the only one in the county. 

Our church and extra-curricular activities center around family members which extended to include PCA youth (16+) and their families. Through the church, stay connected to a larger community as well as develop relationships with families we know well and feel good about hiring to do care in our home. 

Because we had a full-time PCA/agency, we could coordinate yearly getaways for ourselves but for about three years when we were between agencies, we were unable to get any time away.

Advice to parents: It is impossible to duplicate what we have done to the letter. Stay flexible. We learned that we needed to change as our children’s needs changed and as well as determine what appropriate assistance was necessary for us to help each child with specific needs.

When starting this type of journey, a couple needs to assess whether their current family can accept and contribute towards bringing in a new family member. Second, they need to take into consideration this child’s care may be a lifelong commitment and both parents need to be committed to this child, not just one.

Next, you should assess what financial and community support is available to you if you adopt. Any financial support provided to care for a child should only fill the gaps for that child’s care and should not be seen as another source of income. When you put income before the care of a child you are not letting God do his work. First, seek the Kingdom of God, and then everything else will be provided. We found this to be very true. 

 

“…be willing to accept a child saying, “I love you” as meaning “Do you love me?”

 

If a family was interested in adopting a child with special needs, what advice would you want to share with them based on your 30+ years of being adoptive special needs parents?

First, you need to consider your motivation for adoption. If you have a perceived idea of what you want a child to become without understanding all the baggage this child has acquired and will continue to work through in your home, stop. You will be disappointed. Understand that first, the child will educate you by their behavior, life experiences, and what they want (which is not always appropriate). They will lead by showing you what triggers their actions, and you must observe before acting. You will probably need professional help in understanding the underneath behavior and be ready to acquire ‘new’ skills for yourself. 

Children in the foster care system have learned to defend themselves when everyone else in their lives has failed them. You must be willing to struggle with them as well as be their spokesperson because they may not have the words to describe what they are feeling. If they are in trauma, they may take a long time to change, if ever. Also, be willing to accept a child saying, “I love you” as meaning “Do you love me?”

After considering the above questions we then suggest you again consider why you would want to adopt. Here are two reasons we have found provided a stable foundation for us as we have adopted. First, a real desire to be faithful to the child we are adopting no matter what. We may not change the child we adopt. Ultimately God is in charge of change and we must be willing to let God take the lead in this area or be okay if change is not in His plan. Second, we must be able to accept our failures, limitations, and frustrations. Every day we review our day with God and choose to be happy with what the day afforded us. We ask God for guidance, change what we can, and then we are joyful about the journey and the amazing people He has allowed us to share our lives with.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

Organization goes far beyond making sure everything is in its place, especially for homeschooling families who live, eat, learn, and play under the same roof every day. And, who would know better than experienced homeschooling moms who live this way 24/7? This is why we asked our team of experienced homeschooling moms to share their best homeschool organization tips that work while juggling teaching, housekeeping, and everything else going on in their lives.

 

Amy Vickrey

Making time for my spiritual life with my children has been a priority.  I am working to teach them that they have a choice regarding love, joy and their relationship with God.  To prioritize this goal, we started reading a daily devotional each night. This simple addition to our schedule has helped me remember to spend time engaging my children in God’s word and sharing time praying.  We have also added hymn singing after our devotional time. It is so sweet to hear my 3-year-old join in singing “How Great Thou Art” and “It is Well.” These precious memories will carry them and me far into the future because of this simple change I made in their bedtime routine.

For schoolwork, my oldest does his best when he can see his workload from beginning to end.  We used checklists, a clipboard, and other techniques to help him see his schedule visually. Because he can see his schedule and can to do tasks at his own pace and take breaks when needed.  In the end, he knows there is no TV time until he finishes so this acts as his reward for finishing all the tasks on his list. We also make sure to target our school time for the time of day when my son’s learning peaks.  This targeted learning time has greatly reduced daily schoolwork battles. One additional thing that helps us with school work is that I have built a therapy team with people other than myself who provide therapy sessions and work on educational (or pre-educational) goals with my children.  I let them take care of those specific skills so I can concentrate on other skills at home.

For meals, I find writing out a basic menu for each day on a calendar works best for me.  This way I will not repeat the same 3 meals my kids prefer more than I can stand, and it also allows me to plan ahead of time for expanding their palettes. This simple calendar planning also expedites the time it takes to put together my shopping lists and actual grocery shopping.

In general, balancing homeschool, work and school has been a challenge.  As a single parent, I am blessed to have a supportive family, but the majority of the responsibility still falls on my shoulders. I have found I have to stick to my schedule, make use of downtime, and not overcommit, especially on weeks bigger projects or assignments are due. 

 

Ashly Barta

I have found homeschool organization success in keeping each child’s work separate.  I use a binder for all wipe-clean pages and checklists. We use daily checklists and reverse planning to ensure we accomplish everything on our list each day.  I found that with reverse planning I have less pressure to complete all the things in a rush, we can dive deeper into the subject matter or take time for extra practice if needed.  My son has epilepsy so it allows us to take breaks when needed and I have learned to love the rest time just as much as the work time. Along with the binders we also utilize workboxes (Latchmate totes found at  Micheals) and a morning basket.  The Latchmate boxes house the main curriculum along with flashcards, pencils and whatever else my children need to complete their work.  On the other hand, the morning basket holds coloring books, a Bible, read-aloud books, and other similar materials.

 

It is amazing how implementing a few simple organizational tips can help homeschooling and a busy home life stay on track!

 

Dawn Spence

Something simple that helps me in staying organized is meal planning. My kids even help when they know what is on the menu by reminding me what meat I need to take out of the freezer so it is thawed properly. Meal planning also helps keep me keep to a budget and be thoughtful about creating healthy meals for my family. Sometimes I plan for one week, but if I am on a roll I plan two weeks out. Having a meal plan also allows me to order my groceries ahead of time, which is another big time saver. It is amazing how implementing a few simple organizational tips can help homeschooling and a busy home life stay on track!

 

Peggy Ployhar

One way I have been successful in organizing my children’s homeschooling materials is by giving them a dedicated place for their things and a yearly planning calendar.  As you can imagine over the past 17 years of homeschooling in 4 different houses as well as 2 separate times of living in our travel trailer while homeschooling, this organizational method has been thoroughly tested. My children’s spaces have ranged from tubs, shelves, drawers, and cupboards but they have always been a unique space that is just theirs to store books, projects, and the other things they use regularly for school. As for planners, I have tried many over the years, but eventually realized what worked best for us were the cheap student planners you can find at just about any store at the beginning of the school year. Each year I buy one planner for each child, making sure the cover, as well as the layout, work well for recording everything in that student’s schedule.  Then I write in lessons, a week at a time in pencil, in each planner. When my children were young, I helped them with organizing their spaces and planners, but as they moved into their junior high and high school years they took over managing almost everything, sometimes even their own weekly lesson plans!

 

Whether it is organizing your schooling materials, your homeschool spaces, your student’s schedules, or even your meals we hope our team’s homeschooling organization tips have inspired you to make one or two small changes towards being more organized in your homeschool and homeschooling family life.

 

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn

Looking back I realize that finishing a homeschool day well has changed for me over the years. When my children were little, I felt accomplished if that day I had a plan for dinner, everyone got dressed, and we read at least one book. Now after 20 years of homeschooling, I find my day finishes well when dinner is planned before breakfast, the children have completed their day’s assignments without complaining, I’ve spent my quiet time with God, and my family did something fun together. Below are some of the things I have learned these past 20 years in striving towards my goal to finish each homeschool day well.

 

Simple Planning to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

Planning is essential to finish each homeschool day well, but it doesn’t need to be elaborate or complicated. For instance, I have a small bulletin board in our school area where I post the syllabi’ for the school year. This way everyone knows what needs to be done each week. I also post my menu and chore assignments where everyone can see them. Once these items are posted, “it’s the law”. We also make it a point to focus on school first. After breakfast until lunch school work is the priority . I’ve also trained my children that school and house responsibilities are to be completed before any free time activities are permitted.

 

Bigger Picture Focus to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

Staying on track and being mindful of bigger homeschooling goals can also be simplified. When my oldest began high school I created a 4-year high school scope and sequence. Since then, each summer and Christmas break I re-evaluate this plan to ensure my children are making adequate progress or if  extra time or help is needed to reach a goal. Another planning element added to our at-home study lesson plans are yearly classes our children take at a local co-op. Each summer I incorporate each co-op classes syllabi into my children’s yearly goals. 

 

One additional tip I have learned for tracking textbook lessons is to copy the table of contents from the book and assign specific due dates for each chapter. Then I laminate the table of contents page and use it as a bookmark for the textbook. This way my children know throughout the year what date a specific reading assignment is due.

 

In the end, material things don’t matter but people do. Making sure I spend time with the people I love is the best way to finish each homeschool day well.”

 

Crushing Difficult Tasks to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

In order to not procrastinate on difficult tasks, I try to do the most unpleasant things in my day first thing in the morning. This way these items are done and I have the freedom of mind to move on to whatever else the day holds. But, on the days when I just can’t get to these more difficult tasks, I assign them to someone else.  Just kidding. They wait until the next day or time they can be dealt with, unless I can find someone who is able or willing to help.

 

Looking Back and Ahead to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

When I look back I realize what matters most are the people in my life and the relationships we share. The question I ask myself at the end of each day is, “Have I met every need I could as best I could today?”  Looking back to what matters most today and into the future to what will matter most in the years to come provides the best framework for where it matters most to spend time each and every day. In the end, material things don’t matter but people do. Making sure I spend time with the people I love is the best way to finish each homeschool day well.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dawn Spence

I am very much a type-A person. I love to find ways to organize my house, my life, and my homeschool. I also find my children do better with organization, and it sets the tone and expectations within our home and homeschool.

Children need structure even though their natural inclination is to resist it. This is especially true for children with special needs. Knowing the order of the day and a checklist of what needs to be done provides comfort and stability.

I have found that finding little things to help me organize my day amidst therapies, teaching, and everyday life can be rewarding and stress relieving. Here are some simple things that have helped organize our homeschool days that I hope will help you organize your homeschool.

 

Provide Daily Checklists

I provide my children with weekly checklists of their assignments. I love that my children wake up and can tackle their assignments without asking me what they need to do. They can choose to work and complete all their math in one day if they choose. It provides self-discipline and independence.

The checklist is especially helpful when my daughter has therapy because then my other children can look at their lists and work on one or more of their independent lessons. They know if they need help they can circle the lesson and work with me later when I become available.

 

Calendar With Visuals

Another helpful tool is a wall calendar with pictures. This tool is valuable to everyone in the family. It helps us see when things will be taking place during the week like field trips, doctor visits, and special holidays. My children, like most, work better when they know what to expect and can count down to an exciting activity. Using pictures ensures even the non-readers in your home can take advantage of these calendar reminders.

The size of the calendar is up to you. You can use personal-sized calendars or a wall-sized calendar. One additional item we add to our calendar is special dates about the places and people we have been studying in our lessons.

 

Organized Work Areas

Organized work areas are a simple organization tool, but can save a great deal of time. My children have everything they need at our group work station and their student desks. Not having to stop to provide utensils and paper helps everyone stay on task. I take a little extra time on Sunday night preparing these areas for the week. Trust me, a little prep ahead of time can save you lots of time throughout the week.

 

Yes, homeschooling can be hard, but implementing ways to organize your homeschool doesn’t have to be.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

I have always been pretty good about scheduling and to-do lists. The engineer in me loves to write out plans, figure out the best method for getting everything on my list done, and optimize every possible scenario so no time is wasted.  Not even motherhood or homeschooling have deterred my nature of being an ambitious planner. But, something that has been working at this adamant planner in me is the same thing that has been slowly changing me from the inside out for 22 years, my relationship with God.

 

Planning spiritual time is an oxymoron. Our spiritual life when we become a Christian is supposed to become all of our lives.  This is where the planner in me struggled for many years. Early on in my walk with God, I would try to cram my study and prayer time into specific slots in the day. I then swung to the opposite extreme, feeling my planning was not spiritual enough. Thus, my planners and lists were set aside so I could lean into God moment my moment without their distraction.  The problem with both of these approaches was I couldn’t find an adequate balance for prioritizing the things of life alongside my relationship with God.

 

My struggle has fortunately changed in the past few years and I have discovered how I can plan for a simplified spiritual life. The lessons God has been teaching me about bringing Him into my planning has allowed me to triumph over each day, follow His plans, and keep in check the things swirling around in my life.  I have been learning how to properly prioritize my schedule daily, what God has been teaching me as I spend time in His word and praying.

 

The change has truly been freeing, and not only in my own life but also in the lives of those I’ve been sharing my daily revelations with, specifically my 15-year-old daughter and a few of the viewers on my personal YouTube channel, Daily Revelations.

 

The lessons God has been teaching me about bringing Him into my planning has allowed me to triumph over each day, follow His plans, and keep in check the things swirling around in my life.

 

Therefore, in looking ahead to 2020, I decided to create a bible study and planner together that will help you to learn how to start planning for a simplified spiritual life.

 

Wondering what’s involved?  It’s super simple.

  • Download the free planner you can find on the Free Downloads page on the SPED Homeschool website
  • Print the planner however it would work best for you
  • Read one chapter of the Bible a week.
    • Every day there is a different activity that will help you study the text
    • Every weekday there will be a new video on the Daily Revelations YouTube channel that will expand upon the text you are reading
  • Plan your monthly, weekly, and daily schedules as well as grocery lists, menus and more right alongside your daily bible study
  • Merge what God is teaching you into your plans and prioritize your lists and to-do items based on where the Spirit is leading your heart and mind
  • Join the Daily Revelations community on The Jump  to be encouraged and to encourage others who are using this same planner and doing the same bible readings

 

Since this is the pilot year for this project, the planner is free to download. So far the first quarter is written, and April through December will be coming soon.  By using the planner and being part of our community, you will also have the opportunity to provide suggestions for the 2021 planner and get a sizable discount.

 

Joining us late? No problem.  There is no need to go back to the beginning of the study. Just start on whatever day, week, or month you can. You can always go back and watch earlier videos or fill in earlier lessons if you would like, but it is not necessary for understanding the daily lesson.

 

I am so excited to get started and begin planning with you towards a simplified spiritual life starting in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 


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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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