By Jill Camacho

When your struggles seem to never end…

Talking with hundreds of moms online each month, one of the most common heartbreaks I see lies in having no hope. It’s a tough thing to bear when your daily struggles of life have no foreseeable end. It reminds me of Proverbs 13:12 ESV; “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

As a newer mom, I wrestled with tunnel vision and hopelessness. My circumstances were truly difficult, but they weren’t forever. The thing is, it was so easy to live life (and treat others) as though it was. Looking back, I believe the way I was handling my problems made my heart sick, as well as poisoned those around me.


Time changes all things

Looking back at all the difficult phases in our life, they’ve all ended. Even when it seemed like, in the moment, we’d never see a reprieve. If you’re feeling this way in your life, or in your homeschool, please take heart! All things change, ebb, and flow.

If you’re feeling like your child will never, for example, learn to sit still, stay calm, or read simple words (anything really), you’re not alone. Feeling that way is normal. Feeling sad is natural when hope is floating farther and farther away.



We have hope
But we have hope in Jesus. He knows how we feel, and he will redeem every bad situation. We may not know if each redemption is on this side of Heaven or not, but we do have hope.

What helps me in these situations is switching my perspective. I do this by actively remembering our past struggles. I remember how certain situations felt as though they may never end, compared to how long ago they now feel. “What was it God taught me in those seasons?” I ask myself.

I try and think of what I can learn now and pray, asking God for peace and to help me lay things down. I pray for eyes to see all the blessings He’s given me and for faith that helps me weather the storms through weary days. In addition to these things, I seek support!

These are all things you may want to try too! Don’t minimize your issues by telling yourself they are “not as bad as other people’s problems.” Leaving sadness and hopelessness unaddressed isn’t healthy. Find a supportive ear or two (whether in person or an online support group) and consider counseling with a therapist or trusted church staff member if you suspect it’s needed. Therapy has been some of the greatest help I’ve had!

 

 


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By Jill Camacho

Have you tried absolutely everything to motivate your child to get their school work done? Are you using incentives and worried about bribing? Are you unsure if rewards are a great idea in the first place?

I get where you’re coming from. Read on and learn from my own experiences with using external motivators and be prepared for an unlikely surprise!
 

Aren’t bribes and rewards the same thing?
Nope.

You read that right. External motivators (aka incentives or rewards) are not bribes. I used to be under the same impression! Constantly, I found myself confused by conflicting advice. There are parenting books saying, “Don’t bribe,” but then reward charts are used in ABA therapy. What’s a parent actually to do!?

I finally learned the difference when I confessed to our ABA provider that I was bribing my son for good behavior that day.

Then she set me free…
 

There’s a small, but a key difference
I think the best way to explain it is through example, but basically, it matters when and how you’re employing the external motivator.

Let’s say your child loves playing Minecraft, but hates doing math. I’m going to use this hypothetical to demonstrate both a bribe and an incentive.

Bribe: Your child is crying, arguing about math, and basically falling apart. You say, “If you finish 4 more questions, you can play Minecraft!”

Incentive: You start an ongoing policy that no Minecraft will be played before math is complete, or perhaps that after every page of math completed, they can have a 15 minute Minecraft break.

See how the bribe happens after the undesirable behavior? Your child can employ the behavior to get the reward. In the case of the incentive, there is a hard and fast set of rules and expectations. They are established before any “negative” behaviors begin. The child lives up to their end of things before getting the reward.

So, in adult terms, it’s the same as working hard for a raise or promotion as opposed to getting a raise because you are threatening to move jobs. In that last case, you have the power and the boss is bribing you to stay.
 

Now that we’re clear on that…
I think it’s important to discuss the pros, cons, and other things to consider when using external motivators in your homeschool. Nothing in life is super easy, right? Here is what I have learned putting these ideas into practice…
 

Using food or electronics
Be careful about how you’re using food or electronics in terms of motivation. I’m not saying don’t ever do it, but be thoughtful in how you are doing it. Think about the long-term consequences and how to mitigate any problems it may cause.

Be aware that constantly using food or sugary treats to motivate can be a slippery slope into bad eating habits and eating issues down the road. Our brains already light up on MRIs with sugar consumption. Now imagine when it’s consistently given as a reward for doing something undesirable? That same principle applies to electronics.
 

Intrinsic motivation
Make sure you’re not building a reward monster who will only do things for clear, external rewards. Build in ways to practice being intrinsically motivated and flexible. While we generally all work for a paycheck (external motivator), we need to do other things like eating healthily or cleaning the house because we are intrinsically motivated.

Our goal isn’t leaning so heavily on rewards that they grow to expect them for any and every little thing. We try to reserve them for the “big things.” However, if you need to start with the small things too, just keep re-evaluating how and when to phase them out.
 

Stick to your guns
If you told your child the rules for the incentive… those are the rules. You can adjust them as needed, but do so carefully. If they are having a meltdown moment over the undesirable activity, don’t adjust it right then. Adjust your expectations the next day or after taking a break to soothe.

Don’t cave into giving them their Minecraft time (or whatever the reward) for less than the agreed amount of work because they are having a hard moment. That’s how you slip back into bribing. Just adjust the agreement in the right timing if truly necessary. The magic of incentives lies in the follow through!

 

 


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By Jill Camacho

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

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

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


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

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


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

We don’t, however, need to do that…

Parenting is hard.

Special needs parenting is hard.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 


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By Jill Camacho

Does fear of the unknown make you nervous about homeschooling?

If you’re considering homeschooling, wondering whether or not it’s a good idea, or not knowing how to get started, I’ve got some advice to help you with the transition. First, know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing from the get-go. I know from experience how very nervous about homeschooling we can be in the “just looking into it” phase.

Homeschooling also doesn’t have to be as complicated as we can sometimes make it. Here’s what I have learned that may help you become less nervous about homeschooling and make the transition in a way that will help you and your child.


1) “De-schooling”
If you’re like me, you may be considering trying out homeschooling because public school has been stressful for your child. If this is the case, perhaps they now associate learning with school, and school with stress. This was certainly the case for us. At the time, I had never heard of de-schooling, and our first few months were very tumultuous. Since then, I’ve learned more about de-schooling and definitely recommend it in these situations. But what is deschooling?

De-schooling allows your child to separate the idea of learning from the experience of public schooling (and all that he or she found stressful about it). Essentially, don’t try to duplicate public school. Start out with something fun like unit studies center around their passions. Create a lot of opportunities for one-on-one connection with your child, using learning time as bonding time. If learning can become more about gathering information and connecting with a parent or loved one, it’s going to be more enjoyable than if it’s something required, rigid, and sterile.

2) Cast your vision
You do have a reason why you’re choosing homeschooling right? Honestly, I think not a single one of us just decide to homeschool just based solely on a whim. If you’re nervous about homeschooling and are reading this post, clearly there is a greater ‘why’ pushing you through the fear. Homeschooling is a beautiful and difficult calling. There’s always some kind of reason – or even many reasons! On your hard days, you are going to need to remember your ‘why’ and be rooted in it.

So, your first step here is writing out your mission statement. Write out why it is you’re homeschooling your children. Talk with them to include them in the why and the decisions about your homeschooling. Have them help you write your mission statement so that they can be emotionally invested as well and take ownership of this homeschooling process.

In addition to the vision statement, make the expectations clear. Involve your child in this too! Tell them what you’re thinking as far as expectations, and ask them what their thoughts are. While you’re in charge and have the final say as the authority figure in the house, taking their thoughts into consideration will mean a lot to them. It’ll help them feel heard and like their feelings are considered and appreciated. Even if you don’t take a majority of their suggestions, they will at least feel like they’ve had a say and been heard. Including them in expectations will help them to accept the expectations because they’ll feel they’ve had a say in it.

3) Take a practice run
Give homeschooling a practice run if you’re nervous about homeschooling and making the leap. Try doing this for just a few days a week over the summer or any other seasonal break from public school. Having this sort of “practice homeschooling,” especially over the summer, will be helpful for many kids. Even if you don’t end up homeschooling, a routine is helpful for them.

If this is working out for you and you continue you to homeschool, you may consider year-round homeschooling. We homeschool year-round for the stability it brings to our schedule, and our kids love it! We homeschool all year, 4 days a week, with breaks for holidays. If you’ve already put all these hours into your summer practice homeschooling, why not continue on? Several days are already knocked out!

In addition to unit studies, any outings you have in nature or traveling can also be used towards learning days. Make it educational with some questions, discussion, drawing, or related reading. Just another find a way to make love learning enjoyable again for the whole family while also bonding.

 

Summer is the perfect time to give homeschooling ago
If you’re considering homeschooling and unsure, please don’t be too afraid to give it a shot! If you try your best during this homeschooling summer experiment and still feel that it won’t work for you, no sweat! You can easily still enroll in the public school for the next year. You’ll not have wasted any of this time. Your child learned about things they love and spent extra time connecting with you one-on-one! Win-win! You’ll also be no worse off, as far as public school is concerned; not a single day missed. I think you’ll find you’ll love it though!

Taking the summer to devote some time to light learning gives you a taste of homeschooling, keeps the kids a little less bored, and off electronics – at least a bit. Best of all, you’ll never have to wonder, “Should I have tried homeschooling?” If you’ve been on the fence and nervous about homeschooling, I encourage you to give it a shot this summer with free internet printables and library books!

 


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