By Kimberly Vogel

Many struggling learners or students with special needs struggle with time, money, and egocentric behavior. Gift giving can easily be a time of educational and emotional opportunities for growth, and Christmas is the perfect time to put some of these tips into practice. It’s also a very busy time of the year, which makes intentionality important. But if we take the time to slow down and really focus on a few of these areas, there are a variety of lessons we can teach through gift giving



5 Lessons to Teach through Gift Giving


1. Plans and Budgets
There are so many ways to incorporate learning about money into gift giving. The first place to start is making a budget. For younger kids, you can talk about one gift, but for older children, they can set a budget for the whole holiday. You can extend this activity by setting up a savings plan for next year. If we spent $200 on our cousins this year, how much would we need to save all year to have enough money? How much would each gift cost? Will we be able to afford it and what can we change? If you go under budget, how can you use the money to bless someone else?


2. Math with Money
We are quickly becoming a cashless society. Our children need to know how to use cash. Plan ahead and take money to the store. Have your children buy gifts by counting out the correct change. You can further this activity by asking the children to calculate how much change they will receive. Play store at home and teach children how to count back money as a cashier. You can use fake money if needed. Many youths don’t know the valuable skill of counting back money, and it’s impressive to find a cashier that does know this skill!


3. Time Management
Time management is critical when shopping. How long will it take a gift to arrive at the destination? If I order a gift online, how long will it take to arrive? What if Amazon is even late? How far ahead do you need to plan? This doesn’t just apply to online shopping. Do you know how long it takes to walk the length of the mall? Can you estimate drive time, finding a parking spot, locating 7 gifts, waiting in line, and driving back home? Will you eat a meal while shopping or grab a cup of coffee? How do those factors affect your budget? There are a number of time management lessons that we can teach through gift giving.


4. Creative Skills
Giving gifts that don’t cost much – handmade gifts – provide many more lessons! New skills, budget for cooking or craft supplies, deciding what a person would like, are just a few things to be learned when creating gifts. Is it really cheaper if you are buying a lot of supplies? How much time will it take to make the items, and will you be able to finish?

5. Emotional Growth

I recently saw a meme go around Facebook about shopping for yourself while shopping for others. The struggle is real! How many times have you bought a gift for someone else and then one for yourself? Or changed your list? The struggle is real for our kids, too. Sometimes the struggle is that they want the gift for themselves and don’t understand why they can’t’ have it. Other kids struggle with wanting to buy for someone what they want instead of what the other person wants. I know Grandma wants a hat, but can it be pink because pink is my favorite color? Even if Grandma doesn’t ever wear pink? This is the perfect time to teach kids to think outwardly instead of egocentric thinking and behavior. Some kids naturally do think outwardly, but others need specific instructions and loving examples.


Let’s not get so busy this holiday season that we miss the opportunities teach through gift giving to others. The most important lessons are lessons of the heart, which means the most important lessons we teach all year could be those we teach during the holidays.

Looking for more holiday teaching ideas? Check out the SPED Homeschool Christmas and New Year Pinterest boards for great hands-on learning activities you can use all season long.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate today

(all donations are tax-deductible)


Please follow and like us:

By Kimberly Vogel

Students with learning disabilities need modifications. There is a fine line between what modifications are needed and when and the time to remove or lessen the modifications. Many parents of students with learning disabilities over-modify, which makes things easier, but doesn’t lead the child to overcome the struggles. The goal is to help our children to learn how to learn and overcome their struggles.

How do you draw that line? How do you know what to do and when?


If you’ve read many of my articles, a phrase I use often use is meet a child where they are at. Because, once you are operating in a child’s “zone,” they are able to learn. A great way to do this is to find out where your child is through placement tests, formal assessments, or informal assessments (such as checklists or reading levels).

Teaching your child from where they are, you can then modify each assignment based on what they can do and what they need to do. For example, in a math assignment, the objective is math calculations. Ease the burden of reading by allowing the word problems to be read to the child. In a writing assignment, if the objective is to plan for a writing assignment then you may want to implement drawing pictures, using a graphic organizer, or dictating the ideas as a way to complete the assignment instead of writing an outline.

Keep track of the modifications

An IEP is a helpful tool for tracking modifications. Once you have your list of modifications, make a goal for phasing out those modifications. For math, I do not give students a calculator. First, I have them use charts to aid in basic operations. I love multiplication charts because they give a student an overall view of how the numbers relate to each other. At first the multiplication chart is used freely. The more math facts are memorized, the chart is used only for a few of the number groups. Eventually the chart is put away and the child has to ask for use of the chart. Eventually, the chart is no longer used!

Re-evaluate periodically

As more milestones are reached, evaluations of the student need to be made to see what modifications are still needed. Students can become dependent on the modifications and find it stressful to not have access to them. That’s why phasing out modifications is recommended. It provides a level of safety for the student while also teaching them to advocate for themselves. The goal is for a student to ask for help in an appropriate manner and for them to self-evaluate.

While modifications are needed, over modifying doesn’t help in the long run. If you need help, the Thinking and Learning Center’s coaches and SPED Homeschool’s resources can help! We would love to help you in any way we can to be confident in homeschooling your child through his or her struggles.

Still looking for more ideas on how to modify your student’s curriculum? Check out these other articles on our website.


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today


Please follow and like us:

By Kimberly Vogel

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

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

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

Know Your State Laws

Once the district receives a written request for testing, many states require they respond within a specific number of days. In Texas where I live, once the district receives a request for testing, they have 30 days to respond. Other states have different guidelines, and unfortunately, some also have long waiting lists. It is best to learn your specific state laws before you begin so you know exactly what to expect. To find out more about homeschooling laws in your state and how they affect homeschooling a student with special education needs, checkout our Homeschool Law page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today


Please follow and like us:

By Kimberly Vogel

I see many families traveling to visit colleges and universities while their children are in high school. Just this morning my parents and I planned a trip for my daughter to visit a university we are considering. What about the child who is not ready to make the jump from high school to college? 

A gap year or trade school instead of a university is becoming more and more common. I have another idea that is gaining popularity, and I must say… it’s my favorite. This option, which is truly life-changing and faith-deepening, is a gap year at a mission center.

Our Family’s Recent Experience
I recently spent the weekend at Twin Oaks Ranch. We stayed in the hotel for a small suggested donation and found the accommodations delightful. While staying there, we were able to take our meals in the PFC and mingle with those who live on base. They even had a free movie night where we watched “Muffy” and ended the night praying for missions. If you are there on a Sunday evening, they have amazing worship and messages at the Family Night Service where all on campus meet together for a message and worship. There is a tour you can take to learn about the schools, and all that is offered right on the base. It’s an incredible community and the messages are life changing!

5 Organizations to Consider for Missions

Mission training for just about anything!
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has bases around the world and offers many different schools to train students not only for missions but for life and a deeper relationship with God. This is the route we went for our daughter. The school aspect is key to building a strong foundation before sending young adults out to spread the Word. I plan on sharing more about her journey, and what I’ve learned from this experience.

Passion for helping orphans?
Coreluv has three phases
Equip – a teaching and discipleship program which is stateside
Send – the missions program which sends interns on a 5-month mission trip
Defend – full-time missions work with orphans

Interested in relief missions?
Adventures in Missions has disaster relief mission trips around the world. You can find long term, short term, family, youth, or just about any kind of mission trip! They focus on discipleship and are an interdenominational organization.  See what they have to say about taking a gap year!

Looking ahead to college?  
Campus-based organization with mission opportunities for all ages: cru, Formerly Campus Crusade, they are known for their Four Spiritual Laws, a simple and effective evangelism tool. Cru also released the Jesus Film, which has changed lives worldwide.

Don’t forget your local church
Most large denominations have their own missions organization. Check with your local church to find what mission opportunities they support.

When my kids started high school, I was leery of the concept of a gap year. Why not go right to college? Now I see the benefit of waiting. The most important thing is to look at your child individually and decide what is best for them. Doing a gap year to study and share God’s Word will give your child a foundation that is needed to navigate in today’s world. We did it, and it was life-changing for more than just my daughter.

Are you still working on your student’s homeschool high school years?  Looking for some help navigating how to help a struggling learner during their final years of homeschooling?  Make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool’s High School Checklist and SPED Homeschool’s Final Stretch YouTube Playlist .




Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today



Please follow and like us:

By Kimberly Vogel

When one member of the family receives a dietary diagnosis, the whole family shares in the diagnosis. Eating affects almost everything, and typically normal things become a trial. Special events and traveling require special considerations.

A few years ago I received a diagnosis of some serious and complicated food sensitivities and allergies. We traveled on long car trips to see family yearly, as well as other vacations and didn’t want to stop just because of my diagnosis. But things had to change. Here are the 5 things we did differently that not only helped with food and dietary issues but also helped our budget!

1. Bring ready prepared homemade meals
We have a cooler and laundry basket that holds our groceries in the car. I even cook meals ahead of time and freeze them so all I do is thaw and reheat when we arrive at our destination.

I have a list of items we need to buy once we arrive and have already scouted out grocery stores near our lodging. For example: I cook and freeze chili, then I buy the chips and cheese when we arrive.

2. Pack to-go meals for the road
Not stopping for meals while driving is the biggest budget saver! I bring a loaf of bread, knife, paper towels, peanut butter, and jelly. Sometimes I throw in a jar of cookie butter too! I make sandwiches and pass them out with fruit and chips; we don’t even have to stop!

Our goal is to eat two meals in the car and only stop for one. Not only is it the cheapest way to travel, it’s also much healthier than fast food. Other food that is easy to eat in the car:

  • individual hummus cups and veggies
  • cereal bowls with milk that doesn’t need refrigeration (yes, it exists!)
  • cheese, crackers, and pepperoni
  • anything you would put in a school lunch (granola bars, chips, fruit snacks, etc.)


3. Plan driving routes around food breaks
When someone has food allergies, restaurants are tricky to navigate. At one point there were only a few restaurants I trusted, and even then it was only one or two of their options.

I found driving routes based on restaurants I could safely eat at, and we planned our stops accordingly so at least one meal a day could be in a restaurant. Many places also have call ahead ordering, so we could grab it and get back on the road.

4. Book condos or houses
Many extended stay hotels, condos, timeshares, and houses (VRBO – vacation rent-by-owner) have kitchens. If you cook instead of eating out, the higher lodging cost is negated by lower dining expenses.

On the flipside, this alternative makes it feel like less of a vacation for me, so one or two nights the kids or my husband take over the cooking so I get a break! We eat out one nice meal, and sometimes it’s just my husband and me on a date while the kids hang back and watch movies!

5. Cook in the hotel
For conferences and occasions when we don’t find lodging with a kitchen, I bring a crockpot or my beloved Instant Pot and cook in the room! I do try to cook less aromatic foods to be sensitive to the other guests! Most hotels now have refrigerators in the rooms. If not, you can call ahead of time. Many have one they can add to your room or can give you access to one on the property, especially if you inform them of a medical necessity.


Even though my dietary diagnosis has once again changed, and I no longer have the restrictions I did, we still use these tips when we travel. It’s a way of life for us now, and it is much healthier than eating so many meals out. The amount we save allows us to travel more! It IS possible to have an incredible vacation even with special dietary needs!



Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today



Please follow and like us:

By Kimberly Vogel

Good teaching involves many different approaches to presenting information. One of my favorite good teaching practices involves questioning strategies. Often overlooked, asking the right questions encourages the student to use critical thinking and to discover information independently.

The value of a question
A question puts the student in an active position. It encourages them to internalize learning and formulate a response. However, not all questions provoke deep thought. Many require only simple recall, and while that’s a needed skill, it’s not moving into higher levels of thought. Bloom’s Taxonomy puts thought processes into different levels.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification system for learning objectives. It was created to help teach students higher levels of thinking and learning. There are even charts with questions for each level. It’s a good place to start to develop deeper questions, but there is one question that I love asking!

One simple question:  How did you get that answer?
This question takes problem-solving a step further. It guides the student through explaining their thought process. This is very difficult for some students.

It takes time and encouragement for them to feel okay with sharing their thought processes and finding the right words to verbalize it. Many students say, “I don’t know” and they really don’t! It’s hard to follow thought processes and explain it. Keep trying. Stay patient. I often say “Think out loud” to encourage them to find the words. Model it for them so they can see how it sounds to think out loud.

I recently wrote about my top homeschool tip: teaching your children where they are. It follows the belief that student success is based on guiding a student through problem-solving according to their potential. The guide can be an adult or another peer who has already gained knowledge on the subject.

Guiding through problem-solving often means breaking down a lesson or problem into smaller pieces or modeling the process. When you look at a student according to their potential, you look not only where they currently are, uninhibited by grades or where others say they should be, but also where they need to be based on the time needed. Some students work faster while others have a slower pace.

Use problem solving and questioning strategies to advance learning
If a student keeps hitting a wall or stalls in learning, guiding them through learning takes the form of problem-solving and questioning strategies to help them advance. In order to do this, you need to put the next lesson aside and spend time discussing the current level to assess their understanding. Some great questions to achieve this are:

  • “What do you think this means?”
  • “Is there another way we can understand this (concept)?”
  • “Can you tell me what this means in your own words?”

It might also mean that extra modeling or concept reduction is needed.

Stay in their zone and guide them through the lesson without jumping to a new concept. Be careful not to look at the world or other homeschool families; just your student and their needs. It’s okay to take extra time on a concept. Success is the goal!


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today



Please follow and like us:

By Kimberly Vogel

The lesson plans are methodically laid out with alternate ideas and I know what needs to get done. I have plans for my kids, students, and therapy. I take my plans seriously because parents are investing time and money in my services. Even with my plans, there are opportunities I miss when plans become more important than reaching the heart of the people I serve.



One day, due to a scheduling issue, time was short with a student. I needed to nail our plans and in record time. First on the list: reading a section from the student’s current “for fun” reading book. The main character of the book had to fill out a form with what word best describes her. She listed people in her life and said what word they would give her. After reading the passage, we did that for the student. Most of her comments were “I don’t know,” or “no clue”, but one stood out; the word beautiful.

The big moment came when I asked her what word(s) she would give herself. Her words were all negative.

I seized the opportunity. I told her I didn’t see her that way and that the things we tell ourselves come across in what words we give ourselves. I told her what word I would give her now and what word I would’ve given her last year. After we discussed those, I asked her what word God would give her. I reminded her that he didn’t see her as stupid, weird, or silly. He loves her so much he sent his son to die for her. That’s pretty special.

This opportunity took less than 15 minutes. I pray the positive words are cemented on her heart and the negative ones will lose their power. Here are some ways I ensure that I don’t miss intentional teaching opportunities.

Prepare each day to be aware of opportunities that are waiting for you to notice


As a part of my quiet time, I now pray for today’s intentional opportunities and journal about yesterdays. Knowing I will journal about them makes me want to find them – daily.

Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.” Proverbs 14:22







Choose People Over Plans
I recently spoke to a man from another country. He told me that we are so busy. He is from a place where a lunch with a friend can last until the evening meal. People talk for long hours. The community is strong. People take priority over plans. So many things on our to-do list can wait, if we decide it’s okay to be flexible. Spending time with a friend isn’t wasted. It’s an investment.

Pray for the Right Opportunities
Not every conversation is the opportunity of the day. Not every day has an outward opportunity. Yet, every day does have an inward opportunity to pray for people. Pray through each encounter and listen for the voice of God to whisper or prod your heart about giving encouragement, offering prayer, or going deeper. If this is a new concept, it takes some adjustment, but with practice and prayer, you will notice the prodding of the Spirit.

Teaching good, moral lessons is important, but lessons for the heart taught in the moment are effective. We need to slow down and allow the Spirit to guide us in these lessons.









Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today


Please follow and like us: