By Amy Vickrey

Many parents, like myself, are choosing to homeschool because our kids don’t fit the profile of a “typical” student.  Especially when your child has Autism or ADHD, or is just a very active, young boy! So, how can you make learning happen with a child who has a hard time sitting still?  You make learning active and interactive! Here are some tips to keeping your kids engaged when attention spans are short!




Tips to keeping your kids engaged when attention spans are short!










1- Keep lessons short and focused:

  • If my son can complete 5 problems and understand a concept, why solve 10?  My goal is mastery, not death-by-worksheets!
  • If he needs more practice – I give it to him – after a break, or the next day!
  • I focus on one concept at a time – keep things simple and focused.
  • More is not always better – sometimes it’s just more!



2 – Reward work as it is getting done:


  • Reluctant learners often need praise and reassurance as they complete an assignment, not just at the end.
  • Correct errors when they happen – don’t allow your child to practice incorrectly (it takes far longer to unlearn a mistake than to learn it right in the first place).
  • Change it up – use different things to reward and keep it interesting!


3 – Work doesn’t have to be worksheets!

  • Turn learning into a game by having them “jump” on or “tag” an answer.
  • Use manipulatives to work out problems and “see” the answer.
  • Use videos, educational apps, and other media to reinforce or introduce a concept


4 – Use movement to your advantage:

  • Many kids learn through movement and songs
  • Many kids need movement to help move memory from short term to long term storage.
  • Activities that cross the “midline” (right/left or top/bottom) are beneficial to activate both sides of the brain, also helping with memory.
  • Movement makes learning more fun and engaging!




5 – I’s okay to not sit at the table/desk! I have seen kids:

  • Sit on top of the table or counter
  • Sit under the table or chair
  • Lay on the floor
  • Lay on a trampoline
  • Sit in a beanbag
  • Sit on the grass outside
  • Sit in a tree
  • Lay under the piano bench
  • Inside a closet or cupboard
  • On a yoga ball (you can buy one with a stand for added stability)
  • Use a Wobble Cushion
  • Tie Thera-Bands on the legs of the chair for kids to be able to kick/push against while they are working.
  • And so many more!  As long as learning is taking place, location doesn’t matter.


6 – Ways to include movement:

  • Trampoline
  • Park play
  • Riding bike/scooter
  • Obstacle courses
  • Answering questions with parts of the body
  • Playing with blocks
  • Sit/bounce on a yoga ball
  • Sit/jump on a trampoline
  • Stand at an easel/table
  • Nature walk
  • Exploring local parks, ponds, streams, deserts, etc., for animals specific to your area
  • Count birds, squirrels, or other animals as you walk (you can also make up word problems – two birds plus 3 birds is 5 birds; 5 squirrels, two run away, that leaves 3 squirrels).
  • Write with sidewalk chalk outside
  • Go to the zoo, museum, and other places where you can walk and learn about things
  • Bring learning to “life” through unit studies and acting out your learning.
  • Answering questions while using a hula hoop
  • Using playdoh, clay, and or therapy putty (allergy-friendly playdoh is also available)
  • Throwing bean bags, ring toss, or kicking a goal while answering questions





Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today


Please follow and like us:

By Amy Vickrey, MSE

They say the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach, and I have found that saying to be true as well with the little men in my house. But since my boys not only have special needs but also special dietary restrictions, it is tricky to show them love by making foods that are not only safe for them to eat, but also enjoyable. They, like all other children, want something special to eat for holiday events.


My solution? Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies!

You would never image these healthy treats are hard to keep around, but that’s the truth in our house! Your family will love these Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Peanut-free delights!

Watch my boys and I make these delicious cookies on this video, and then use the recipe below to make your own.


4 ½ c. Gluten-free flour (Or, 1:1 baking mix, such as Pillsbury. If using GF Bisquick, leave out baking powder)
½ c. Sugar
¼ c. Sunflower lecithin powder (I prefer NOW brand)
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt


Mixing Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until all are evenly distributed.

Next, add in wet ingredients:
4 c. Almond milk (use coconut or soy milk to make completely nut free)
3 Tablespoons avocado oil (can substitute coconut, canola, or vegetable)
2 Tablespoons vanilla (Mexican vanilla is the best)
1-30oz or 2-15oz cans of pumpkin

Blend with a mixer until fully comes together, scraping down sides of bowl.

Finally, add in chocolate:

1 pound of chocolate chips (I like the mini chips best). Stir to incorporate chocolate chips.

Scoop dough into cookie form pan or waffle iron.

Baking Directions:

For Cookies:
Bake in 400 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.

For Waffles:
I also use this batter (with or without the chocolate chips) to make waffles.
Cook according to directions of your waffle iron. I use a smaller square iron and mine cook 5 minutes.

This recipe is a wonderful fill-in for breakfast or even afternoon snack to enjoy with milk or hot cocoa.


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate today

(all donations are tax-deductible)



Please follow and like us:

By Amy Vickrey, MSE

When I went into business for myself a few years ago, the key to success was networking. Finding other business owners who could refer to you and you would refer to in return. Networking takes a lot of time to establish relationships and build trust with others. However, over time, networking builds great business relationships.


Homeschooling a special needs child is very similar to starting a business. While it doesn’t necessarily take a “village” to raise a child, parenting and homeschooling a child with special needs is much easier when you have a quality network of people you can trust and rely on. From restaurants and playgroups to doctors and therapists, your entire network is vital to helping your child and you succeed. You just can’t homeschool a special needs child well all alone.


In our own daily lives, we work to be consistent and build relationships everywhere we go and in all that we do. From the restaurants we eat in (who know us by name), to the therapists and doctors we see, we have worked to build relationships and select people and places that are supportive of our homeschooling efforts and lifestyle. 


For some families establishing these networks are easier than others. Within the next few years, it is the goal of SPED Homeschool, through our new SPED Strong Tribes program, to do much of this legwork for special needs homeschooling families as our tribes grow in local communities. Eventually, we envision a new special needs homeschooling family will be able to join their local SPED Strong tribe and instantly be able to find all the resources they need through that group.



But, even while SPED Homeschool is still in the fundraising phase of developing SPED Strong Tribes, here are some tips for working to build your NETWORK:


N – New 
Look for new opportunities and recommendations to expand your network. This keeps people from being overburdened and preserves relationships.

E – Encourage 

Encourage a relationship of asking questions and open communication within your network. This will keep surprises from creeping up.


T – Teach
When you come across someone who has little experience but a heart to learn, take the time to teach them. These can be some of your biggest allies down the road.


W – Work 
Work with your Allies. Build relationships with doctors, therapists, community members, members of your church, and other people you interact with so that you have someone who knows you and can speak on your behalf in the event it is needed.


O – Open 
Be open with people. If something is not working, say so. This will keep communication and relationships intact.

R – Respite

Plan for time for you and for others to be able to have breaks.


K – Keep it Open
Be willing to accept others into your circle who are needing these same things. There will be mutual understanding when one of you is having a bad day.



As I stated above, SPED Homeschool is working towards bringing networking opportunities to families that homeschool special needs children. SPED Strong Tribes will be local groups that will allow families to gather together and recommend trusted local resources to streamline the process for families to find quality professionals and businesses to help with their homeschooling efforts.


Giving Tuesday is a day nonprofits like SPED Homeschool ask for public support through donations so they can continue to provide services AND to raise additional funds for new projects. This Giving Tuesday, we at SPED Homeschool are focusing our fundraising towards this new SPED Strong Tribes program. By contributing to this campaign, together we can build stronger families. 

Visit the SPED Homeschool’s SPED Strong Tribes campaign at


For more information on the five basic foundations we will be building into our new SPED Strong Tribes, check out all the blogs in this series:
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Togetherness
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Respite and Opportunities
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Networking
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Growth


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate today

(all donations are tax-deductible)


Please follow and like us:

By Amy Vickrey, MSE

In the last few months I have gained responsibilities and had my time shortened to a few hours in which to homeschool. All of this time is in the morning. My son is not a morning person. He is an early riser, but prefers to use his morning engaged in his own interests and definitely NOT in school work. When I can give him the morning to pursue his own interests (which usually includes building with blocks, playing with toys and his brother, and reading), schoolwork is typically easier to accomplish in the afternoon. Knowing this makes me feel SO GUILTY when I simply do not have the time to accommodate the schedule that I know makes him a better student.


Creative Scheduling
So, when I can’t accommodate his preferred schedule, I find creative ways to help him with continuing to make progress despite our limited time.


Here is what I have found works for us to remove my homeschooling guilt:

  • We homeschool year-round so we can take breaks as needed and move at a slower pace.
  • I use therapy time as part of our school day.
  • I communicate with therapists about the schoolwork he is doing, what is successful, and what is not so that they can help support the deficits too.
  • I utilize caregivers to help get schoolwork accomplished and even creatively integrate science and social studies topics into his day. (My sister in law is working with him on Minecraft and researching unit studies to use with the game.)
  • I encourage science experiments with the OT, even getting cousins involved when they are over.
  • I have found ways for him to be involved with swim classes, tutoring (counts as his school for that day), and even a robotics class!
  • On days when we have more time, I utilize his checklist to ensure we touch on subjects that get put on the back burner on busier days.
  • I remind myself that 5 minutes of direct instruction on a subject is better than an hour spent struggling on his own. I rotate the subjects I focus on for the day and keep to the most vital ones to maintain and increase skills.
  • I put things intentionally in his path for him to explore other topics in science and social studies. I work to create a love of learning and a desire to gain new skills. (Check out 7 Tips for Cultivating Lifelong Learners).
  • I utilize time on weekends to catch up when the week has been extra busy and full of appointments.
  • I incorporate fun activities with the basic subjects whenever time allows to keep learning interesting and fun.
  • I encourage independence and use rewards whenever possible, even if it is just stickers to say “Great Job!”
  • I look for activities that cover more than one skill at a time in order to combine skills and save time. (Unit studies are great for combining skills. Check out D.M. Spence’s article on creating a Unit Study.)
  • I GIVE MYSELF GRACE! I recognize that I cannot do it all, and I cannot do everything all the time.
  • I remind myself of the reasons I homeschool. By keeping focused, I can get through the tough days, and I know that someday I will look back and see God’s hand guiding me through these tough days into easier ones.


Whatever life brings, we all struggle with scheduling guilt at times. By being flexible, creative, and patient, we find that we can get to the other side and still see the progress that has been made, even if it is slower than my impatient self would like it to be. 


Even with a busy schedule and limited time, the benefits of homeschooling are present, and I am thankful everyday for the ability to work my schedule in such a way that I can continue to give my sons what they need most – a safe, loving, caring environment to grow and someday become the men they are meant to be.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate Today

(all donations are tax-deductible)


Please follow and like us:

Amy Vickrey, MSE

When it comes to grading, there really is no wrong way to do it. However, you may not be familiar with different strategies that are available and used in schools to grade students of different abilities. The key to selecting a grading strategy is BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND!

What is your goal for the assignment? Is it mastery? Is it to learn how to complete an assignment independently, regardless of errors? Or is it about the process and the details more than the overall finished product? While there are probably as many ways to grade as there are teachers on our planet, here are some common ways to consider.

Checks and X’s: The “Traditional Method”
There is a time and place for traditional grading. Teachers from Elementary to College professors use this method to see what students know and what they don’t. Grades are usually displayed as a percentage (calculated by a number of questions correct divided by a total number of questions, then multiplied by 100); examples would be a 96 or 85. It can also be displayed as a fraction of number correct over a total number of problems (16/20).

This is useful in a subject that is straightforward or during high school years on curriculums that lend themselves to such grading. It also tends to be a quick and efficient method for teachers in calculating and maintaining grades. You can always change it up and use stickers or smiley faces instead of checks if you are using this method for younger students!

Grading to Mastery
One method I have used in the past for a class of Fourth Graders was grading to Mastery. Any questions they were incorrect on, I would circle or otherwise indicate in ink and have them correct them. My goal was for them to come up with the right answer on their own.

If after correcting it, they were still wrong, I would do a quick re-teach and have them try again. If they were still wrong, we would go through it together. I would indicate on the paper each time we had to go back over it so that I could track their progress and level of support needed. Meanwhile, they were pleased that they (eventually) came up with the right answer and got it “right.” This method is especially good for children who get frustrated or upset when something is marked wrong.

A checklist is really great for younger kids or children who need things listed very specifically. For example, maybe your goal is for your child to complete 3 math problems independently, put their name on their paper, and turn it in to a certain spot or folder. Your checklist would look something like this:

Did you remember to….
   Write your name on your paper?
   Answer all three questions?
   Write neatly?
   Put your paper in the red folder?

The idea of the checklist is the student can independently complete work when they know what the expectations are ahead of time. It also serves as a visual reminder during the work process to keep students on track for assignments and projects.

Rubrics are a lot like checklists but can leave more room for originality. They are great for projects that cover multiple subjects, grading projects that don’t lend themselves to traditional or mastery grading, or even a checklist. There are a lot of resources for rubrics, including:

  •  teachnology: Offers a large collection of pre-made rubrics, especially for grade school subjects and activities
  • Teacher Planet: Rubrics 4 Teachers: Lots of pre-made project rubrics, plus a very simple rubric building tool for making simple custom rubrics
  • Project Based Learning: Checklist Developer: A checklist approach to a grading rubric
  •  edtechteacher: Great rubrics for high school-level work including bloging, video, coding, and media projects, as well as many links to other rubric development material
  • RubiStar: is a tool to help teachers (and parents) who want to use rubrics, but do not have the time to develop them from scratch.

Whichever method you choose, or if you create your own way of grading, making your expectations clear to your student and keeping your end goal in mind are key to making your grading meaningful. When working on my Masters, I once read an article that stuck with me. The point made was that students who had answers marked wrong improved less quickly than students who also were given the correct answer or shown how to correct it. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is we get to “make the rules,” and that includes being able to reteach a topic until it is truly mastered if that is what is needed!!!

Special thanks to Shannon Ramiro and Peggy Ployhar  for sharing examples and resources to make this article possible.



Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today




Please follow and like us: