Peggy Ployhar

I would love to say that the majority of my homeschooling years I followed the recommendation we moms get all the time, to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, but I have not. In fact, at one point in my homeschooling career, I was trying so hard to do it all without taking care of my own needs that I had to stop life altogether to restore the damage I had done to my body from only sleeping 2 hours a night.

 

In hindsight, years after my adrenal failure and a near mental breakdown that forced me to let go of many hopes and dreams, I’ve gained a renewed perspective. I now see better ways I could have managed my life and schedule to juggle the complexity of homeschooling, running a small hobby farm, caring for my own family as well as the three preschoolers who had come into our family through an emergency foster care placement.

 

Start With These Two Things

I will start with the simplest advice first, cut back. Yes, there were things I was adding to my plate that I didn’t need to be doing at all, or they could have waited until I had more time to fit them in. That advice is easier to administer when you see these things as “extras” and not “necessities,” which I had a hard time discerning in the chaos. Over the years, I have learned that unless I step back from my life and do a thorough evaluation regularly, these “extras” easily creep back into my schedule. Therefore, periodically I set aside time to pull out a calendar and purge out these “extras.” I also have combatted this issue from the other side by developing strong prayerfully developed requirements for what I will say “yes” to.

 

The second piece of advice we often hear is, ask for help. I agree it would have helped me to have asked for more help and to have been clearer in sharing the struggles I was experiencing with getting proper services and reaching my children’s learning goals. But resources were slim in our small town, the Internet was nowhere close to being as helpful as it is today, and school services were limited in their ability to help with the behavioral and trauma issues that needed to be tended to above academics.

 

Good help in general, in the special needs community, is hard to come by because usually we can’t just enlist a neighborhood teen to pop in for an hour or two like parents with typical children can. Instead, we need individuals who are trained and prepared for all our children’s needs. Some families search decades for a single person who can take over care for their child in their absence, and so asking for help is not a perfect answer either.

 

Then, Transform What is Left

It is no wonder that special education homeschooling moms throw their arms up when we start talking about self-care. There is certainly no room for that even when we have cut back and asked for the help we need. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves, but is that the truth?

 

In trying to manage our schedules linearly, there often is no more room. But if we look at our schedules from a multi-dimensional perspective, we may find that time is found when we learn to be more effective in overlapping our activities. Approaching our homeschooling and self-care schedules multi-dimensionally is what I mean when I say we have to incorporate mom-care into our homeschooling.

 

Going multi-dimensional takes a bit of creative thinking, so I am going to get you started with a few ideas of my own. But I would encourage you to personalize your own care needs into your family’s homeschooling schedule just like you incorporate your child’s unique goals and needs into your daily lesson plans.

 

This is How

Exercise:

Many moms I know have taken up martial arts along with their sons and daughters. Instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting for the class, join a family class and get onto the mat. Maybe there is another sport you have an interest in that your child also enjoys. For me and my daughter, we took up aerial silks together last year. I am in better shape now than I have been in years, AND I am closer to my daughter because of this shared activity.

 

Books:

I always encourage read-alouds and audiobooks for homeschooling families, not only because it helps children who struggle to read better engage with literature but also because the time spent immersed in a story with your family is a special bonding time. At times through your homeschooling year, purposefully pick a book YOU want to read or listen. Why not? Your children are still engaging with good literature (as long as you are discerning about the book you choose), but experience the added bonus of feeding your imagination a bit too.

 

Hobbies:

Who says you can’t bring your hobby into your school? Whatever subject you are passionate about is usually filled with great lessons your children can glean from. When we lived on our hobby farm, we sold produce at our local farmers market. I thought it would be fun to also make soap to sell, so I shared that activity with my children. My middle son fell in love with the craft! After helping me for a while, he started researching essential oils, soap bases, and eventually created a side business to sell his soaps at the market.

 

Diet:

I love to eat healthy food, as long as it tastes good. Thankfully our family has had years of practice not only preparing our own food, but also growing and raising it. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to raise sheep, milk your own cow, or own laying hens, but what about starting a container garden? Even if you have a brown thumb you still have to cook and make good food choices. What about using school time to have your kids prep food for dinner or watch a YouTube cooking video to learn a healthier way to prepare a standard dish. Or, if you are a more competitive family, give your children a leftover challenge similar to “Chopped” and see who comes up with the healthiest (and best tasting) option. You can judge and get the night off from cooking. Plus, who knows, your kids may surpass your cooking ability and start helping you eat better to boot.

 

Pampering:

If you have ever yearned to soak your feet at the end of a hard day or get a back rub to ease your aching shoulders, then how about teaching your children to enjoy these spa treatments as well? The saying, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” has served me well over the years. Exchange a back rub, a foot bath, or even a head scratch (my favorite) with a child. Your kids may not start out with the most expert spa-tech skills, but over time they do improve. Additionally, these shared experiences provide practice on appropriate touch and sensory integration.

 

Spiritual Development:

Bible study time in our homeschool started out for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of my children. I fell into the same trap as many other moms, thinking that secluded alone time with God is the only way to get spiritually fed. But the reality is that my kids are with me all the time and it is better they SEE me worshipping and interacting with God than trying to escape them so I can have my “quiet time.” I used to even have bible studies meet at my house so my kids could practice their social skills with friends they had grown comfortable interacting with (usually still within earshot of us moms), and I could have fellowship time with other women. It was nothing fancy nor super deep, but it provided the encouragement and godly friendships I needed just as much as my children.

 

I could go on and on, and I plan to be working on this topic and additional ideas in the coming year as I prepare a new talk I will be making available for homeschool conventions in 2020 called “Incorporating Mom-Care into Your Homeschooling Schedule.” If you come up with an idea spurred on by from this article, I would love to hear it so I can pass it along to encourage other moms.

 

Mom Care Goal Checks and Balances

Set specific times of the school year to create checks and balances for yourself, or involve another homeschooling mom in your plan so that the two of you can encourage one another in prioritizing your care into your daily schedule. Look for “extras” that need to go and for where you may need to be asking for more help. Then, strive for multi-dimensional planning to include some of these other self-care ideas. These three things combined can buy you more time for the BEST things in life, which include taking care of yourself so you can care for the others God has placed in your home.

 

Most of all I want you to remember: You are worth it mom! Taking care of yourself is within reach. It just requires you to prioritize yourself along with the other things you are juggling in your life.

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Teaching a child how to hike parallels the larger tasks of homeschooling and parenting.  Hiking, as well as homeschooling and parenting, may have many technical pieces of instruction, but never should we dismiss the greater benefit of the journey itself. There is a greater benefit of the homeschooling journey too, and it has more to do with walking the path with our children each day than how well any of us masters the hiking itself.

 

A Family that Hikes Together

Our family has been hiking since before we had kids. My husband and I both came from hiking families. Plus, within a few days after each of our children were born, as an initiation into the family, we introduced them to hiking.

As an infant, our child would ride in a front-pack when we would take off for a nearby trail.  As each child grew bigger, the transition from facing towards one of us in the front-pack to facing out happened around the second or third month.  Next, the child graduated from our front-pack to a more sturdy hiking backpack.

But we did not leave each child in the backpack stage. Instead, we observed that child’s walking acuity.  We paid particular attention to how well the child mastered uneven terrain and how resilient the child was to the occasional fall.  Our oldest was a natural pack mule on the trail and thankfully so because he was as solid as one too. He became rather difficult to carry early as a toddler, and we were all too happy to let him take that stocky frame and carry it on his own two feet.  But his younger brother was completely different. Our second child had difficulty mastering uneven surfaces. He hated walking on grass and especially when he needed to transition from the grass to another type of surface. Thankfully he was extremely light, and we managed well in the need to carry him much longer than his older brother when we went out on our hiking adventures.

Each child’s readiness considered, we still did not transition right away to multi-mile hikes as soon as each started putting their feet to the trail.  Instead, we had each walk part of the way and ride the other. At first we continued to carry an empty backpack and allowed the child to ride when walking became too difficult or was slowing down the rest of the party, but eventually, we transitioned making our shoulders available for the occasional rest.  

 

Hiking Milestones

Not until each child had built up enough personal stamina did we remove the option to ride.  But, getting our children walking on the path by themselves was only the first milestone in teaching them to hike. In the years to follow, as our family hiking continued, we continued to teach our children lessons on the trail.  

Our children learned how to:

  • Plan wisely and pack enough supplies.  Acknowledging your unique needs and properly preparing to address those needs dependent on the conditions of the trail and the length of the hike is extremely important if you are to get the most out of the trip. Ill-preparation can lead to uncomfortable situations and the potential need to make otherwise unnecessary changes.
  • Be considerate of others. No matter who is on the trail with you or who will follow your path consideration is appreciated.  These lessons involved making room for others who are slower or faster than you are and making sure to “leave no trace” so the hike will be equally appreciated by those who follow.
  • Look out for dangerous conditions. Being observant or taking appropriate action when necessary is essential to hiking safety.  From determining an animal and it’s probable proximity from droppings and prints to knowing when to make noises to warn animals of your approach, when to stand still to avoid getting attacked or trampled, and how to protect yourself if caught in a storm are all invaluable lessons to keeping safe on the trail.
  • Enjoy the journey.  Taking time to look up from the trail to watch the wildlife, smell the flowers, take in a scene, or stand in awe of the magnificent beauty that God alone can create so flawlessly has to be cultivated and encouraged. Looking beyond the trail to be immersed in the experiences is the greatest reward a hiking experience has to offer.
  • Cultivate relationships.  Talking on the trail or even sharing long periods of quiet pondering when walking side-by-side with others strengthens relationships.  Hiking parties naturally bond on the trail and these bonds have strengthened relationships in our immediate family and with extended family and/or friends we have hiked with.
  • Never give up. Hiking can be very tiring especially in high-altitude, dry, and steep conditions.  The determination to finish the trail before you start, unless conditions cause a necessary detour, helps for keeping the course when the trail gets the hardest.

 

Greatest Benefit of the Journey

Why do I share these things with you?  Because over the years as our family has taken countless hiking trips from short half-mile hikes in quaint campgrounds to grueling hikes down into the Grand Canyon and up again, there is a wonderful parallel for how teaching our children to hike has mimicked our 17 years of homeschooling and 22 years of parenting. Little by little we have trained our children not only to hike but also how to hike well, and still at the ages of 22, 20, and 14 they continue to do a lot of “hiking” alongside us as we teach them how to best follow the trail God has set before our children in the way they should go. Thankfully they still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

“Our children still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

Our children at the beginning needed us to help them with everything.  But, teaching them the mechanics of life was only the beginning of teaching them all the knowledge that my husband and I had acquired over the years. In fact, we are still teaching our children as they actively navigate much of their trails now on their own. The same is true for homeschooling and parenting.  We teach our children reading, writing, math, and other life skills, but if we stop walking alongside them once we have taught them these things then we miss out on the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey – the deepening relationship.

 

Path Yet Ahead

My encouragement to you as you look back at your homeschooling and parenting journey so far, and then look forward towards what yet you have to teach, there will always be enough path and time for the lessons that need to be taught as long as you plan wisely and determine to never give up. The key is in teaching the technical lessons that build on mastery and allow time for integration: enjoy the journey, cultivate the relationships, build awareness of potential dangers, and teach your children the importance of the impact God desires to make through them on the world around them.

Thankfully, God provides the trail as well as a continuous stream of supplies. So, as long as we follow His directions every day, we will not get off track or lose our way and our relationships with our children will only grow more strong and beautiful as we walk alongside them on this journey we have the privilege to share.

 

We at SPED Homeschool are so glad you have allowed us to take this journey with you, and we would love for you to share snapshots of what your homeschooling journey looks like.  Feel free to share a picture or story that makes your homeschool unique and beautiful, and let us know if you would allow us to share your story with the SPED Homeschool community.  When we share our stories, we not only gain a greater understanding of one another’s path, but those outside our community will also gain a greater understanding of what homeschooling looks like when a family works to help their child succeed beyond their struggles.

 

 


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by Peggy Ployhar

 

You don’t have to be creative to take advantage of the many hands-on and out-of-the-box learning opportunities that summer affords us with our children.  Below you will find a blog round-up of some of our favorite articles that provide over 100 different ideas you can adapt for teaching your children this summer. Just click on the colored links below to get to these great articles.

 

Learning Adventures: Learning ideas to take on the road with you this summer to the campground, amusement park, and your local park.

Gardening Math: Ways to practice math skills while spending time with your kids in the garden.

Get Outside and Learn: Get outside with your kids this summer and boost their learning with these mostly free learning activities.

Field Trips and Stay-at-Home Learning Ideas: Take advantage of learning activities either out of the house or by just staying in by using these creative ideas to get the learning started.

Water Activities: Cool off and stimulate your child’s summer learning by using these creative activities.

Keep Active and Work on Developmental Skills: Keep those muscles in shape by doing some of these gross motor, fine motor, and visual motor activities every day.

Fun Family Unit Study: Create a unit study around anything your family wants to dive into learning about this summer and enjoy the theme-based learning fun all summer long.

 

Still looking for more ideas?  Check out theSPED Homeschool Summer Teaching Ideas Pinterest Board for even more creative summer learning activities and have fun this summer learning with your children.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar and Mary Winfield

One of the biggest stressors for new homeschoolers is trying to figure out what is required of them in their state. It can be overwhelming to dig through information to find what you need to do while being sure that you aren’t forgetting anything important. You also don’t want to have to hassle with testing if it isn’t required because often testing doesn’t accurately measure what your child knows due to anxiety, poor cross over skills, or other issues. Here is a comprehensive list of the bare minimum required for testing and evaluating in each state, so you can focus on what is most important: your child’s education. (States that have been omitted from the list do not have any evaluation requirements!)

You also don’t want to have to hassle with testing if it isn’t required because often testing doesn’t accurately measure what your child knows due to anxiety, poor cross over skills, or other issues.

Arkansas:

Norm-referenced testing is required for homeschooled students per state mandates for testing at students at specific grade/age levels . (Arkansas Department of Education, August 2007)

Colorado:

Standardized achievement tests must be given to homeschooled students in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades or the student should be evaluated by an individual deemed qualified.  Norm-referenced testing marks must be above the 13% national mark or evaluations should show sufficient student progress.  (Christian Home Educators of Colorado – Homeschool Law)

Connecticut:

Homeschool programs should be deemed equivalent to other schooling options available to that student and this equivalency is determined by an annual portfolio review of the school district. (The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers Connecticut (TEACHCT) – The “Guidelines”)

Florida:

Homeschool families must be able to prove educational progress and back up that progress with a portfolio of the student’s work. (Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) – Florida Homeschool Requirements)

Georgia:

Homeschoolers are required to use standardized tests at a minimum every three years and yearly write an annual progress report.  Records of both of these requirements are to be kept by the homeschooling family and are not required for reporting. (Georgia Home Education Association – Georgia Law)

Hawaii:

Annually families must file a progress report including standardized test results, a certified teacher evaluation of the student, or a parent-written student progress report with supporting work samples.  Additionally, standardized tests are required for 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grade students and can be taken through the local school or other evaluation alternatives may be requested by the parent in lieu of these tests. (Hawaii Homeschool Association – Hawaii Regulations)

Iowa:

There are some homeschooling options in Iowa that do not require annual reporting or assessment, but some options still do.  To find out more about these options and the requirements each entail, visit the Homeschool Iowa – Know the Law and Rulespage on their website to find out more.

Louisiana:

Based on the homeschooling option you choose, testing and curriculum submission may or may not be required.  To find out more visit the (Homeschool Louisiana – How Do I Start Homeschooling) website page.

Maryland:

Up to three times per year a homeschool can be assessed by the local superintendent (or designee).  These assessments may include a portfolio review, discussion with the homeschooler regarding homeschooling instruction, and/or monitoring/observation of the homeschooled child. (Maryland Home Education Association – Legal)

Minnesota:

Homeschooled students are required yearly to take a standardized test that is nationally norm-referenced.  Test results are not submitted for review, but there is a requirement that any student scoring below the 30% mark should receive additional testing for a specific learning issue. (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE) – Legal)

New Hampshire:

An annual education evaluation for students can be determined either through an educational progress report written by a certified teacher, by a nationally norm-referenced test or local district assessment test, or another assessment tool “mutually agreed upon by the parent and the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal.” (New Hampshire Home Education Statutes Section 193:A6 Evaluation & Records)

New York:

New York regulations planning, reporting and assessments for all homeschooled students in the state.  These requirements rage from mandatory oversight and content requirements of student Individualized Home Instruction Plans (IHIP), required course and instruction material submissions, attendance requirements, quarterly reports, and annual assessments. To understand the specifics of these area of regulation, visit the New York State Loving Education At Home (LEAH) – Regulations website page as well as the New York Home Instruction Regulations page.

North Carolina:

Homeschooled students are to take a nationally norm-referenced test on a yearly basis. (North Carolinian’s for Home Education (NCHE) – Helps Page)

North Dakota:

Homeschooled students in 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th grade are required to take a standard achievement test either administered in their local school district or that is nationally norm-referenced by an approved test administrator.  Test results are to be filed with the local superintendent. If the student’s score is below the 30% mark, a team is assigned to evaluate the student for any disabilities. Upon completion of the evaluation, the parent, with advisement from an licensed teacher, is to create a remediation plan and file this plan with the district superintendent. If a remediation plan is not filed, the district can revoke the right to homeschool the student in question. (North Dakota Home Education Code)

Ohio:

Yearly assessments for the prior homeschooling year are to be filed at the beginning of each new homeschooling year.  Assessments can be determined either via a norm-referenced test, a portfolio with written report, or by an alternative form of assessment.   The validity of any of the above submissions must be determined by either a licensed/certified teacher, mutually agreed upon professional with the local superintendent or by a test administer approved by a specific test publisher. If the superintendent determines a student needs remediation based on their filed assessment, then the homeschooling parent must file quarterly progress reports for the subjects covered and explanations is less curriculum was covered than in the originally filed homeschool plan.  If the student doesn’t show reasonable progress the superintendent has the right to notify parents the child must enroll the child. (Christian Home Educators of Ohio – Homeschool Regulations)

Oregon:

Norm-referenced tests are required for homeschooled students in 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grade and some districts request for those tests to be filed. Students with learning difficulties can request other forms of evaluation if desired.  For students who fall below the 15% mark there is an allowance given to help the student improve over a three-year period. (Oregon Christian Home Education Association Network (OCEAN) – Summary of Homeschool Law)

Pennsylvania:

Evaluation of a yearly portfolio with the addition of nationally norm-referenced tests or state administered tests for reading/language and mathematics in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade is required as well as a report which includes documentation of an interview with your student and an assessment of the student’s portfolio contents.  (Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency – Law Guide)

South Carolina:

Homeschoolers have three options in South Carolina which vary testing and evaluation requirements.  Under option one parents must keep a plan book, portfolio, semi-annual progress report and yearly testing results from their student’s participation in the Basic Skills Assessment Program. Options two and three vary in their requirements per specifics are determined by your choice of oversight agency. For more information on these options and the laws associated with them visit the South Carolina Education Association Homeschooling website page.

South Dakota:

Homeschoolers are required to use test using a standardized test monitored by their local school, a norm-referenced test covering math and reading provided by the Department of Education, or a nationally standardized test of basic skills in the 4th, 8th, and 11th grades.  Test results are to be filed with the local school district. (South Dakota Education Association – Homeschooling)

Tennessee:

There are two homeschooling options in Tennessee. Under one option homeschooled students are to be tested in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade, while under the other option the oversight institution determines the homeschool students testing requirements. (Middle Tennessee Home Education Association – Is It Legal)

Vermont:

Annual assessment is required by one or more of the following methods:  a formal report submitted by a teacher licensed in Vermont; a student portfolio that demonstrates progress and is accompanied by a report from either a parent, teacher, or curriculum publisher; and/or standardized testing results from an approved achievement test covering agreed upon subjects and scored per publishers standards. (Vermont State Board of Education Home Study Program Statutes)

Virginia:

Homeschooled students not taught by a certified teacher must submit a yearly report that includes either testing results from a nationally norm-referenced test, an equivalence score from the ACT, SAT, or PSAT, an evaluation letter from a licenced teacher or other approved academic professional, or a report card from a “community college or college, college distance-learning program, or home education correspondence school.” (Home Educator’s Association of Virginia (HEAV) – Virginia Homeschool Laws)

Washington:

Annual testing is required and can be obtained either through a non-test assessment by a teacher certified by the state of Washington or through a standardized test approved the the Washington State Board of Education.  There is no requirement for filing testing results. (Washington Homeschool Organization – The Law)

West Virginia:

Yearly assessments are required via either a nationally normed standardized test, a testing program used in a state school in the student’s county of residence, via a portfolio reviewed by a certified teacher with a written report, or through an alternative assessment mutually agreed upon by the parent or legal guardian and the county superintendent.”  If assessments fail to show “acceptable” progress, a remedial program should be initiated by the homeschooling parent/guardian and if progress does not improve in the following year’s assessment their must be additional materials presented to the superintendent showing additional instruction remediation.(Christian Home Educators of West Virginia – WV Homeschool Law)

 

Hopefully you were able to find some clarity and peace as to what you will need to do to ensure a successful homeschool year in the eyes of your state from this list. Do you want to connect with other homeschoolers and maybe find some people in your state? Head over to your  Facebook support group; we would love to have you!

 

 

The data shared in this article is for informational use only. In no way is the contents of this article intended to constitute legal advice.

 

Also we are aware that homeschool/educational law in every state is constantly changing.  The information shared in this article was compiled in March 2019. There is no guarantee the data above is currently correct, complete, or up-to-date.

 

Please refer to the links provided in each section for further investigation into each particular state law referenced.

 

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Did you know a student does not need to take the ACT or SAT in order to receive a degree from a 4-year university?  For students like my oldest who has anxiety issues, this fact removed a large amount of stress when he realized his call into a profession that would require a 4-year degree.

The ACT and SAT are placement tests often used by universities to award students freshman placement into 4-year universities or by scholarship organizations to award funding. So, if your student is not looking to attend a university right out of high school or compete for any academic scholarships, then these tests are more than likely not worth the time, energy, or stress they would place upon your student.

 

Navigating College Admission without the ACT/SAT

That being said, the route to a 4-year university without taking a stressful entrance exam does not negate testing all-together.  If your student enrolls in a community college as a precursor to enrollment in a 4-year university, that school will usually require a placement evaluation.  Each community college has different regulations around these enrollment tests, but most can be taken without time limits over a multiple day period, or without penalty if there is a need for multiple re-tests.

The most commonly used community college placement test is the Accuplacer Test, but some community colleges use a state-standardized placement test or one they have developed for their own college system.  To ensure you understand the specific testing requirements of your community college, as well as the required courses your student should have on a transcript for college admission, it is best to set up an appointment with the college if your student is preparing to transition into post-secondary education via this route.

Also note that even if your student doesn’t pass the community college placement test, that does not limit enrollment in the college.  For subject areas your student has shown college competence, they are awarded the ability to enroll in college credit classes. For those subject areas where the test shows the need for remedial work, they can enroll in various non-credit courses; a passing grade in these courses would allow credit hour enrollment.

Most community colleges also offer tutoring help for students who are taking remedial courses and work with students who need accommodations.  These special services departments also help students with testing if they discover a student may have a learning disability and may need help in gaining more services for their college career.

Transferring from a community college to a 4-year university requires certain qualifiers set by the university be met by incoming transfer students.  Each university is different based on courses that are allowed to be transferred, GPA of the incoming student, and admission requirements for specific degree programs, but none require an ACT or SAT score.

Transferring from a community college to a 4-year university requires certain qualifiers…but none require an ACT or SAT score.

For my son who is now in his third year of studies and on track to graduate from the University of Houston’s Biomedical Engineering program in a little over a year, the ability to work towards his degree one step at a time has provided him a much more successful route to achieving his goal.  My hope is that, if you too have a child who struggles yet feels led to a career that requires a degree, neither of you will let go of that dream just because of an admissions test.

To find out more about how we can help you homeschool your struggling high school student, visit the SPED Homeschool High School Help Checklist pageon our website.

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Many parents who homeschool children with special educational needs jump into homeschooling without much preparation.  Unfortunately many times school situations, health conditions, or other factors must be given precedence over deciding on curriculum and preparing everything needed to start homeschooling like many well-meaning bloggers suggest.

I was one of those parents.

Deschooling Before Deciding on Curriculum

We dove into homeschooling without much preparation because my oldest was sinking into a deep depression in kindergarten with yet a few months left before the end of the school year. I had to figure out what to do right away, and so I quickly decided I would use those months before summer as a testing ground to see what teaching techniques worked best for my son and his younger brother, as well as myself.

Nowadays we would term what I did as “deschooling,” but I found it was an instinctual route I took that not only allowed me to understand how to chart our homeschooling course moving forward, but also regroup as a family so we could deal with my son’s depression and help him move out of that place of despair.

Experimenting Before Deciding on Curriculum

Considering this was 17 years ago, there weren’t a lot of homeschool curriculum options, but what I could find I narrowed down into three categories.  The first category was a classical/literature approach, the second was a textbook approach, and the third was a unit study approach. I then decided in order to make it a fair experiment, I needed to eliminate bias and other factors that may sway the results (yes, that is my inner physicist coming out), so we stuck to a specific theme and time period as we tried out these three approaches.Pirates and seafaring around the time of the 16th and 17th centuries was what I finally settled on.

Over the next few months we read historical fiction, had discussions, acted out what we were studying, did workbook pages, read textbooks excerpts, built structures, created costumes, watched movies, went on field trips, and even tried out some recipes and learned how to tie quite a few different types of knots.  And, it was the knot tying exercise that sealed my choice on how were were going to proceed in our homeschooling the following year—and eventually all the way through my oldest son’s graduation.

“…it was the knot tying exercise that sealed my choice on how were were going to proceed in our homeschooling the following year.”

The day we were learning to tie knots I noticed how my children didn’t mind listening to the book and looking at the examples of how to tie the knots as they were explained one by one (a textbook approach). I also noticed that my kids found it interesting when they were given rope and allowed to tie the knots that the book walked them through (a more classical approach). But when I gave them 20 feet of rope and told them they were allowed to tie me up as long as they used proper knots (unit study approach), their energy and enthusiasm for the task escalated by 10-fold.  Thus, we started our homeschooling using unit studies the following year.

I am so grateful I look the time to explore our options with my children before deciding on curriculum. No matter what other things we had to tweak in our instruction to help my children overcome other learning obstacles, we always had a base curriculum that worked for all of us.

What about you?  How did you decide on the curriculum you are now using in your homeschool?  Share with us on our social media sites.  Haven’t decided on a curriculum yet?  Check out our articles and broadcasts this month that are focused on helping you make the best choice for your student and your homeschool.

 

New Resources to Help You Decide on Curriculum for Your Homeschol

Article

Steps to Shopping for Homeschool Curriculum

Every child is unique, but here are some simple steps to shopping for homeschool curriculum.

Article

Conquering Your Fears About Homeschool Curriculum Choices

A short description of the presentation could go here.

Video

Using Technology to Simplify Customized Homeschool Plans

Using innovative technology for customizing home education materials, instructional pace, and record keeping.

Interview

Choosing Effective and Appropriate Curriculum for Your Student

Interview with Judi Munday, Special Needs Educational Consultant and author of Teaching a Child with Special Needs.

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

In our years of homeschooling the most profound way we have taught our children how to live a life of faith has been by allowing the Holy Spirit do the heavy lifting.  I have always believed it has been my job to live my life of faith before my children with excitement and to share with them the walk God has me on, especially as it affects their lives. As I pray and commit to Spirit-led parenting, the Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting of convincing, convicting, and moving my children’s hearts.

 

 

Spirit-led Parenting: What it Looks Like

 

One example of God working in the hearts of our children has been through reading biographies together. When we’ve read together, my children often remarked on how amazing God is to use those who seem ordinary, unfit, and sometimes all-together unworthy of His attention to perform some amazing things for Him just because they trusted Him and believed what He said He could do with someone who turned to Him with an obedient heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another story I share often is when God had impressed upon both mine and my husband’s hearts that He wanted us to sell our house and move to the county.  For our oldest on the Autism spectrum, it seemed like a death sentence to leave behind his comfortable world for the unknown. But I trusted God had clearly spoken to me. One day when he was protesting about us preparing the house to sell, I decided to let the Holy Spirit do the heavy lifting of convincing my son this was God’s will not mine.

 

 

I basically told my son, “You ask God to tell you if moving is something he wants our family to do, and then come back to me when you have clearly heard from him.”

 

 

 

A few days later, unbenounced to me, he prayed to God to show him that day if we were supposed to move. All day long he was looking, but he never told anyone of his prayer for fear we would add in our own interpretations.

 

 

Then when evening rolled around, he went to his sister’s  room with his other brother to listen to an audio tape of “Mr. Henry’s Wild and Wacky Bible Stories” as they did most evenings. It was their practice to not turn the light on because our daughter usually fell asleep during the story, so in the darkness my son picked up a tape, put it into the tape player, and sat down with his siblings to listen.

 

 

 

Do you know what story he happened to put into the player that night?  The story of Abraham being called out of his homeland. As soon as the words, “Abraham, get out of this land” hit my son’s ears, he knew those words were the answer he had been looking for that day.  He ran out of the room screaming at the top of his lungs,”Nooooo!” And that is when I was brought up to speed with the prayer and God’s answer. Never again did he complain about moving.

 

We forget too often, no matter how old or young we are, we have access to the same God and the same Holy Spirit.  Spirit-led parenting trusts God through the Holy Spirit to do the convincing, convicting, and moving of our children’s hearts, and God’s ways will always turn out more positively then when we try to force our will or our faith upon our children.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

As humans we instinctively know we need to pray.  When tragedy strikes we ask for prayer, we gather to grieve and cry out, and our hearts seek healing from beyond what we can see, feel, and touch.  But, the biggest tragedy is that we don’t practice praying much when things are going well in our lives. We forget we have needs and large voids we can’t fill on our own.  The biggest void I could not fill through my own self-determination was the one created by the damage my parenting anger had created in my own life and in my relationships with my children.

 

 

 

A Spiritual Battle

Parenting anger at its core is a spiritual battle, and therefore prayer is fundamental to changing parenting anger and bringing about healing, in both the parent and the child. Prayer alone brought forth this healing in my life.  How? By ushering forgiveness and restoration to places grace alone could reach.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer is about asking, but it is more than that.  It is also about seeking something greater and desiring for it to come into our lives and change our nature; the nature which often brings us to the place where we realize our need for forgiveness and healing.  And, prayer is about submitting to that change by pursuing it with tenacity rather than pursuing our natural inclinations or good intentions.

 

 

 

 

A Plea for Change

When I decided in my heart that I no longer wanted to live with the rages I often experienced, I started to pray for God to change my heart and to heal my relationships with my children with more vigor than I ever had before.  My prayers went from “stop this” to “change me.”

 

Change was slow, but every time God revealed a new lesson I then prayed for His help to heal me, change me, and restore me.  When I backslid in carrying out this new lesson, I sought out His forgiveness as well as the forgiveness of my children, and we prayed together for God to help us accept His grace and do better the next time. I also started to make it a point to pray with my children when they met with failure in their own battles.

 

 

 

Fundamental to Change

Prayer was fundamental in keeping us moving forward, in giving us the strength to keep going on, to accepting our imperfect natures, and in realizing all the more our need for a Savior and a constant help as we navigated life with a desire to become less angry and hurt and more loving and compassionate—more like our heavenly Father.

 

When I started this series on parenting anger, I never could have imagined this process would take so long to complete and I would have so much to share.  If this is the first article in this series you have read, I would highly recommend you go back to the beginning and digest each article one at a time. Savor the wisdom God shared with me as I healed through my own struggle and allow the lessons to go not just to your head, but also your heart.

 

 

 

My prayer for you is that you don’t give up, on yourself or your children.  The struggle to change and grow in this ability is worth the battle, and the best part is that God will be fighting right alongside you all the way.

 

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By Peggy Ployhar

A few weeks ago as I was interviewing Andrew Pudewa on our weekly Facebook live broadcast, SPED Homeschool Conversations, I made a comment about the process I used to successfully teach my own son how to write using IEW’s (The Institute for Excellence in Writing) program. Slow and steady was my response. You can watch that interview here on our Facebook page, watch the long videos or shorter videos taken from that interview on our YouTube channel, or listen to the podcast at this link.

 

In this article, I wanted to expand upon my answer and explain not only how to homeschool slow and steady and how it led to educational successes for my own children, as well a how it can lead to success in your own homeschool.

 

 

Pressure to Succeed
Too often I speak to parents who are extremely anxious about getting their child caught up with a typical learning or developmental timeline. There is so much pressure in the educational community, including homeschooling circles, to press children towards measurable success. Unfortunately, this pressure can have parents focused on college readiness while their kindergartner is still learning numbers and letters.

 

Having now homeschooled for over 16 years and graduated 2 struggling learners I find myself looking back and realizing how much of this pressure I allowed to side-track our homeschooling. If I were to be honest, my “progress panic attacks” caused as many problems as my children’s learning issues and defiant outbursts.

 

 

Progress Instead of Pressure
In hindsight, I realized when I let external pressure take control of my teaching, I was least effective in homeschooling. On the other hand, when I kept my nose down and stopped looking at what we weren’t doing and how far we were away from where I wanted my children to be, progress was evident.

 

Now, I have to admit I didn’t always see a measurable product of my efforts when homeschooling slow and steady. We just kept moving forward at a steady pace gauged to match the speed each child was learning. Many days it seemed like we were just going through the motions, repeating things WAY too much, and moving so slowly that no progress was happening. But, that is the essence of teaching slow and steady; it grasps being in the moment and teaching what needs teaching now, not tomorrow.

 

 

5 Tips for Keeping Your Homeschooling Slow and Steady
If you struggle with homeschooling at a slow and steady pace, here are my 5 tips to keep you teaching in the moment towards homeschooling success:

 

1 – Create a General Plan
Make a learning plan not constrained by dates. Instead, focus on learning goals and steps that progress towards those goals. Many parents find it helpful to write a homeschool IEP for their student with regular assessment intervals – monthly or quarterly is best for measuring notable progress.

If you are interested in writing your own IEP, check out these other great articles on our website:
4 Things to Prepare Before Writing Your Child’s IEP
How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives
Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications
How to Track IEP Goals

 

2 – Teach According to Your Plan
This may sound simple, but sticking to the plan is one of the most difficult steps if you are like me and panic gets you off track. One day at a time, nose down, and determined to not get off track is the way to stay consistent.

 

3 – Don’t Accelerate Faster Than Your Student
Moving too fast actually makes learning take longer. Progress takes time and moving at the pace of your student will ensure your child is absorbing the lessons you are taking the time to teach and integrating those lessons into their long-term memory for better recall when those facts need to be used for more complex processes.

 

4 – Take Frustration Breaks
If frustration sets in, take a step back to re-evaluate. Don’t blame yourself or your child, these breaks are natural. Sometimes you will need to switch tracks on how you are teaching a subject if your student has a learning block. Other times you both need some time away from that subject altogether. If neither of those methods works, then it may indicate you need to seek out help from a professional. But stepping back is essential in determining which course of action is the best for your situation.

 

5 – Remember to Not Compare
No matter what learning pattern is set by other children in your household, your friends’ children, or any “normal” developmental timeline, your child is unique; and therefore, your child’s progress will be unique. This is true whether or not a child has been diagnosed with a learning disability. All children learn in spurts and stall out at times, this is natural. By not comparing one child to another, you allow your child to learn and grow at the pace that best suits your child’s level of learning progression.

 

 

Evidence Worth the Wait
In that same conversation I was having with Andrew Pudewa, I confessed we used his curriculum with my oldest son, but this same son never wrote a paper for me in the entirety of his homeschooling career. Each day we did the writing lesson, went through the steps, learned the process, and slowly and steadily I taught him the mechanics of good writing. After graduating high school this same son would text and email me while he was away studying at welding school, but he still never wrote a paper. Then, when he started college just after turning 18 he started writing beautiful papers and getting A’s in his college English classes. That was when it became evident to me that he had learned the process of writing because I had taught him slowly and steadily using a system that worked. It just took him time to use what he had learned and produce a product that showed the process had worked.

 

I pray as you look to the new year and set goals for your teaching and homeschooling, as well as for the individual progress for each of your children, that you will conquer any anxiety or fear you may have about the future by following the steps I have outlined above.

 

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By Peggy Ployhar

Over the years of working through my parenting anger issues, the biggest lesson I have learned about myself is my natural tendency to want to always be in control. I have talked about letting go of control in many areas of parenting throughout this series; control of my children’s character development, as well as my parenting approach in respect to my use of authority, of conveying acceptance, in providing forgiveness, and with my desire to restore honor. The final, and most deceptively hidden, area I needed to surrender my need to over control as a parent was time management.

 

Finding Balance in Time Management
Controlling every single moment of every single day in my children’s lives was not healthy. Plus, if my goal was to help my children learn the skill of managing their time effectively they needed opportunities to practice. Opportunities I was denying them by always micro-managing their schedules.

 

My blindness to my overly controlling approach towards my children’s schedules was aided by the fact that all my children deal with varying degrees of executive functioning deficits. These deficits limit their natural abilities to quickly and efficiently schedule, plan, and organize themselves. So, as a mother who is naturally gifted in this area, it was easy to just step in and take over these responsibilities for my children instead of letting go and teaching them to take ownership for their own use of time.

 

For any parent of a struggling child, the tendency to overcompensate and take control is a constant battle. On one hand you desire for your child to learn and grow, but on the other hand the pain this struggle causes your child and often your own self (extra messes to clean up, extended length in completing tasks, etc.) is much more easily alleviated by stepping in. How then is a parent to win over this desire to control while still keeping a child on track? The answer is balance.

 

A balanced time-management approach involves evaluating three things: your child, your approach, your tools. Looking at these three areas and then determining a balanced plan on how to appropriately give your child the help needed to get through a regular schedule while developing time management skills of their own along the way.

 

Your Child
Understanding the true capability if your child to manage time is critical when figuring out how much this child can manage realistically without your help. Have you ever done a critical analysis of how well your child can break down a larger task into a checklist of smaller parts to complete the whole project?

 

One easy way to figure out your child’s executive functioning capability is to test it by asking your child to do a task which requires multiple steps. I would suggest doing this test with different types of tasks because children often have a greater ability to focus and plan when they are interested in the task (like building a Lego set) than they do when they are disinterested in a task, like cleaning the bathroom.

 

If you have an older student, you can also use this free time management quiz. The quiz has 15 simple questions your student can answer, and then the website provides ideas for goal setting based on the deficiencies revealed by the quiz.

 

Your Approach
Now that you know what skills your child has for managing his own time, and which ones you need to help teach for greater mastery, you should develop a strategy for teaching time management skills. Here are some website with great resources on helping kids with mild time management issues, moderate executive functioning issues, or even more severely limited scheduling abilities.

 

Mild Time Management Strategies
11 Easy Tips for Teaching Your Kids Time Management
The Age-By-Age Guide to Teaching Kids Time Management
6 Ways to Teach Time Management Skills

Moderate Executive Functioning Strategies

Graphic Organizers from the Learning Disabilities Foundation of America
Helping Kids Who Struggle with Executive Functioning
10 Frightfully Useful Tips from Executive Functioning Coaches
5 Must-Have Apps for Improving Executive Functioning in Children

 

Strategies for Students with Severely Limited Scheduling Abilities
Tactile Schedules for Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities
8 Types of Visual Student Schedules
Object Schedule Systems
Free Printable Visual Schedules


Your Tools

Based on how much help your child needs and what approach you feel would best help in teaching better time management, you can now start putting together your tools. The various articles above are filled with everything from digital tools to very hands-on physical tools.

 

For our family, we did a lot of visual schedules on a huge blackboard in our kitchen when our children were very young. We supplemented that schedule with daily conversations about upcoming activities and plans to ensure our children remembered what lay ahead and weren’t surprised when we had something planned that didn’t fit into our normal routine. But, as our children grew older those schedules moved to student planners, apps, and shared documents along with the daily conversations.

 

Knowledge has great power. In my experience with letting go of controlling my children, knowing more about the type of help they needed and when I was becoming overly controlling greatly helped with restoring a proper parent-child relationship in our home.

 

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