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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

One of the greatest misconceptions about teaching is that the power of education lies in the training of the individual or in the quality of the material used to teach a child. Even though both of these things would rank as highly important factors, the single most important has nothing to do with what our educational system has trained us to value most. Instead, it has to do with a very humble and natural homeschooling superpower any parent can draw from, the ability to care and to show those you are teaching you are committed to their learning process.

 

Over the years of consulting with homeschooling parents, I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship. Take it from someone who knows. Because I started our homeschooling journey with parenting anger struggles , my homeschooling superpower was deeply buried. I was not set up for my optimal teaching effectiveness, so the ideas I have to share below are from my attempts to connect with my children.

 

I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship.

 

Below are 5 ways you can strengthen your parent-child relationship, or homeschooling superpower, to increase your teaching effectiveness:

 

Listening Time

As a parent we often do most of the talking, but how much do we seek to actively listen to what our children want to say? Do we dig deep enough to learn what they are thinking about and why? Setting aside regular time to just listen to your children’s ideas and thoughts with probing questions that not only show you are listening but that you want to invest time into learning about the things that matter most to them.

If your child seems hesitant to answer your questions, one idea I found very helpful was to use puppets. My son responded well to puppets, and of all the puppets we had on hand, his favorite was Lamb Chop who was made famous by Sheri Lewis. For some reason, he opened up and shared his heart with this little lamb and this back and forth conversation became a regular part of our evening schedule.

 

Play Time

Playing with your children may come easily, or it may be an excruciating experience for you to even think about, but if you put your best foot forward to delve into one of your child’s favorite playtime activities the reward will be great.

Putting on those superhero costumes, playing hide-n-seek, taking time to build a fort and then spend the afternoon in it, or assembling Legos into engineering marvels speaks volumes to your child about the worthiness of their favorite activities as well as your approval of him/her and what he/she values.

 

Reading Time

While you may already read out loud with your children, you may not go any further than the text, or if you do then you may only ask your child about the story itself. I would suggest you go a step further and ask your child which character in the book they relate with the most and why. Ask them if they feel the character was treated as he/she thinks the character should have been treated and what led them to that conclusion.

As our family was preparing to move to a farm and was living for the summer in our travel trailer, we read the book Farmer Boy as a family in the evening. While the book itself was very intriguing for all of us to read together, it was the questions and discussions we shared after each chapter that drew us all closer together, as we shared our thoughts and dreams about the new life we were all about to embark on.

 

Shared-Activity Time

Sharing a common activity with your child creates an unbelievably tight bond. I have seen parents join martial arts classes, art classes, and computer classes with their children. The beauty of sharing an activity with your child is that these types of experiences have open ends for both of you and allows not only the opportunity to achieve new goals together but also commiserate about shared failures.

 

I started doing aerial silks with my daughter last year and will attest that a shared activity has greatly increased the bond between us. Our shared activity provides the two of us not only an activity we can do together but also a new topic to add to our day that allows us to connect at a different level than the typical parent-child conversation.

 

Travel Time

Time in the car, camper, plane, hotel, and rental house puts your child in a place that is out of their comfort zone, in a more confined space, and usually further away from their typical digital input than their normal. These times lend themselves to deep conversations, curated experiences, and building long-lasting memories.

 

A few years ago, I took a three and a half week trip cross-country with my daughter. We drove from Texas to Colorado, then to North Dakota, next to Minnesota, and from there we took a plane trip with my mother (all three Margaret’s – Margie, Maggie, and Peggy – to NYC to see the slights and a Broadway show) and finally drove back to Texas. That trip was a turning point in mine and my daughter’s relationship.

 

Any of these suggestions is a great place to start building your relationship with your child. I would suggest starting with one that would work best with your schedule right now, and then over time slowly adding others as opportunity allows. Most of all, enjoy the extra time you have been given to spend with your child. It is an incredible gift that will stretch you as well as bless you both!

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Assistive Technology, or AT, is defined as “any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities” by the Assistive Technology Industry Association . For individuals who struggle with communication disabilities, AT solutions can greatly increase accessibility and educational success, as well as improve other important life functions. Below are some great resources to help you find the perfect communication assistive technology for your homeschool student.

 

Communication AT Guides

Download or read online this free PDF Communications Guide from the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. Included in this 62-page guide is everything you need to learn about the various types of communication devices available, how to access your child’s needs as well as his/her ability to utilize various AT devices based upon functionality, sensory, implementation, and even environmental considerations. Additionally, this guide breaks down specific tech providers, their products, compares features, and provides links for viewing these AT products online.

Another similar guide can be found in a series of articles from iCommunicate Therapy starting with this article on this page. These articles provide a summary of communication AT devices from high-tech to low-tech devices as well as breaking down those categories into specific device types and what individuals benefit most from using them.

 

Communication AT for Children with Autism

Communication difficulties for children on the Autism spectrum includes some unique variables, therefore it is best when looking for communication AT for a child on the spectrum to take those considerations into account. This article by the Autism Parenting Magazine, Assistive Technology Devices for Children with Autism, does a great job of walking a parent through the various reasons children on the spectrum can benefit from using communication AT as well as what AT works best for certain communication issues. 

Autism Speaks has also developed a 2-page PDF,   Assistive Technology for Communication Roadmap. These pages provide an overview of assessing a student for a device, choosing a device, device funding pathways, and training a student for successful use.

 

AT Communication Apps

If you are looking for an app that is iPad or iPhone specific, this article from Friendship Circle provides a list of their Top 7 Assistive Communication Apps in the iPad App Store. This article includes general descriptions of the apps, pricing, and customer ratings.

On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for an app to put on an Android device, the first 4 of the 6 apps listed in this article by Easter Seals Tech,  6 Android Apps for Special Needs, are great communication AT apps to consider. 

Finally, if you are still trying to wrap your mind around what incorporating assistive technology for your homeschool may look like or if your child is interested in how other children use AT devices for their communication needs, I would encourage you to check out the Pacer Center’s YouTube Channel. Their channel has lots of videos highlighting personal stories of children and how they use AT for greater accessibility.

For children with communication disabilities, assistive technology may bridge the gap and allow them greater opportunities in homeschool and life.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

The United States Department of Health states that “approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in kindergarten” struggle with a language disorder of some type. Why then does an article on MedicalExpress.com refer to “language impairments” as “one of the most common childhood disorders that you’ve never heard of”? Likely it is because terms and diagnoses used to classify children who struggle in this area change depending on how issues exhibit themselves and at what age their impairment is detected.  

 

Language disorders can exhibit themselves when a child talks late, when a preschooler is unable to follow explicitly given instructions for a simple task or pick up on social cues, or not until a student starts struggling to learn to read or memorize facts. Most children with language disorders have no intellectual disability. Instead, they just can’t utilize language properly to receive information, express information, and/or process information. Thus, the main classifications of language disorders are Receptive Language Disorder, Expressive Language Disorder, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, and Language Processing Disorder.

 

 

Key Indicators a Child is Struggling with a Language Disorder

 

Children with Receptive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understand what others are saying
  • Following simple directions
  • Picking up on the meaning of gestures
  • Learning new words
  • Completely answering a question
  • Describing an object

Children with Expressive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Building their vocabulary
  • Using complete sentences
  • Completely expressing their ideas, feelings, and thoughts
  • Using descriptive words
  • Using words in context properly
  • Telling stories
  • Repeating a poem or song
  • Identifying objects

Children with Language Processing Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understanding jokes or sarcasm
  • Word sounds
  • Sequencing in words and decoding
  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding long or complex sentences
  • Figuring out the main idea of a reading text or discussion
  • Joining in on conversations
  • Following spoken or multi-step directions
  • Rhyming
  • Loud environments

 

 

Strategies for Homeschooling a Child with a Language Disorder

 

Strategies for working with children with Receptive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide outlines of reading material using charts, pictures, or an organizer
  • Break down reading into smaller parts
  • Act out what the child is reading
  • Break down complex tasks into smaller sub-tasks
  • Encourage questions and asking for clarification
  • Check a student’s understanding of a lesson frequently while teaching a new concept to ensure there are no gaps
  • Use the same words to refer to the same thing. Keep language consistent and understandable
  • Talk at a slow and consistent pace when providing instruction
  • When giving directions break down sequence order and if needed provide a checklist for steps
  • Accommodate with word lists, term glossaries, or a customized student dictionary

Strategies for working with children with Expressive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide communication tools or assistive technology to aid communication
  • Be a good communicator that your child can mimic
  • Use prompting to gently guide your child to help them express what they want to say
  • Don’t rush an explanation or answer
  • Ask for clarification to ensure you understood what your child was communicating when needed
  • Occasionally repeat your child’s words with an additional descriptor word added in

Strategies for working with children with Language Processing Disorders are:

  • Use pictures and other visuals to expand upon language-based lessons
  • Provide extra time for a child to process a concept and understand the information
  • Use a collaborative approach to learning that requires back and forth interaction between you and the child to ensure understanding is taking place
  • Make lessons shorter, allowing for time in-between lessons for the child to process information while playing or doing a non-learning activity, and then return to the subject to

 

Overall, it is important to understand as a parent that you can’t teach these language disorders out of your child, nor can you find a curriculum that will “catch your child up” to a norm. Your child needs to be taught at the pace he/she can learn and you have to do your best to be encouraging and patient with whatever progress he/she is able to make.

 

Additional resources for language disorder teaching strategies

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

One of the biggest struggles in teaching a child who struggles to read is finding content that appeals to their intellectual level as well as their instructional level in subjects other than reading. Below are some great free resources available to parents/educators who are looking for modified instructional reading texts to improve your child’s reading and comprehension skills.

 

Instructional Reading Text For Reading Comprehension: already modified for you

ReadWorks – ReadWorks is a nonprofit that provides teacher resources to help with teaching reading comprehension. Search by topic, subject, reading passages, specific articles or even text paired to already developed lessons, vocabulary sets, or comprehension questions.

Newsela – Newsela is a free to access news content site providing text at 5 reading levels, including applicable comprehension quizzes. Search for content by reading level, topic grade level, and articles that include writing prompts.

 CommonLit – Free teacher resource with a searchable text library of passages to use from reading instruction from grades 3 to 12. Not only can you create a teacher account on this site, but you can also create student accounts, assign comprehension assessments and track progress. An additional feature on this site is the Spanish passages and comprehension questions.

TweenTribune   – K-12 Lexile-leveled free resources for teachers created by the Smithsonian based on current kid-friendly news topics. Each article is written at 4 different Lexile levels and also includes a critical thinking question at the end to use for testing student comprehension and understanding of the topic’s broader application.

Breaking News English  – Free current event articles written at 7 different reading levels. This site is based in the U.K. and each article is written in at least 3 different reading levels and includes a teacher lesson plan with vocabulary words, a table for organizing the text’s ideas, as well as a critical thinking exercise.

 For the Teachers Articles – A variety of free fictional articles written at three different reading levels for students from grade 3 to 10.

UNC Charlotte Adapted Popular Chapter Books – Over 20 free online adapted chapter books including Where the Red Fern Grows, Because of Winn-Dixie, and works by Shakespeare.

Teachers Pay Teachers – Two stores on Teachers Pay Teacher offering an extensive selection of lessons, books, and other teaching material with modified reading texts are Miss A’s Mismatched Miracles  & Ms Meghan’s Special Minds and Hands  

 

Modified Instructional Reading Text for Reading Comprehension: modified by you

If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, here are some other free online resources you can use to modify instructional text you already own.

Rewordify – Copy and paste in complex text and this site will simplify the language to make it easier for a struggling student to comprehend. This site also provides you the option to include definitions of complex vocabulary words or create word learning sessions based on the vocabulary converted in the text and builds spelling as well as vocabulary skills.

Special Reads – This site sells modified books for special needs readers, but also provides this free instructional article on how to modify your own text or books for your student.

 

Improving reading comprehension and finding resources that are the right fit for your child’s interests and abilities make an enormous difference for academic success, and these resources don’t have to cost a fortune. Rather than spending your time and energy searching for modified instructional reading texts to fit your reading comprehension goals for your student, spend your time actually helping your child progress and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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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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