Here is the best homeschooling advice some seasoned special education homeschooling moms shared with us when we asked for their top tips.

 

Peggy Ployhar– SPED Homeschool Team Member

Here are the top 5 homeschool mom tips:

  1. Teach your child, not curriculum. 
  2. Take one day at a time. Celebrate a victory, let go of a hurt, and accept grace for a mistake.
  3. Trust wherever peace leads you to teach your child and don’t compare it to what anyone else is doing.
  4. Take care of yourself even if it means doing less than you think you should be doing.
  5. Don’t stop dreaming for your child or yourself.

Homeschooling success has very little to do with the curriculum, but everything to do with what we do every day in our homes.

 

Amy Vickrey– SPED Homeschool Team Member

Give yourself:

  1. Time to decide on curriculum, approaches, and learning styles. 
  2. Permission to make mistakes, start over new each day, take breaks, and change your mind if something isn’t working. 
  3. Permission to use a curriculum or a unit study in a way it was not originally intended by the author. Make the curriculum fit your child. If you can’t make it fit, then change the curriculum.

 

Dawn Spence– SPED Homeschool Team Member

Here are my top three:

  1. Use color coding
  2. Integrate  games
  3. Believe in your children

#3  seems so simple but kids love to hear from you how smart you are and that you believe they can do things which they may have trouble believing they can do themselves. Growing up with an undiagnosed learning disability, I would often hear from my teachers how stupid I was. This is the opposite of what our children’s hearts and minds need to succeed. Daily affirmations and love give our children the encouragement they need to face their mountains with confidence.

 

Daily affirmations and love give our children the encouragement they need to face their mountains with confidence.

 

Shannon Ramiro– SPED Homeschool Team Memeber

I find the most important things are:

  1. Plan what you are going to do ahead of time.
  2. Don’t expect the day to go according to plan.
  3. Have everything you need for however long you believe your child can pay attention (materials including all pens, manipulatives, teacher manual, workbook, everything) within arm’s reach because the minute you have to get up to go find or get something you will lose your child’s attention and getting focused again will take even more time away from your lesson.
  4. For reading, if they are beginning to read, and can read the level of text but are struggling, take turns. You read 1-2 lines, and then you ask them to read 1 line.
  5. Determine how long your child can actively be engaged, then plan your lessons accordingly. Take breaks as needed. Do not attempt to stretch any learning past what they can tolerate.
  6. Switch topics and incorporate their interests as much as possible.
  7. Add movement throughout their lessons.
  8. On days your child can’t focus on lessons, go outside and talk about what was observed.

 

Corinna Ramos– SPED Homeschool Community Member

I use Minecraft in almost every subject because that is what works for my son at the moment.

  1. In math I write out my son’s problems, then he goes onto Minecraft and uses squares to work out the problem. It is amazing how well he has learned multiplication through the use of blocks in Minecraft. He can take math word problems and use Minecraft to make the problems into how he can understand them and come up with the right answer. 
  2. I also use Minecraft for history by having him build historical sites. It’s like he is walking through history. 
  3. Minecraft also teaches my son about science. 
  4. When it comes to writing…of course he writes about Minecraft. I have him write in a daily journal about what he did in Minecraft that day and he actually participates.

 

Chrystalina Tosado– SPED Homeschool Community Member

I study my child and make sure school works for him. Here is what I found:

  1. My son learns better on the afternoons
  2. He can’t have distractions close like toys
  3. At certain times he needs breaks. We jump, do an exercise, or just relax
  4. In art, we always do crafts that are based on my son’s interest like dinosaurs, or the current season, and then we use these projects to decorate his working space.

 

 

 

 

 


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Jan Bedell, PhD, M ND

 

Math is a necessity for functioning independently in life so the sooner our children get it, the better. In our view, mathematics is divided into three main areas: Understanding of all the concepts, word problems, and math facts mastery.

 

1. Concepts of operations matter 

The word “concept” means what exists in the mind as something comprehended or understood. We want our children to easily understand when they see certain math symbols like +, -, x, ÷. They should instantly know that when referring to addition it means putting things together to get a larger amount; having a certain number of items and then taking some away is subtraction; multiplication is groups of the same number and division is separating things into groups with the same number in each group. 

You can use manipulatives to help the process of mastering the concept but far too quickly our educational practices tend to put the children on their own to do the assignments. Our skewed perception is if we “help” that somehow we are cheating, that the child just needs to do it on their own.

Let’s look at it from another angle. What if you were teaching piano and right after introducing the names of the notes on the staff and teaching the timing of whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes you put a piece of Mozart in front of the child and say, “Now play this”. You would never think of doing that! 

It is the same with anything you want to teach to mastery. You demonstrate, observe and help the process along a continuum of steps. The NeuroDevelopmental Approach to math involves lots of “input” (giving the answer, demonstrating the concept often, guiding as the child has their turn with new and review material) and the results are stellar.

If you really want to accelerate math skills, do what we call at Brain Sprints, 50% instruction. This is teaching and instructing goes fast while giving input for future success in math operations. Here is how it works. You do a problem and the child does a similar problem until that concept is mastered. For a beginning mathematician, the whole page would include additional problems where you alternate from mom to child even if you think it could be done independently.

If your child is older, say 3rd grade and beginning multiplication, your page might have a multi-digit addition problem that you do and a multi-digit subtraction problem that the child does and the rest of the time is spent on the new concept of multiplication. After the “review” of addition and subtraction, you do a multiplication problem and the child follows with a multiplication problem until you have done six to ten problems alternating between mom and child. It goes fast and you avoid any need for correction as you are guiding so no mistakes are made. Imagine your child’s continence when math is fun, easy and quick instead of a drudgery followed by frustration and the need for the dreaded corrections. 

There is a resource available here:  Visual Circle Math that gives specific directions on how to do this technique with sample pages. This is terrific for those children labeled with or suspected of dyscalculia or those that are exceptional in math and need to move on to more complex concepts without going through a full curriculum to reach those next levels.

 

The NeuroDevelopmental Approach to math involves lots of “input”… and the results are stellar.

 

2.  Word problems are fundamental

Word problems are the application of the understanding of math concepts. Along with the conceptual understanding, you have to be able to hold the information in your short-term memory to know what operation(s) to use to solve the problem. One factor that has been a huge deterrent to a child’s ability to complete a word problem is the auditory processing level. Parents are often confused when their child with a full understanding of a concept has such a struggle with answering a word problem. It makes more sense when you realize that your ability to hold pieces of information for a short time and manipulate that information in your mind takes that foundation ability called auditory processing. When this developmental skill is low, word problems are often a nightmare.

The solution seems contrary to traditional approaches. Many curriculums teach strategies for solving word problems that often fail when the problems become more complex. Instead of strategies we recommend working on the child’s auditory processing ability. This will not only help with accomplishing word problems but will increase the child’s ability to stay on task, follow directions, comprehend what is said and read and many more functional abilities that will help the child through school and life.

Scroll down to the bottom of this auditory processing information to get your Free Test Kit. If you start increasing this skill, the struggle with word problems will greatly diminish.

 

3. Math Facts are important

Some public schools are not putting any emphasis on math facts but still expecting correct and speedy answers on classroom assignments and standardized tests. This is counter-intuitive. It only makes sense that when children have rapid recall of math facts they enjoy math assignments more as it takes less time to finish a lesson and there are minimal to no corrections needed. The struggle often is, how to get a child to retain math facts. The educational system has come up with these “magic” cards with a problem and no answer that makes the children want to hide when they see them because they don’t know the answer. The other “tool” often used is a speed drill with 70+ problems and the instructions given are, “Get faster at this!”

Not equipping a child with instant recall of math facts is like strapping their legs together and asking them to run faster. If math facts mastery is your goal, try The Rapid Recall System (created by former home school mom and now Master NeuroDevelopmentalist, me). Here your children will see, hear, say and write five specific math facts 14 times a day and only two of those times is information coming from the child. Instead of asking the children to guess at the answer which reinforces the wrong answer when they say it wrong, with Rapid Recall, the children have twelve times of input where the information is going in so it is stored for easy access. The good news is that it only takes 6-9 minutes a day and after 5 days, they are on to the next set of facts with daily reinforcement of the previously learned facts.

Not sure if your child needs to work on math facts? Take this Math Facts Proficiency Test and see how the score compares to different grade levels in this skill. No matter what the age, Rapid Recall System can help your budding mathematicians to retain math facts for life. 

For the SPED Community, use the Discount Code RRS20SPED for 15% off.

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

Organization goes far beyond making sure everything is in its place, especially for homeschooling families who live, eat, learn, and play under the same roof every day. And, who would know better than experienced homeschooling moms who live this way 24/7? This is why we asked our team of experienced homeschooling moms to share their best homeschool organization tips that work while juggling teaching, housekeeping, and everything else going on in their lives.

 

Amy Vickrey

Making time for my spiritual life with my children has been a priority.  I am working to teach them that they have a choice regarding love, joy and their relationship with God.  To prioritize this goal, we started reading a daily devotional each night. This simple addition to our schedule has helped me remember to spend time engaging my children in God’s word and sharing time praying.  We have also added hymn singing after our devotional time. It is so sweet to hear my 3-year-old join in singing “How Great Thou Art” and “It is Well.” These precious memories will carry them and me far into the future because of this simple change I made in their bedtime routine.

For schoolwork, my oldest does his best when he can see his workload from beginning to end.  We used checklists, a clipboard, and other techniques to help him see his schedule visually. Because he can see his schedule and can to do tasks at his own pace and take breaks when needed.  In the end, he knows there is no TV time until he finishes so this acts as his reward for finishing all the tasks on his list. We also make sure to target our school time for the time of day when my son’s learning peaks.  This targeted learning time has greatly reduced daily schoolwork battles. One additional thing that helps us with school work is that I have built a therapy team with people other than myself who provide therapy sessions and work on educational (or pre-educational) goals with my children.  I let them take care of those specific skills so I can concentrate on other skills at home.

For meals, I find writing out a basic menu for each day on a calendar works best for me.  This way I will not repeat the same 3 meals my kids prefer more than I can stand, and it also allows me to plan ahead of time for expanding their palettes. This simple calendar planning also expedites the time it takes to put together my shopping lists and actual grocery shopping.

In general, balancing homeschool, work and school has been a challenge.  As a single parent, I am blessed to have a supportive family, but the majority of the responsibility still falls on my shoulders. I have found I have to stick to my schedule, make use of downtime, and not overcommit, especially on weeks bigger projects or assignments are due. 

 

Ashly Barta

I have found homeschool organization success in keeping each child’s work separate.  I use a binder for all wipe-clean pages and checklists. We use daily checklists and reverse planning to ensure we accomplish everything on our list each day.  I found that with reverse planning I have less pressure to complete all the things in a rush, we can dive deeper into the subject matter or take time for extra practice if needed.  My son has epilepsy so it allows us to take breaks when needed and I have learned to love the rest time just as much as the work time. Along with the binders we also utilize workboxes (Latchmate totes found at  Micheals) and a morning basket.  The Latchmate boxes house the main curriculum along with flashcards, pencils and whatever else my children need to complete their work.  On the other hand, the morning basket holds coloring books, a Bible, read-aloud books, and other similar materials.

 

It is amazing how implementing a few simple organizational tips can help homeschooling and a busy home life stay on track!

 

Dawn Spence

Something simple that helps me in staying organized is meal planning. My kids even help when they know what is on the menu by reminding me what meat I need to take out of the freezer so it is thawed properly. Meal planning also helps keep me keep to a budget and be thoughtful about creating healthy meals for my family. Sometimes I plan for one week, but if I am on a roll I plan two weeks out. Having a meal plan also allows me to order my groceries ahead of time, which is another big time saver. It is amazing how implementing a few simple organizational tips can help homeschooling and a busy home life stay on track!

 

Peggy Ployhar

One way I have been successful in organizing my children’s homeschooling materials is by giving them a dedicated place for their things and a yearly planning calendar.  As you can imagine over the past 17 years of homeschooling in 4 different houses as well as 2 separate times of living in our travel trailer while homeschooling, this organizational method has been thoroughly tested. My children’s spaces have ranged from tubs, shelves, drawers, and cupboards but they have always been a unique space that is just theirs to store books, projects, and the other things they use regularly for school. As for planners, I have tried many over the years, but eventually realized what worked best for us were the cheap student planners you can find at just about any store at the beginning of the school year. Each year I buy one planner for each child, making sure the cover, as well as the layout, work well for recording everything in that student’s schedule.  Then I write in lessons, a week at a time in pencil, in each planner. When my children were young, I helped them with organizing their spaces and planners, but as they moved into their junior high and high school years they took over managing almost everything, sometimes even their own weekly lesson plans!

 

Whether it is organizing your schooling materials, your homeschool spaces, your student’s schedules, or even your meals we hope our team’s homeschooling organization tips have inspired you to make one or two small changes towards being more organized in your homeschool and homeschooling family life.

 

 

 

 

 


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Ingredients

  • 2 cups cranberries (wash in cold water)
  • 3-4 cups sliced apples (Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal (I use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup flour (I use almond flour)
  • 1/3 cup butter

Faith Berens – Gluten Free


CranApple Casserole Bake

Our family makes this recipe every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a traditional side dish, lovingly prepared and served each year at family gatherings when my Aunt Betty was alive. Aunt Betty had the gift of hospitality and she absolutely loved hosting for the holidays. Sadly, she passed away due to kidney cancer several years ago, but one way we help keep her traditions going is to make some of her favorite recipes.

 

Directions:

Sprinkle lemon juice over apples. Combine cranberries, apples, granulated sugar, and salt and place in a Pyrex baking dish 9×9 or 9×13.

In a separate bowl, make a crumble out of the brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, and butter and spoon on top of the apple mixture.

Bake for 1 hour

Image provided by: https://www.needpix.com/photo/945891/cake-streusel-cake-baked-cake-mould-bake-sugar-coffee-party-streusel-sweet-dish

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup corn flakes

 Jace Clark – Sweet Potato Skeptic


Sweet Potato Casserole

This is a traditional recipe that I received from a lady at church. I have been making it for over 20 years and it’s always a popular request. I didn’t even like sweet potato casserole until I found this one!


Directions:

  1. Mix together the sweet potatoes, eggs, regular sugar, nutmeg, milk, and cinnamon.
  2. Place in 9×9 buttered dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  4. Mix topping (butter, brown sugar, pecans, and corn flakes) in a separate bowl.
  5. Spread topping over  potato mixtre and bake an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees

 

 

Ingredients

  • 4 apples
  • 4 oranges (seedless)
  • 2 bags of cranberries
  • 2 cups raw honey

 Peggy Ployhar– In-the-Raw


Raw Cranberry Relish

This cranberry relish recipe is one my grandmother and mother made every holiday season and one I have incorporated into my own family holiday cooking schedule. Not convinced yet? My husband used to hate cranberry relish, now he looks forward to it every holiday season.

 

Directions:

  1. Wash, seed and cut the apples into wedges (leaving on the skins)
  2. Wash the oranges and cut into wedges (leaving the rinds on – trust me)
  3. Wash cranberries
  4. Using a food grinder, grind all the fruit together
  5. Mix the honey into the ground fruit
  6. Let sit at least 8 hours before serving

Hint: This recipe freezes very, so I make a double batch before Thanksgiving and then freeze the other half for Christmas.

Image provided by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbrons/5216172956

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb diced smoked sausage
  • I can corn or other veggies
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives
  • I can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 4 cups of rice
  • 4 1/2 water

Cammie Arn – Instant Pot Meal


Sausage Rice Casserole

Makes for a great meal when you are tired of Turkey.


Directions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a large rice cooker or Instant Pot. 
  2. Use the white rice setting on my rice cooker or the rice setting on my Instant Pot.

 

Ingredients

  • Chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Dawn Spence – Sweet Finish


Toffee Fudge

This is what we had when we got together for Christmas Eve. My mom always made finger foods and this wonderful toffee. It reminds me of my grandmother who was an avid cookie and candy maker. But, now that I eat low-carb and sugar-free I have added some substitutions as well below.

 

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle the bottom of a 9″ square pan with chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews.
  2. In a saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Stir constantly for 7 minutes exactly.
  5. Remove from heat and spread over nuts.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes.
  7. When chocolate is melted spread evenly and cut into squares.
  8. Refrigerate until cool and set.
  9. Remove and break into squares.
  10. Keep in an airtight container.
    Omit nuts if desired.
    Omit chocolate for tender nut brittle.

Low-Carb Option: Substitute 3/4 cup brown Swerve for the brown sugar, change the butter to Earth Balance and use Lily’s dark chocolate chips or Enjoy dairy-free chocolate chips.

 

 


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Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 4 oz. coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup carrot, cooked and mashed
  • ¾ cup plum, peeled and processed in a blender
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

sweet potato pie

Dr. Jan Bedell – Low-Carb Alternative


No-Crust Sweet Potato Pie

My support person, Michelle, created a cookbook for her son when he was on the Spectrum Balance Protocol diet. This came from that book.

  • This recipe is for children and adults who have multiple food sensitivities.
  • This recipe is gluten-free, corn-free and processed sugar-free.
    If you are also dairy-free, leave out the cream cheese.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with a hand mixer and mix well. Pour into pie pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until firm. Serves 6. (Recipe submitted by Michelle Thompson, author of Dinner for David.)

 

gingerbread men with tea

Ingredients

  • ½ cup margarine
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ½ cups flour (or 1 ½ cups flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Kathy Kuhl – Traditional Holiday Favorite


Gingerbread Men 

This is our favorite for Christmas. I have a reindeer cookie cutter and add a red hot to create Rudolphs.


  1. Cream (or partially melt) margarine, sugar, and molasses. If melted, let the mixture cool.
  2. Add egg.
  3. Sift in remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir.
  5. Chill.
  6. Roll out ¼ inch thick and cut.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
  8. Cool on cooling racks.

Yield 2 trays.

Tip: roll all the dough to the same thickness, or thinner cookies will be overcooked before others are done.

 

Ingredients

  • Gluten-free pretzels
  • White almond bark
  • Yellow M&M’s

Cammie Arn – Gluten-Free Fun Treat


“Eggs & Bacon”

We are a little non-traditional at our house!

  1. Place 2 pretzel sticks next to one another on a piece of waxed paper or baking mat
  2. Top with melted almond bark
  3. Place 1 yellow M&M on top
  4. let it set up

Enjoy!

 

apples image

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies
  • Apples
  • 1/2 cup butter

Hint: Use a cooking apple that will not turn mushy when cooked, such as Macintosh, Granny Smith, Jonathon, etc.

 

Dawn Spence – Gluten-Free Fruit Treat


Baked Cinnamon Apples

One smell of this apple dessert and I knew that the holidays had arrived. I miss my grandmother but this recipe helps me remember fond memories.


In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cornstarch, and red hots to a boil.

Fill a 3-quart baking dish with sliced apples

Pour the hot liquid over the apples

Dot the top of the apples with 1/2 cup butter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, let cool 15 minutes.

chocolate biscotti

 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup lentil flour (green, red or brown – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
  • 6 large eggs 
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (divided)
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Peggy Ployhar – Hidden Healthy


Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Before our family even started down the road to healthy eating, this recipe was one of my children’s favorites – actually not this exact recipe as I have modified it over the years to make a more healthy version. I have really been surprised that no one has even noticed the changes, but then again with this much cocoa powder in a recipe, you can mask a lot of ingredients.

I make this recipe at least three times every holiday season plus multiple times throughout the rest of the year.

 

Instructions:

  • In one bowl mix all the dry ingredients – flours and powders.
  • In another bowl cream together the butter and Sucanat.
  • Next, add in the eggs and the vanilla to the butter mixture.
  • Now slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, add in the dry ingredients. First off by adding in 1 cup of chocolate chips. (You will need a really heavy-duty mixer to handle this dough.)
  • Now dump out the dough and finish off the mixing by kneading the dough with wetted hands until the dough gets glossy. (This is also a good upper body workout!)
  • Next, separate the dough into two pieces and then roll each piece out on parchment into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, 4 to 5 inches wide and as long as you need for length.

Then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

When the 25 minutes are up, remove the cookies from the oven, cut them again, separate each slice and lay them on their sides on two baking sheets.

Then return the cookies to a 275 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour to dry.

 While the cookies are on their final bake, heat the remaining 1 cup of chocolate with the coconut oil in a double-boiler until melted

Once baking is done, spread the melted chocolate onto the tops of the cookies.

Let cool, then eat…if you can wait that long.

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

The special demands that naturally occur during this time of year can make celebrating the holidays with special needs children difficult. From food to family, each event can be a minefield of potential reactions, meltdowns, and misadventures. Or, with the right perspective and a few adjustments, the holidays can be as meaningful as they are meant to be. Hear from our SPED Homeschool Team Members as they share their tips for celebrating the holidays with their special needs children.

 

 

Dawn Spence

Family and holidays can be a complicated adventure. From medical needs and allergy needs, I used to find myself apologizing for needing things a certain way. Fast forward 8 years and I realized that no apologies are needed, and I meet our family’s needs without skipping a beat. I had to allow myself to be okay with the way things were before I could expect anyone else too. I know when my daughter has had too much, and we leave guilt-free. We bring foods that meet our allergy needs and even make extra for everyone else to enjoy. Being with family can be stressful, but at the same time, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the life you have been given.

 

Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.”

 

 

Cammie Arn

The holidays in our home aren’t typical. We don’t have large extended families to travel to or to visit due to either distance or death. Instead, we have created new family traditions such as making a birthday cake (both regular and gluten-free) for Jesus at Christmas or homemade Belgian waffles with homemade fruit syrup.

 

We participate in a “feast of nations” at church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Some dress in modern-day clothing representing their home country and bring a dish to share. Having an international church does help with this for sure. There have been times when this was thanksgiving for us.

 

One really neat idea is to do Christmas around the world in December. You can learn about a different country every day, study how they celebrate Christmas, and possibly try a special Christmas treat from that country. End your study by praying for that country.

 

How do we handle the food for all this fun? We find out what food is being served and modify from there. At potlucks, I always bring food tailored to our family’s needs to eliminate reactions. So far so good.

 

Holiday chaos? Not us. Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.” We watch a movie at home and have pizza. Pretty much no exception. We also have a “no work” rule on Sunday that helps our family decompress and prep for the next week.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

Our family dynamics are a bit different than most, and because I am the oldest of 14 with 10 adopted siblings, we don’t often have to explain anything to our family about how to deal with atypical behaviors of our children. Recently, we spent a few days with extended family at an indoor waterpark resort in the Wisconsin Dells and at one point my youngest sister went missing. Immediately our family flew into action with various members each immediately stepping in to stake out the campus, contact security, and canvas the facility. It didn’t seem out of place at all to switch from “vacation mode” to “search and rescue” mode, and once the call came in that my sister had been found and was being returned to her room by a helpful Good Samaritan, my husband stated nonchalantly to me, “Just another vacation with the Prenosil family.”

 

I don’t share this story to make it seem like this episode wasn’t a critical undertaking for everyone involved, but over the past 30 years, our family has developed a culture of caring for one another where no one asks why we just respond in love and concern. We are all in this together, whether it is caring for our adopted siblings or for each other’s children who also struggle with extreme food allergies and difficult to handle diagnoses. If you are just getting started on this special needs journey I want to encourage you that over time you can develop the support team you need just like our family has, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little your immediate and extended family will learn the most by following your lead, so gently show them the way. Pray for their hearts to be softened towards the circumstances that surround the needs of your child and what you feel convicted to do as their parent and teacher for the best possible outcomes for their future. In turn, they will follow, but do understand it may take many years for them to come around and be the supportive family you desire for them to be for you right now.

 

 

Celebrating the holidays with your special needs children does not have to take the magic out of the season. Careful planning, simple celebrations, and supportive family can make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 


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Steve Demme

 

In December I had the privilege to witness a powerful event, a blessing. A father, who had MS and was unable to stand, blessed his son and bride at their wedding. I was amazed and inspired to hear the scriptural truths pour forth from this elderly saint’s heart and mind as he blessed these two newlyweds. Without a script, that godly affirming father spoke truth over, and into, the lives of this devoted young couple for at least five minutes.

 

I felt as if I was on holy ground as I witnessed this event that had been videotaped fifteen years earlier. I also had trouble processing what I had just witnessed. The words and evident love and affection between father and son impacted me at a deep level. It has now been several weeks since I watched this sacred utterance, and I am still trying to assimilate what I observed.

 

A little background. This grainy family wedding video was being shown to a group of ministry leaders at a conference where we were seeking to find out ways that we could teach and encourage fathers. As one man succinctly stated, all of the current social ills of our society stem from fatherlessness. And yet here we were, observing a sacred example of a godly father affirming and blessing his son and his new daughter-in-law.

 

The father, who was the vehicle for this heavenly benediction, had not been raised in a godly Christian home. Yet, he desperately wanted his children to have every spiritual advantage that he had not received. To that end, he read books on raising godly children including The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

 

“…deep down I crave the affirmation that only a dad can bequeath. In the past few years, the Spirit of God has satisfied this longing by making me know in my heart that I am an adopted son of my Heavenly Father.”

 

When the video concluded, the son, who was the recipient of those inspired words, stood and addressed us with words of comfort and hope. Many of us were wishing we had received a similar blessing from our earthly father and he comforted us by pointing us to the word of God. In Ephesians 1:3 the Spirit informs us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” While we may not have received a blessing from our earthly Dads, in Christ, we have been given, “every spiritual blessing”.

 

Then this man, who I will identify later, imparted a vision and hope for the next generation, as he told us what it was like being the recipient of such an anointed blessing. He said that many children live FOR the blessing of their father, while he lives FROM the blessing of his father.

 

I think about what motivates me and other men. Many of my friends and I are looking for approval and acceptance from our Dad. I could tell you many examples but one sticks out to me. I was watching the US Open, on Father’s Day, with my brother and my dad. Ken Venturi, who had won major championships, bared his soul and told how he longed to have his father say “well-done son.” For him, golf had been the vehicle to earn this praise. But regardless of how well he did, his father never affirmed him, until one day, when the son despaired of life, his dad told him “he had always been number one in his book.” Those simple words changed his life.

 

I am one of many who would dearly love to have a written or verbal blessing from my earthly dad. He did the best he could, with the resources that he had, and I rise up and honor his memory. But deep down I crave the affirmation that only a dad can bequeath. In the past few years, the Spirit of God has satisfied this longing by making me know in my heart that I am an adopted son of my Heavenly Father.

 

Now I am a father, and it is my earnest hope and desire that my sons will experience life not looking FOR my blessing, but living FROM my blessing. You and I are living in troubled times, but also wonderful times. For the Spirit of God is turning the hearts of fathers to their children, children’s hearts to their father, and all of our hearts to our Heavenly Dad.

 

Today, I’m thankful for my earthly dad and eternally grateful for my Heavenly Dad.

 

Author’s note: The man who received the blessing was Stephen Kendrick. He related that his frail father had also pronounced similar blessings at his brother’s weddings. Part of the blessing was that his sons would be fruitful in reaching thousands with the gospel. If the name is not familiar, these Kendrick brothers have produced several inspiring movies pointing thousands of people to Christ, including Fireproof, Courageous, and War Room.

 

We are excited to announce that Steve Demme was recently elected as the 2020 SPED Homeschool board chair. This  article was originally printed on Steve Demme’s website, Building Faith Families, but was reprinted with permission from the author.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Communication is more than just speaking; it is the underlying framework that determines how well we relate with others, the wider community, and the world we live in. It also affects how well we learn. After all, the majority of education involves either written or spoken communication. So when a child struggles with communication skills, learning can become particularly frustrating. However, not every child’s struggle with communication is the same, and thus how we address communication skills in our homeschools is as varied as our children.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Over the years of homeschooling, we have focused on communication skills from many angles to help our children master various aspects of communication.

 

Social Communication
Since our oldest struggled with understanding social cues, we often used role-playing or acting in our homeschooling lessons so he would grasp more than just the facts about what we were studying. It was often crucial for him to see and experience the cause and effect relationships between one person’s actions and the community those actions affected. These activities were essential in helping my son realize the world involved the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others as well as himself. Immersion learning in the homeschooling environment was something we took advantage of to the fullest when it came to teaching social skills and social outcomes.

 

Pronunciation
Our middle child struggled with pronouncing certain letters with accuracy from a very young age. Integrating speech therapy into our homeschooling schedule was important to help him work on these skills with a trained therapist. Over time he overcame his struggle and even went on to compete in speech and debate during his high school years as well as publish a podcast with a friend.

 

Descriptive Communication
Our youngest was speaking in full sentences and conversing with adults before she turned one year old. For this reason, we didn’t suspect she would experience any communication deficits, but as she worked on writing projects or created presentations she started to discover how much she struggled to use words to elaborate her ideas. As an artist, she has incredible visual-spatial skills and can draw just about anything described to her, but in reverse she has a hard time putting together words to describe what she did to create a drawing or to teach someone else how to draw using her techniques. To stretch her in this area, part of her homeschooling curriculum has involved writing creative short stories, teaching art lessons to her peers, and presenting research reports.

 

Little by little you can stretch your child in your homeschool in the area of communication skills; and as you do, your child will gain greater confidence in navigating relationships, learning environments, and opportunities for greater self-discovery.

 

Tracy Glockle

To join us at our dinner table for a meal, you wouldn’t suspect that any of my kids have problems with communication skills. At our house, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. However, for one of my children, in particular, language-based disabilities have made communicating rather difficult.

 

Communicating emotions is particularly challenging for this child and often results in more aggressive behaviors. We spend a lot of time working through those emotions and finding the words to help her express how she is feeling healthily. After she has calmed down, we will revisit the situation and role-play how it could have gone differently, coaching her with words to use to express things. It hasn’t been an overnight success, but through the years we’ve seen her grow in her ability to express things.

 

Academically, the communication challenge has shown up in writing. We have not gone the traditional route of teaching writing at all. For most of her schooling, I have not used a curriculum at all. We’ve merely practiced writing together as part of her other subjects, and for many of those years, I scribed what she orally dictated to me. Eventually, she has taken on more of the writing herself. For this child, nonfiction writing is a much more natural realm for her to learn how to put words and thoughts together because it does not involve the added challenge of creating something original. She can research facts and retell true stories, learning all the same elements of writing and gently scaffolding her communication skills.

 

Dawn Spence

Being a teacher and then a homeschool mom I have experience with all kinds of students. Children communicate in many different ways and learning to listen to how they communicate is key.

 

My eldest son was an early talker and still is very verbal. This helps me when homeschooling him. He would rather talk about what he learned than write it down. That is a great skill to have to summarize his thoughts out loud but becomes a struggle when it comes to writing. Though he is a reluctant writer, allowing him to see that his words have meaning and that writing them down gives them more power gives him the nudge he needs. We do a lot of brainstorms and use graphic organizers to help in his writing.Blocks provide you with everything you need to build a larger page. They contain a variety of content elements, such as images, buttons, headings, and more. These elements are arranged in rows and columns, which provide a useful structure, as well as a sense of balance within the overall composition. You can modify this structure using our intuitive drag and drop interface, which allows you to rearrange content to your heart’s content.

 

My twin girls are very different in their communication as well. My girls as twins have always had a special non-verbal communication between them and still do to this day. My oldest twin has a speech delay which has, of course, affected her communication. Her sister always wants to interpret, but we’ve had to discourage this so she could work on her speech. We used sign language, pictures, games, and therapy to help her communicate. As her communication grew she became less frustrated and began to try more. She is 10 and can verbally communicate her needs and her wants. She continues to grow and excel.

 

My youngest twin is very inquisitive and wants to know about the world around her. She communicates best through her writing and her art. She has dyslexia but is an avid reader which helps her communication immensely.

 

The beauty of addressing communication skills in our homeschools is that we can look at our children as individuals. We can help them to learn through their preferred communication and help them to grow in the areas where they struggle.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Few moments match the exhilaration of your child reading for the first time. When his eyes light up and he sees a word he can read, your whole world lights up with him. On the other hand, seeing a child struggle to the point of tears with letters and words and sentences can be discouraging and heart-breaking. The challenges of teaching reading are many, particularly for families of children with learning differences. How do you meet these challenges and persevere? Our SPEDHomeschool team members tell their stories.

 

Tracy Glockle

My oldest nearly taught himself how to read. He breezed through kindergarten in half the time and devoured books well above his supposed “reading level.” I’ve often been thankful that he was my first child, giving me the confidence that I could teach a child to read and that I could homeschool successfully. I’m thankful because my next two children have had considerably more difficulty learning to read. My daughter’s dyslexia made reading an uphill battle. Slowly we’ve gained momentum, and she now loves to read. But it took her until about the third grade to hit her stride. My youngest is now fighting his way through confusing phonograms that don’t always do what he’s learned they should do, and words that seem to jumble together and dance across the page.

For each child, the resources that helped them to overcome their reading challenges have been different. What worked well for one child didn’t work as well for the next. One child needed a curriculum that focused on sounds and phonemic awareness. Another child needed a more visual curriculum. One child loved fantasy books. Another child thought she hated reading until she discovered Judy Moody and realistic fiction. Each child is different. Rather than feeling as though either myself or my child is failing, I have to look at our toolbox and decide which tools aren’t serving us best at this time and need to be replaced.

In the meantime, we’ve immersed ourselves in stories. We use a literature-rich curriculum with read-alouds and audiobooks. Piles of books are everywhere, and we’ve always got an audiobook blasting in the car. Though it may seem odd to have settled on a literature-rich curriculum with struggling readers, it’s been perfect for us. We love books and stories. Our reading challenges have never gotten in the way of enjoying a good book.

 

“No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child.”

Peggy Ployhar

My kids have been all over the place when it comes to learning to read. One child finally caught on at the age of 11, and by the next year, he was reading at a college comprehension level. Another child of mine struggled through high school and still, as a young adult, finds reading a laborious task. Then there is my youngest, who taught herself to read at age 3. What I have learned through these three unique children, who all learned to read in our homeschool by the very same teacher (me), is that my ability to teach reading has had much less to do with their ability to learn to read than the pace each child just naturally needed to master the necessary steps to become a proficient reader.

It is said that one of the most stressful times for a homeschooling mom is when she is tasked with teaching her child(ren) to read. And now looking back, I recognize how much of my self-worth I allowed to be determined by the pace each of my children took in this process. I can see exactly why it was a stressful time in our homeschooling.

No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child. Yes, there are some tips and tricks that will help your student to conquer some of the hurdles of reading a bit quicker, but on the other hand, you also need to make sure you are not pushing your child so much that they don’t like reading at all once the basics are mastered.

 

Dawn Spence

When I taught in public school, I loved reading because my students came to me already knowing how to read. When I started homeschooling, I realized how complex it is to teach reading. For my oldest, reading came naturally with very little effort. My twins came next, both with learning disabilities, and my challenge began.

Looking back I realized that my one daughter had no developmental delays; she was simply not ready to read. Being ready to read is very important to the process. So I read to her and waited. I waited and waited and decided she was ready when she was loving letters and sounds. But she still struggled. During this time we discovered that she had dyslexia and knowing why she struggled made it easier to research and develop her reading program. I gleaned all I could from others and figured out that she saw the world in pictures. When I taught to her learning style it became easier and she became more confident. She loves reading and I have to make her quit reading and go to bed. She read in her own time and in her own way.

My last daughter is still learning to read. She has multiple learning difficulties. Reading for her has to be hands-on and repetitive. She struggles, but we work through it together. We play reading games, and I read to her. Reading is a gift that I know she will open fully when she is ready.

 

The challenges of teaching reading vary with each child, but persevering through those challenges means that we recognize a few important things.

  • Different tools work for different kids
  • Our identity and self-worth do not depend on our child’s reading skills.

Each child learns at his or her own pace. And when that light bulb moment happens—whenever it happens—all the uphill battles and challenges of teaching reading will be worth it.

 

 

 

 

 


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During the homeschool struggle with special needs, it’s not uncommon to feel like you are treading water or getting nowhere. Standard educational and developmental goals are out of reach and overwhelming, but we all inherently know our kids can and do make progress. Our children can achieve realistic goals. Sometimes it just takes thinking outside of the box. Our SPEDHomeschool team members shared their creative methods for helping their children achieve goals.

 

Dawn Spence:

Goals for our children as they learn is a wonderful way to look at their progress. As I set goals for my children, I first look at their individual talents and their interests. 

My son needs an outside motivator. He needs to see at the end there is going to be something that he works toward. Reading the Narnia books with the goal of getting to watch the movie, for instance, helps him to complete his reading. It can be something simple, but it has to be something that interests him. 

My next daughter, who flourishes in art and has dyslexia, needs a creative way to express herself. Allowing her to use her art to draw out her math problems or illustrate her vocabulary words motivates her to work toward achieving her goals. Combining educational goals with her creativity helps her to be successful and enjoy the learning process even when lessons are tough. 

My last daughter has multiple learning issues, and I find myself creating hands-on activities to meet her goals. I have learned through her that the world is more abstract than I realize. I need to make it more concrete and tangible for her. I find new ways to use play-doh, games, and puzzles. Meeting her where she is and using manipulatives helps her meet her goals. Also, breaking down a goal into smaller goals has helped my daughter.

 

Cammie Arn:

I’ve learned I have to think outside the box.

  • Reading a description at a museum is reading (and history, and sometimes science as well.) 
  • Growing food in a garden teaches not just science but also problem-solving skills. Go a step further and prepare a meal with that food, and you have Home Ec. 
  • If our goal is to read a novel. I let them pick the book. If they are interested in the topic, they are more likely to glean more information. If the skill is reading, then it truly doesn’t matter what they are reading just that they read it. If the skill is to learn the content, we often use audio and videos. 
  • Use a museum as a scavenger hunt and take advantage of the free resources that they provide for teachers. Many military bases have museums for a nominal fee that cover WWI & WWII battles, aircraft, ground vehicles weaponry. I’m seeing museums offer Sensory Friendly rooms or sensory sensitive exhibit times as well. Download our free museum guide and checklist to help your next museum visit go smoothly.
  • Take advantage of the Parks and Wildlife Agency in your area. Many offer free materials to do unit studies on things like plant identification, water conservation, taking care of our environment, and more. 
  • Use your library. Mine has computer classes open to the public and offers gardening classes for all ages.

 

Amy Vickrey:  

My children are younger (7 and 3). My 7-year-old has autism, and my 3-year-old has some developmental delays, too. Some days, trying to get everything done can be a real challenge! One of my big goals this year was to help my children be more independent. To do this, I have had to get a little creative and flexible. I have to discern when to stick with our plan and when to give a little. This “dance” takes time and energy to maintain, but when you see it through, you can accomplish your goals and so much more. Here are some of the ways I help my kids be independent

 

  • Use visuals such as checklists, schedules, reminders to knock, and labeling drawers and bins.
  • Enlist their help and praise what they do right. If something needs to be fixed, it is done with little fuss. The focus stays on the positive (most of the time). 
  • Give some freedom to make decisions. My 7-year-old son can choose where he keeps his markers as long as they are put up. He sorted and organized the cup cabinet himself. This “buy-in” gives him ownership and he’s more likely to maintain the system. 
  • Rewards are great motivation. I always start out with a bigger reward for smaller tasks and then start decreasing the reward and increasing the expectation. By the time it becomes a habit, the reward is intrinsic!
  • Sometimes money talks. When I was having some extremely challenging behaviors like talking back and leaving dirty socks on furniture (yuck!), I created a money system to let him earn money for positive behaviors and lose it (or get charged) for the negative. He figured it out really fast, and the negative behaviors disappeared (or greatly diminished). By the time he made his goal (he wanted to buy a movie), behaviors were manageable without continuing the system. Now all I have to say is, “Do I get a dollar or are you going to _______?” 

 

Peggy Ployhar:  

For each of my children, I have had to be creative in different ways to help each with various goals. Below are some ways I have helped all three of my children over the years work in accomplishing a goal or set of goals we set for them.

For my oldest, his biggest struggle was reading and writing. We took the slow-and-steady approach to help him get better at these skills while at the same time not making learning so difficult that he would shut down on me. I wrote about this process in a previous article called Slow and Steady: The Key to Homeschooling Success which includes a link to my interview with Andrew Pudewa and how I used his curriculum IEW to help my son eventually reach the goal of learning to write. We took one little step at a time and trusted the curriculum would help my son learn all the basics he needed.  

For my middle son, one subject he struggled with consistently was math. Not so much the concrete computations, but the theoretical aspect of the subject. I learned very quickly I had to make sure math was presented to him in a language he would understand, which meant I often had to change the subjects in a word problem from something he didn’t relate to (like a piece of produce) to something he was used to thinking and talking about (like superheroes). As he got older this became more difficult and after doing a year of Geometry using a hands-on approach with the Patty Paper curriculum we moved to less theoretical math and dove into a course on stewardship and then the following year we moved onto  advanced logic in place of upper-level algebra and trigonometry/pre-calculus.

With my youngest, I had a different issue in achieving a goal, and that was teaching her art without actually teaching her. I had been advised by a variety of professional artists that she should take some time to develop her skills using the basics she already knew and therefore create her own style. Therefore, to help my daughter have content to draw and a regular schedule for her to use her artistic skills we used a curriculum that led her through the process of writing a magazine over a year for her language arts credit and then she created the art for her magazine to keep working on her art style. In the end, she finished a well-written and well-illustrated magazine at the end of the year.

 

Tracy Glockle:  

Last summer, I was really struggling with motivating one of my children who struggles with learning anxieties. She quickly gets overwhelmed by anything that takes effort and then shuts down. From there, every subject seems like a fight. I read a book that was extremely helpful: Self-Reg by Dr. Stuart Shanker.

The book helped me to see how allowing my daughter to have more control over her school and schedule (even when she didn’t appear ready for that control) could help with stress. I allowed her to set some learning goals and tell me what she wanted my help with. I set a few guidelines for her to work within and then respected the schedule she created for herself, even when her schedule took longer to accomplish the work than I thought she needed. The results were amazing!

Writing is a specific subject area that creates a great deal of stress for my daughter. So using this idea of letting her have more control over the areas where she is overwhelmed, I allowed her to create display boards of topics that interested her rather than writing papers. The result was that she wrote several strong paragraphs for each display board willingly and with no anxiety. She actually wrote more than I would have required if she’d been assigned to write a paper on the topic!

 

Our kids with wide ranges of academic and developmental abilities have just as wide a range of goals to achieve and unique gifts to share with the world. Sometimes, it just takes a few creative methods to help them achieve those goals and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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