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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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SPED Homeschool Team

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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By Peggy Ployhar

 

Are you looking for quick instructional videos that will show you some of the best tips and techniques homeschooling speakers, consultants, therapists, and curriculum providers share for helping struggling learners achieve various goals? Look no further than the SPED Homeschool YouTube Channel. Below is just a sampling of some of the videos you will find on our channel to help you prepare for helping your child reach various goals.

 

Social Skills

Scaffolding for Playdate Learning Success

 

Behavior Intervention

Teaching Behavior Modeling Through Audiobooks

 

Self-Esteem

Helping Your Highly Sensitive Teen Develop Self-Esteem

 

Large Family Group/Combined Learning Different Levels

A Large Homeschool Family That Plays Together, Learns Together

 

Reaching Enough High School Credits

Combining Credits for Homeschool High School Transcripts

 

Spelling

Making Spelling Tactile

 

Writing

Spotting Writing Blockages and Making Modifications for Your Student

Breaking Down Writing into Bite-Sized Tasks

 

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension Strategies

 

 

Need more help?  Search the SPED Homeschool video library, or check out one of  our playlists.

 

Also, make sure to  subscribe to our channel so you are the first to know when our newest video has published.  And, make sure to check out our broadcast schedule for a listing of all of our upcoming live interviews which allow you to interact with our special guest.

 

I leave you with one final video that provides a bit of encouragement when you start looking at your child’s pace and wonder if you are doing enough, you question your child’s ability, or you are falling into the comparison trap we all too easily fall prey to.  

Why Parents Should Forget About Developmental Timelines

 

Be encouraged. You got this…and we are here to help you stay strong through your homeschooling journey!

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team  

Just as in life, special education homeschooling comes with its own set of highs and lows, peaks and valleys. These may look different for each of us, but the journey teaches us important lessons with each new challenge. In this post, our SPEDHomeschool Team Members share the peaks and valleys they have faced in their journey of homeschooling special needs and what they have learned from those hard moments.

 

Amy Vickrey

This year has been a big valley in our lives in general. However, life affects how our children learn. One year ago, I became a single mom. The details aren’t important. What is important is that my kids looked to me this year to see how I would react, to learn real-life lessons in love, faith, and trust. I have worked every day to show love, thankfulness, and strength. I want my boys to grow up to know that women should be strong, a part of a team, and you should stand up for what is right. These life lessons have been ever-present this past year. Many people encouraged me to put my boys back in school, but I saw the need they had to be close and seek comfort and shelter when things were tough. This year, homeschooling has been our peace, our solace when things were tough and we needed something “normal.” It has allowed us to escape into field trips and fun activities when needed, and discover a bond between my boys, my parents, and I that would not be there without the time and love we have shared. I built a team of family members, therapists and doctors to help us navigate this difficult year, work through regressions that occurred, and continue to moving forward.

 

During all of the turmoil of our daily life, my oldest son also struggled with vision issues. Diagnosed with amblyopia last year, he began with 20/250 vision in his left eye – the legal limit for “blindness” being 20/200. He made quick progress with glasses, but could not tolerate the patches due to sensory issues. So we dilated his good eye. Which means he could see even less. Through it all, he showed amazing strength and determination. He continued to progress in reading and math. While his handwriting has suffered some, we are now getting back on track with the help of an amazing team of Occupational Therapists.

 

The bottom line is, I know this is just one valley. It has been a tough year. And yet, I have seen so much blessing come out of it. My oldest still showed academic growth, my youngest (3-year-old) is now receiving needed services and has potty trained (no more diapers – yeah!). Despite all the hardship, we are a close-knit family and have found a deeper love for each other and for God. Through all the difficult times, I could look back and see the hand of God protecting us and guiding us through. Because of His guidance, I know we can get through anything together. Homeschooling has allowed us the ability to navigate this last year in a way that has blessed us tremendously.

 

“I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength.” Isaiah 12:2.

 

 

Dawn Spence

Homeschooling can be overwhelming especially when you add on atypical learners. My valley—and something that I have had to rise above—is thoughts of inadequacy. I am a very type-A person who expects a lot of myself, which can be good sometimes or self-defeating at other times. I taught public school for 10 years, and in that environment, you are judged on your students’ success. So my worth as a teacher was measured by scores. When I became a homeschool mom, I had to fight against this way of thinking and allow myself the freedom to teach my children without judging myself. It was hard, and I often beat myself up when my kids were not meeting goals. But then I had to realize that my kids’ learning is about mastery and growth; I had to allow myself grace.

 

My peak is watching my children grow at their pace in their way. I love getting to know my children’s strengths and watch them bloom. I love to see them have those moments when the lightbulb comes on because they get a concept or lesson. I love that my kids are not compared to anyone and are taught as individuals. That is what I wanted to do as a teacher, and I’m so blessed that I get to live that out with my best students, my children.

 

 

“It’s when I realized that [my son’s] best was all I could expect, and that was good enough. This is the highest peak! This is where freedom is!”

 

 

Cammie Arn

As a veteran homeschool mom with 20+ years experience and still in the trenches with my youngest who is 4, the one thing that I have learned is to not sweat the small stuff. There is freedom is not comparing our children to others; however, we also need to have the confidence to trust that we ARE doing what is best for our children.

 

My difficult valleys in my homeschool came when I lacked the confidence in my ability to teach. It had nothing to do with curriculum or my child’s performance. It had much more to do with the ugly monster of fear. Could I do more? Is this enough? Should I do this better? It’s a slippery slope of despair. The darkest valley.

 

However, once I realized that my best was all that was needed, that is when freedom came. That’s when I discovered that is was OK that my son only wanted to read the Bible and that he didn’t want to read Shakespeare or do Latin. It’s when I realized that his best was all I could expect, and that was good enough. This is the highest peak! This is where freedom is!

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

Since our homeschooling journey started in such a large valley there was no way except up for us to go from there.

 

Our introduction into homeschooling was anything but easy since it started with an autism diagnosis, my son’s private school not having any options available that were workable for him, our public school wanting to only focus on his behavioral and reading issues instead of his depression, social anxiety and academic giftedness in math and science, and my own personal depression and anger issues. We were nowhere close to being a family chosen as most-likely to homeschool, especially successfully. But it was the only choice we had, and so we followed the peace God gave us above the nay-sayers of the world and dove headfirst into the adventure.

 

Now 17 years later, I know without a doubt that the valley God took our family into, to twist our arm to start homeschooling, was the turning point that has led us to the many peaks of success we have seen over the years with our children. I could go on and on about the peaks in my children’s homeschool careers as well as the peaks I too have experienced as I have allowed God to change me as their mother and teacher, but there is one peak that rises above the rest. Just last month I wrote an article called The Greater Benefit of Homeschooling, where I highlight this greatest peak we reach in our homeschooling. And, it is a peak we all can reach no matter what academic potential our children have. It is scaled not by the places we take our children, the lessons they learn from us, or even the skills they develop. Instead, the pinnacle success of homeschooling is the strong bond we have the opportunity to develop with our children.

 

I am truly blessed to have such amazing relationships with my children and each day as we converse and continue to walk the road of life together, we just keep scaling higher and higher on this great mountain that allows me to keep speaking truth, wisdom, and love into the places in my children’s lives that need to be spoken into. Meanwhile, the lies of the world have less impact as they shout out from the distant valleys down below.

 

 

Rewards of the Journey

Creating a place of support, giving ourselves room to grow, strengthening bonds with our children—the lessons we learn in our valleys are what propel us to our peaks. The special education homeschooling journey is not without its challenges, but the rewards are well worth it!

 

 


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Guest Blogger Heidi Starr, The This is Home Blog

None of us expected the “special needs parent” life to be our normal. For me, I always wanted to be a mother. I knew I wanted to be at home with my children at least until they were school age. Then I pictured myself being the active classroom mom at their school. Homeschooling was definitely not on the radar of my super-extroverted self.

 

Our Story

My oldest was first diagnosed with autism at the age of two. We are a military family and were stationed in Japan at the time. It is ironic because, the day after the diagnosis, we had actually had a tour scheduled for a great Montessori preschool. We canceled the tour, and the diagnosis led to a change of location for our family. The military moved us back to the states, where my son was to get extensive hours of therapy and to be put into a special education preschool classroom.

We went for his evaluation at the local school, which was quick 15 minutes they took him into the library with the preschool class. Weeks later, I received the paperwork, and I thought it was left blank for me to fill out. I called the school and asked if I was to fill this out before the IEP meeting. I remember the secretary’s words clearly, “ma’am no we filled it out, and your son doesn’t have autism. He doesn’t need to be here.”

I responded with several things on the list that my son was clearly struggling with (but they didn’t see it in the 15-minute library session), and I asked why they put “no diagnosis-mother suspected.” This made me very uncomfortable, because I submitted not one but three doctors’ diagnosis paperwork, along with the extensive list of therapy notes from multiple therapists.

We were left in complete confusion as to what we should do next. Do we fight the school and have them take him? Did he really have a misdiagnosis? Or do we look into private schools?

 

Another Diagnosis

We requested a second IEP meeting and observation because we had received yet another huge diagnosis since the last meeting. My now three-year-old and five-month-old boys had both been diagnosed with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy.

But again, the school didn’t believe any of this meant he should go into special education preschool and suggested that if he could not walk, then they could easily just pull him in a wagon. That was the final straw for my husband and me.

Our doctors and developmental pediatricians were shocked by the school’s response to our situation. One doctor immediately told us to get a lawyer and fight it. But my husband and I both made the decision that even though we did believe the school was in the complete wrong with their findings and decision, this was the clear direction to homeschool.

 

Deciding to Homeschool Special Needs

During the time of our decision, we looked at private schools and other public school options. But in the end, I decided I did not want to describe his behaviors and special needs to each person my son worked with. It was exhausting. Also, when and how would he do the multiple therapies he needed and attend school? For a three-year-old, that is exhausting, and a recipe for daily sensory meltdowns.

All of his therapists always praised our family for taking the therapies and making them routine in our home. We worked diligently to implement each program and activity at home, not just during the therapy session. This gave me the confidence that I could in fact homeschool my special needs child.

 

Researching Special Needs Homeschool Curriculum

I began researching many homeschool curriculum options and activities for preschoolers and for special needs children. I have blended many of the therapies we have done to make activities educational and fun for him. We do several ABA techniques and OT and PT activities with our work. All of this helps so we aren’t exhausting him with just academics and then expecting him to do 2 hours of therapies on top of “school.”Throughout my research of the many different ways to homeschool, I have learned so many people do things differently.

 

My favorite thing about homeschooling is that I GET to cater to my son’s interests and see first hand his love for learning..”

 

Scheduling Our Special Needs Homeschool

The scheduling flexibility is probably the most obvious reason we homeschool. 

  • My son is able to do therapies in a clinic during the daytime, and we don’t have to fight extensive waitlists for “after school hours.” 
  • We can take a vacation whenever we like, which helps with crowds of large sought after places because most children are in school. This is a huge win for my sensory child. We live in Washington, DC and able to visit the museums and other attractions without crowds whenever we like. 
  • I never have to worry about a doctors note or too many absences beyond our control.  
  • We are able to go with and explore other areas without the restrictive schedule of school, which is a super fun added bonus Especially since my husband is active duty, and travels for work occasionally.

 

Individualizing Our Special Needs Homeschool

My favorite thing about homeschooling is that I GET to cater to my son’s interests and see first hand his love for learning. One of the things the school told us is that none of his diagnosis’s affect him academically. Well, I believe there is more to academic than just making “grade level.”

My son is extremely intelligent, which also might be some of the autistic behaviors we see. He is a walking encyclopedia at the age of five, and always asking questions of how things work and what things are. It’s amazing but has also been a great way for us to homeschool.

I am not limited to only grade level academics. Anything he is interested in we explore and learn at the level he can do, and then we challenge him to learn more.

 

Socialization for Our Special Needs Homeschool

With a special needs diagnosis, everyone is looking at you to answer this question: “What do you do about socialization?”. Many believe you have to send a child to a classroom for the only chance of socialization. But most homeschoolers have proven that to be very wrong.

I only have two children, both boys, so I hear it often that I better make sure they’re getting plenty of socialization. Yes, I can say that my children play team sports, go to Sunday school at church, playgroups, and are outside every evening with the neighborhood kids. But that’s not what socialization is all about either. It’s not just being around peers.

For my special needs children, it’s about being in everyday places and being able to self-regulate to the area. Being able to use their manners and know what people outside a school do all day. Those everyday places include the grocery store, post office, hospitals, and doctors offices. My homeschool children get to see museums with a docent who is able to give them one on one attention and explain things to them. I want my children to be able to communicate with all generations of society, not just peer aged groups.

 

Finding Community While Homeschooling Special Needs

Remember how I described myself as super extroverted? Well, this was a huge fear of mine when we decided to homeschool. I did not want to be alone at this. We chose to join a co-op and a community of other homeschool families.

We meet once a week, and our children of all ages are learning the same curricula, and we are there as a community for each other. This is a beautiful arrangement for my family. Not only does it fill my heart to be in community with these families, but they’re there for my children as well, knowing each child is different and caring for their needs as well. My son has the confidence to present in front of the community and has friends that see him no different than others. I have even used the community and co-op as an outlet for me to be that “classroom mom,” except now I’m also the teacher!

 

Celebrating

To be able to teach our boys and be with them as they learn new things has been the biggest blessing of all for our family. Being a special needs parent has many hard and dark times, but when we see our child accomplish something, make a milestone, or learn something new, we celebrate in such a big way! There is no way I would ever want to miss these big celebrations with my children!

 

 


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Guest Blogger – Neches Phelps

 

What was supposed to be a mid-semester break from our year-round charter school turned into a homeschool trial.  We were faced with a choice: file a Level 1 complaint and fight for accommodations that my child wouldn’t see for 6 months to a year, or homeschool.  I don’t remember much from those first three weeks. My husband and I did some google searches, downloaded some curricula samples that we thought might be a good fit, and then I started working with what we had and accumulating what we didn’t.  

 

I’d really like to say that as a former educator and administrator that everything went according to the schedule that I had planned, but that simply wasn’t the case. Some things seemed way too easy; others way too hard. And sometimes it was both within the same curriculum!  When I asked an experienced SPED homeschooling mom for advice, she simply responded by telling me to follow my child’s lead. I wasn’t quite sure what “following my child’s lead” would mean. Where would his love for numbers and rock music take me? I didn’t have to wait long.

 

While jumping on the couch one evening, he said, “Mom, what’s your favorite Queen song?”

“I don’t know.  ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” I shrugged. 

He said, “’Bohemian Rhapsody’ is from the album A Night at the Opera and was released in 1975.”

 

I wasn’t quite sure what “following my child’s lead” would mean. Where would his love for numbers and rock music take me? I didn’t have to wait long.

 

I realized that he had been studying the Greatest Hits Queen CD sleeve while we had been listening to it in the car.  Sure enough, he knew them all! On Thanksgiving day, he told us that this was the exact date that Freddy Mercury died.  His love for rock music had met his obsession with numbers. This was too easy, I remember thinking to myself. “When is Freddy Mercury’s birthday?” I asked. He had to find out. 

 

Conversational skills were born when he started to ask people when their birthdays were, how old they were when Freddy Mercury died, etc. He must have seen a picture of Freddy Mercury driving a car because he started to ask people how old they were when they first drove a car. That led to some very interesting conversations as he discovered that some people started driving a tractor first or that they were quite young when they first got behind the wheel.

 

We did what I call “Freddy Mercury Math,” read Queen lyrics, and studied our family trees. Did you know that Roger Taylor (Queen’s drummer) has a son named Tiger Taylor who plays drums in The Darkness? (Neither did I.) And we talked about death.

 

The traditional educator in me still isn’t entirely convinced by the idea of unschooling.  But the mom in me says that we are going to be celebrating the Queen band members birthdays and writing their biographies this next school year.  I have a calendar filled with important dates that I don’t want to miss, and I’ve researched some reading and math curricula to help fill in some gaps.  It turns out that following my child’s lead isn’t going to be so difficult after all!

 

 


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Guest Blogger – Charl Rae Cobb

 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

The term “special needs” is a term that covers a broad spectrum of medical, developmental, congenital, and psychiatric challenges that other people might not face (or yet have identified). I’m not sure any parents ever anticipate it. We certainly did not. Yet, from my son’s birth, it became obvious that he would have significant allergies to deal with his entire life. Fortunately, he was born into a family that has multiple generations of allergic and asthmatic individuals to empower him with education, information, and support. And fortunately, homeschooling has allowed us to meet our child’s many special needs in a way that nothing else has.

 

Identifying our child’s special needs

We were so excited to be pregnant! We did all the “right things” to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.  I planned to breastfeed to reduce the risk of our baby developing allergies and asthma (prevalent in my family medical history). However, our precious son was born allergic to all milk proteins (even mine) and reacted to all the formulas the doctors recommended.

How ironic that I, who can’t tolerate any alcohol so I never consume mixed drinks, would be concocting cocktails (“shaken, not stirred”) containing H1 and H2 antihistamines and decongestant prescribed by the doctors in hopes our infant could absorb enough of the latest formula to maintain enough weight to stay above the “failure to thrive” designation at each check-up. He also had breathing treatments prescribed around the clock and as needed between the regularly scheduled treatments. To see him now, well developed and healthy, you would never know the battles we fought to gain each ounce for 6 years and the battle to breathe normally without needing rescue inhalers for each physical activity.

His first pediatrician told me she suspected he was having headaches. Since headaches, eczema, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, and a host of other symptoms he was experiencing are well documented to correspond with allergies, I hoped they would be eliminated as we identified and addressed the specific allergens he reacted to. What we did not know is that the headaches would continue and eventually worsen leading to a diagnosis of abdominal migraines.

 

Homeschooling has created a better learning environment for our child.

 

Meeting our child’s special needs by homeschooling

Due to our circumstances, I carried medical insurance through my work. Thus, while I worked, our child was at a highly recommended daycare or preschool during his early years as well as spending lots of time with my parents (who are very well versed in raising an allergic and asthmatic child). I was able to change departments at work so that I could take our child to all the doctor appointments (many were out-of-town) and be available when the daycare or preschool called for me to pick up my sick child or give another breathing treatment. We also wound up changing daycares and preschools due to bullying incidents. Verbal and physical bullying, the refusal of the school administration to establish/accept a 504 or IEP plan, and being told by the teacher and administrator that he needed to “just sit still while the rest of the class catches up to him” would eventually lead to us withdrawing our child from first grade and officially privately educating at home.

 Along the way, different teachers and administrators made unsolicited comments about our son’s various behavior traits which prompted me to take him to a development pediatrician. She ruled out any diagnosis of autism but stated he was “normal” if a bit anxious (which I relate to the multiple bullying incidents) and possibly gifted (but not tested at that time) and suggested homeschooling him.

 

Meeting our child’s special needs by homeschooling

  • Homeschooling has allowed us to better control his environmental allergens and exposures, improving our son’s physical coordination (including eye tracking), attentiveness or focus, and occasional hyperactivity. 
  • Homeschooling has allowed us to identify additional special needs. We have identified symptoms of dysgraphia and have taken steps to help him cope with that. (I found the  dianecraft.org website to be helpful in understanding dysgraphia and some strategies for addressing it.) 
  •  Homeschooling has allowed us to find support from other parents. Our local homeschool support group was invaluable in providing insight from experienced veterans who informed us of resources like the various co-ops, curriculum, and clubs in our area. “The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobais was another resource that helped me structure our homeschool program.
  • Homeschooling has created a better learning environment for our child. We are able to answer questions when they arise (rather than having to wait to get home because the teacher would not answer them or steer him to a resource). We can  share successes and frustrations in learning new ideas, understand how various mathematical concepts apply to real life situations, take field trips and create projects to reinforce history or science, and master content before moving to the next level (vs moving on because administration dictates). The flexibility of homeschooling our special needs child at home has also eliminated the stigma and penalties our child was stressing over when his multiple doctor appointments were criticized by teachers and administration of traditional school and documented on his report cards. 
  • Homeschooling also provides more opportunities to grow together as a multi-generational family unit. 

 

As parents of a child with multiple allergies and asthma, we had to move from denial to acceptance with lightning speed because the very life of our child depended on it. Did we ever “go back” and experience the other stages of grief—denial, anger, sadness, guilt, etc.? Of course, we are human. As Christians, we also constantly trust our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Lord who created this child to provide the resources to meet his needs and the loving support to meet ours so that he can live the fullest life possible and be the unique individual he is designed to be. We are thankful that homeschooling has allowed us to meet our child’s (indeed, our family’s) physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs in a way that is unparalleled with our previous personal experiences.

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

There is no one right way to keep your children learning during the summer. For this reason, we thought we would give you a glimpse into what the summer looks like in each of our homeschools and how we each uniquely continue homeschool learning in the summer.  Hopefully our examples will help you embrace the specific needs of your family as you develop the best way to keep your children learning and growing.

 

 

Our Unique Homeschool Summer Learning Paths

 

Amy Vickrey

For the summer, we continue on in our schooling.  We take some days and weeks off as we have family events and need some time off.  However, my son does better with some structure and routine, so keeping up our academics helps.  This also keeps him from having any lost skills over long breaks. We tend to focus on the basics—math, reading, and such.  We also enjoy time outdoors and going swimming!

This summer will be a little different as I will also be working.  It will be interesting to see how everything lines up and if our plans change some.  However, I love the idea of continuing year round so that I don’t have to worry about needing to take time off during the school year for any reason.  If that happens, we won’t be behind because we have spent time together learning as a family throughout the year!

 

Peggy Ployhar

Summer learning for our family has always been more of an unschooling approach between lots of planned activities at camps, church, and classes offered locally in our community.  I guess you could say we spent a lot of that time working on social skills as my children dove into delight-directed learning which made them push through the social barriers they often found inhibiting. Additionally, our family is also big into camping so sometimes over half of our summers were spent at one or more campgrounds living in our RV while exploring God’s great creation and the lessons that awaited us outside our door each morning.

For me I needed a large chunk of down-time from teaching just to make it through the rest of the year, so this yearly break was not only good for my children but also for my mental well-being after been closed up in a house in Minnesota most of the 9 months we were homeschooling. Yes, we did end up having to do some catch-up on forgotten skills over those summer months, but on the flip side my children expanded their learning in many areas that they would not have been expanded if we had not made time for them to participate in very different learning environments during the summer.

My children have so many fond memories of our homeschooling summers. As we finish up our homeschooling years with our youngest in high school, we have plans to keep this tradition going.  Our youngest is already signed up for 2 teen art camps, a week long camp with our church, and a week at iGoven run by Generation Joshua this summer. It will be busy, but as always we are all looking forward to the change of scenery and pace in our homeschool learning.

 

It seems that each year our summers have looked a lit bit different, depending on what we’ve needed at the end of that school year.

 

Cammie Arn

We school year round but our activities change. For example during the typical school year we are involved in a homeschool co-op, a Speech and Debate club and homeschool handbell and vocal choir. We utilize our co-op for history, science and various electives. At home we add in math, Bible and lots of life learning. All in all 4-5 hours per day

We do school in the summer by continuing math, reading, art and a mini-course. Since our co-op ends at the end of April. I do a mini-course for the month of May and 2 weeks into June. This year we are knocking out Government and Personal Finances. This lightens up the pressure of finishing everything during the school year and gives us something to do on the scorching hot Texas summer days.

 

Tracy Glockle

It seems that each year our summers have looked a lit bit different, depending on what we’ve needed at the end of that school year. For many years, we tackled hands-on science, art, music and some of the subjects that didn’t get as much attention during the school year. Other years, we’ve focused on motor skills with lots of physical activity.

One thing I do every time we have an extended break (Christmas or summer) is to have my kids fill out a “bucket list.” These lists include any projects they want to tackle, skills they want to learn (painting, computer coding, bike riding, scooter tricks, etc.), crafts they want to make, and places they want to visit. I limit how many of the activities they can write down that depend on me, and the rest of the ideas are things they can initiate on their own. Our “bucket lists” serve several purposes. First, it’s my reference point for the “I’m bored” complaint. Anytime my kids come to me looking for something to do, I send them back to their bucket list. Also, it gives my kids a chance to work on some executive function skills of self-managing their time and tasks. These bucket lists also give us an idea of our priorities for our break to be a satisfying one: if we can’t get to everything on the list, the kids decide which activities are most important.

 

The freedom that homeschooling offers, allows each of our families the ability to make accommodations which can also be extended into our summer months for what works best for each of our children as well as our families as a whole.  Whatever that looks like, embrace that path and all that awaits you as you take on homeschool learning in the summer with your children.

 

 


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