by Melodie Sontag, SPED Homeschool community member

 

My first year of homeschooling was initiated by the public school’s response to COVID. My son was in 3rd grade and, following spring break, we started virtual learning through his elementary school. The assignments sent for the remainder of the year were simple homework suggestions. Grades 1 to 3 received the same assignments. We started supplementing with weekly science and math projects at home. Thinking this would be temporary, we finished 3rd grade this way. 

When we learned that the next fall would be virtual learning again, my husband and I knew something had to change if we wanted our son to get a decent 4th-grade education. Luckily, I have had contact with many homeschool families throughout my life. My youngest sister was homeschooled through middle and high school. My other sister has special needs children that she homeschools. In high school, I babysat for a family that homeschooled five children. My eldest son’s best friend homeschooled from 1st grade through graduation. I was able to ask these friends and family members many questions about the choices they made and get good advice on a variety of homeschool options. Some chose to buy textbooks and create their own syllabus and schedules. Some chose homeschool co-ops or pre-recorded classrooms with independent lessons that offered a classroom feel. Since my husband and I both work, we selected an online program that provided quick pre-recorded lessons and grading alongside independent projects. It turned out to be a great fit for our family. 

We started our days early with breakfast by 7:00 am and sat down for schoolwork by 7:30 or 8:00 am. This gave us almost two hours of school time before I went to work at 10. We tried to tackle the more challenging subjects first. If my son was with me at work, reading and free writing were encouraged. If he went to the grandparents’ or cousins’ houses, the focus was on physical or imaginative play. My husband completed his workday midafternoon and followed up on any uncompleted assignments.  Early on, we decided to limit TV time, gaming, video chats, and biking the neighborhood with friends until his daily work was done.  This was terrific motivation for my son.

We really enjoyed the variety of classes. In addition to core classes, our son had the option to take STEM classes such as engineering and coding, which were of great interest to him and not offered at his public school. He took his laptop with him to our work offices, on vacations and trips, and during time spent at the grandparents. The lessons were thorough and challenging without being frustrating. The projects were fun to do together. He will tell you the best part was that he did not have to sit through hours and hours of school. Overall, we completely enjoyed this opportunity to spend more time with him in a brand-new aspect of his life. Being a part of his educational journey at this level is priceless and we cannot imagine giving it up in the future.

 

 

 

 

 


Are you looking for homeschool curriculum?

Check out these

curriculum options 

 

 

Melissa Schumacher, SPED Homeschool Team Member

 

How long did you consider homeschooling before you actually did it? What events or factors made you finally decide to homeschool? I considered homeschooling for years. But, it took a once-a-century global pandemic for me to finally start. Our journey to homeschool spans nearly ten years, two continents, and three moves.

 

As an active-duty military family, there is always change. I admit I looked to public school to be one of the more stable parts of our lifestyle. Certainly, with federal laws like IDEA, education and special education should serve my kids well. Over the years, I have met many military families who homeschool. When I was still pregnant with my son, I sat with a homeschooling mom who talked with me about how homeschool was a natural fit for her boys who loved to explore nature. Or families who lived overseas and traveled to see history, rather than just reading about it. There was so much appeal.

 

One of my parenting mottos is “Begin well, end well.” We don’t have a lot of control over where we will be stationed, how long we will be away from family. But we can begin well by planning as much as possible and having a good attitude when things are difficult or plans change. 

 

We moved from Ohio to Texas during the days between Christmas and New Year. A mid-year move is always difficult, but the added stress of my husband returning from a deployment, moving during the holidays, and re-establishing medical care and therapies for my son with special needs was another level of challenge. Before our move, I had multiple meetings with both schools to ensure a smooth transition. 

 

But, let’s just say it wasn’t smooth. The following two years were very bumpy. But I held on. If we were to homeschool, I didn’t want to abandon public school or leave over my frustration. I wanted to end well.

 

I also held on because my husband traveled frequently; I worried about how I would get a break during those long stretches of parenting by myself. I held on because I had a father fighting cancer, and I was his primary caregiver. I held on because I wanted both of my sons to have the same opportunities, even though they are very different children.

 

While my children were technically enrolled in our public school, I let go in March 2020. Just two weeks before the pandemic shut down our city and our schools, my father passed away. My husband’s upcoming travels were canceled. In one month, our lives and the entire world changed, and I found us at home homeschooling.

 

While there was no beautiful ending to our public school experience, we had a beautiful, yet unplanned start into homeschooling. We started our days with nature walks and had home-cooked lunches. We sat at the kitchen table together and worked on all our subjects together. We focused on cooking, drawing, and building. I used this time to observe my new ‘students,’ and my kids adjusted to a new ‘teacher.’ This was an enormous shift for each of us. I don’t regret that we waited to start homeschooling. 

 

“…we can begin well by planning as much as possible and having a good attitude when things are difficult or plans change. 

 

We know that homeschooling is a wonderful choice for our family during this season. We also know that seasons change. If you are considering homeschooling or are approaching a new homeschool year, what do you need to begin well? Some moms find a weekend retreat for resting and planning for the upcoming year to be most beneficial. Or maybe finding other homeschool moms in your community to connect with will set you up for success.

 

What will your children need to begin well this school year? Do you have a tradition for the first day of school? Whether your kids have always homeschooled or new to homeschool, how can they contribute ideas to your homeschool plan? In military terms, we do a “hot wash” where my sons can talk about their likes and dislikes and strengths and challenges with our homeschool journey. This helps us make adjustments together. 

 

As we start to think of the end of summer, the beginning of a fall, a new school year, I think of all the big and little transitions in my children’s lives, our home, our community. And I’m thinking of all the mothers like me who may be entering a new season of homeschooling. I’m wishing you a wonderful beginning.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Support the on-going work of

SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

By Melissa Schumacher

 

#10 – DIY Occupational Therapy Tips (http://spedhomeschool.com/diy-occupational-therapy-tips/)

Why it’s worth the read: These five hacks are budget-friendly and can make a huge difference with fine motor skills.

 

#9 – Does Your State Require Homeschool Evaluations?(http://spedhomeschool.com/does-your-state-require-homeschool-evaluations/)

Why it’s worth the read: If you live in a state that requires testing (not all do), this quick reference will help you know what to anticipate if you homeschool or are considering homeschooling.

 

#8 – 20 Holiday Special Education Homeschooling Activities (http://spedhomeschool.com/20-holiday-special-education-homeschooling-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: We love a great list and this list was perfect for 2020’s low-key, closer-to-home Christmas.

 

#7 – Free or Inexpensive Outdoor Learning Activities (https://spedhomeschool.com/free-or-inexpensive-outdoor-learning-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: Bookmark this page for spring! So many ideas for spending time outside. Our favorite was a visit to the Farmer’s Market!

 

#6 – Teaching Life Skills in Your Special Needs Homeschool (https://spedhomeschool.com/teaching-life-skills-in-your-special-needs-homeschool/)

Why it’s worth the read: Talking about life skills is easier than teaching life skills. How and where do you start? This quick read has a few suggestions to get started.

 

#5 – How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives (http://spedhomeschool.com/how-to-write-iep-goals-and-objectives/)

Why it’s worth the read: Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) can be used when homeschooling, too! No more long meetings, intimidating information or unclear goals. This is the second post in a series on creating homeschool IEPs.

 

#4 – 20 Adaptable Thanksgiving Homeschool Activities (https://spedhomeschool.com/20-thanksgiving-special-education-homeschooling-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: This year, more so than other years, it was important to reflect on what we can be truly thankful for. We had fun with #2 and #8 from this list.

 

#3 – 4 Things to Prepare before Writing Your Child’s IEP (http://spedhomeschool.com/4-things-to-prepare-before-writing-your-childs-iep/)

Why it’s worth the read: The first part of starting the IEP process is getting organized. This article is the first in a series on creating homeschool IEPs. Don’t miss our new series on IEPs coming soon in 2021!

 

#2 – Fun and Motivational Homeschool Learning Ideas (http://spedhomeschool.com/fun-motivational-homeschool-learning-ideas/)

Why it’s worth the read: Both new and experienced families can struggle with keeping students motivated. These ideas are easy-to-implement for all homeschool families.

 

#1 – 30+ Free or Online Assessment Tools for Your Struggling Learner (https://spedhomeschool.com/30-free-online-assessment-tools-for-evaluating-your-struggling-learner/)

 Why it’s worth the read: Assessments do not have to be something you dread for your exceptional learner! This HUGE list of assessments was our most popular article this year for a reason. Whether you are looking to start a new curriculum or get a baseline of math or reading skills, there is a resource here for everybody.

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Consider supporting the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

Dawn Spence

For many, this will be your first year of homeschooling and my best advice for you is to take self-care breaks this year. Homeschooling is a fabulous journey, but it requires work and dedication. Breaks can take many different shapes and forms, so I want to highlight a few that have been helpful for me in my seven, almost eight, years of homeschooling. Not only will taking breaks help you finish strong, rest is an essential part of staying healthy – physically and mentally.

 

Quiet Time at Home

I am still working on this part. Whether it is taking a hot bath, a Bible study, or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, it is important to feel calm and quiet. Let’s face it, life is crazy and most days we go all day. We are teachers, cooks, nurses, referees, moms, dads, and much more but we need time to just be still. Find your peace and wrap yourself around the bigger picture of why you do this whole crazy life. We are called to serve and love but we need the quiet and break to refocus and ground ourselves so we do not become overwhelmed.

 

Connect with Friends

You are not just a homeschool parent, you are a person who needs their friends. Take time to talk to or meet up with other friends that will encourage you. Find your friends or group that give you words of wisdom and who you can be real with about your struggles and your triumphs. Meet over coffee or chat over zoom, but take the time you will be amazed how much it will rejuvenate you. I truly believe that friendships help us know that those bad days are normal. We all need a cheering section that will speak to our hearts, hold our hand, and pray for us.

 

“…friendships help us know that those bad days are normal..”

 

Retreat Away from Home

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of getting away with an organization called A Mother’s Rest. A special needs mom started this program because she knows what is on our plates. It was an amazing time to get away at a bed and breakfast with no expectations except to relax and sleep. It was nice to be with other moms who understand. They also have retreats for couples or just dads. Their motto is, “You cannot pour from an empty cup,” which is so true. It was nice to step away, be pampered, and truly rest. If you cannot get away for a retreat, find other ways. My husband has surprised me with a night away at a hotel to sleep. Find a way to fill your cup.

 

As you go through this year, take time for yourself so that you can give more to important people in your life. Self-care is never selfish and it allows you to replenish yourself so that you can accomplish your goals.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

SPED Homeschool Team

 

Dawn Spence

My first year of homeschooling, I allowed myself a lot of grace and just had fun. We used unit studies to grow and learn together. Learning both about the subjects we were studying and how homeschooling worked best for each of us. We were all on a new learning curve and needed to have patience with each other. I based success in the daily victories; on how well we were adapting. Now seven years into our homeschool journey, that first year is still my favorite. We all have many fond memories as we launched out on this fresh adventure and laid the groundwork for our version of school in our home.

 

Cammie Arn

My first year of homeschooling was while the army had stationed us in Germany. I was so nervous. I had no clue what I was doing. The concept of reading to my children and having it count as school was more of a foreign concept to me than many of the customs I had adapted to while living in a foreign country. I had much to learn.

Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned that first year, now over 20 years ago. Homeschooling looks nothing like public school. I didn’t need to know everything to teach my children. Instead, I learned alongside them. I discovered that when you are up all night with a baby; it is okay to count a bedtime story to my five-year-old as that day’s reading. We didn’t follow a syllabus, we just learned when we could. It seemed to work well.

Over the years I have learned many more lessons that have also reduced my homeschooling anxiety. One is that it is okay to skip lessons if your children have already mastered the concept.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Homeschooling was something I said I would never do after I attended my first homeschooling conference when my oldest child was still a toddler. A friend from church invited me to this small gathering in 1999, hoping I would catch the vision. Instead, I decided I did not fit that mold and pursued private education for our children. Fast forward to 2003. My oldest child was halfway through his kindergarten year and the principal of his school suggested my husband and I independently pursue testing for this child who was struggling so much in school that a regular part of his day now involved at least one trip to her office. It was after this testing we added an unfamiliar word to our family vocabulary, Autism, which eventually convinced us of the best educational choice for our son, homeschooling. 

Looking back at that pinnacle moment in our lives, now 18 years in the past, I am grateful I could move beyond my idea of who I needed to be or look like to teach my son. My narrow vision of homeschooling in 1999 almost kept our family from the most amazing journey in which I have had the privilege to learn and grow alongside my children and develop deep and lasting relationships with them that probably would not have been possible if I had sent them off to school.

 

Is this possibly your first year homeschooling? We hope our stories have encouraged and inspired you.  Want to hear more stories from our community? Join one of our Support Tribes or hop onto our weekly Special Needs Moms’ Night Out, every Tuesday evening from 9pm to 10pm CST.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today