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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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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Cammie Arn

Looking back I realize that finishing a homeschool day well has changed for me over the years. When my children were little, I felt accomplished if that day I had a plan for dinner, everyone got dressed, and we read at least one book. Now after 20 years of homeschooling, I find my day finishes well when dinner is planned before breakfast, the children have completed their day’s assignments without complaining, I’ve spent my quiet time with God, and my family did something fun together. Below are some of the things I have learned these past 20 years in striving towards my goal to finish each homeschool day well.

 

Simple Planning to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

Planning is essential to finish each homeschool day well, but it doesn’t need to be elaborate or complicated. For instance, I have a small bulletin board in our school area where I post the syllabi’ for the school year. This way everyone knows what needs to be done each week. I also post my menu and chore assignments where everyone can see them. Once these items are posted, “it’s the law”. We also make it a point to focus on school first. After breakfast until lunch school work is the priority . I’ve also trained my children that school and house responsibilities are to be completed before any free time activities are permitted.

 

Bigger Picture Focus to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

Staying on track and being mindful of bigger homeschooling goals can also be simplified. When my oldest began high school I created a 4-year high school scope and sequence. Since then, each summer and Christmas break I re-evaluate this plan to ensure my children are making adequate progress or if  extra time or help is needed to reach a goal. Another planning element added to our at-home study lesson plans are yearly classes our children take at a local co-op. Each summer I incorporate each co-op classes syllabi into my children’s yearly goals. 

 

One additional tip I have learned for tracking textbook lessons is to copy the table of contents from the book and assign specific due dates for each chapter. Then I laminate the table of contents page and use it as a bookmark for the textbook. This way my children know throughout the year what date a specific reading assignment is due.

 

In the end, material things don’t matter but people do. Making sure I spend time with the people I love is the best way to finish each homeschool day well.”

 

Crushing Difficult Tasks to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

In order to not procrastinate on difficult tasks, I try to do the most unpleasant things in my day first thing in the morning. This way these items are done and I have the freedom of mind to move on to whatever else the day holds. But, on the days when I just can’t get to these more difficult tasks, I assign them to someone else.  Just kidding. They wait until the next day or time they can be dealt with, unless I can find someone who is able or willing to help.

 

Looking Back and Ahead to Finish Each Homeschool Day Well

When I look back I realize what matters most are the people in my life and the relationships we share. The question I ask myself at the end of each day is, “Have I met every need I could as best I could today?”  Looking back to what matters most today and into the future to what will matter most in the years to come provides the best framework for where it matters most to spend time each and every day. In the end, material things don’t matter but people do. Making sure I spend time with the people I love is the best way to finish each homeschool day well.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Listening Time

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

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

 

Play Time

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

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

 

Reading Time

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

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

 

Shared-Activity Time

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

 

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

 

Travel Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

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

 

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

 

Start With These Two Things

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

 

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

 

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

 

Then, Transform What is Left

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

 

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

 

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

 

This is How

Exercise:

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

 

Books:

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

 

Hobbies:

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

 

Diet:

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

 

Pampering:

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

 

Spiritual Development:

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

 

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

 

Mom Care Goal Checks and Balances

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

 

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

 

 

 


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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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By Peggy Ployhar

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

1 – Create a General Plan
Make a learning plan not constrained by dates. Instead, focus on learning goals and steps that progress towards those goals. Many parents find it helpful to write a homeschool IEP for their student with regular assessment intervals – monthly or quarterly is best for measuring notable progress. We have everything you need for free on our site to write you own IEP, just go to this link.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Am I the Best Teacher for My Child? This is a question that I still ask myself all the time. I know it is driven by two things guilt and fear. Guilt that I am not doing things perfectly and the fear that I never will.

 

Well I am right I am not doing it perfectly and I never will, but that is okay. I am learning that my kids don’t need a perfect mom or teacher. Instead, what they need is for me to keep going and never give up on them or myself.

 

Homeschooling is a journey of trial and error and finding out what works. Sometimes it is trying 5 different math curriculums before you find the one that is the right fit. Just because you make the effort to try each of those options and don’t give up is is what makes you the right person to homeschool your child. You kept looking and searching. No one loves your child like you and wants him or her to succeed like you do. You make it your mission to wake up every morning and help your child to do better to learn something new.

 

Teaching special needs children can be tiring when your child is not catching onto a concept you have been teaching for weeks. But you have the gift of not moving on because you are homeschooling and can set the pace based on the needs of your child. I would think I was failing my child because she was not learning to read or learning a new math concept, but I realized in the midst of that struggle that I am the best teacher for my child because I push her on and we work through it together.

 

My daughter has a learning disability and remembering things for her can be a struggle. We keep trying and working through lessons until she gets them. My heart takes it personally when she is not learning and the fear comes when I start to think I am not teaching her what she needs.

 

Momma guilt is real. Anyone can teach your child, but it’s your heart’s pursuit to teach beyond the struggles which will make your child soar. Just the other day, my daughter reminded me of this exact thing. While she was playing, and she looked up at me and said, “Momma thank you for believing that I am smart.” I melted. Then, I prayed. “God let me see teaching my children is not about me being perfect, but having a willing and open heart to teach them the best I can each day.”

 

So yes, I am the right teacher for my child and so are you.

 

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By Debbi L. White

I was lying on my bed next to my young daughter trying to get her to go to sleep without awaking her younger sister. My pastor husband was next door at our small church conducting the weekly prayer meeting. I tried to lie still and quiet, but my mind was racing.

 

Our daughter Mindy had recently turned six, and our county school board was asking us to register her for school. I had been teaching her for nearly three years, and we had decided as a family to continue homeschooling. We had joined Home School Legal Defense Association to get legal advice and protection. They had informed us that in Virginia we could provide the county with the information they required or, if we had convictions about enrolling our children in public school, we could file for a religious exemption.

 

 

A Different Path
We were the first family in our county on Virginia’s Eastern Shore to be homeschooling in 1990. If we were to file for a religious exemption, we were not sure how the school board would receive it. Other families across the country were embroiled in legal battles trying to gain their right to teach their children at home. Some had even been prosecuted and jailed due to “truancy.”

 

I had my Bachelor’s degree. We could easily accommodate the county’s requirements. Compliance would almost guarantee their acceptance of our choice. But was that the way we were to go? What if we filed for religious exemption and became involved in a court battle? Would that hurt our ministry? I wrestled with these thoughts and more as I pleaded with God for direction.

 

 

A Lot of Unknowns
Then it became clear. Surely they would approve of ME teaching because I had a degree. But what if the Joneses or the Smiths down the road decided to homeschool, and they didn’t have degrees? Was it right for me to be able to teach my children and not them? No! The Bible instructs parents to train their children. Children are the responsibility of the parents. If the parents choose to delegate some of the training, they are still responsible for oversight. It is not the government’s responsibility to train anyone’s children! Parents can allow their children to be trained in government schools, but it is not for the government to demand that, nor should the government disallow parents the right to train their children or make the choice where they are to be educated. If I were to supply our county with my credentials and curriculum and comply with their oversight, I felt I would be endorsing their authority to mandate the educational provisions for all students in the county. I could not give them that authority.

 

But what would this decision mean for our family? For our church? I had to have faith that God was in this, that He was in control, but I was fearful.

 

 

A Step Out in Faith
When my husband came home, I shared with him my thoughts and convictions. He agreed to support me, and we contacted HSLDA the next day. They wrote to our school board on our behalf and provided the law in Virginia as well as documented court cases where a religious exemption was upheld. We prayed, and God answered! The county responded by giving us their blessing on our endeavors.

 

We had not been guaranteed positive results. We stepped out in obedience with faith, trusting God with our future. God often asks us to do that as we travel life’s path. He asks it of everyone who follows Him. I love to read “Faith’s Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. (You should reread it!) What a testimony all of these had!

 

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (verse 13)

 

 

A Perfect Promise
We can look back and see the results of their obedience. When they stepped out in faith, however, they did not know what would happen.

 

We cannot see around the next corner, only God can. That is why it is essential to walk closely with Him and to walk in the light that He gives. He has a purpose for all that He calls us to do. He promises to make a way (He doesn’t promise a way without struggles and challenges, though!); He promises to provide, and He promises to use us as we keep yielded to Him.

 

 

A Future Unknown
If we could see the future and know the consequences of all that God asks us to do, we would not need faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

And

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)



A Devastating Blow

Skip ahead two years. My husband made the decision to leave the church and his family. Overnight I found myself single, homeless and unemployed. My Heavenly Father, the God of miracles, provided a home and full-time employment within the following four days. I began working in a warehouse owned and operated by another home-schooling family. My children were able to be with me, but at the end of the summer, I once again was faced with decisions regarding their education.

 

They had had much turmoil and upheaval. They needed some consistency and security, but most importantly, my role and calling had not changed. To many, it did not seem like a wise decision for me to quit my full-time job to return to home-schooling, but I felt that was God’s will, and I needed to obey. Yes, it was scary. Not only was I facing a court challenge from my husband, but I was now also responsible for supporting my children.

 


A Sure Foundation to Lean On
I have heard that there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible. I have not counted them, but I know that God continuously urged me to trust Him. Some of my favorite verses that He gave me at that time were

For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5) 

And

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54:13)

 

It wasn’t always easy. I took jobs that I could do at home or that I could take the girls with me, but their schooling remained a priority. I did sewing and cleaning and worked for another family part-time. I bartered cooking for car repairs. God provided. The girls made it through successfully and are now college graduates! Praise Father!


A New Chapter
A lot has happened since they graduated, but now, 13 years later, I find myself once again unemployed. I have applied for about 70 jobs over the past four months. No doors have opened, and my savings has dwindled. I have sought God daily for His guidance and wisdom. I have longed to have the security of a paycheck and health insurance once again! Door after door has remained shut as I have knocked, and knocked, and knocked some more.

 

About three weeks ago, a door finally opened. And then another. A little light came through, and then more. Possibly, just possibly, I could do something that I really love and on my own schedule. Hmmm. But there were naysayers. “You don’t want to do that! Your income is not guaranteed, and it’s a lot of work!” “It is unlikely that you will be able to find enough business to support yourself by doing this full-time.”


A Prayer & An Answer
I continued to pray for guidance and clarity, and God has answered. Every step I have made towards establishing a ministry/business for homeschoolers has led to another step, another open door. I have kept walking as He has guided.

The morning I applied for a business license, a mother saw my resume posted on a search engine and cried. She called that evening and told me that she needed a tutor for her son, that she had been praying for the right person, and she felt I was God’s answer. To me, that was another affirmation that God is in this!


A New Ministry Born
HUGS-Homeschooling Unique and Gifted Students was born. I home-schooled my daughters over 18 years. I have 18 years experience in the classroom, and I have my MA in Teaching Special Education. I believe God has been preparing me for this all my life. I am stepping out in faith.

 

No, it’s not a guaranteed income. No, I do not have health insurance. I am single and I have a mortgage, car payment and student loan (from my graduate studies). I cannot see what the future holds, but God does, and He promises to provide as I obey.


A Continually Deepening Faith
God my Father has been showing me that if everything were under our control, we would not need faith. Trusting Him in faith deepens our dependence on Him and strengthens our relationship. So, although stepping out into the unknown can be quite scary, it is a good thing! Nothing in this world can surpass deepening our intimacy with our Creator and Savior!

 

When you are asked to step out in faith and you are scared, thank God for the privilege that will draw you closer to Him.

 

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By Peggy Ployhar

Do you ever wonder if you will ever accomplish your life’s purpose? Does it feel at times like homeschooling stands in the way between where you are now and the dreams that God has laid on your heart?

Encouragement From Experience
A while back I interviewed Melanie Wilson, an author, speaker and homeschool mom of 6 and talked about How to Not Lose Your Identity as a Homeschool Mom” During our discussion, we touched on how God tends to use the crazy things He takes us through to actually lead us towards our purpose, not away, even when we don’t understand how all of it will come together in realizing the dreams He has given us.

Here is that segment of the interview:

 

Encouragement From the Word of God
During this segment, I also touched on the fact that I had recently shared a devotional with the SPED Homeschool team and board along these same lines. So, to further encourage you in this area, here is the devotional I was talking about:

 

How Do I Live Out My Calling?


I think many Christian books inaccurately elevate what God’s purpose for our life should look like, twisting God’s purposes into worldly standards of a lifestyle with a purpose.

This past week while I was reading through Jeremiah 1, I was reminded that God’s call is very different than a vocational call or a means of employment. Look at what God tells Jeremiah about how He has called him:

“I knew you before you were born” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“I consecrated your purpose before you were born” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“I have appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“I send you” (Jeremiah 1:7)
“I command you” (Jeremiah 1:7)
“I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8)
“I have appointed you [at this specific time for this specific purpose]” (Jeremiah 1:10)

Just like Jeremiah, before you were born God knew you, He had plans for your life, and He appointed you to have a purpose in His kingdom. That purpose was not a single thing, but rather an appointment your entire life will eventually reveal when your days are finished. It is not something you can put in a box and show off to others, rather it is a humble walk of obedience.

Since we can’t see the big picture of what our life is going ultimately accomplish like God can, we can only guess at what our life’s ultimate purpose is. Spending too much time focused on what our purpose is takes away from our current appointment, and EVERY appointment is a critical part of the bigger picture…EVERY walking, trusting, and obedient step.

The reality is God sends us and commands us (Jeremiah 1:7) and no matter what we face while being obedient in our following, He will also deliver us (Jeremiah 1:8)…and it is in living in that obedient trust wherever life takes us day by day, or even moment by moment, we are living out our purpose.

Encouragement From Prayerful Consideration
As I prayed over these verses, here is what I ended up writing in my notes the morning God put these scripture verses in front of me to study:

Your life is NOT your own, it never has been. Fear is not an option if you are wanting to live out your purpose…you MUST trust and obey ALL the time.

The choice before each of us is this: You can spend the rest of your days living in God’s victory being what you were made to be by living for Him, trusting Him and following Him as an anointed tool in His kingdom. Or, you can walk away from that anointing and never accomplish what your life was designed for. If you choose this second path you will always live in conflict knowing you are not fulfilling God’s desired anointing. You will never truly experience rest, and peace will always be fleeting.

Encouragement From Looking at Life from the God’s Perspective
The night after I had written these things down in my journal, I was at the grocery store and the cashier for the line I was in was having a conversation with the woman ahead of me about living the perfect life on a tropical beach. He decided to continue the conversation with me, which unfortunately for him didn’t get the same response as it did with his previous customer. Instead, I asked him if he would really be happy doing nothing for the rest of his life. I know it wasn’t nice to rain on his parade, but in the end, he did confess that it would sure be an empty life if he didn’t do something with purpose.

God’s purposes are all around you today. Look for them, ask Him to reveal them to you so you don’t miss a single one. It is living out these daily purposes that you will accomplish the ultimate purpose God designed you for…and it will be way more powerful of a testimony than just doing a few “great things” in the public eye before your numbered days have been lived out here on earth.

Encouragement From Others
I hope this devotional has encouraged you to keep up a faithful walk before God. Homeschooling is NOT an easy calling, especially if you are homeschooling a child with special educational needs. But, you can always trust that if God has called you to homeschool He did not make a mistake or give you dreams He can’t work out amidst you teaching your child.

If you want to be further encouraged in this area, make sure to watch the full interview with Melanie Wilson. And, I recommend becoming part of our SPED Homeschool Support Group to receive daily encouragement in your special education homeschool calling.

 


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