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 – 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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By the SPED Homeschool Team

 

One of the most important things we can do as homeschooling parents is to instill a love of the Lord and a desire to serve others in our children. Since that can look different for each family, our team members share how they incorporate Gospel-centered parenting  into their homeschool.

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Relationship

 

Cammie Arn:

“For our family it hasn’t been a particular program or study that we have done, rather it’s been living our relationship out in front of our children. Allowing the kids to snuggle up while I finish my morning quiet time has been key for them to see how we prioritize God in our home.

Taking them to Sunday school and church weekly and allowing for questions and conversation. Having them share prayer requests and watching God answer prayers has given our kids a foundation to stand on into adulthood. We read real stories of courageous Christians as examples of people who lived Godly lives. They have seen God provide clothing when we needed something in particular, food when there was none, money when it was needed, vehicles to both our family and individual adult children.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon Ramiro:
“I have a general prayer I say, and I make general comments to God throughout the day, often when I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. My son always comments that he doesn’t see the point of it. He also wonders when I will stop considering any kind of “pseudoscience” (e.g. Feng Shui). I recently bought a vinyl sticker I have in my office area at home that states, “Don’t Stress God’s Got this.” It has been rather recently that I have begun being more open about my beliefs, but I have always lived a life in which I serve others as much as possible. I have always hoped I lead by example and my children know certain behaviors that are expected in my household, as well as in the treatment of others and responsibility to our greater community.”

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Prayer

 

Dawn Spence:

 

“We write out our prayers on a board and talk about how God has answered their prayers. Some of their prayers have been on the board for many years and still they see we are consistent to pray.

What came to my mind is the power of prayer and what my kids have witnessed as they have prayed for others and have seen them be answered. It was hard to see when prayers of healing are not answered the way they wanted. They also saw how when they have a need or have a hurt it is the best way to get their needs meet. I have seen my daughter find people and pray with them. I wish I would have had that opportunity when I was younger.”

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Service

 

Debbi White:

 

“Our homeschooling journey spanned many years, so different methods and techniques were utilized, but the overarching emphasis in our home was ALWAYS the Lord.  (Hind-site has shown me several areas that I was flawed in, but I did the best I knew at the time, as most of us do.)

 

Memorization of scripture and hymns, reading/learning Bible stories, family prayer time, and service in our community were main pillars in our spiritual pursuits.  We invested in quality Bible story books when the girls were young, and read them over and over again in our evening devotions. Christian radio was the main medium in our house, and the girls listened to tapes of Adventures in Odyssey daily.  When they got older, we read Christian biographies and memorized hymns.

 

 

The girls and I enjoyed baking, and often we would take muffins, cookies or cake to the sick or elderly.

 

 

One Christmas we bought several gifts from the dollar store, wrapped each one (I think we somehow segregated male/female and child/adult gifts.)  We piled them in a wagon and took them to the hospital. It was so touching for me to see my young daughters pass out gifts to the patients. We also often visited the local nursing home, and we entertained in our home weekly.  We enjoyed having a couple over for board games, families over for meals, and large groups (church, neighbors, home-school friends) over for Open Houses. We also entertained missionaries frequently.”

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Bible Study

 

Mary Winfield:

 

“For our spiritual learning we do a lot. We go to church and Sunday School each week and our church has a  curriculum that encourages families to learn at home when not at church. The manual has the topics that will be taught on Sunday (and ideas on how to study at home), so you can instill the gospel in their hearts with continuity. We also have a nightly scripture study and prayer as a family. Overall I think that my kids are not going to remember all the specifics of the lessons and prayers we had, but they will remember that we were always striving to be closer to God and to have a Christ-centered home.”


Amy Vickrey:

 

“In the past, we have done daily Bible Studies, and I hope to make this a priority again as we settle into a new schedule this new year.  We enjoyed learning about the Names of God, and the different ways we see him based on those names. My son has learned to pray from going through that study, and can say the most heart-warming, sincere prayers that I feel are years beyond where most people would see his understanding.  I feel it is God who gives him the ability to pray with such sincerity and earnest!

 

I know my kids see my faith and hear me talk about it because of the things that I hear them say and do.  I know as parents we all feel inadequate at times, and unsure if we are doing enough. I know this season of my life will pass, and with time pain will turn to memory.  Life will continue and will become peaceful once more. In the meantime, I try to remind myself that it is not how we deal with the peaceful times but how we deal with the tumultuous times that make the most lasting impressions on our kids’ lives.  I know my parents did not have much to offer us financially during many seasons of our lives. Yet, they gave their time to us, to our friends, and to others. And this meant a lot to those whose lives they touched. I hope that my kids will someday say the same about me.”

 


Tracy Glockle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think in many ways, homeschooling reflects the person or people involved. If Christ is central in my life, Christ will naturally be central in our homeschool and in anything I do. So first and foremost, my own heart and my own spiritual journey need to be a priority. It’s easy to let my own needs slip as I’m focusing on my children, to read my Bible less, to pray less, to seek fellowship with other Christians less because I’m focusing on the urgent immediate needs I see everyday. But one of the best ways I can serve my children and my family is to seek the Lord in my own life regularly. To carve out time, even a little time, and make that a priority.

 

Next, we incorporate Christ-centered conversations throughout the day, particularly at meal times. Right now, we are reading together through the book of Hebrews at breakfast, and my husband leads us in the evenings as we study Proverbs. I love the Simply Charlotte Mason resources for Bible in our homeschool. Each child also has an individual time of study, using various resources we have gathered over the years. Seeds Family Worship is another favorite resource of ours for Bible memory. Each subject also triggers lots of conversations about God and His plan for our good and His glory. The books we read out loud together, the history events we study, the marvels of creation—all speak of God’s hand in our world.”

 

As you can see, there are so many ways to add faith and service to your homeschool, and no wrong way to do it!

 

 

What does Gospel-centered parenting look like in your home?

 

 

How do you incorporate the Lord into your homeschool?

 

 

We would love to hear from you!


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By Peggy Ployhar
 
Often when we write or talk about homeschooling in the United States, we see it through the lens of our surrounding established homeschooling landscape. Earlier this month (May 2018), I had the privilege of speaking at the Global Home Education Conference in Russia where my lens was greatly adjusted.

While in Russia, I heard many countries present on the current state of homeschooling in their homelands. Additionally, I had the chance to speak with researchers and hear about some of the latest data being gathered from all over the world regarding various homeschooling practices, laws, and trends.

It would be impossible to share with you all I learned, especially since I will probably be processing much of it for a long time into the future, but I have decided to specifically share some trends that surfaced during the GHEC 2018 conference in relation to special education homeschooling.

5 Worldwide Special Education Homeschooling Trends

1 – 35% Special Education Homeschool Rate in North America
In speaking with leaders and policy makers, many leaders shared with me they were seeing a special needs rate between 33% to 37% in their homeschooling population. And although these figures didn’t surprise me, the fact these leaders were throwing these numbers out without me asking communicated how pressing this issue was with the homeschoolers they were seeking to support.

2 – #1 Reason to Homeschool in the U.K.is Special Educational Needs

As the representative from the United Kingdom presented the state of homeschooling in his country, one of his slides gave percentages his organization had gathered relative as to why parents in his country choose to homeschool. The number one reason given was “Lack of provision for child’s SEN (Special Educational Need).”

3 – Special Educational Needs are the 2nd Most Influential Catalyst in the Russian Homeschooling Movement
Homeschooling in Russia is on an explosive growth pattern for many reasons, but one presenter at the GHEC 2018 stated that “Just behind the lack of proper education for remote village children, the second most influential factor had to do with inadequate means for the Russian schools for teaching children with special learning/behavioral needs.

4 – Canadian Homeschooling Trend: Special Needs Rates One of the Top Three Reasons to Homeschool
In the report given on North America’s homeschool status, the Canadian representative pointed out that the top 3 reasons parents in Canada are choosing to homeschool were because of bullying, special needs, and the public schooling agenda being taught.

5 – Research on Homeschooling’s Differentiated Education Continues to Be an Optimal Choice for Children with Learning Challenges

The largest segment of data presented at GHEC 2018 in relation to special needs came from the researchers who presented new and past studies on the how love, differentiated instruction, child­-paced lessons, interest-focused learning, and teaching with immediate feedback create an optimal learning environment for any child, but especially a child who struggles.
 

The Increase is Evident
There is no doubt that the shortcomings of institutionalized special education are causing the increase in parental choice for homeschooling. Add to this increase the current rise in learning and behavioral issues among children, coupled with the inability for schools worldwide to provide the specialized instructions needed by these students, and we better understand why homeschooling is increasing in the special educational realm.

As this population grows, so does the need for reliable and consistent support, resources, and training. This community covers a vast spectrum, from gifted and 2E learners to children with extreme challenges who progress so slowly in learning new concepts that from the outside it may not seem like they are progressing at all.

Coming Together to Support More Families
The need is huge…no it is colossal. But, thankfully those burdened to help these special needs homeschooling families are also increasing in number. It is the goal of our organization, SPED Homeschool to unite those burdened to help these families so we can save their time, energy, and money while teaching to the specific needs of their child, no matter where in the world they live or what means they possess to teach their children.

How about you?

Are you homeschooling a child with special learning needs and in need of support, encouragement, and resources? Then we would love to have you join our support group, check out our website, our podcasts, our videos, and our Facebook page on a regular basis for new content, use our Pinterest recommendations, and sign up for our newsletter.

Or maybe you are looking to further support the special education homeschooling community through your experience as a veteran sped homeschooling parent. If that is the case, I would ask you to prayerfully consider joining our team and then filling out this application if you feel led to do so.

Other ways you can help our outreach is by becoming a donor partner with a one-time or on-going gift; partnering with us in prayer for our needs and outreach through our new prayer calendar; or become a partner organization so we can tell our community about a service or product you provide that is beneficial to special education homeschooling families (It is free, just fill out this short-questionnaire and upload a logo or image we can use on our website.)

 
Looking Ahead
The growing number of special education homeschooling families around the world does not need to be a concerning trend. Instead, this movement is creating learning environments for children that really work…one child at a time. My prayer, as I look into the future and what kind of report will be brought to the Global Home Education Conference in two years (GHEC 2020) in the Philippines regarding special education homeschooling is that the concern currently felt for these families will be replaced with the excitement of a growing movement that is unified and empowered to teach each struggling learner in the manner they were designed to flourish and reflect the image of God into this world.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Expectations is one of those words that either conjures up positive or negative emotions.

Growing up, expectations to me meant I needed to change all the things I was doing that were wrong. It made me fear I was not good enough. 

Fast forward to becoming a teacher. My view of the word expectations completely changed. This word became my personal mission directed towards my students because I viewed my students as having unlimited expectations.

All children can learn, and all children have strengths. As a teacher, I finally grasped that expectations were needed to grow. They were the goals my students needed to see for themselves. And now as a homeschooling mom, I use this same approach to expectations while teaching my own children with learning challenges.

Positive ways to insert expectations into your homeschool:

1- Provide IEP Goals to Quantify Expectations
Having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a great way to provide goals for your student as well as measure growth. Sometimes growth takes a while, and it is hard to see how far your child has come. Whether you measure weekly or monthly, it is important to measure and celebrate all successes.

2 – Have Your Children Set Expectations for Themselves
Allowing your children to be involved in setting their own goals and where they see themselves will help empower them. Personal goals are a part of life and who better to teach your child this lesson than you. Whether your child’s goals are to learning to tie shoes or getting a job, reaching these goals will provide confidence as well as ownership of learning.

3 – Pursue Expectations with Hope
If you have an expectation and an accompanying goal, these simple steps provide hope for potential growth. It does not matter how fast a child reaches or attains a goal but the important part is that learning is happening. As homeschool parents, we get to be there when they learn to write their name, read their first word, or overcome a certain behavior. Marking this victories, noting the process, and celebrating the successes provide the hope to keep focusing on the expectations yet ahead.


Need Some Help?
If you are looking for help in developing expectations or goals for your student, and documenting them as part of your homeschooling lesson plans, feel free to contact me or check out my team member page to find out more about the consulting services I offer special education homeschooling parents.  

You may also want to check out SPED Homeschool’s IEP Pinterest board and other SPED Homeschool’s Consulting Partners who offer various special education homeschooling consulting services.

I am praying you and your child embrace how expectations can be a help and a hope in all your homeschooling endeavors.

 

 


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By Dyana Robbins

There is nothing like the excitement of starting something new. The sense of adventure, hopefulness, and the promise of new ventures can be intoxicating. Some people experience a new challenge with enthusiasm that borders on fanaticism. I am one of them. It happened to me when I began homeschooling.

 

I started homeschooling out of a deep conviction that it was the only good option for my son. This was based on my experience trying all the other available options. Those experiences led me to reroute my career and life to meet his needs.

 

These factors set me up to embrace homeschooling like a drowning person grabs a flotation device. Some great things resulted from those bumpy beginnings, but eleven years later, I see my mistakes during that time too.

 

1. Jumping Into a Pressure Cooker
The intense responsibility and commitment I felt to my son drove me to extremes. I learned EVERYTHING I could about homeschooling and I fell into thinking homeschooling was the best educational option period. For everybody. 

 

Not only that but a certain brand of homeschooling that idealized parental authority and influence dominated my thinking. It seemed to provide the remedies for the problems in our culture and educational systems by strengthening the parent’s influence in their children’s’ lives.

 

I still agree with many tenets of this movement, but recognize that I had thrown my hope into a method as THE answer rather than seeing it as one part of the healing and help my son needed. This led to me being stressed when my family didn’t mirror the results or lifestyle idealized in this group. 

 

I was not a relaxed and joyful homeschool mom; I was striving and driving us towards an ideal that intensified our struggles. You can be wiser than me; avoid the idealization of any one method or even homeschooling itself!

 

2. Defending Our Decision to Homeschool
We had never known anyone who homeschooled when we decided to pursue it. It seemed such a foreign and radical idea. My struggle with the decision made others’ questioning of it painful.

 

People who were merely curious met with the same lengthy explanations as those who opposed our decision. Thankfully, none of these exchanges were heated, but I’m sure those on the receiving end of my explanations often wished they weren’t!

 

Those who disagreed with us did not change their opinions following lengthy discourses. Several friends, professionals, and family DID change their opinions by seeing the results of our choice over time.

 

3. Homeschooling as Insurance
Some of homeschooling’s appeal for me centered on its insulation from bullying and negative social pressure. That is a benefit of homeschooling but it isn’t foolproof: We have still encountered these things in co-ops and social gatherings.

 

Maybe all parents secretly desire the formula or program that guarantees successful parenting…I don’t know. I do know that despite my attempts to avoid that trap, I fell into it anyway. Somewhere along our journey, I began trusting that homeschooling was insurance against some of the very human struggles my children would face; within and without.

 

I overemphasized our influence and underestimated humanity’s sin nature and the natural developmental challenges we all face. My children have not fallen into any great difficulty so far, but I know they might one day. If that day comes, it will not be homeschooling that saves us.

 

Homeschooling has been a wonderful tool that the Lord has allowed for shaping and disciplining our children, but it is only a tool in the Lord’s hands. He alone has the power to restrain and forgive their sin and to overcome their struggles as they trust in Him.

 

4. Doubting my Decisions…and Then Doubting Them Again!
A list of all the decisions on curriculum, therapies, and activities that I questioned could fill this page. After lots of research and deliberation for each decision, I would move forward and then proceed to question everything we did. This did not make for a happy homeschool.

 

Thankfully, time and experience revealed that our choices could be easily changed or tweaked without destroying our children’s future. The weight of each decision was much lighter than my fears led me to believe. More experienced homeschooling moms encouraged and helped me past this hangup. Their assurances that we didn’t have to have it all figured out to be successful lifted the crushing burden I kept picking up.

 

5. Comparisons
Oy yoy yoy…this was terrible. If you want peace, don’t compare your homeschool, family or life with anyone else’s. Looking for affirmation that we were not failing our kids in every way, I would at times check our progress against other families,’ hoping for encouragement. No, no and no.

 

One more NOOOOOOOO. This is a life-stealing, joy-killing practice. If you want to become a judgmental, condemning person or feel like a failure at every turn, this is the path for you. However, if balance and health matter to you, run from this temptation every time it dares to pop up.

 

Most of us would agree that our families’ needs are unique and that comparisons are fruitless….it’s why we homeschool. Join Facebook forums, support groups or co-ops and it becomes evident that comparisons to others run rampant anyway. We talk about curriculum, lifestyle, method, or educational choice in ways that reveal the comparisons undergirding our positions.

 

We have to guard against forming harsh judgments of ourselves and others based on what works in other families. Hopefully, you can sidestep this pitfall and be an encouragement to others.

 

In Conclusion…
Reflecting on the mistakes of my early homeschooling years hurts a little. Exposing it to you hurts a little more, but I also hope it encourages you. If you find yourself commiserating with my past experience, you should know that homeschooling doesn’t have to be that way. You can change and move forward differently.

 

If you are wondering how such a crazy, immature, and fearful woman got into homeschooling anyway, I’m with you. But, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and I’m living proof of that truth. Somehow, our sons grew beyond every prognosis we were given and are even likely to be productive members of society (that’s a joke; they will!). We’ve all changed and grown. We are still changing and growing. When I graduate them, I’ll be writing an article about mistakes I made at this point. Stay tuned…

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar – Written November 2017

Thanksgiving celebrations all over the United States gives families time to pause and thank God for all He has done for us over this past year.  At the top of my list was my family, especially the many answered prayers God has worked out in the lives of my children.  But, next on my list was this new ministry, SPED Homeschool.

 

If you are not familiar with SPED Homeschool, other than the articles we post on our website or the free resources we offer for special education homeschooling families, I am excited to have this chance to share with you why we have so much to thankful about.

 

Where it All Started

SPED Homeschool incorporated as a nonprofit in late August (2017) to fill a resource and support void in the national special education homeschooling community.  But, that is not where SPED Homeschool got its start.  A little over two years ago, I accepted a volunteer position with the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) to work on their customer service team and help with their efforts in supporting the Texas special needs homeschooling community, just like I had done in starting up a special needs outreach in Minnesota for MACHE (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators).

“But, there was a stirring inside me I couldn’t shake…one that kept me looking at the greater need for special education homeschooling families beyond our state borders.”

Over these past two years, my work for THSC grew from a volunteer position to a staff position, and my team also grew to include an assistant consultant and eight volunteer team members.   We were working well as a team, and it showed.  A speaker at the THSC convention this past May told me she felt “THSC had the premier state organization special needs department” and I had to step back and smile at all God had brought together. But, there was a stirring inside me I couldn’t shake…one that kept me looking at the greater need for special education homeschooling families beyond our state borders.

 

When Curriculum and Online Support Is Not Enough

For those on the outside of the special needs homeschooling community, it looks like these families have everything they need to successfully homeschool. With an ever increasing number of special needs homeschooling curriculums and Facebook support groups to cover most diagnoses, an outsider would say these families have a strong support base. 

 

With all that is available, navigating the many options requires more precious time than these families can afford.  Offering a trust-worthy, one-stop place with a national reach to provide recommendations to the best resources, support and advice became my goal.  In addition to curriculum suggestions, parents are looking for local support groups, local co-ops, local therapy providers, and state and county resource providers who are special needs AND homeschool friendly.  

 

These resources are extremely difficult to track down unless someone in their area, like a local or state special needs homeschooling consultant, has taken the time to scout them out. Instead, these parents struggle to do this leg work and advocate for their child in a completely new schooling realm, while juggling the already taxing load they have raising and homeschooling at least one child with special needs.

 

Who We Are

In early June of 2017 I approached THSC about stepping out of my position and taking my team, minus a dedicated assistant special needs consultant, to start a new national special education nonprofit ministry.  THSC not only blessed my request, but have worked to help promote our efforts from the start.

 

Five of the volunteers who had been working with me at THSC had also been feeling the need to grow our ministry, so they transitioned as part of our team and board:  Dyana Robbins,Dawn SpenceShanel Tarrant-SimoneCammie ArnMyeshi Briley, and Elaine Carmichael. And, soon after our launch, we added three more members our team Sherry Martin, Kimberly Vogel, and Jennifer Cullimore and two more board members Dianne Craft and Dr. Jan Bedell.

 

Each of these team and board members are parents who took the leap to homeschool their own student with special educational needs.  Some are still in-the-trenches teaching every day, and some have graduated their students and are now fully devoted to helping other parents on this journey.  But the great calling we all share is to minister to families who are homeschooling children with learning challenges.  As our team and ministry continues to grow, our main goal is to help SPED homeschooling families in every facet we have been helped by God and others along our own homeschooling paths.

 

What We Are Doing

It has been a busy fall for us at SPED Homeschool, but we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

 

Since starting SPED Homeschool in late July (2017), our first steps in setting up outreach to special education homeschooling parents has been:  
  • Recruiting influential and knowledgeable board members in the field of special education homeschooling
  • Branding SPED Homeschool to be an approachable, yet professional, organization for special education homeschooling parents
  • Developing a website with useful and pertinent static content pages
  • Scheduling content calendars for blogs,images, and videos
  • Building an Internet presence through social media streams (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube)
  • Incorporating as a Texas nonprofit on August 24, 2017
  • Receiving IRS approval on September 28, 2017 with a Federal 501.c.3. tax exempt status

 

Why Special Education Homeschooling is Growing

Current statistics are now showing a 25% special education student demographic already within the homeschooling population, which spans a wide range of learning difficulties.  Plus, one of the fastest-growing groups seeking parent-led homeschooling education are families already in the public school special education system or those whose children are enrolled in early childhood intervention programs which experts feel is much greater than the current national learning disability diagnosis rate of 13%.

 

Families who choose to homeschool, do not do so lightly. Many, just like myself 14 years ago, realize homeschooling is the only educational option able to provide the necessary customized instruction their children need.  These families sacrifice careers, time, and money because they believe their children have a better future than most educational institutions are willing to help them achieve.  These are parents are determined not to let their children become one of the increasing statistics of our failing public school special education programs.

 

These statistics show that only 65.5% of students in the US, who have a known learning disability, graduate high school as cited by the Grad Nation Report .  But, even the majority of these graduates are not ready to transition into a meaningful job or into higher education.

 

A recent survey on this subject stated 90% of current students labeled with learning disabilities had the ability to make a successful job or higher education transition if they were helped to establish a support system before graduation per The Hechinger Report . Unfortunately, most of the programs in our current high school education system are not focused on this effort and most students who graduate are not prepared for life beyond their high school career.

 

We can’t do this without you!  

Since SPED Homeschool is a nonprofit and our bylaws are set up in a way to not require membership because of the financial hardship many of our families face, we completely rely donors and partners to keep our outreach going.

  • Please pray for God to move mightily in providing for our needs  
  • Help us get the word out about our nonprofit and how we are working to fill the gaps that currently exist for families who homeschool children with special educational needs

 

Fall 2019 Update – 2 Years into this Journey

We now have partnered with over 110 organizations, host a weekly live broadcast that reaches on average 900 viewers/listeners a week, have a solid leadership team, and are already working on some very exciting new developments for 2020 which will include upgraded technology and reach of our broadcast and regional support groups on a site that follows HIPAA compliance standards so our families can start sharing local resources with one another and connecting with each other in person.

 

Our board, team and I are excited about the hopeful future ahead for special education homeschooling families and we thank you for your consideration in supporting us in our calling to fill the gaps for special education homeschooling families. 

 

 

 


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