Dyana Robbins

 

The holiday season offers many wonderful things to us: time away from work, more time with friends and family, traditions, and expressions of love. For many, this truly remains the happiest and most-anticipated time of the year. However, there are years when the holidays seem much less joyous. Deaths, losses, difficult circumstances, broken relationships and other factors can threaten the joy we want to experience.

 

Here are some thoughts that I hope will encourage you if you find yourself facing a difficult holiday season.  Some of them are humorous, others more serious, but all have helped our family celebrate the holidays in difficult years.

 

1.  Treat Hallmark movies and Christmas sentimentalism like a plague
Please don’t call me Scrooge; I know how committed people are to their Hallmark Christmas movies.  I have even liked a couple of them myself. However, when we are battling discouragement or even despair, the idealized versions of Christmas, love, and family that are peddled to us can intensify our pain.
Movies and many Christmas songs’ sentimental version of life can highlight places in our lives that don’t reflect the same perfection.  Instead of providing help, they actually create larger wounds.  If you must indulge in these entertainments,  make sure you balance them with movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.”  They have some good old adversity and life lessons that balance out the schmaltz.  And for music, immerse yourself in songs that offers real joy and hope.  My favorite is “O Holy Night.”

 

2.  Simplify
We hear this advice everywhere, but what does it actually look like to practice simplicity?  It differs in families, but simplicity rests on the following principles:  contentment, pruning of useless or harmful things, and a grateful perspective.
Even in the most difficult times, we can practice simplicity.  As we rid ourselves of fruitless thoughts, useless energy expenditures, taxing social engagements, and burdensome traditions or expectations, joy can fill the space they vacate.  We can appreciate the beauty of what remains, the graces of each day, and enjoy rest.

 

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ― Henry David Thoreau

 

3.  Do something new
One of life’s greatest joys, is to experience or learn new things.  Whether you create new traditions, learn a new game, skill, or song, take a different route for Christmas light viewing, or bake something different, your venture into the unknown affirms life and fresh beginnings.  The scope and cost of these changes need not be great; just doing them brings happy feelings and memories.

 

4.  Avoid or limit negative influences
This may be the most difficult of my recommendations. Often, negative influences come from our closest  family members, or others we’re pressured to spend time with over the holidays.  If you feel guilty avoiding them entirely,  do all you can to limit your exposure to them.  
You can do a shorter visit, make sure others will be around to dilute their impact, gather in a place you feel most comfortable, or have the nearest exit mapped out for an emergency evacuation.  We need to show love to difficult people, but during dark seasons in our own lives, we might need a break or limited engagement to care for ourselves.
Likewise, give yourself permission to rest from considering or deciding about stressful or negative things.  Even a short break from decision-making can help you recharge and focus on the joy of the season.  Truly, our problems can almost always be put on temporary hold, instead of demanding all of our time and attention.

 

5.  Celebrate Christ
If you find yourself in the darkest of times, my other recommendations will ring with inadequacy. There are some problems we cannot change, fix or remove; they simply must be borne. Even bearing those burdens, hope shines and lights a path for joy.
Isaiah 9, in the Bible, talks of Christ the Savior.  Consider this beautiful passage with me:

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

One dark day, the God of Heaven sent his son to us.  His arrival fulfilled many prophecies, God’s promises to man, to provide a Savior from ourselves, our condition, and this broken world.  He walked our paths, suffered our griefs, experienced our fragile joys, and purchased for us a joy that can never die.
Because of this gift, every trial, grief, injustice, betrayal, loss and inadequacy will one day be completely overwhelmed and overcome.  No matter what we face, even the most horrible and trying things, they only have temporary power and effect.  As we wait for that day, we enjoy Christ’s presence and help.  He is all to us that the verses above promise: our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Every lesser joy can be extinguished. Life’s burdens can smother them all.  But, the joy of Christ, God’s guarantee to man, has never failed me or anyone who has trusted in Him.
Whatever your circumstances this year, I pray you will find and know joy.  If this season is painful for you, know that you are not alone in your struggle or in waiting for better days.  May the joy of this season overwhelm your struggles and bring you hope.  

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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This article

was reprinted with permission from Dyana Robbin’s personal blog,

Ambling Grace.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Christmas, and the holiday season in general, truly is the most wonderful time of the year…for most things.  But, when it comes to homeschooling kids who have special needs, there is a fine balance to maintaining your child’s basic daily routine while adding in additional holiday tasks.

One way to cut down on the stress of trying to fit it all in, is to ease back from regular curriculum work and add in themed activities instead.  Many times, these types of learning activities are more easily embraced by a child than their typical school work.  School seems less like school and more like fun, helping lessons get done more quickly. 

Over the years many of the holiday learning activities our family did as part of our homeschooling lessons have become wonderful yearly traditions.  We make international treats discovered through various unit studies and have favorite books my adult children have fond memories of us reading over and over again.

Here are 20 holiday-related free learning activities you can use to add some cheer into your SPED homeschooling days this season:

  1. Christmas Gross Motor and Brain Break Ideas – 14 activities for adding some holiday movement into your homeschool day
  2. Christmas Fine Motor Crafts and Sensory Play Activities – Fun Christmas sensory play activities and fine motor skill building craft ideas
  3. Elf on the Shelf Sensory Taste, Smell and Sight Activities – Use Elf on the Shelf for helping your sensory child improve their aversions to texture, taste, smell, noise and light
  4. 30 Montessori Christmas Activities – Activities covering language arts, math, sensory, and life skills
  5. LEGO Nativity Set Instructions – Build Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in the manger, and a shepherd with two sheep out of simple LEGO blocks
  6. Christmas Counting Puzzles on a Light Table – Simple Christmas themed counting puzzles you can make yourself to use on a light table
  7. Simple Sewing Christmas Tree Decorations – Turn felt, buttons, yarn, and stuffing into an easy to sew Christmas tree decoration
  8. 8 Upper-Level Math Christmas Activities – Add some seasonal twists to geometry, algebra, and thinking skills lessons this Christmas.
  9. Christmas Skip Counting Games – 3 holiday games to reinforce simple skip counting
  10. Christmas Candy Chemistry Science Experiments – Have some science fun with all that yummy Christmas candy…it’s STEM learning made fun and festive
  11. “Santa Claus, Santa Claus, What Do You See?” Emergent Reader – This print and assemble book reinforces 14 sight words within a Santa themed story
  12. 25 Days of Fine Motor Christmas Activities – Simple themed activities focused around building fine motor skills
  13. STEM Holiday Light Circuits – Use old Christmas lights and a few common household supplies to teach a lesson in electrical circuits
  14. 30 Awesome Christmas Games – Games perfect for family time or lesson boredom busters
  15. Holiday Speech Therapy Activities – Holiday speech therapy activities that are hands on and interactive
  16. Nativity Activities and Educational Resources – A mix of 35 activities, crafts and printables all focused around the nativity
  17. A Very Merry Occupational Therapy Christmas – 25 activities that address a variety of occupational skill areas
  18. Christmas Journal – Free printable to help you discuss and capture all the special moments and memories with your child this Christmas
  19. Candy Cane Activities for Upper Elementary – Activities for writing, science, history, and math all related to the simple candy cane
  20. Christmas Scripture Copywork – Work on handwriting skills while keeping the true meaning of Christmas as your lesson focus.

If that list does not meet your needs, or you still want more activities, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Christmas Pinterest Board

You will find lots more free or inexpensive holiday-themed learning activities to fill your entire month of December.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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By Kimberly A Vogel

 

I opened the door and stepped into a winter wonderland. White, blue, and silver Christmas decorations adorned the house. After days of rushing around and overwhelming holiday stress, I finally felt like I could breathe. 

 

Something was comforting in the white. It brought a sense of calm and peace. The term white space repeated in my thoughts and synced to the white lights blinking.

 

I need white space in my life, especially around the holidays.

 

White space, a term writers use, refers to the white space on a page so the reader isn’t bombarded by words. I need a place where I’m not bombarded. I need extra room to move and breathe. Instead of cramming more activities into an already filled schedule, I should plan less and leave room for more spur of the moment activities.

 

My thoughts started to create priorities on how I just might be able incorporate white space into my life to lower my holiday stress. 

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love.

 

These were the reminders I needed to tell myself. 

 

Keep your calendar handy so you don’t overbook

Do you have a planner? Do you use your phone or paper? What you use isn’t important, using it is what’s important. Overbooking isn’t just having two activities at the same time, it’s having too many activities in a day or week.

 

Say yes sparingly

In Volunteering: Pray about every opportunity. Only commit to what you have time to do well. It’s better to focus on one or two opportunities, than saying yes to five things and only following through with a few.

With Activities: There’s an abundance of fun family events only available during the holidays and you should never feel obligated to go to them all. It seems like every group has a party this time of year. Make sure whatever you do commit to fits into your plan and isn’t too taxing. Also, consider your family’s special circumstances: If you have small kids, parties during nap time make the day difficult. If you have special needs kids, there are so many things to think through… sensory issues, behavior issues due to excess sugar, dietary restrictions, over-stimulation.

 

Don’t operate out of guilt, expectations, or ideals

Expectations run high during the holidays. As moms, we often set the pace for our family. As women, guilt plays a role into our decision making. I’ll never forget the year I ran myself ragged to make sure an event happened, all to find out I was the only one who wanted it. In this instance, the event’s importance had been heightened by a childhood memory, an ideal I eventually had to let go for the sake of my family’s sanity.

 

Back in the lovely decorated home, I walked into another room where a huge Fontini display decorated the corner. A village scene centered around the nativity. Then it hit me, THAT is the who of my white space. Jesus came to bring…peace, love and salvation. If He’s not at the center of my white space then I am just creating voids that attract fillers.

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love. White space is only beneficial if it is filled with Jesus because He perfectly fills the void. Jesus space, as the center of our white space, brings me back to what this holiday season is all about.

 

What can you do to create white space and Jesus space into your life?

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn

 

The holiday are upon us. So, the question at hand is: “How do we deal with all the shopping and prepping that goes into this time of year when it can be so overwhelming?” 

 

Here are some things that worked in our family, when daily life caused sensory overload from the heightened seasonal activity. 

 

  • Shop online and with catalogs, it just keeps things simpler and away from crazy crowds.
  • Drive thru neighborhoods known for their decorations. Not only is it better on the pocketbook, but noises can be controlled and lights tend not be be as overbearing from the inside a vehicle. You can also make this adventure a special treat by picking up hot chocolate (or bring your own) and cookies.
  • Decorate the tree with simple white lights instead of flashing colored ones.
  • Try to keep your routine as much as possible, the normalcy of your days can help prevent many a meltdown.
  • Use festive fabric to wrap gifts. By replacing paper with fabric no one gets overstimulated with the constant tearing of paper. Plus, the fabric is reusable. Decorated pillowcases work great!
  • Use one gift box per person. Place all of that family member’s gifts in the one box and you save on the chaos of opening lots of little gifts.
  • Limit sugar.  Even if you already do this, ’tis the season to work on it all the more. Too much sugar can cause any kiddo to get grumpy and meltdown (adults included).
  • Ensure your family gets enough rest
  • Pick and choose your activities. You don’t have to do everything…every year. 

And, if things do go awry, take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a new day.

Happy Holidays. 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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Being a mom of a special needs kiddo sure has its hard times, but gratitude can change our perspective and help ease the tough days. We wanted to share with you what we are THANKFUL for in our journey as SPED Homeschool moms.

 

Time
Time is fleeting and I’ve come to realize that the moments with my children are precious. I am so thankful that I can experience the mundane, the victorious, even the hard moments with them everyday. (Jennifer Cullimore)

 

Humbling Moments
Each day presents lessons to learn from when I don’t handle them as I should have. These moments are gifts, reminding me I am not perfect, what I need prayers and support to improve on, and how necessary God’s consistent grace is for my life. (Peggy Ployhar)

 

Advocate
We have to speak and advocate for our kids. Whether with doctors, family members, or other kids; standing up for our child and making things happen for them starts them down the road of advocating for themselves. I’m thankful for the advocating moments for my children, it tells them they are worth fighting for. (Kimberly Vogel)

 

Nighttime
Because once my loves are asleep I can have some down time and I might actually get to sleep somewhere between 12-4am. (Jennifer Poorman)

 

Kisses and Kleenex!
A typical day usually involves one or the other!

 

Family & Friends
Family:  My family might not be perfect, but it’s mine. We love and laugh and serve Jesus always striving to grow and love more. (Kimberly Vogel)

 

Friends: The journey of homeschooling a special needs child can be arduous and lonely. I’m thankful for friends who understand and stand by me through the ups and downs. ( Karen Larsen)

 

Understanding & Unconditional Love
Understanding from Others: When another child/mom understands our kids are different, and accepts them as they are. (Lynne Shearer) and I’m thankful for family members, friends and those perfect strangers that show a desire to try and understand my child better. They are almost always surprised to find that we are not as different as we may appear on the outside. (Jamie)  

 

Unconditional love: I am so thankful for those who love and accept us for who we are, where we are at. What a blessing and joy to be among those who don’t bat an eye at what others would seem strange or weird but is our normal. (Lori Walker)

 

Laughter
We could not make it through all the challenges we face without a sense of humor. (Lauren Mitchell)

 

The SPED Homeschool Team is also thankful for YOU, our community

 

Brenda said it so thoughtfully: I was so scared to pull my son out of school until I found this group because I found all the information and support I needed to feel comfortable making all the decisions about my son’s education. Your resources made me feel empowered and the support has been a blessing to us. I appreciate you guys! All of you, the experienced homeschooling moms and the not so experienced moms, you make me feel like I am not alone (Brenda Olivares)

 

Happy Thanksgiving from the SPED Homeschool Team!

 

 


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Dyana Robbins

As much as special-needs parents understand caring for others, cultivating compassion in our children can be difficult. Sometimes, conditions like autism or mental illness make compassion challenging to develop. Other times, children can become self-centered and focused as they grapple with the pain of their struggles.

Here are some practical strategies to develop this vital characteristic in our families:

1. Intentionally point out and discuss the needs of others

Young people may require direct teaching in this area.  When my sons were toddlers, we had a poster with kids displaying various facial expressions.  Each expression had an emotion attached to it.  We rehearsed this almost daily to help them interpret non-verbal cues, but also to cultivate empathy.

When they were a bit older, we began coaching them in social interactions by telling them how their behavior was impacting their friends or likely perceived in the community.  This direct teaching was used for both positive and negative interactions.  In many ways, I acted as a narrator for their lives during this stage; explaining the world around them and how they were operating within it.

As they have grown, we discuss news events, life events in the people around us and their own experiences in ways that point to not only facts but likely emotional responses that co-occur.  This practice has challenged us to perceive likely needs and emotions that we can respond to as we engage with these situations.

2. Travel, Serving, and Giving

Despite the limitations our families experience, there are ways we can help our children see beyond our walls.  Even trips to the library or stores provide a myriad of ways to really see those around us.  If you are able to travel more broadly, cross-cultural experiences will greatly hone your family’s compassion as you experience being “the others” while being immersed in the struggles of other cultures.

Serving others is possible for almost every child.  Finding ways to do this as a family cultivates compassion in each member.  Food banks, Operation Christmas Child, visiting nursing homes and volunteering in our neighborhoods provide ample service opportunities.  Prayer for others’ needs is always possible even when we are homebound.

Our family’s favorite service place, besides church, has been a local ministry to the homeless called the Mercy Tree.  This wonderful ministry provides lunch in a local church, devotions, laundry service, showers and transportation to those without homes.  As we cook for our friends and eat together, we understand more of a world we have never experienced and our ability to love in those places broadens.

 

 

3. Share great stories!

Powerful stories that transcend their time always include adversity that their characters overcome.  We can link the characters’ struggles to relevant experiences in our lives or those of others.  This helps us not only understand pain, but what is required to face and overcome the type of struggle depicted.  These stories are blueprints to guide us in helping others.

4. Practice gratitude and compassion at home

  • Tell your spouse frequently what you love and appreciate about him/her in front of your children
  • Around the dinner table, have each family member share thankfulness about the person next to them
  • Keep a thankfulness list in a central location and encourage everyone to contribute
  • Each month, assign one family member to select a person or family to serve in some way
  • Invite others into your home
  • Love each other well
  • Find penpals from other countries and exchange letters

 

I hope that some of these strategies encouraged you to find new ways to encourage compassion in your family.  Besides the joy it will bring your children, fostering compassion expands their relationships and equips them to better relate to their communities.

 

 

 


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This article was reposted from www.amblinggrace.com with permission from the author.

 

 

By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

Are you working with a bright, hard working child or teenager who has to work too hard to learn?  This is the child who does not respond to other curriculum or materials and teaching strategies that have worked so well with your other children. In fact, you may be on your fourth reading/phonics program, your third math program, and your fourth spelling program.  

If it is your first child or student who is struggling, you may now have a younger sibling or other students who are yelling out the words from the corner of the room. That’s when you decide, “Something isn’t right” with this child.  You wonder if this child has a processing problem, a learning disability, or Dyslexia.   You are puzzled because orally, he/she is so good in many things, and loves to listen to stories.  What is going on?

According to Dr. Mel Levine, MD, in his book, One Mind at a Time, all learning requires energy. He refers to it as “battery energy.”  I like this term.  It clearly describes what we see happening with the struggling learner. This child is using way too much battery energy to write or remember sight words or phonics for reading.  We see the battery drain happen before our eyes.  Our question is, why does this child have to work so hard at things that should not take so much energy to learn or remember?  

This energy drain is generally because this child has one or more of the Four Learning Gates blocked.  We think of these learning gates as information pathways.  Children who learn easily seem “smart” because they don’t have any major blocks in their information pathways.  Our struggling learner may have many blocks.  When we speak of a blocked learning gate, we mean that the processing skill has not transferred into the Automatic Brain Hemisphere. The child continues to need to concentrate on the processing task because of this lack of transfer.

 

Exploring the Four Learning Gates
As you look at the list of characteristics of a struggling learner, it is important to remember that many children have one characteristic, but aren’t struggling.  Conversely, a child does not need all of the characteristics to be struggling.  It is also common to find that a child has all four learning gates blocked.

 

1. Visual Processing Gate
The act of moving the eyes over a page from left to right is not a naturally developed trait.  For example, in Israel they read right to left, and in Japan they read in a column.  We teach this process when a child is first learning to read, by having him track with his finger across the page to train his eyes to move in this fashion.  After some practice, this should transfer to the child’s automatic hemisphere.  

 

How do we know if this process has not transferred and is taking too much energy?  

These are some of the characteristics this child will exhibit:
  • Reading reversals (on=no; was=saw…after age seven)
  • Skipping of little words, but can read longer word
  • Reading begins smooth, but soon becomes labored
  • Older children who can read, but tire easily…yawning shortly after beginning reading.

 

2. Writing Processing Gate
When the child’s visual/spatial skills, or the act of writing, haven’t transferred into the automatic hemisphere, he often looks like he’s “sloppy, lazy or unmotivated.”  His papers are poorly spaced, or he refuses to write much of anything for the parent or teacher. This is the most common learning gate that is blocked in gifted children.  It seems like they are “allergic to a pencil.”  Transferring his thoughts into writing, or just copying something, takes a huge amount of battery energy for this child.  

 

Characteristics of this gate being blocked include:
  • Frequent or occasional reversals in letters after age seven (even if only “once in awhile”)
  • Copying is laborious
  • Poor spacing in math papers
  • Great stories orally, but writes very little
  • Does mental math to avoid writing

 

3. Auditory Processing Gate
A common myth about Auditory Processing is,  “My child has an auditory processing problem because he can’t remember three directions at once.”  This is likely more of a focusing/attention issue.  For example, if we would ask him to ”Go into the kitchen and get a candy bar, a glass of chocolate milk, and a dish of ice cream for you,” the child would likely remember these directions.

 

A child, who is suffering with an Auditory Processing Problem, generally has trouble with reading.  

  

Common characteristics of this gate being blocked are:
  • Phonics sounds don’t stick; no matter how many games you have played.
  • Sight words are hard to memorize…even learning alphabet letter names can be hard
  • Sounds out same word over and over in a story
  • Can’t easily sequence sounds…like months of the year or skip counting
  • Is a “Word Guesser”
  • No phonetic pattern to spelling…doesn’t hear consonants.  “Thursday is Tuesday”

 

4. Focus/Attention Gate
This can be the most puzzling blocked learning gate to identify. A child may look like he has no memory, or a true learning disability, when what is really going on is that this child has to use too much battery energy to remain focused during the instruction, or completing the lesson.  The child may look like he is “paying attention” to your lesson by giving you good eye contact.  However, in his head, he is “two doors down playing with his friend, or in the dinosaur village.”   

 

Here are some characteristics of a child who has to use too much battery energy to remain focused:
  • Inconsistency in performance from one day to another
  • Needs to have someone sit with him to finish work
  • Forgets previously learned work much of the time…seems to have a “memory” problem
  • Can have impulsive behavior…easily getting upset when things go wrong.
  • Sensory Processing problems (little things bother him a lot, like tags on shirts, loud noises, transitions, foods, etc.)

 

Be assured, you do not need to be an “expert, or professional” to make learning easier for your child or student.  In the many articles I have on my website, I discuss each learning gate individually, and show you the corrections that I developed when I taught these wonderful children in my special education classes.  

 

You will see that it is not hard to do.  It just requires some tools, strategies and techniques that you may not be familiar with right now.  

 Bottom line:  Learning does not have to be so hard for your child.

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

When my kids were younger, I was not the type to be cooped up inside, especially during the holiday season when there was so much going on. But, even though I loved getting out and enjoying the holiday sights, my oldest on the Autism Spectrum was a bit of a scrooge about it all. 

Instead of allowing my son’s bah-humbug holiday attitude to keep us all home, I decided to create sensory-friendly field trips that would limit crowds, lights, and noise.  So, if you are looking for ways to get everyone out the house this holiday season, here are my top 10 holiday homeschool field trip suggestions.

 

#1 – Historic Sites
Visiting a historic home, fort, or site is a great holiday outing, especially on a weekday. Many of these sites go all out with decorating for the holidays, and although they are very busy on weekends, they still maintain hours during the less busy weekdays.  To find the historical society in your area, and the local sites they maintain, you can search the Preservation Directory by state and region.

directory

 

 

#2 – Hiking and Geocaching
Geocaching is an awesome family activity, and one that can not only become a new holiday tradition, but a fun family pastime.  Hiking alone makes for a wonderful field trip, but when you turn the hike into a treasure hunt, it becomes an over-the-top adventure. 
Caches on or near hiking trails are very common, so plan a holiday hike near a cache or plan to hide a new one on the trail.  The largest website devoted to this pastime is Geocaching.com. On this site you will find everything you need to know about finding and hiding caches.

geocaching.com

 

 

#3 – Christmas Tree Farm
Cutting your own Christmas tree is a lot of fun, and a very festive activity. And although tree farms can be rather busy during the holiday season, they do maintain less busy hours amidst the holiday tree-buying frenzy.  The key is finding less busy times, and it usually just takes a quick phone call.  Most of these farms are family-owned and more than happy to help you make your visit enjoyable and accommodating to your family’s needs.

 

#4 – Ceramic Shop
During the holiday season, local ceramic shops are usually equipped for kids’ groups to come and paint ornaments, nativity sets, and even items kids can personalize to give as gifts.  A quick search on Google will give you a list of your local ceramic shops and their hours of operation. 

 

#5 – Library
Your local library is likely to have at least a few holiday events; some of them during  daytime hours or as ongoing holiday season activities.  Check with your librarian, or on your local library website, to find out if your library is offering any sensory-friendly or quieter daytime activities your family could participate in.

 

#6 – Parks and Painted Rocks
Painting rocks and leaving them for others to find is a trend cropping up all over the United States.  No matter how artistic you are, or how capable your kids are at painting in general, this activity can easily become a new family holiday tradition.  To find out more about how to paint and leave rocks for others to find, you can visit the Kindness Rock Project website.

kindness rock project

 

 

#7 – Winter Sports

If you have an active family and live up north, winter sporting options abound. For those who like going fast, skiing and snowboarding are great options. Most ski resorts offer homeschool days when you can rent equipment and get lift tickets at a reduced rate during the less busy weekdays. Plus, many ski resorts also have equipment to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.

If you like to go at a slower place, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing may be better options.  Local park and recreation departments often have trails and rentable equipment for both of these winter sports. Local parks are also a great place to go sledding, and their sledding hills are guaranteed to be empty almost days when public school is in session. And, whether you live up north or not, there is still one winter sport almost anyone can enjoy during the holidays: ice skating.  Temporary ice skating rinks in the north can be found outside most of the winter, and during the holiday season many southern cities also set up temporary ice rinks indoors, fully stocked with rentable skates.

 

#8 – Holiday Daytime Performances
School groups as well as homeschool families can access daytime holiday performances.  Most children’s theaters, ballet companies, and orchestras offer discounted tickets for these performances which are geared to the younger audience.  If your child has specific needs for accessibility during the performance, make sure to call the theater directly to book your tickets so they can arrange for seats that meet those needs.  Bringing earmuffs to muffle noises can also help children who are easily distracted or who may be anxious about loud noises during the performance.

 

#9 – Nursing Home Visit
Local nursing homes love to have kids visit. Plus, what kid doesn’t like having a few extra grandparents?  If your family has never considered visiting your local nursing home, the holiday season is a perfect time to start because there are always so many activities planned throughout December.
Most nursing homes have a volunteer coordinator you can call to find out how your family can get involved. By letting the coordinator know the specific needs of your kids, they will be able to determine which activities would be the best suit your family’s involvement.

 

#10 – Tourist Attractions
Many tourist attractions decorate, or have special exhibits, for the holidays.  And, while these places may be busy on evenings and weekends, they also have lower peak times you can take advantage of with your homeschooling schedule.  Museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, and tours (caves, factories, etc.) are great places to check out. Call ahead to find out when the attraction expects visits to be lower in volume, when there will be less groups visiting, and if any of the special exhibits have hours that differ from the general admission times.

 

General Homeschool Field Trip Advice
You might be a pro at homeschool field trips, but if not, this video will help you think through the most important things you will need to consider when taking your special needs child on a field trip.

 

 

 

 

Most important of all, have a great time making memories with your kids this holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 


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By Myeshi Briley,MS,HS-BCP

 

Homeschooling parents face the challenges of juggling teaching, cleaning, cooking, nurturing, finding needed personal time, and being a good spouse every day. How do we do it all? How can you do it all?

 

The truth is, we can do it all. We just need lessons on balance.  So, we do the important things first. We have to budget our time like we budget our money. This is very important. Here are some tips on time management and scheduling that have worked for me.

 

Manage Your Time
We need to make a plan so we’ll feel more in control and less overwhelmed, but they must be flexible enough to modify as needed. Also, make sure the goals you set are reasonable; otherwise, you’re setting ourselves up for failure. Be realistic with time, don’t guess, find out how long specific tasks take. And don’t beat yourself up if you did not complete something. Everyone’s life is different, and it takes practice to master time management. Thank God for each and everyday. The reality is everyday is a gift to do more.

 

Fill in the time it takes for each task. In the example below, there’s a lot left out that you’ll need to add.  But it’s a good place to start:

Making and eating meals: __________
Daily chores: ______________________
Daily hygiene: _____________________
Kids’ hygiene:______________________
Kids’ extracurricular activities:________
Work: ______ hrs/day (if you freelance or work part-time or full-time)
Homeschooling:  ______

 

Homeschooling
We need to use a planner or calendar of some type for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activities. My calendar is booked 3 months at a time, so I can plan what I need to get done. I use both paper and electronic planners. Students need to use planners as well.  Picture schedules work well for little kids and a modern student planner can be used for middle school and high school age children. The bottom line is that everyone in the home should use a calendar, this cuts down on confusion.  

 

Steps to Developing a Good Scheduling:

1. Observation
Observe your children for a week to note the length of time they need to finish a math assignment,complete a worksheet, or read a chapter of a textbook. In addition, pad the time allotment for time-between each day’s list of school tasks. Plan for between-class breaks like meals, playtime or recess.
2.  Work Backwards:  Year to Week
Prevent over-scheduling by starting at the year mark and work down to the week.
List all classes, coursework, books, examinations, and activities needed to complete the year.
  • List monthly goals for each task.   
  • How many books,  worksheet pages, and Math, English, History lessons need to be included. You can schedule the lessons once you have drafted the large view of the month..  
  • Space each category by week, and review each week’s goals with your student.
3. Get Specific:  Weekly to Daily
From the weekly goal comes the daily schedule. It’s not just younger children that need routine; everyone needs to know the plan for the day.
  • Be flexible. Listen to our children’s feedback. Give your children a chance to resolve scheduling issues themselves. This will help them later in life.  You might be surprised at the solutions they come up with for time management snags and snafus. For example, your child might be too sleepy in the morning to do well at math, so you might move that class to the afternoon.
  • Outings take a big chunk of time out of your day. Consider staying home during the week as much as possible. If you have small children, going lots of places can upset their routine. It’s also hard to fit in schooling or housework when you’re only home for a few hours.

 

Extra Scheduling Considerations:
Homeschooling parents are often too busy to fit in all the projects they’d like to do, especially when they have younger children in the household. Detailed unit studies and interesting hands-on projects are special but you might have to limit them. I found doing homeschool 365 days a year works for me and my family, everyday is learning in our home. Everyone is different and you have to find what works for you.

 

For many families, finding the time to schedule field trips during homeschooling months can be difficult. You might try planning some of them in the summer when things are less hectic. Think of what has long-term importance and what doesn’t. Learn to establish priorities, find creative ways to do the necessary things, and put everything else on hold or let it go.

 

Chores
Chores are good for kids. Families should share responsibilities. It’s important for children to understand that the whole family must work together to make a homeschool and a household run smoothly. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry are group events.

 

Work on children’s attitudes and training. Summer is a good time to encourage and train your children on helping out with household chores and cooking. There are lots of learning opportunities for your children in these activities as well. Both cleaning and cooking contain some elements of math and science.

 

Get the older kids to help the younger ones pick up their toys or clean their room. Big kids teaching little kids, sisters and brothers working together. Don’t you love it?
Making a house rule that children who don’t follow instructions when asked or don’t do their chores are given added jobs or responsibilities works well.

 

Housework
Realize when it comes to a clean house you may need to settle for less than perfection.  If you have a hard time letting go of that ideal, here are some ways to lower your expectations to the realistic goal of having an imperfect house amidst raising and homeschooling your kids.
  • Simplify your life. Develop a system for keeping your house as neat as possible, at least in the important areas.
  • Declutter your home to avoid frustration.
  • Organize a specific place for all homeschooling materials, like pencils, papers, books, scissors, and so on.
  • In addition to getting the kids to pitch in, we sometimes hire a neighbor’s teenager to help when needed, to clean or babysit a few hours to give us time for other things we have to do.

 

Cooking
Simplify your meals. Some of the healthiest dishes are the simplest. Get the kids to help you prepare dinner. Have the older children make their own lunches. Use paper plates for quick clean ups. If there are kids eat free nights, family specials, two large pizzas for $10 nights, or anything like that at a restaurant you like, feel free to do that. I prepare fresh meals daily for my family, but I get all the pre-work done on Sunday evenings.  Do what works for you.

 

Personal Time
When you create your weekly schedule, don’t forget to put aside time for yourself. Make yourself a priority. If you aren’t meeting your most basic needs, you’re not going to be effective in anything else.  Always wake up before everyone and have 30 mins of coffee and devotion time. If you don’t rest, your brain will turn to mush and you won’t have enough energy to get through the day.

 

If you don’t set aside time for you and your spouse, you won’t get the love and care you need to love and care for those around you.

 

Time is very valuable for homeschooling parents so budget yours wisely. 

 


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