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By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed

“Ever since the dawn of time, man has needed to work.” Thus began my eleven-year-old son’s thinking paper. The topic: why he should have been cleaning out the garage. We long ago forgot the details of that day, but we never forgot the opening line of that paper!

How did my son learn to write? How does anyone learn to write? Some children, it seems, learn to write as easily as they learn to read, as if without instruction. Others would rather do anything to avoid placing words onto paper. Most fall somewhere in between.

Dysgraphia, this decade’s ubiquitous cousin to dyslexia, offers insights into the writing process for any student. When a child faces neurocognitive impediments to writing, we are all forced to look more closely. What comprises effective writing instruction for any student?

Attend to Readiness
Good writing instruction begins long before we ask a child to hold a pencil. Whether for the beginner or for an older child’s remediation, we must evaluate, teach, and retrace steps in writing readiness to assist skilled writing. We focus on pincer grasp, finger dexterity, and hand strength through clay or playdough, coloring, and scissors exercises, as in SC Level B and Scissors books.

When this readiness is achieved, we work on simple pencil grip, posture, and proper letter formation. We practice so this becomes automatic over time. Working memory has limits for any child, but especially for the child with challenged cognitive function. If we can automate fundamental processes, writing can flow more creatively. “Basic processes need to be made unconscious and automatic as early as possible in order to free the mind.” Hirsch Jr., E.D’s excerpt from The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them. 

Teach the Essentials
Simply providing our students with language models, good literature, and “literary experiences” is not sufficient; we must strengthen their skills for this task. During the primary years, we teach correct spelling, punctuation, penmanship, and sentence composition. We practice, practice, practice these skills to mastery. Generations ago, this was obvious. Today we must remind ourselves.

The good news is this: Thoughtful writing benefits even more than a student’s compositions. The act of writing produces neurocognitive benefits.

See results of the following research contained in these writings:

We must engage our children in the act of writing, beginning with the basics, as soon as we strengthen their fine-motor skills to readiness.

Remember the Humanities
We can teach writing skills explicitly, even as we introduce literature, art, and music for the mind, character, and soul. All comes together to improve the child’s intelligence, moral development, and understanding, and this improves his writing. “Reading makes a full man,” said Francis Bacon, “conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man.”

In classical education, we combine writing with literature and the humanities. We bolster this with the mental disciplines of arithmetic and mathematics. We lead our children to the natural, moral, and theological sciences to give them a lifelong, invaluable gift of true education.

With special teaching strategies and extra practice, we can give this gift to many of our children who face challenges. These challenges include English as a second language, asynchronous development, medical conditions, learning disabilities, sensory impairments, speech and language difficulties, intellectual disability, and autism. Some children will need significant accommodations, but we need not place accommodations above education. Occupational or cognitive therapies should never supplant faithful instruction.
Enjoy the Impact

Teaching writing can bring great joy because words can bring great joy. Words can offer wisdom, comfort, and grace, whether through the well-crafted thinking paper, a poem written in sympathy, or a simple thank-you note. We remember this when our students learn from Simply Classical Writing: Step-by-Step Sentences Book One and Book Two, Bible editions.

The written word connects us as human beings. Even more importantly, God revealed Himself to us through the Word. My children and I were reminded of this as we recently read: “Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” His Word brings light and life, hope and comfort, joy and gladness to all mankind. And this has been most certainly true, ever since the dawn of time.

This article first appeared in The Classical Teacher , winter 2017 edition. Reprinted with author’s permission.




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By Jill Camacho

Does fear of the unknown make you nervous about homeschooling?

If you’re considering homeschooling, wondering whether or not it’s a good idea, or not knowing how to get started, I’ve got some advice to help you with the transition. First, know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing from the get-go. I know from experience how very nervous about homeschooling we can be in the “just looking into it” phase.

Homeschooling also doesn’t have to be as complicated as we can sometimes make it. Here’s what I have learned that may help you become less nervous about homeschooling and make the transition in a way that will help you and your child.

1) “De-schooling”
If you’re like me, you may be considering trying out homeschooling because public school has been stressful for your child. If this is the case, perhaps they now associate learning with school, and school with stress. This was certainly the case for us. At the time, I had never heard of de-schooling, and our first few months were very tumultuous. Since then, I’ve learned more about de-schooling and definitely recommend it in these situations. But what is deschooling?

De-schooling allows your child to separate the idea of learning from the experience of public schooling (and all that he or she found stressful about it). Essentially, don’t try to duplicate public school. Start out with something fun like unit studies center around their passions. Create a lot of opportunities for one-on-one connection with your child, using learning time as bonding time. If learning can become more about gathering information and connecting with a parent or loved one, it’s going to be more enjoyable than if it’s something required, rigid, and sterile.

2) Cast your vision
You do have a reason why you’re choosing homeschooling right? Honestly, I think not a single one of us just decide to homeschool just based solely on a whim. If you’re nervous about homeschooling and are reading this post, clearly there is a greater ‘why’ pushing you through the fear. Homeschooling is a beautiful and difficult calling. There’s always some kind of reason – or even many reasons! On your hard days, you are going to need to remember your ‘why’ and be rooted in it.

So, your first step here is writing out your mission statement. Write out why it is you’re homeschooling your children. Talk with them to include them in the why and the decisions about your homeschooling. Have them help you write your mission statement so that they can be emotionally invested as well and take ownership of this homeschooling process.

In addition to the vision statement, make the expectations clear. Involve your child in this too! Tell them what you’re thinking as far as expectations, and ask them what their thoughts are. While you’re in charge and have the final say as the authority figure in the house, taking their thoughts into consideration will mean a lot to them. It’ll help them feel heard and like their feelings are considered and appreciated. Even if you don’t take a majority of their suggestions, they will at least feel like they’ve had a say and been heard. Including them in expectations will help them to accept the expectations because they’ll feel they’ve had a say in it.

3) Take a practice run
Give homeschooling a practice run if you’re nervous about homeschooling and making the leap. Try doing this for just a few days a week over the summer or any other seasonal break from public school. Having this sort of “practice homeschooling,” especially over the summer, will be helpful for many kids. Even if you don’t end up homeschooling, a routine is helpful for them.

If this is working out for you and you continue you to homeschool, you may consider year-round homeschooling. We homeschool year-round for the stability it brings to our schedule, and our kids love it! We homeschool all year, 4 days a week, with breaks for holidays. If you’ve already put all these hours into your summer practice homeschooling, why not continue on? Several days are already knocked out!

In addition to unit studies, any outings you have in nature or traveling can also be used towards learning days. Make it educational with some questions, discussion, drawing, or related reading. Just another find a way to make love learning enjoyable again for the whole family while also bonding.


Summer is the perfect time to give homeschooling ago
If you’re considering homeschooling and unsure, please don’t be too afraid to give it a shot! If you try your best during this homeschooling summer experiment and still feel that it won’t work for you, no sweat! You can easily still enroll in the public school for the next year. You’ll not have wasted any of this time. Your child learned about things they love and spent extra time connecting with you one-on-one! Win-win! You’ll also be no worse off, as far as public school is concerned; not a single day missed. I think you’ll find you’ll love it though!

Taking the summer to devote some time to light learning gives you a taste of homeschooling, keeps the kids a little less bored, and off electronics – at least a bit. Best of all, you’ll never have to wonder, “Should I have tried homeschooling?” If you’ve been on the fence and nervous about homeschooling, I encourage you to give it a shot this summer with free internet printables and library books!


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By Peggy Ployhar

In the previous article in this series, Shifting Parenting Anger from Controlling Mode to Training Mode, I talked about how parenting anger can point out a child’s lack of character. The other point I touched on is that if we seek to take God’s route in using anger provoking instances, we can use it to effectively instruct our children towards godly character.

Yes, anger CAN instill godly character in your children…here is how.

Godly Character
If you were to look up a list of godly character traits, you may find a list like this:


Effectively Teaching Godly Character
The standard approach to teaching children about godly character is to give them a lesson or teach them what the Bible says about why it is important to live in this manner. But, as you and I both know, devoting weeks to a unit study on a specific character trait is way less effective than even a few perfectly timed lessons that speak directly to a child’s heart.

This is where your anger comes in and points specifically at places where these lessons for each of your children will be most effective. So instead of looking at every anger provoking instance you have with your children as a distraction or inconvenience, they instead should be perceived as doorways into teachable moments to perfect their character.

Looking Practically at Character
Stop and think for a moment. What is something one of your children does that triggers your biggest anger response? Now, relate that anger trigger to a lack of character in your child.

Here’s an example:
You may have a child who angers you when you find his toys lying around the house.

I would say, not only does this child lack “orderliness,” but also “stewardship,” “honor” (as others are required to step over the toys), and “responsibility.”

Thus, this child needs to be taught his issue is much deeper than his inability to pick up toys.  Instead, the greater lesson he needs to understand is his lack of character.

A Simple 3-Step Process
How do you start teaching those lesson? It is simple if you start implementing these three steps:

Step 1: Speak It
Start using the words “orderliness,” “stewardship,” “honor,” and “responsibility” or whatever lack of a godly character trait mostly contributes to your child’s poor behavior. Using these words on a regular basis not only implants them into your child’s vocabulary, but also normalizes their use in general conversation.

Step 2: Point It Out
Be on the lookout for ways these godly character traits are displayed by both your child AND other people. Point out positive or negative displays of godly character. As you label these displays, help your child to dissect these observations so he/she will also learn how to spot character first and actions second.

You can also create scenarios for your child to observe by acting them out. Employ the use of other family members, puppets, or stuffed animals and act out what a specific godly character trait looks like when it is being shown positively or negatively.

Step 3: Discuss It
Then, removed from the observed situation (further removed if it was an instance involving your child’s lack of godly character), it is time to discuss the situation.

Now, I understand that based on your child’s cognitive ability this task may require prompting, leading questions, or a parent asking questions and answering them while the child listens. All those methods are effective. The goal is not to have your child provide a detailed understanding of the situation, but rather to guide his/her thinking towards the truth embedded in the situation.

Hinging Lessons to a Solid Foundation
When I was working with my children in teaching them godly character in this manner I soon realized this process wasn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, some days our homeschooling lessons were completely set aside so we could focus on character training.

I kept my sanity during those years by focusing on the purpose of those building blocks I spoke about in my previous article and that training my children was not dependent upon my ability to teach these lessons perfectly or even effectively. Instead, God had tasked me with being obedient in teaching the lessons when they presented themselves and hinged them to His immovable foundation…the Word of truth.

Each time we got to step 3, and started our discussion, my Bible (or an applicable verse I had memorized) was nearby. It got to a point where my oldest once said to me, “Mom, why do you always bring the Bible into everything?” My response, “Because life is about God, not us.”

The sooner a child can be moved from a self-centered existence, the easier it is for him/her to rest within the safe boundaries godly character provides. A child who is self-focused will always see godly character as restricting or limiting. If you have a child who constantly fights against your instruction, then getting below the foundation of God’s truth into the dirt of your child’s heart is where your character training focus must focus first.

Digging Deeper
Instilling truth into a child’s heart depends completely on how prepared his/her heart is to receive truth. In my next article, I am going to start walking you through the process on how to effectively “till” the soil of your child’s heart.

Hang in there. I promise every moment God opens a door for you to teach godly character to your child and use the anger He has given you to fuel that teaching, He will take your efforts and multiply them in your child’s life, even if your instruction is going to involving some digging before the foundation can be laid and the walls can be built.

Connect with SPED Homeschool Conversations
Until then, make sure to check in with me on Tuesday nights at 8pm CST for my weekly live Facebook broadcast, SPED Homeschool Conversations. You can find the broadcast schedule on the SPED Homeschool Facebook events listing. Otherwise, you can watch previous broadcasts on the SPED Homeschool YouTube channel or you can listen to them on the SPED Homeschool’s podcasts.

Parenting Anger Series Articles:
Why We Should Be Talking About Parenting Anger 
Parenting Anger Demystified
The Parenting Anger Escape Door
Shifting Parenting Anger from Controlling Mode to Training Mode
How-To Effectively Instill Godly Character in Children Using Parenting Anger 
Integrity: Step 1 in Cultivating a Child’s Heart for Instruction
Humble Authority: Step 2 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction
Unconditional Acceptance:  Step 3 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction  
Forgiveness & Mercy: Step 4 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction
Honor: Step 5 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction  
Time Management: Step 6 In Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction

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