by Ashley Lindsey, SPED Homeschool Community Member


A new homeschool year was about to begin and my youngest, Landon, was about to start his kindergarten year. I enthusiastically prepared for this upcoming milestone by gathering all necessary components for a successful year: file folder games, arts and crafts projects, literature selections, the cutest most colorful math workbook, and the cornerstone of it all- the reading program that helped my oldest son blossom into a brilliant reader. We were set for our family’s learning adventure.


The year started out as expected. We colored our ABCs, snuggled and read, did more art projects than our refrigerator doors could hold, made erupting volcanoes, and explored forests. After learning to count to 100, Landon wanted to move on to count higher. He even started fractions and beginning multiplication sequences, thanks Odd Squad! The year was taking off better than I had ever hoped, and Landon was excelling at school. It was time to take out that magical reading curriculum- the one everyone on social media raved about- the one that turned my oldest son into a super-reader.  


“Mommy, the words are moving,” Landon informed me.

“Ashley, this is completely normal, especially for boys. Just put the reading program down for a few months and let him play,” a well-respected veteran homeschool mom of eight children told me. 


We continued our joy-filled school year. The boys had a solid four months of learning and playing before I broke out the trusty reading program again. Surely, Landon will have had enough time to just “be a boy,” so reading will come to him now. Our break was not as successful as I had hoped. He could not even string CVC words together. It was like watching gymnasts do somersaults. I consulted the curriculum company, who advised me to put the material down until next year.


Once second grade hit, words were still flipping upside down for my son. My husband and I had him evaluated at the local school district. Finally, I will get a name for this mysterious condition and they can help him, or teach me how to help him. Landon went through the long hours of testing, exhausted and sad when he got home. A few weeks later the school district called me and explained that Landon has classic symptoms of dyslexia, however, since we have not worked on spelling yet, they could not give him a diagnosis and treat him. I explained to the diagnostician that our Orton-Gillingham reading curriculum specifically tells parents not to start the first level of spelling without completing the first level of reading first. She looked at me like I had two heads. 


I was a mom on a mission to find help for my son. Since the school district wasn’t an option, I reached out to several people who claimed to help dyslexics. 


“Oh yes, we are the best, and yes, Mrs. Lindsey, your son sounds like he has dyslexia. However, we are full and have no room for him. Please try back next year.”

When Landon started seeing black holes in the road while riding in the car, I got his vision checked. For sure, the optometrist will be able to tell me something. This is our pediatrician’s wife- she must be the best. 

“Mrs. Lindsey, your son has 20/20 vision. I checked his retinas and they look perfectly healthy. I am sorry I can’t help you. “


Completely deflated, I consulted social media groups. After all, I couldn’t have been the only desperate homeschool parent out there. My inquiry received many suggestions from empathetic parents. I took some of their advice: switched reading curriculum, tried colored overlays, used all the gadgets and books suggested, and most ridiculously, turned subtitles on his TV shows. Most of these efforts were unsuccessful, however Landon told me how much the TV subtitles were helping his reading. I noticed an improvement in his reading accuracy and fluency, but there was still more work to do. 


It was time to reevaluate my approach in homeschooling Landon.  My husband and I contemplated public school, but my husband quickly reminded me of the IEP meetings I sat through begging for services for my autistic students only to be refused. Landon would just fall through the cracks like most of my students did. That summer I took inventory of Landon’s strengths and created an individualized educational program where he could blossom and thrive. I had to unlearn most of my formal teacher training, I had to break down the walls of my educational platform built on checklists, essays, straight A’s, completing every workbook page, and every other facet of my perfectionistic self. I had to let go and let Landon lead the way. Not only did he soar in life and his education, but I also was able to relax and shed some of that tight skin held by false expectations. 


Over the years, other specialists who were happy to slap as many labels on him as we could afford has seen Landon.


We are a single income family so that well dried up quickly. When I was studying the Book of Proverbs and came upon Proverbs 16, the Lord gave me the gift of confidence and steadfast. Verse 16:9 says,


“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”.

I was trying to do God’s work all along but He already did the work, and perfectly so. I still have concerns about my son, but as time passes, my fears are replaced with awe. This child has flourished into an empathetic, fun child adorned with the love of God and a glowing confidence. His smile is contagious, and his humble confidence is admirable. He is a pro at basketball, has built his own gaming PC, is a walking encyclopedia of fun facts, and enjoys good books. I encourage weary parents to peel off those labels and take a holistic inventory of your child, including personality, talents, and gifts. We cannot ignore learning weaknesses, but we can learn how to teach our children to adapt with the plethora of resources available today. Home education can still be fun, exciting, and adventurous, no matter what the needs of your students are. Form an alliance with your child and, with patience, creativity, and insight, you will both be amazed.


Ashley Lindsey lives in Missouri with her husband and two teenage boys. When they lived in Texas, Ashley was a Special Education teacher. Once her oldest son started kindergarten, the family pulled him out and began their homeschool journey. Ashley has developed an educational approach for both of her children, meeting their individual needs and interests. The extra-abilities she specializes in are autism, Type 1 diabetes, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing disorders, visual impairment, gifted, and twice-exceptional. She believes everyone possesses unique abilities, and her goal is to build an educational platform based on those gifts while still challenging any weaknesses. 

If you would like to correspond with Ashley, her email is




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by Kayla Stewart from The Animation Course 


Do you ever ask yourself what is available to me? What options do I have to breathe life into this thing we call school in our home? Is your child doodling while you engage in your read-alouds for English, or for history in your living room on your comfy couch? Is one of your children exclaiming, “I’m bored!”, while you are trying to teach him or her math around your big kitchen table? Is nature, while you are on an adventure creating journals to study science, just not the thing for your middle school or highschool student?


There are so many new and creative things out there for you in this amazing world of homeschooling! What lights up your child? Is it crafts, art, digital drawing, the sky, the stars? You have the ability to really study your child; see what makes them tick! I read a book once called, How Your Child is Smart by Dawn Markova. What a great read and the beginning of my journey to meet each of my 8 kids where they were at in their learning and growth, even in our day to day homeschool.


Can you imagine a homeschool day where you ‌look at your children individually as you unwrap the best journey for them? What might happen if you look at just your middle daughter, and ponder, What makes her come alive?


Of course, our children need to learn math. That was some of the more fun daily moments I had with my now adult children as small people with a hunger to learn. The way one of my children really grabbed the concept of manipulatives, another would need a coloring page. This was thinking outside the box, engaging in becoming a student of my children as they were my students that I had the privilege to teach and nurture in my home on our comfy couch, or around our kitchen table!


Just like we can teach math in different ways, we can also allow our children to color while we read for history or English. We can help our small son, who has a problem sitting still during reading, listen for keywords that he tells me to write, where then he can write a story of his own that mimics the story just read to him. What is one quality that you can see in each of your individual children that would allow them to learn with more engagement to foster real learning? What can you learn about yourself and then change how you are teaching them? How does this work in your homeschool day? Can you do it yourself or do you need to look for resources that help you “be innovative?”


If you are feeling a bit stuck in your homeschooling journey and your child has interests beyond math, reading, or science, find what works for him or her and what lights them up! It can still happen on your comfy couch, or around your inviting kitchen table, or even in nature. You just have to take some time out and observe what would be best for each of your extra special kiddos who you know the best of anyone in the world!! How can you bring their world alive to learning with what you have at your fingertips inside and outside your home?



I am a mom of 8 adult children, all of which we homeschooled in many different ways, each year looking a little different with adopted children joining our home, to moving across states, to a house fire that brought some unique challenges. My very supportive and involved husband was an animator working in film for most of our homeschooling journey, so he was very busy with work. We had an unexpected privilege to begin working together in 2015 on our own venture, once our children were nearing the end of homeschooling. That birthed The Animation Course, which we built to intersect with other families’ homeschooling journeys.




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By the SPED Homeschool Team


Teaching Social Skills and Character Training While Out-N-About

“With four boys born in under six years, it was easiest to do school at home, so I didn’t have to corral them during lessons. We did stuff outdoors, were part of a co-op, took classes through a local homeschool group where I taught and went on a lot of field trips. When out of the house, we were always learning, but rarely “did school” during those times. When we were out, my time was better spent on things like teaching my boys that it is not appropriate for the first person in line to decide he is the engine of a runaway freight train and take the entire line careening through a building. Once I had my special needs child, a lot of our outside activities were replaced with appointments and therapy for a time. Then it became obvious that having struggling learners and children with special needs meant participating in co-ops and such were a no go. We focused on the “home” in homeschool and turned to pursuing individual passions.”

Stephanie Buckwalter


Using Carschooling, Games, and Therapy While Out-N-About

“For a couple of years, we carschooled and schooled on the go while waiting for multiple doctors appointments. We used some physical curriculum, but also educational games and videos. School now includes therapy (OT, PT and Speech), field trips to the library, grocery store, park, and the homes of other family members. On Wednesdays, we do music (I drive multiple trips), so my kids do school with cousins, joining in with whatever they are working on along with music lessons. Different days bring different approaches, but the bottom line is they are still learning and growing, sometimes when we think we aren’t doing enough.” 

Amy Vickrey


Other Ideas for Where You Can Homeschool Out-N-About

List provided by Dawn Spence:

  • At the pool
  • At friends’ homes
  • Library 
  • Coffee house 
  • Zoo 
  • Museums 
  • Church 
  • On vacation
  • At the Great Wolf Lodge
  • Doctor offices
  • Hospitals 
  • Backyard 
  • Park
  • Pool 
  • At hotels
  • Restaurants 
  • Grandma’s house 
  • At the movies 


List provided by Peggy Ployhar:

  • Campgrounds
  • Historical sites
  • Grocery store
  • Garden
  • Beach
  • On a cruise
  • While living in our RV
  • On a farm
  • While hiking
  • Martial arts studio
  • Pottery studio
  • Dance studio
  • On our sailboat
  • In a tree
  • Hardware store
  • Antique store
  • Bookstores


We hope these quotes and ideas from our team have inspired your family to learn and homeschool out-n-about this summer and into your next homeschooling year.




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By Teresa Jones from BiblioPlan


“Would you like to learn to write with a feather?” The park guide asked, while handing my daughter a quill and a little jar of ink. She curiously accepted the feather and scratched out her name on a weathered-looking piece of parchment. This was one of the first beautiful spring days and we were fortunate enough to be attending a homeschool program at a historical fort. But I kept glancing at the time and asking myself a crucial question: Could we race home soon enough to get a full day of school work done so we wouldn’t fall behind?


I was making a critical mistake when it comes to homeschooling and I don’t want you to do the same.


How to make the most of your field trip:

  1.  Plan ahead. If you’re going to an art museum to see the newest exhibit, take a few minutes to learn about the artist. Heading to a Civil War battlefield? Learn why this battle was important in the war. Your children don’t need to memorize every detail. They don’t need to be studying the topic as part of their normal schoolwork. They will learn while on the field trip, but it would be helpful for them to have a framework of the significance of the location.
  2. What can we ask? When planning field trips when my children were younger, I’d ask this simple question on the drive there. “What questions can we ask while we are on our field trip?” This challenged my kids to think about what they knew and what they wanted to know. In addition, it also prepared them up for some interaction while on the field trip. We’d decide what were good questions and then make sure we learned the answers while on the field trip.  
  3. Ask for accommodations if necessary. If you have any special concerns, don’t worry about contacting the place of your field trip ahead of time. Remember, they want you to have a great experience and will be glad to help you with any arrangements to make that happen. For years, I had wanted to take my children to a Civil War encampment and battle reenactment, but I knew my daughters would hate the loud blasts and burnt smell that come from the paper cartridges during the battle reenactment. So year after year, I’d pass on the event. Finally, one year, I asked the organizers if there was a way for us to experience the civil war encampment, but not the loud and smelly blasts. Their solution was simple: come the day before when everyone is setting up their camps. It was perfect! We walked through the encampment and talked to the men and women as they set up. They were happy to explain what they were doing and answer all of our questions. It’s always great to learn from people who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about a subject. Their lively interest is contagious!
  4. For all the special accommodations and prep work, make sure you find a balance. Don’t become that pushy parent who insists their child “demonstrate” their knowledge on the field trip. Don’t force your child to shoot their arm up at every question asked. Don’t expect them to thoughtfully consider every piece of artwork. Don’t use the field trip as a chance for them to show off their knowledge to others.
  5. And finally my last tip, the advice I wished I had followed at that historical fort when my daughter was writing with a quill: relax and enjoy it! I was so worried about “getting our school work done” that I forgot the reason we were at that fort in the first place, to learn and to have a great time doing it! Everyone will have fun and learn even more if you’re not stressed about hurrying home to get some schoolwork done! The field trip IS your school work for the day! Enjoy the break from the usual routine.


As I send my oldest off to college this fall, I realize the number of field trips in my future are dwindling. The days spent wandering through art museums or riding a wagon through an apple orchard are coming to a close. Those field trip memories are some of the highlights of our homeschool days. 


Teresa Jones has been homeschooling for nearly 10 years. Her oldest daughter will be a college freshman in the fall and her younger daughter will be a high school sophomore. She represents BiblioPlan at homeschool conventions and online. She also teaches one of BiblioPlan’s online history classes. Her family’s favorite field trip was the Homeschool Day at Fort Ticonderoga.




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by Steven Policastro from the International Association for Creation


There are many great ways to engage in interactive learning. One that is readily accessible is using the world-class museums, zoos, and aquariums in most major cities around the world. Taking time to engage and learn through interactive and immersive contexts is critical in helping today’s youth experience the world. 


When engaging in interactive learning opportunities through, what the author calls the Immersive Learning Method, there are numerous considerations to take into account. You will want to ensure that you have the proper checklist to prepare for going to the museum. With all the things happening day-to-day, it can be easy to forget about packing a lunch, checking to see accessibility options at the museum, or bringing a notebook and pencil, etc. Below, you will find the Museum Accessibility Checklist to help you plan and prepare.


Often, a checklist is simply a last-minute tool to ensure you have prepared adequately for the adventure ahead. Before making those last-minute checks, you must plan accordingly, whether thinking forward about parking, tours, or other special considerations. The Museum Accessibility Guide is a bonus to help make museums accessible for children with special educational and accessibility needs.


Now that you know the tools you need to engage effectively with your children at the museum through interactive learning, please continue reading to learn about the Immersive Learning Method and how to use it most effectively.


To employ the Immersive Learning Method for your family or group, you will want to take your time going through each exhibit you visit. To take full advantage of this learning method, you will want to ensure that you take adequate time to observe each display. For example, we often find ourselves going through museums quickly due to the excitement of seeing which exhibits are up ahead. However, it is best to refrain from doing so and take time to look at each detail of the exhibition.


The reason for practicing the Immersive Learning Method is that it allows us to appreciate the details and intricacies of each exhibit display. It also allows our children to practice observation and critical thinking skills. By observing an art piece at a museum for one minute, you might have a general overview of the artifact. Still, by observing it for ten minutes or twenty minutes, you will gain a greater appreciation for the piece and a deeper understanding of what the exhibit is depicting, thus providing for a deeper conversation with your family or group.


As you prepare for your tour, use the checklist and guide below while also integrating the Immersive Learning Method to help make your day of adventure complete.


In today’s world of social media and screen-based learning, it is vital to ensure that you and your children are engaging in interactive learning. We know the One who created the world, God Almighty. He has fashioned every image-bearer with the innate ability to have awe and wonder as we participate in His world.


In partnership with IAC, SPED Homeschool welcomes you to download the Museum Accessibility Checklist and the Museum Accessibility Guide to help you get the most out of your museum experience.


Steven Policastro is the Founder and Director at the International Association for Creation.




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by Zack Edwards from Historical Conquest


Kids these days are bombarded with flashy pictures, jaw-dropping special effects, and other influences that help excite their minds and keep their attention; then, they are asked to sit in a boring classroom or look at a book and read something that they are not that interested in. It is truly a struggle to keep youths interested in doing schoolwork, with so many other opportunities around them. Why not help them with the best of both worlds?!


Hello, my name is Zack Edwards, and when I left high school, I hated many of my classes because of how they were taught. Educational materials could not hold my interest, this was besides my internal struggles. When I went to college, my professor asked me to write a one-page essay on a product that would change my world. Well, I loved to play games, and I didn’t like school, at least back in K-12. I thought, why not put the two together, to create educational games that excite the mind and eyes. That one assignment has become a successful business. Assisting students around the world in learning history, one of the hardest subjects to keep kids interested in, and we do it through games. 


A History Lessons in Educational Gaming

In the past the problem with games, in some people’s minds, was that they were just for recreation. However, if you talk to students 95% of them love playing games.  If they had a choice between games or school, the K-9th grade students would most likely choose playing games. Some would say school is “boring”, some would say, “it’s not relevant”, and others would say they are just “not interested in it.” How can we make education more enjoyable? By adding a little more gaming into their education. 

Now there are many different ideas when it comes to educational gaming. You have the Game Schoolers, who promote that most or all of their education comes from playing games. On the other side you have parents that keep their kids away from games, because they are unproductive. I’d like to share with you the great middle ground where everyone wins, and I will also show you how to pick the best games for your children.

In a study back in the 1960s, the National Training Laboratory tested retention rates when it comes to activities in the classroom, and in daily lives. They found that, for the average learner, if the student reads information from a book they will retain 10-20% of what is read. If they watch videos, they will retain 30%. If they do activities or play games using the learning outcomes of Analyze, Define, Create, and Evaluate, they will keep up to 90% of the information they are learning. Those are astonishing numbers. Let’s investigate these four outcomes.


Analyze is the method of examining or learning about the topic, in detail. So, besides games, you need time to learn what you will do in the game; this is an effective precursor to trying to learn from any game.

Define is the method in which you use what you have learned in a way that allows you to show you actually understood the information. This allows us, as the teachers, to learn if the student has retained the information given to them. If they don’t understand it correctly, it will do no good to allow them to move forward.

Create is a state of using what you have learned in a relevant manner, to use motor skills to produce a type of motor memory in what you are learning. So, they need to use that information right away, in a topic such as history. How can they use this information? By teaching it to others, writing a story about it, or even playing a game that uses that information to build that type of motor memory. 


Benefits of Educational Gaming

The greatest benefit of Educational Gaming is that the more times they play the game, the higher the likelihood is that they will remember the lessons learned. In learning history, we believe in the Law of Witnesses, meaning the more time you hear someone’s name, the more likely you are to remember it. Take history, for instance. If the player hears a name once, the information will go in one ear and out the other. There is very little retention created. However, if you play a game once, and then read about the person later, they will remember that person. The information learned about them becomes easier to retain after the second, third, or fourth time they hear it. They are creating a motor memory within their mind. Play a game 100 times, and hear that information in small bites and your brain is more willing to see the importance of that information, and will then store it where it is easily accessible. In addition, when a student can attach emotion to the information, they are more likely to retain it. Whether it’s the frustration or enjoyment of playing a game, that emotion will allow the student to retain that information easier, especially the enjoyment of playing a game they like.

Evaluation and reflecting on what you learned and or created is also essential. You must help the student reflect on what they learned or could accomplish. In traditional education, they can fill out a survey or journal entry on what they learned, while in games, you can talk about how they liked it and what they learned afterwards. In video games, they can reflect on what is called “leaderboards,” in the gaming industry. These are boards showing how you rank among others, but can also reflect some of the things they could have learned while playing the game. These are highly effective in evaluating what you learned and enticing you to try again, which continues building more motor memory.


How to Find Games that are Right for Your Student

Educational Gaming needs to be based on relevance, your child’s interests, and abilities. Try looking at games that meet these criteria, based on your experience with your student.

  1. Interests – Are your students interested in games? Would they be in the 95% of students that like games, any type of game? If they are, what games would they like? Are they more likely to play a physical game, or a video game? Do they like more physical challenges, 3rd person interaction with the program, or more strategic interactions, using boards or cards?

Look for games that appeal to them on a personal level. Using a game they aren’t interested in would only backfire, because they could feel resentment to use a program they have no interest in.

  1. Relevance–Just picking up any game and using it is not an effective way to succeed in education. There are games for recreation and there are those that are made for learning, and you can use both. One shouldn’t expect all games to fill in educational gaps, or help with creating motor memory in a specific topic. When evaluating a game, investigate how they will learn from the information they are gleaning from the game. Some are more effective than others.Look for games that are educational, but not too educational. Remember that when youth play games, they normally play for entertainment. Use games that give them small bites, especially for those in SPED. Learning in small chunks, through gaming, will make a world of difference for your student.
  2. Eye Catching–While your student may like games, there are those that are not the best when catching their interest and attention. Do your students like the flashy or the simple? Don’t buy a 6th grader a game that looks like it’s perfect for a kindergartener. The best way to find something they would like is to search out games that catch your eyes, as their parents or teacher. Remember that special effects these days are not very different for adults or kids. The things that catch your eye will also catch their eye. They may even need a little more – if you don’t like how a game looks, they will probably not as well. 
  3. Needs–Especially in SPED, this is sometimes the most important factor. What do your students need for learning? For example, those that are dyslexic have a hard time reading, so giving them a rules manual or a book is not a good way to keep their attention, and doesn’t give them the tools to succeed. The best way to promote learning for someone with dyslexia, and other special needs, is to focus on small amounts of information and catching their interest. When someone with dyslexia is truly interested, that is when they will act on their own, and begin doing the work on their own. Addressing the needs of your students’ is the most important, especially with Educational Gaming. There are games out there that would be harder for some students, and there are games designed to appeal to everyone.


In closing, using games in learning, in this day and age, is a very effective way to grab your students’ interest, help them grow their excitement for learning, and increase their retention in what they are learning. While some games look like they are educational, there are other games that disguise education in the gameplay, allowing the student to be excited about what they are doing, while actually learning the entire time.


What to Look forward to in the Future 

Historical Conquest is teaming up with other curriculum developers and game designers to create a video game system that will help students have a large range of games that are relevant to specific subjects,  teach students different subjects without being too educational, and allow students to enjoy what they are learning. To begin this system, we are performing our analysis using the subject of history, (our strength), to test its effectiveness. This first portion of our system can be found at, which allows students to learn using a plethora of methodologies that they enjoy, including reading, videos, activities, audio, and now video games. While these games are currently digital, and some parents want their kids to get off their screens, all these games will be made available in physical form, as well. So stay tuned, keep watching, and please sign up to support this effort, by using the systems that we have so far, as we create a structure that will help students with all needs and interests on their learning adventure.




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By Dawn Spence, SPED Homeschool Teaching Manager


Homeschooling is a great path to spending time with your family and loved ones. It can be hectic at times with lots to do and it can be peaceful at times. I have been on both sides of the coin. Some years are outright crazy and stressful. What do you do when life hits you with stress, illness, or both? This is when I feel like my teaching goes out the door, which stresses me out even more. How do you homeschool when everything is insane? The word that comes to my mind this year is grace. I have found four things that have given me perspective when dealing with illnesses in our home when I am the primary caregiver and teacher.


Look at what you can let go of:

I am type A personality, that likes all my ducks in a row, and this year my ducks aren’t in the same pond, let alone in a row! While focusing on my non-negotiables, I have learned to ease up on some subjects. I feel more pressure with a high school student to keep him on track, but even his schooling can take some breaks within limits. I can do less math for one week and assign more the next or assign fewer problems if he is understanding the lesson. This is where I am glad that we school in the summer, as that releases some of my mom guilt and pressure. 


Learn to be flexible: 

If things are chaotic and I lose my bearings, my children will still look to me for some stability. The best gift I can give my kids is the lesson that life is something that can not be predicted. We might wake up and because of unforeseen circumstances, our day takes a different turn. This life skill, of being able to adapt in the situation and not crater when an illness or stress comes on, can not be taught in a textbook. Honestly, this year I have been tested in this very area and some days I do better than others. If I don’t succeed, I need to grant myself grace.


Pick your path:

The biggest thing I need to remember in stressful times and in the chaos is that this is my journey and my path. Comparing myself to others, especially during a crisis, just causes me more stress. I know that this is not the time to get on social media. I ‌look and see how it is going for others, which can cause a pity party or going down a rabbit-hole and still my stress is there. During this hectic time, I choose to take some time and evaluate my path. Maybe I need a 5 minute time out, a hot bath, or chocolate. Whatever I do or how I handle my situation, it’s my way, and it is not wrong.


Ask for help:

This one is hard for me. I was brought up to just do it. Sometimes, I need outside help. Many times when others ask what they can do to help, I feel like it is my burden alone. This is where I usually pray for help and strength and sometimes that answered prayer is help from others. When help comes, I need to accept it and let people in to help. Battling my stress and crisis on my own is not a badge of honor. Reducing my stress helps me become a better mom and teacher.


Stress and crisis might show up at any time, but learning how to give yourself grace and work through it is the key to mental wellness.


Dawn Spence is a homeschooling mother of three who left her special education teaching career to stay home and teach her own children. She is a gifted instructor who has the ability to bring out the teacher in everyone, especially showing parents how to modify curriculum to meet the specific learning needs of their child. Dawn works as the SPED Homeschool Teaching Manager, coordinating blogging content with the SPED Homeschool partners and team members.




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By Peggy Ployhar, SPED Homeschool Founder & CEO


As we are moving from a knowledge-hungry world to one that is saturated with information, I tell parents, now, more than ever before that it is less important to teach our children lots of memorized facts and more important to teach them how to discern information with wisdom. For this reason, our educational approaches at home need to change so our children are equipped with the ability to discern right from wrong and truth from lies.


“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

Philippians 1:9-10


Yes, this truth from Philippians 1 has been my prayer for my own children and for you and your children as well. How do we make this shift and how do we teach discernment? 


Here are 5 simple tips for adjusting your homeschooling approach to teach discernment in an information saturated world:


Talk it Out

Talking with our children and teaching them that there is a foundational and God-established form of truth, in God’s word, lived out through examples of faithful Christian, and within historical documents based on a biblical foundation is something that we should talk about in our homes all the time and reminding our children of when we do our daily lesson. Just taking the time to talk about truth helps children to be aware of its existence and its importance as a basis for knowledge and discernment.


Live it Out

Our children learn more through how we live verses from what we say. It is extremely important that they see us seeking truth and basing our decisions on truth if we want them to do the same. Therefore, as parents we need to value discernment in our own lives if we want our children to value it enough to pursue it, use it, and live by it.


Point it Out

Everywhere we turn, there are examples we can pull from to point out discernment, or lack thereof, to our children. In family relationships, movies, books, social media posts, world events, and so many other things. We need to take advantage of these opportunities and point out how others are using, or not using, discernment, so our children can gain a greater understanding of this concept and how it is experienced in everyday life.


Call it Out

As your children make daily decisions based on the information they are processing, they will practice discernment. When they use good discernment, call it out and commend them for using it to make a wise decision. When they fail to use discernment, call it out and help them to see how their lack of discernment led to a less desirable outcome than if they had used discernment in that situation. Instructing your child based on their own life circumstances helps them to internalize the need to apply this discipline to work against their natural tendencies to believe and follow faulty thinking.


Pray it Out

Praying for our children to use discernment, to live by discernment, and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to see truth and “the way they should go” in every situation, is important at every stage of their education. Teaching our children and parenting them in truth have a limited range in our children’s lives, but God’s range to reach them, teach them, and guide them is boundless. Bring your request that your child live a discerning life before the Lord. This is a prayer He desires to answer.


I am praying with you and for you and your children in accordance with this truth from Isaiah 11 as you pursue to teach discernment and live by it in your homes empowered by God’s Spirit:


“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The Spirit of counsel and might,

The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

His delight is in the fear of the Lord,

And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,

Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;”

Isaiah 11:2-3


Peggy Ployhar is the Founder & CEO of SPED Homeschool as well as the host of the weekly live broadcast, Empowering homeschool Conversations that you can watch on the SPED Homeschool YouTube channel or download from your favorite podcasting platform.





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by Natalie Vecchione, from FASD Hope


Note–I’m writing this article as a parent advocate. I am not a medical professional nor a clinical  expert. I am not providing any medical or legal advice and I do not intend this to replace clinical or medical counsel. This post is for informational purposes only. This post does not take the place of professional counseling or medical help. 


Since 1949, May has been established as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about mental health, provide support, fight stigma and advocate for the millions of children, teens, and adults with mental illnesses (source Mental Health is critical to overall health. Just as you would not let an individual with diabetes or asthma go untreated, it’s important to seek evaluation, treatment, and accommodations of those with mental health disorders.  


Children and youths with complex needs are those between the ages 5-21 who have both a developmental or intellectual disability and a mental health diagnosis. The prevalence of those with both a developmental disability (DD) or intellectual disability (ID) and a mental health diagnosis is much higher than you might expect. A conservative estimate of those with both a DD or ID and a mental health diagnosis is between 32-50% ( Also of note, the CDC estimates 1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years old has a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder and those statistics increase as children become adolescents. Other factors can exacerbate mental health disorders, such as trauma, having a long-term illness or a change in the home environment. Mental Health Disorders can also occur alone in children and teens who may not have other diagnoses. 


What does this mean for parents? Since children and teens with special needs can be more likely to have a mental health diagnosis, it’s important for parents to be aware, informed, and prepared about their children’s mental health and where to look for support and resources. As the parent of a young adult with both a developmental disability and a mental health diagnosis, I can tell you that systemic misunderstanding, lack of resources, lack of trained professionals and stigma are daily struggles for kids and teens with complex needs and their families. 


What are some things that I want you to know, as a mom of a young adult who has both a developmental disability and a mental health diagnosis who successfully completed homeschool almost 2 years ago? 


  • Homeschooling is a WONDERFUL accommodation for kids with developmental disabilities or brain-based diagnoses and mental health diagnoses. The complex needs of our kids can make traditional school a struggle, and homeschooling allows us to meet our kids where they are at and accommodate their needs.
  • Often, what you may perceive as willful behaviors in a child or teen with a brain-based diagnosis and or mental health diagnosis are instead behavioral symptoms show dysregulation or the need for treatment, care and accommodations. It is often said that “the children and teens who need the most love and help will often ask for it in the most unloving ways”.  
  • I learned this the hard way. Have GRACE with your child who is coping with a mental health diagnosis. You can’t discipline a diagnosis, illness or disability! You can find medical support, treatment, medications, therapies, and accommodations.  
  • This journey can be very isolating. Parent support groups, peer mentors and ministries in mental health can help lessen the isolation. 
  • This journey is also filled with stigma. Unfortunately, many still view mental health disorders as shameful and shocking. Having a mental health disorder is a medical condition and medical conditions are to be properly treated!
  • One resource that truly helped my family and myself to understand mental health, and when a situation becomes an emergency, was through taking an 8 hour “Mental Health First Aid” course. Mental Health First Aid is “a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health”. You can learn more at 
  • Another wonderful resource has been our faith-based family therapist. Steve has walked alongside our family for the past 3 years and we are so blessed that he has helped our son, and our family, make such progress while growing in our faith and hope!  
  • A few of my mom friends who understand the complex needs of parenting those with developmental disabilities and mental health diagnoses and I came up with the phrase “Grace and Space”. Having grace with our children and ourselves is important!  Equally important is having space for renewal. For me, it’s steeping myself in God’s Word on my quiet, front porch, or picking blueberries in the summer under my favorite overgrown blueberry “tree”. For you, it may be a cup of coffee with a trusted friend. Grace and Space. 
  • Homeschooling allowed us to build in those “buffer days” for when we all needed those “mental health” days. I’ve learned that our schedule looks different from other homeschool families and different is OK! 
  • Finally, focus on the gifts, strengths, and abilities of your children! They are treasures and it’s up to us, as their parents, to help them dig through the dark, so they may shine!  


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Natalie Vecchione is a FASD parent advocate, podcaster, author… and most importantly a wife and homeschool mom of two. Natalie and her husband, John, built their family through domestic adoption. Their son, who is almost 20, lives with a FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). He graduated from homeschool as a carpentry apprentice. Their daughter is 7 and they have a much different adoption journey with her, as they are very close with their daughter’s birth family. Natalie turned her family’s unique challenges and journey with FASD from reinvention into a calling when she and her husband began FASD Hope in  2020. Natalie and her family live in Eastern North Carolina. 

Natalie’s book “Blazing New Homeschool Trails: Educating and Launching Teens with Developmental Disabilities” co-written with Cindy LaJoy




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 by Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., Simply Classical Curriculum, Myself & Others Curriculum, and Cheryl Swope Consulting


“My child doesn’t have special needs. They just have anxiety, depression, and OCD.” I often hear such statements. Parents sometimes wonder why a child struggles with learning when they don’t have “special needs,” as if only Down syndrome or severe autism impacts learning! 


As many of us can attest, any mental turmoil can dramatically affect a child’s ability to concentrate, perform consistently, and feel accomplished academically. Rather than ignore these issues, we would do well to take note. Mental health concerns appear to be on the rise for children. In a recent study of 8,000 teens in the United States in 2021, 44% say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness of hopelessness,” which is up from 26% in 2009. Even 29%, more than 1 in 4, seems high. The 2021 percentage – 44% – is the highest level of teenage depression ever recorded. 


One widespread cause seems clear. According to a Cambridge study of 84,000 individuals, social media use was strongly associated with worsening mental health. A particularly vulnerable group appears to be girls ages 11-13. Instagram’s own internal research noted that one-third of all teenage girls said “Instagram made them feel worse,” even though these girls “feel unable to stop themselves” from logging on. (Read more in The Atlantic April 13, 2022 article, “Why American Teens Are So Sad.”) 


What can we do? One straightforward antidote is simply going “cold turkey,” as we would with any addiction or compulsion, and substituting something much healthier and more satisfying. Church attendance, heart-to-heart conversations, good books, art classes, team sports, individual exercise like swimming or running, volunteering, or outings with friends will almost certainly, if only gradually, improve a child’s well-being. (Pair this with professional medical or integrative treatment as needed.)


Another culprit according to the writer of the article referenced above, is modern parenting. By extension, this may include modern homeschooling. Rather than teach our child to enjoy the uniquely gratifying pen-to-paper expression of writing by hand, we scribe all of their work for them. Rather than expose our dog-averse child to the neighbor’s easygoing Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, we shield them from all dogs. Rather than teach our resistant child to enjoy gratifying pen-to-paper written expression, we scribe all of their work for them. Rather than teach the child to set the table, make their bed, or empty the dishwasher, we do all of these things for them. Rather than introduce the vegetables, fats, and proteins they needs for optimal brain health, we allow the sugary snacks or textures they prefer. Rather than invite an agreeable child to play, we avoid playdates altogether. We give the child the impression that we do not think they can handle much at all. 


Persistent rescuing emboldens anxiety and may worsen other conditions. We convey our anxiety about their anxiety and only compound the problem. When a child is depressed and wants to be alone, we can honor their request at times, but we also need to plan enjoyable outings, active sports, or nature walks. We can also make a point of visiting others who need cheering. For the obsessive child, such social distractions often help. For example, when a child compulsively checks something a certain number of times, to “prevent” doom from befalling a family member,  we can work with a therapist to include exposure techniques that embolden the child to see the fallacy of their previous thinking. When they learn that all will be well even when they do not check, they can better enjoy the freedom to allow themselves not to engage in such checking and spend their time in pursuits that truly do help others. 


Consider these resources to help with the above:


Accommodations have become an understandable norm of good parenting, but we need to be careful. The desired result of parenting is not the absence of all uncomfortable feelings, but rather the resilience to carry on in spite of them. Let’s return to what we know: Children need good playmates, even if they cannot yet manage to establish true “friends.” Children need to build competence academically, even if this requires step-by-step instruction. Children need to learn that they can happily and freely live outside of the little screen on any device to see the real world around them. They can be brave, capable, and thoughtful toward others, as this may be the best and surest way to overcome sadness and hopelessness. As we help our children see their purpose, we can reintroduce our children to the importance of becoming strong, resilient people in their families, churches, and neighborhoods who love, care for, and appreciate those around them with greater confidence, compassion, and cheer.

Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., is the author of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child (Memoria Press, 2nd edition, 2019) and the Simply Classical Curriculum (Memoria Press) for children with mental, physical, and emotional special needs. She and her husband live in a quiet lake community in Missouri with their adult twins who have autism and schizophrenia and who serve others in numerous ways.





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