SPED Homeschool Team

How do families find community while homeschooling? Sometimes, finding our extended network of friends comes easily. And sometimes, it’s a challenge. Every month we ask our SPED Homeschool team to share their own experiences navigating through the highs – and lows – of homeschooling. We live in different places with children that are different ages, have different diagnoses, and different interests. And the way we find community is also different.

 

Finding Our Foundation by Cammie Arn

Building community around here starts with our church and finishes with our homeschool community. 

We began this journey as a military family and moved frequently so finding community was hard because it takes time to build relationships with others. Once we separated from the military, it became easier. Having eight children over a twenty-year span has given my family countless opportunities to plug into different groups and organizations. I have been a ballroom dance mom, a theater mom, a choir mom, a speech and debate mom, a Taekwondo mom, a soccer mom, a baseball mom, and a ministry mom. While involved in all these different activities, we were able to find community based on both faith and common interests.

I find the biggest key to building a community for our family started with being willing to meet someone else’s needs first. That is where community truly begins. 

 

Encouraged by Co-Op by Dawn Spence

One thing that I learned early on in homeschooling is that we needed a community. I wanted to walk along those with similar goals and those who could celebrate the good times and pray for me in the bad times. Having these meaningful connections is one way I take care of myself emotionally and physically. Our homeschooling community included our co-op. They were amazing as they embraced my daughter with special needs. That was important for us because whatever we choose to do, it would have to fit everyone. Through co-op, we found friends that have a big part in our community. While our co-op has not met yet this year, our community of homeschooling friends has been a source of constant encouragement. This journey for our family needs and thrives on our community.

 

Small but Substantial by Lara Lee

It is hard to be involved in everything, but the few groups we are committed to have helped all of us have relationships in a way that is not overwhelming. Even though we are part of the Texas Homeschool Coalition, sometimes therapy schedules and medical appointments make it difficult to attend activities to meet other parents. While we share an interest in homeschooling, I often end up feeling down over the fact that my special needs child is not able to do what other children can do. I end up feeling pressure, discontentment, or that we are behind. I stay in touch with the organization for ideas and resources, but we find our community in other places.

For us, our homeschool communities have come from the various therapies and outside interests my son has. We were able to find therapeutic horseback riding that works with a sliding pay scale. The horses helped my son in so many ways, and we were also to have a group of friends with diverse needs who share this same interest in horseback riding. My son can succeed and even compete at this. 

We also have a great church community with a few homeschoolers. The church has provided support, adoptive grandparents, and friends of all ages.

 

Starting Over Again by Peggy Ployhar

Since we have lived in many places over our 18 years of homeschooling, we have had to build, and rebuild, our homeschooling community. From living in the suburbs surrounded by fellow homeschoolers, to dealing with weather and small-town cultural issues that kept us rather isolated, to being transient as we lived and homeschooled in our RV twice, we found that adapting how we found and created community was different, but nonetheless rewarding for our efforts. In the times of plenty, we chose wisely which groups and activities we should participate in. In times of scarcity, we relished the few friendships God allowed us to entertain and the diversity of community and cultural experiences we enjoyed with those who allowed us to come into their lives. And, in the times when we didn’t have a distinct place to put down our roots for too long, we enjoyed the community of our family and the new experiences and discoveries we were allowed to experience together. We have learned that community is what you make of the relationships you have right in front of you, instead of letting them slip through your fingers in the pursuit of something better, more typical, or what you had envisioned.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Leanna Ampola – SPED Homeschool Partner, HomeschoolAnywhere

One of the best things about homeschooling is that your children can learn by being a part of the broader community. Homeschoolers everywhere can supplement their at-home learning by attending local homeschool events and taking online classes. 

 

Advice for New Homeschool Families

Our greatest homeschooling asset is each other. If you recently began homeschooling, you will want to connect to in-person groups and online resources. 

Online: If you use Facebook, find local groups of homeschoolers that align with your values. Larger cities will often have groups for specific areas of the city. I recommend joining local and state-wide groups so you get a variety of perspectives. There are also nationwide groups for specific topics, such as homeschooling a child with ADHD. 

In-Person: Children thrive in the company of others. And parents do too. Some of my best adult friends have come from the homeschool community. Find local social groups that meetup for in-person activities or classes. If you have difficulty, post on your local Facebook group and tell them what you are looking for. And if you don’t find what you want, start a group of your own! 

 

Finding Activities

There are so many amazing events and classes! Keeping track of them can be daunting, even for seasoned homeschoolers. Some Facebook groups keep lists of local activities and resources. You can also look on HomeschoolAnywhere.com which is an online calendar of homeschool activities. 

 

In-Person Learning and Connection 

Below are just some ideas for in-person connection. Check beforehand to ensure you are comfortable with their in-person Covid-19 precautions so you can stay safe while having fun.  

Homeschool social groups: Your local homeschool social groups are a great way to find new friends, both for you and your children. Many host classes and sponsor field trips.

Homeschool days and classes: Many museums, zoos, and nature centers host monthly homeschool days. Organizations such as science centers, churches, gymnastics / dance centers, and others sometimes hold daytime homeschool classes. Your local Facebook groups may list these, or you can find them on each organization’s website.

Factory tours: Our homeschool group toured a family-run cheese factory and an Arden’s Garden juice factory. We also had a (tasty) educational session about making chocolate at a chocolatier. Reach out to small or large businesses that produce products. Unless they have legal restrictions, they are often happy to arrange a tour. 

Farm tours: Learn about biology, botany, and animal husbandry at your local farm. See what’s in season and go picking. Group tours are also an option. Take what you learn on the farm and do some gardening at home. 

Local history: Communities are rich with history. You can also search the  National Register of Historic Places to find historical houses or other places near you. Also, some local cemeteries give out educational information or host tours. 

State parks: Many state parks offer much more than hiking. Many have museums and offer regular educational programs. Get on their email lists to keep up with their events. 

Hybrid learning centers: Some organizations offer hybrid homeschool programs, where children learn with others for part of the week. Ask your local homeschool group what options exist in your community.

Volunteer: It’s wonderful to volunteer as a group. I organized groups of homeschool children to do monthly crafts at a local nursing home, pack food at a food bank, and do yard work at a wildlife nature center (where we got to learn about the animals afterwards). Each organization has its own rules, but many welcome volunteers. 

Specialty centers: Many communities have businesses that specialize in activities like cooking, sewing, yoga, skating, archery, and even comedy. Their facilities are mostly empty during the day, and they are often excited to host a class if homeschoolers ask for one. Children can also connect virtually to attend classes from afar.

 

Virtual Classes and Community

In 2020, virtual classes have replaced many that are normally held in person. For example, most museum “homeschool days” are currently virtual. Though not ideal, they still provide an enriching live connection. These are just a few of the many places you can find virtual activities. 

  •  HomeschoolAnywhere.com hosts a calendar of virtual homeschool activities that can be sorted by age, cost, topic, religion, etc.  
  • Outschool lists online classes for children of all ages.  
  • Go somewhere new from the comfort of your couch! Girl Travel Tours offers live virtual tours of places like Egypt, New Zealand, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China. (For everyone, not just girls.) They are free with tips appreciated. Past sessions are archived and can be watched anytime.  
  • Last year we got hooked on watching a livestream of bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls, Alaska. From nesting spoonbills to a kitten sanctuary to a watering hole in Africa, this site  streams 24/7 from around the world.  
  • There are many online opportunities for special learners, such as  Incuentro, which offers live virtual classes to help children learn social skills.  
  • You can tour museums around the world… from the Sistine Chapel to the National Museum of China. These self-guided tours are an excellent way to supplement your art, history, and science curriculums. This site lists 75 of the best virtual museum tours in the world.  

 

There is a vast variety of online classes, especially during COVID-19… you can find everything from chess to cooking to acting. Some organizations cater specifically to homeschoolers, whether secular or religious. Several are listed here .

 

When choosing activities, let your children’s interests lead the way. And whichever experiences you choose, have fun and “pay it forward” by sharing what you know with other homeschoolers. Best wishes for all your homeschool adventures!

 

 

 

 

 


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Valerie Bolieu, Texas Home School Coalition SPED Homeschool Partner

We all need community!

We all have a responsibility to build community. It may be through our families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, work, or social groups, etc.. 

I love being a part of the homeschool community and a staff member at the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) . Every day is a new adventure, like fishing in the ocean, you never know what kind of sea creature you will catch after casting your pole. Every day is different because of the array of questions we receive through phone calls and email from homeschooling families all over our state.

I enjoy being able to talk with fellow homeschoolers whether they are brand new homeschoolers who are petrified of what they are getting into or seasoned and already know how to homeschool. Why do they call? Because they have hit a bump in the road, or just have questions in their season in life as a homeschool parent.

Another substantial part of home education I love being involved in is the fact that we as parents can learn alongside our children. Teaching is actually an effective tool for learning, and it is a gift to learn with our children. This rapport with our child is the beginning of creating our homeschooling community.

I love to get together and be a small part in my local area with co-op days, field trips, park days, parties, graduations, and hear parents, teachers, grandparents, and even the students, sharing what they have been using for curriculum and may love it or not so much. I also enjoy learning about what they may be trying out for their students, area classes, homeschool organization tips, discipline techniques, you name it. We can learn so much from others and the communities we are building every day and every year.

More than ever, people are feeling isolated despite the ever-increasing sources of technology and social media advancements. There are too many of these types of sources available right at our fingertips, however, these sources can make us feel more isolated, thus we need to be intentional with all of our relationships right now.

Community creates growth. As a state homeschooling support and advocacy organization, the Texas Homeschool Coalition (THSC) has many support groups on our website. If you live in Texas, you can search our site for a group that is a good fit for you and your family . If you live outside of Texas make sure to check your state homeschooling website to their groups listings, you can find more state organizations who partner with SPED Homeschool using this link.

You can be part of a community in your area or online. I would suggest both so you can gather for times of fellowship in person as well as having advice or help at the touch of your fingers.  Groups can have so much to offer the whole family.  It is great to be in groups with like-minded people, and homeschooling is one of those connections we can make with others. There are also connections we make within those groups with families with kids of the same ages and other interests as well as special need students. If you are interested in getting connected with a virtual group, check out this link to the various groups SPED Homeschool hosts .

I think this year it has been especially important in being proactive about building a homeschooling community, as most of us have felt isolated from our normal routines due to COVID-19. We need to begin to repair the connections that have been broken because of this pandemic. Our nation, our state, our cities, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our support groups, need to build back the community support to heal and create networks of support in all areas. More than ever, people are feeling isolated despite the ever-increasing sources of technology and social media advancements. There are too many of these types of sources available right at our fingertips, however, these sources can make us feel more isolated, thus we need to be intentional with all of our relationships right now.

I challenge each of you to make an intentional phone call or write a letter or card to someone to broaden your family’s community and reach out to someone that may really need that interaction with a live person.

Keep building community relationships and growing our homeschool community. We need each other and building that community starts from your home and builds outward into your community.

 

 

 

 

 


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by Peggy Ployhar

 

Before the COVID-19 crisis and there was such a term as a “homeschool pod,” this small personalized homeschooling community was how our family developed some of the richest and most meaningful learning experiences with other homeschooling families.

 

The Basics for Creating Homeschool Pod Community

Creating community is work, and often that is why we avoid it. But the advantages of creating community far outweigh the disadvantages. As we unite with others different from us, we have a great deal to learn from them and about ourselves, and we are always better off from the exchange. This goes for adults and children.

As a parent of a child with a special educational need, pods can be the most ideal community for your student and the other students involved because they may never have had a friend with a learning or physical challenge. Thus, don’t just try to pair up with other families who are homeschooling children with special needs, instead join up with those who are nearby and who need community just as much as you and your student.

 

How to Find Homeschool Pod Families

  • Seek out other families in your neighborhood who are homeschooling this year
  • Ask these families about how they are handling COVID exposure and ensure they and your family share similar views 
  • Ask these families how much they would like to meet in a given week/month and what types of shared activities they would like to do with other homeschooling families
  • Determine if these families are willing to cooperatively share in running the pod and decide on general responsibilities for each family, parent, and child
  • Ensure everyone coming into your pod has a willingness to learn and grow together, respect each person’s individuality, each family’s values, and work out conflict when it arises

 

“…this small personalized homeschooling community was how our family developed some of the richest and most meaningful learning experiences with other homeschooling families.

 

Setting Up Your Homeschool Pod

  • Start with an initial plan, maybe even just a parent meeting before you get all the kids together, and be willing as a group to consider your plan as a “draft in progress” for the first few meetings so you can make necessary changes it if needed
  • Set up a way to communicate and change your initial and ongoing schedules to meet the needs of the group
  • Be consistent and be there for one another, even beyond your homeschooling  and student learning needs
  • Create a homeschool pod oath, including the following elements: Respect for individuality; Being accountable; Helping one another in and out of meeting times; Be teachable; Willing to grow and learn; Understanding there is always something new for everyone to learn; Forgive and give mercy.

 

As I look back on the years our homeschooling pod met on a regular basis, I am thankful for the deep and lasting relationships my children and I were able to develop with other homeschooling families. Even to this day, these are some of the people we call our dearest friends.

If you are interested in learning even more about homeschool pods, check out this relevant article on the National School Choice Week website.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Dr Rebecka Spencer SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner Cherish Children Ministries

 

Am I the only one who has thought this with one of my children? So many times I have thought, “Can that kid hear me?” Or, “Why doesn’t he just follow instructions?”

As an educator for over 18 years with experience in all grade levels from early childhood through college levels, you can imagine my dismay when I found myself homeschooling, not one, but two struggling learners. Two of my children have auditory processing disorders and one is hearing impaired. In addition to homeschooling, my latest endeavor is to help moms and educators across the globe get their little dyslexics and struggling learners thriving with easy tools and exercises that can be done at home for free. 

When I would ask my then 4-year-old to put his shoes on, grab his coat, and come to me to help him tie and zip, he would get his coat, ball cap, and no shoes. I wondered if he was even hearing me. Then, I began to wonder if it was an obedience issue that needed to be addressed. After taking classes in dyslexia, brain balance, and spectrum disorders such as ADD, ADHD, Autism, and Auditory Processing, the dots began to connect. It was then that I realized my child had an auditory processing weakness.

 

Checking the boxes – Auditory Processing

I don’t know about you, but when I found a checklist, I had an ah-ha moment. Even though I had taken classes and had a dyslexic child, I did not know about the signs and symptoms to look for in that of an auditory processing weakness.

This is so important in academic, social, and behavior skills. Understanding and decoding language, verbal instructions, and commands as well as social cues are all related to auditory processing. I did not know what to look for or how to stimulate growth in this area, but now I do!

Listening skills and auditory processing are not about the ears’ ability to hear. Rather, they are about the brain’s ability to decode language, make sense of it, and then produce an appropriate response. That’s complex stuff!

 

What does auditory processing have to do with reading?

Well, auditory processing disorder is different from dyslexia, but reading is language-based and so is auditory processing.

Reading is language-based, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, and auditory processing delays are weaknesses in the ability of the brain to filter and process sounds and words, especially in language. 

This is why many children with dyslexia also have auditory processing issues and auditory processing delays can contribute to dyslexia at a young age. 

You may be wondering what the difference is between hearing and actual auditory processing, so here are some facts. Several kids with dyslexia have had a hearing test because it was thought the child could not hear well. 

Auditory processing is more than just hearing what is being said. Even though kids may have perfect hearing, there could still be an issue with auditory processing. Some research indicates dyslexic children struggle with both written and spoken language (sight and sound).

Many kids have some kind of auditory issue. Sometimes kids have hearing tests that come out normal but they do not seem to react to sound and a normal way. Then we have some kids who are under-sensitive to sound.

Many parents sometimes think their child cannot hear as an infant. Most are unaware that auditory processing is a difference in the right and left hemispheres, like most sensory detection and processing. It does need to be determined if it is a deficit in the right or the left.  

It is simply not enough to say that the child has a hearing or auditory processing issue. The reason this is important is that the issues related to this disorder show up differently, and they need different approaches. 

There is no sensory function that works by itself. Every single one of the senses is dependent on the other sensory functions, which depend on a baseline level of brain activity. Most will assume that if a child does not respond very well to sound that there must be something wrong with the ears, and usually this is not the case. The hearing pathway in the ears can be perfectly normal, and the brain could not respond to the sound because brain activity is weak. Now, if brain activity is not igniting at the right speed it just cannot keep up with the input of sound. 

Auditory processing can inhibit reading. Some kids have even been diagnosed with dyslexia when it is an auditory processing disorder. This information is going to help you either way. You might want to add an audiologist to your child’s team to make sure they hear properly.

Parents and teachers often ask me what should be expected at certain ages just as a baseline of guidance.

Milestones based on age: (It is important to note this is just for a baseline.)

  • 2-4 years old should be able to do 2-3 step commands
  • 5-6 years old should be able to do 3-4 step commands
  • 7 years-adult should be able to do 7 step commands

You can do a few simple tests to see if your child has decreased hearing, but before you do these tests, check to make sure the child does not have an ear infection or fluid in the ears at the time you conduct the test. Be sure to go to your physician to have the ears checked before testing. 

Auditory processing disorder could be to blame for affecting your child’s inability to hear all of the sounds in words and in our language not to mention being able to connect meaning to words.

Sound or auditory discrimination is the ability to distinguish between similar sounds. Weakness in sound or auditory discrimination might be caused by physical hearing issues or by a weakness in sound perception or any combination of these variables. Sound or auditory discrimination difficulties could affect phonological awareness as well as the processing of verbal or auditory information. All of this was news to me even as a doctor of education and being active in the field for over eighteen years. You see, language strength is crucial for children to develop proper auditory processing skills. I like to go over the various milestones with parents to help determine the possible underlying issues such as the unintegrated ATNR (primitive reflex).

So, let’s discuss the difference between actually “hearing” and that of “auditory processing” for just a moment. Typically kids with dyslexia are encouraged to have a hearing test because parents and educators believed there was a hearing issue.

At birth, typical auditory development signals the baby is familiar with parents’ sounds, and become startled at strange sounds, but cannot yet distinguish where sounds are coming from due to the fact the brain has not formed a visual memory to the sound yet. You may have noticed your child preferring the sound of a humidifier or a fan, but do not know where the sound is coming from. However at about 4-6 months, the baby becomes more aware as to where sound is. Children this age know a rattle makes one sound while a big brother or sister makes a different sound. You may notice the child looking at you differently and trying intently to understand what you are saying. 

Remember the ATNR reflex? Well, between 6-12 months of age, the baby will begin to crawl, and this is very important. The baby will crawl towards a sound and even the call of his or her name, and make connections with sounds and movement. Peek-a-boo is a favorite and it is understood objects have names like mamma and daddy, meow, baba, do-do, and will try to imitate those sounds.

This reflex was active at birth. It connected shoulder movement to neck movement and helped the child descend in the birth canal. The ATNR reflex should be integrated by 6-12 months of age. If it is not, it will affect free crawling. This can become an issue because of its impact on auditory processing. Some kiddos will army crawl, or use one side more than the other if they still have the ATNR reflex present. I advise parents to be sure to ask your pediatrician if this reflex is integrated at your well-baby visit. 

If the ATNR is not integrated, it can interfere with proper development. Why? As the baby crawls, he will move his head back and forth trying to take in sounds from places in the room, and this will assist in auditory development in each ear. The baby will learn to understand sounds, away, above, around, to, from, near, and far. The baby will crawl toward the sound and understand the noise becomes more intense while crawling away from, the sound fades.

Pronouns are learned around the age of two, and kids will begin to combine two-word phrases, such as “mama go” andbaba drink.”

By the time a child is about three years of age, the child will be able to find hidden objects, comprehend simple commands, recognize questions, love songs, and rhymes, and develop comprehension of two-step commands.

By 4-5 years old, 200-400 words will be in the child’s vocabulary bank. Understanding special concepts such as, it’s behind the door, or in the bottom of the drawer or it is on top of the shelf. This is the age where children should be able to understand a three-part command, like, go get your coat, put it on, and come to me and I will zip it for you. If the child can only do one part of the command, you might think the child is not obeying, but these kids really may forget because of the processing delay. These kids have a hard time storing and recalling the steps properly and also might stare off into space. They sometimes get diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder when it is just an auditory processing issue. 

I often wondered why our son would mix up parts of a word, and I thought he needed some speech therapy, but I soon realized he struggled with auditory ordering and sequencing like many children who are misdiagnosed with a speech articulation issue. Children with a weakened sequencing ability will recall and store information out of order, like syllables, and might say (bullfallow instead of buffalo, or aminal instead of animal) and they get their numbers out of order so they might say 36 instead of 63. Steps of instructions might be remembered but done out of sequence. These kids may struggle with speech, reading, and math.

He was not able to integrate auditory input and had difficulty understanding words as a whole. At this point, I knew he had dyslexia, but this was when I realized the WHY. The right side of his brain was not communicating with the left to understand the language. Continuing to struggle to understand the meaning of words when sounded aloud was a daily battle until we started auditory brain exercises. Our son always needed to see an example of what he was supposed to do and never wanted to try anything first because he did not understand the instructions. He would just wait and see what others were doing before giving it a try. These sweet kids are good at catching on quickly.

You may find your child struggles with social situations, has poor spelling, poor grammar, and poor reading skills. Most likely this is due to decoding issues which, again is related to auditory processing delays. Differences in similar sounds are not heard like pig vs. big

Perhaps your child is withdrawn from school or social gatherings because of noises. Most likely this is due to auditory figure-ground discrimination. This is because there is a deficit in the ability to separate sounds. 

Speech articulation may be a struggle for your child, and if this is so the case, the most likely contributor is that of an auditory output or organization deficit. Children will say words out of order and confuse similar sounds where they are often mistaken to have a speech delay when articulation is the skill required for speech, but the organization output could be contributing to the speech issue.

Maybe your child can hear sounds and order just fine but struggles to connect it to meaning. If so, this could be due to an auditory associative deficit. Parents can oftentimes become frustrated with these kids because they were able to repeat instructions verbatim, however, not be able to carry out the task at hand because meaning was not made.

Does your child speak in a monotone voice or have difficulty with rhythm and tones in voices? Chances are the child has an auditory prosodic deficit which prevents kids from being able to hear modulation and tones so they are not able to cipher differences in sound and inflection in speech. These kids will struggle in social situations due to the fact they cannot cipher the differences in sounds of voices and can mistake when someone is teasing or being funny versus being mad or frustrated. It’s important to steer clear of sarcasm with these little ones.

You may be surprised to learn short-term memory can also contribute to our auditory delayed learners. Since short-term memory is used to store and recall information, sounds and words, a weakness in this area can cause the language processing part of the brain and memory not to communicate effectively, which will then contribute to reading struggles and difficulty remembering steps. Remember a word learned today will have to be retaught again tomorrow. 

Emotions run high in our auditory delayed learners. Since sound triggers different emotional responses, hearing different stimuli can be a strong trigger. 

You will want to get an audiologist on your child’s team if you suspect auditory delays. 

These are listening and response exercises to help stimulate growth in these areas we’ve just discussed. Together, with my colleague, we created these beautiful effective cards for our struggling learners. Kids enjoy these games.

The auditory processing cards are meant to be a fun way to help your child stimulate and increase brain processing. These cards and activities will aid the child in:

  • Associative Deficit
  • Prosodic Deficit
  • Sequencing (you may use along with the Brain Balance cards SEQUENCING portion for this activity). When giving more than one clue at a time and asking the child to mark off the images in the same order as they have been called out orally will assist with sequencing.

Processing disorders, like auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, and sensory processing disorder are caused by a deficiency in a person’s ability to effectively use the information gathered by the senses. 

If you have a child or a student who you believe has auditory processing issues, you need to consider the issue may not be the result of impaired hearing, impaired vision, attention disorders, intellectual disability, or learning deficit. It is simply this; if the brain cannot properly process the auditory, visual, and sensory information it receives, a child’s ability to learn and thrive in an academic setting is affected, often leading to low self-esteem and social withdrawal. While processing disorders are not featured in the DSM-IV as stand-alone disorders, they are widely recognized as co-morbid issues for children with developmental delays.

So, what does all of this matter? Well, auditory processing disorder could be affecting a child’s ability to hear all of the sounds in words, in our language, and be able to connect meaning to words.

The best part is you can do so many strengthening exercises right in your own home without spending hundreds of dollars on fancy centers and special equipment. It just takes a little know-how, time, and consistency. You can do it! 

After I began to do all of these really fun and as my sons would say, “kinda crazy” exercises, it was like a flip of a switch in that the light turned on. Just the other day, our 10-year-old had three step instructions for a language lesson. He was supposed to draw a line between the subject and predicate, underline the simple subject once and the verb twice. He was thrilled when he said, “Look, Mom, I numbered the steps of what I was supposed to do without you helping me.” Here’s to YOUR Success!

 

Be Blessed,

Dr. Rebecka

Cherish Children Ministries

 

 

 


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Stephanie Buckwalter – SPED Homeschool Partner Art of Special Needs Parenting

Homeschool is a great place to help your special needs child make progress on therapy goals. The key is to understand what drives your child’s need for therapy and the brain’s need for neurological organization.

 

What is therapy?

Therapy is simply training the body to do things that come naturally to neurologically organized people. A neurologically organized brain learns and develops in ways that we call “normal.” When someone needs therapy, it means there is some kind of disconnect between the body and the brain that causes dysfunction. 

 

Many times, a disorder or dysfunction falls along a spectrum. We use terms like mild, moderate, severe, or profound to identify where on the spectrum. Those terms actually refer to neurological organization. A child with mild disabilities is just a little neurologically disorganized. A child with profound disabilities is very neurologically disorganized. When you work on neurological organization, you are working on moving your child along the spectrum toward “normal” function.

 

How does the brain relate to therapy?

There are three main pieces to the puzzle of neurological organization as it relates to therapy. That means there are three potential points of disconnect you may need to address. Think of it in terms of a sensory-motor process:

  1. Sensory input—external (5 senses) and internal (proprioceptive [where you are in space] and vestibular [balance] senses)
  2. Brain processing—storing information, recalling, memory, making connections, sequencing, signals for motor output
  3. Motor output—speech, run, laugh, jump, write, read, perform, play

The therapy your child receives should address one or more of these three parts of the process. The goal of therapy is to help your child become more neurologically organized or physically proficient so they can function in a more “normal” way, a way that makes life easier for them. Take a look at the same graphic in terms of therapy:

To manipulate input, you would vary the frequency, intensity and duration of the activity to influence the brain. With profound disability or if you are just starting to address an area of need, you should start with high frequency, high intensity and short duration. 

Think of a baby learning to crawl. They try over and over to get up on their hands and knees (high frequency). They rock back and forth. They concentrate on their goal—they are not playing with toys or watching mom’s face while learning to crawl (high intensity). But they tire quickly (short duration). As they begin to crawl, the frequency remains high, the intensity lowers and the duration increases until the skill is mastered and performed with ease.

Therapy should work the same way. This is why homeschool is ideal for therapy overall. You can do daily therapy practice to vary the sensory input that your child needs in terms of frequency, intensity and duration. 

Another thing to be aware of related to sensory input is negative sensory input. Some behavior issues can be related to environmental factors such as temperature, sound, feel of clothing, lighting or visual stimuli. You can also look at food reactions or lack of sleep. If your child is reacting during school, start a diary of each incident and look for patterns to determine the source. I have an Incident Report form you can use in my free ebook Crash Course: How to Teach Your Special Needs Child at Home . It also covers more of the neurological information presented here. 

Next, jump ahead to the motor output. This involves the types of therapy that are most familiar: Physical Therapy (PT), Speech Therapy (ST), Occupational Therapy (OT) and Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA). One reason for the familiarity is because insurance will pay for these types of therapy with little hassle and schools offer them. When you branch out into other therapies, you are usually on your own as far as paying for them.

Training the motor output is important because our children don’t always intuit what they should do physically, socially or emotionally. They can learn many things but have to be taught everything. If your child is receiving therapy, ask for daily homework assignments and vary the frequency, intensity and duration to get the desired output.

Between the input and the output comes the processing. For a variety of reasons, your child’s brain may not be functioning well. It could be from damage, malformation, inflammation, lack of specific nutrients or a variety of other reasons. There are therapies designed to address how the left and right sides of the brain integrate to help it bypass any blocked pathways, whether physical, electrical or chemical. These are things like rhythmic movement therapy, music listening therapy, Brain Gym® or other therapies that work on balancing or integrating brain functions.

There are other things you can do in the areas of diet, biomedical, energy medicine, naturopathic medicine and holistic solutions. Those are outside the scope of this article but they are an important part of helping your child succeed. Sometimes it is these interventions that help the brain the most. Homeschooling allows you to integrate medical and natural protocols into your school and other therapies in the way that best suits your child’s needs.

 

What does this mean for my child?

For a homeschooled child, you have complete freedom to work with your child at the times and for the duration you deem necessary. You can also apply the idea of frequency, intensity and duration to learning academics or life skills. I’ll give you an example.

One of my children didn’t learn to read until the end of fourth grade. We were on curriculum number five when things finally started to click. But I don’t think it was the curriculum, per se. I had a list of the 2,000 most common words in the English language, ranging from first-grade level to high school vocabulary. I told him if he would read through all the words, he could have a particular item that was of high value to him. (It was not expensive, just highly motivating to him.)

So each day we would sit together and read a word list. They were broken down into 20-word groups. For the early lists, we could do two or three a day. As the words got longer and harder, we would do only one or two lists a day. We did this every day. No matter how poorly he read the words, we sounded them out together. It took about 2 or 3 months to get through the list. He earned his prize and then school was out for summer.

Without even realizing it, I had used the frequency, intensity and duration principles to teach him to read. We did high frequency (we even read on weekends sometimes because he was motivated), high intensity (reading was very hard for him) and short duration (just a few words at a time). We did not review or repeat words as that was not the goal.

By the end of the school year, he was reading at a first- or second-grade level. Like all well-intentioned homeschool moms, I was going to work with him over the summer but that never happened (maybe because I had a newly diagnosed special needs child). Interestingly, by the time school started in the fall, he was reading easily at a second-grade level and by the end of fifth grade that year, he was reading at a fifth-grade level or higher. So after two months of intense “reading therapy” and a break of three months where his brain was processing with no additional input, he learned to read.

I share this to show that sometimes, if we focus more on how we are providing the input than trying to get our child to produce output, we can have amazing results.

For my special needs daughter who has moderate disabilities, the real value has been in working on the brain and neurological organization. She spent time in public school. During that time, I worked with her on brain therapies at home. Through interactions with her teacher, I could easily see what was working and what was not working. 

My focus was strictly neurological organization, not academics, so vast improvements at school were most likely due to increased neurological organization versus academic instruction. I know this is true because her teachers were always amazed at how much she progressed, implying that they didn’t really do anything different with her than the other students to cause such an increase in progress. I also know it works because when I do not keep up with her neurological therapies, she slides into fight or flight mode and doesn’t function very well intellectually or behaviorally.

For my special needs daughter who has moderate disabilities, the real value has been in working on the brain and neurological organization. She spent time in public school. During that time, I worked with her on brain therapies at home. Through interactions with her teacher, I could easily see what was working and what was not working. 

My focus was strictly neurological organization, not academics, so vast improvements at school were most likely due to increased neurological organization versus academic instruction. I know this is true because her teachers were always amazed at how much she progressed, implying that they didn’t really do anything different with her than the other students to cause such an increase in progress. I also know it works because when I do not keep up with her neurological therapies, she slides into fight or flight mode and doesn’t function very well intellectually or behaviorally.

If you’ve ever wondered why therapy is not really working for your child, it may be that they need work on varying input or neurological organization before manipulating the motor output will be effective.

 

What can I do in my homeschool?

Here are some ways to incorporate therapy into your homeschool day and help your child become more neurologically organized:

  • Apply frequency, intensity and duration principles to:
    • Therapy homework
    • Your child’s goals, academics or life skills
    • A particularly difficult subject for your child
  • Add developmental movement to your day
    • Use exercises that are specifically developmental in nature, like those from Brain Gym® or the book Smart Moves
    • Add rhythmic movement therapy to address retained reflexes
    • Take walks – the body is designed to walk and naturally alternates sides, increasing brain integration
    • Do exercises or dance (not necessarily developmentally but better than nothing)
  • Train motor output
    • Learn therapy exercises from your child’s therapists
    • Use hand-over-hand support to teach skills
    • Physically manipulate your child’s body to encourage correct function

 

Never give up on your child, regardless of age. If you can improve neurological organization, you can improve your child’s life. 

 

 

 

 


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by Sarah Collins – SPED Homeschool Partner, Colins Academy Therapy

 

Motor planning is the ability to conceive, plan, and carry out a new motor act. My favorite example is curling your hair with a new curling iron using a mirror. Upon first glance, it is somewhat disorienting. You have to consciously think about which way to move the arm, practice, and then can typically create a beautiful hairstyle. For some, this comes easily, but for others, it takes additional practice and deliberate, conscious planning.

Within the homeschool day, difficulties with motor planning can manifest themselves in many different ways. However, activities to address these skills can be fun and easy to incorporate. Here are my top four ways to incorporate these skills throughout the day.

 

Meal Times

Breakfast is a great time to start independent meal preparation. Place ingredients in easy-to-handle containers, like cereal in a small container with milk poured in a separate cup. This gives independence within a skill level. Cracking eggs using the correct amount of pressure or stirring without sloshing are two other areas we have encouraged independence by placing bowls within a sink or using huge bowls to whisk small amounts. As kids become more proficient, these safeguards are changed then removed.

 

Outside

Spending lots of time outside not only allows for nature study and other free play, but it encourages children to engage their bodies in a natural environment. They have to take risks to climb a tree, change their footing when going down a hill or when balancing on a rock. As parents and home educators, we often don’t want to let our children fall or fail. However, independently coming up with a movement, completing the movement, and then self-evaluating are all aspects of motor planning that require risk-taking and permission to fail.

 

Obstacle Courses

Obstacle courses are another favorite of mine to encourage motor planning. Sometimes, I give specific ideas for the course while other times I tell them to make it up on their own.

 

Games

Finally, here is a list of fantastic games that incorporate motor planning.

  • 1. Simon Says
  • 2. Robot Turtles
  • 3. Kids Charades
  • 4. Left Right Center
  • 5. Jenga

 

Part of the reason that I love being an occupational therapist consulting with homeschoolers is that it allows me to explain my thinking behind what we do at home with our kids while influencing other families. Even during a global pandemic, it has allowed me to continue to combine both of my passions and keep my brain working!! Please contact Collins Academy Therapy Services for a personal consultation about incorporating these strategies into your homeschool.

 

This was originally published on Sarah’s website as Motor Planning Strategies in the Homeschool.

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, PhD, M ND

 

An often overlooked piece of the puzzle for children that may be struggling emotionally, behaviorally, or academically is nutrition. The child’s metabolic system, its internal chemistry, can have a lot to do with the way they feel in general. As you know, an irritable child has trouble in every area of life from social interaction to academic performance and everything in between. If there are allergies to foods, the whole system reacts and causes cascading negative effects. Below are a few recommendations for all kids to feel their best!

 

Filtered Water

How much do you weigh? Now, divide that number by 2. This number is the absolute minimum number of ounces that your body needs each day to be healthy. Your brain cells need this water to function properly, so drink up! If you do not filter the water you drink, then your body becomes the filter.

 

Liquid Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement

Make sure any vitamins and minerals are sugar-free and without dyes. Instead of gummies or chewables, consider liquids because they will absorb faster and more completely than pills. A high-quality mineral supplement must be PH-balanced for the body to assimilate the minerals. Any treatment with supplements is compromised if the diet includes too much refined sugar and saturated fat.

 

Important Foods to Eat Every Day

  • Protein is a great way to start the day and an important part of breakfast. 
  • Consume more fresh fruits and raw vegetables throughout the day. 
  • Low-glycemic sweeteners to explore include stevia, xylitol, Sweet & Slender, sucanat, rice syrup, and barley malt. These sweeteners have a lower glycemic index than refined sugars, maple syrup, molasses, or honey. Fructose and agave have low glycemic values; however, if eaten after a large meal, they take on the higher glycemic value of other foods so only consume these on an empty stomach.

 

Foods to Avoid

  • Sugar and sugar substitutes such as corn syrup, NutraSweet, Splenda, Sweet’N Low are heavily processed and can have a range of side effects. Avoid caffeinated drinks that usually also contain lots of sugar. Consider reducing white flour that turns into sugar and instead serve whole wheat and whole grains. These sugars and starches can cause chemical and mineral imbalances in the body. They can negatively affect the mind, body, and emotions. Read labels of all processed food. Did you know there is more sugar in catsup than jam?
  • Artificial food coloring, food additives and preservatives can cause negative chemical reactions in the body.
  • Cow’s milk that is homogenized and pasteurized creates mucus in the respiratory tract and holds mucus in the intestinal tract. Consider rice dream milk or almond milk without sugar.
  • Hydrogenated oils impair the blood-brain barrier where nutrients are exchanged for waste in brain cells. These oils clog the bloodstream and can cause coronary problems.
  • Wheat and gluten are also foods that can negatively affect a child’s gut. The gut has been called the second brain. Symptoms of gluten-sensitivity are abdominal cramping, diarrhea, poor sleep, rashes, and foggy thinking, to name a few.

 

Dr. Jan has seen nutrition as a significant factor for children with learning struggles but, again, only part of the puzzle. As a NeuroDevelopmentalist for over 25 years, she knows that you have to take into consideration all of the child’s development. The great news is that it is never too late to change the brain and increase the individual’s overall function. For more information about The NeuroDevelopmental Approach to Life, visit www.BrainSprints.com.

 

Check out our comprehensive resource for diet and food issues!

 

REFERENCES

  1. Aihara, Herman. Acid & Alkaline.
  2. Baroody, Theodore, A., Ph.D., N.D. Alkalize Or Die.
  3. Beatty, Paul F. “Attention Deficit or EFA Deficient? Essential Fatty Acids For the Hyperactive Child.” Alive Magazine. Sept. 1996:13.
  4. The Brain Train. 3300 Bee Caves Rd. Suite 650, Austin, Tx 78746. 512-347-0053. Fax 512-347-0053#51
  5. Bridge, Ivy. “Hyperactivity/Attention Deficit Disorder.” The HANDLE Institute. www.handle.org.
  6. www.liquidhealthinc.com; 1-800-995-6607
  7. Podell, Richard N. M.D. The G-Index Diet: Controll Your Glucose Level And Lose Weight Now. New York:Warner Books.
  1. Richard, David. “Questions & Answers About Stevia.” http://www.stevia.com/SteviaArticle.asp?ID=2269
  2. Stevens, Laura. “Lack Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Childhood Behavioral Problems.” NFM’s Nutrition Science News. December 1996:4. www.newhope.com/nsn
  3. Stephens, Lynn. “The Awesome Agave.” http://www.shakeoffthesugar.net/article1042.html
  4. Gershon, Michael D, M.D. The Second Brain
  5. Davis, William, M.D. Wheat Belly

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Every month, we ask our SPED Homeschool team to provide insight into their own personal journey with homeschooling. This month we asked a few of our team members about what they do for homeschooling when a family member is ill. Here are ways our team homeschools when…

 

When a child has a chronic illness

“Homeschooling through an illness looks differently depending on who is sick. If my daughter with chronic medical issues is ill, everyone else will continue with their day’s work. My daughter will be given time to rest and medical interventions, if necessary. If I need to be more hands-on with her, we might have a movie day and watch documentaries that pertain to our learning. I always have backup plans just in case this happens. My other two children have learned to adapt to their sister’s needs. I allow my other kiddos sick days as they come up as well. We homeschool year-round to make up for periods of sickness. If I am ill, I teach from my recliner and we make things work as well as we can. What I have learned is to give myself lots of grace and remember that I am not chained to a timeline.” – Dawn Spence 

 

When a parent has a chronic illness

“Over our years of homeschooling, we have dealt with short-term illnesses like colds, the flu, and other small health hiccups that disrupted our schedule for maybe a day or two. In those days, my kids would often lament that homeschooling was not fair because, even though they were sick, they still had to do schoolwork. I have to admit, it wasn’t always easy to keep them learning when we weren’t feeling our best, but these times taught my children that we do our best with what we have been given.

“But then sometimes prolonged illnesses affected our learning, like the lengthy battles  both my boys had in overcoming childhood depression. Many days our school lessons were not focused on our core subjects because mental healing was more important than learning to read, write, or do math. And, those days I pushed the curriculum over working on mental health, I quickly realized my son wasn’t grasping the lessons or engaging with the content. He was just physically in the room with his mind in a different place. 

“Now, entering my last year of homeschooling my youngest, I am the one battling an illness – cancer. My life has been upended with weekly doctor appointments, surgeries, and more, all while I do my best to help her keep a regular schedule. Needless to say, in planning out this year, I have taken on teaching in areas where I feel my presence will have the greatest impact. And, for the rest of her curriculum, I have prayerfully outsourced her teaching to tutors or self—paced online programs. I just can’t do everything and have the time and energy I need to devote to my healing.

“Life has seasons of health and illness and those seasons affect how we homeschool. Health issues that families face should never be used as excuses to forgo the calling to homeschool. It may just look different in each of those seasons.” – Peggy Ployhar

 

When there are multiple appointments

“Concerning homeschooling through illness, we just don’t. We are rarely sick, so when we are, we skip those days of school and don’t make them up. That is what happens in public schools. We frequently do have “bad days” where attention just isn’t there because of autism, or my son is having a poor vision day. I build in a make-up week half-way through the school year and another at the end of the school year in the same way some schools have snow days. When we have doctor appointments, I may do half-days depending on if it is just any easy check-up or a long, tough one. The long ones count as a bad day and we do not have school. We have also counted therapy as part of the curriculum because that is what would have happened if he had been in school getting services at school. We just did academics half-day on those days. Speech therapy and occupational therapy counted as language arts as he worked on wh- questions, pronoun usage, and prepositions in speech and handwriting in OT. We just did the math and either history or science on those days.” –  Lara Lee

 

When there is a pandemic

“Just ten days after it felt like the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, my husband was unexpectedly hospitalized. By then, my kids were already feeling the changes in the world around them. We were having to distance from family and friends, and our many activities suddenly closed. School and learning were the only consistent things. During this time, we kept our schedule of morning nature walks and schoolwork at the table each morning. We cooked our meals together at home. We relied on neighbors and friends to bring us some toilet paper and a few groceries. I knew that my kids needed the routine even more because everything else in life at that time was chaotic.” – Melissa Schumacher

 

Check out these other SPED Homeschool Team blogs for more inspiration:

Homeschooling Organization Tips that Work

Best Homeschooling Advice for Special Education Homeschool Moms

Avoiding Burnout as a Homeschool Mom

Our Favorite Internet Resources for Homeschooling Special Ed

First Year Homeschooling Lessons

50+ Ideas for Homeschool Extracurriculars

Looking for alternative homeschooling activities when sickness has “rained out” your homeschool schedule for the day? Try one of these low-key learning activities.

 

 

 

 

 


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Renee Sullins, SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner

In working with teenagers for many years, I have learned that if there is ONE thing that teenagers understand well, it’s PROCRASTINATION. Not to say that adults are not guilty of the same, but teenagers are quite adept at it.

There are three types of procrastinators I would unscientifically categorize as the blatant procrastinator, the passive procrastinator, and the convicted procrastinator.

 

The Blatant Procrastinator purposefully ignores an assignment or task and is aware of the consequences. They are not concerned that something is due the next day or that there is even a deadline involved. It may be important to someone else, but not to them. They simply let the deadline pass and move on, much to the displeasure of their parents who may not even know.

Blatant procrastinators would rather do something they want to do and don’t see it as procrastination. This may be the teen who has a messy room, refuses to use a calendar or planner, and has a list of excuses for everything. Why bother to clean your room when it will just get messy again? Planners are too restrictive! These teenagers are also the ones who spend countless hours gaming or on social media.

 

The Passive Procrastinator waits until the last minute to finish so it does not seem to be a big problem. They are aware of deadlines and may even track things in a planner, app, or notes on their cell phone. They have good intentions of following through, but they just cannot accomplish tasks on-time consistently. They know where they want to be, but struggle to manage their time.

Passives may believe they have finished, but in reality, it is only partially done and they don’t notice until it is too late. These teens are usually the ones with ADHD and who are aware of their learning differences, but they are not using the necessary tools to focus and manage their time. Passive procrastinators know the consequences of not getting something done on time. They are often the most amenable to trying new strategies to help prevent procrastination, though.

 

If we can determine what is getting in the way of their success and help them get unstuck, then they are more motivated to cultivate new habits for their success.

 

The Convicted Procrastinator has a heightened awareness that they are procrastinating but, instead of working toward their goal, they quickly become overwhelmed and spiral into thoughts of self-criticism, defeat, and guilt. They are so hard on themselves that they self-sabotage and end up not getting anything done. Or, they are so overwhelmed about their lack of activity, there is often a resultant headache, stomach ache, or even a migraine. When this happens, they feel even worse, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

 

I would also like to mention a fourth type of procrastinator that I know well as I witnessed this type in my teen. They are a kindred spirit to the Passive but to a more extreme level. It is the Avoidant Procrastinator. This is the teen who thinks that if they don’t think about it at all, it will go away. I had one of those in my house. It does not go away. It only gets worse and can cause great anxiety and stress.  Please be aware of the signs that your teen may suffer from more than just being a procrastinator.

 

So what should a parent do? Each procrastinator has his or her own set of rules, coping skills, excuses, and struggles. The first thing I do when I work with young people is to let them know that I come from a place of curiosity, not a place of judgment. We dive deep to determine what they want for themselves, how they want to be seen and heard, what is important to them, and their “why”. If we can determine what is getting in the way of their success and help them get unstuck, then they are more motivated to cultivate new habits for their success. This takes time, patience, and intentional listening.

The teen years are transitional years of becoming more independent yet still needing the approval and counsel of parents. When you have a procrastinator in your home, instead of asking nagging questions or given them endless reminders, seek out resources to get them the support they need that works uniquely for them. This may take some trial and error, but in the end, they will find their way, and will feel empowered and in control of their lives now, and hope for the future.

 

 

 

 

 


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