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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Dawn Spence

For many, this will be your first year of homeschooling and my best advice for you is to take self-care breaks this year. Homeschooling is a fabulous journey, but it requires work and dedication. Breaks can take many different shapes and forms, so I want to highlight a few that have been helpful for me in my seven, almost eight, years of homeschooling. Not only will taking breaks help you finish strong, rest is an essential part of staying healthy – physically and mentally.

 

Quiet Time at Home

I am still working on this part. Whether it is taking a hot bath, a Bible study, or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, it is important to feel calm and quiet. Let’s face it, life is crazy and most days we go all day. We are teachers, cooks, nurses, referees, moms, dads, and much more but we need time to just be still. Find your peace and wrap yourself around the bigger picture of why you do this whole crazy life. We are called to serve and love but we need the quiet and break to refocus and ground ourselves so we do not become overwhelmed.

 

Connect with Friends

You are not just a homeschool parent, you are a person who needs their friends. Take time to talk to or meet up with other friends that will encourage you. Find your friends or group that give you words of wisdom and who you can be real with about your struggles and your triumphs. Meet over coffee or chat over zoom, but take the time you will be amazed how much it will rejuvenate you. I truly believe that friendships help us know that those bad days are normal. We all need a cheering section that will speak to our hearts, hold our hand, and pray for us.

 

“…friendships help us know that those bad days are normal..”

 

Retreat Away from Home

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of getting away with an organization called A Mother’s Rest. A special needs mom started this program because she knows what is on our plates. It was an amazing time to get away at a bed and breakfast with no expectations except to relax and sleep. It was nice to be with other moms who understand. They also have retreats for couples or just dads. Their motto is, “You cannot pour from an empty cup,” which is so true. It was nice to step away, be pampered, and truly rest. If you cannot get away for a retreat, find other ways. My husband has surprised me with a night away at a hotel to sleep. Find a way to fill your cup.

 

As you go through this year, take time for yourself so that you can give more to important people in your life. Self-care is never selfish and it allows you to replenish yourself so that you can accomplish your goals.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP,

SPED Homeschool Board Member, Curriculum Partner & Therapy Partner

Sometimes a subject comes up that is so wide-reaching in its impact, that it cannot be ignored. As a special educator for over thirty years, and a nutritionist, I am always on the lookout for ways to relieve suffering in kids who are struggling with learning or behavior. It has come to the point that evidence of the impact of fish oil on the brain and nervous system of these struggling children is so large that I think it deserves its own article.

 

Recent Trends

The incidence of children diagnosed with food allergies (notice all of the gluten-free and dairy-free items in grocery stores as of late?), asthma, autism, Asperger’s, sensory processing dysfunction, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia has increased greatly in the past five years. There is a disproportionate number of boys in this increase. Why is this occurring? UCLA School of Medicine has found that boys have a three times higher need for DHA, a type of Omega-3 fat from fish oil, than girls. Let’s explore this more…

 

Depression

The incidence of depression has skyrocketed in children and adults since World War II. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take anti-depressants. What is going on? Researchers report that blood levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein are frequently elevated in those diagnosed with depression. Could inflammatory changes in the brain be one of the main drivers behind our epidemic of depression? This may also explain why anti-depressant medications often do not work for people with depression. Emory University in Atlanta confirmed the depression/inflammation connection. Fortunately, there are natural ways to reduce inflammation. The most effective way includes a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA in fish oil. Dr. Michael Norden, a practicing psychiatrist in New York, uses essential fatty acids, and particularly fish oils, for his patients who are suffering from depression. Using fish oil in addition to medication, and sometimes without medication, Dr. Norden reports impressive relief from depression among his patients. Likewise, Dr. Andrew Stall, a physician from Harvard has found that the DHA in fish oil has proven to be extremely helpful in patients suffering from postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, ADD, and ADHD.

 

Autism

Many studies implicate inflammation of the white matter of the brain as a common thread in children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. However, one very unique aspect of fish oil is its effect on the gaze aversion that afflicts so many children with autism. The rods in the retina of the eye are very responsive to the supplementation of DHA. Dr. Mary Megson, a developmental pediatrician in Richmond, Virginia, has found that the reason that children with gaze aversion will seem to look away from a parent’s face is that, when looking directly at the face, all they see is a white block. Thus, they use their peripheral vision to at least get a glimpse of what they are looking at. With proper amounts of naturally occurring vitamins A and D in cod liver oil, this gaze aversion disappears or is greatly reduced. Dr. Megson states strongly that it is important that synthetic vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate not be used. Interestingly enough, I have found this also to be the case in the children in my consultation practice who come to me with gaze aversion. I have always found that with the proper amounts of DHA, for which I use a specific cod liver oil, the gaze aversion is eliminated or reduced by 85 percent. In fact, in the autism conferences at which I speak, I have “before and after” pictures of children with autism, showing the lack of gaze aversion after giving this vital nutrient. Besides affecting gaze aversion, parents report increased socialization, speech, bladder control, and sensory processing after even a short while of this supplementation. It has also helped many children struggling with ADHD, dyslexia, and bipolar disorder.

It has also helped many children struggling with ADHD, dyslexia, and bipolar disorder.

 

Traumatic Brain Injury

Probably the most dramatic healings reported after the introduction of high amounts of fish oil, have come from the healing of traumatic brain injuries that were not responding to other treatments. When Peter Ghassemi’s son was lying in a coma after a severe car accident, the doctors reported that while his son had survived the accident, he would likely be a vegetable for the rest of his life. This dad reached out to Dr. Michael Lewis, an Army colonel, for help. Dr. Lewis, the founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute, urged him to talk with his son’s doctors about using the same protocol that was used for a young man who had experienced this same type of traumatic brain injury. In that case, the young man, Randal McCloy, was the sole survivor of a mine disaster in West Virginia. McCloy, 26, had been trapped in the mine for 41 hours while the air around him was filled with noxious methane and carbon monoxide. His brain was riddled with damage from these potent toxins. McCloy’s doctors were looking for ways to stem the tide of inflammation and cell death occurring in his brain. His doctors embarked upon an unorthodox treatment regimen that included high doses of fish oil. Dr. Julian Bailes, one of McCloy’s doctors said “The concept was to attempt to rebuild his brain with what it was made from when he was an embryo in his mother’s womb. High doses of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), since they mirror what is already in the brain, would facilitate the brain’s own natural healing process. These fats are literally the bricks of the cell wall in the brain.” Dr. Bailes referred to the National Institutes of Health research that suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may inhibit cell death and could help in reconnecting damaged neurons. Worthy of note is that, in addition to massive cell death, the protective sheath around McCloy’s nerve cells had been stripped. The sheath, called myelin, allows brain cells to communicate with one another. Amazingly, three months after saturating his brain with high doses of fish oil, McCloy was walking and speaking. Armed with this success story, Peter Ghassemi urged his doctors to try this same, safe protocol with his son. The result? Three months after his accident, Bobby Ghassemi was well enough to attend his high school graduation. Bobby said, “The whole place was cheering for me…I took my graduation cap off and waved it around.” Peter Ghassemi said, “His brain was damaged, and this was food for the brain.” Dr. Lewis concluded, “The message that I’m trying to get across is, there’s more you can do. If you add the fish oil, we can then begin to let the brain heal itself a little more efficiently.”

 

Dyslexia

In 2000, Dr. Jacqueline Stordy began to research the connection between DHA and dyslexia. She performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which she studied children with ADD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. She found that when a protocol amount of DHA (from fish oil), was given over three months, that statistically significant improvements were made in these children’s focusing ability, reading ability, and coordination and balance.

 

Teeth, too?

If you have a child who suffers from multiple cavities, no matter what you do, you will be interested in Dr. Weston Price’s research. A dentist, Dr. Price found that one way to prevent cavities from forming in the mouths of his young patients was to make sure that they had adequate levels of Vitamin D and the all-important Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 helps to form the dentin, the porous tooth material underneath the enamel of the teeth. This vitamin can be found in fermented foods, butter, meat from grass-fed cows, hard cheeses, like Gouda, and a fermented food from soybeans called natto, or in supplements. As we know, good ol’ cod liver oil is a great source of both vitamins A and D.

 

What can moms do to help their child get these brain-healthy fats?

Begin to reduce the bad fats that block healing by including more good fats into a child’s daily diet with simple measures like adding some avocado in sandwiches, using real butter instead of margarine (especially if the butter is from grass-fed cows), and using real mayonnaise. Eat more whole grains and legumes versus white flour several days a week. Lastly, make raw vegetables and a salad an everyday part of your children’s diet. If you choose to give a supplement such as cod liver oil, fish oil, or Vitamins D3 or K2, it is best to check with the child’s doctor before beginning any supplement program. For a list of the amounts of fish oil, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 that was used in these and other studies, just type “Fish Oil Article” in the subject line, and send to craft@ecentral.com

 

This article was originally published in The Struggling Homeschooler Magazine, February 2013.

The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.

Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado. Read more at her website www.diannecraft.org .

 

References

Andrew Stoll, MD, The Omega-3 Connection

  1. Jacqueline Stordy, Ph.D., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71, Jan 2000 Dianne

Craft, MA, CNHP, “Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain”, www.diannecraft.org Drs. Kay Judge and

Maxine Barish-Wreden, “Healthy diet shown to cut risk of depression”,

www.denverpost.com, October23, 1012

Kate Rheaume-Blue, ND, The Calcium Paradox

Mary Megson, MD, “ The Biological Basis for Perceptual Deficits in Autism”, www.megson.com

Melvyn Werbach, MD. Nutritional Influences on Illness

Michael Norden, MD, Beyond Prozac

Stephanie Smith, “Fish Oils for Brain Injury”, http://www.cnn.com

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

We can turn every activity we do with our children into a learning experience. Thankfully, homeschooling allows families to turn active learning into homeschool extra-curricular subjects. The possibilities are endless, but below you will find 50+ ideas for homeschool extra-curricular subjects based on what we, the SPED Homeschool team, have taught in our own home schools.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Scuba diving

Sewing and Dressmaking

Aerial Silks

Taekwondo

Structural Engineering

Photography

Computer Skills (including IT skills, building a computer, keyboarding, and software implementation)

Welding

Band/Instrument Lessons

Film and Cinema studies

Podcasting

Digital Art 

Starting a Personal Business

Dance

Knitting

Speech & Debate

 

Cammie Arn

Horseback Riding and Equine Care

Gardening

Landscaping

Taekwondo

Theater: acting, set design, mural painting, costuming, stage managing, lights and sound

Fine Arts/Spoken Words: poetry, producing a children’s literature book, sermons, vocal solos, short story reading 

Piano

Handbell Choir

Speech & Debate

Computer Programming

Food Preservation and Storage

Menu planning 

Food Preparation

Money Management

Horticulture

Animal care

Music Theory

Art History 

Sewing

Knitting

Ballroom Dancing

 

Lara Lee

How to draw YouTube videos

Kid’s Engineering YouTube videos

Cooking

Gardening

Neighborhood walk, bike ride, or scooter

TinkerCrate

Cardboard models of appliances

Coloring books

Busy books (downloadable pages from TeacherPayTeachers, then laminate and add velcro to the back of the pieces)

Puzzles

Board games

Self-made experience books using photos and construction paper

Photobooks/Social stories (Such as documenting night time routine or a trip to visit family)

Daily rotating busy boxes (filled with toys and activities to do on only that day of the week)

 

Nakisha Blain

Nature journals

Feeding squirrels

Online summer camps

Art projects

Hiking

Home economics

Go-karting

Building/Construction

Volunteering

Helping parents with a family business

 

As you can see, we basically turned anything our kids or family are doing into school. That is the beauty of homeschooling.

 

 

 

 

 


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Michael Maloney, SPED Homeschool Partner

Teaching a child how to read and write doesn’t just open them to a world of books and papers, but to communicating with others and navigating the world they live in. Using these communication and navigation intersections allows you to continue teaching language arts as a life skill even when the books are put away. Here is an outstanding example of how to prompt your student to use language arts as a life skill.

 

Ten-year-old Sam and his dad are off to Pearson International Airport to pick up his cousin for a camping trip. They were checking the car to see that they had everything. 

Dad started the conversation by saying, “Here’s the checklist. You read it and I will make sure that each thing is in the car.”

Sam read, “Tent”. Dad replied, “Got it.  Next?”

 “Sleeping bags.” 

“Check.  3 sleeping bags.” 

Sam read each item on the list as his dad checked the supplies.

 

“While I drive, be my navigator. Watch for signs with an airplane on them and then read the name of the road that we use to exit”, Sam’s dad said. “It will take us about 45 minutes to get to Pearson.  Meanwhile, use my phone to text Erin and see if she is through Customs and at her boarding gate.  Also get her Flight number. Thanks.”

 

Sam sent Erin a text and waited for a reply. A few moments later, the cell phone beeped. He read the message. “She is just on her way to her gate. Everything is good.”

Sam watched carefully for the exit and pointed when he saw a picture of an airplane on the overhead highway sign. “There’s our exit, 3 kilometers ahead. We follow Highway 404 West.”

 

“Well done. You’re a pretty good navigator for a 10 year old.” His dad said, “Now we have to find the terminal where Jet Blue lands. Watch the signs on your side. The airlines are in alphabetical order, so look for J and read me the number of the terminal.” 

“There it is –Jet Blue. It is Terminal 3.” Sam said excitedly. He was anxious to see his cousin.

“Text her and tell her to wait on the sidewalk outside of the Jet Blue Arrival area.”  A moment later the cell phone beeped again. “She’s already there waiting for us.” 

“That’s great”, his dad said, “Now we won’t have to park the car to go and find her. Is there any room for her in one of the back seats? We may have to rearrange some of the gear.” 

“There’s lots of room, Dad, Erin is not as big as me.”

 

Once out of the airport, Erin and Sam read the brochures about the lake they were going to. They found out about the kinds of fish they might catch. “Wow, look at this one”, Erin pointed to a large Northern pike. I’m not sure I want to catch one of those.”  They read about boat rentals, fresh bait, campfire rules and emergency services.  An entire hour passed before they had read and discussed what they wanted to catch with what bait.

 

After 3 nights in a tent, several daily swims and campfire dinners of fresh fish, the three campers were ready to return. 

“So what lesson did you learn from all this?” Sam’s dad asked.  Erin piped up, “You don’t stop reading just because you closed the book.” Sam laughed.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Do you have a student who struggles with a core subject?  Maybe math, reading, or spelling? Many parents do. But many parents also try to solve the lack of progression in a core subject by focusing more heavily on that subject to “catch up.” Unfortunately, this is actually a counterproductive move.

How? I will start by sharing a scenario I have shared with many parents over the past 15 years when they told me they were not seeing progress using the tactics I described above. But, I usually start by saying, “What I will tell you will probably seem rather illogical at first, but I want you to consider this parallel first.”

 

Here is the parallel argument I share:

What chore or activity do you dislike doing the most? (Parents responses vary, but most say cooking, laundry, cleaning, car maintenance, or any other necessary chore that needs their attention regularly.)

For me, it would be cleaning my house. I could cook all day, but I hate to clean.

Now consider if someone were to remove all the extra activities out of your day so you had more than enough time to do that one activity you disliked?

I don’t know about you, but if someone told me all I had to do (thus all I had to look forward to) when I woke up Saturday morning was clean my house, I would sleep in as long as possible. Would you feel the same way?

 

Next, let’s now consider how you have removed most of the other subjects and activities in your student’s schedule to focus most of your homeschooling time on his/her “struggle” subjects. Your child feels the same way as you do about the activity you mentioned to me just a few minutes ago. Do you now understand why your child has a hard time just doing the few subjects you have left for him/her to learn?

The solution takes us in the opposite direction. We add in MORE unconventional learning.

 

“…consider if someone were to remove all the extra activities out of your day so you had more than enough time to do that one activity you disliked?

 

We all know the concept of incentives. In training our children we often use rewards like toys, food or stickers. Those external incentives teach our children there are wonderful outcomes that come from perseverance. I am all for these tangible external incentives, but over time we want our children to move beyond external incentives to external incentives. This is where MORE unconventional learning can help your student understand the rewards of learning and using their unique giftedness.

Yes, learning can be an incentive for your student. What would that look like? Here is an example of what this looked like in our homeschool for my oldest son.

At 11 years old, my son still struggled to read. Every day we used various curriculums to keep moving forward in his progress toward learning to read independently, but I knew if we pressed in too much with just reading I would crush his spirit and he would lose his interest in learning all together. This same child loved to build. So, I incorporated his love for building into an actual school subject he would have listed in his planner each week. I didn’t know what I would use at first for this “class” until I came across a K’NEX Education set on how to reconstruct 7 real bridges. I called the class “Structural Engineering” and we spent time each week learning about these bridges and building them. Instantly, I saw a boost in my son’s self esteem. He was now seeing what I had seen for so long, that he had a knack for engineering and was a gifted learner. Now 12 years later, this same young man recently received a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Was it a surprise to me? Not at all.

 

As you look ahead to your homeschooling year, make sure the pressures of catching up do not crush your student’s potential. Add in MORE learning instead and show your student how despite their learning difficulties he/she is still a gifted learner. 

 

 

 

 


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Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., SPED Homeschool Partner

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words. – Goethe

Whether new to homeschooling, homeschooling for decades, or somewhere in between, we all have one thing in common: None of us wants our child’s education to feel 100% remedial. This is not to say that we neglect the basics. We devote ourselves to shoring up our children’s reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic through steady teaching. Yet we must keep ourselves from focusing so intently on a child’s weaknesses that we cannot give him an education commensurate with his humanity.

With this in mind, we consider seven ways to elevate the education of a child with special needs:

 

1. Music

Research abounds with evidence of music education’s ability to improve working memory, auditory processing, phonological awareness, and reading. More than this, music provides a solace from struggle. “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words,” writes Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables. This free  playlist allows you to play pieces each week for familiarity, dancing, twirling, or close listening together for an entire year. Discuss the instruments you hear, the mood or tempo, the rhythm, and the “sense” or feeling of the music. If possible, teach your child an instrument or teach your child to sing. At even the most basic levels of mastery, this will be a gift for a lifetime.

 

2. Art

Children with sight and any ability may gaze on magnificent works of art. For children who are non-verbal or minimally verbal, no verbal response is required to learn about and gaze upon great works of art! Place his favorite art posters over his bed or on the walls of his room. Help him make crafts  if he is young or create art  if he is more advanced. In our home when teaching drawing, we regularly set a timer for a “no-talking time” or played classical music. This gave us a much-needed silence for contemplation. We started with only 5-10 minutes at a time.

 

3. Read-Alouds

Story time forges bonds and allows the child with special needs to live beyond his circumstances. Read-alouds can give us shared experiences, shared references for family life or inside family jokes, and an immediate way to enhance imagination. Consider not only fiction but also non-fiction  read-alouds to improve receptive and expressive language, enlarge the child’s fund of knowledge and gradually extend his attention span.

 

4. Nature

At a very young age, my daughter propelled herself through her days with the reckless fervor of hyperactivity, but I noticed that nature slowed her down. Whether mesmerized by a luna moth or captivated by a caterpillar, she paused. We began a nature journal  into which I scribed observations until she could write on her own. Informed nature walks and nature picture books suffice for younger children, but more advanced children may study  mammals or birds to improve awareness of the world in which they live.

 

5. Poetry

Poetry elevates language beyond casual everyday speech. Even the simplest lessons in children’s poetry support rhyming, phonological awareness, and learning to read. The timeless Robert Louis Stevenson collection of A Child’s Garden of Verses can be paired with acoustic music, such as in A Child’s Garden of Song , to aid “learning by heart” during playtime, in the car, or in the evenings. Older students appreciate more advanced poetry, such as poems told in Heroes, Horses, and Harvest Moons, to stretch the imagination and perhaps prompt their own poetry writing!

 

6. Aesop

Taught for millennia, Aesop’s fables may benefit children with autism and other challenges affecting social awareness through classic moral lessons in honesty, integrity, and avoiding deception. Something mysteriously interesting happens when animals convey these lessons to us.  Aesop’s Fables with CD allow listening over and over, as the message may not be ingrained upon a first hearing, and an Aesop copybook can allow time for personal reflection and application to daily life.

 

7. Christian Studies

To truly elevate our children beyond the mundane, we must give them truth that sets us free. Teaching the Christian faith impacts both this life and the life to come. If older children with special needs fall prey to discouragement or self-pity, we can elevate their thoughts through  thankfulness journals and meditation on Holy Scripture. How can we be sad when we ponder the LORD’s reminder, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

Summary

In our home my now-adult daughter plays through her memorized piano repertoire several times a week with a delightfully simple mix of Hickory Dickory Dock, Pop! Goes the Weasel, and a modified yet lovely Minuet. The music, played in the same order every time, seems to cheer, calm, and uplift her. Her twin brother’s piano music changes each time, as his own complex piano compositions ease his mind in different ways. Both children read books at the lunch table. Both take long walks. Both enjoy helping other people, whether the person asks for help or not! As I practice playing for upcoming Sunday mornings, they join me in singing hymns. Not only does this elevate their days; this elevates mine.

Both twins are on the autism spectrum with learning disabilities and mental illness. Neither child has the capacity to master more than introductory levels of piano, mathematics, or science, yet looking back, both express gratitude for all of the elevating elements of their education. Let us strive to see our children agree with Tolstoy: Rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor – such is my idea of happiness.

 

Bio —

Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., is the author of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child and creator of the Simply Classical Curriculum from Memoria Press. Cheryl and her husband adopted boy-girl twins with special needs over twenty years ago and homeschooled them through high school graduation. The family now lives together in a wooded lake community in Missouri.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

Dawn Spence

My first year of homeschooling, I allowed myself a lot of grace and just had fun. We used unit studies to grow and learn together. Learning both about the subjects we were studying and how homeschooling worked best for each of us. We were all on a new learning curve and needed to have patience with each other. I based success in the daily victories; on how well we were adapting. Now seven years into our homeschool journey, that first year is still my favorite. We all have many fond memories as we launched out on this fresh adventure and laid the groundwork for our version of school in our home.

 

Cammie Arn

My first year of homeschooling was while the army had stationed us in Germany. I was so nervous. I had no clue what I was doing. The concept of reading to my children and having it count as school was more of a foreign concept to me than many of the customs I had adapted to while living in a foreign country. I had much to learn.

Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned that first year, now over 20 years ago. Homeschooling looks nothing like public school. I didn’t need to know everything to teach my children. Instead, I learned alongside them. I discovered that when you are up all night with a baby; it is okay to count a bedtime story to my five-year-old as that day’s reading. We didn’t follow a syllabus, we just learned when we could. It seemed to work well.

Over the years I have learned many more lessons that have also reduced my homeschooling anxiety. One is that it is okay to skip lessons if your children have already mastered the concept.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Homeschooling was something I said I would never do after I attended my first homeschooling conference when my oldest child was still a toddler. A friend from church invited me to this small gathering in 1999, hoping I would catch the vision. Instead, I decided I did not fit that mold and pursued private education for our children. Fast forward to 2003. My oldest child was halfway through his kindergarten year and the principal of his school suggested my husband and I independently pursue testing for this child who was struggling so much in school that a regular part of his day now involved at least one trip to her office. It was after this testing we added an unfamiliar word to our family vocabulary, Autism, which eventually convinced us of the best educational choice for our son, homeschooling. 

Looking back at that pinnacle moment in our lives, now 18 years in the past, I am grateful I could move beyond my idea of who I needed to be or look like to teach my son. My narrow vision of homeschooling in 1999 almost kept our family from the most amazing journey in which I have had the privilege to learn and grow alongside my children and develop deep and lasting relationships with them that probably would not have been possible if I had sent them off to school.

 

Is this possibly your first year homeschooling? We hope our stories have encouraged and inspired you.  Want to hear more stories from our community? Join one of our Support Tribes or hop onto our weekly Special Needs Moms’ Night Out, every Tuesday evening from 9pm to 10pm CST.

 

 

 

 

 


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Ashly Barta

 

I never thought I would homeschool. I was a public school teacher and believed wholeheartedly in everything the public school offered children.  As a teacher, I knew what I was capable of and what I knew in my heart to be right.  I saw teachers and administrators working day in and day out to help the children in our school district thrive.  Then I had my oldest son.

They diagnosed my son with epilepsy before he turned one-year-old. Our life in those early days after his diagnosis are a complete blur to me.  We tried medication after medication, seeking specialists out of state and more testing than I can remember.

My husband is active duty military and with his job it became clear I needed to step down from my full-time role as teacher and manage my son’s care.  We enrolled in Early Intervention and received occupational therapy and speech therapy.  I fell into a rhythm and we thrived.  I was in an area that I had many colleagues and I knew how to find the services we needed.  This helped so much! 

We were fortunate my family was available for extra support since this epilepsy diagnosis was not but a minor blip on our radar.  Then we received news from the military we were moving across the country! 

My mind was flooded with unanswered questions. How do I handle preschool enrollment in an unfamiliar state?  How would his IFSP transfer? So many questions we needed to find answers to.  Luckily I enrolled our son in a special education preschool in our district, and at first glance it seemed like a wonderful program. 

That preschool year started out great, but as the year progressed the classroom added more children until it became clear the teacher had become overwhelmed and needed help.  This situation frustrated me with the lack of services that were not being given to my son, even when his needs were clear on his IEP. 

We had two IEP meetings before Thanksgiving and each time I left defeated and in tears.  The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement.  Why?  He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.  The school was not offering anything to make me feel like public school was a better fit.  My husband and I agreed that he would come home and we would try preschool at home. 

 

The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement.  Why?  He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.

 

Then, before we knew it, we were moving again. Another unfamiliar state and new schools.  I again started the enrollment process only to find our district in this new state could not find the right school for my son.  The school close to our new home did not have a school nurse, the school in the opposite direction was at capacity.  The solution was to enroll him across town.  I just could not believe we were fighting to enroll our son in kindergarten. 

Then it hit me. It does not have to be this hard.  I went home and started researching.  I was a kindergarten teacher before I was his mom. How hard could teaching our son at home really be?  No one I knew homeschooled their children and no one I talked to really understood how I could even consider this crazy idea. But I was a determined mom. 

What I found was that our current state did not require an affidavit until age 6, so my rationale was that if I messed up this year, we could try kindergarten the next year in the public school.  My son could work at his own pace.  We could customize his education and set goals meaningful to his unique needs. 

Fast forward to the current school year. We are finishing up our 5th year of homeschooling.  We actually homeschool our daughter too.  She has always been a homeschooler and when you ask if she would be interested in attending public school she replies with a “no, thank you.”

The joy and peace homeschooling has brought our family could never stand up against the fear I felt that first year.  Epilepsy has taken so much from our family, but it gave us the gift of homeschooling. Our children are closer than ever, we have freedom to explore and travel, and when the military shakes up our lives we have consistent education in our home.

I believe my children have been able to blossom because we do not place them in a fish bowl of only children their same age, which is unnatural if you think about actual life.  They get to interact with children and adults of all ages.  They are not compared, rather they are celebrated for the individuals they are.  They are 100% comfortable with who they are.  They are free to express themselves without the fear.

Thinking about homeschooling?  Research your rights, services available to you in your area within your budget, school district or insurance based.  I also suggest sitting down and making a list of strengths and weaknesses that your child has. This will help you find curriculum and activities to fill your day. 

The best part of homeschooling is the flexibility you have at your fingertips.  Home environments offer flexibility that a classroom never can.  You can take breaks as needed and create your schedule to work around things like doctor or therapy appointments.  Find friends in the homeschooling community that you can lean on and learn from.  Therapists are also a significant source for activities and help.  Isolation and exhaustion in special needs parenting is a real threat, so finding that community whatever it looks like is key. Lastly, celebrate!  Create moments to celebrate every day.  Dance, make pancakes with sprinkles, and clean up that mess later!  We get to stop, slow down and enjoy the adventure with our children. 

 

 

 

 

 


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