We all learn very quickly, that even though we may have established a routine, and are plugging along at our homeschool days, things can quickly derail us. Illness is a huge problem for many people. Illness of a child, illness of the parent, or even illness of a family member that we are responsible for can affect our schedules. We have dealt with many of these in our family, and since I’m dealing with the flu this week, I thought I would share my approach to them.

7 Tip for Homeschooling During an Illness

#1 – Keep a Balance
Do not try to be superhuman and ignore the illness! Usually our bodies are trying to tell us something when we feel bad. We need rest, we need nutrition, we need a little TLC. As caregivers, we are not always the best at taking care of ourselves, so if your body lets you know you are sick, heed the warning. The same is true for our children. Sometimes they simply need rest. 

#2 –  Allow for Rest
Prime learning does not take place when children are run down and sick. It’s easy to stay in the mindset that school has to take place every day for a certain number of hours, but it’s simply not true. Learning takes place all the time, in all good environments, but it doesn’t usually take place when the participants are sick and run down. Don’t try to muddle through and “check your boxes” for the day. You are free; allow you or your child to rest if it is needed.

#3 – Learning Happens Everywhere
Learning can happen snuggled up under a blanket on the couch. Do you know how many fabulous things my children and I have learned by turning on a kids educational program, documentary, mini-series or YouTube video? Countless! We use them all the time. If you or your child are up to it, turn on a video. Our favorites are: Sid the Science Kid, Magic School Bus, Signing Time, Rachel and the Treeschoolers, Liberty Kids, and many PBS history shows. My kids learn so much from a visual/audio learning experience.

#4 – Insert Books
If you or your child feel like it, break open the books. Read-alouds are wonderful for sick days (well, if the person reading isn’t the one who is sick). Audio books can also be used. My girls like to color or build with blocks while listening to their audiobooks.

#5 – Housework Can Take Backseat
Sometimes, you must ignore the housework completely. I’ve met a lot of homeschooling mamas that really can’t ever give themselves permission to let the housework slide. I am here to tell you…when you are ill, there is only so much energy you can exert. Sometimes, feeding the children and keeping everyone alive is all you can do!! Don’t fret! Let the kids “help” all they can and just face the housework when you are well.

#6 – Reach Out For Help
If an illness for you, your child or a loved one is extended, don’t be afraid to ask others for help. We all need to lean on others at certain times. Don’t be afraid to reach out for any help, when needed. I’ve been through some rough times with sarcoma and unexpected surgeries. One of my sweet friends set up a meal train to come every couple of days for several weeks. It was such a huge blessing. Food literally just showed up at my doorstep and I didn’t have to cook it. Sometimes asking for help with cooking, cleaning, laundry or anything can free up the time you need to keep you sane.  

#7 – Give Yourself Grace
This really has to go for every aspect of our lives. But if someone is sick, remember to give everyone grace for schooling. You are not confined to anyone else’s schedule. Sometimes the greatest lessons our children can learn are not their ABC’s or 123’s, but they are learning to care for and love each other during the best and worst of times. What you are doing while caring for them and others will not go unnoticed. They will learn to love by your example. Press on! 



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The holidays are rapidly approaching and sometimes our schedules fill up before we know it.  However, for parents of children with special needs; specifically those with sensory differences, the holidays can be an especially stressful time.  What can you do to make them better?


Keep as much routine or rhythm to your day as possible
Often times due to holiday closings, parties or family commitments, many of our days are not “typical” during November and December.  However, if you can, keep some routine in your days.  Try to keep meals, naps and sleep schedules the same, if at all possible.  Even if the times are a bit off, having the same routines (reading a story, brushing teeth, praying before bed) can make a big difference in how your children react to the holidays.


Consider preparing your child for new events
This looks different for every child.  But if your child needs to know what is going on, consider making a visual schedule or a social story to introduce them to new people, events, or new sensory experiences.  Talk about the event, show them pictures, or even pick out a video (YouTube is fabulous for this) to show them what the event will entail.


Put yourself in your child’s shoes
As you schedule your holiday plans, try to step back and really look at how much you have scheduled. Think through what your child typically has trouble with or what triggers problems or meltdowns?  Are there modifications to be made?  If you have children who love something, and others who don’t, could part of your family participate?


Don’t be afraid to say NO!
This is probably my best tip: Don’t be afraid to say no.  Though the holidays are special, we tend to over schedule and cram every social event into a month’s time.  It can get overwhelming, even for adults who are extroverts.  Sometimes we just need to say no.  This involves prioritizing what is really important to us and our families.  We don’t have to do everything in order to make memories.  In fact, some of things that make the best memories, are those we do at home and without planning.


Let go of your expectations
In this fabulous of age of Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, we tend to want all our memories to look “picture perfect”.  Guess what?  That’s not real life.  Sometimes the greatest triumph you will have is keeping your children alive or getting everyone a bath.  Remember, when you see pictures of perfection that is literally one second of that person’s day.  I can guarantee you that the other 86,399 seconds in their day do not look that way.


Embrace simple family traditions
Reading Christmas stories, playing with a nativity set, singing Christmas carols, decorating a tree, baking Christmas cookies, coloring and decorating the house all are fun ways to celebrate.  You don’t have to be out at light shows or at a party with 100 people to make memories that your children will cherish.  Just as you can do school “outside of the box”, you can do Christmas “outside of the box.”  You can do it any way that works for you and your family.  Don’t be afraid of embracing new traditions or trying different things.


Whatever you choose to do this year, we at SPED Homeschool pray it is an amazing time for you and your family.


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By Jennifer Cullimore


All of us have different situations: Some of us have two parent homes, some (like myself) are single, some work outside of the home, and some work inside the home.  However, one constant that I’ve seen in most parents who homeschool their children with special needs is that most do not have a lot of time to themselves.  Because of this, our “cups can be empty” before we even realize it.


I’ve had people tell me, “Well you just need to get a babysitter and go out.”  But, it’s not always that simple.  A babysitter costs money (of which I have little) and few people are equipped to handle my kids.  Extra money to eat out randomly or schedule a mani or pedi is in short supply.  Despite these challenges,  I still need ways to “fill my cup.”  


Here are a few of my cup-filling solutions; maybe they will help you too!


Bedtime routines  

Even though we get off track during certain times, bedtime routines are essential to my survival.  My girls know that they go to bed and mommy gets some much needed time to herself.  Yes, sometimes I stay up far too late, but those few hours can energize me to tackle life!



Sometimes I do stay up too late, but I also allow myself to get the sleep my body needs.  The beauty of homeschooling is that we don’t have to start our days on someone else’s timetable.  We have the freedom to begin at a time that works for us and our children. One of my children has gone through countless ear issues and is often up in the night with ear pain.  Because we don’t have to be out the door at 6:30 in the morning like some of our public school friends, we can start when she has had an adequate amount of sleep.  This makes our days run more smoothly.


Podcasts, YouTube and Sermons

Due to some of my kiddos’ issues, we are not currently active in a church.  However, I need to fill my spiritual cup as well.  I have found podcasts and YouTube to be a wonderful way to listen to Godly content and support from around the world.  I listen to Francis Chan, the Bible Project, other homeschooling mamas and uplifting people.  I can do this at night when the girls go to bed, or even when I am working on household tasks throughout the day.  My kids also enjoy their favorites: Psalty , kids worship songs, hymns, and so much more.  We are so blessed to be able to hear content from so many inspirational resources.


You may also want to consider listening or watching SPED Homeschool Conversations, our weekly live broadcast that you can watch live from 8pm to 9pm Central every Tuesday night or watch on-demand on our YouTube channel or download to your device from our podcast channel.


Time with the Lord

Personal devotions are also paramount to filling my cup.  Even when I get out of the habit, I can always jump back in.  At times I’ve found that groups on Facebook such as “Write His Word” are helpful for keeping me on track.  They encourage me to journal the Word of God.  By writing His word, I remember it!


You may also want to check out Peggy Ployhar’s personal YouTube channel, Daily Revelations, for her weekly bible study videos and companion planner you can use to study along book by book through the bible.


Art and Handicrafts

Unlike some other people in my family, I was not blessed with art genes.  But I love to create things.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the rise of “adult color books”.  Coloring is relaxing and somehow it triggers creativity in me.  So at night, you will often find me coloring while listening to podcasts.  I also enjoy crocheting and I’ve even begun to dabble in painting and drawing.  While none of my creations will be in an art museum anytime in the near future, they make me happy and bring peace.




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I talk to many parents who are interested in homeschooling, but they don’t know where to begin.  Many of these parents have kiddos with significant intellectual, behavioral, physical and emotional special needs.  These are parents who have been advocates for their children their whole lives.  They have gone through countless doctor appointments, therapies, IEP meetings and accommodations to help their child to succeed.


Once we get to the bottom of their fears, the underlying issue isn’t that they are incapable of teaching their child, it is that they aren’t sure how to create “public school at home.”  



Homeschooling Teaching Secret
I want to let you in on a big secret: you don’t have to create public school at home!  Read that sentence again, because it truly is freeing.  You are not responsible for creating a whole classroom at your house.  


In our homeschool, the world is our classroom.  Because of the way that most of us were educated, we have a picture in our minds of what school is supposed to look like.  The picture may include things like lined-up desks, an American flag,  textbooks, workbooks, tests with fill-in-the-blank bubbles.  However, as homeschoolers we are free to let go of these constraints.  We have the privilege of teaching our child in their learning style and at their level.



“Out of the Box” Schooling Options
I have two children with a variety of special needs including:  Down Syndrome, Apraxia, Sensory integration disorder, and Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder along with  other needs.  I use many resources to teach them.  


We don’t tackle every subject every day, but here are some things I choose from:



Numicon math 

Touch Math

Rod and Staff

Teachers Pay Teachers


Learning Resources

and many other places.  Sometimes we even tackle math by going around the house counting, adding and subtracting.  We also incorporate math into our cooking and shopping.  Math is everywhere!




This year we are trying to see how language rich we can make our home by using read-aloud books!  We have a couple hundred picked out for a variety of topics and some small units.

We absolutely loveRead Aloud Reviva 

To target phonics and sight words, I have made my own books (which I  offer on Teachers Pay Teachers) 

Traditional curriculum like Abeka 

And more creative curriculum like Happy Phonics 



Science/Social Studies

We are learning some of this through our fabulous read-alouds.  We are also enjoying nature walks and are going to attempt some nature journaling this year.  My girls also love videos and tend to remember things with catchy songs or tunes. My girls love:

Rachel and the Treeschoolers 

Sid the Science Kid

The Magic School Bus

Liberty Kids

For Social Studies I purchased “.” They are not quite interested yet, but I’m holding out hope for it.  We also do a lot of map puzzles geared toward geography and use some iPad apps.



Sign Language

We love Signing Time 

While one of my daughters uses it for communication, my other daughter is learning it as a second language.



Occupational Therapy

Right now we do OT at home with things that I set up for the girls.  We  work with clay, painting, push-pin work, and coloring. This year I’m going to introduce some felt sewing and embroidery.  The girls love to watch me crochet and they want to learn, so we may attempt that as well.  


Last year was a monumental year for fine motor improvement.  I fell in love with coloring again and they wanted to join me.  I cannot pay them to do handwriting worksheets for more than 15 minutes,  but if I get out my coloring books they will color for 3-4 hours at a time.



Physical Education

They play outside!  They run, they swing, they jump on the trampoline.  We explore different parks when we have good weather and they love it.  


We target many skills and goals by shopping, cleaning, running errands and visiting with friends.  Life is about learning.  If you look at your daily activities, you will find that your children are learning so much from you.  Don’t be afraid to jump outside your box, try something natural, fun and child-led and see how your children blossom. 


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