By Debbi L. White

As I write, I am sitting in my mother’s condominium, while she is in the hospital recovering from pneumonia. I left my home when she was admitted nine days ago to come care for her and her dog. After being on a ventilator for four days, she’s began breathing on her own again, but it looks as though she may never return to her beloved home.


Going back and forth from home to hospital, caring for Mom and the pup, and making life-altering decisions has left me drained — emotionally and physically. With my only sibling a thousand miles away, I have carried this weight alone. Almost. Some dear friends and an extended family member have come alongside me with encouraging words, meals, and an occasional hug. 


Needing Togetherness
The Word states that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a)


Most of us who chose to homeschool our children are independent by nature, strong people, and very family-oriented. Parents of children with special needs have additional factors which may further alienate us from family and friends — even other homeschooling families.


But, God did not create us to make this journey alone. In His Word, we are encouraged to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). But how do we get the help we need when there doesn’t seem to be any to accept? Plus, how do we, who are independent by nature, share our struggles! 

Finding Togetherness

When our family began homeschooling in the late 1980’s, we were the first family in our county to do so. My husband pastored a small church which consisted mainly of senior citizens. I already felt isolated, but when we made the decision to homeschool, I felt further ostracized. My love for my children and my conviction that they could be best educated at home propelled my dedication. I began writing letters to the editors of local papers declaring the viability of homeschooling. Families started contacting me for information. I also heard from homeschooling families in other counties. We came together to form a small support group and began meeting to share field trips and play dates. It boosted my confidence and emotional well-being tremendously, as well as provided my daughters with community. We were blessed by reaching and finding others who needed community as much as we did.


I don’t relish this challenge of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” with my mother. I would much prefer taking meals and sending cards to others who walk this path. However, those who have walked this road before me are best equipped to minister to me at this time. They have the empathy that only previous experience can give. Oh, how I value their help in carrying this burden and their encouragement and prayers!



Creating Togetherness
SPED Homeschool recognizes how unique the need is for fellowship within the special needs homeschooling community. We have walked this path ahead of you. This is why we are endeavoring to create local support groups designed specifically to minister to the needs of your entire family.


This new program is called SPEDStrong Tribes. Next week, we’ll be raising funds so we can start the process of creating the framework for these local groups. Through SPEDStrong Tribe groups, families who live in close proximity and who homeschool children with any type of special need will be able to come together and share life’s ups and downs as a loving and supportive community.


We need your help to make SPEDStrong Tribes a reality. The funds we are raising on Giving Tuesday for this new program will be used to consolidate and build the structure and infrastructure needed to make duplicating these groups across the United States (and hopefully beyond) a seamless task.


To find out more on how you can help us develop local support groups for special needs homeschooling families visit our SPEDStrong Tribes Giving Tuesday campaign and keep SPED Homeschool in your prayers. 



Maintaining Togetherness
God’s means and methods are infinite for both the needs of our organization as well as for your family. Together let us seek His wisdom and guidance for meeting all our needs, as we ask Him to show us all how we can lighten the load for one another.


We are stronger together!



For more information on the five basic foundations we will be building into our new SPED Strong Tribes, check out all the blogs in this series:
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Togetherness
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Respite and Opportunities
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Networking
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Growth


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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(all donations are tax-deductible)


By Debbi L. White

Establishing annual family traditions builds security in children. It makes memories but does more than that. It creates a family culture that helps formulate its identity, which is important to our children as they grow into independent individuals. Family traditions help our children know who they are and where they come from.


Importance of Family Traditions in my Childhood

When my brother Jimmy and I awoke early on Christmas morning, there were matching pajamas and stockings stuffed with gifts at the foot of our beds. The night before we had been given firm instructions to change into our new pj’s and to quietly go through our stockings until the sun came up. (Those were very slow, grueling hours!) Although the contents of our stockings changed each year, we could always count on finding an orange and a silver dollar in the toe.


At the hint of daybreak, we were allowed to awaken our parents. However, we were not to enter the living room or even peek down the hall! While Dad set up the movie camera and lights, Mom combed our hair and made sure we were presentable. When the signal was given, we ran down the hall and began tearing into the piles of gifts!


Every summer we vacationed in Ocean City, Maryland for a week. We always stayed at the Hastings Miramar hotel on the boardwalk. Dad would spend the days on the pier fishing, and Mom went to the beach. My brother and I could decide which place we would rather go. After late afternoon baths, we would all go to the hotel dining room and sit at our assigned table for the evening meal. That was always followed by a stroll down the boardwalk for rides, games, and treats.


My parents separated when I was 10 and Jimmy was 8. These family traditions are among the cherished memories of my childhood.



Importance of Family Traditions for My Children
After my husband and I had children, I thought it important to establish our own traditions. I wanted to build structure not only in my daughters’ days but also in their years. I desired that they feel a strong sense of unity as a family, and be able to look forward to various events that we created annually.


When our firstborn outgrew the hand-me-down baby clothes that had been given to us, I began making her toddler clothes. This was done as much out of love as it was out of necessity. However, after our second daughter arrived, there was little time to sew, so I became more of a bargain shopper. I didn’t want to totally give up sewing, though, so I continued to make their dresses for Christmas and Easter. Fortunately for me, the girls loved lots of ruffles and ribbons and lace! When they got a little older, they would help pick out the patterns and fabric. It was such fun! That became a tradition that continued into their teens.


Being in the ministry, we did not live near any family. Sometimes relatives joined us for the holidays, but if not, we would invite folks from the community – especially for Thanksgiving. My husband had insisted early in our marriage that I make pie crusts from scratch. That was a bitter pill for me to swallow, but it didn’t take long to master the skill. The day before Thanksgiving was spent pie making. Everyone got to suggest their favorite pie, so it was not unusual to make 9-11 pies! The girls helped, of course!


There was plenty of pie so we could have some for Thursday breakfast as we tore bread for stuffing, and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. As the table was set, three pieces of candy corn were put on each plate. Every person had to tell at least three things they were thankful for before we began eating. Several years I gave pieces of paper to each family member prior to the meal so that they would have time to reflect on what they were especially thankful for that year. I’ve held on to those papers, and they’ve become precious keepsakes as well as reminders of what transpired in years past and what my daughters prioritized.


Certain decorations, music, and movies can be incorporated into annual celebrations. My daughters enjoyed watching Rudolph while decorating the Christmas tree. We always got a real tree, usually on Black Friday. There was a certain order it had to be decorated in, too!


Christmas Eve we rode around and looked at the lights, came home and had hot chocolate and opened one gift. The next morning I always had prepared a special Christmas Tree Danish which we ate while reading the Christmas story. (Some years the girls acted it out.) Then we took turns going around opening one gift at a time, first from the stockings, and then from under the tree. A traditional gift was a special ornament for each daughter commemorating something from that year. (I wanted to start a collection of ornaments for them to take with them when they started their own homes.)


My parents took my brother and me to Ocean City every year for our annual vacation, and I carried on that tradition with my daughters. Instead of staying at the old hotel on the boardwalk, we established the tradition of staying at the Plaza, a condo that has indoor and outdoor pools. Because we homeschooled, we were able to get discounted rates after Labor Day each year, and the crowds were thinner, too! My daughters are now grown and married and live in different states, but they make it a priority to return to the Plaza every September.


Unfortunately, our family was broken when the girls were young, as was mine. But the family traditions continued and gave them security in things that we could keep the same.



Importance of Family Traditions in Your Family
The possibilities for creating your own family traditions are endless and can range from simplistic to extravagant. If you’ve not yet established holiday traditions, check out Pinterest, or books on the subject. Two books that have been an asset to me in establishing traditions are Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson’s Let’s Make a Memory and Thanksgiving A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey. Ask friends what they do, or just powwow and brainstorm with your family. It’s never too late to start creating memories that will last a lifetime.


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By Debbi White

I found myself bawling the other morning. I hadn’t wept like that in months. The previous weeks had been filled with excitement: visitors from Washington and New Jersey, kayaking, zip lining, white water rafting. . . And that night I was eagerly expecting company again.


I usually love being hostess. I had started a monthly game night several years ago. Some neighbor ladies would meet (frequently at my house) for dinner or snacks and board games. I looked forward to it! Usually. But that morning, I was in tears.

Reveling In My Inadequacies
There were regularly the same three of us, but often we invited other neighbors. Others came and went, and that night two newbies were joining us. One had a beautiful house overlooking the river. I mean BEAUTIFUL. She was married to a man in politics, and they seemed quite well off. And, in the past year, she had lost weight and was now quite thin.


I had my day all mapped out: dusting, decorating (for fall), vacuuming, grocery shopping, and cooking. I should’ve been in my element! But as I looked around I noticed the stains in the carpet, the 40 year old cabinets and countertops, the nicks in the kitchen chairs. I had joined Weight Watchers a month before, but my weight-loss wasn’t yet noticeable. I was feeling very much intimidated and inferior. Would this woman notice all of my flaws and those of my house? Would I be able to hold my head up and enjoy the evening?


I was reminded of the lyrics to Lauren Daigle’s song, You Say:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know.

Convicting Thoughts
Paul tells us in II Corinthians 10 that we are to throw “down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (verse 5)


God’s Word convicted me.


Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. (verse 7)


For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. (verse 12)


God does not want me to compare myself to others! He does not want me to focus on the externals to the exclusion of what is important to Him.


He encouraged me with the verses:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)


“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

What I Could Do
What was important to God in my entertaining? What was His heart? I believe it was to make my guests feel loved and welcomed, for them to feel relaxed and comfortable and to be able to enjoy themselves.


I could not make my home modern, but I could make it clean. I could create an enticing, cheerful atmosphere. And it would help if I was content and relaxed myself. I had to grasp God’s Word for myself!


Lauren Daigle’s song continues:

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity,
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

A Change in Perspective
I do believe! I know He loves me! He’s been my husband the past 25 years. He’s also been my Father. My favorite of all His names is I AM. Whatever I need, He is! The One Who created the universe loves Me! The One Who holds the sun in place died for me. He has provided for me and protected me. He has a plan for me. I have this house only because of several miracles He did for me. As old and stained and chipped and worn as it is, it is my home. It is full of love (and animals!). I welcome guests, and I want them to feel loved and valued.


Are you struggling with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority? Do you think that you are not enough as a mother, teacher, wife, woman? Is it because you are looking on outward appearances and comparing yourself to others instead of looking at yourself through God’s eyes?


As I started readjusting my thoughts and what I was concentrating on, my perspective changed. I no longer focused on my inadequacies and my house’s shortcomings. 

All That Was Needed

The day didn’t go exactly as planned, and I was still in the midst of food preparation in a messy kitchen when my guests began arriving. But I wasn’t frazzled. The house was tidy (except for the kitchen!), candles were giving off a sweet scent, and the evening was bathed in prayer. I welcomed my friends into a home with the aroma of the love of Christ.


I, in myself, am NOT enough. But Christ says He is enough. He is I AM, everything I need.


And a good time was had by all.


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate Today

(all donations are tax-deductible)

By Debbi L. White

I was lying on my bed next to my young daughter trying to get her to go to sleep without awaking her younger sister. My pastor husband was next door at our small church conducting the weekly prayer meeting. I tried to lie still and quiet, but my mind was racing.


Our daughter Mindy had recently turned six, and our county school board was asking us to register her for school. I had been teaching her for nearly three years, and we had decided as a family to continue homeschooling. We had joined Home School Legal Defense Association to get legal advice and protection. They had informed us that in Virginia we could provide the county with the information they required or, if we had convictions about enrolling our children in public school, we could file for a religious exemption.



A Different Path
We were the first family in our county on Virginia’s Eastern Shore to be homeschooling in 1990. If we were to file for a religious exemption, we were not sure how the school board would receive it. Other families across the country were embroiled in legal battles trying to gain their right to teach their children at home. Some had even been prosecuted and jailed due to “truancy.”


I had my Bachelor’s degree. We could easily accommodate the county’s requirements. Compliance would almost guarantee their acceptance of our choice. But was that the way we were to go? What if we filed for religious exemption and became involved in a court battle? Would that hurt our ministry? I wrestled with these thoughts and more as I pleaded with God for direction.



A Lot of Unknowns
Then it became clear. Surely they would approve of ME teaching because I had a degree. But what if the Joneses or the Smiths down the road decided to homeschool, and they didn’t have degrees? Was it right for me to be able to teach my children and not them? No! The Bible instructs parents to train their children. Children are the responsibility of the parents. If the parents choose to delegate some of the training, they are still responsible for oversight. It is not the government’s responsibility to train anyone’s children! Parents can allow their children to be trained in government schools, but it is not for the government to demand that, nor should the government disallow parents the right to train their children or make the choice where they are to be educated. If I were to supply our county with my credentials and curriculum and comply with their oversight, I felt I would be endorsing their authority to mandate the educational provisions for all students in the county. I could not give them that authority.


But what would this decision mean for our family? For our church? I had to have faith that God was in this, that He was in control, but I was fearful.



A Step Out in Faith
When my husband came home, I shared with him my thoughts and convictions. He agreed to support me, and we contacted HSLDA the next day. They wrote to our school board on our behalf and provided the law in Virginia as well as documented court cases where a religious exemption was upheld. We prayed, and God answered! The county responded by giving us their blessing on our endeavors.


We had not been guaranteed positive results. We stepped out in obedience with faith, trusting God with our future. God often asks us to do that as we travel life’s path. He asks it of everyone who follows Him. I love to read “Faith’s Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. (You should reread it!) What a testimony all of these had!


These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (verse 13)



A Perfect Promise
We can look back and see the results of their obedience. When they stepped out in faith, however, they did not know what would happen.


We cannot see around the next corner, only God can. That is why it is essential to walk closely with Him and to walk in the light that He gives. He has a purpose for all that He calls us to do. He promises to make a way (He doesn’t promise a way without struggles and challenges, though!); He promises to provide, and He promises to use us as we keep yielded to Him.



A Future Unknown
If we could see the future and know the consequences of all that God asks us to do, we would not need faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)


Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

A Devastating Blow

Skip ahead two years. My husband made the decision to leave the church and his family. Overnight I found myself single, homeless and unemployed. My Heavenly Father, the God of miracles, provided a home and full-time employment within the following four days. I began working in a warehouse owned and operated by another home-schooling family. My children were able to be with me, but at the end of the summer, I once again was faced with decisions regarding their education.


They had had much turmoil and upheaval. They needed some consistency and security, but most importantly, my role and calling had not changed. To many, it did not seem like a wise decision for me to quit my full-time job to return to home-schooling, but I felt that was God’s will, and I needed to obey. Yes, it was scary. Not only was I facing a court challenge from my husband, but I was now also responsible for supporting my children.


A Sure Foundation to Lean On
I have heard that there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible. I have not counted them, but I know that God continuously urged me to trust Him. Some of my favorite verses that He gave me at that time were

For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5) 


All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54:13)


It wasn’t always easy. I took jobs that I could do at home or that I could take the girls with me, but their schooling remained a priority. I did sewing and cleaning and worked for another family part-time. I bartered cooking for car repairs. God provided. The girls made it through successfully and are now college graduates! Praise Father!

A New Chapter
A lot has happened since they graduated, but now, 13 years later, I find myself once again unemployed. I have applied for about 70 jobs over the past four months. No doors have opened, and my savings has dwindled. I have sought God daily for His guidance and wisdom. I have longed to have the security of a paycheck and health insurance once again! Door after door has remained shut as I have knocked, and knocked, and knocked some more.


About three weeks ago, a door finally opened. And then another. A little light came through, and then more. Possibly, just possibly, I could do something that I really love and on my own schedule. Hmmm. But there were naysayers. “You don’t want to do that! Your income is not guaranteed, and it’s a lot of work!” “It is unlikely that you will be able to find enough business to support yourself by doing this full-time.”

A Prayer & An Answer
I continued to pray for guidance and clarity, and God has answered. Every step I have made towards establishing a ministry/business for homeschoolers has led to another step, another open door. I have kept walking as He has guided.

The morning I applied for a business license, a mother saw my resume posted on a search engine and cried. She called that evening and told me that she needed a tutor for her son, that she had been praying for the right person, and she felt I was God’s answer. To me, that was another affirmation that God is in this!

A New Ministry Born
HUGS-Homeschooling Unique and Gifted Students was born. I home-schooled my daughters over 18 years. I have 18 years experience in the classroom, and I have my MA in Teaching Special Education. I believe God has been preparing me for this all my life. I am stepping out in faith.


No, it’s not a guaranteed income. No, I do not have health insurance. I am single and I have a mortgage, car payment and student loan (from my graduate studies). I cannot see what the future holds, but God does, and He promises to provide as I obey.

A Continually Deepening Faith
God my Father has been showing me that if everything were under our control, we would not need faith. Trusting Him in faith deepens our dependence on Him and strengthens our relationship. So, although stepping out into the unknown can be quite scary, it is a good thing! Nothing in this world can surpass deepening our intimacy with our Creator and Savior!


When you are asked to step out in faith and you are scared, thank God for the privilege that will draw you closer to Him.


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