by Michele Nuckolls, SPED Homeschool Community Member

 

During a hard season, I was reading a book and had a God-ordained moment of clarity. I went to my daughter’s room and asked her, “Do you think about your birth mother every day?” She gave me an astonished, “YES!” The look on her face said, “How could you possibly have guessed?” 

 

After praying for answers, I read a book by adoptee Sherrie Eldridge who is gentle with adoptive moms like me who didn’t know. Since that day, my daughter and I have embarked on a journey of adoption grief together and it has been healing for both of us.  

 

“Chasing the why behind the behavior” is a phrase coined by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel M.D. and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. This dynamic duo has written quite a few books together, including No Drama Discipline where they specifically talk about this parenting tool. When I thought about how I have simplified my homeschool, this was the first thing that came to mind. When I “chase the why,” sometimes the answer changes everything.  

 

If you are a seasoned SPED homeschool mom, you have probably already been chasing the why behind the behavior when your child might just not be developmentally ready for what you are asking him to do. We have learned to “lower the bar,” so that our kids can meet expectations and feel success. 

 

Here are a few of those examples:

My child melts down every Sunday morning while getting ready for church.

  • Why? Perhaps, church is too loud and chaotic and my child is overwhelmed by it all.

My child protests and doesn’t like to read aloud.

  • Why? Perhaps the book is too difficult to follow. I have one child who struggles with following any type of fantasy book, but real-life books like Ramona and Beezus or Junie B. Jones are loved. As an aside, I have two kids who struggle with emotional regulation and they both LOVE Junie B. Jones. I think it’s nice to read about another cool kid who isn’t perfect either.

My child refuses to write.

  • Why? Low muscle tone? Poor hand, eye coordination? Perhaps a weighted pencil, a marker, or a pencil grip can help?   

My child refuses to go to speech therapy.

  • Why? Because last time he went, he had a meltdown and is now embarrassed to go back. He needs to talk through that embarrassment.  

My child doesn’t want to play at the park in the summer.

  • Why? Because feeling overheated puts him into sensory overload.  

 

Then, there are the deeper struggles. Perhaps a child is disrupting the family rhythm so much that things are harder than they should be, or could be. Here are a few deeper examples:

 

My child is struggling with a math problem and when I ask a simple question, what is 2+2, he intentionally gives an incorrect answer of 500.

  • Why? He is embarrassed that he doesn’t understand, and he decides to act like he doesn’t know anything. He needs a break (maybe until tomorrow), and he needs to watch some more examples worked out for him to watch. He needs to hear that I know he is smart and it’s okay to need extra time to learn. If my child is adopted, he may be afraid of being abandoned, even if I took him home on the day of his birth. If this is the case, maybe he needs to hear that he is my son forever, even after he is old like grandpa. He needs to know that this math thing is just not that important.     

My child is very angry and frustrated today. He is roughly setting the table with snappy remarks.

  • Why? Some children were making fun of him on the playground this afternoon, and he needs to be able to tell the story and talk it out with a parent. He needs me to hear and understand how he feels about it. As Dr. Siegel would say, “he needs to feel felt.”

My tween suddenly does not want to complete his work this school year and seems angry or sad. 

  • This year is the first year of mostly independent work. He feels neglected and misses me. I need to carve out some read-aloud time together, one-on-one time to work on school together, or just special time together, even if it’s just ten minutes a day.

My child is speaking harshly to his brother.

  • Oh no, that was a direct quote FROM ME!  

 

I think our kids with special needs or unique, difficult histories (like adoption, divorce, or illness) have heard and possibly internalized a lie that is troubling them. This is when we, as parents, need to pray and seek the Lord, asking him to reveal the truth. Don’t be afraid to sit in silent stillness with your child to give them a gentle space to share when they are ready. It’s okay to ask questions or make suggestions, but then try to stop talking. Sometimes I will sit down with a child and say something like, “I think something is bothering you, and I hope you will share it with me,” or, “I noticed you were loudly washing the dishes tonight. Could you tell me about what is on your mind?”  

SPED Homeschool has additional articles and resources that address the unique situation for adoptive and foster families.

 

 

 


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By Janet Giel-Romo, SPED Homeschool Partner Austin & Lily Curriculum and Consulting 

 

One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that parents have the freedom to guide the education of their child. Parents can individualize instruction and teach the topics they want to. Last week, we shared about creating a student education plan (SEP), a homeschool version of an Individual Education Program (IEP). One of the important considerations in developing a student education plan is what to teach. For instruction to be effective, we need to start with what the student already knows and add to it just a little bit at a time. Students need to feel successful. But how do you know where to begin?

 

What is PLAAFP and PLOP?

Parents can use the same strategies schools use to determine a student’s current knowledge and future goals. The IEP process involves testing, observations, and writing a narrative about the student called the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP or PLOP). This information is the starting point for writing goals. It includes a student’s strengths, skills, challenges, and the most effective instructional strategies. It takes time to gather accurate data to write a good PLAAFP, but this is the starting point that can help parents map out a plan.

 

How to Find Present Levels

I homeschool my 19-year-old daughter, Lily, who has Down syndrome. I had a good feel for her reading and writing skills because I have worked with her on these skills. 

Math was a different story. I did not do much with her on math, so I wasn’t sure what she knew and what she did not know. I decided to assess her skills related to money. I made up a game on the fly. Lily likes Taco Bell, and we had several Taco Bell sauce packets on the counter, so I used them to play “Taco Bell Sauce Store” with her. I gave her a pile of coins and told her that each sauce was a nickel. First, we sorted the sauce packets into sauce types. Then, I role-played the store clerk and asked her what she would like to buy. As we played, I figured out what areas need work. For example, when I asked her for a nickel to buy a sauce packet, she handed me a quarter. That told me we need to spend some time learning the names of coins and looking at how to tell them apart. I also realized she didn’t know how much they were worth. At school, she had been doing money problems on worksheets but hadn’t made the connection to real money. I knew that teaching her the names of the coins wouldn’t take long, but that would be a good goal as well as memorizing how much each coin is worth. 

I also looked at Lily’s adding skills. I noticed when Lily had a problem like 4+5 she counted the four items and then the five items, and then she recounted all of them to get the answer. I will outline how I went about figuring out how to teach to skip count.

 

It takes time to gather accurate data to write a good PLAAFP, but this is the starting point that can help parents map out a plan.”

 

Knowledge + 1 =

I asked myself questions that I needed to answer to figure out what the problem was. I bought workbooks for K-3 math to see how lessons were sequenced. This helped me understand how strategies unfold for general education math curriculum. I discovered the skill Lily needed to use to not recount is called skip counting. 

Can Lily skip count? I gave three numbers in a row and then asked Lily what came next. EX- “22,23,24…..what comes next?” She said, “25, 26, 27”. Yes, she can skip count.

Did Lily know how to skip count when adding? No. She didn’t realize that you can look at the first number and count from there to add on the second number. For example, 3+2 would be counted as 3…4,5. The answer is 5. The teaching strategy that worked best for Lily was for me to model this using my fingers several times.

 

Brainstorming Goals and Strategies Based on Present Levels

Based on her present levels, I have a variety of goals and strategies I can choose. 

  • Pick the highest of the two numbers as the starting point to add the smaller number.
  • Skip count by 10s, then 5s, etc. For example, counting by 5s starting from a number like 20. We want her to say, “25, 30, 35, 40.” This skill is needed to count nickels.
  • Skip count by 5’s using nickels. For example, something costs 25 cents, so she counts by 5s to 25. 

If she is successful at skip counting, an additional goal could be to skip count by 10s with dimes to pay for something that costs 50 cents. An even more ambitious goal is to start with a coin and skip counts from there. For example, she has a quarter, and she needs 35 cents. She needs to recognize this is when to skip count… 25, 30, 35. That would tell her she needs two nickels. This may be too advanced so I know not to start with this more advanced goal. 

Right now, we are working on combining nickels and dimes. I think we are making progress and I am going to stay with it for now. 

Thank goodness for groups like SPED Homeschool that make it possible to share information and ideas.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Faith Berens, M.ED., Reading and Dyslexia Specialist, HSLDA Special Needs Consultant and SPED Homeschool Board Member

Home education is growing as a viable education alternative and solution, particularly for students with unique learning needs. Due to its very nature, homeschooling is an excellent individualized educational program. Parents who have children with special needs can navigate the lingo of the special education world, which includes diagnostic terms, labels, and acronyms! However, if you are not already familiar with the term, IEP, individual education program (or plan), that is what we are delving into here. So, get a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s chat.

 

IEPs, ISPs, 504 Accommodations Plans, and Student Education Plans!

IEPs and 504 Accommodation Plans can best be explained as legal contracts between a school and parents that provide detailed information about how a student’s needs will best be met by the school. If your child was or is enrolled in a public school, he/she may already have an IEP that was created by you and the school staff. Or perhaps he/she has an official written 504 Accommodation Plan that lays out what types of accommodations the student needs to access content/information or be able to “output” and show what they have learned. Examples of accommodations may include things such as enlarged text, extra time, frequent breaks, adaptive equipment, or the use of assistive technology.  

These written plans contain the specifics of an organized and cohesive education plan, which include the following:  

  • What? The plan should describe any special education, related services, therapy, or specialized instruction and intervention the school will provide for the student – for example, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, specific reading intervention, or remediation strategies. 
  • When will services be given? The plan should specify the duration and frequency of those services, like 2x/week for 20-minute sessions.
  • Who will deliver and implement the intervention, instruction, and therapy services? It could be a special education resource teacher, reading specialist, occupational therapist, speech/language pathologist, or paraprofessional.
  • Where will services occur?  Services can be in the regular classroom, therapist office, or resource classroom.
  • How long? IEPs are developed annually for specific areas that typically include behavior, social, emotional, language, and academics.

Some states allow homeschooled students to access special education-related services. If this is an option in your area, you may choose to request that the IEP shift to an ISP, Individual Service Plan. To check your state’s policies regarding homeschoolers accessing special education services, access the HSLDA website, and then select your state to read about your state’s special education provisions.

But what if your child does not have access to special-education related services OR you do not wish to tap into those services? What other options does a homeschool parent have?

 

Student Education Plan (SEP): A Homeschool IEP

Homeschool families may choose to draft a Student Education Plan (SEP), or Special Student Educational Plan, the homeschool version of an IEP. Think of this document as a blueprint to your child’s success with his home education plan. It can be a great way to keep you focused on your child’s academic needs and goals as well as prioritize other important interventions, services, and growth opportunities during a particular school year.

This document should contain the following parts and information:  

  • Student information (name, date of birth, grade level, etc.)
  • Student Education/Special Education Team members (parents, medical specialists, diagnosing professional, therapists, or tutors)
  • Current levels of performance (levels of functioning cognitively and academically, such as skill levels for math and reading, and a summary of difficulty areas, strengths, and weaknesses)
  • Annual goals (behavioral, emotional, self-help/daily living, spiritual, and academic)
  • Services and interventions (this may include therapies, specific interventions, tutoring, and remediation plans or curricula)
  • Accommodations and modifications (adaptive equipment, assistive technology tools, and supplemental supports provided)
  • Progress monitoring and reporting (how will your student be assessed, such as standardized testing, teacher observation, anecdotal notes, portfolio review, developmental assessments with specialists, etc.)

 

Why Drafting a Written Student Education Plan Can Be Beneficial AND encouraging!

Many parents wonder, why would I want to or even need to draft a student education plan?  

  1. Peace of mind: By crafting, maintaining, and updating your student’s education plan in your homeschool file, you, as the educator and administrator of your school, are documenting the important steps you are taking to provide for your child’s unique learning challenges and needs. This document will then be at-the-ready should your homeschooling ever come under question by authorities, doctors, well-meaning professionals, or even family members.  
  2. Access to accommodations: If your child needs access to accommodations or modifications, such as at a vocational school, for college entrance exams, and even at the local community college, you can then provide a copy of your student’s individualized educational plan.  
  3. Encouragement: From one homeschooling mama to another, writing out this plan can be truly encouraging, particularly on days when we feel we are not doing enough or doubt we can provide what our child needs. It is helpful to pull out this document, review our child’s progress, reflect on our goals, and remind ourselves of all the ways home education is truly an excellent, individualized educational plan! You got this!!

 

*If you are a member of HSLDA, please feel free to reach out to our special needs consultants to obtain a Student Education Plan template, guidance with creating your SEP, review, and feedback on your SEP draft, and/or finding therapy as well as other support and resources! 

** If you would like to write your homeschool SEP by yourself or with the help of your student’s therapy providers or an independent homeschool consultant, check out this page on our website for our free IEP template and guide.

 

 

 

 


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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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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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Dyana Robbins

 

Whether your homeschooling years are ending because you are launching a graduate into the world or leaving homeschooling for reasons as varied as the ones that brought you to home education, there are adjustments and feelings to reckon with when your homeschooling season comes to an end.

My homeschooling years ended abruptly two years ago when my oldest son asked to attend school for his 9th-grade year. Making the decision to send him to the large public school behind our home wrenched my heart. There were good reasons to send him, but my heart struggled with the possible consequences of that choice. I consoled myself, knowing my youngest son was still home and that I had more years homeschooling him. And then, we took a job opportunity in Singapore and my homeschooling years were suddenly over. I’ve grieved those years learning at home together. Thankfully the Lord has greatly comforted me through this time of transition. In light of the wisdom I have gained through this transition in our lives, here is some encouragement from one mother’s heart to yours.

 

Homeschooling is Only Part of the Plan

When my son went to public school, it posed many challenges for him. His learning challenges meant that he was not at grade level and required an IEP. He had never had to navigate large groups of same-age peers alone. His first day was truly terrible in almost every way. Fear and pain made me want to pull him from school immediately.  But, by spring, he had found his place; succeeding in his classes and finding a group of great friends.

Our son graduates next year from an international school and I marvel at all he has accomplished. He gets the credit for his work ethic and resilience, but I know that homeschooling helped him develop both. The years we spent laboring together over reading, writing, and spiritual formation have borne the most wonderful fruit. As I mourned and worried about our son starting school, God was unveiling new horizons for our family.

However long your homeschooling season was, you can trust that good will come from the investments you have made in your children. If homeschooling ended before you were ready, know that God is not surprised or unprepared. He knows what the future holds for you and your family.  His love is providing for all of you even as you make unexpected changes.

 

Life After Homeschooling is Wonderful Too

Honestly, many days of homeschooling were not wonderful. There were times I cried, prayed, and believed I could not keep teaching at home. But the whole experience was wonderful. Life is like that; we have pain woven through our routines and joys.

Two years after homeschooling, I have reclaimed parts of myself that were willingly laid down so I could homeschool my children. I have more time for friendships and am resuming a career I love. My life now is filled in different ways than when we homeschooled. I still miss those sweet years but rejoice as our family moves forward together, embracing new opportunities.

 

My life now is filled in different ways than when we homeschooled. I still miss those sweet years but rejoice as our family moves forward together, embracing new opportunities.

 

Releasing and Resting is Part of the Parenting Process

The bonds we make through teaching our children can be lifelong. My sons still listen to me and my husband carefully and they respect our guidance. I know other families who credit homeschooling with forging spiritual and family bonds that have lasted generations. What I have observed is that these families also let their children go well.

By encouraging teens to make their own decisions, even when you don’t agree with them, is part of this letting-go process. Trusting God and the truth that has been planted in your child’s soul, not the ability to make perfect choices, is how to successfully navigate this transition time as a parent. The examples other parents have provided in this area have helped me navigate our family’s unexpected changes.  I hope they encourage you too.

 

As I write this, we are living in some crazy times that have put us all through various transitions and have us considering many different educational options for our children. Ultimately, there are very few things we control.  But, God is still on His throne. His love for His people is unfailing.  As we release our children and other beloved things in this season, remember that He is always making things new…our children and us too.

 

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn & Peggy Ployhar

Just what is homeschooling? I have asked myself this question a lot as of late.

When you boil it down, homeschooling is an active schooling choice.

As I think about what I just penned above, I can’t say Isolation schooling, the non-choice schooling option many are finding themselves doing right now can truly be called homeschooling.

Isolation schooling is a non-choice schooling option affecting all public, private, and homeschooling families right now.

The interesting thing is that no matter what our school choice was before this pandemic hit, all families still have many choices they can make while maintaining isolation. The key to seeing these choices is looking beyond what you may have to leave behind. And instead, focus on what you can do and how those choices will impact your family’s story during this pandemic and in the years to come when you look back at how you utilized this time together. Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

Choices for families who were already homeschooling:

 

Choices for families who had children attending public or private schools:

  • Online classes or therapy too overwhelming for your student? Ask the school/teacher/therapist to send you a packet of class materials he/she can finish at their pace and submit when completed.

 

“…no matter what our school choice was before this pandemic hit, all families still have many choices they can make while maintaining isolation.

 

This is a different season for our country that none of us have ever charted. I am hoping that my public and private schooling friends will enjoy this opportunity at home with their children as much as I enjoy my time at home with mine. I also pray they will take a closer look at homeschooling as a choice in the future.  

We can do this! We just need to be flexible with the choices we do have.

Need some help? Check out our  COVID-19 emergency at-home schooling page for more ideas and resources.

 

 

 

 


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Dawn Spence

I am very much a type-A person. I love to find ways to organize my house, my life, and my homeschool. I also find my children do better with organization, and it sets the tone and expectations within our home and homeschool.

Children need structure even though their natural inclination is to resist it. This is especially true for children with special needs. Knowing the order of the day and a checklist of what needs to be done provides comfort and stability.

I have found that finding little things to help me organize my day amidst therapies, teaching, and everyday life can be rewarding and stress relieving. Here are some simple things that have helped organize our homeschool days that I hope will help you organize your homeschool.

 

Provide Daily Checklists

I provide my children with weekly checklists of their assignments. I love that my children wake up and can tackle their assignments without asking me what they need to do. They can choose to work and complete all their math in one day if they choose. It provides self-discipline and independence.

The checklist is especially helpful when my daughter has therapy because then my other children can look at their lists and work on one or more of their independent lessons. They know if they need help they can circle the lesson and work with me later when I become available.

 

Calendar With Visuals

Another helpful tool is a wall calendar with pictures. This tool is valuable to everyone in the family. It helps us see when things will be taking place during the week like field trips, doctor visits, and special holidays. My children, like most, work better when they know what to expect and can count down to an exciting activity. Using pictures ensures even the non-readers in your home can take advantage of these calendar reminders.

The size of the calendar is up to you. You can use personal-sized calendars or a wall-sized calendar. One additional item we add to our calendar is special dates about the places and people we have been studying in our lessons.

 

Organized Work Areas

Organized work areas are a simple organization tool, but can save a great deal of time. My children have everything they need at our group work station and their student desks. Not having to stop to provide utensils and paper helps everyone stay on task. I take a little extra time on Sunday night preparing these areas for the week. Trust me, a little prep ahead of time can save you lots of time throughout the week.

 

Yes, homeschooling can be hard, but implementing ways to organize your homeschool doesn’t have to be.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team  

Just as in life, special education homeschooling comes with its own set of highs and lows, peaks and valleys. These may look different for each of us, but the journey teaches us important lessons with each new challenge. In this post, our SPEDHomeschool Team Members share the peaks and valleys they have faced in their journey of homeschooling special needs and what they have learned from those hard moments.

 

Amy Vickrey

This year has been a big valley in our lives in general. However, life affects how our children learn. One year ago, I became a single mom. The details aren’t important. What is important is that my kids looked to me this year to see how I would react, to learn real-life lessons in love, faith, and trust. I have worked every day to show love, thankfulness, and strength. I want my boys to grow up to know that women should be strong, a part of a team, and you should stand up for what is right. These life lessons have been ever-present this past year. Many people encouraged me to put my boys back in school, but I saw the need they had to be close and seek comfort and shelter when things were tough. This year, homeschooling has been our peace, our solace when things were tough and we needed something “normal.” It has allowed us to escape into field trips and fun activities when needed, and discover a bond between my boys, my parents, and I that would not be there without the time and love we have shared. I built a team of family members, therapists and doctors to help us navigate this difficult year, work through regressions that occurred, and continue to moving forward.

 

During all of the turmoil of our daily life, my oldest son also struggled with vision issues. Diagnosed with amblyopia last year, he began with 20/250 vision in his left eye – the legal limit for “blindness” being 20/200. He made quick progress with glasses, but could not tolerate the patches due to sensory issues. So we dilated his good eye. Which means he could see even less. Through it all, he showed amazing strength and determination. He continued to progress in reading and math. While his handwriting has suffered some, we are now getting back on track with the help of an amazing team of Occupational Therapists.

 

The bottom line is, I know this is just one valley. It has been a tough year. And yet, I have seen so much blessing come out of it. My oldest still showed academic growth, my youngest (3-year-old) is now receiving needed services and has potty trained (no more diapers – yeah!). Despite all the hardship, we are a close-knit family and have found a deeper love for each other and for God. Through all the difficult times, I could look back and see the hand of God protecting us and guiding us through. Because of His guidance, I know we can get through anything together. Homeschooling has allowed us the ability to navigate this last year in a way that has blessed us tremendously.

 

“I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength.” Isaiah 12:2.

 

 

Dawn Spence

Homeschooling can be overwhelming especially when you add on atypical learners. My valley—and something that I have had to rise above—is thoughts of inadequacy. I am a very type-A person who expects a lot of myself, which can be good sometimes or self-defeating at other times. I taught public school for 10 years, and in that environment, you are judged on your students’ success. So my worth as a teacher was measured by scores. When I became a homeschool mom, I had to fight against this way of thinking and allow myself the freedom to teach my children without judging myself. It was hard, and I often beat myself up when my kids were not meeting goals. But then I had to realize that my kids’ learning is about mastery and growth; I had to allow myself grace.

 

My peak is watching my children grow at their pace in their way. I love getting to know my children’s strengths and watch them bloom. I love to see them have those moments when the lightbulb comes on because they get a concept or lesson. I love that my kids are not compared to anyone and are taught as individuals. That is what I wanted to do as a teacher, and I’m so blessed that I get to live that out with my best students, my children.

 

 

“It’s when I realized that [my son’s] best was all I could expect, and that was good enough. This is the highest peak! This is where freedom is!”

 

 

Cammie Arn

As a veteran homeschool mom with 20+ years experience and still in the trenches with my youngest who is 4, the one thing that I have learned is to not sweat the small stuff. There is freedom is not comparing our children to others; however, we also need to have the confidence to trust that we ARE doing what is best for our children.

 

My difficult valleys in my homeschool came when I lacked the confidence in my ability to teach. It had nothing to do with curriculum or my child’s performance. It had much more to do with the ugly monster of fear. Could I do more? Is this enough? Should I do this better? It’s a slippery slope of despair. The darkest valley.

 

However, once I realized that my best was all that was needed, that is when freedom came. That’s when I discovered that is was OK that my son only wanted to read the Bible and that he didn’t want to read Shakespeare or do Latin. It’s when I realized that his best was all I could expect, and that was good enough. This is the highest peak! This is where freedom is!

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

Since our homeschooling journey started in such a large valley there was no way except up for us to go from there.

 

Our introduction into homeschooling was anything but easy since it started with an autism diagnosis, my son’s private school not having any options available that were workable for him, our public school wanting to only focus on his behavioral and reading issues instead of his depression, social anxiety and academic giftedness in math and science, and my own personal depression and anger issues. We were nowhere close to being a family chosen as most-likely to homeschool, especially successfully. But it was the only choice we had, and so we followed the peace God gave us above the nay-sayers of the world and dove headfirst into the adventure.

 

Now 17 years later, I know without a doubt that the valley God took our family into, to twist our arm to start homeschooling, was the turning point that has led us to the many peaks of success we have seen over the years with our children. I could go on and on about the peaks in my children’s homeschool careers as well as the peaks I too have experienced as I have allowed God to change me as their mother and teacher, but there is one peak that rises above the rest. Just last month I wrote an article called The Greater Benefit of Homeschooling, where I highlight this greatest peak we reach in our homeschooling. And, it is a peak we all can reach no matter what academic potential our children have. It is scaled not by the places we take our children, the lessons they learn from us, or even the skills they develop. Instead, the pinnacle success of homeschooling is the strong bond we have the opportunity to develop with our children.

 

I am truly blessed to have such amazing relationships with my children and each day as we converse and continue to walk the road of life together, we just keep scaling higher and higher on this great mountain that allows me to keep speaking truth, wisdom, and love into the places in my children’s lives that need to be spoken into. Meanwhile, the lies of the world have less impact as they shout out from the distant valleys down below.

 

 

Rewards of the Journey

Creating a place of support, giving ourselves room to grow, strengthening bonds with our children—the lessons we learn in our valleys are what propel us to our peaks. The special education homeschooling journey is not without its challenges, but the rewards are well worth it!

 

 


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Guest Blogger – Charl Rae Cobb

 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

The term “special needs” is a term that covers a broad spectrum of medical, developmental, congenital, and psychiatric challenges that other people might not face (or yet have identified). I’m not sure any parents ever anticipate it. We certainly did not. Yet, from my son’s birth, it became obvious that he would have significant allergies to deal with his entire life. Fortunately, he was born into a family that has multiple generations of allergic and asthmatic individuals to empower him with education, information, and support. And fortunately, homeschooling has allowed us to meet our child’s many special needs in a way that nothing else has.

 

Identifying our child’s special needs

We were so excited to be pregnant! We did all the “right things” to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.  I planned to breastfeed to reduce the risk of our baby developing allergies and asthma (prevalent in my family medical history). However, our precious son was born allergic to all milk proteins (even mine) and reacted to all the formulas the doctors recommended.

How ironic that I, who can’t tolerate any alcohol so I never consume mixed drinks, would be concocting cocktails (“shaken, not stirred”) containing H1 and H2 antihistamines and decongestant prescribed by the doctors in hopes our infant could absorb enough of the latest formula to maintain enough weight to stay above the “failure to thrive” designation at each check-up. He also had breathing treatments prescribed around the clock and as needed between the regularly scheduled treatments. To see him now, well developed and healthy, you would never know the battles we fought to gain each ounce for 6 years and the battle to breathe normally without needing rescue inhalers for each physical activity.

His first pediatrician told me she suspected he was having headaches. Since headaches, eczema, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, and a host of other symptoms he was experiencing are well documented to correspond with allergies, I hoped they would be eliminated as we identified and addressed the specific allergens he reacted to. What we did not know is that the headaches would continue and eventually worsen leading to a diagnosis of abdominal migraines.

 

Homeschooling has created a better learning environment for our child.

 

Meeting our child’s special needs by homeschooling

Due to our circumstances, I carried medical insurance through my work. Thus, while I worked, our child was at a highly recommended daycare or preschool during his early years as well as spending lots of time with my parents (who are very well versed in raising an allergic and asthmatic child). I was able to change departments at work so that I could take our child to all the doctor appointments (many were out-of-town) and be available when the daycare or preschool called for me to pick up my sick child or give another breathing treatment. We also wound up changing daycares and preschools due to bullying incidents. Verbal and physical bullying, the refusal of the school administration to establish/accept a 504 or IEP plan, and being told by the teacher and administrator that he needed to “just sit still while the rest of the class catches up to him” would eventually lead to us withdrawing our child from first grade and officially privately educating at home.

 Along the way, different teachers and administrators made unsolicited comments about our son’s various behavior traits which prompted me to take him to a development pediatrician. She ruled out any diagnosis of autism but stated he was “normal” if a bit anxious (which I relate to the multiple bullying incidents) and possibly gifted (but not tested at that time) and suggested homeschooling him.

 

Meeting our child’s special needs by homeschooling

  • Homeschooling has allowed us to better control his environmental allergens and exposures, improving our son’s physical coordination (including eye tracking), attentiveness or focus, and occasional hyperactivity. 
  • Homeschooling has allowed us to identify additional special needs. We have identified symptoms of dysgraphia and have taken steps to help him cope with that. (I found the  dianecraft.org website to be helpful in understanding dysgraphia and some strategies for addressing it.) 
  •  Homeschooling has allowed us to find support from other parents. Our local homeschool support group was invaluable in providing insight from experienced veterans who informed us of resources like the various co-ops, curriculum, and clubs in our area. “The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobais was another resource that helped me structure our homeschool program.
  • Homeschooling has created a better learning environment for our child. We are able to answer questions when they arise (rather than having to wait to get home because the teacher would not answer them or steer him to a resource). We can  share successes and frustrations in learning new ideas, understand how various mathematical concepts apply to real life situations, take field trips and create projects to reinforce history or science, and master content before moving to the next level (vs moving on because administration dictates). The flexibility of homeschooling our special needs child at home has also eliminated the stigma and penalties our child was stressing over when his multiple doctor appointments were criticized by teachers and administration of traditional school and documented on his report cards. 
  • Homeschooling also provides more opportunities to grow together as a multi-generational family unit. 

 

As parents of a child with multiple allergies and asthma, we had to move from denial to acceptance with lightning speed because the very life of our child depended on it. Did we ever “go back” and experience the other stages of grief—denial, anger, sadness, guilt, etc.? Of course, we are human. As Christians, we also constantly trust our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Lord who created this child to provide the resources to meet his needs and the loving support to meet ours so that he can live the fullest life possible and be the unique individual he is designed to be. We are thankful that homeschooling has allowed us to meet our child’s (indeed, our family’s) physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs in a way that is unparalleled with our previous personal experiences.

 

 


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