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.

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Support the on-going work of

SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist, SPED Homeschool Partner & Board Member

 

Behavior and character are topics parents are always interested in pursuing. The privilege and responsibility we have in raising our children in the way they should go can often be a challenging and frustrating journey. It would be easier if we knew what influenced certain behaviors and how to determine if a negative interaction with a child is a heart issue or if there is something else at the root of it all. 

 

When thinking about the root cause of behavior issues, we must look at several different factors. Some might be more obscure than others. 

 

What is the root cause of challenging behavior? The source of negative behavior could be metabolic, having to do with body chemistry. It could also be the sin nature we were all born with. Or, from my perspective, it could be caused by neurodevelopmental deficits. We will look mainly at neurodevelopmental causes, but the others are well worth mentioning. 

 

  1. Metabolic Causes

Diet and nutrition can play a significant role in negative behavior. If the child reacts to food or the environment, it can cause a wide range of difficult behaviors like irritability, anger, and even aggression or destructiveness. This is beyond the child’s control and care should be taken to consider this as a cause since you cannot discipline this out of a child. One approach to this is to create a food diary each time you see negative behavior, especially if the behavior is uncharacteristic of the child in general. If you see a pattern in food consumed and negative behavior, try eliminating that food type and see if the behavior changes. 

 

  1. Neurodevelopmental Causes

Underdeveloped brain pathways can cause challenges in receiving sensory information correctly, processing information in your short-term memory, as well as storing information for good retrieval. These, like the metabolic causes, are beyond the child’s ability to control. 

Let me give you a few neurodevelopmental examples. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Sensory Overload: If the child is hypersensitive to touch or sound and noises or irritating touches invade the child’s sensory system, the immediate overreaction is fight or flight because the brain is interpreting these stimuli as pain. When you are in pain, you want to get away or retaliate. The result can be negative behavior which is misunderstood by people whose sensory system gives the correct messages.  
  • Underdeveloped Central Vision: It might be considered a negative character quality not to look a person in the eyes when you talk to them. We tend to require this of our children, especially when we try to get our point across about a behavior or character issue. When the central detail vision (how you see right in the center of your vision field) is underdeveloped, the child can move his eyes toward you but soon look like he is looking over your shoulder. You have trained him to move his eyes toward you, but since he can’t really see well in the center, the eye moves so he can look with his peripheral vision. This is often interpreted as defiance or disobedience when, in fact, it is beyond the child’s control.
  • Following Directions or Staying on Task: Parents often comment that their child REFUSES to follow directions and exhibits the poor character of not staying with their work. Look no further than the inability to hold pieces of auditory information in short-term memory when you have these behavioral challenges. When children’s auditory processing is low, they literally can’t hold the pieces of the instruction together long enough to complete the request. Often, this gets them in trouble for not “obeying” or not being “diligent” when it was simply beyond their control at this point. Read more about auditory processing and attention here.  

 

  1. Sin Nature

Unlike metabolic or neurodevelopmental causes of negative behavior, the sin nature CAN be controlled by the child. The discerning eye of a caring parent can determine whether they are dealing with a metabolic, neurodevelopmental, or heart issue in a particular situation. 

 

To identify which of the three root causes of behavior or character issues you are dealing with, I suggest watching a couple of videos I recorded called Create a Positive Learning Environment Part 1 & 2 on the  Brain Coach Tips YouTube Channel. These videos will help you better understand the different possible causes of negative behavior that I discussed here and how to change this for better compliance in the future. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Support the on-going work of

SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

by Monica Irvine, from The Etiquette Factory, SPED Homeschool Curriculum Partner

 

“How dare you think that you can teach character!” was a comment left by a parent on our Facebook page. “Ouch,” I thought. 

But, I know that we can – I can, you can, we all can. If any parent is under the illusion that only they can teach their child character, well, I think that’s sad.  

 

As a child, I was taught character by many people – my parents and other adults. There were two common factors in those who were successful in slowly, gradually, but steadily, improving my character: patience and love.

I know this truth: you cannot help others improve their character unless they know that you love them beyond a shadow of a doubt. Unless we know that someone loves us and has our best interest at heart, it is difficult for us to soften our hearts toward them enough to allow them to influence our character and moral compass. It always starts and ends with love.

 

When I was in the 4th grade, I cheated on a social studies test. My teacher, Mr. Luckett, picked up my test and saw the notes I had hidden under my test. He asked what they were, but I lied and said I didn’t know they were on my desk. He just nodded and kept moving. You see, Mr. Luckett was my favorite teacher. I was lost in his class and struggled to learn, but he was always kind. Honestly, I struggled in many of my classes. After class that day, he never said a word, and I moved to my English class. 

I felt consumed with guilt by the time I got to my English class. During English class, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went up to my teacher, tears streaming down my face, and told her that I needed to talk to Mr. Luckett. She walked me down to his class and asked him to come out into the hallway, where I gathered the courage through many tears and heaving breaths to confess my betrayal of his confidence.  

Later in the day, when I was calmer, he came and walked me to an empty gym (a female teacher accompanied us). He invited me to sit down on the bleachers and asked me why I felt the need to cheat. I don’t remember what I said but, I do remember how I felt. I knew he cared about me. He reminded me of that through his words and the way he spoke to me. I decided at that moment that I never wanted to feel like that again. I didn’t like how it felt disappointing someone whom I respected.  

He helped develop my character because instead of condemnation, he sought understanding. He taught me other options I could do when I felt overwhelmed or lost in my classes. He reminded me that I was a good girl and that he knew I was good. He reminded me that he had confidence in me and my mistake did not represent who I was. He accepted my behavior as a mistake, not a representation of me. That was huge for me.

 

Parents, hopefully, our children will be surrounded by people who have their best interests at heart. How do we teach character to our children and other children that we come into contact with? We remember a few things:

  • Showing every child that they are valued and loved by the way we speak to them and treat them.
  • Never allowing a child’s mistake to become the focal point of who they are. We do this by never saying things like, “You are dishonest” or “You are selfish”. Instead, we might say, “That was a dishonest answer” or “That was a selfish decision.”
  • Continuously showing each child how much we believe in them and their ability to make good choices by being their biggest cheerleader. We do this by saying things such as, “I know it’s difficult but I believe in you” or “I love how you are always striving to make the right choice, even though it’s painful to do so sometimes,” etc.
  • Reminding ourselves that it’s difficult to always make the right choice. You and I don’t make the right choice each day, and neither will our children. But, we can learn from our wrong choices and give each other and ourselves more grace.

 

Yes, character can be taught. It is best taught by example. One thing that cripples too many parents’ ability to influence their children is when there is hypocrisy between what they tell their kids to do and what they do themselves. Children are so smart. For them to respect us enough to listen to us, they have to believe that we, too, are trying our best to live what we profess to believe.

Developing character is a life-long journey, not a race. We are on the same journey as our children, trying to be a little better today than we were yesterday. Some days we do better than other days. May we never give up on ourselves or anyone else. Just keep going.

 

For resources to help you teach the skills of character, good manners, and life skills, please visit our website at www.TheEtiquetteFactory.com.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Support the ongoing work of

SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

by Alicia Goodman, PhD, NCSP, SPED Homeschool Partner Simply Psychology, LLC

 

From the time children are born, they are interacting with others. As infants, they cry and coo as they discover how to get our attention. As toddlers, they are mobile and engage with others verbally to develop friendships. As tweens and teens, they are exerting their independence. By 18 years of age, a typical human will have approximately 78,840 interactions (information extrapolated from the 2018 study of Zhaoyang, R., Sliwinski, M, Martire, L. and Smyth, J). That’s a lot of behavior!

 

Behavior is “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others,” according to the Oxford Dictionary (2021). Meaning behavior can be positive or negative. In this article, the term behavior will refer specifically to unpleasant or unwanted behavior that impacts others. We want to start with an unwanted behavior and then consider the more appropriate behavior within a given set of circumstances. 

 

Let’s meet Emma. Emma is eight years old. She goes to her grandmother’s house every Tuesday and Thursday morning and other times when her parents have other obligations. Emma clings to her parents at drop off and begs them to come inside the house. Emma loves her grandmother, and they like to play together and do crafts; however, she is not willfully separating from her parents at drop off.

 

I see many children who experience separation anxiety who “refuse” to physically separate from their parents. The word “refuse” is in quotes because we need to understand that it may be due to anxiety or lack of skills, but this is how others usually see the issue. Separation anxiety comes in all forms, including separating for school, playdates, going to a relative’s house, and bedtime.

 

STEP 1– The FIRST STEP is to objectively define WHAT the target behavior is that you want to see. You may want to write the goal as “Emma will stop clinging to me.” It is a common mistake to focus on the behavior that we want to stop. Instead, focus on what you want to happen. Also, “Emma will go into grandma’s house independently,” is slightly better than “Emma will separate from parents,” as it is more specific. This step can also include the WHO if someone else will be involved, which, in this case, is grandma. You can also add something like, “with one prompt from parent” or “without prompts from others.” Of course, there will be age-appropriate variations for this. For a 2- or 3-year-old, you are likely helping them with the car door and walking them to the door. Emma does not need this assistance. In this example, we will start the goal with, “Emma will independently exit the car and enter Grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent.”

 

STEP 2– Define WHEN the desired behavior needs to take place. When will your child separate? Think about how often drop off is. Do we want Emma to separate every time we are dropping off at grandma’s, even if there is no warning? Typically, anxious kids need a heads up, and, let’s assume, this is a goal that gets lots of practice. For this goal, let’s answer the WHEN. “On Tuesday and Thursday mornings or when given a one-hour warning, Emma will independently exit the car and enter grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent.” Looking great!! Your fail-proof goal is well on its way!

 

STEP 3 – Determine the baseline for the current behavior. How often is Emma already doing the desired behavior? Take some data to truly know. The easiest way to report assessment data for growth is out of a certain number of trials or a percentage. For example, currently, Emma is completing this goal in 2 out of 10 drop-offs (2/10 trials) or 20%.

 

STEP 4 – Decide on the percentage of success you want to consider the goal achieved. You can use objectives under the goal to set smaller targets. Or, set your goal at 50% and then write a new goal for 70%, 90%, etc. When you write your goal, you should also consider how you will be assessing the progress. “On Tuesday and Thursday mornings or when given a one-hour warning, Emma will independently exit the car and enter her grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent 75% of the time as measured by counting successes over a 2-week period.”

 

Behaviors are tricky. Behaviors are communication, a way of expression, and I urge you to understand what is behind the behavior. With appropriate intervention, addressing deficient skills, empathy, structure, and appropriate expectations, unwanted behaviors will melt away. That means that we often have the power to impact even the toughest of behaviors, not by forcing them to change,  but by changing our approach and reaction/response. But sometimes unwanted behaviors persist, and behavior goals are necessary.

 

BONUS: Helping promote success

  • Discuss and develop goals with your child and explain the purpose behind them. Having buy-in will help tremendously.
  • Pre-teach expectations, role play, and model target behavior for your child.
  • Identify and address any skill deficits that might be impeding success.
  • Have your child take data on the goal. This is a great way for them to get involved and take some ownership.
  • Break down the goals into manageable subgoals or objectives.

 

Find additional resources and workshops at www.simplypsychservices.com

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Consider supporting the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

Dr. Melissa Shipman, SPED Homeschool Partner Learnwell Home Education Collective

While homeschooling can often be a solitary endeavor for a parent, there are many reasons why all of us benefit from homeschooling in community.

 

Accountability works.

Just like when we train for an athletic event or try to lose a few pounds, having people around us to support our journey is crucial. If there is no accountability outside of our own motivation, it is easy to get behind, have a bad week and push school to the side, or altogether lose sight of our educational goals and feel discouraged. 

This is one of the primary reasons why homeschooling in community works. Knowing that your community is tracking with you is priceless! Knowing that there is another parent who is following the same curriculum and the same timeline or list of assignments provides instant accountability. You know that they are sticking to the same guidelines and subject matter. You know that if you have a particularly challenging day, you can reach out and ask for help from someone who is running the same race.

 

Questions come up.

Whether you are homeschooling for the first time or a homeschooling veteran, you will have questions. Maybe you need to find a new program or curriculum or need ideas for new teaching strategies. Unfortunately, when you are “going it alone,” it is easy to let your circumstances overwhelm you. 

However, a community of like-minded parents gives you something you may not get on your own: a different perspective. 

When a question pops up about how to keep a pre-K student busy while teaching your fourth-grade student math, another parent of similar-aged children can share tips. If you are both parents of third-grade students studying pictographs in social studies, then you can put your heads together for solutions when your children need more help.

In community, the sharing of ideas can ensure that speed bumps don’t become dead-ends.

 

Isolation is lessened.

Sometimes the choice to homeschool feels like a choice to step out of community. You may miss out on shared moments that revolve around a local school – unless you’re in a homeschool community. 

As you exchange ideas, help, and encouragement, the parents who have students in that same grade become your friends. 

The truth is that isolation becomes the perfect breeding ground for self-doubt. But over the past 15 years, opportunities for both online and in-person homeschooling community have grown exponentially.

Living in community can shed light on our fear and self-doubt. Homeschooling in community allows us to share our doubts and questions and fears, and receive help from those around us.

 

Laughter really is the best medicine.

Here’s the truth: sometimes what we teach today is not what we learned when we were in school. Whether it’s a new way to teach math or a variation for teaching prepositions, some teaching strategies change over time. This can be frustrating at your worst moment and hilarious at your best. Imagine texting a friend who is also finding a new math strategy a little tough to master. Laughter is almost guaranteed! 

Homeschooling in community lightens your mood, and probably your child’s mood too. Laughter really can diffuse tension and stress in both you and your child. You have a sounding board, someone in the same proverbial boat, with which to share. We choose if we’re going to homeschool in isolation – rarely very funny – or share the journey with others and laugh sometimes along the way!

 

It’s ninety percent mental, ten percent physical.

It is said that when a person trains for a marathon, only ten percent is about the physical aspects of training, and the other 90 percent is about building mental fortitude for when your physical limitations kick in. 

The same can be said for any endeavor that is spread across a long-distance or time. Even when you aren’t communicating directly with a fellow homeschool parent, understanding that your friends are in the trenches with you can be all it takes to keep going. Simply knowing someone else who is making her way through the same curriculum with her kids is often enough to help you power through a challenging week.

 

Celebrations are all the more sweeter.

Consider this: when you are cooking for one, and you master a particularly challenging recipe, who cheers for you? But when you are cooking for a family and you get it right (meaning everyone loves it!), you have your own little fan club. 

In the same respect, homeschooling within a community is equally fulfilling when you triumph through a tough subject, or your child breaks through in his understanding of a concept that was once difficult. Who else knows what it’s like to teach your kindergartner the long and short vowel sounds? Who else would understand why you broke into your happy dance? The answer: a fellow mom who is rejoicing because she has been there too!

 

Children feel more secure.

Not all of the benefits of homeschooling in community are for parents! 

While they may be too young to voice their feelings about it, even the littlest of your brood needs community. It could be that they are reading the same book of ABCs at the same time, or that they get to meet up for a playground date nearby, or that a child their age in a different country is learning about the same author. 

When a child knows that there is someone else like him learning the same thing, it can be reassuring and bring hope, especially when the learning gets tough. Community gives a student the foundation of knowing he isn’t alone in learning all about fractions, even if the community is a virtual one. 

Our kids need to know that other kids have actually mastered their multiplication tables. This can give them the extra boost they need to keep trying. Knowing this can also be the cushion on which they rest when a break is needed, knowing that when they return after a few days off, they aren’t starting over alone – there is a team of friends around them doing the exact same thing.

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Support the ongoing work of

SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Amy Vickrey

Single mom, working mom, homeschool teacher, mentor, friend, chauffeur, online teacher/tutor, student, and the list goes on.  Being a mom with special needs children is hard. Being a single mom is hard. Being a working mom is hard. Add to these roles an autoimmune disorder and the stress of going back to school and …. and … and … it can get overwhelming quickly.

How do I manage all of this? It’s not because I’m SuperMom.  Far from it. It’s taken me many years to figure out how to balance everything with relative peace.  I still have days where my life is overwhelming. However, I would like to think I am learning each day on how to improve.  Here is what I’ve learned I have needed to do to keep the scales from tipping too far off-balance in my own life as well as in the lives of my children.

Scale Balancing Practices:

  1. Fast meals and sandwiches are okay.  My kids have certain things they can grab and eat first thing in the morning and for snacks during the day.  This helps me when I am not able to stop and get food for them right at that moment. One trick for us, due to food allergies, is I try to cook up extra (especially breakfast foods) and freeze them so they can be taken out later for another meal.
  2. Time versus money for setting priorities.  I earn less money because I work part-time, but this means I have more time with my boys, which is important to me.  Finding the right balance between the money you need to earn and the time you need with your family is essential. It may mean some decisions and choices have to be made, but deciding what you can and cannot live without goes a long way in prioritizing smaller decisions.  This goes for curriculum as well when deciding how much time I have to put together a curriculum versus buying something ready to go (new, used or a combination).  
  3. Kids come before work.  Sometimes it is tempting to just sit and continue working on school or work.  However, I find that putting my kids first, whether it’s taking them outside, reading a book, or just giving some snuggle time, helps them to be calmer during the time I am working.  This allows me to get more done.
  4. Take my days off.  I am still working on this one, but this year, I have worked hard to take a day or week off when I could.  This has allowed me to rest, focus on my kids, and be ready to go back to work and school when the time comes.
  5. Find a balance between work and play.  This year I have been mindful about scheduling playtime for my kids and me.  Going on nature hikes, trips to the park, lunch dates with my 2 favorite boys, and other opportunities to play and be away from work have become an important part of our lives.
  6. Rest and sleep.  I am the type of person that has to have rest.  So, whenever possible, I go to bed when my boys do.  Even if I don’t go to sleep, I go to bed, put my feet up, have some “me” time, and recharge my batteries.  This has helped me feel more rested and ready to go for the following day.
  7. Taking advantage of downtime.  With having classes I need to study for, I have to schedule time to work on my schoolwork.  I have found time during my son’s therapy, evenings while the boys are watching a movie and other times when I can focus on my work. By taking this approach, my study time doesn’t take away from time with my boys.  This has allowed me to not feel so stressed about trying to get everything done at the expense of not spending enough time with my boys.
  8. It’s ok to have help.  My sister-in-law helps watch my boys while I work, my parents help at times, and my boys attend therapy at an awesome clinic that works on specific skills.  Could I do all I do and parent and homeschool well without these things? Possibly. But, it’s also okay for me to have a team to help me carry the burden. This help keeps me from getting overwhelmed and worn out.  Each person helps in a specific way and in unique ways, which allows me to focus on what is most important to me and be okay with letting others help me and my boys in the areas they can bless us best.

Yes, every day, it is best to remind myself that being a mom is my first and foremost calling and when I do my best at that everything else falls into place so I can best balance being the mom I want to be for my kids.

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Ashly Barta

Have you ever felt the longing to add to your family? The thought of adding to your family either by birth, adoption, or fostering can be an important life decision, adding military life into that equation can make it a bit more difficult to navigate.   Military life has its advantages and disadvantages; deployments, frequent moves, financial strain, and little to no family support.

I recently visited with a friend that went through the adoption process while she and her husband were stationed overseas.  Not all adoption agencies are willing to work with couples that are not currently residing in the country so make sure to do your research.  My friends were able to use a social worker local to them in Germany who then worked closely with the adoption agency in the United States to bring about their adoption. 

The adoption process for them was long and hard at times. It consisted of a lot of paperwork and many hoops they had to go through to show they would be good parents.

When I asked my friend what she would want everyone to know about the adoption process, she said, “I would want people to understand that there is a lot of heartache and loss in adoption. The ache of couples just wanting to be a family, the heartbreak of the mother having to make this choice and eventually our little people will have that heartache and loss.” In the end, the gift is so worth it.  Your child is a gift, your love and respect for the birth mother is a gift, and the knowledge gained from the experience is God’s gift.

My friend also spoke to me about the titles they have chosen to use in their adopted family.  We call our guy’s mom, his tummy mommy but as he grows older that may change. She is his mom. She created him and chose to give him life.  We are his mom and dad, we are all he has ever known. So in their house, they have mom, dad, and tummy mom.

Your child is a gift, your love and respect for the birth mother is a gift, and the knowledge gained from the experience is God’s gift.

For those wanting to adopt I would suggest looking into all the possible ways you can adopt before deciding on a specific path. Foster to adopt, infant adopting, as well as international adoptions are each unique and not one is right for every family that feels called to adopt. Learn and understand the processes of each before jumping in. Start saving now if you plan to do an infant or international adoption. Look into grants, hold fundraisers, have yard sales, every little penny helps.

Also, make sure to find an agency that truly cares for the expectant mother’s well being. Understand that it can take tens of thousands of dollars to complete an adoption from beginning to end, and in infant adoption, the expectant mother may choose to parent after you’ve been matched and are attached to the idea of this baby being your child.

My friend ended our conversation by stating, “Do not let PCS dates, fear of moving, or fear of deployments stop you from pursuing adoption and/or foster care.  Just as everything else that comes with military life, don’t put things off until you have a better schedule, better job, better location, just let your heart speak for you.”  I have to agree. One call is from higher up the chain of command and He will always work things out for the best.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Dawn Spence

I had the privilege of interviewing the Northcutt family and want to share their beautiful adoption story with you.

 

What opened your heart to adoption?

My husband worked in the social work field and we had friends that worked in the field too. Too many times my husband, his co-workers, or friends had to sleep in their offices with foster kids because there were no foster homes to take them in.

When my husband took another job, after 13 years in the field, I said we are going to foster because now I can do something about it. We said we would take one of each (we have 2 bio kids one of each) but were licensed for 6 total (state’s limit for our space). The first call we got was for part of a sibling group of 6, they needed 4 beds. I didn’t have the heart split them up, so we accepted them into our home and that was the start of our adventure. We were parents of little ones again.

This last year we completed our first adoption. Our son came as a very tiny and sick NICU baby that we brought home when he was 3 days old. I walked into his hospital room and the nurse looked at me and called me mom. That was weird and very unexpected. I asked to hold him and as I held him the nurse stood there and said: “Well mom he needs a name”. I looked at my husband and we knew this baby would be ours forever. How did I know this? I don’t know, it was just a God thing.

We have fostered for just over 2 years now and 29 beautiful babies have walked into our hearts. We have adopted 1 and this year will probably adopt 2 to 4 more. Why adopt them all? Because God commands us to take care of the orphans and this is our homeschool family’s adoption journey. We have been called to love these children. 

 

How did adoption change your homeschooling life?

We homeschooled our 2 biological kids. I graduated one at the age of 16 and she is now a senior at SHSU, at the age of 19. We have another in high school who still lives at home. Our homeschool day looks nothing like public school. We have 5 toddlers/babies right now who are all under age 3. My son gets an education that no curriculum could ever provide because of our home environment. I am a school teacher at heart and we did a lot of table learning when he was younger, but it is very different now.

I look forward to starting the homeschooling journey all over again with my littles because I learned so much when we homeschooled our older kids. Like the things I wish we could have done differently as well as things that were just perfect that I look forward to repeating.

My older kids will be better parents and more compassionate after being part of raising these littles. They have more life skills than any curriculum could teach. Both of our kids tell us they are thankful we opened up our home to love other children because it showed them so much about how to really love. We know we can’t save the world, but we can make the world look a little better for at least one child as we love them.

I don’t sit and teach my son anymore, but mostly that is because he is in high school and his lessons are self-paced. I give the bones of what he needs to do to him and then he finds the time to get his schoolwork done. Sometimes getting his schoolwork done is very hard because of everything that goes on in our home with fostering and raising babies. We are on the go a lot so he does school in the car, sometimes while holding or feeding a baby, or while watching the babies play. I help him when he needs it but my son is very self-driven so that doesn’t happen often.

 

Both of our kids tell us they are thankful we opened up our home to love other children because it showed them so much about how to really love.

 

What is the best part of adoption for you?

I can’t pick just one thing, so here are two:

1) Getting to enjoy my newly adopted son while he grows, laughs, learns, and is healthy. He is 17-months old, he is not sick anymore, he is absolutely spoiled, and I am beyond blessed that he calls me Mom.

2) Getting to watch my big ones love on these babies with Christ’s love.

 

What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is thinking about adoption?

If you are thinking about adoption then just do it. Don’t wait. The timing is never perfect in our eyes. You will never be financially stable enough, have enough room in your home, or any other excuse you can come up with. If we don’t step in and do our part, who will?

We adopted our son as an infant but we did that because God sent him to us as an infant. This year we hope to finalize an adoption for a sibling group of two girls ages 2 and 7. We will possibly adopt another sibling group of two special needs boys if they cannot return home.

All of our kiddos have some major trauma in their pasts which in itself causes a lot of special needs. My biological kids are Neurotypical so I am by no means qualified to parent a special needs child, but who is ever qualified to parent right out the door? You learn as you go, and you just figure it out.

Don’t be afraid of adopting because you are not sure you can handle a child’s needs. We are moms and dads and God has equipped us for whatever He calls us to do.

As my husband says, “Don’t think about the what if’s. Think about who, and how that ‘who’ needs you right now.”

 

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

I had the privilege this month of interviewing my parents, Joe and Margie Prenosil, who have been special needs adoptive parents for 30 years! I hope you enjoy the insight and wisdom they have to share from their many years of experience as they have loved and cared for my siblings.

 

How long have you been parents? How long have you been adoptive parents? Was it always your intention to adopt?

We have been parents for almost 50 years, and adoptive parents for 30 years. As far as our intention to adopt, after 4 years of providing foster care, it was something we started to consider. At that point in our foster care services, a baby came into our care who no one wanted to adopt because of the complications he had with severe cerebral palsy. We decided to adopt him and thus Nicholas became our first adopted child.

 

Because you have specifically adopted children with special needs, what challenges/obstacles did you face early on? And, what resources did you find the most helpful for navigating them?

Our challenges started with finding what resources were available to us from our county and state as well as various specialized clinics. The first thing we found helpful was to expand our foster care work to also include our county. This step greatly increased our learning curve regarding what resources and connections were available locally that were most beneficial for each obstacle that came our way. 

The first obstacle we had was learning all the medical information needed to treat and comfort the children we cared for. It was a medical education that took many years for us to feel like we knew what we were talking about regarding various medicines and adaptive equipment.

Our second obstacle was identifying where to acquire handicap equipment and transportation. The most useful resources we discovered while working with individuals who helped foster parents in our county.

One final obstacle, but one that benefited us the most in subsequent adoptions, was learning our state referral chain for requesting assistance. In our area, we were to go to our county Case Manager first before requesting services from the state Adoption Assistance Specialist.

 

What were some of the things you learned from parenting your biological children that helped parent your adopted children?

First was realizing there was a developmental difference between typical children and special needs children. Once the differences were identified, it was a matter of determining whether to seek advice or accept the condition and adapt from there. 

Daniel, our fourth biological child, had some special needs so parenting him provided a bit of a transition gateway for our adoptive special needs parenting skills. Daniel was dyslexic and hyperactive. Sometimes his difficulties were too much for others to handle. Because of his struggles, we often had friends and family ask whether we were going to bring him with us when we came to visit. Daniel took special needs classes in high school and Margie did most of his reading to accommodate his Dyslexia.

 

“…be ready to acquire ‘new’ skills for yourself. 

 

What were some new parenting strategies you had to learn after adopting children with special needs?

When requesting services or equipment, we learned we needed to share the worst incident instead of the best-case scenario for that child. Also, we learned not to assume that we would always be available to provide the service or help and to also build in requests for helpers. 

We also learned to hire PCAs (Private Care Assistants) as teens who came from large families. In general, these youth were already trained through regular family life to care for their siblings, so all we had to do was additional care training that met our child’s specific needs.

Another strategy we learned was to fully understand what your school district does and doesn’t provide. Two of our children were able to receive in-home services from the school district because of the severity of their conditions.

 

How have you managed family life, church, school, extra-curricular activities, and respite time over the years? Do you have any advice for other adoptive families of children with special needs on how to best juggle these demands?

Family Life: We didn’t adopt children older than our birth children, thus we limited the competition. Our adoptive parenting years started as our birth children were starting college and lives outside our home. Full-time help came over a period of years. First, we hired a full-time PCA using a waiver and then eventually were able to add our youngest son on as hired help. When our son left for college, we were able to hire a full-time PCA that stayed with us for thirteen years. She helped to coordinate other PCAs, cover homecare when we needed to assist a child away from home, as well as respite time for us. She left after the deaths of two of our totally disabled children.

Since then we have relied upon young adults from 16-20 years to fill the gap. Plus after the decrease in PCAs and Margie heart attack, the county helped our ability to work with an agency to hire and maintain staff by reclassifying our home as a group foster home. We are the only one in the county. 

Our church and extra-curricular activities center around family members which extended to include PCA youth (16+) and their families. Through the church, stay connected to a larger community as well as develop relationships with families we know well and feel good about hiring to do care in our home. 

Because we had a full-time PCA/agency, we could coordinate yearly getaways for ourselves but for about three years when we were between agencies, we were unable to get any time away.

Advice to parents: It is impossible to duplicate what we have done to the letter. Stay flexible. We learned that we needed to change as our children’s needs changed and as well as determine what appropriate assistance was necessary for us to help each child with specific needs.

When starting this type of journey, a couple needs to assess whether their current family can accept and contribute towards bringing in a new family member. Second, they need to take into consideration this child’s care may be a lifelong commitment and both parents need to be committed to this child, not just one.

Next, you should assess what financial and community support is available to you if you adopt. Any financial support provided to care for a child should only fill the gaps for that child’s care and should not be seen as another source of income. When you put income before the care of a child you are not letting God do his work. First, seek the Kingdom of God, and then everything else will be provided. We found this to be very true. 

 

“…be willing to accept a child saying, “I love you” as meaning “Do you love me?”

 

If a family was interested in adopting a child with special needs, what advice would you want to share with them based on your 30+ years of being adoptive special needs parents?

First, you need to consider your motivation for adoption. If you have a perceived idea of what you want a child to become without understanding all the baggage this child has acquired and will continue to work through in your home, stop. You will be disappointed. Understand that first, the child will educate you by their behavior, life experiences, and what they want (which is not always appropriate). They will lead by showing you what triggers their actions, and you must observe before acting. You will probably need professional help in understanding the underneath behavior and be ready to acquire ‘new’ skills for yourself. 

Children in the foster care system have learned to defend themselves when everyone else in their lives has failed them. You must be willing to struggle with them as well as be their spokesperson because they may not have the words to describe what they are feeling. If they are in trauma, they may take a long time to change, if ever. Also, be willing to accept a child saying, “I love you” as meaning “Do you love me?”

After considering the above questions we then suggest you again consider why you would want to adopt. Here are two reasons we have found provided a stable foundation for us as we have adopted. First, a real desire to be faithful to the child we are adopting no matter what. We may not change the child we adopt. Ultimately God is in charge of change and we must be willing to let God take the lead in this area or be okay if change is not in His plan. Second, we must be able to accept our failures, limitations, and frustrations. Every day we review our day with God and choose to be happy with what the day afforded us. We ask God for guidance, change what we can, and then we are joyful about the journey and the amazing people He has allowed us to share our lives with.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today