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Homeschooling Familes Strengthened by Togetherness


By Debbi L. White

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

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



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

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

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



Finding Togetherness

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

We are stronger together!



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The Importance of Family Traditions


By Debbi L. White

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


Importance of Family Traditions in my Childhood

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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A Discourse on the Advantages of Using Curriculum to Homeschool Struggling Learners


By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed.

In some circles the word “curriculum” is anathema. It is far better, this thinking asserts, to take a relaxed approach to education, to teach a la carte, or to let the child decide what and when to study. We must not be “dogmatic.”

Different children must study different things—or so we begin to believe. We should not determine what is good for them to read or even to know.

It runs like this: all men are different; therefore, all men require a different education; therefore, anybody who suggests that their education should be in any respect the same has ignored the fact that all men are different; therefore, nobody should suggest that everybody should read some of the same books; some people should read some books, some should read others.

This dogma has gained such a hold on the minds of American educators that you will now often hear a college president boast that his college has no curriculum. Each student has a course of study framed, or ‘tailored’ is the usual word, to meet his own individual needs and interests.

We should not linger long in discussing the question of whether a student at the age of eighteen [or six or eleven] should be permitted to determine the actual content of his education for himself …. Educators ought to know better than their pupils what an education is.¹



Nourishing Children
Some of us remember our mothers or grandmothers who prepared, like clockwork, well-rounded meals with good sources of proteins, vegetables, and bone-building foods on our plates. We did not always like our food, but we ate. No debating, begging, or whining. No placing individual meal orders. We dined with both portions and nutrients predetermined, and we were nourished. Not only were we nourished by the food, but also by the conversations that accompanied the food.

Postmodern-parenting experts advise, by contrast, that if a child does not like the nutritious food he has been given, he should not be compelled to eat it. Let him choose. He knows best. How well is this working?

Many of us see young parents chasing their children around the house with “hidden” nutrients in squeezable green cartoon-character packets. Children and their parents seem exhausted and frustrated. Young children often eat large amounts of sugar, fast food, and empty calories, while learning little more than that they can control their parents at least three times daily.

Often it is the same with our school days, even among homeschooling families: Children are not compelled to complete their studies if they do not like them. Like full plates of uneaten food in the trash, stacks of uncompleted homeschool resources fill the homes of homeschoolers. Sometimes these were purchased by the same parents who once said, “I cannot afford a full curriculum.”

Perhaps rather than cost, the real driving force behind curriculum decisions is this: As parents, we don’t truly believe we should impose extrinsic standards. We scorn a prepared curriculum, even if it is one brimming with purposeful enculturation, the highest quality teaching resources, and classic literature. We trade this for largely hands-on projects, splashy entertainment, or following the child’s lead. When we do this, what is being lost is our communal, cultural birthright—the accumulated wealth of knowledge, beauty, and reason that a curriculum is intended to pass down to a student.



Different, Yet the Same
Learning differences of mind and body may necessitate more intentional teaching strategies, or a different pacing, but we can modify without compromising content. We need not let the child’s differences diminish the richness of his studies. We can reaffirm our devotion to an education founded upon our common humanity.

All men are different; but they are also the same. If any common program is impossible, if there is no such thing as an education that everybody ought to have, then we must admit that any community is impossible ….²

Let every child hear Charlotte’s Web to learn the beautiful art of self-sacrifice. Let him “live inside” the Little House books to understand duty to family, hard work, and appreciation for simple joys. Let him grow into greater works that will fill his days and his mind.

More than this, let him hear and learn Holy Scripture, for “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14, KJV)



A Curriculum for Community
A shared curriculum creates community. Community among those with special needs is not only possible; it is essential. Everything starts with the understanding that all children are similar. Hyper-individualization based on perceived differences or immature preferences will serve no one well, least of all the child himself. Let us read the same books, sing the same songs, and hear the same stories to the greatest extent possible.

In view of the urgent need for unity and community, it does not seem an exaggeration to say that the present crisis calls first of all for an education that shall emphasize those respects in which men are the same, rather than those in which they are different. [We need] an education that draws out our common humanity rather than our individuality. Individual differences can be taken into account in the methods that are employed.³

With a return to the intent of education, the Simply Classical Curriculum seeks to bring educational nourishment to children who may need modifications, yet whose humanity begs for the common truth, goodness, and beauty needed by all.

1 Hutchins, Robert M. with Adler, Mortimer. The Great Conversation, Britannica Great Books (University of Chicago, 1952), 49.
2 Ibid, 50.
3 Ibid, 50-51.


This article first appeared in the free publication, Simply Classical Journal. Reprinted with author's permission.

Looking a Curriculum Rich in stories, multi-sensory strategies, and gentle pacing? See the new Simply Classical Special-Needs Curriculum, twice voted #1 for Special Learners (OldSchoolhouse Magazine).




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Helping your Struggling Reader to Find Books


By Tracy Glockle

We all want our kids to enjoy reading, to know what it feels like to get lost in a book, but for many of our kids with disabilities and reading challenges this dream seems a pretty lofty one. While there is no one-size-fits-all for struggling readers, here are a few resources for helping your struggling reader to find books that he or she can enjoy.


Lexile Scores
Using the Lexile Score book finder tool, you can search for books that fit both your child’s interests and abilities. The book finder provides information about the book, targeted vocabulary based on your child’s reading ability, and the expected comprehension for that particular book. For more information on how to use Lexile, read Using Lexile Scores to Help your Struggling Reader.


Ebooks
For some kids, the challenge of reading lies in being able to track the words across the page and from line to line. As reading levels get progressively challenging, the words shrink on the page, and pages are filled with more and more text. Visually, this can be a real challenge for our struggling readers. Ebooks offer a simple solution.

Ebooks, in all of their different formats and devices, allow the reader to adjust the font size, the background, and various other settings. In this way, the child can adjust the words on the page to fit his comfort level while attempting a more challenging reading level. Additionally, some ebook resources, like Bookshare, also provide a gradient text that changes colors from line to line, allowing your child to more easily track from one line to the next.


Audiobooks
As parents and educators, we tend to think of eye-reading as the only form of reading. While it’s a great goal to get our children reading books for themselves, there is also tremendous value in ear-reading or audiobooks. The elements of a story, the skills of comprehension, and the nuances of language can all be taught with an audiobook. There is also an advantage to separating these skills from the skill of eye-reading, allowing your child to work one skill area at a time.

Your local library can be a great resource for finding audiobooks. Additionally, check out these other websites and resources:



Genres
Don’t underestimate the importance of introducing different genres. Just as we wouldn’t assume that a child that hates one vegetable will hate them all, we can’t assume that a child that hates one type of book will hate them all. Some children prefer fantasy, getting lost in a different world or time; but for other children, particularly those with reading challenges, the foreignness of a fantasy world can add to the challenge of reading and understanding. Try realistic fiction, nonfiction, or historical fiction from a time that your child especially enjoys.

When introducing a new genre, choose a book slightly below your child’s reading level. Make it as accessible as possible until the child’s interest is piqued. Once your child finds a genre he or she really likes, your child will be more willing to attempt a higher reading level. But be sure to baby step and take one challenge at a time.



Just because a child has dyslexia or another reading challenge, doesn’t mean that child can’t enjoy the world of literature and great books. Our kids can still get lost in a book, but we may have to adjust our expectations of what that looks like.




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Am I Doing Enough?


By Tracy Criswell

It’s a question that has plagued me since starting back with homeschooling our four children: “Am I doing enough?” This summer our family has dealt with three surgeries (benign tumor removal for my husband, having all four wisdom teeth removed for my oldest son and a spinal fusion for my oldest daughter), jury duty, lack of income (I couldn’t do my summer job because I needed to be home to take care of my family), and trying to get ready for a new homeschool year. This has been the toughest start to our homeschool year in eight years.



A Rough Start
We decided to start homeschooling the Tuesday after Labor Day this year. I thought this would be better for our family so we could see how my oldest daughter was going to handle her recovery from surgery as well as help her siblings get started with their dual enrolled classes at our local schools. This was a good idea, but as soon as we started homeschooling I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I was being pulled in many different directions, and then the question started to pop up, “Am I doing enough?”

You see once we started homeschooling, we had to make time for three different band practices (youngest daughter goes weekly, youngest son goes every other morning, and oldest daughter goes every day), three different band lessons every other week, appointments for my middle two to see a therapist weekly for their anxiety, orthodontist appointments, appointment with the psychiatrist that did a new evaluation for my oldest daughter, vision therapy appointments, doctor appointment to recheck on medication for anxiety, in addition to homeschooling. 



One Day at a Time

I don’t write my lesson plans in advance (except for my oldest son because he is very independent) because I never know what’s going to happen from day-to-day. All four of my children have different abilities and needs. Trying to meet all of these needs can be a struggle. But his past weekend, I discovered a pattern in our lesson plans. Every other week is chaotic because it seems that band lessons, homeschool visits (we have a supervising teacher come to our house every other week), and certain doctors appointments happen during this time. So I have come to the conclusion that on crazy weeks, I will do the best that I can for my children and teach them as much as I can at home and in the van. On the weeks that are not so chaotic, I will use that time to help them get caught up on school work that we are behind on. It has also helped that my husband has provided support with helping make supper, being a good listener to me (sometimes it’s important to just tell someone how you feel and what is happening during homeschooling), and taking the kids to an activity so I can have some quiet time for myself and time to get caught up on my paperwork. This has helped a lot.


Other Strategies
In addition to having my husband’s support and assistance, I have found other things that have helped me in keeping the, “Am I doing enough?” thought at bay. These are additional strategies and tools that I have used to help me:

  • Decide which 3 subjects to do every day no matter what.
  • Write down what has been accomplished each day. This provides a visual of what we’ve completed as well as what we need to work on more.
  • Use videos as supplements for different subject areas (science, social studies, literature, etc.)
  • Use read alouds or audio books as a family to learn a subject topic further
  • Supplement field trips, library activities, volunteer opportunities, etc. as part of learning
  • Give and receive grace
  • Ask for help from friends, family, etc.

More Than Enough

It is important to remember that at one time or another, I am sure we have asked ourselves, “Am I doing enough?” The answer is, “Yes, I am doing enough.” I am providing a homeschool education that meets my children’s unique needs and abilities. I am teaching them life skills and how I want them to treat others. We all go through different seasons in our lives. I have definitely encountered a new season in our family’s life as well. It’s just filled with doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, dual enrollment classes, tumbling, scouting, 4-H, and many more.




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Honor: Step 5 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction



By Peggy Ployhar
 

In restoring relationships with my children after the healing process began with my parenting anger issues, the primary focus of my actions concentrated on being worthy of their honor. Asking their forgiveness was only the first step in this process. The rest of the wide divide my anger had created between myself and my children required more than lip-service, it required action. And, my actions needed to show my heart was changing and willing to take responsibility for the effects of my post-anger aftermath.



An Act of Kindness
How did I do that? Well, it started slowly, but began with a new something in our house called a “re-honor job.” I took it upon myself to be the first to take on these “jobs.” Through them, I demonstrated these jobs were a means for restoring broken relationships. And having done more than my fair share of destruction, due to my parenting anger episodes, I realized it was up to me to start the restoration process.

 

Every time I did something to dishonor a child, I followed up with asking forgiveness and doing a “re-honor job,” a physical act of kindness. This physical act worked as a bridge to start spanning the gulf created by the many years of inappropriate actions taken towards my children. As I learned to let go of my anger and harness it properly, as well as use these “re-honor jobs” to start repairing relationships, I also started incorporating these “jobs” in my child training, to ensure even the smallest relational fractures were repaired within our home.


An Example

I will provide you with a scenario to illustrate how these “jobs” worked into our family life and child training. The following scenario played itself out many times in our early years of homeschooling. In general, this is how it went:

 

Boys will be boys.  If you have boys, more than likely they fight as much as mine did. It really didn’t matter what the fight was about, but one would say or do something to get the other riled, and a fight would ensue. 

My general policy was not to get involved in my children’s fights. But, when the outcome was not being worked out on their own accord (or there was the potential of blood being drawn), I stepped in.  Usually, my intrusion was only long enough to bring them into the kitchen, assign them each a chair, and remind them not to leave their chairs until they'd forgiven one another.
 

Sometimes they followed (even begrudgingly was fine with me), but if not, they knew I would bring it up later, so often my wishes were followed without complaint. Once in the kitchen, and after making sure they were settled, I would give them my reminder and take my leave. Now, I didn't go very far...just another room where I was within ear-shot, but out of their line-of-sight.

Depending on the day, and their attitudes, my boys would either agree to forgive one another immediately, or they would start a very long and drawn out shouting battle across the kitchen. Either way, at the end of their dialogue, the two would agree to forgive one another and call me into the room to let me know they'd settled their argument.
 

Now, I must point out that, if a child got out of his chair during the process of working out his differences with his brother, he knew this was an issue he would have to take up with me afterward, which I will explain in just a moment.
 

At the point peace was declared and I was beckoned into the kitchen, if one or both had not followed me to the kitchen without a fight or if anyone had gotten up from their assigned chair before receiving permission to leave, I would ask that child(ren) if they were also willing to ask my forgiveness for their disobedience towards me. Additionally, if I had lost my cool during any point of the process, I made sure to also ask forgiveness. 
 

After forgiveness was given at the kitchen level, we took it to a higher house and prayed together asking God to forgive and restore. And then we did “re-honor jobs.”


An Opportunity

These jobs were to be physical manifestations of our desire to restore the relationships our actions had damaged. Often the boys would do a small chore or clean up something for their brother. On the other hand, if the re-honor job was directed at me, they would usually do something I normally did around the house. And, if I was re-honoring a child(ren) then I did a chore(s) to restore the honor I had compromised with my son(s).

 

What our family learned through these exercises over the years was it has never become easy to re-honor someone. Saying “Sorry” or “Please forgive me” can become meaningless words, but physically honoring another person requires us to bow our lives during each act of kindness to serve that person and elevate them above ourselves. And, with that bow, healing and restoration happen and the sin which compromised that relationship is snuffed out by love.
 

When we honor another person, we put ourselves into a submissive position which says, “I have chosen to place you ahead of my own desires and will.”


An Established Pattern

Honor is a tricky thing in relationships – it needs to be earned, but it also needs to be maintained. I pray that if you are in the process of healing the relationships in your family because of your own struggles with parenting anger that you work to re-establish honor starting with yourself and then work the concept into your child training process. 


Honor truly is a key element to cultivating your child’s heart for instruction and it comes through living out forgiveness by purposefully building in acts of kindness, or “re-honoring jobs”, into your training.


Parenting Anger Series Articles:
Why We Should Be Talking About Parenting Anger 
Parenting Anger Demystified
The Parenting Anger Escape Door
Shifting Parenting Anger from Controlling Mode to Training Mode
How-To Effectively Instill Godly Character in Children Using Parenting Anger 
Integrity: Step 1 in Cultivating a Child's Heart for Instruction
Humble Authority: Step 2 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction
Unconditional Acceptance:  Step 3 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction 
Forgiveness & Mercy: Step 4 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction
Honor: Step 5 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction





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Am I the Best Teacher for My Child?


By Dawn Spence

Am I the Best Teacher for My Child? This is a question that I still ask myself all the time. I know it is driven by two things guilt and fear. Guilt that I am not doing things perfectly and the fear that I never will.


Well I am right I am not doing it perfectly and I never will, but that is okay. I am learning that my kids don’t need a perfect mom or teacher. Instead, what they need is for me to keep going and never give up on them or myself.


Homeschooling is a journey of trial and error and finding out what works. Sometimes it is trying 5 different math curriculums before you find the one that is the right fit. Just because you make the effort to try each of those options and don’t give up is is what makes you the right person to homeschool your child. You kept looking and searching. No one loves your child like you and wants him or her to succeed like you do. You make it your mission to wake up every morning and help your child to do better to learn something new.


Teaching special needs children can be tiring when your child is not catching onto a concept you have been teaching for weeks. But you have the gift of not moving on because you are homeschooling and can set the pace based on the needs of your child. I would think I was failing my child because she was not learning to read or learning a new math concept, but I realized in the midst of that struggle that I am the best teacher for my child because I push her on and we work through it together.


My daughter has a learning disability and remembering things for her can be a struggle. We keep trying and working through lessons until she gets them. My heart takes it personally when she is not learning and the fear comes when I start to think I am not teaching her what she needs.


Momma guilt is real. Anyone can teach your child, but it's your heart’s pursuit to teach beyond the struggles which will make your child soar. Just the other day, my daughter reminded me of this exact thing. While she was playing, and she looked up at me and said, “Momma thank you for believing that I am smart.” I melted. Then, I prayed. “God let me see teaching my children is not about me being perfect, but having a willing and open heart to teach them the best I can each day.”


So yes, I am the right teacher for my child and so are you.





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