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Slow and Steady: The Key to Homeschooling Success


By Peggy Ployhar

A few weeks ago as I was interviewing Andrew Pudewa on our weekly Facebook live broadcast, SPED Homeschool Conversations, I made a comment about the process I used to successfully teach my own son how to write using IEW’s (The Institute for Excellence in Writing) program. Slow and steady was my response. You can watch that interview here on our Facebook page, watch the long videos or shorter videos taken from that interview on our YouTube channel, or listen to the podcast at this link.


In this article, I wanted to expand upon my answer and explain not only how to homeschool slow and steady and how it led to educational successes for my own children, as well a how it can lead to success in your own homeschool.



Pressure to Succeed
Too often I speak to parents who are extremely anxious about getting their child caught up with a typical learning or developmental timeline. There is so much pressure in the educational community, including homeschooling circles, to press children towards measurable success. Unfortunately, this pressure can have parents focused on college readiness while their kindergartner is still learning numbers and letters.

Having now homeschooled for over 16 years and graduated 2 struggling learners I find myself looking back and realizing how much of this pressure I allowed to side-track our homeschooling. If I were to be honest, my “progress panic attacks” caused as many problems as my children’s learning issues and defiant outbursts.


Progress Instead of Pressure
In hindsight, I realized when I let external pressure take control of my teaching, I was least effective in homeschooling. On the other hand, when I kept my nose down and stopped looking at what we weren’t doing and how far we were away from where I wanted my children to be, progress was evident.

Now, I have to admit I didn’t always see a measurable product of my efforts when homeschooling slow and steady. We just kept moving forward at a steady pace gauged to match the speed each child was learning. Many days it seemed like we were just going through the motions, repeating things WAY too much, and moving so slowly that no progress was happening. But, that is the essence of teaching slow and steady; it grasps being in the moment and teaching what needs teaching now, not tomorrow.


5 Tips for Keeping Your Homeschooling Slow and Steady
If you struggle with homeschooling at a slow and steady pace, here are my 5 tips to keep you teaching in the moment towards homeschooling success:


1 - Create a General Plan
Make a learning plan not constrained by dates. Instead, focus on learning goals and steps that progress towards those goals. Many parents find it helpful to write a homeschool IEP for their student with regular assessment intervals - monthly or quarterly is best for measuring notable progress.

If you are interested in writing your own IEP, check out these other great articles on our website:
4 Things to Prepare Before Writing Your Child's IEP
How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives
Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications
How to Track IEP Goals


2 - Teach According to Your Plan
This may sound simple, but sticking to the plan is one of the most difficult steps if you are like me and panic gets you off track. One day at a time, nose down, and determined to not get off track is the way to stay consistent.


3 - Don’t Accelerate Faster Than Your Student
Moving too fast actually makes learning take longer. Progress takes time and moving at the pace of your student will ensure your child is absorbing the lessons you are taking the time to teach and integrating those lessons into their long-term memory for better recall when those facts need to be used for more complex processes.


4 - Take Frustration Breaks
If frustration sets in, take a step back to re-evaluate. Don’t blame yourself or your child, these breaks are natural. Sometimes you will need to switch tracks on how you are teaching a subject if your student has a learning block. Other times you both need some time away from that subject altogether. If neither of those methods works, then it may indicate you need to seek out help from a professional. But stepping back is essential in determining which course of action is the best for your situation.


5 - Remember to Not Compare
No matter what learning pattern is set by other children in your household, your friends’ children, or any “normal” developmental timeline, your child is unique; and therefore, your child’s progress will be unique. This is true whether or not a child has been diagnosed with a learning disability. All children learn in spurts and stall out at times, this is natural. By not comparing one child to another, you allow your child to learn and grow at the pace that best suits your child’s level of learning progression.



Evidence Worth the Wait
In that same conversation I was having with Andrew Pudewa, I confessed we used his curriculum with my oldest son, but this same son never wrote a paper for me in the entirety of his homeschooling career. Each day we did the writing lesson, went through the steps, learned the process, and slowly and steadily I taught him the mechanics of good writing. After graduating high school this same son would text and email me while he was away studying at welding school, but he still never wrote a paper. Then, when he started college just after turning 18 he started writing beautiful papers and getting A’s in his college English classes. That was when it became evident to me that he had learned the process of writing because I had taught him slowly and steadily using a system that worked. It just took him time to use what he had learned and produce a product that showed the process had worked.

I pray as you look to the new year and set goals for your teaching and homeschooling, as well as for the individual progress for each of your children, that you will conquer any anxiety or fear you may have about the future by following the steps I have outlined above.


We will be transitioning our website to a new platform over the next month and we thank you for your patience in getting all of our information transferred so we can keep improving how we serve you and your families. Please make sure to search our current site for resources using the search tool at the top of our website or by using the categories in the right sidebar.

See you in the new year!


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Filling Hearts and Stomachs with Good Things this Holiday Season



By Amy Vickrey, MSE

They say the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach, and I have found that saying to be true as well with the little men in my house. But since my boys not only have special needs but also special dietary restrictions, it is tricky to show them love by making foods that are not only safe for them to eat, but also enjoyable. They, like all other children, want something special to eat for holiday events.


My solution? Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies!


You would never image these healthy treats are hard to keep around, but that’s the truth in our house! Your family will love these Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Peanut-free delights!

Watch my boys and I make these delicious cookies on this video, and then use the recipe below to make your own.




Ingredients:
4 ½ c. Gluten-free flour (Or, 1:1 baking mix, such as Pillsbury. If using GF Bisquick, leave out baking powder)
½ c. Sugar
¼ c. Sunflower lecithin powder (I prefer NOW brand)
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt


Mixing Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until all are evenly distributed.

Next, add in wet ingredients:
4 c. Almond milk (use coconut or soy milk to make completely nut free)
3 Tablespoons avocado oil (can substitute coconut, canola, or vegetable)
2 Tablespoons vanilla (Mexican vanilla is the best)
1-30oz or 2-15oz cans of pumpkin

Blend with a mixer until fully comes together, scraping down sides of bowl.

Finally, add in chocolate:

1 pound of chocolate chips (I like the mini chips best). Stir to incorporate chocolate chips.


Scoop dough into cookie form pan or waffle iron.


Baking Directions:

For Cookies:
Bake in 400 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.

For Waffles:
I also use this batter (with or without the chocolate chips) to make waffles.
Cook according to directions of your waffle iron. I use a smaller square iron and mine cook 5 minutes.


This recipe is a wonderful fill-in for breakfast or even afternoon snack to enjoy with milk or hot cocoa.



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Finding Peace Amid Struggles



By Mary Winfield

As parents of children with special needs, who are also choosing to homeschool, we have some unique challenges. On top of these challenges, we are also not spared the normal trials that come to us as a part of our earthly lives. As I have been struggling with a seemingly endless barrage of these challenges this year, I have been on a journey of finding peace in the midst of these struggles.



Finding Peace by Understanding What It Is
We learn in John that the peace offered to us by the Savior is not the same as the peace offered to us by the world (14:27). The world would gain peace by erasing hardships and never struggling. Their vision of peace is based on external factors and the impact those factors have on their life. It does not take very careful scrutiny to see why peace like this is going to be shallow and fleeting. We have no control over many of the troubling things that happen in this world or even in our own lives. While we can minimize negative consequences of actions, we cannot avoid hardships.

So then what is peace?

As I pondered this, I was guided to a scripture in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”

As I read that scripture, I knew that is where I wanted to be. I had for too long been letting my troubles, confusion, and persecution turn into despair. Feeling forsaken and hopeless I had been ascribing to the faulty thinking that if my faith was strong enough, then I wouldn’t have to feel so confused and troubled by the things happening in my life.

Peace is not the absence of external hardships, but rather a “well springing up inside of us” (John 4:14) that sustains us, no matter what is happening around us. Sometimes we will feel confused and perplexed and cast down, but that does not mean we have to lose that peace and let those feelings turn into hopelessness and despair.

But how do we accomplish that?


Finding Peace at Its Source
If we go back to 2 Corinthians and read a couple of verses earlier in chapter 4 we find:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (v.6)

When we feel consumed with darkness in our lives, we can turn to the ultimate “light of the world” (John 8:12) who will fill our hearts and souls up with that light. Because He “trod the winepress alone” (Isaiah 63:3), we do not have to. When the source of our peace is The Prince of Peace, nothing can take that away from us.




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Sensory Friendly Activities for the Holidays


By Dawn Spence

Holidays can be exciting and overwhelming for anyone with all the lights, sounds, crowds of people, and excitement. Many companies and churches are recognizing the need for sensory friendly activities or events; but when so many people show up, those too can become overwhelming. 


When my daughter was younger we would create all the sights and sounds of the holidays in a way that she could enjoy them in our own home. I am sharing my top 5 five fun sensory friendly activities that the whole family can enjoy.


5 Fun Sensory Friendly Activities for the Holidays


1. Playing with Candy Cane Rice

This activity combines the smells of the holiday and looks like a candy cane. All you need is white rice, food coloring, and peppermint oil or extract. Half your bag of rice and put one half in a gallon size bag with food coloring and the oil/extract and mix it well. 

Then take it out the bag and place on a tray to dry out for a couple of hours. When dry, mix the white and red and let the fun begin. The smell and feel of the rice is fun for any age.


2. Making Play Snow

I love real snow, but we do not get much real snow in Houston, which means we have to make ours. It makes a great inside activity. I found this recipe and it easy to make and easy to clean up. You will need 3 cups baking soda and one-half cup of white conditioner.

Mix together, and have fun. For even more fun, use ice cubes to make igloos and add in some toy penguins.


3. Creating Holiday Scented Playdough

My kids love homemade playdough. Not only does it feel great but you can make unique colors and holiday scents. I got the recipe here.

After making my dough I would make peppermint for the pink or red. You can add a few drops of peppermint extract or oils. I used pumpkin spice seasoning to make my orange playdough smell like pumpkin. You can make cinnamon flavored and more. I suggest keeping in an airtight container. It also makes a great gift.


4. Enjoying the Christmas Lights

Going to a display of lights or events where you walk through tunnels of glowing lights may be overwhelming to your child. When my daughter was young, it was just too much to walk around in the crowds; but she loves lights. So we started our own tradition of getting on our PJs, grabbing a drink and snack, and driving around to see lights. We would play a Christmas themed movie in the car until we would get to where we were going. We still do this activity to this day.


5. Reading Books In a Blanket Fort

Sometimes our kids need the warm and cozy feel in the hustle bustle of the holidays. What a great time to build a fort and read some of their favorite Christmas stories. You can add some battery-operated Christmas lights to your fort. Make it fun and memorable.



Whatever you do this holiday to make it special for your family, may you enjoy the memories that you make. 



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5 Lessons to Teach Through Gift Giving


By Kimberly Vogel

Many struggling learners or students with special needs struggle with time, money, and egocentric behavior. Gift giving can easily be a time of educational and emotional opportunities for growth, and Christmas is the perfect time to put some of these tips into practice. It’s also a very busy time of the year, which makes intentionality important. But if we take the time to slow down and really focus on a few of these areas, there are a variety of lessons we can teach through gift giving


5 Lessons to Teach through Gift Giving

1. Plans and Budgets
There are so many ways to incorporate learning about money into gift giving. The first place to start is making a budget. For younger kids, you can talk about one gift, but for older children, they can set a budget for the whole holiday. You can extend this activity by setting up a savings plan for next year. If we spent $200 on our cousins this year, how much would we need to save all year to have enough money? How much would each gift cost? Will we be able to afford it and what can we change? If you go under budget, how can you use the money to bless someone else?


2. Math with Money
We are quickly becoming a cashless society. Our children need to know how to use cash. Plan ahead and take money to the store. Have your children buy gifts by counting out the correct change. You can further this activity by asking the children to calculate how much change they will receive. Play store at home and teach children how to count back money as a cashier. You can use fake money if needed. Many youths don’t know the valuable skill of counting back money, and it’s impressive to find a cashier that does know this skill!


3. Time Management
Time management is critical when shopping. How long will it take a gift to arrive at the destination? If I order a gift online, how long will it take to arrive? What if Amazon is even late? How far ahead do you need to plan? This doesn’t just apply to online shopping. Do you know how long it takes to walk the length of the mall? Can you estimate drive time, finding a parking spot, locating 7 gifts, waiting in line, and driving back home? Will you eat a meal while shopping or grab a cup of coffee? How do those factors affect your budget? There are a number of time management lessons that we can teach through gift giving.


4. Creative Skills
Giving gifts that don’t cost much – handmade gifts – provide many more lessons! New skills, budget for cooking or craft supplies, deciding what a person would like, are just a few things to be learned when creating gifts. Is it really cheaper if you are buying a lot of supplies? How much time will it take to make the items, and will you be able to finish?


5. Emotional Growth

I recently saw a meme go around Facebook about shopping for yourself while shopping for others. The struggle is real! How many times have you bought a gift for someone else and then one for yourself? Or changed your list? The struggle is real for our kids, too. Sometimes the struggle is that they want the gift for themselves and don’t understand why they can’t’ have it. Other kids struggle with wanting to buy for someone what they want instead of what the other person wants. I know Grandma wants a hat, but can it be pink because pink is my favorite color? Even if Grandma doesn’t ever wear pink? This is the perfect time to teach kids to think outwardly instead of egocentric thinking and behavior. Some kids naturally do think outwardly, but others need specific instructions and loving examples.


Let’s not get so busy this holiday season that we miss the opportunities teach through gift giving to others. The most important lessons are lessons of the heart, which means the most important lessons we teach all year could be those we teach during the holidays.


Looking for more holiday teaching ideas? Check out the SPED Homeschool Christmas and New Year Pinterest boards for great hands-on learning activities you can use all season long.




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Time Management: Step 6 In Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction


By Peggy Ployhar

Over the years of working through my parenting anger issues, the biggest lesson I have learned about myself is my natural tendency to want to always be in control. I have talked about letting go of control in many areas of parenting throughout this series; control of my children’s character development, as well as my parenting approach in respect to my use of authority, of conveying acceptance, in providing forgiveness, and with my desire to restore honor. The final, and most deceptively hidden, area I needed to surrender my need to over control as a parent was time management.


Finding Balance in Time Management
Controlling every single moment of every single day in my children’s lives was not healthy. Plus, if my goal was to help my children learn the skill of managing their time effectively they needed opportunities to practice. Opportunities I was denying them by always micro-managing their schedules.

My blindness to my overly controlling approach towards my children’s schedules was aided by the fact that all my children deal with varying degrees of executive functioning deficits. These deficits limit their natural abilities to quickly and efficiently schedule, plan, and organize themselves. So, as a mother who is naturally gifted in this area, it was easy to just step in and take over these responsibilities for my children instead of letting go and teaching them to take ownership for their own use of time.

For any parent of a struggling child, the tendency to overcompensate and take control is a constant battle. On one hand you desire for your child to learn and grow, but on the other hand the pain this struggle causes your child and often your own self (extra messes to clean up, extended length in completing tasks, etc.) is much more easily alleviated by stepping in. How then is a parent to win over this desire to control while still keeping a child on track? The answer is balance.

A balanced time-management approach involves evaluating three things: your child, your approach, your tools. Looking at these three areas and then determining a balanced plan on how to appropriately give your child the help needed to get through a regular schedule while developing time management skills of their own along the way.


Your Child
Understanding the true capability if your child to manage time is critical when figuring out how much this child can manage realistically without your help. Have you ever done a critical analysis of how well your child can break down a larger task into a checklist of smaller parts to complete the whole project?

One easy way to figure out your child’s executive functioning capability is to test it by asking your child to do a task which requires multiple steps. I would suggest doing this test with different types of tasks because children often have a greater ability to focus and plan when they are interested in the task (like building a Lego set) than they do when they are disinterested in a task, like cleaning the bathroom.

If you have an older student, you can also use this free time management quiz. The quiz has 15 simple questions your student can answer, and then the website provides ideas for goal setting based on the deficiencies revealed by the quiz.


Your Approach
Now that you know what skills your child has for managing his own time, and which ones you need to help teach for greater mastery, you should develop a strategy for teaching time management skills. Here are some website with great resources on helping kids with mild time management issues, moderate executive functioning issues, or even more severely limited scheduling abilities.

Mild Time Management Strategies
11 Easy Tips for Teaching Your Kids Time Management
The Age-By-Age Guide to Teaching Kids Time Management
6 Ways to Teach Time Management Skills


Moderate Executive Functioning Strategies

Graphic Organizers from the Learning Disabilities Foundation of America
Helping Kids Who Struggle with Executive Functioning
10 Frightfully Useful Tips from Executive Functioning Coaches
5 Must-Have Apps for Improving Executive Functioning in Children

Strategies for Students with Severely Limited Scheduling Abilities
Tactile Schedules for Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities
8 Types of Visual Student Schedules
Object Schedule Systems
Free Printable Visual Schedules



Your Tools

Based on how much help your child needs and what approach you feel would best help in teaching better time management, you can now start putting together your tools. The various articles above are filled with everything from digital tools to very hands-on physical tools.

For our family, we did a lot of visual schedules on a huge blackboard in our kitchen when our children were very young. We supplemented that schedule with daily conversations about upcoming activities and plans to ensure our children remembered what lay ahead and weren’t surprised when we had something planned that didn’t fit into our normal routine. But, as our children grew older those schedules moved to student planners, apps, and shared documents along with the daily conversations.

Knowledge has great power. In my experience with letting go of controlling my children, knowing more about the type of help they needed and when I was becoming overly controlling greatly helped with restoring a proper parent-child relationship in our home.


Check out all of the articles in this series:

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 
Time Management: Step 6 In Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction


 

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Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Growth


By Mary Winfield

In any ecosystem, it is important for all parts to be well balanced and have the things they require to thrive. When one part of the ecosystem is not getting what it needs, all parts suffer and have to compensate. Our families are no different. There is even an area of study that suggests the family can be studied like an ecosystem because it follows the same principles. The only way that a family can thrive is if all parts of it are receiving the things they need. Strong families grow like strong ecosystems, with each individual part contributing.

Thinking of it simply, take The Lion King for example (cue “The Circle of Life” music).
Mufasa explains to Simba how the antelope eat the grass, the lions eat the antelope, and when they die, the lions fertilize the soil (still seems like the antelopes drew the short stick, but it works). We see later when the hyenas are taking for granted all the bounty of their ecosystem that it leads to the land becoming barren. Their ecosystem suffered for a while, which means all parts of it suffered until everyone was getting what they needed.

In the same way, a family suffers if everyone isn’t getting what is needed. So how do we grow strong families and support each member?


Growing Strong Parents

Parents are the basis of our familial ecosystem. Since they are the foundation, a lot of the responsibility to make sure the ecosystem thrives falls on their shoulders. They are responsible to make sure that temporal needs are provided, children are loved and taught both academically and spiritually, and interactions between family members are either positive or resolved positively.

Because of these responsibilities and the great love parents have for their children, other family members are usually put before themselves. This is necessary sometimes, but when it becomes the default setting, the family ecosystem starts to suffer.

We as parents have needs that are important to our well-being. Taking care of our bodies, minds, and spirits are not luxuries that we may only indulge in when there is “extra” time (Ha!). Just as one part of an ecosystem can support another part until equilibrium is restored, we can only put off our own needs for so long before there is a collapse. We pour so much into our families that we need to take time to refill our own cups. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can keep the family running smoothly without attending to your own needs. Strong families need strong parents.


Growing Strong Children

Children should each be considered as a separate and important part of the family ecosystem. While we sometimes group them together, they each have their own personalities and needs. Anyone with more than one child knows that the parenting style or guidance that works perfectly for one child, is not going to be as great of a fit for the others.

We especially know for our children that our gifted learners, struggling learners, and neurotypical children all have different needs when it comes to education. That is why we all wanted to homeschool! While we may be familiar with these differences educationally, we should incorporate them into all aspects of our family life.

Children need to recognize that while they are not the leader of the family, they can still contribute in meaningful ways by adding their strength and good example to the other members of the family.


Growing Strong Families as a Whole

Differences in weaknesses and strengths among all family members should be recognized and embraced. That is why God put us together as a family! Weaknesses can be seen as opportunities for others to serve the people they love. Different strengths can be celebrated and added to one another to accomplish a much larger goal. And when we all take time to make sure that individual needs are met, our families can grow in love and strength as individual members and as a whole.


Growing Strong in Community

SPED Homeschool recognizes that special education homeschooling families need to grow at their own pace, but that they grow better when they can be supported within a larger community. This is why the new SPED Strong Tribes program we're raising funds to start in 2019 will focus on helping families grow and thrive.

To find out more about the SPED Strong Tribes program and how you can help us raise the funds we need to start creating local tribes that will strengthen families, check out our Fundrazr campaign.

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




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