Teaching Gifted Learners Through Travel

By Jen Duncan

A lot of families like to add learning activities to their vacations, which is something I recommend. We have not taken many vacations, so I found that difficult to do. However, my son has had many opportunities to travel, and this has been a huge part of his learning.

Learning Through Travel When Possible
When he was in elementary school, I was a curriculum representative and speaker at homeschool conventions across the country. Each year, from April to August, we traveled almost every weekend. One weekend we might be in Kansas City, while the next we were in North Carolina.

While this was a crazy schedule to keep and we put a lot of miles on our SUV, we loved it. One of the huge benefits of all of that travel was the learning that went along with it.

Around the time he entered junior high, we had to step back from our convention schedule for medical reasons. He suddenly started manifesting symptoms from an autoimmune disorder that we were unaware he suffered from. Because these disorders are notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat, it wasn’t a quick process. Needless to say, his medical needs took precedence.

Within a few years, however, his health started to improve and he learned to take the necessary steps to manage his health. When he was well again, one of the things that brought him the most joy and fulfillment was being able to travel in order to serve.

For the past six years, he has been given the opportunity to travel both around the country and around the world to serve in many capacities. As I write this post, he is in Mexico serving with a missionary family – and loving every minute of it!

Learning and Serving Through Travel
The travel itself has been both an adventure and a blessing, but what has really surprised me is how much he learns with each and every trip.

Through his participation with Generation Joshua, my son travels several times per year to volunteer for political campaigns in various states. This is something he loves to do and finds a lot of value in. This experience gives him an interesting view of how people in different parts of the country think and express themselves. Talking to people in Kentucky about a political candidate is much different than doing so in Wisconsin.This helps him to understand people on many different levels. For gifted and asynchronous learners, this is a huge benefit!

Traveling to serve also helps him effectively learn life and leadership skills. He is responsible not only to motivate himself and keep himself on schedule but to keep his team motivated and on track.

It’s one thing to read about skills in a book; it’s another to actually practice them in real life. Doing so through his work with Generation Joshua allows him room to learn these skills with a bit of a safety net. He has room to succeed and fail, room to learn, but someone to catch and guide him if he gets too far off track.

These are things that I, as his mom, simply can’t teach him in the way that they can. Somehow, being in a radically different environment helps cement those skills.

Opening Worlds Through International Learning and Travel
Something that becomes evident very early on with our gifted learners is that they want to take on the world. They each do it in their own way, but the desire is often there.

I have found that my son often learns best when I allow him to literally “take on the world!”

He started doing this at a fairly young age by raising money to send his friends on mission trips. For medical reasons, he couldn’t travel internationally until he was 16 or 17, but he could send his friends. By doing so, he learned a lot about what it really means to serve.

Once he had the medical release, he discovered that the world really is his classroom. His first international trip was to western Turkey, on a study tour with his university. He had the amazing opportunity to take his Book of Acts class in Asia Minor!

Since then, my son has traveled each year to both Mexico and the Philippines for missions work. Each time, he has learned so much that I never would have thought to teach him! Of course, he learns about foods that he probably wouldn’t otherwise try (like durian and balut), but he also learns about the amazing nuances of other cultures. He gets to witness, firsthand, why other cultures think the way they do, where their traditions and religious beliefs stem from. In many ways, he also comes to understand their political and philosophical beliefs as well as their sense of patriotism.

Living in a society as polarized as ours, this is essential to understand.

On a more practical note, he learns life skills in ways that I don’t have the ability to teach. He can navigate airports in Asia, shop at a corner market in Mexico, and find his way around the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

But he is also learning what it takes to live on his own and schedule the little details of his day in a way that gives him freedom, but also safety. He is currently learning the ropes of having his own apartment while living just upstairs from the oldest son of the family he’s serving with. He is figuring out independence while having a safety net that isn’t Mom and Dad.

Is Learning Through Travel Right for Your Child?
Learning through travel isn’t the right choice for every teen or college student, but for many gifted learners, it is an incredible tool. These kids think and process in such different ways that being outside their “normal” can be the most effective way of learning.

It might just be worth looking into for your student! If you have any questions, I’d be glad to help – just comment below!

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Homeschooling Lessons Cultivated from Looking Up and Beyond Circumstances

By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed

At a time when many of our friends are becoming somewhat reluctant “empty-nesters,” my husband and I are in the process of realizing that we need to continue homeschooling our children even beyond their graduation. At 19, neither of our special-needs twins are able to attend college, yet both want to continue learning. Over time their difficulties have not lessened but increased. We have learned to relax our expectations, but not the quality of our courses or methods.

Cultivating Beyond Conditions
My son has embarked on Introduction to Logic, Introduction to Music Theory, Introduction to Composition, and other classes at home. He learns slowly, but with Socratic questioning and purpose. As his medical conditions progress, he hopes his continued education will strengthen his otherwise weakening mind.

We required years to master Latina Christiana I, but Michael told me, “Latin is so meticulous and systematic, I think it takes my boggled mind and sorts it out.” He added, “I want to study Latin forever.” His twin sister Michelle chimed in, “Me too.” Most of my daughter’s academic abilities never progressed to the level of her brother’s, but she enjoyed beginning elements of each area in the liberal arts, all bathed in truths from theology, the queen of the liberal sciences.

Cultivating Between the Lines
As classical teachers, we want to help our children love truth, goodness, and beauty. We encourage this through the liberal arts, sciences, and the great literature of Western civilization. Each of our children have been able to grasp different aspects of this.

One day we read The Merchant of Venice together. My concrete-thinking son understood very little, but Michelle loved Portia’s famous speech on mercy. She played Portia in each scene. When Bassanio (reluctantly played by Michael) noted that outward appearance does not always indicate inward beauty, Michael paused at the wisdom of this insight. In the play, Bassanio references Troy and Hercules, so we recalled our beginning classical studies.

Cultivating From the Heavens

Hours later the same day, my husband located some star guides and gathered the children. Equipped with binoculars, we all settled in on a big blanket for an early autumn evening of stargazing. On such occasions, we see how all learning comes together in gratifying ways. Lying still in an open field near the woods that night, we marveled at the numerous clusters of stars in our country sky. My daughter recalled Abraham and the promise about his descendants. My husband identified the constellation, Aquila. Michelle said she knew from Latin it would be an eagle. We smiled to ourselves. My husband pointed out various constellations and the planet Mars. The names of constellations prompted stories from Greek and Roman mythology, and our children know these far better than we do.

Cultivating Shared Experiences
As a family that evening, we all relaxed together, captivated by one of those rare moments that instantly beautify family life. When the darkness deepened in the sky, we spotted the Big Dipper low on the horizon. My husband noted the trapezoid shape of its ladle, and my children agreed. They knew the shape from early geometry studies. He pointed to another constellation, “forty-five degrees from the bright star overhead.” As the children followed his finger, I remembered all of the protractors from our many years of basic geometry lessons together. We searched the rugged craters of the moon through our binoculars. My son surprised me by noting the half moon’s appearance as “a perfect semi-circle, with the diameter bisecting the whole.” Then for a moment, we fell silent.

Cultivating Unceasing Joy
A fall chill descended under those stars. Snuggling our fragile daughter to keep her warm, I appreciated the richness a classical education offers even children such as ours. If their abilities continue to fade with the progression of their illnesses, we can still enjoy the opportunity to homeschool our children into their adult years. “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all.” (Psalm 104:24)

Copied, with author's permission, from Memoria Press

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5 Tips for Traveling with Special Dietary Needs

By Kimberly Vogel

When one member of the family receives a dietary diagnosis, the whole family shares in the diagnosis. Eating affects almost everything, and typically normal things become a trial. Special events and traveling require special considerations.

A few years ago I received a diagnosis of some serious and complicated food sensitivities and allergies. We traveled on long car trips to see family yearly, as well as other vacations and didn’t want to stop just because of my diagnosis. But things had to change. Here are the 5 things we did differently that not only helped with food and dietary issues but also helped our budget!

1. Bring ready prepared homemade meals

We have a cooler and laundry basket that holds our groceries in the car. I even cook meals ahead of time and freeze them so all I do is thaw and reheat when we arrive at our destination.

I have a list of items we need to buy once we arrive and have already scouted out grocery stores near our lodging. For example: I cook and freeze chili, then I buy the chips and cheese when we arrive.

2. Pack to-go meals for the road
Not stopping for meals while driving is the biggest budget saver! I bring a loaf of bread, knife, paper towels, peanut butter, and jelly. Sometimes I throw in a jar of cookie butter too! I make sandwiches and pass them out with fruit and chips; we don’t even have to stop!

Our goal is to eat two meals in the car and only stop for one. Not only is it the cheapest way to travel, it’s also much healthier than fast food. Other food that is easy to eat in the car:

  • individual hummus cups and veggies
  • cereal bowls with milk that doesn’t need refrigeration (yes, it exists!)
  • cheese, crackers, and pepperoni
  • anything you would put in a school lunch (granola bars, chips, fruit snacks, etc.)

3. Plan driving routes around food breaks
When someone has food allergies, restaurants are tricky to navigate. At one point there were only a few restaurants I trusted, and even then it was only one or two of their options.

I found driving routes based on restaurants I could safely eat at, and we planned our stops accordingly so at least one meal a day could be in a restaurant. Many places also have call ahead ordering, so we could grab it and get back on the road.

4. Book condos or houses
Many extended stay hotels, condos, timeshares, and houses (VRBO – vacation rent-by-owner) have kitchens. If you cook instead of eating out, the higher lodging cost is negated by lower dining expenses.

On the flipside, this alternative makes it feel like less of a vacation for me, so one or two nights the kids or my husband take over the cooking so I get a break! We eat out one nice meal, and sometimes it’s just my husband and me on a date while the kids hang back and watch movies!

5. Cook in the hotel
For conferences and occasions when we don’t find lodging with a kitchen, I bring a crockpot or my beloved Instant Pot and cook in the room! I do try to cook less aromatic foods to be sensitive to the other guests! Most hotels now have refrigerators in the rooms. If not, you can call ahead of time. Many have one they can add to your room or can give you access to one on the property, especially if you inform them of a medical necessity.


Even though my dietary diagnosis has once again changed, and I no longer have the restrictions I did, we still use these tips when we travel. It’s a way of life for us now, and it is much healthier than eating so many meals out. The amount we save allows us to travel more! It IS possible to have an incredible vacation even with special dietary needs!

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The Parenting Anger Escape Door

By Peggy Ployhar

I am excited to have finally reached the third article in my series on parenting anger because the information I share below is what finally opened my eyes to the escape door talked about in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I was familiar with the story of Jesus cleansing the temple in John 2, but one morning I realized this story held the key to escaping my ongoing battle with parenting anger. Since that day, these passages have become some of my favorite in the Bible, because they provided me the escape plan I had desperately prayed for every time I lashed out at my children.

If you are not familiar with this passage, here it is:

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!John 2: 13-16

Problems Trigger Anger
First, I want you to notice something. Jesus saw a problem. If you are unfamiliar with the Jewish law and customs of the temple, it may seem like Jesus’ reaction to the marketplace-type atmosphere was a bit extreme. But, when you learn that the money changers and animal sellers were taking advantage of the people with weighted scales and “temple-approved” animals for sacrifices towards their own advantage, the picture becomes a bit clearer.

Those who had come to fulfill God’s command to worship Him were being swindled by crooked merchants. These merchants were mocking God’s laws and profiting off the people who had journeyed to Jerusalem to dedicate their Passover sacrifice. And it was this injustice that fueled Jesus’ righteous anger.

Now, as parents, we don’t have temples and merchants that make us angry, but we do have a lot of other things that trigger our anger and aggravate how we respond to anger-provoking situations. It may help to look back at those triggers and aggravators from my last article if you did not read it or if you are needing a refresher.

Don’t Take the Bait
The secret to not giving into these triggers is to train yourself to see them, identify them, and then disconnect from them.

When I am speaking to an audience, I use a rope to signify a trigger. When you see the rope and focus on the problem that is causing your anger to rise, you are tempted to go pick up the rope and neatly deal with the situation as you see fit, just like a fish snaps at bait on a fishing line.

At first you may not realize acting upon your anger will tangle you in a sinful response. But, even if you have the initial willpower to step back from the situation for a moment, the more you focus on the problem before you, the greater the pull becomes to act upon it and handle it as you see fit.


This is the sinful trap that anger elicits. A temptation to act with a sinful response. To quickly deal with the problem on our own terms, bring justice to the problem we are faced with, and move on from the issue as quickly as we can is the natural human response. But, this is not God’s way of handling problems or how He would desire for us to use the energy we have been given when we see a problem.

An Alternate Option
The key then to turning away from the temptation is NOT to pick up the rope, but instead turn the other direction and do what Jesus did…braid a whip! Yes, you heard me right, but let me explain.


The next thing we need to notice from the John 2 passage is the word “when” and the actions that caused a time-lapse in the story. Verse 15 specifically says, “When He had made a whip of cords…” How long do you think it took to gather up long leather strips and braid them, considering the whip was enough of a threat to drive oxen and merchants out of the temple? It had to have been quite a while.

What do you think Jesus was doing while He was braiding? When I contemplated this situation, I was taken back to His habit of always talking to the Father, consulting in His plan and seeking what He was doing in the situation. So it would be most reasonable to consider that He was praying and seeking God’s guidance on how to best handle the problem before Him.

Revealing the Escape Door
Anger comes with a load of energy, but that energy was never intended to be used to enact justice.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
So, what do we do with it? We use it for praying, pressing into God for His plan, and when we need to ensure that we don’t reach out with our own method to take care of the issue, we busy our hands.

Now, you probably aren’t going to braid a whip, but I am sure there are lots of things you can do while you are praying, watching, and listening for God’s direction. Laundry, dishes, yard work, sweeping, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms…you get where I am going. These things are great outlets for our anger energy.

And, in redirecting your energy, you have moved towards the escape door, grabbed its handle and have moved away from anger’s sinful trap.

A Door to Godly Character
Your next thought may be the same as mine, “What about the child who was misbehaving that invoked my anger? What do I do with him while I am praying?” You will need to wait for my next article to learn how to handle your child’s side of this scenario, but I promise you it will be well worth the wait.

For now though, I want you to focus on finding those ropes that lead you to sinful parenting anger episodes. Identify them, label them, and practice turning away from them and busying your hands while you pray and seek God. Don’t worry, your child will not turn to the dark side before we get back to addressing his/her issues, but you need to focus on yourself first before you are ready for the next step.

There is much fruit to be gained in taking your time and really working on these steps one at a time. The reason I say this is because the escape door is not a door to nowhere, but a gateway to developing godly character in both you in your children.

So, be encouraged and keep pressing forward.

Plug-In and Stay Encouraged
Please feel free to comment on this article in the forum below, or email us at SPED Homeschool if there is anything you would like to let us know about or help walk you through.

Also, if you are not part of our Facebook support group, I would really encourage you to plug into our community and surround yourself with other families who are homeschooling their children with special educational needs. Having support and knowing you are not alone is important. We know because we have all been there and are willing to encourage you through the places we have been.

Parenting Anger Series Articles:
Why We Should Be Talking About Parenting Anger 
Parenting Anger Demystified
The Parenting Anger Escape Door

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Ways to Ease Travel Difficulties for a Special Needs Family

Amy Vickrey, MSE

At first glance, we might seem like a typical American family. My husband is a veteran and we have 2 busy, active boys. However, we have challenges that range from food allergies to special needs and even health issues. Traveling can be tricky. Flying? No thanks, the suitcases aren’t big enough! Here are some ways we have found to make traveling and vacationing a little easier.

Packing Snacks
The first thing we plan for is snacks for the trip and any food products that might not be available where we are headed (I have one child who can only eat 1 brand of waffles and they are from a local grocery chain so we always stock up before a trip). While we might buy some snacks or drinks on the road at places we stop, this ensures that there is safe food for those of us with food allergies on the road.

Having a Space of Our Own
This past October, we traveled to beautiful New Mexico to see family and enjoy the sights. We opted to rent a house for those 4 nights we would be in Las Cruces through Airbnb. This gave us several advantages:

  • We paid a lot less for the large space we had
  • We had a full kitchen and could cook meals to save money and ensure food safety
  • We could keep a regular routine for my son who has Autism
Overall, the ability to have a space of our own and keep our own schedule was wonderful!

Visiting Tourist Spots During the Offseason

While we were there, we took advantage of the fact that most of the other children were in school and visited some cool museums and zoos. There were few crowds which meant my oldest didn’t get so overwhelmed. It was also nice weather so while we had to watch out for too much sun, it wasn’t so hot that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves.The animals at the zoo were active and playing in the cooler weather too.

Using Internet Resources
There are many internet resources for finding allergy-friendly places to eat these days. With cell phones, it is easy to check for allergy-friendly restaurants on apps such as Find Me Gluten Free and to check for reviews. There are also chains that are working hard to train their employees nationwide in allergy-safe practices that we follow. However, before I go to a restaurant I am not familiar with, we call and ask questions about what kinds of things are on the menu, the handling practices, etc. 

One way I know a place is training their employees well is when the person who answers the phone (usually a hostess or cashier) can answer my questions confidently or be willing to ask questions when they are not sure. 

I also try to pack a quick snack just in case we have to make a last-minute decision not to eat someplace as I have gotten to a restaurant that passed the phone call only to discover I was misled on the phone. 

Calling Ahead
One really cool thing we did was to attend the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. It was my oldest son’s sixth birthday, so we went all out and bought tickets for one of their breakfast service areas. This was great because it included a shuttle from the parking lot and to the shopping areas (my husband has issues with walking distances). 

When we first started planning, I called and talked to the head caterer to let them know we were coming and to see what accommodations could be made for food. They were great and we were even able to take our own allergy-free brownies in with us to celebrate the event! Also, the quieter, calmer atmosphere that was offered to us allowed my son to enjoy the balloon fiesta without getting overwhelmed.

While a lot of planning went into this trip and parts of it were a lot of work, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build family memories. My boys still talk about the balloons and the time with Grandma and their uncle. 

While we hope to do it again, I know the memories we built will last them a lifetime and since NO ONE GOT SICK it was even better!!

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Our Dog Fred: Friend and Bridge to Community

By Dyana Robbins

This is Fred. 

When he first joined our family he looked like this, which is good, because he was a terror. His beginnings with our family are catalogued in an earlier article.

This post talks about Fred’s work as a service dog with our family, how we all changed because of him, and steps to take if you think a service dog might help you or those you love.

Training and a Different Life
Fred’s work with Corrina, our trainer, proceeded quickly. First, Corrina taught Fred basic obedience and good citizenship skills. Fred obtained the AKC Good Citizenship Certification before we took him into public for training. From there, he learned scenting and tracking skills, how to provide deep and calming pressure on demand, and how to walk Jonathan through public places and traffic safely.

Fred developed keen scenting/tracking skills easily. Learning to calm Jonathan safely and on demand proved more difficult, but Fred picked it up fairly well too. Training Jonathan to stay with Fred in traffic and public places proved more difficult than training Fred to navigate traffic.

Our team (Sue, Corrina, and myself) brainstormed variations of harness and handle operations to find something that finally worked to keep Jonathan at Fred’s side in public. Using a service vest with D-Rings, I attached a clip-on handle for Jonathan to hold as needed. We avoided a harness for him because of the social stigma and safety concerns. When Jonathan understood what we wanted, he easily chose to stay connected to Fred. Staying with Fred was a much more desirable option than enduring mom’s death grip on his wrist!

Fred became adept at the following: finding Jonathan if he ran away, sensing and calming meltdowns, and aiding Jonathan by calming and navigating for him in public places. Children with ASD often run to escape stressful or overwhelming situations. Every outing came with risk. Here is a great article detailing this challenge. 

Even in the training phase, Fred’s help began improving our lives. I could grocery shop with much less stress and hypervigilance as Jonathan and Fred walked and waited together. I could give attention to my younger son and know that Fred was helping me watch Jonathan too. Jonathan was much less restless in the store because he could interact with Fred. Parking lots no longer terrorized me because Fred and I shared the load of getting both boys safely into our vehicle. Fred appeared to love the tasks we gave him as it allowed him to accompany our family everywhere, but the focus and work the outings required would tire him after a few hours. I could empathize; outings with two energetic boys wore me out too!

The greatest gift Fred has given us was not the additional safety or help even as life-changing as they were: It was his ability to “bridge the gap” for Jonathan to the community. People love Fred. They are drawn to him. Each outing brought people into our lives because Fred was with us. We went from being stared at in public for meltdowns or odd behavior to attracting people for positive interactions.

Fred’s service vest said, “Service Animal. Please ask before petting me.” People did...by the hundreds. Suddenly social interactions came to us rather than me chasing them down and facilitating them. People’s curiosity drew questions that I would direct to Jonathan because Fred worked for him. Jonathan couldn’t discuss many things easily, but he could talk about Fred all day long…and he did. His language and confidence grew as he had a topic he loved to share with others. His pride in Fred and great love for him showed. The hope that Gross’ book had stirred in my heart a couple of years before became reality.

Fred’s Accomplishments and Retirement
Here are a few career highlights from Fred’s work with our family:
· finding Jonathan after he got lost on a state park trail
· helping save a young friend who got stuck in sand during a high tide
· preventing myriad public meltdowns
· reducing the family’s stress
· helping Jonathan grow into independence in the community
· expanding his work to help my younger son as well

I’d love to tell you many stories about Fred. He is much more than a dog or pet to me. For several years he was a lifeline, an ally, and a dependable friend to us in a world that was often lonely.

The time came that Jonathan’s skills and abilities had grown to no longer require Fred’s assistance. He developed self-calming and regulatory strategies. He could process my directions and understand the dangers around him. My husband said it was time to let Jonathan stand alone and he was right. It hurt and scared me a bit to leave Fred at home, but we did fine. Fred adjusted after time to being our pet and friend though we still take him with us everywhere we can. He still guards Jonathan at night, greets him with joy each morning, and acts as a bridge to the community when he goes out with us.

One memory to end our story: Jonathan was competing in a cross country meet and I brought Fred along to encourage him. As we walked at the park, people from our team and competing teams came over to see Fred.

Teenagers disengaged from their phones to come meet and pet Fred. Many wonderful introductions and conversations were exchanged. One man came running with a glass full of water for Fred just in case he needed it. I’ve never seen anything like the attention and love Fred inspires; many other dogs were around the park, but Fred was the star. He will always be a star to me.

Is a Service Animal Right for Your Family?
While our story might inspire hope in you, I also want to impress upon readers the great work and responsibility that a service animal requires. Here are my tips for assessing if a service animal might be a good option for your family.

1. You must love animals. If you cannot commit to sharing all your day with an animal companion and caring for their needs, find another option.

2. Commit to the investment. Training and care for a service animal is costly. They provide great assistance to your family and it will cost you time, money, and energy in return.

3. Research before you jump. Just because a service animal has helped others, does not mean one will work for your family. Learn and know what you can reasonably expect the dog to do and whether it matches with what you need, can provide for the animal, and the law.

4. Do NOT skimp on training or fake service training for your pet. A disturbing trend has emerged where people obtain a vest for their pet and call them a service animal. Those of us who have trained and worked with service animals can spot them quickly. They behave like a family pet who has gone out for the day, not as a trained service animal whose focus is on their job. It may be comforting to have your pet with you, but that is not a benefit that rises to federal and state laws. Please don’t jeopardize the reputation and freedom of those benefiting from service animals to perform daily necessities.

5. Recognize that the dog will retire. The day will come when the strenuous work becomes too great for the animal. Compassion and love dictate that you respect the animal’s limitations. Some dogs work longer than others. When it is time for the animal to retire, return the love and support it has provided to you; they have earned it. 

If you have more questions about the article, feel free to contact me at amblinggrace@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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The Then and Now of Special Education Homeschooling

By Peggy Ployhar

When our family started our special education homeschooling journey almost 15 years ago, the homeschooling landscape was very different than it is today. From my experience homeschooling and graduating two children with learning challenges, and a decade helping other parents, I have seen changes in different areas of homeschooling dramatically affect the special education homeschooling movement.

These changes are neither good nor bad but can create problems if a family does not understand how to navigate them. Thus, I want to share with you a picture of before and after in each of these areas and how families who homeschool children with special educational needs can achieve positive results in their own homeschools.

Fifteen years ago, there was no such thing as a homeschool curriculum written for a struggling learner. There were few curriculum choices for parents in general. Parents used whatever books or curriculum they could find and made them work. It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but teaching resources were looked upon as catalysts to impart wisdom into children’s lives.

Today, there are so many homeschooling curriculum options for parents of struggling learners that narrowing down the choices can be daunting. Parents can find more options than they know what to do with, not only books, but also from online teaching resources, apps, and mainstream curriculum providers who are now catering to the special education homeschooling community.

Homeschool support systems of the past were comprised of local families who were trying to find ways to connect with other homeschooling families. These groups were about community and building relationships so that every family, and each member of the family, could find a way to connect and feel involved. Families who had children with special educational needs were welcomed along with the rest because these groups focused on relationships and commonalities.

Over the years, homeschooling groups have evolved into structured programs to allow parents to share their teaching load. There still are some meet-up groups that focus on playdates and field trips, but these groups are harder to find. In general, though, academics have become the driving factor behind most groups that bring homeschoolers together. And, unfortunately, as part of this trend, parents of children who struggle with academics or working/learning in a classroom environment, have found less support for their families within these groups.

Foundational Basis
The homeschooling movement in the United States was initiated by parents who desired to instill in their Christian faith into their children. Faith in God and His call to “train up [children] in the way they should go,”  (Proverb 22:6) was the main reason most people homeschooled. This commonality joined homeschoolers together and it was almost assumed that if you were homeschooling your children, you were doing so because you had been called by God to this way of schooling.

If you were to ask twenty different homeschooling parents now why they homeschool, you will probably get twenty different answers. Families not only homeschool because of their faith, but also because of school violence, travel opportunities, the ability to teach towards their child’s gifts, or because the school was failing to teach to their child’s specific needs. Rather than homeschooling being a choice based on spiritual conviction, it is becoming a reaction to external forces that parents want to avoid.

It is hard to believe that just fifteen short years ago, the Internet was in its infancy. Smartphones were not around. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most of the other places we frequent daily to get information and stay connected had not gained prominence. Our world is changing quickly, as are the jobs we are preparing our children for as we homeschool them.

The days of spending a homeschooling afternoon at the library seem almost antiquated. As parents, we are bombarded with information, and for parents, with struggling children the information can be smothering. Special education research, on what causes children to struggle with learning as well as the latest methods to help them conquer their deficiencies, are everywhere.

This information is in a constant state of flux and parents are never quite sure who to trust or what information will help their children. This surplus of information makes parents uneasy about their decision because they are pressured to make the “right” choice to help their child best overcome their learning challenges.

Education Choices
Parents who chose to homeschool twenty years ago were pioneers. When I started homeschooling, the stories of how these pioneering families fought for our freedom to homeschool were still prevalent in homeschooling circles. For this reason, homeschooling families were diligent about record keeping and staying active in politics. They intimately knew the price paid for their freedom to homeschool and were determined to protect that freedom.

Today, many homeschooling parents seem to have an attitude of indifference towards their freedom to homeschool. Families, in general, are not as committed to the homeschooling lifestyle. Instead, many parents view homeschooling as an option that may be least restrictive, more affordable, or their current best schooling scenario but should a better school choice for their child arise, they will consider a switch.

Planning for the Future of Special Education Homeschooling
I can’t say I have all the answers, nor can I predict the future, but based on the changes I have discussed above, it is clear that special education homeschooling has not become easier over the years. But, the simplicity of homeschooling a struggling learner has diminished and the ease of homeschooling our unique children has become a more viable choice for parents who otherwise would not have considered this option.

The best advice I have to give parents who are homeschooling children with special educational needs or considering it are the following:

  • Be discerning about resources you choose
  • Find commonality in a supportive homeschooling community
  • Witness to other homeschooling families
  • Teach others what you have learned on your own homeschooling journey
  • Understand that homeschooling is a wonderful freedom that some will choose for the long-haul while others may only make this choice for a season


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