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Un-Hyping the Holiday Season




The holiday are upon us. So, the question at hand is: “How do we deal with all the shopping and prepping that goes into this time of year when it can be so overwhelming?” 

Here are some things that worked in our family, when daily life caused sensory overload from the heightened seasonal activity. 

  • Shop online and with catalogs, it just keeps things simpler and away from crazy crowds.
  • Drive thru neighborhoods known for their decorations. Not only is it better on the pocketbook, but noises can be controlled and lights tend not be be as overbearing from the inside a vehicle. You can also make this adventure a special treat by picking up hot chocolate (or bring your own) and cookies.
  • Decorate the tree with simple white lights instead of flashing colored ones.
  • Try to keep your routine as much as possible, the normalcy of your days can help prevent many a meltdown.
  • Use festive fabric to wrap gifts. By replacing paper with fabric no one gets overstimulated with the constant tearing of paper. Plus, the fabric is reusable. Decorated pillowcases work great!
  • Use one gift box per person. Place all of that family member’s gifts in the one box and you save on the chaos of opening lots of little gifts.
  • Limit sugar.  Even if you already do this, 'tis the season to work on it all the more. Too much sugar can cause any kiddo to get grumpy and meltdown (adults included).
  • Ensure your family gets enough rest
  • Pick and choose your activities. You don’t have to do everything...every year. 

And, if things do go awry, take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a new day.


Happy Holidays. 

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on PayPal

(all donations are tax-deductible)

  




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Filling In the Special Needs Homeschooling Gaps




Thanksgiving celebrations all over the United States gives families time to pause and thank God for all He has done for us over this past year.  At the top of my list was my family, especially the many answered prayers God has worked out in the lives of my children.  But, next on my list was this new ministry, SPED Homeschool.

If you are not familiar with SPED Homeschool, other than the blogs we post on our website, I am excited to have this chance to share with you why we have so much to thankful about.



Where it All Started
SPED Homeschool incorporated as a nonprofit in late August (2017) to fill a resource and support void in the national special education homeschooling community.  But, that is not where SPED Homeschool got its start.  A little over two years ago, I accepted a volunteer position with the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) to work on their customer service team and help with their efforts in supporting the Texas special needs homeschooling community, just like I had done in starting up a special needs outreach in Minnesota for MACHE (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators).

Over these past two years, my work for THSC grew from a volunteer position to a staff position, and my team also grew to include an assistant consultant and eight volunteer team members.   We were working well as a team, and it showed.  A speaker at the THSC convention this past May told me she felt “THSC had the premier state organization special needs department” and I had to step back and smile at all God had brought together. But, there was a stirring inside me I couldn’t shake…one that kept me looking at the greater need for special education homeschooling families beyond our state borders.


When Curriculum and Online Support Is Not Enough
For those on the outside of the special needs homeschooling community, it looks like these families have everything they need to successfully homeschool. With an ever increasing number of special needs homeschooling curriculums and Facebook support groups to cover most diagnoses, an outsider would say these families have a strong support base.  


With all that is available, navigating the many options requires more precious time than these families can afford.  Offering a trust-worthy, one-stop ministry with a national reach to provide these resources became my goal.  In addition to curriculum suggestions, parents are looking for local support groups, local co-ops, local therapy providers, and state and county resource providers who are special needs AND homeschool friendly.  


These resources are extremely difficult to track down unless someone in their area, like a local or state special needs homeschooling consultant, has taken the time to scout them out. Instead, these parents struggle to do this leg work and advocate for their child in a completely new schooling realm, while juggling the already taxing load they have raising and homeschooling at least one child with special needs.



Who We Are
In early June I approached THSC about stepping out of my position and taking my team, minus a dedicated assistant special needs consultant, to start a new national special education nonprofit ministry.  THSC not only blessed my request, but have worked to help promote our efforts from the start.

Five of the volunteers who had been working with me at THSC had also been feeling the need to grow our ministry, so they transitioned as part of our team and board:  Dyana Robbins, Dawn Spence, Shanel Tarrant-Simone, Cammie Arn, Myeshi Briley, and Elaine Carmichael.  Soon after our launch, we added three more members our team (Sherry Martin, Kimberly Vogel, and Jennifer Cullimore) and two board members (Dianne Craft and Jan Bedell).


Each of these team and board members are parents who took the leap to homeschool their own student with special educational needs.  Some are still in-the-trenches teaching every day, and some have graduated their students and are now fully devoted to helping other parents on this journey.  But the great calling we all share is to minister to families who are homeschooling children with learning challenges.  As our team and ministry continues to grow, our main goal is to help SPED homeschooling families in every facet we have been helped by God and others along our own homeschooling paths.


What We Are Doing
It has been a busy fall for us at SPED Homeschool, but we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

Since starting SPED Homeschool in late July (2017), our first steps in setting up outreach to special education homeschooling parents has been:  
  • Recruiting influential and knowledgeable board members in the field of special education homeschooling
  • Branding SPED Homeschool to be an approachable, yet professional, organization for special education homeschooling parents
  • Developing a website with useful and pertinent static content pages
  • Scheduling content calendars for blogs,images, and videos
  • Building an Internet presence through social media streams (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flipboards, and YouTube)
  • Incorporating as a Texas nonprofit on August 24, 2017
  • Receiving IRS approval on September 28, 2017 with a Federal 501.c.3. tax exempt status
Looking ahead at the end of 2017, our team will be focused on continuing to keep our aggressive content calendar and social media push as well as working on these specific tasks:
  • Partnering with state and national homeschool and special needs organizations to provide resources and support to their special education homeschooling families
  • Recruiting additional team members to broaden the reach of our ministry as we try to develop local contact, diversify our original content, and reach a larger audience
  • Running a Giving Tuesday and 2017 Year-End Giving Campaign to meet our $50,000 fundraising goal to ensure start-up cost coverage and initial funds for our 2018 projects
  • Hiring 4 part-time supportive staffing positions: Office Coordinator, Social Media/Video Specialist, Graphic Designer and Donor Coordinator

In 2018, these are our top priorities:
  • Creating a homeschool co-op training program to instruct homeschool groups how to adequately prepare their leadership, facility, procedures, safeguards, and teacher training for the specific needs of special education students
  • Starting a SPED Homeschool Family In Need Fund and resource supply chain, to allow families in need to request help in obtaining computers, curriculum, in-home teaching help, and therapy services
  • Hiring 4 more part-time staff positions:  Web Designer, Editor, Partner Relations Coordinator, Family in Need Fund Manager
  • Booking team member speaking engagements, and vendor booths slots, at various 2018 national and state homeschool and special needs conferences
  • Developing an app that would connects parents easily to helpful resources, events, materials, therapists and groups, both locally and nationally
  • Partnering with special education authorities (bloggers, speakers, etc.) and setting a vision on how to reach the special education homeschool population from a united front



Why Special Education Homeschooling is Growing
Current statistics are now showing a 25% special education student demographic already within the homeschooling population, which spans a wide range of learning difficulties.  Plus, one of the fastest-growing groups seeking parent-led homeschooling education are families already in the public school special education system or those whose children are enrolled in early childhood intervention programs which experts feel is much greater than the current national learning disability diagnosis rate of 13%.

Families who choose to homeschool, do not do so lightly. Many, just like myself 14 years ago, realize homeschooling is the only educational option able to provide the necessary customized instruction their children need.  These families sacrifice careers, time, and money because they believe their children have a better future than most educational institutions are willing to help them achieve.  These are parents are determined not to let their children become one of the increasing statistics of our failing public school special education programs.

These statistics show that only 65.5% of students in the US, who have a known learning disability, graduate high school as cited by the Grad Nation Report.  But, even the majority of these graduates are not ready to transition into a meaningful job or into higher education. 

A recent survey on this subject stated 90% of current students labeled with learning disabilities had the ability to make a successful job or higher education transition if they were helped to establish a support system before graduation per The Hechinger Report. Unfortunately, most of the programs in our current high school education system are not focused on this effort and most students who graduate are not prepared for life beyond their high school career.



How You Can Help
Since SPED Homeschool is a nonprofit, our bylaws are set up in a way to not require membership for parents to come to us for help or support, we completely rely on donor partners to keep our ministry going.  

Right now we are ramping up for a big #GivingTuesday campaign, but you can give any time from now until the end of November to help us reach our $50,000 goal.  


We can’t do this without you!  


Our board, team, volunteers, and I are excited about the hopeful future ahead for special education homeschooling families.  Thank you for your prayers and support!

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on PayPal

(all donations are tax-deductible)

 





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What We are THANKFUL for This Year in Our Journey as SPED Homeschool Moms




Being a mom of a special needs kiddo sure has its hard times, but gratitude can change our perspective and help ease the tough days. We wanted to share with you what we are THANKFUL for in our journey as SPED Homeschool moms.


Time
Time is fleeting and I've come to realize that the moments with my children are precious. I am so thankful that I can experience the mundane, the victorious, even the hard moments with them everyday. (Jennifer Cullimore)


Humbling Moments
Each day presents lessons to learn from when I don't handle them as I should have. These moments are gifts, reminding me I am not perfect, what I need prayers and support to improve on, and how necessary God's consistent grace is for my life. (Peggy Ployhar)


Advocate
We have to speak and advocate for our kids. Whether with doctors, family members, or other kids; standing up for our child and making things happen for them starts them down the road of advocating for themselves. I’m thankful for the advocating moments for my children, it tells them they are worth fighting for. (Kimberly Vogel)


Nighttime
Because once my loves are asleep I can have some down time and I might actually get to sleep somewhere between 12-4am. (Jennifer Poorman)


Kisses and Kleenex!
A typical day usually involves one or the other!





Family & Friends
Family:  My family might not be perfect, but it’s mine. We love and laugh and serve Jesus always striving to grow and love more. (Kimberly Vogel)


Friends: The journey of homeschooling a special needs child can be arduous and lonely. I'm thankful for friends who understand and stand by me through the ups and downs. ( Karen Larsen)


Understanding & Unconditional Love
Understanding from Others: When another child/mom understands our kids are different, and accepts them as they are. (Lynne Shearer) and I'm thankful for family members, friends and those perfect strangers that show a desire to try and understand my child better. They are almost always surprised to find that we are not as different as we may appear on the outside. (Jamie)  


Unconditional love: I am so thankful for those who love and accept us for who we are, where we are at. What a blessing and joy to be among those who don't bat an eye at what others would seem strange or weird but is our normal. (Lori Walker)


Laughter
We could not make it through all the challenges we face without a sense of humor. (Lauren Mitchell)








The SPED Homeschool Team is also thankful for YOU, our readers, and the SPED Homeschool Support group on Facebook.


Brenda said it so thoughtfully: I was so scared to pull my son out of school until I found this group because I found all the information and support I needed to feel comfortable making all the decisions about my son's education. Your resources made me feel empowered and the support has been a blessing to us. I appreciate you guys! All of you, the experienced homeschooling moms and the not so experienced moms, you make me feel like I am not alone (Brenda Olivares)


Happy Thanksgiving from the SPED Homeschool Team!


What are you thankful for? Leave a comment and tell us. 

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on PayPal

(all donations are tax-deductible)

  




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Cultivating Compassion in Our Families


                   
Thanksgiving approaches:  As we focus on gratitude and the blessings we enjoy, I am challenged to examine how we express thankfulness in our family. One key expression of gratitude is compassion for others.


As much as special-needs parents understand caring for others, cultivating compassion in our children can be difficult. Sometimes, conditions like autism or mental illness make compassion challenging to develop. Other times, children can become self-centered and focused as they grapple with the pain of their struggles.


Here are some practical strategies to develop this vital characteristic in our families:


1. Intentionally point out and discuss the needs of others
Young people may require direct teaching in this area.  When my sons were toddlers, we had a poster with kids displaying various facial expressions.  Each expression had an emotion attached to it.  We rehearsed this almost daily to help them interpret non-verbal cues, but also to cultivate empathy.


When they were a bit older, we began coaching them in social interactions by telling them how their behavior was impacting their friends or likely perceived in the community.  This direct teaching was used for both positive and negative interactions.  In many ways, I acted as a narrator for their lives during this stage; explaining the world around them and how they were operating within it.


As they have grown, we discuss news events, life events in the people around us and their own experiences in ways that point to not only facts but likely emotional responses that co-occur.  This practice has challenged us to perceive likely needs and emotions that we can respond to as we engage with these situations.


2. Travel, Serving, and Giving
Despite the limitations our families experience, there are ways we can help our children see beyond our walls.  Even trips to the library or stores provide a myriad of ways to really see those around us.  If you are able to travel more broadly, cross-cultural experiences will greatly hone your family’s compassion as you experience being “the others” while being immersed in the struggles of other cultures.


Serving others is possible for almost every child.  Finding ways to do this as a family cultivates compassion in each member.  Food banks, Operation Christmas Child, visiting nursing homes and volunteering in our neighborhoods provide ample service opportunities.  Prayer for others’ needs is always possible even when we are homebound.


Our family’s favorite service place, besides church, has been a local ministry to the homeless called the Mercy Tree.  This wonderful ministry provides lunch in a local church, devotions, laundry service, showers and transportation to those without homes.  As we cook for our friends and eat together, we understand more of a world we have never experienced and our ability to love in those places broadens.



3. Share great stories!
Powerful stories that transcend their time always include adversity that their characters overcome.  We can link the characters’ struggles to relevant experiences in our lives or those of others.  This helps us not only understand pain, but what is required to face and overcome the type of struggle depicted.  These stories are blueprints to guide us in helping others.


4. Practice gratitude and compassion at home
  • Tell your spouse frequently what you love and appreciate about him/her in front of your children
  • Around the dinner table, have each family member share thankfulness about the person next to them
  • Keep a thankfulness list in a central location and encourage everyone to contribute
  • Each month, assign one family member to select a person or family to serve in some way
  • Invite others into your home
  • Love each other well
  • Find penpals from other countries and exchange letters


I hope that some of these strategies encouraged you to find new ways to encourage compassion in your family.  Besides the joy it will bring your children, fostering compassion expands their relationships and equips them to better relate to their communities.  


Happy Thanksgiving!


This article was reposted from www.amblinggrace.com with permission from the author.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on PayPal

(all donations are tax-deductible)

  




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