What does a mom do when her All About Spelling plan fails?

When Your All About Spelling Plan Fails

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Homeschool moms are busy, right? So if we can find something to save us time, we rejoice. Last school year I thought I had found the perfect way to use All About Spelling to save me time.

My younger son, 8, is a pretty good speller. I don’t know if he remembers what he reads or he’s a natural, but he seemed to be ahead of where he was in All About Spelling (affiliate link). One day I had a brilliant thought. What if I could teach both my boys the same spelling lesson? That would save me some time during the day. One of my boys had even mentioned doing school in their bedroom. This was the perfect opportunity. (more…)

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Special Needs Homeschooling & Grief: A Path to Success

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Homeschool veteran and special needs mom Kristen Pratt is our guest today. I love her practical approach to homeschooling and I asked if she would share some thoughts on special needs homeschooling with my readers. Her article took a different twist than I expected, but it is definitely a good read. In fact, all special needs parents will appreciate it, whether or not they homeschool.

Do you have a favorite hiking trail? Our family had our very own in our back yard. It wandered through about three acres of mostly wooded land. It became very natural to walk the trail, avoiding hazards such as the gaping woodchuck hole in the middle of a hill that led to an open field. We all knew to step to the side of the path in that one deceivingly grassy section to avoid mud-caked shoes. We even discovered hidden secrets like the wild blueberry bush at the back end of the property. At what seemed like the end of the trail, we knew to veer right for a hidden way back to the original path. We didn’t have to look up to know where the deer stands are located. We could have navigated that trail blindfolded.

Parenting for us has become like that well-worn path. We have 9 children: 3 married, 1 just graduated & 5 more still homeschooling. We have grown accustomed to some of the pitfalls and easily avoid them. We have learned from tripping over logs in the path. We know to look for the hidden treasures. While each child is unique and we continue to learn new things, the path is comfortable and our stride is sure. At least it used to be.

We adopted a little guy from the Caribbean about 11 years ago. By a year-and-a-half old he was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Parenting our son is like walking that well-worn path in the darkness of night. We knew it would be a little bit of a challenge but we know the path well. It would all be ok. After all, the doctor thought he was only mildly affected. (Boy was he wrong!) We were not prepared to slam into a tree that mysteriously appeared in the middle of the trail. That big root we fell on really hurt the shins! We are certain the path doesn’t go in this new direction! And what about that river that nearly drowned us?  This is what it can feel like raising a child with special needs. Everything you know about raising a child is changed, moved, and sometimes makes no sense. The well-worn path is sometimes unrecognizable.

How do we parent and homeschool a child who struggles with the simplest of tasks? It isn’t easy. We cry. We get frustrated. We grieve. Do not pass by that last sentence quickly. We grieve. We grieve a lot. My banner for raising our son is to shoot for the stars and hope we get a couple of inches off from the ground. Sometimes we do not get off the ground at all. Sometimes it feels like we end up in hole. That is when I grieve. This does not mean I give up. It means I accept the limits of today and feel a natural sadness. It stings. Our son has lost so much and we have to cope with that loss. Until I grieve, I cannot accept reality and plan for the future.

Our son is supposed to start 6th grade. As I began to plan the new school year I found 6th grade takes a big leap into the abstract. Our son cannot understand abstract. He has hit a wall (or tree) and there is no way around it. That hurts. My son has no ability to understand this loss so I grieve for us both. Until I grieve it, I cannot accept it. I need to accept it in order to help him where he is at, rather than where I want him to be. The homeschool teacher side of me wants to fight. My post-grieving side knows I will do more harm than good if I do. Instead I developed a plan that will engage him where he is. However, his books will not say 6th grade. I admit that still stings a little.

How about you? Do you have areas you haven’t yet grieved? Is it setting you and your child up for frustration and failure? I fight it, too, sometimes, but I am getting a little better at recognizing my need to grieve. It isn’t giving up; it is letting go. It is letting go of something that doesn’t exist anywhere but in our hopes, dreams, and expectations. Yet, it is real loss worthy of our sorrow. It is essential that we grieve for our own well-being and also for the success of our child. Pray and ask God to help you identify the areas you need to grieve. Study up on the steps of grief in order to understand the process. (affiliate link) At the other end, you may still feel some sadness but you will be able to accept reality and make better decisions with the goal of helping your child grow as much as possible.

What do you think of Kristen’s thoughts on grieving and progress? I’d love to hear in the comments!

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just click the button below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!

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Kristen Pratt is a homeschool curriculum editor for www.Master Books.com.  She loves helping put together “curriculum with purpose” in a way that is easy to use and engaging for students.  She is married to Randy, who also works for Master Books (NLPG).   As an owner of Pennywise Learning (now owned by CBD) she has helped thousands of homeschool moms navigate curriculum choices. Kristen has 20 years of experience homeschooling her nine children and has had the pleasure of seeing four of them graduate.  She continues to homeschool the remaining five children, including one with special needs.

Learn more about the new book Special Education at Home! via jennyherman.com

Special Education at Home Q & A [Plus GIVEAWAY!]

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UPDATE: Congratulations to comment #3, Kayleen! You are the winner of an autographed copy of Special Education at Home by Shawna Wingert!

Though I have not met autism mom Shawna Wingert in person, I think we’d have no problem sitting in a coffee shop should we get to meet in real life some day. I am a fangirl of her writing. She writes with such heart and her beautiful words seep into the souls of special needs parents. I’m excited to have her here today for a Q&A session about her new book, Special Education at Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-Box Learners. Be sure to read all the way through, because Shawna has a surprise. Let’s get started!

Me: Tell me a little about your special needs homeschool story.

Shawna: Well, the honest answer is, I NEVER in a million years thought I would homeschool. I was solidly a public school girl growing up, and assumed my children would do the same. When my oldest son was in the second grade, however, it became clear that school was not working for him – at all. So we made the leap. (You can read the full story here.)

Me: Why did you decide to write Special Education at Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-Box Learners?

Learn about the new book Special Education at Home! via jennyherman.comShawna: When we received my sons’ various diagnoses, we were already homeschoolers. What surprised me were how many people just assumed we would put them back into a school environment to let the “experts” teach them. The truth is, a mom homeschooling a child with special needs is subject to constant scrutiny for her decision to homeschool. My child see two therapists and a developmental pediatrician regularly. All three of them are constantly asking questions about my sons’ educations. Sometimes, I feel supported in our decision to homeschool. (It’s the BEST to have a doctor say,”I can see now that homeschooling really is the best decision for him. You are doing a great job.”) Sometimes, I am asked a lot of questions about how my child is performing in school and how I am teaching him – more than a parent of a special needs child in a school program would ever have to answer for. That can be tough. I wrote the book to essentially encourage other parents that they are more than qualified to teach their child with special needs at home.

Me: I know people can look at the table of contents, but what would you say is the essence of your book? Is it inspiring? Practical?

Shawna: I hope it is both! My favorite quote ever about the book is from Jamie Martin (author of Give Your Child the World and editor at Simple Homeschool). She graciously said, “Her voice (Shawna’s) is caring, guilt free, and full of both practical advice and inspiration.” I cried when I read her words because that is exactly what I was hoping for. The reality is that we need both. We need the practical, how do I deal with being at doctors appointments twice a week and still fitting in math, or what do I do on days when my child was up until 3 AM. But we also need the encouragement, the you can do this, the you are not alone. I hope the book does both!

Me: Have special needs homeschoolers responded to your book, telling you what speaks to them the most?

Shawna: I am so blessed to have a very loyal, loving audience. Yes, I have been lucky enough to hear from many readers who were touched by the book. Some of my favorites are from moms who are thinking about homeschooling, or are just getting started. A sweet momma who is beginning her special needs homeschooling journey this month sent me this message:

“I will be embarking on this homeschool journey for the first time. I will be letting go of all the services and accommodations I have fought so hard for. However, it is liberating knowing I am no longer chained to a system that does not know how to teach to my children’s style of learning. I was so relieved to hear  your ‘out of the box’ approach . A lot of the pressure I was feeling truly subsided. Thank you for getting out there and sharing your experiences.”

Me: What a great testimonial! Here’s my final book question: What’s your favorite part of the book?

Shawna: This is a difficult question to answer. I guess my favorite parts of the book are the ones that tackle everyday issues that most authors seem to avoid. The chapter about sleep and how much it impacts education (and thus makes homeschooling a child with chronic sleep issues a great choice) is one of them. So is the reality of how much we use screen time to aid our homeschooling days. My favorite message in the book is ‘Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.’ I fall into this trap all the time. Somehow, if things are tough, I am convinced that it is my fault – that somehow I am messing it all up. What I am learning is that sometimes, some things are just hard and must be lived through. And that’s OK. No one is the blame. Not even me.

Me: Thank you for answering all these questions! I can’t wait to see how many special needs homeschooling families will be blessed by your book. Is there a way people can connect with you and get further help from you?

Shawna: I blog at NotTheFormerThings.com about this beautiful, messy life I have been given. I also coach other parents on creating and implementing homeschool plans for their children, no matter what their needs. Coaching information is available here.

Here’s the exciting news! Shawna has a giveaway for my readers. One entrant will win an autographed copy of Special Education at Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-Box Learners!

I’m keeping this giveaway super simple.

If you already subscribe to my weekly newsletter, leave a comment saying so. If you need to subscribe, just click the red button below. You can unsubscribe at any time. If you stay subscribed, you’ll receive my survival guide for special needs parents when it’s done, for FREE. Remember to leave a comment here that you subscribed–it’s your entry.

For a bonus entry, subscribe to Shawna’s personal notes by entering your email address in the bar at the top of her site. Then leave another comment.

If you love giveaways and you want more entries, you can share this on your social media and leave a comment for each place you shared it. Just click the share buttons below.

The giveaway closes Sunday night at 11:59 EST and a random winner will be contacted Monday. The contest is for US folks 18 years and older. No affiliation with any social media. No purchase necessary. Thanks for entering!


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Click on over to find a list of apps to use in special needs homeschooling! via jennyherman.com

Big List of Apps for Special Needs Homeschooling

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Let’s face it. Technology is here to stay. Additionally, many of our kids with special needs gravitate towards technology. Why not put that to good use? I asked some other special needs homeschooling moms to tell me their favorite apps, both for education and coping with challenges. Here’s what they came up with. Many of the ladies who gave suggestions also have blogs, so have fun clicking over to their blogs via the links at their names. (more…)

Discover what to expect your first year homeschooling a child with special needs! via jennyherman.com

7 Things To Expect In Your First Year Homeschooling A Child With Special Needs

I am super excited to introduce you to Gabriella Volpe today! If you are a special needs homeschooler, you need to check out her site. Today she’s going to share with you what to expect in your first year of homeschooling a child with special needs.

If you’re embarking on this homeschooling voyage with a child with special needs for the first time this year, here are tips based on what I learned in my first year as a homeschooler. (more…)

Read on to see how to deal with people who think you shouldn't homeschool your child with special needs. via jennyherman.com

FAQ: How Do You Deal With Those Who Think You Shouldn’t Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs?

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Though homeschooling has become more mainstream over the past few years, there are still those who will ask you why you homeschool your child with special needs. Some will ask, listen, and thank you for your reply. Others will come back with some sort of criticism. One reader asks,

“How do you deal with less than understanding responses and attitudes (complaints) from people you and your child will be around regularly? At what point do you just NOT explain or ask for accommodation, and just try to be diplomatic?”

Good question!


Click over to discover why one autism mom homeschools her child! via jennyherman.com

7 Reasons I Homeschool My Child with Special Needs Instead of Sending Him to School

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When my son was three-and-a-half, I took him for an evaluation through the local school district. The social worker said to me, “I understand why you’re concerned, but I can’t check off enough boxes for autism. His coping skills are good enough for now. My recommendation is to put him in a regular preschool room. Either they’ll never know he’s in the building, or his world will fall apart.”

His world fell apart.

It was probably the worst six weeks of our lives. Too much noise and too many kids overwhelmed my son’s system, turning him into someone else. I made the tough decision to put him into the developmental delay prechool room in the district.

It worked. A smaller class with a higher adult-to-child ratio provided my son with a better setting. BUT

But as is common with many kids on the autism spectrum, the teacher got the great kid and I dealt with the fallout. The second year was rough. Getting him onto the bus–a one-hour ride for a few miles–and dealing with him after school challenged me. I basically had to leave him alone for an hour after school to let him decompress. He eventually started bring home regressive behaviors.

I never intended to homeschool my children, despite my experience as an elementary classroom teacher. That year, when the regressive behaviors became too much, we pulled my son.

This is why I homeschool my son with special needs… (more…)

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The Pros & Cons of Educational Videos

Have you ever been knocked down by germs for more than a couple of days? Five years ago my boys were down for two weeks. My five year-old with Aspergers wasn’t into regular cartoons. I found NEST Entertainment Animated Heroes DVDs (updated to Inspiring Animated Heroes) at my local library. We all fell in love with these high-quality videos.

After over two weeks of extensive viewing and the aftermath, I compiled a list of pros and cons of watching educational videos with my boys. (more…)