• Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk

    12 September 2014 / Challenges, Helping Each Other / 0 Comment

    There are 3 questions below that we've heard this week from some of our homeschool friends:

    (Some of you are shy and share with us but feel funny posting here...which is always fine! Feel free to email thoughts and concerns to sabrina@7sistershomeschool.com!)


    Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk

    Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk


    - How do I deal with stall tactics? My kid seems to have so many pressing needs when it's time to work on a school task. Tweens and teens come up with some REALLY creative stall tactics. How can I get 'em moving on the school work without turning every day into a battle?

    - Do you approach your homeschool high school day in terms of HOURS of schoolwork, or a specific list of tasks to accomplish, or some other way?

    - My teen is terrible at following directions. Driver's Ed is coming up soon and I worry that this is going to mess him up in trying to earn his driver's license. How can we improve direction following for a kid who is smart, just struggles in this area for some reason?

    Do you have help to offer? C'mon, don't keep all your great ideas to yourself!


    Offer ideas to help homeschoolers conquer the challenges above, or start another topic in your comment; it's up to you.


    If you need Homeschool Help: YOUR TURN to Talk!

    Tell us what's bugging you, frustrating you, confusing you, intimidating you. Let's all put our heads together and see if we can help each other.

    If you can offer someone else Homeschool Help: YOUR TURN to Talk!

    Tell us what's working great in your homeschool. Share success stories -- you are not bragging, because we ASKED you to tell us the good stuff to encourage us all.

    On Saturdays, we want you to comment here. There's no set theme. This is an "open thread" post.


    These simple rules will suffice:

    1. Start your comment with a topic word or phrase, like "Algebra I," or "editing writing," or "time management." That will make it easy for people to scroll through and read more on the topics that most interest them.

    2. If you are responding to someone who already commented, use the SAME topic they used.

    3. Keep it judgment-free! We need encouragement. We need ideas. We don't need to slam each other if we disagree. There are no cookie-cutters for creating homeschool success.

    4. If you share a link, make sure it's relevant. Spammy links will be deleted by admins.

    That's about it!


    What's going on in your homeschool this week?

    Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk

  • Battling Negative Homeschool Attitude With a Change in Perspective

    08 September 2014 / Challenges, Helping Each Other / 0 Comment

    A new academic year is under-way. Let's take a moment to look at our homeschools. How are things going?

    Do you feel like you're still in that warm, fluffy, sunshiny part of the year...or are you feeling frustrated? Difficulties can strike unexpectedly in our homeschools. Regardless of how you are feeling about things at any given moment, you're most likely doing better than you think!

    What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are. –C.S. Lewis in The Magician’s Nephew

    Although this is a quote from a children’s book series (The Chronicles of Narnia), it holds some wisdom for us grown-ups, too.

    homeschool attitude


    Homeschool Attitude

    Allow me to rephrase:

    What we see in other people and what we hear other people say, depends a great deal on how we see ourselves (and listen to ourselves). It also depends on what sort of personality we have.

    If we change perspective (the way we are seeing and listening to ourselves and the people around us) we can avoid unhelpful attitudes and behaviors. This can be a key that opens a door for healthy change. Take a look at this:

    Unhelpful look at self Unhelpful look at others Helpful look at self and others
    Self-critical Critical of others At peace with self and world, as much as circumstances allow
    Perfectionistic Avoidant Can take life as it comes, with mistakes and imperfections
    Finding things to worry about or denying there are problems Nagging or *sticking head in the sand* Change what can be changed (mostly *you*), accept the things that cannot be changed (*mostly others*)
    Living in the past or postponing life for the future Unforgiveness of others or brushing aside relationships while you strive for future goals Living in the present, being respectful of past and future


    Here’s an example:

    The cashier at the local grocery store snips at you and stands staring into space while you bag all your own groceries. If you take the perspective that she is trying to offend you or has a bad attitude you will feel angry. If you take the perspective that she thinks you look funny and have bad breath, you will feel embarrassed. You might have a panic attack if her behavior reminds me of your abusive first grade teacher.

    homeschool attitude

    Unhealthy perspectives can eventually change your personality (for the worse). You could allow yourself to become the kind of person who is rude to cashiers or makes other people do your shopping.

    On the other hand, changing your perspective might change your experience:

    What if you find out that the cashier’s husband just filed for divorce, her father is extremely ill, she lost her wallet with the cash from her paycheck, her first grade child is failing math and she couldn’t find her dog this morning?

    “Poor girl,” you might be thinking… and WILLINGLY bag your own groceries.

    A change in perspective can change your experience. A lifestyle of keeping healthy perspectives helps improve one’s personality.


    Try changing where you stand by changing your perspective, you’ll see more peace and strength in your life.


    homeschool attitude

    Help your homeschool high schooler learn about perspective through solid, but not stolid, curriculum (that looks GREAT on a transcript).


    Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective,

    Human Development from a Christian Worldview, and

    World History and Philosophy!

    These user-friendly, not fussy, e-texts help your homeschooler understand himself better and the world around him better- while building a powerful transcript!

    And for a video encouraging a new perspective, listen to Sabrina's reminder; we are ALL works in progress.

  • Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk

    29 August 2014 / Challenges, Encouragement, Helping Each Other / 0 Comment

    We want to try something new this school year here at 7Sisters.


    Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk

    Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk


    If you need Homeschool Help: YOUR TURN to Talk!

    Tell us what's bugging you, frustrating you, confusing you, intimidating you. Let's all put our heads together and see if we can help each other.

    If you can offer someone else Homeschool Help: YOUR TURN to Talk!

    Tell us what's working great in your homeschool. Share success stories -- you are not bragging, because we ASKED you to tell us the good stuff to encourage us all.

    On Saturdays, we need you to comment here. There's no set theme. This is an "open thread" post.


    These simple rules will suffice:

    1. Start your comment with a topic word or phrase, like "Algebra I," or "editing writing," or "time management." That will make it easy for people to scroll through and read more on the topics that most interest them.

    2. If you are responding to someone who already commented, use the SAME topic they used.

    3. Keep it judgment-free! We need encouragement. We need ideas. We don't need to slam each other if we disagree. There are no cookie-cutters for creating homeschool success.

    4. If you share a link, make sure it's relevant. Spammy links will be deleted by admins.

    That's about it!


    What's going on in your homeschool this week?

    Homeschool Help: Your Turn to Talk

  • Homeschool Transcript for a Special Needs High Schooler: 7 Areas to Capture

    19 August 2014 / By Age Group, Challenges, Helping Each Other, High School, Transcripts / 0 Comment

    How does a homeschool high schooler with special needs develop a good transcript?
    transcript for special needs high schooler

    Transcript for Special Needs High Schooler

    A homeschool high schooler with special needs should have a transcript that reflects a rich education full of experiences and gift-development. The transcript for special needs high schoolers should also be honest about academics- a child who is not capable of doing Algebra II, should not have some cheesy version of it appear on the transcript. (Simply note in the legend/key of the transcript that he was educated according to his abilities and suggestions given by his diagnostic testing. I recommend that testing be attached to the transcript at graduation, so that helping agencies, like community college or vocational rehabilitation are adequately informed.)

    Here are a few tips for developing a great transcript for a special needs high schooler:

    1. Concentrate on strengths- find an area or two and level up or show as specialty course.

    Lean into them for a leveling-up experience or a special course. Why not have a full credit in Civil War Studies or Auto Mechanics? Click here to find out how to level up or earn an alternate (specialty course) credit.

    transcript for special needs high schooler

    2. Compensate in weak areas

    Homeschool high school is the time for your special needs teen to remediate where there are academic Dedicate some time to:

    -Writing skills

    7 Sisters is can be helpful to some special needs homeschool high schoolers because there are daily, short lessons. Your teen may need supervision or may need to discuss and dictate, according to his/her abilitieis. Start with our FREE whitepaper on writing research with reluctant teens. Then follow up with story writing or essay writing.

    -Inferential reading skills

    Build inferential reading skills (Edcon’s Bring the Classics to Life are great at this. Btw-ignore the alleged grade levels).

    -Literature-reading skills

    7 Sisters Literature Study Guides are no-busywork and clearly understood by many high schoolers. You may work together in a discuss/dictate format. Try our FREE Anne of Green Gables Literature Study Guide for starters.

    -Math skills

    Try Pearson Education’s Pacemaker Math series

    -Science skills

    Try Westfield Studios. Their courses are delightful but be sure to follow the syllabus.

    transcript for special needs high schooler

    3. Have LOTS of sparkle on the transcript: community involvement, appropriate competitions, service opportunities

    This is where your special needs homeschool high schooler can shine. Plow into those talents and strengths. Volunteer at church- nursery, sound system, worship team/choir. Get involved in local homeschool organizations or in the case of spectrum teens- look into local autism/Aspergers support groups. Play a sport. Join a music group.

    Look into competitions. There are lots of online opportunities- looks at Scholastic, local college sometimes sponsor science fairs, Poetry Outloud, Lego Robotics Leagues, National History Day, etc. Your teen doesn't need to win- just have the experience for his transcript.

    Volunteer at local food banks, libraries, missions organizations.

    Show these appropriately on the transcript for a special needs high schooler, not as credits, but as extracurriculars.

    4. Try some apprenticeships

    Discuss with your special needs homeschool high schooler good work ethic skills: promptness, politeness, industriousness. Then let him/her try his skills with a time-limited apprenticeship. Look at local farms, florists shops, libraries, offices. Record these on the transcript under Career Exploration. Sherri Seligson has a great book on Interning

    5. Teach interviewing skills

    Practice with your high schooler some interview skills. Even if your homeschooler has special needs, he/she will need basic skills: dress business casual or business, sit straight, hands on knees, look toward/at interviewer, answer in complete sentences, have some questions to ask the interviewer. Record this as Career Exploration.

    Check my Homeschool Career Exploration Pinterest board for posts on interview skills:


    6. If needed, update diagnostic testing if he/she will need compensations at college level

    Not all teens need to go to college, but if your special needs homeschool high schooler feels led to go- it might be time to get some diagnostic testing. Look at a local educational psychologist or psychological testing service. The test results will include a list of needed compensations, if applicable.

    Include a summary in the transcript legend/key and attach the testing.

    7. Pray

    You know this, anyway. Does your teen know how to turn to God for help and guidance? Record Religion on the transcript.

    What are some suggestions you would make for homeschoolers with special needs?


    Transcript for Special Needs High Schooler

  • 7 Success Tips for a Homeschool High School Student with ADHD

    17 August 2014 / By Age Group, Challenges, Helping Each Other, High School / 0 Comment

    In my years as a homeschool advisor and mental health counselor, I’ve worked with a number of homeschooling high schoolers who could be called ADHD. They are not alone, take a look at Parenting.com’s slideshow of famous people with ADHD.

    Sometimes homeschool high school students with ADHD feels badly about themselves and worry about their future. They may have difficulty focusing in their textbooks or notice that they are not favorites with peers. Teens NEED to know that they are NOT defective, NOT useless, NOT incapable. In fact, God has plans for them. They NEED to be empowered to find their gifts, experiment with learning styles, be active, and practice social skills.

    Homeschool High school student with ADHD

    Homeschool High School Student with ADHD

    Every ADHD high schooler is different. Here are 7 tips that have been helpful to the ADHD high schoolers I work with, and some may work for your homeschooler:

    1. If they seek God’s gifts and callings, they’ll feel more confidence, SO emphasize career exploration and self-knowledge.

    Work together (discussion format) through our FREE Career Exploration Questionnaire and our Career Exploration Workbook.

    Once a week or so, pick an activity off my Homeschool Career Exploration Pinterest board to work on together:

    2. If you use a textbook, pick one with short chapters.

    Not all high school textbook writers believe that each chapter must be 31 pages long. Look through possible text. Pick one that does the job in 5-10 page chapters. Pearson Education Pacemaker curriculum does this.

    Our 7 Sisters Psychology, Human Development, World History and Philosophy, and Early Childhood Education follow the short-chapter format.

    Homeschool High School Student with ADHD

    3. Try different formats literature and textbooks. Audiobooks are great for literature. Digital formats for textbooks include ebooks or read on computer or Kindle. The audio format or digital wavelengths help some teens.

    More textbook publishers are including an ebook format or Kindle format. You can see all of our curriculum on our Amazon Kindle page:

    4. Continue the great hands-on learning you’ve done for so long.

    Here is a post on creative credit earning.

    And here’s a link to our FREE whitepaper on Earning a Fun and Easy Fine Arts Credit.

    5. Break big projects into small projects.
    It may require guidance and prompting from you because even broken down into small projects, many high schooler with ADHD, even in a homeschool format, have trouble with big projects like research papers. Help your teen break up projects into small, clearly defined (type it up) goals.
    An example of this strategy is used in our FREE whitepaper on Research Papers for Reluctant Writers.

    6. Concentrate on daily self-care.

    Sometimes homeschool high school students with ADHD are not very body-aware. They need to learn the DEADLY SINS of self-care: NO ONE likes to be around someone who has body odor, bad breath, unwashed face, or greasy hair.

    7. Practice social skills.
    ADHD high schoolers sometimes need to go back and retrain on some things that they learned in elementary homeschool but they have forgotten.

    Skills like holding conversations, appropriate social distance, and reading nonverbals build a teen’s confidence and ability to make and keep friends.

    What are some ways you help your homeschool high school student with ADHD?


    Here’s a rather clinical but helpful video by one of my favorite experts on ADHD.

    Here’s a precious talk from Sabrina about “average” homeschool high schoolers:


    Homeschool High School Student with ADHD

  • Help! My Homeschooler Hates Writing!

    11 July 2014 / Challenges, Helping Each Other, Lang. Arts - Lit. & Writing / 0 Comment

    Writing in your homeschool high school is not automatically an easy subject. Having an honest conversation with your students about what's working, what isn't, what changes YOU as the teacher can make, and what changes THEY as the student can own will make a world of difference. Equipping strong writers is a goal you can reach; you just might need to adjust the way you're attempting it.

    homeschooler hates writing

    Homeschooler Hates Writing

    "Every time I ask my child to write, she says she doesn't know what to say. Getting started is so hard!"

    "My daughter melts down when I correct her writing assignments. How can I help her become a better writer without her taking it so personally?"

    "When I give my son a writing task, he starts off fine, but he ends up rambling and can't stick to the assignment."

    "My child's writing is lifeless. How can I help him without imposing my personal style on his writing?"

    Writing is not a mystical, intuitive process for most people. Just as Math makes sense conceptually to some people but most of us need to have it broken down into steps for us to follow, writing can be broken down in a variety of ways to become more accessible to a variety of writers. Talk to your student to find out WHICH PIECES of the process are most intimidating.

    Is getting started hard? Find help with the videos on the 7 Sisters Homeschool YouTube channel. There's a 5-part series in this playlist that breaks the writing process down into manageable steps:  7 Sisters Homeschool YouTube Channel.

    Is editing a writing assignment wrecking your relationship with your teen? Change your approach to correcting writing assignments.

    If your homeschooler hates writing, try this: lose the red pen and instead try talking about the positives in the piece first. Then address simple spelling and grammatical errors; those are not subjective. After your child has corrected misspellings and grammatical errors, read the piece aloud and see if an awkward sentence might leap out to your child without you even making an issue of it. Stop to ask questions for clarification. Suggest that your child make notes on the paper in the margins regarding places to consider changes in wording.

    You have to edit assignments or their writing will never improve, but some forms of correction feel less threatening than others. If you have a student who is in tears every time you hand back a writing assignment for further edits, a new approach may help.

    What to do with a "ramblin' rose"? Many writers hate to start with an outline (I am one of them, actually). But writing a rambling first draft can be effectively followed by outlining! If you encourage your rambler to write from the heart first, then have him or her go back to outline the way the paragraphs support the thesis  (or not!), you may find greater success.

    If you have a lifeless writer, it is a very delicate thing to coax forth a writing voice from your child without imposing your own style on the piece. Talking about your student's goals for the piece with the paper out of sight entirely can be a key to success. Ask questions like these:

    homeschooler hates writing

    Guides to High School Writing at Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced levels - $24.99 each - from 7Sisters EBookstore can help your child become a successful writer!

    * Do you want to convince someone to agree with you?

    * Do you hope your reader will feel an emotion? If so, what emotion?

    * Do you want to encourage the reader to take a specific action when he is finished reading? What action?

    * Do you want the reader to picture something in his mind? Hear a sound in his imagination? Remember a smell or a taste or a touch?

    Once your student has decided on a goal for the piece, it becomes much less threatening for you to say, "You said you wanted me to remember the taste of strawberry ice cream on the boardwalk at the beach. What can you add to your paragraph to help me do that?"

    Even if your homeschooler hates writing, these subtle changes in the approach you take to correcting him or her just may make a world of difference in the writing that is produced...and the level of tension in your homeschool!

     Homeschooler Hates Writing

  • Homeschool Essay Curriculum for ANY Kind of Writer

    10 July 2014 / By Subject, Challenges, Lang. Arts - Lit. & Writing / 0 Comment

    Essay writing is an essential skill for homeschoolers these days- for high school students and even for those in middle school.

    Homeschool Essay Curriculum


    Homeschool Essay Curriculum

    Too many students are either bored or intimidated by the challenge of writing essays.

    Those who are intimidated need a homeschool essay curriculum that will explain the process clearly and in a friendly way. They need assignments broken down into manageable pieces so they don't feel overwhelmed. They need to understand the thinking process that is required for developing good support for an essay thesis.

    Those who are bored need topics that are meaningful to them personally. They need the freedom (even the encouragement!) to write with passion, to write with humor, to write with examples that are out of the ordinary.

    Homeschool essay curriculum from 7sistershomeschool.com is designed to meet the needs of the intimidated as well as the bored student...and students who acutally don't MIND essay writing enjoy it, too!

    Geared to give your student a successful experience, our Guides to Essay Writing, by Marilyn Groop, will introduce essays to your homeschool in this user-friendly, no-busywork format.

    Homeschool Essay Curriculum

    Click the image to view excerpts from all 4 levels of Essay Writing Guides.

    Presented in a 10-week, 4 days per week, format these downloadable pdf  guides will teach your homeschooler the steps to writing a coherent essay including:

    -Basic essay format

    -Persuasive essays

    -Literary analysis

    -Compare/contrast essays

    -Editorials/letters to the editor

    -Tips for taking a short-answer essay test)

    The Guides include 3 essay rubrics that you can use to grade the essays, as well as an answer key to the short-answer essay test.

    For more posts about essay writing, check these out:

    Start Strong With Middle School Essays

    3 Helps for Essays for Teens Who Don't Love Them

    How To Strengthen Your Essay Writing Skills


    Take advantage of the great writing resources Vicki Tillman has pinned to her High School Writing Pinterest Board, too!

    Homeschool Essay Curriculum


  • When Your Homeschool Student Needs Writing Help

    09 July 2014 / By Subject, Challenges, Helping Each Other, Lang. Arts - Lit. & Writing / 0 Comment

    It's no secret that developing good writing skills is important. Many students struggle with writing because they start the process with pencil and paper.

    Homeschool Writing Help

    Homeschool Writing Help

    Wait a minute! Isn't that where writing HAS to start?

    Writing only starts with the blank page for people who are natural writers...you know, the ones who just love words, made up stories as little children, and thrive on discussing ideas. For many very "literal thinkers," learning to write needs to start in a very different place.

    Perhaps you have a student who hates to write, or who finds it terribly annoying, or whose final drafts end up dry, vague, or lifeless. If so, taking a new look at the writing process can give you (and your child) a perspective that's empowering instead of frustrating.

    Writing is communication.

    Some people find communication easy. Some find it invigorating. But some find it to be difficult. They are often misunderstood when they speak. They have trouble articulating things more than one way. They deal well with facts, but ideas are vague and slippery. These kids need homeschool writing help, and it needs to start before the blank piece of paper is in front of them.

    Writing is expression.

    More than the simple conveyance of fact, good writing also gives the reader a sense of WHY the author bothered to set these words on paper. There is purpose. There is often opinion, emotion, or evaluation involved. For very literal thinkers, it feels vulnerable and dangerous to allow feelings or preferences or passion to appear in their writing. If they do not understand the importance of this element, they may be truly unable to incorporate anything more than a basic listing of facts when they write.

    Writing is individual.

    The rules of grammar and spelling do not change, and a well-structured sentence is a well-structured sentence. But every piece of effective writing includes the writer's own unique voice. A student who struggles to write descriptively may find strength in writing a persuasive piece. A people-pleaser who hates to take one position to the exclusion of another may be almost unable to write persuasively, but give him or her the chance to write an expository (how-to) piece and the homeschool world becomes a happier place.

    Do you and your student need homeschool writing help?

    Some time back I created a 5-part series of videos to get you started from a different perspective. The first video in the series is here:

    Vicki made available a great way to get started with Research Writing in this post - Help! My Reluctant Writer Can't Do a Homeschool Research Paper!

    Vicki has lots of resources on Pinterest, too. Here's a link to one of her boards with lots of great homeschool writing help: Homeschool Writing Ideas.

    The writing guides in the ebookstore offer homeschool writing help that is easily adaptable to different learning styles. Click the images below and view excerpts from guides for Essay Writing, Research Writing, Poetry Writing and Short Story Writing at a variety of levels from Introductory to Advanced. Written in a friendly style, designed to help students understand WHY different pieces of the writing process are important, they work well with even reluctant writers.

    Homeschool Writing Help

    Essay writing helps teens learn to articulate ideas clearly and effectively. Each ebook Guide is just $3.99.

    Homeschool Writing Help

    Both MLA and APA Research Paper Guides are available.

    Homeschool Writing Help

    Lots of homeschoolers forget to try writing poetry...and lots of kids end up LOVING it!

    Homeschool Writing Help

    So many kinds of short stories...even some that don't require a vivid imagination!

    Homeschool Writing Help

  • 5 Basics for Homeschooling Children with Learning Disabilities

    5 Basics for Homeschooling Children with Learning Disabilities

    25 February 2014 / Challenges, Encouragement / 1 Comment

    I know by experience that homeschooling a child with learning differences or learning disabilities can be a challenge.

    One of my children had dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, and a bit of childhood ADD-inattentive. Fortunately for me I had training as a counselor and my mother, Dr. Rose Kelleremann, was an educational psychologist. I had good support and lots of ideas.

    Tips for helping all kinds of learners1) Develop strengths

    God made each child to have gifts and a special place in the universe. Homeschool parents have the opportunity to help their children discover and develop these gifts. My son is creative, visual, and loves movies. His strengths are in story-writing, art, silliness, and (as we learned over time) filmmaking. In elementary school, he told and drew stories, he scribbled pictures, he reveled in silliness.

    Today, he's an education major at Lancaster Bible College. All his strengths from childhood give him sparkle in his studies.

    2) Compensate for weaknesses51VHVWYJGGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

    My son's dyslexia was a weakness because it hampered his ability to read. We worked on compensating for his weakness by using sight words instead of phonics. (Our favorite books for sight reading are Mary Manz Simon's Bible Stories.) We would read these aloud together (me reading just a little louder than him), pointing to each word as we read. We read over and over, for days, until the book (and each individual word in it) was memorized. Simon's books revisit those same words so there is much re-enforcement.

    To help with his auditory processing struggles, we found a 1904 diction book that was filled with ditties and rhymes. We memorized and said them daily, enunciating consonants carefully and emphasizing leaving space between words. Here's one of our favorites: Round and round the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran.

    Social Skills for ChildrenHe had just enough ADD to feel awkward in social settings, so I worked with him on 10 basic social skills. (They can be found in our book Social Skills for Children- just $3.99, btw.) This paid off with his ability to employ skills and make friends at church, AWANA, karate, and co-op

    3) Use multi-sensory techniques

    We did lots multi-sensory learning. We did hands-on work with reading: making letter and word cards of glue and glitter, felt, and sandpaper. We wrote in shaving cream, finger paint, and sand. We rubber banded 4 color-makers together to write multi-colored letters and words. We sang spelling words. (We hopscotched math problems, too.) It took a long time to get the basics down.  But it clicked in around 3rd grade.

    4) Have fun

    My son specialized in silliness. We made sure to give him plenty of time for fun (this often included interrupted lessons while he and siblings made up noisy conversations between imaginary characters).

    5) Pray

    Of course. "Nuff said. (But if you'd like some encouragement look at our prayer journals- activities to help expand your prayer life.)

    To this day, my son leans into his strengths to enhance his success at college and just to have fun with his friends. Here are 2 of his You Tubes, one from his college lesson on Ralph Waldo Emerson, one with his buddy, Jake, spoofing Lord of the Rings:

  • Help your child interact well with his special needs friends

    Equipping Your Child to Interact Well With Their Special Needs Peers

    24 February 2014 / Challenges, Encouragement, News / 0 Comment

    Sabrina shared some important skills in this classic post.

    Parenting a child with special needs is no easy job, and I have the utmost respect for these parents.  I also have the responsibility to equip my own kids to understand how to appropriately interact with peers with special needs.  Here are some suggestions for helping young people become confident in reaching out to build relationships with peers who may look, sound, communicate, process information or move differently than they do.Help your child interact well with special needs peers

    *  PRAY.  One of the things we need to pray for our own kids is that they would grow in love for others, and grow in understanding those who may be confusing or frustrating to them in their flesh.  By beginning with prayer (in this endeavor, and in all things) we are going to the Source of all love, and asking Him to enlarge our children's hearts to extend love to all men.

    *  TALK AHEAD OF TIME.  Sometimes we fail to talk to our kids about physical disabilities, speech impairments, autism, developmental disabilities, or the myriad other challenges that are a part of everyday life for many individuals but may not occur in our own immediate world.  Intentionally introduce the subject of ministering in love to people with special needs in your homeschool.  Use video, books, and conversation to honestly and fearlessly explore the topic.

    Allow your kids to begin with using whatever words they need to in expressing their feelings when they think about interacting with someone with special needs.  If they say Prepare your child for positive interactions with special needs peersthings like "weird," or "scary" or "embarrassing" in this private conversational context, they are not being mean -- they have to be able to honestly articulate how they feel in their flesh in order to recognize that they need something more, something from God, in order to deal with relationships that are out of their comfort zone.  When you make it safe for them to admit that they are intimidated by certain situations, you can then lovingly show them that Christ is our strength in weakness, and that we need to ask Him to equip us to reach out in love, to change our view of people who are different than us, and to teach us to minister to them in His love.

    If I wait until a situation is unexpectedly thrust upon my child, I have done him (and the person with special needs) a great disservice.  My child needs to be equipped through conversation and research before the situation is in front of him.

    *  BE DIRECT.  Every individual with special needs is just that:  an INDIVIDUAL with special needs.  There is no cookie-cutter that can be applied to a person because of a diagnosis.  The vast majority of people with special needs appreciate direct questions like, "Is there a way that I can help with this, or do you prefer that I stay out of your way?"  Asking the parent of a child with special needs very basic questions like, "What kinds of help may I offer your child?" will do more equipping in a few moments than weeks of fumbling and fearing offense.

    If the child or parent is taken aback by your question, don't be offended.  That is simply your answer; this is a person for whom help from strangers or casual acquaintances is not desired.  Typically this type of reaction is NOT what you will get, but sometimes an individual or family is in the process of emotional adjustment to the special needs, and may not be comfortable to talk about it with you.  If you have asked the question in love, you can rest assured that you have not really offended, only offered help and been told that it is not needed at this time.Prepare your child for good interactions with a special needs peer


    *  DON'T CRINGE.  If your children are young, they are likely to ask something of a person with special needs (especially visible physical disabilities) that may make you want to cringe.  Of a person with atrophied limbs, "Why do you legs look like that?" is not an insult, it's a genuine request for information.  The person who is dealing with those atrophied limbs every moment of  every day is likely to simply answer the question.  Don't make the situation complicated by jumping in to answer for them unless they seem unwilling to answer for themselves.  Following up with a gentle word of appreciation for the information validates everyone involved.

    *  GET SPECIFIC WHEN YOU NEED TO.  An ongoing relationship (a co-op, a Sunday school class, a drama production) with someone with special needs will result in specific challenges where a solution will not be obvious.  Pray, take a deep breath, and deal with them specifically when they arise.  The longer you put off asking the awkward question or suggesting the delicate suggestion the harder it will be for everyone.

    A hygiene issue arose in a play I directed in which a teenage student on the autism spectrum was unable to process my instructions to the whole cast about being diligent in using deodorant when we were working up a sweat close to one another onstage.  (Honestly, our church sanctuary where we held rehearsals was beginning to smell like a locker room!)  I had already spoken to the parents to make sure that the student was able to use deodorant, and I knew that the parents had sent a stick in to rehearsal.  But group admonitions like, "Wow, guys, we are really work hard here and it's starting to smell like it!  May I tactfully suggest we all check our deodorant?" were lost.  The response I got was a big smile:  "I made sure I put it on when I got out of the shower!"

    Rehearsing for dramaWhat to do?  How to breathe?  The other students were struggling mightily with the situation.  I prayed, I took my student leaders in the cast aside privately and explained the new plan to them, and then I turned the challenge into a new cast-bonding activity.  In a cast meeting, I explained that as we approached opening night the sweat was getting out of control, and we would have to re-apply deodorant whenever I called for it.  Regardless of when you last put it on, it would  be an act of cast solidarity to add a little more when asked to.  My student leaders piped in with encouragement to everyone - "I make sure I shower and put on deodorant before rehearsal, and I STILL am getting smelly by the end of the first hour.  I think re-applying during rehearsal is a good idea."

    Guess what?  It worked beautifully!  "RE-APPLY!!" became a rallying cry for the cast.  I would call it out, or one of the student leaders who noticed things "going south" onstage would start it, and before you know it every member of the cast was calling it out in response, marching merrily to their duffle bags to pull out a stick of deodorant.  It was the craziest thing; what could have ostracized a student became a rallying point for everyone in the cast.

    *  ADDRESS YOUR OWN FEARS.  Sometimes we struggle to equip our kids to deal appropriately with special needs because we ourselves are uneasy or face fears of our own related to the particular disability or challenge.  Be honest with God first about your fears.  Then find someone with whom you can share honestly about your struggle.  Seek education for yourself via the internet or community resources.  Joni and Friends has fantastic resources for understanding individuals with physical disabilities.  Autism Help offers good information about spectrum disorders.

    Joni: a study guideOne VERY important book for homeschool high schoolers to read is Joni by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is the autobiography of Joni, who was confined to a wheelchair after a diving accident when she was a teenager. She shares about God's redemptive love as she encourages others with her Joni and Friends ministry. Check out our $3.99 study guide to Joni!

    What has helped you equip yourself and your homeschoolers to minister lovingly to individuals with special needs?

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