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Free Resources for those Considering Homeschooling

How do you climb Denali? How do you build a rocket and send it into orbit? Or compete in a decathlon? Is that how it feels when you consider the prospect of homeschooling your kids?

Walking away from the familiar into the unknown can be mighty intimidating! That is especially true when the stakes are high. Few things are as important as your child’s education. Is it really possible for parents to take charge of this vital area and be successful?

We get it! Parents just like you have been concerned about the same questions, faced the same unfamiliar territory, and wondered whether homeschooling was possible for their family. Here’s good news: you’re not alone and help is just a few clicks away!

AFHE’s set of three free MP3s provides a great way to get started, as you listen to experienced homeschool moms address those common concerns and share how you can get started in this new endeavor.

Doing anything worthwhile takes effort. Climbing Denali or building a rocket might seem beyond your abilities, but when you get connected with someone who has done it before and can shed light on the unknown, the challenge looks completely different, making something intimidating into something exciting and inviting!

Also, check out AFHE’s Ten Questions About Homeschooling in Arizona

Note: Because this event took place in Arizona, descriptions of the legal aspects of homeschooling may not be the same as in your state. To learn up-to-date information for your state, visit homeschoolfreedom.com or hslda.org.
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Easy Steps to Filing Your FAFSA

by Sylvia Miller

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is applying for any financial aid to help pay for college, you or your student will fill out a FAFSA every year they attend college. This is for graduated students only, not high schoolers participating in dual enrollment. In Arizona, you can file a FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year between October 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by September 12, 2020. You can file online at fafsa.gov.

FAFSA Determines Financial Need

The purpose of the FAFSA is to evaluate a student’s ability to pay (their expected contribution) and to help a college determine how much help the student needs (unmet need). The form asks questions about income based on your last tax return. It also uses family size and number of children in college as part of the equation. The results determine whether the student is eligible for Federal and State aid and is used by colleges in part to determine eligibility for need-based scholarships.

Filing Steps

There are seven sections or steps in the FAFSA. The first section is general information regarding the student, including contact information. The second section asks for income and expense information from the student’s tax return, if applicable. step three determines if a student is required to list parental information (those under 23 years old, single, listed as a dependent typically do). The fourth section is for parent information, if required. Step five asks household size, number of students in the household attending college, and two questions regarding other governmental assistance. In step six, the student should list any college to which he or she intends to apply. (NOTE: write them all down, even ones that seem out of reach.) The last section is signatures.

Student Aid Report

See? Easy! If, after submitting your FAFSA, you find you’ve made a mistake or omitted a piece of information or school, never fear! It is easy to file a correction online once your data have been processed. If you apply online you will receive an email confirming receipt and then, once your FAFSA is processed, another with a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR gives basic information about what your expected contribution is and whether you are eligible for federal grants (free money), loans (money you must pay back) or work study (money you can earn). After receiving the data from the FAFSA and a completed financial aid application from the student, a college will send an award letter with these federal awards listed, along with any school-based financial aid they have given, such as academic or need-based scholarships (free money, although with some strings attached usually).

For more information about student aid, go to studentaid.gov or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

Sylvia Miller lives in Phoenix. She and her husband, Kevin, have the privilege of co-discipling their four children through homeschool. Sylvia works part-time and is going to school verrrrrry slowly with the goal of becoming a nurse in the next eight years. She finds joy in flowers, people-watching in airports, and phone conversations with friends.

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AFHE Home Blog Homeschool Help Special Needs Uncategorized

Top Five Benefits of Listening to Audiobooks

by Jim Hodges

I’ve been recording books for 20 years now. My desire to record books was actually a selfish one. I loved reading out loud and thought that recording books would be a fantastic at-home business to start after I completed 20 years in the U. S. Navy. While I knew that listening to audiobooks could be fun, what I didn’t realize at the time is that listening to an audiobook has lots of other benefits to the listener. Here are the top five.

Benefit #1: Audiobooks Improve Time Management

One of the greatest benefits of audiobooks is that you and your kids can save a lot of time by multitasking—provided the other tasks do not require too much of your attention, of course! Times like when you’re driving to soccer practice, piano lessons, or church, at nap time or bedtime, or together as a family in the evening. Other times people love listening to audiobooks is in the gym, or while going for a walk, or while carrying out daily routines such as cooking or cleaning.

The best routine I’ve heard is from a homeschooling Mom in South Carolina: Every day at lunchtime, Mom puts on the next chapter of a G.A. Henty audiobook. Everybody gets to listen to a chapter while making and eating their lunch. Chapters are typically 30-40 minutes long so that works about right. After the chapter is over Mom gets to ask questions about the chapter. This makes sure everyone is following the story. She can also define new  vocabulary words (or look them up!) or clarify relationships between characters or show on a map where the
action took place.

Once the book is completed and everyone’s had a chance to listen together as a family, there’s a drawing to see who gets to listen to it alone first, and then everyone takes turns listening on their own devices when it works for them. Everyone hears the story.  Mom gets to ensure they all followed along and comprehended it. She also ensures that the moral lessons exemplified are clearly understood and emphasized and that there is a connection made between good morals and good outcomes.

Benefit #2:  Audiobooks Improve Pronunciation and Fluency

As the narrator reads, you will notice and learn—quite passively and accidentally—the way he is pronouncing different words. Not only that, but you will notice his reading speed, his pauses, stresses, and intonations, which are crucial in having fluency and command over any language. What you may not know is that I spend nearly a month preparing a book for recording before I ever turn on a microphone. While reading the book quietly to myself, I’m underling words I’m not sure how to pronounce. Specifically, I’m looking at the names of rivers and mountains and cities and actual people from history.

I own a regular dictionary, a geographic dictionary, and a biographic dictionary which I use to look up unusual words, places, and people. It’s been a huge help to me. You can also do an internet search for “how to pronounce [insert word]” to hear how a word is pronounced.

If your children follow along in the text of one of my recordings, they will see that words often aren’t pronounced the way you’d think based on their spelling! Think of the word Versailles. It’s pronounced ver-SI. Who’d have thought that? Nobody, unless they were French.

Benefit #3: Audiobooks Are Wonderful for Struggling Readers

You may have noticed an increase in the number of people diagnosed with reading difficulties. Maybe, just maybe, it’s really that we are just better at identifying their issues. It is now widely believed that Thomas Edison, Nicolas Tesla, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, and Jules Verne were all dyslexic. There was no diagnosis, of course, but all the evidence appears to be there.

Do you think they would have loved audiobooks? I’ll bet they would have! Do you have a child who is a struggling reader? Or who has been diagnosed with dyslexia or any related issue? What benefits would accrue if you included audiobooks into their day?

Benefit #4:  You Get an Interesting and Lively Experience of the Story!

Not to toot my own horn (well, maybe a little!), but the personality of the narrator can really enhance the flow and feel of a story. My goal when I record a book is to translate the written word into mental pictures for you—of people and places and situations—and also help you to understand the plot better. When you are watching a movie, everything is done for you. Facial expressions, tone of voice, actual appearance of a character, seeing where the story takes place—no imagination required! On the other hand, when listening to an audiobook, it’s almost entirely up to the reader to take the words of the author and help you visualize all that in your head.

Of course, the author’s descriptions form the foundation of the story, and many authors are quite descriptive, which is really helpful—not only to the listener, but to the reader. If it weren’t for the author’s description, how would I know anything about the character? How am I supposed to translate that into their voice, their attitude, their story?

The narrator’s job is to get into the author’s head—to take the words of the author and accurately present the story and bring the personality of each character to life. I do this with character voices of course, but also by varying my inflections, emphases, pauses, accents, and cadences. So much of a story can be told with those elements, in addition to the actual words spoken.

When a narrator uses all of the tools available to him, it really does transform the words of the author into an interesting, lively, and fun experience for the listeners!

Benefit #5: Audiobooks Build “Critical Listening” Skills

Not surprisingly, listening to audio books assists in the development of listening skills. In life, it’s vital to be able to really listen when people speak. Whether it’s a teacher or pastor or parent or employer or friend or spouse, truly listening is one of the most important skills you can develop.

First and foremost, you want to ensure that you completely understand what is expected of you or what an authority over you has required of you or what your friend or spouse is feeling. If you haven’t developed the critical skill of listening, how are you going to know if you got the information right? Anyone can just listen to a story or a book. However, the purpose for listening—or reading for that matter—is not just to be a recipient of a story or information. That’s great for younger listeners, for sure, and what many people refer to as “pleasure reading” or “pleasure listening.” But eventually, we all need to develop the skill of analyzing the logic of the information being transmitted, determining if the author has “made the case” so to speak, and judging the accuracy and legitimacy of the information being shared.

A popular speaker at the AFHE Convention, Jim Hodges produces audiobooks treasured by homeschool families nationwide. Check out his website at jimhodgesaudiobooks.com

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Patriot Academy – Crash Course

Patriot Academy Crash Course – History & Government

Whether you’ve been homeschooling for years or suddenly find yourself thrust into the exciting and amazing opportunity to school from home, Patriot Academy has an inspiring, entertaining, and educational way for you to spend a few afternoons together.

Join other families across the nation as we bring history to life with Chasing American Legends, and live questions and commentary with the Green Family and our special guests including Brad Stine, David Barton, Sam Sorbo, Dr. Alveda King, George Washington, Pastor Jonas Clarke, and more!

You’ll enjoy a full episode of Chasing American Legends with live Q&A and commentary with everyone from the show. Then we’ll jump into Constitution Alive! for a citizen’s review of the U.S. Constitution and live Q&A with Rick Green, America’s Constitution Coach.

4-week, 12 class event

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
May 4 through May 29
1:00-3:00 PM (CST)

Free for AFHE Members!

LOGIN to your member profile first, then click the orange LEARN MORE button below to access the members-only page we’ve created for you.

Current AFHE Members can register for this great 4-week, 12 class event for FREE.

Not an AFHE Member? JOIN TODAY and enjoy this special offer from Patriot Academy for free plus other AFHE Member benefits!

Or you may register for this event for $40 on the Patriot Academy website. 

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Getting an Evaluation for a Special Learner

by Megan Allison

You have concerns that your child might be struggling to learn or communicate. Sometimes the signs present themselves early in a child’s development and oftentimes a student compensates for their struggles through the younger elementary years. Even among professionals the screenings for disorders and challenges may begin early or only happen after a parent’s request. In recent years, autism has received widespread attention; it is common for pediatricians to begin screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder at 18 months. However, what do you do when you suspect dyslexia, speech difficulties, ADD, or another learning challenge? In young children these are classified as developmental delays and identifying these early can equip you to assist your special learner.

Identify Signs of Delay

Identify the signs of a delay with the help of a number of great online resources.  See a list of typical dyslexia signs here: homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com. If you suspect dyslexia, Lexercise offers a free dyslexia test. Other families I have talked with recommend Susan Barton’s program. She manages Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. I found Dianne Craft’s website helpful in understanding how children learn differently. Her website has great videos describing right brain learners and how to teach to their unique learning pathway. If you are looking for speech, language or hearing delays visit asha.org.

Three Avenues for Evaluating Children

Some parents find it beneficial to have their special learner evaluated, and it’s helpful to know your options:

1) Public Evaluations

In the state of Arizona Child Find requires Public Education Agencies to locate, identify, and evaluate children with disabilities birth through age 21. Visit the Child Find website to have your child screened. Generally, evaluations are done periodically in group settings. If the school year has already begun, deliver a written request for evaluation to the school district’s office of your residence. It is important to include any documentation you have that will help the office determine the need for an assessment. Remember you have spent time with your child and should write down what you see him or her struggling with academically. In a school setting the teacher would normally document the difficulties. It can take up to 45 days after the request has been delivered before an evaluation is scheduled.

District Determination: A Team Effort

Once your child has been evaluated, the district determines if your child has needs that qualify for services. The school district is interested in determining whether your child can access their education. Their assessment is built around those parameters and it takes a team, including you, the parent, to determine if your child struggles with learning. When I say the district is focused on your child’s ability to access their education, it is important to understand that parents may have different expectations. For example, my son struggled with speech which is considered expressive language delay; however, he could hear (receptive language), follow directions, and point to what he wanted. Therefore, he could access most of his education even though I wanted him to speak in full sentences like his three-year-old peers.

It is also crucial to understand that the school does not diagnose your child because only medical doctors determine diagnoses. A medical professional’s opinion may be useful to the team in determining the academic needs of your child; however, again, the doctor’s criterion and goals may be far different than what the school decides.

If the evaluation team concludes that your child qualifies for services such as occupational therapy or speech therapy, then an IEP (Individualized Education Program) or a service plan is put in place depending on what the parents choose. An IEP is for students fully enrolled in public school and a service plan is for private or homeschooled students. Regardless of the child’s age, you can homeschool while your child receives services through the school district.

Services for Homeschoolers

Furthermore, it is important to know that services are limited for homeschoolers as the district determines funding on a yearly basis. This is known as proportionate share and is the share that goes to both private school children and homeschool children receiving services in each district on a yearly basis. Families might best utilize this path as a starting point especially if you know very little about your child’s struggles. This was the very spot I found myself in when my son was little and unable to speak, and I knew nothing about helping him speak.

This is typically the least expensive route; however, it was my experience that therapies are delivered in group settings. It was the least effective avenue for reaching the goals I had for my son. Although a child has an IEP (individualized program), group therapy is not targeted to each individual student.

Additional Resources

Three helpful organizations that come alongside you on this journey are HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), SPED Homeschool  and Raising Special Kids. If you are a member of HSLDA, their educational consultants can go through the evaluation results with you and help you develop an IEP for you to implement at home. SPED Homeschool is an organization led by homeschool mom Peggy Ployhar, and excellent resources are provided for parents of special learners. Raising Special Kids is 501c3 in Arizona that was formed to support families of special learners from birth to age 26. It’s families of special learners helping other special learning families. Their website is full or resources, online parent training, periodic magazine, and you can connect with an experienced family for encouragement and support for the journey.

2) Find a Specialist

Another evaluation option is to visit your pediatrician’s office and ask for a referral to a specialist. A referral speeds up the process in scheduling an appointment with a specialist. You’ll need to describe your concerns to your doctor. Write them down ahead of time so you will not forget to share everything. If you’re familiar with delays and are seeing them in your child be sure to note these so you can discuss your concerns at your appointment. It can take up to six months to be seen by a specialist.

This is a more costly route; however, therapy is delivered to the individual child and was most effective for our family. The expectations were higher and my son quickly reached goals. I also had a more direct hand in communication between therapists and working on goals at home. We found faster results with our son going through a private practice.

AFHE members suggest getting evaluated at

While some specific therapies may need to be outsourced, especially in the beginning, observe the specialist, research and educate yourself so you can deliver therapies at home. This, ultimately, saves your family money and guarantees that you are a vital part of your child’s success. Many of the brain balance activities, speech therapy homework, and dyslexic challenges that my son has we worked on at home. I was shown some of the therapies to work on at home. Some I utilized resources from the internet. Finally, others I implemented after reading books about my son’s challenges.

Did you know AFHE has a number of recommended resources for Special Needs Education?
afhe.org/resources/special-needs

3) Consider the Division of Developmental Disabilities

Finally, your child may qualify for services through the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Families of children who have a child with an intellectual (cognitive) disability, autism, epilepsy, or cerebral palsy should consider reaching out to DDD to determine if the child is eligible. I recently spoke to one mother whose child receives habilitation services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy as well as respite and habilitation care on a regular basis. As her child has aged goals have included life skill training. Because she has other typically developing children at home, she expressed that the respite and habilitation care has allowed her child with special needs to have activities outside the home while she spends time with her other children.

Continue Learning Every Day

On a final note, as you wait for your evaluation appointment date, as you execute therapies and throughout your child’s education, he or she does not need to postpone any learning. Lessons continue by hearing the English language read aloud. Education not only happens through print but also through auditory medium. This was life changing for me to know we didn’t need to pause or delay learning because he couldn’t read on his own yet.

I highly recommend incorporating audiobooks into your regular school day. All special learners benefit from this as it increases their vocabulary, allows them to hear the natural rhythms of sentence structure, pick up rhyming words as well as learning about the world around them. Sometimes we use solely audiobooks and at other times pair them with the printed text. It can be helpful for early readers and struggling readers to both hear and see the sentences in a book. There are a number of free and affordable audiobook resources, including:

Looking for encouragement as you teach your special learner? Read Teaching Special Learners: A Good Work

Disclaimer: The author strives to give up to date information regarding special education, but parents should verify details as they seek evaluation(s). Laws and regulations change frequently. This blog post is for guidance and informational purposes only and does imply an endorsement of the websites or professionals mentioned. Article updated 4.15.20

Megan Allison lives in Glendale. She enjoys raising her three boys to love and serve the Lord. Megan actively serves on the board of her local support group where she encourages families in their homeschool journeys. She is passionate about equipping homeschoolers with the tools for success in their homes and communities. She desires to live out Titus 2:3-5. In her spare time, Megan likes to jog, spend time in nature, and date her husband Tim.

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Teaching Special Learners: A Good Work

by Megan Allison

Do you get excited when your child sounds out words and reads a favorite children’s book back to you? What about when he or she starts rhyming words out of the blue? Sings a nursery song? Counts to 20 all on her own? When he says “Mama” for the first time? Wonder, joy, and overflowing love is how I have felt.

How do you feel when your child does not say a word? One year passes and sounds are not turning into words. Second year: sounds, but very few words. Lost words. Concern, fear, dread, frustration. This is where I found myself almost nine years ago with my second beautiful baby boy. A happy, smiling all the time, quiet toddler. A boy without words.

Parents are eager for their children to learn. Reading great stories together bonds a family. Being able to talk and share with one another seals and deepens our relationships. When learning is cumbersome and difficult, don’t we as parents want to drill down to the problem and solve it? We quickly search for answers, wanting to waste no time getting to a solution. We search the Internet, talk to our spouse, consult friends, ask a teacher, express our concern to the pediatrician, and seek out other professionals’ opinions. When we really think there’s an issue, we want to find a diagnosis and get right to executing a plan to help our children on their educational journey. Here are six tips that I’d give myself if we were just starting out:

Take an expert’s opinion with a grain of salt 

Experts are human, too. We’ve had the same pediatrician for almost fifteen years, but when he told me that my middle son was just being lazy about talking, it didn’t make sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, experts can help us rule out diagnoses and narrow our focus. By partnering with specialists, we learned from an audiologist that our son didn’t have anything wrong with his ears and another professional determined our son has childhood apraxia of speech. We’ve tried sign language, fish oil, and crossing the midline activities. Some of these have helped, and with others I’m still debating the benefits.

I found it helpful to consult with specialized doctors, but ultimately my husband and I decided what road we would travel. I enjoyed researching about speech apraxia and many of the suggested activities because I believed I needed to educate myself in order to assist my son. I could do many of the therapy suggestions at home at no cost. Additionally, having researched apraxia, I could dialogue better with the professionals we were seeing on a regular basis. I was equipped when the time came that we decided to go ahead with speech therapy, but not pursue vision therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy.

Have patience

Our children are keenly aware that they are having difficulty. I’ve learned and I’m still trying to do better that our children are watching us and need to see us giving them grace. Even when we’ve explained the information for what seems like the hundredth time, grin and bear it, and explain it again. Have patience with yourself, too. You are much stronger and able to do more than you’ve ever thought yourself capable. 

After hours upon hours of speech practice, I know more now than I thought possible about the development of speech, how to teach a person to talk, good advice and bad advice for parents of children with speech difficulty, and I can lip read now, too. That may seem like small potatoes, but to this gal who is more inclined toward math and science and has difficulty remembering what a demonstrative pronoun is, this is a big accomplishment.

There is no one-size-fits-all or easy solution

When a child learns differently, it can take considerable amounts of trial and error before finding what works best for your child. Research takes time, and a method that works for one family may not work for another. One of the gifts of homeschooling is that you spend the majority of the day with your child, so you know your son or daughter intimately.

One recommendation I received was to read every day to my son. I just shake my head now thinking back on that advice, because for my son the solution had nothing to do with reading to him more. The language connections between the brain, tongue, palate, and ears weren’t happening for him, and he wasn’t able to produce the sounds in order to speak no matter how many times he heard my words. He needed to be taught how to speak. 

Teaching our children is good work. Any work worth doing is going to take grit, determination, and sacrifice. I try to remember it’s like growing a garden. You don’t plant today and harvest tomorrow. It’s going to take time with days of watering, weeding, fertilizing, more weeding, removing bad bugs, and finally harvesting. The fruit is a result of the hard work put in. I’m a few years in now with teaching, and the blessings and rewards have made all the work worth it.

Don’t give up too quickly on a method

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes a memory, so keep repeating grammar rules and math facts over and over again. Each time you practice, the brain is making those synapses fire, and it’s laying down that pathway for memorization to happen. I encourage you to keep plugging along with the basics. Keep it fun, make it a game, use it with something your child is interested in, or let your child be the teacher.

One of the best gifts of homeschooling is that time is on your side. You’re able to tailor your child’s education, and there’s plenty of time for repetition and review. I’m not convinced that there’s one program that will quickly solve learning difficulties. You’ll have to decide if it’s time to persevere or, if you’ve given a program a lengthy, thorough trial, then it may be time to tweak it or look for something new.

Resist fear

The unknown can be scary. Panic can set in if we let ourselves entertain all the what-if questions that reach our minds. Fear is a sales tactic, and I saw it used often when we were navigating our options. But what happens when you embrace the child that you have and the situation that you’re in? Fear can immobilize, or it can motivate you to move to research, to advocate, to ask lots of questions, and to not stop at anything to help your child.

Look back over the tips. Decide where you are in your journey and identify your next step. Are you just beginning and need to research? Are you knee deep in a method that you should keep persisting in, but with some adjustments? Today, decide to look fear in the face and use it to propel forward: use it as a call to action.

Find a friend

Look outside your immediate family for who can support you. It’s heartbreaking to see your child struggling, and there is a time for grieving over your child’s difficulties. It is often a lonely walk, especially when your child looks normal from the outside, and few people truly understand what you are going through. Even among your family, it can be hard to share one another’s burden.

I found it helpful to get connected to a homeschool support group to make a friend. It may be as simple as reaching out to others in similar situations through Facebook or meeting regularly with someone who will listen to you. There are many in the homeschool community eager to offer support. A kind friend can encourage and refresh you, so you can return home with new strength to meet the challenges with determination and grace.

Homeschooling can be a great experience in teaching special learners.

Our son turned 11 in July. He enjoys Legos, model airplanes, and erector sets. He is still a quiet, sweet child, but has occasional moments when he talks a mile a minute. He graduated speech therapy a few years ago. He seems to struggle with memorizing for the long term, but we call him our walking thesaurus because he can impressively change out words he’s supposed to memorize for a similar word. He understands the big picture. We’re in a season of repetition and review.

Homeschooling has been a great experience for us as we explore the things he likes and spend extra time as needed on memory work. There are no monthly educational assessments, and I love that he has plenty of time to play, take field trips, build all kinds of things, be a boy, and work at his own pace. Surprisingly, this work I am doing is changing me, molding me into a stronger, more disciplined, and more patient, compassionate person. My hope is that you find encouragement in my story and the strength to press on another day taking it one day at a time, knowing each step is a step forward.

Megan Allison lives in Glendale. She enjoys raising her three boys to love and serve the Lord. Megan actively serves on the board of her local support group where she encourages families in their homeschool journeys. She is passionate about equipping homeschoolers with the tools for success in their homes and communities. She desires to live out Titus 2:3-5. In her spare time, Megan likes to jog, spend time in nature, and date her husband Tim.

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Unprecedented Times Call for a Positive Perspective

by Marie Tynan

These are crazy times. Unprecedented times. Dramatic shifts have occurred worldwide and in our local communities. These changes happened fast, and they morph daily. The circumstances are frightening. But this crisis has provided us with multiple opportunities for personal growth, increased learning, and discipleship of our children.

Make Room for Personal Growth and Discipleship

How we as parents respond to all these new challenges is one of the most important lessons our children are learning. Since more is caught than taught, adopting a positive attitude (like a can-do approach and looking for the good) will help to instill confidence and flexibility in our children, now and over the long term. If we have found ourselves being grumpy and discouraged, it’s also an opportunity to role model repentance and self-correction. Learning early that life is difficult but that we can choose our attitude and actions (or correct them) is foundational for facing adult challenges later on.

Besides positivity and flexibility, other good character traits that we have a unique opportunity to role model right now include checking on and helping others, conserving resources to limit trips to the store, being resourceful and living independently, being patient with one another, and walking out a confident faith in our all-powerful and loving God.

Thank an Everyday Hero

The everyday heroes around us are also exhibiting extraordinary traits we would do well to emulate and acknowledge. Courage and duty in the face of fear and inconvenience are on display right now as few other times in living memory. What are some ways we and our children can express our thanks to grocery clerks, first responders, truck drivers, and medical personnel? How can we act courageously for the benefit of others? How can you impact those around you for good?

Many of those essential-services workers are pressing on despite being “outside their comfort zone.” With their example, and in solidarity, this can be a good time for us to practice this, too. Every one of us needs growth in some area. We can challenge ourselves and our students to stretch a little bit. (This stirs up very vulnerable feelings, so be very cautious– especially with sensitive children– and with all children, create a very safe and affirming environment before proceeding.) Maybe each family member creates a work of art, or presents a report, or tastes that awful vegetable!

Learn Through Current Events

Academically, we can take advantage of the impact of these events to perhaps step away from our usual studies and dive into topics of more immediate relevance. Because some of today’s topics can be frightening, this is best overseen by a parent and presented carefully, especially with young or anxious children. But this approach can assist with understanding the times, perhaps stimulate new interests, as well as cement retention.

For example, a lot of science can be explored through learning about viruses and the various methods by which we tame them. Effective handwashing can be practiced as we learn why that works. Reading about earlier pandemics can provide a historical perspective and inspire hope. Math can be done by looking at statistics and doing some calculations: it’s encouraging when one looks at the low percentage of the population infected rather than just absorbing scary-sounding numbers. (That alone is a lesson in why math is useful “in real life”!) Geography can be incorporated by looking at maps that track the spread of COVID-19 . The wide scope and swift spread of the disease point out how connected we all are as human beings across this enormous and diverse globe.

Embrace Digging Deeper

Older students can go even deeper into examining the scientific, economic, and ethical issues suddenly thrust to the forefront by current events. Controversial issues like the swift implementation of untested but potentially life-saving treatments, the pros and cons of vaccines, or what constitutes an actual “essential service,” might be topics for research and discussion. Career exploration may also be enjoyed by some teens as they think of ways they would like to help others: through the medical arts, manufacturing, research, mechanical engineering, materials science, transportation specialties, public administration, charitable outreach, or spiritual leadership, to name a few.

New skills can be gained during this pandemic as we sew masks for hospital personnel, cook more meals from scratch, garden, or tackle home and auto repairs. Civic responsibility is reinforced as we act out of respect and concern for others and comply with regulations and recommendations. By contrast, what can happen when people behave selfishly?

Hone Your Skills

We all know that homeschoolers are used to social distancing (hahaha!), but now we actually are pretty housebound, just like everybody else. In the absence of our usual activities, we can direct our children’s free time to individually honing those skills they would normally be practicing in groups (like sports, acting, or speech and debate), or we can encourage them to try out new activities. Pick anything you or your children want to learn, and you can be sure there are articles, books, and internet tutorials to get you started: dance, art, mechanics, woodworking, baking, starting a business…

We can expand our family’s creativity by finding new ways to break up the monotony: take nature walks, watch and identify neighborhood birds, make blanket forts, have a picnic and a footrace in the greenbelt, encourage a child to play teacher or nurse to the family pet or a stuffed animal, plan a family talent show, compete in a sibling cook-off, or take turns doing funny skits.

Has your child shown a particular interest in something that didn’t fit into your curriculum? Now may be the time to pursue it. Got a gearhead? Aspiring fashion designer? Computer nerd? Born performer? Novelist-in-the-making?

The world may seem scary and unpredictable, and change throws us off balance, but embracing the many opportunities for growth in character, learning, bonding, and faith gives us a new perspective and many reasons to be grateful.

Marie Tynan was blessed to homeschool her only child from birth through graduation. With her son now away at college, Marie desires to share her passion and encouragement with the next generation of homeschool parents. She resides with her husband in Maricopa, AZ.

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AFHE Home Blog Encouragement Homeschool Help Uncategorized

Homeschooling Under Hardship

“Sylvia, you are going to have to learn to share the load.”

I had just poured out to the counselor how I wasn’t sure how I was going to homeschool our four children while running the household and maintaining my 30-hour work week. My husband’s health was improving, but he wasn’t well yet. I was overwhelmed with the thought of all the things that needed to be done in a day, already feeling like a failure before the school year even started.

The counselor, honest and kind, sat across from me and told me I couldn’t do it all.

I cried.

A year before this conversation, our family looked fairly typical in the homeschooling community: dad went to work full-time, mom stayed home and took care of kids and homeschooled. I worked part-time but mostly for extra-budget things like vacations, and only ten hours a week. I taught co-op classes, was involved in church, and had started slowly working toward a degree in nursing.

My husband, Kevin, had dealt with anxiety issues for most of his adult life, but it was managed with a low dose of medication and created little interference. At the end of 2017, a car accident and a series of extremely stressful work situations took their toll on him, and he began having up to ten panic attacks a day. It finally became apparent that he needed to leave his job in order to address his health crisis. At the same time, a part-time job at my church matching my skills opened up. Within a short period of time we turned into a  family where mom worked two part-time jobs and dad was home sick … and summer break was coming to an end.

After I cried with the counselor, Kevin and I sat down and made a plan where he taught two days a week and I taught two days a week (he worked from home the days I taught, I went to work the days he taught). He wasn’t able to drive long distances, but he could go to the grocery store around the corner. He made dinners a couple nights a week. On days he felt really bad, we let things roll. We went to counseling. He found a better medicine. Things improved a little at a time. Eighteen months later, we have learned a few things about homeschooling in hardship

1. My expectations are my worst enemy

I had a picture in my mind of what homeschooling and homemaking should look like. I began to feel overwhelmed when I couldn’t make the picture match my reality. What I learned is that the flexibility of homeschool was a huge gift in our crisis. Dad could teach school, we could have evening class (or Saturday!), and I could modify curriculum or even stop a subject for a while. I know a family who dealt with a serious health emergency by taking a break from school completely for a season. I have the freedom to make school work with our whole life, not dominate it.

2. Grieve the losses

It’s all right to be sad over things that aren’t the way you want. My youngest child was seven when I went to work. She’d cry and cling to me as I’d leave. In the beginning I was  defensive, but then I learned to say, “I miss you too when I’m gone. It’s hard to be away from you.” I had to put my own schooling on hold. My husband wants to be well. These are sad things and we’ve cried over them.

3. Gratitude allows me to celebrate

There are things in my life that are good. When I get too grumpy, too overwhelmed, or tempted to turn to bitterness over how things are, gratitude realigns my heart. I’m grateful for a husband who does the hard work to get better. I’m grateful for a household full of love. I’m grateful for the other families I’ve found who are surviving really tough things who understand what it feels like to walk through the fire. I’m grateful for a God who never leaves me. I’m grateful I still get to teach my children.

4. Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others

Here’s the honest truth: I am TERRIBLE at this. If we were on an airplane and the cabin depressurized, my first inclination would be to help everyone else put on their masks until I collapsed. In life, if I fall apart because I neglect myself, no one gets help.  I’m learning that it isn’t selfish to say no to a legitimate request because it’s more than I can do. It isn’t wrong to sometimes use my precious free time to do something I want to do instead of something someone else wants to do. It’s okay to take a nap, delegate a task, give 85% of myself to an activity instead of 100%, or spend money on an item that makes my life easier. Balance means we all get a turn receiving care, and that includes me.

5. Suffering is a teacher, not a punishment

We live in a fallen world and lots of things are broken, which means suffering happens to all of us. Walking through it has solidified my trust that God is good and He sustains me. Suffering is not caused by my lack of faith or disobedience. God does not sit in Heaven shaking His head at my fragility and failure. My circumstances are not something God is doing to me, but something He is walking with me. In it, He has gently shown me my own pride, rebellion, idolatry, and lack of faith, which points me back to His goodness and grace.

6. The long-term crisis is not less valid than the big emergency

We are in this stage now. I call it the slow burn, the fatigue that’s caused by stress over a long period of time. Maybe there was a major event, but the long-term grind can be just as exhausting. I’ve found that those with long-term illnesses or those grieving the loss of a loved one have much to teach me about endurance. I work hard to continue to talk about it, to ask for help, to acknowledge when it is hard, and to reevaluate and change if necessary.

You are not alone

If you are in the middle of hardship, you are not alone. I found out that there were many families around me who homeschooled as they dealt with situations that disrupted their plans. Because they were willing to talk about their challenges, I was brave enough to share my own. This may be my new “normal” life, but I know I have others who walk with me in it. And while I will never say I’ve enjoyed the experience of suffering, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from it.

Sylvia Miller lives in Phoenix. She and her husband, Kevin, have the privilege of co-discipling their four children through homeschool. Sylvia works part-time and is going to school verrrrrry slowly with the goal of becoming a nurse in the next eight years. She finds joy in flowers, people-watching in airports, and phone conversations with friends.

Questions about homeschooling in Arizona? We’re here to help!

Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) is the statewide homeschool organization here in Arizona. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit run by a board of directors made up of couples who are all homeschooling parents ourselves.

homeschool@afhe.org
602-235-2673 ext. 1

HELPFUL ARTICLE TO READ
Homeschooling in Arizona

FIND A HOMESCHOOL GROUP
Arizona Homeschool Groups

 

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AFHE Home Blog Encouragement Homeschool Help Uncategorized

Having Conversations About Today’s Tough Stuff

Having Conversations
About Today’s Tough Stuff

with Dr. Kathy Koch

 

Watch this encouraging talk by noted child development expert Dr. Kathy Koch, celebratekids.com, for a practical and encouraging discussion about ways to help your children deal with their thoughts and feelings during difficult times. This talk was recorded live on Facebook on March 24, 2020.

Having Conversations About Today’s Tough Stuff

Children’s thoughts and feelings are always important. In times of confusion and crisis like we’re going through, they matter even more. How do we make it more likely that our children will come to us with their questions and feelings? Dr. Kathy Koch will share ideas for how to respond to help your child feel heard and safe, and provide some ideas to help you and your children navigate uncertain times.

 

About Dr. Kathy

Dr. Kathy Koch (“cook”), is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas, and the cofounder of Ignite the Family, based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Through her speaking, she has influenced thousands of parents and children in 30 countries. She is also a popular radio guest and an author of six books. Dr. Kathy earned a Ph.D. in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. She has loved Jesus for years and her faith and desire to serve and glorify God is the foundation of her ministry.
CELEBRATEKIDS.COM

Learn more about homeschooling in Arizona

With more than 38,000 students being homeschooled in Arizona, and more than 2.1 million students nationwide, this parent-led, privately funded education at home model has proven to be an effective and successful option for many families across the state. We’ve put together a handy blog post answering ten frequently asked questions about homeschooling in Arizona. You’ll find helpful links, resources, and more!
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