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SPED Homeschool – A Nonprofit Launched To Assist Families Teaching Special Education At Home

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Below is our recent interview with Peggy Ployhar, the Founder & CEO of SPED Homeschool:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to SPED Homeschool?

A: Sure. SPED Homeschool is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that launched in the summer of 2017 to fill the growing need families had for support, resources, and training in teaching special education at home. SPED Homeschool’s board members and team are homeschooling pioneers who have independently worked to promote and provide resources for special education homeschooling families fueled by their own personal special education homeschooling experiences. Our work at SPED Homeschool builds upon our diverse homeschooling experiences, unique professional accreditations, natural gifts, and enthusiasm to help others. What makes our work stand out in the homeschooling, as well as special education, community is that we approach education considering the unique needs of each family as well as the individualized needs of the learners in their home. Thus, we don’t prescribe a specific curriculum, teaching methodology or schedule but instead provide quality resources that empower families to make educational choices to best fit their needs.

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Q: Do you have any tips to get started with homeschooling? What are the essentials for homeschooling a student with special education needs?

A: Absolutely! The first thing I always point out to parents is that each state, or country if you are outside the United States, have unique homeschooling laws. You can easily find links to these laws on our website’s 9 Easy Steps to Getting Started page or you can contact your state or national homeschooling organization for their summary of this law. The next thing I tell families is to replace their mindset that learning only happens at a desk with a computer or book. The simplest way to accomplish this is by setting aside your first few weeks of homeschooling to explore with your children, take some field trips, learn a new hobby together, or go on an educational vacation for the purpose of rediscovering how learning can be found anywhere and it is a fun and organic process. Finally, it is very important to throw out the idea of teaching all your student’s classes at a specific grade level or to push to your student to “catch up” with a nationalized norm. The beauty of homeschooling is that your student can progress at their own rate in each subject, meaning some subject will require slower progression and consistent remediation, while others can be taught at a faster speed and engage higher levels of thinking and learning.

As far as essentials in homeschooling a student with special educational needs, some states and countries do require extra paperwork, testing, or reporting so make sure to ask about possible additional requirements. I also recommend that parents keep very good records, whether or not their governing body requires it, because documentations providing history of a student’s accommodations, modifications, testing, and behavioral interventions are extremely useful when advocating for your student’s needs, specifically in requesting job and college accommodations. Finally, many parents who homeschool children with special educational needs use a team approach, involving many outside helpers such as therapists, tutors, online self-paced classes, and specially trained personal care assistants who are able to lessen the burden on parents who feel they can’t provide all the instruction their student needs but still want to be in control of his/her educational program.

Q: What are the benefits of homeschooling a student with special education needs?

A: One of the greatest benefits in homeschooling a special educational learner is the freedom to teach at the unique pace that a child needs to master foundational educational concepts. Mastery is essential for learning new and more complex concepts, which in turn provides a student with a greater desire and love for learning as well as the confidence in their own ability to learn and grow as an individual. I can’t tell you how many parents after a year of homeschooling remark that their child who used to hate school has all of a sudden started initiating learning on their own.

Homeschooling also provides the opportunity for students who excel in learning in more nontraditional ways, for instance with hands-on projects, using movement or out in nature, to discover these tendencies and draw upon them to accelerate their learning potential. As adults, this personal knowledge of how one learns best and excels in using natural talents is a strength and homeschooling allows children who are labeled as different to embrace those differences and pursue them in a customized learning environment that works best for them.

Q: How do you avoid a burnout as a homeschool mom?

A: That’s a great question. We just did a whole month of blogs and live interviews on this subject and my best summary of that content is that we need others in a supportive community who can remind us we are not alone, that the struggles we face in homeschooling our children are common, and most of all that the journey is worth all the work. I wish I would have had the community that we now offer through our SPED Strong Tribes when I started homeschooling 18 years ago, but I am thankful that I have stories I can share with these new homeschooling families to encourage them to not give up on themselves or their child. I have already graduated two of my three, both who greatly struggled in various areas of learning. As I look back I do not regret any of the lessons my children and I have learned together over these years. Many were difficult, but in the end it was pressing through these struggles that brought our relationships closer than most parents have with their young adult sons.

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Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: Currently we are in the editing process of a homeschooling special education high school manual, a collaborative work with 7 of our partner organizations, that should be publish later this summer. Also, from now until the end of August, we are offering parents a free on-demand at home special education homeschooling conference as well as a COVID-19 Emergency Special Education at Home resource page in response to the homeschool conference cancellations and school closures this year .

As for next year, we are dreaming big and starting to make plans for regional special education homeschool family camps across the United States with hopes of growing more camps both state-side and internationally in the future. We have just started framing this vision and are currently looking for partners who would be interested in collaborating with us at these camps or as a funding partner for this project.

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