I recently received a diagnosis. I knew something was “off,” but I brushed it aside, telling myself I should work harder, have more robust moral fiber, hurt and complain less, function more clearly and “get it together.” The diagnosis named all of those little things that were “off” and made me aware of some I’d just considered “normal.” My normal is, apparently, not everyone’s.
I did some research, got on some sites, and freaked out pretty thoroughly. My future, in living color, doesn’t look pretty. Literally. Those aches and pains can be expected to get worse. That weak moral fiber I have accused myself of for decades is going to have to be part of my action plan. Others won’t see, and if they do, they’ll pity. I’m judged on something I have no control over, doesn’t have a cure, and while not life-threatening, was definitely not part of my best life scenario.
I cried. I actually cried quite a lot. Not that anything changed, but more things made sense. But the losses seem more permanent with the naming of the thing. No amount of my working harder or smarter will change the outcome. It is what it is. And now, instead of fighting to get on top of a small thing, I will be fighting just to keep going.
The diagnosis changes everything.
This little naming and knowing changes things with what I do and who I do it with. The comments that I have made, observing my own state of being and ability, are straight off the diagnosis page. Who knew?
And now the action plan. What do I need to do? Can I afford to do it? What do I need to grieve and give-up and move away from?
Those other people- the beautiful ones-the ones still at the pretty party; they have what I do not, what I won’t have. I am no longer a part of the pretty party. I haven’t been for a long time, but the naming of the thing makes it permanent. The pretty party is not all-inclusive, and I am definitely not on the party list.
And so I grieve that too, the fact that I don’t belong. The truth is that I feel judged and that others don’t want to include me – as if my struggle would rub off on them. I feel a desperate need to seek out others who are struggling to make the best of rotten realities.
I find them, and they are welcoming and open-armed. These people are helpful, responsive, and offer good advice. Advice like, go ahead and cry, see this doc, read this article, stay away from this misinformation. Things like, “you can’t be cured, but you can be well.” “You might not have your ideal best life, but you can have a beautiful, good enough life.” And I find myself crying a little bit now, too. I’m crying in relief at having found my people; grateful for the tribe and sorrow that it’s mine. It’s fine to feel both, and I grieve over having lost my ideal.
(Still looking for your “tribe?” Check out our Special Needs Homeschool Facebook group, Survive & Thrive.)
Maybe this sounds familiar because you’ve received a diagnosis.
You’ve just found out that your beautiful child is dyslexic, or autistic, or has a processing disorder. Maybe you’ve found out that your sweet little one is ADHD or on the spectrum. Life will never be the same, but it can still be a beautiful, good life.
Take the time you need to regroup and re-calibrate and realize that this will be an on-going process.
Some tips on getting through a tough diagnosis:
Grieve the losses. Grieve your new reality.
Research an action plan
What do you need to do?
What can you afford to do?
Find resources and people who have the same struggles. Find a tribe.
Give yourself time as you re-calibrate and re-group.
If your child was just diagnosed with a learning disability or a special need of any kind, there can be a myriad of feelings, to deal with such as shock, concern, fear, relief, confirmations, anger or sadness, to feeling overwhelmed with further questions-the biggest of which is, “Now what?”…
After receiving a diagnosis, following these next steps can be helpful for you and your child.
Learn all you can about your child’s diagnosis, while recognizing that your child is more than the particular diagnosis or label.
Nobody loves your child more than you or wants to see him succeed and meet his full potential more than you. By learning about your child’s diagnosis and different abilities, you can grow in understanding how to better support him, as you continue to be your child’s fiercest advocate and loudest cheerleader.
Investigate treatment options, such as therapies, interventions, and possible medications.
A great place to start is your child’s pediatrician or the diagnosing professional. You may also want to consider seeking holistic treatments by working with an integrative physician. There are more and more types of therapies available for various disabilities and special needs. Many therapy treatment options exist–from art and music therapy, pet and equine therapy, to behavioral and cognitive therapy, in addition to more “traditional” or standard speech/language, vision, physical and occupational therapies.
Seek support for your child and the family.
You can find parent and children support groups, such as Decoding Dyslexia and Eye to Eye Mentoring, as well as national charitable organizations, such as Scottish Rites, Easter Seals and the ARC that offer parent and family resources, supports, directories, grants/scholarships, etc. Also, non-profit organizations such as Joni and Friends, provide resources, a directory for disability ministries across the country, and family camps.
Talk with your child about his diagnosis and teach him to self-advocate.
Your child needs to understand that his diagnosis does not define him. There are many bright and successful people with disabilities. In fact, it is estimated that 1:5 people have a learning disability. Help your child come to understand what his difficulty or disability is and how it may impact him, but also teach him ways to work around it. Also, help your child recognize the ways he is smart and what are his areas of strength. The book, 8 Great Smarts, by Dr. Kathy Koch is a great resource. Self-advocacy is an important, empowering life-skill. Resources such as The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss, Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia, LDAdvisory, and Understood.org are a few examples of places to find resources to educate your child and teach him how to advocate for himself.
Make a plan for reasonable accommodations for the student and discuss these with your student and other adults/teachers, such as those in your community of faith, coaches, music teachers, and co-op leaders/teachers.
Accommodations level the playing field and help students to take in information or show forth what they know. Some common accommodations are extra time, use of audio books, dictation or oral assessment, or frequent breaks, to name a few. It is a good idea to keep a written record of the educational accommodations you will be providing to your student, in your home school file.
Be encouraged that you are your child’s best teacher, and home education is an excellent individualized educational plan.
While home education, due to its very nature, is an individualized educational plan, for homeschooled students with special needs, drafting a written, student education plan can be wise. True North Homeschool Academy Special Needs Advising and HSLDA’s Special Needs Educational Consultants, hslda.org, can help families with this and provide templates for how to do so. Additionally, their special needs consultants can help make sense of the diagnostic assessment reports and help you the parent-teacher come up with a customized educational plan. Lining up classes, such as those offered through True North Academy, can be a great way to customize your child’s specialized home education.
Faith’s own learning struggles and diagnosis of dyscalculia compelled her compassion for other bright but struggling students. A fifteen year teaching career before she became a homeschool mom included both public and private schools, tutoring, and working as a reading specialist. Her specific area of expertise is the identification and remediation of reading difficulties.
As an extroverted-introvert who is a lifelong learner and an avid reader, her 2008 transition to homeschooling her own two children was a natural one. Faith currently applies her passionate advocacy for special needs students as she speaks at homeschooling conferences across the nation and internationally. She also serves as a Special Needs Consultant for Home School Legal Defense Association in addition to having her own in-home, private practice as an educational diagnostician.
Faith holds the following credentials
B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from West Virginia University
M.Ed. in Reading from Shenandoah University
certification as a trained dyslexia intervention specialist through the National Institute of Learning Differences (NILD)
certification in Equipping Minds Cognitive Curriculum
Faith’s articles have been published in several national homeschooling magazines, and she has been the guest of several homeschooling podcasts.
(The following post is written by Amy Vickery, special needs/struggling learners teacher at True North Homeschool Academy.)
Struggling Learners vs. Special Education
A lot of parents ask questions about the difference between struggling learners and special education. A struggling learner is basically working at or just below grade level. It might take them longer to catch on, they might need a few more examples, or a few more examples. A struggling learner may take longer to memorize math facts, but ultimately they get them down. This might even include a student with ADHD or dyslexia, depending on the severity.
A Special Education student, however, generally has a specific diagnosis (Autism, Down’s, Intellectual Disability, severe ADHD or Dyslexia, and many others). These students generally are 2-3 grade levels or developmentally 2-3 years behind their peers in specific areas or across all areas.
When do I need to seek out a diagnosis?
When a parent asks me if they should seek out a diagnosis, I ask them to consider the following:
Why do you need a diagnosis?
What questions are you hoping to answer with a diagnosis?
How would a diagnosis benefit you and your child?
A diagnosis might be beneficial if:
You utilize public school services (some states allow this even for homeschoolers)
You will be eligible for services or resources not currently available without a diagnosis
You need a diagnosis for your state due to testing regulations
You are preparing for college and a diagnosis is required for needed accommodations for classes or testing (the testing usually has to be less than 3 years old going into college)
You really don’t know what to do or how to help your child and you are looking for help in how to approach teaching them
You know something is “off” or “not right” or a “problem” but you can’t quite put your finger on what’s going on. The hope of naming your unrest will bring you some peace and hope to help your kiddo.
What do I do after I receive a diagnosis?
No matter how prepared you think you are going into an evaluation process, receiving a diagnosis comes with a mix of emotions. You are relieved because you find out that something really is going on (and you really weren’t just THAT crazy mom after all). However, parents need to be prepared.
There is always a grieving process that comes with receiving a diagnosis. There will be anger, sadness, feelings of doubt, and eventually you will come out feeling stronger and better equipped to help your child.
Here are some tips to help you through this process:
Don’t make any immediate changes that aren’t absolutely necessary. Give yourself time to adjust before making changes to educational setting (especially to homeschool from public school or vice versa), curriculum or how you are approaching things.
Educate yourself. Find some articles, a video, or a book to read on the specific diagnosis. Even if you know a lot about it already, it helps to see the information through the new eyes of KNOWING what is going on.
Find some support. Facebook groups and friends are great places to start.
Say some prayers. The road is going to be long and hard, even armed with a diagnosis. Prayers for understanding and peace go a long way.
How to find support…
One of the most important things to do as a parent of a child who struggles or has special needs is to find a support group. Friends who will pray with and for you, families going through similar struggles and a good sitter are all important. Here are some great ideas for finding support:
Church – a lot of times you can find support through a church. From support groups to an hour to be an “adult” on Sundays while your kids are in Bible Class can do a lot for how you feel the rest of your week. Talk with them about what your needs are and advocate for yourself and your child.
Facebook groups – Not all Facebook groups are the same, but there are some wonderful ones out there. Some I recommend to parents:
Friends – Find your “Tribe.” Friends who can understand and be the shoulder you lean on when things get tough. Parents who are going through similar situations are great because they are in the trenches with you. Being able to offer support at times can be beneficial too.
Struggling Learners and Special Needs students will take more faith, perseverance, and resources but be encouraged! There are a plethora of resources, books, conferences, and groups now more than ever before, including small group classes offered live online through True North Homeschool Academy. We also offer Special Needs and Struggling Learners Academic Advising. We would love to link arms with you as you seek out what’s best for your Struggling Learner or Special Needs student!
Amy Vickrey, MSE is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.
Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children. Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”
What is Classical, Christian education? Does it mean studying history? Reading boring old books? Is it only for SUPER SMART students? Six years ago, God gave me a passion for classical, Christian education, and during that time, I have shared the model with many, many families. The classical, Christian education model is a simple, time-tested model that focuses on training the skills to learn anything, and nurtures the whole person to fulfill their calling as man made in the image of a sovereign God, set apart for His glory, in this life and the next.
Three Attributes of Classical, Christian Education
Three main attributes of classical, Christian education discussed here are skill-based learning, the interrelatedness of all subjects to all other subjects, and the recognition of the value of man, who is made in the image of God for a purpose. There are other attributes of a classical, Christian education model, but these three provide a backbone for it.
Classical education is skill based. These skills are collectively referred to as “The Trivium”, a Latin word meaning three ways. The three ways are three stages of learning and development, each with its own tools: the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages.
The first stage is the grammar stage. It starts at birth, and developmentally extends until around age 11. In this stage students are learning vocabulary, facts and principles of any subject in the world around them in a rote fashion. Their understanding may be very limited at first, but they are becoming familiar with the world they encounter. Students in this stage learn best by exploring, experiencing, observing, repetition, memorization, and dramatization.
The second stage, naturally occurring from around ages 11 – 14, is the dialectic or logic stage. At this point, the student develops a drive to understand and relate one to another all the experiences and facts they have and continue to collect. This stage is characterized as a time of questions, challenging authority, and starting to rely on their own thinking. Students at this stage benefit from learning to ask good questions, reason logically, and debate ideas respectfully.
Finally, around age 14 students who have been trained to think well, will begin to emerge from the dialectic stage into the rhetoric stage. At this point, students can use their knowledge and skills to creatively relate information in new ways while practicing communicating information eloquently and winsomely. To learn new things they will delve back into the grammar and dialectic stages briefly, to learn the facts and process the information, but will be able to efficiently bring that information into a relationship with the other information they know hold, and continue to communicate their ideas.
The stages and tools of the Trivium function like a computer. The grammar stage is input, the dialectic stage is processing, and the rhetorical stage is output. Once a student has the skills from these three areas, they can spend a lifetime processing any and all information they encounter through their own “computer”, a working understanding of the tools of the Trivium.
While it may look like one has to be super smart to do well with a classical, Christian education model, the reverse is actually true: the classical, Christian education model goes with the grain of student development, and is effective at equipping students with the skills they need to learn and understand anything in a faster, easier, and better way.
Developmentally Appropriate Skill Development is Fruitful
Often, in modern education, we see mismatches between assignments and developmental stages that create frustration. Examples would be: asking a first grader to break apart math problems and relate different strategies to the same problem, asking the grade-schooler to invent something meaningful, asking a twelve year old to take a well-reasoned stand on a social justice issue, asking a high school student to memorize a bunch of facts with no need for application.
While there are always exceptions, and students may enter a stage early in an area of gifting, mostly mismatches like these needlessly create frustration and confusion that ultimately can drive students to think either too much of their own abilities, or more often not enough. Teaching the students skills that correspond with their developmental stage, and that are effective for learning, should reduce frustration and create confidence for learning.
An Interrelated World
After planting our roots in the model of the Trivium, classical, Christian education is focused on understanding the inter-relatedness of all subjects. Since we believe that all of heaven and earth was created by one, sovereign God, it comes to make sense that all subjects would be interrelated in some way.
A modern education student might be accustomed to being the center of a paradigm that asks them to learn math, then reading, then bible study, then history, and is interested in their reaction to those individual subject, often independent of all else. In a Christian, classical education the student is removed from the center of the model, and God is rightly reflected as the center of all creation, all knowledge, informing us about all things, and all things reflecting back information on Him.
The classical, Christian model continually asks one to consider how each subject relates to all other subjects. Contemplating how the arts relate to the sciences, or how history relates to literature, will produce insights that studying either discipline alone would not likely produce. Likewise, taking a single topic, for example the topic of water and considering how it is represented in science, art, music, math, or history, and how those representations connect one to another, will deepen understanding of all parts of that analysis.
One may even choose specific concerns to compare and relate: How is water conservation policy at your local river related to artistic freedom? How is popular music related to current events? How is the founding of Rome related to your curriculum decision? How does man relate to God? How does the Old Testament relate to the New Testament? How does a leader today relate to a leader in the past? When you practice finding the connections and relationships between points like this, you will find these questions lead to ideas that lead to other questions, and each will continually reveal layers of understanding about the world around you.
The Value of Man
As Christians we believe that man was created by God, in His image, to glorify Him. The world and everything in it, is to be brought into submission to this purpose. While modern education is focused on science and the material world, classical, Christian education recognizes the physical world as well as the heart, mind, and soul, and that we live in with the tension and promise of a transcendent reality, beyond what our five senses can detect.
While modern education looks for the new, useful, and profitable, classical, Christian education considers what is good, true, and beautiful. While modern education considers man without meaning, nothing more than a primate with skills, a random, chance occurrence in nature, classical, Christian education knows that man is made for a purpose and can grow in wisdom, and virtue in order to further fulfill that purpose.
How does classical, Christian education achieve these lofty, yet abstract goals?
Thankfully, this world has a long history of men and women considering these ideas in thought, word, and deed, and a modern student can join in The Great Conversation by reading classic literature and studying history. The term “The Great Conversation” represents the ongoing process of writers and thinkers referencing, building on, and refining works of their predecessors.
All the tools and skills of the classical, Christian model come together in The Great Conversation, and work together to give one opportunities to refine their discernment of truth, goodness, and beauty, building wisdom and virtue. This is, of course, a lifetime journey, not necessarily a destination we fully arrive at in this life. The constant refining of our reason and understanding, never being left stuck in as a prisoner to our selfish small world, is the true gift of a classical, Christian education.
(Interested in pursuing a Classical Homeschool Education for your child? Check out our course offerings at True North Homeschool Academy.)
The classical, Christian education model uses the stages and skills of the Trivium, a vision for an inter-connected worldview, unified by one, sovereign God, creator of all things, and the knowledge that man is made in the image of God, to glorify Him in this world in the next, in order develop the whole person, able to participate in all this world and the next has to offer. A classical, Christian education is for those who are interested in quality over quantity, timeless versus fleeting, and eternity versus the present moment.
By Natalie Micheel
Natalie lives in South Dakota with her husband and two awesome kids. She has now homeschooled for over 10 years with Christian, classical and literature-based paradigms, including teaching for and leading faith-based homeschool groups locally. She speaks locally on all things classical, Christian ed. She loves sharing the classical model and the hope and joy of homeschooling your own children with the next generation of homeschool mamas! Natalie enjoys speaking and teaching and thinking, as well as reading and writing and dreaming. She finds particular satisfaction in working with tweens and teens and moms to inspire them towards the good, true and beautiful, and walking beside them as they learn to equip themselves to fulfill their callings in this world.
“The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Mother’s Day is coming right up! Below is a crazy quilt collection of amazing Mommas who lived, worked and raised children in the last couple hundred years of societal and technological change. It is by no means definitive and reflects my own reading and areas of interest. But if you are looking for some inspiring Mommas to read about and learn from, this is a good basic list to get you started.
The longest reigning British monarch and the longest reigning female in history, beloved wife of Albert and mother of 9. She is called “The Grandmother of Europe.” The Young Victoria and Victoria & Albert are both delightful movies about an intriguing monarch who did not give up motherhood, despite her position as a world leader.
The original Cheaper by the Dozen Momma. Along with her husband Frank, she co-founded the Cognitive Psych program at Purdue University, author, efficiency expert, and mother of 12, all of whom went to Ivy Leagues. She combined engineering, psychology, and motherhood and was the first American engineer to synthesize scientific management and psychology. You’ll laugh out loud reading Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes. The 1950’s film version of the books is also delightful!
Ruth Bell Graham
Missionary, author, wife, a vital component of Billy Graham’s evangelistic ministry, mother of 5. Her headstone reads, in Chinese “Righteous” (her parents were missionaries with the China Inland Mission, where she spent her childhood). To add to your reading list: “Ruth, A Portrait.”
Wife of a governor, CIA Director and president, mother of a president, mother of 2 U.S. Governors, literacy advocate, Momma of six and witty author, Barbara Bush saw a lot of the world. George W was asked once what arguments with his mother were like. He replied, “You don’t argue with Barbara.” Check out “Barbara Bush, A Memoir.”
Her life as a Mom was difficult and challenging; isn’t everyone’s, at some point or another? She did the best for her son, despite great personal sacrifice and went on to legitimize the murder mystery genre through her Lord Peter Wimsey book series, which is you haven’t read, you must. Start with “Clouds of Witness.” As as a way of introduction to Dorothy’s deep faith and great intellect, read “The Gospel in Dorothy Sayers.”
Born into slavery, she escaped at age 27 and over the course of her life, helped lead over 70 others to freedom. She became a spy for the Union army and helped free over 700 slaves during a raid. She and her husband adopted a baby girl name, “Gertie.” Check out the book, Harriet Tubman, Imagining a Life by Lowry and the T.V. mini-series, “A Woman Called Moses.”
Not only the first women to win a noble prize, she is one of the few people to win two Noble Peace Prizes in her lifetime (the first of which she shared with her husband) for her groundbreaking work in Chemistry (903, 1911) After her husband’s untimely death, she continued her work in Science while raising her two daughters. Her daughter, Irene, went on to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, as well! Check out the movie: Marie Curie: Courage of Knowledge and the Book, Radioactive: A Book of love and fallout by Redniss.
I’ve love to hear who your favorite Mom is- besides your own, of course!
Mother’s Day is coming up and I’ve partnered together with a great group of bloggers to bless some moms BIG TIME this Mother’s Day! We are giving away FOUR Instant Pots! Instant Pots are quick, convenient, and help to make meal preparation so much easier; every mom or homemaker should have one. So if you are wanting to win one for yourself (or for a mother that you know would love one), use the Rafflecopter below to enter.
Now I know that the Rafflecopter has quite a few entries, but each of these bloggers generously chipped in their own money to bring you this giveaway, so I hope you will take the time to do all of the entries. And hey, the more entries you do, the better your odds are of winning!
Giveaway ends May 10th at 11:59pm EDT. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to email to claim prize. By entering this giveaway you will be added to the email lists of some of the participating bloggers (see the Terms & Conditions on the Rafflecopter form for the complete list).
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