Friday, June 12, 2009

Joshua's report about TeenPact National Convention

National Convention Report

Anticipation outweighing weariness, I staggered out of bed at 3:00 am on May, 27th. I ate a quick breakfast and did some last minute packing. Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Des Moines International Airport. From there I would fly to Milwaukee and than to Atlanta. From there I would be shuttled to Fort Bluff Camp in Dayton, Tennessee. This would be the sight of TeenPact Leadership School’s 2009 National Convention.

I’ve been involved with TeenPact in some way or another since I was six. And almost since that time, people have been telling me that I needed to attend National Convention. However, for various reasons I was unable to go until this year. Needless to say, I was very excited. I arrived at the Des Moines airport where I met up with my traveling buddies.

From Des Moines, we flew to Milwaukee. At Milwaukee, we had our first noteworthy experience. I was wondering around the airport to check on my baggage. I had left my carryon with my friends. Being the intelligent fellow that I am, I unwittingly wandered passed a security point. I was not allowed to get to the other side - and to my gate - without my boarding pass, which I had left in my carryon.

Therefore, with ten minutes until boarding, I rushed over to the ticket counter, showed them my ID and quickly got another boarding pass. Then, I raced over to security. As I was being checked in, I heard my name announced over the pager. With my plain about to board and the hallways nearly empty, I began sprinting through the Milwaukee airport. The airport staff began cheering me on and man with a microphone practically gave a play-by-play of my indoor dash. However, I made to the plane and everything went well from there.

When we arrived at Atlanta, we wondered about trying to find the baggage claim. I’d been to the Atlanta airport before, but had forgotten how huge it was. After introductions, we drove out to Fort Bluff Camp. On the way there, we got to know the people in our van. We arrived at the camp and were greeted by the people there. I got to see some people hadn’t seen for a while. It was absolutely amazing.

After registration and dinner, we were treated to our first speaker. His name was Justin Neal, a former TeenPact student who currently sits on the board of directors. He had a lot of enthusiasm and humor, but at the same time was very convicting.

The next day we started our tradition NC routine. At 9:00, we had our first session. Will Simpson gave various announcements. Harrison Lloyd also became a hit when he modified several pop culture songs to advertise for other alumni events.

We also had an amazing worship service that was followed by our guest speaker, though in all reality he was hardly a guest. His name is Aaron Watson. He had been a student, an intern and is currently working at the national office. Aaron talked a lot about apologetics and the best way to defend our faith.

After Aaron’s speech, we had our first small group breakouts. The students had all been divided into groups, each beginning with the prefix ‘un’. My group was called Unfazed. In these groups we discussed what we had learned in our personal devotions earlier that morning. It was incredible to hear how God had been working in other people’s lives.

Directly after was lunch, which was in turn followed by the afternoon session. The afternoon session consisted of worship, announcements and than the primary election. I had signed up to run for representative kind of on a whim. There’s a good chance that this will be my only year to get to go to NC, so I wanted to make the most of it. For someone who used to be incredibility shy, I’m fairly comfortable speaking in public. However, I still get those butterflies directly before I open my mouth. Praise be to God, once I started speaking I felt okay. I was told later that, despite my nervousness, I looked natural, which was largely my goal. However, I had to wait until the end of the day to hear the results.

Next we had some free time. During that period, the first rounds of the Ultimate Frisbee Tournament were held. While I did not participate, a lot of my friends did, so it was loads of fun to watch. During this free time I got to meet a lot of new people and become reacquainted with people I hadn’t seen in years.

After supper, we had another worship service and another speaker. This time it was Chad Warren from Summit. He talked about being an ordinary Christian that is, living as a “little-Christ” every day, all the time. He also described historical stories about the early church. The told how they would crawl through the dung piles to save unwanted children who had been left there to day. Mr. Warren related those events to the kind of unglamorous work required to end abortion and other modern evils.

That night we were treated to TeenPact News - TPN. Two of the interns acted as the news anchors and they recounted some memorable primary moments, showed some humorous “commercials” and gave the primary results. Nice representatives made it out of each party. Now, I had not put a lot of stock in winning or even making it out of primaries.

As the announced the names I clapped for each of the winners. My claps varied from polite, to passionate, to elated, depending on how well I knew the candidate. About half way through a polite clap, I stopped, realizing that it was my name I was applauding.

On Friday, I was beginning to feel the wear and tear of the week. One of the complaints about NC is that it’s only four days long. However, if they had packed any more into the week I probably would have killed myself. In addition, the beds were - nicely put - a little less than comfortable. And the bright, glowing red exit sign above my bed didn’t help matters. Naturally, the ladies had better lodging arrangements. We would tease them about requesting room service and needing to fix their elevators.

Friday’s morning speaker was Woody Robertson from CollegePlus. Mr. Robertson stated that teenagers need to become more involved. During this speech I learned that high school is a relatively new concept. It used to be that people would go straight from grade school to college. As a result, young people became more involved in their culture at an earlier age. He had several good points about the steps necessary for my generation to take if we are to impact society.

At this time I want to mention one of my favorite parts of the week. During the morning session we would brake out and have a time of personal Bible reading. It was wonderful to get to keep up with my personal devotions. One of the things that the Lord really spoke to me about that week was humility. After being surrounded by God’s creation and being influenced by some of the most passionate and devoted Christians I’ve ever met, I couldn’t help but stand in awe. God just really showed me how great He is and how undeserving I am to even be called His child.

That afternoon, we had the open forum for the remaining candidates. When I stood up with the rest of the representative candidates, I had no idea what I was going to say or do. As each of us gave our 30-second speech, I just prayed that I would say the right thing. When I got up, I told everyone that I liked to keep things sort and sweet but that I just wanted to encourage them to redeem the time and make the most of every opportunity God has given them.

One of Friday’s highlights was our guest speaker, Lila Rose. Lila Rose was involved in an infamous project in which she would go undercover to Planned Parenthood and pretend to be a 13 year old girl who was pregnant. While being interviewed by the Planned Parenthood employee, Lila Rose would make a point of saying that her supposed boyfriend was over eighteen. Because this qualifies as statutory rape, Planned Parenthood is obligated to report it to the authorities. Every time she went on one of the undercover operations, Planned Parenthood did not report the incident.

Lila Rose has a lot of passion and enthusiasm. She got all of us to start thinking about what we could do in this area. At the end of the speech, Mr. Echols decided to take up an improvised offering. Frisbees were passed around and we raised almost 3,000 dollars.

That night we had some more TPN. One of the themes that they had been playing was the supposed protest of parents who wanted the right to vote. On two big screens, parents were shown holding up signs and singing equality-themed songs. Later they had another clip in which the now former TeenPact president and intern, Adam Martin, held a “press conference.” In that press conference he declared that his last act as president would be to give parents the right to vote. And vote they did…

The next day, polls opened bright and early at 7:00 am. People were waking up hours ahead of time to ensure that they would get to vote before the polls closed at 9:00. I got there at 7:30 (I had no intention of waking up at 6:00 to vote in a mock election) and found that there was already a massive line. A little begrudgingly, I meandered through the line, talking with people and hoping that the line did in fact end eventually.

This year the voting took place electronically. We all get a special ID number and voted on the computer. After I voted, I wondered over to the dining hall and got breakfast. As I was taking with the others at my table, one of the interns came and announced that the computers had crashed and all the votes had been lost. At first we thought he was joking. But, come to find out, all of our votes had indeed been lost. So, we unenthusiastically got back in line to vote again. Though we weren’t too happy about it at the time, it did give us some unique bragging rights. I mean, who else can say they voted twice for the same candidate in the same election?

About the same time the polls closed, we had another guest speaker. His name was Steve Crum, a senior pastor from Indiana. Mr. Crum is also a Guest Director for TeenPact. He had come to Iowa many times, including last year. It was a lot of fun to get to see him again.

That day during free time, a bunch of us got together a played a game called sign. It was a great way to get to know people from all over the country. It’s amazing to meet some many different people from different backgrounds. Sometimes, it seemed like the only thing we had in common was our faith in Christ. The cool thing was that that was all we needed.

That night we had the general election results, complete with TPN, news anchors, big screens, electoral maps and loads of excitement. The senate and representative races were decided by popular vote. However, the presidential race was determined by electoral votes. Each state was assigned a number of electoral votes based on how many people attended the state class.

All three of the presidential candidates - Mark Minyard, Mike McGee and Tom Radcliffe - stood a good chance of winning. The news anchors would announce the votes from each individual state with the help of a color coded map. Iowa went to Mark Minyard. Senate and representative races were also shown on the screens.

At one point, there were some technical difficulties and the anchors had to do about twenty minutes of improvisation, calling up “quests” and making various observations. Finally, the screens came back up and things proceeded. When all the votes came in Mark had the popular vote. However, the electoral vote was a lot closer. Mike McGee had 42 electoral votes and Mark Minyard and Tom Radcliffe were tied at 46 apiece. To break the tie, last year’s congress was called up. Six were present and the votes were split four to two. Tom Radcliffe was the new president of the TeenPact student body.

A lot of people have asked how I did in the elections. Well, I lost. However, the night was hardly a disappointment. A lot of people I new won and I was very happy for them. By the end of the night we were all exhausted. By the time we got to be, it was tomorrow morning. As a result, we were all a little slow at getting to breakfast at 8:00 am.

It was Sunday, so things were a little different that day. Mr. Echols, who happens to be an ordained minister, led the service that morning. In addiction the usually music and preaching, they had a communion service. Mr. Echols talked about coming to God with a pure heart.

Since it was our last full day, Sunday was rather conclusive. We had our final small group discussion. There were a lot of neat people in my group and we all got our picture taken together at the end of the meeting. Our last speaker was Jeff Myers. He has a great since of humor, which he used to illustrate a lot of really good and practical points.

That was the championship for the Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. Though I had not participated in the tournament, I had followed it closely. The final game was between Sunshine and Seattle’s Best. Snacks and drinks were setup outside and the game took place under massive stadium lights. Fatigue, adrenaline and sugar were all combined. We talked, sang and did all sorts of crazy things as we cheered our team on. The Iowans got together and made a human pyramid. It was an amazing sendoff for the week.

The next morning, I got up and said my goodbyes. Then we all loaded up into our various shuttles. Mr. Echols was my driver. It was a lot of fun talking to him and listening to his stories. As we drove into Atlanta, he gave us a little highway-view tour of the city. After a long wait in Atlanta and another long wait in Milwaukee, we were finally home. Before we drove home, those of us who had made the journey together found a corner and thanked the Lord for all He had done for us that week.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Children Who Learn Differently/Struggling Learner Niche Workshop

Children Who Learn Differently

Thank you for coming today. If you have chosen to attend this workshop, you probably have a child who learns differently. This workshop is not going to have a lot of specific methods in helping learning disabled children. Every struggling learner is different and I have no sure-fire answers for each individual child. I have included some reference pages where my family and others parents who have struggling learners have received some help. I hope you will find the resources listed there to be very helpful. However, the main purpose of this workshop is to encourage you. If you leave this workshop feeling encouraged that you can indeed homeschool your struggling learner, than my goal will have been accomplished.

Let me begin by saying that I do not care for the term “learning disabled.” I much prefer the term “children who learn differently.” However, for the sake of simplicity and because the term “learning disabled” and “struggling learner” rolls off of my tongue more easily than “children who learn differently” you will hear me use them in this workshop.

The Lord, in His great wisdom and sovereignty, has seen fit to give my husband and me some children with learning difficulties. I would like to share several things that have helped me in educating my children who learn differently. First, though, I’d like to tell you our story.

When it was time to begin homeschooling our oldest son, everything went exactly as it should. He was eager to learn and he learned to read fairly quickly. He struggled in one or two areas, like most children do, but over all he was, and is a very good student.

Of course this gave me confidence as a homeschooling Mom and I was sure there would not be any trouble homeschooling the rest of my children.

My second son was eager to learn to read like his big brother. I felt that he needed an extra year of maturity, so we waited until he was six years old to start Kindergarten. The first day of school I dutifully began to teach him the vowel sounds. The problem was that after a month of working on them, he could not remember a single one. I decided that it must be that the curriculum did not work for him so I reluctantly spent the money and ordered a program that was supposed to work wonders with children who struggled with phonics. Six months later, he knew ten letter sounds and had yet to be able to combine them to form them into a word. He had a few words memorized but even sight words were difficult for him. He had also gone from being eager to learn to read to hating every minute of it. It broke my heart.

To make a long story short, it took two long years for him to learn his letter sounds and at least that long to form them into words. Once he could finally read three letter, one vowel words and four letter long vowel words, he had to painfully sound out each word. Now, after eight years of tears, frustration, prayer, research, and even outside help, he is reading at about a third grade level.

I was sure our next three children would do just fine in school. After all, many families have one child who struggles in school. Well, though they do not struggle to the extent that our second son does, all three of our younger children also have learning disabilities from very mild to fairly severe.

For years, I struggled with the fact that some of my children are not academically “normal” children. I would hear other homeschooling moms talk about how intelligent and advanced their homeschooled children were. I would wonder what was wrong with our family, most of all, what was wrong with me as a teacher. When 80% of the students have varying degrees of learning disabilities, surely it is the teacher’s fault! I knew that their academic struggles were certainly not from lack of trying on my part, but was I doing it wrong?

Gradually, for I am a slow learner myself sometimes, the Lord has taught me that my job is to be faithful. God has called me to homeschool my children. My job is to teach them with the best of my ability. The outcome is not in my hands, but in the hands of our Savior. That brings me more comfort and confidence than I can possibly express.

Over the years, the Lord has taught me many things concerning my children who learn differently. Here are some of them:

The first and most important thing I have learned is to pray, pray, pray! I cannot rely on my own strength and wisdom to help my child. I need wisdom from my Heavenly Father. So many times I have been SURE I should teach my child a certain way. Then, after prayer, the Lord has led me in a completely different direction which turned out to be the best one for my child. It is important to be open to the Lord’s leading, even if it goes against what we may think is best.

I have even learned to pray through out the day. In moments of frustration, I silently pause for a moment to ask the Lord for wisdom. Occasionally, when one of my children is upset or frustrated, I will take them by their hand and pray for them outloud.

Secondly, I learned to not worry about well meaning homeschooling moms who have completely “normal” children and are sure that if you homeschooled their way, your children would not have any academic struggles. They really are not trying to be arrogant. They truly do want to help. I have learned to look at their hearts instead of the words that used to hurt me.

No one can completely understand something they have not been through. I have a friend whose husband was deployed for a year. I could sympathize and pray for her, but I could not truly understand what it is like to have a husband gone for a year, especially being in such a dangerous situation. Likewise, parents who do not have children who struggle in school cannot understand what it is like. They can sympathize and pray for us, and I treasure friends who do this. However, unless they have walked in our shoes, they do not fully understand.

So when another homeschooling mom or a grandma or anyone else, comes to you with the perfect answer for your child’s struggles (more often than not, it will be something you have already tried) just smile and thank them for their concern. Usually a polite “I am really glad that works for your family.” is all that is needed. I have learned not to go home and stew about it. I remind myself that they have struggles in their life that I can’t possibly understand.

Third, while I love to read homeschooling books and magazines, I have learned that certain homeschooling magazine articles can do me more harm than good. I don’t know how many times I have read stories about the “light bulb” experience. The story will tell about a child who struggled to learn to read and then one day he could suddenly read huge chapter books. That truly does happen. In fact, it has happened in my own household. One of my children went from haltingly reading first grade readers to reading chapter books in a two week period.

However, many children never will have that “light bulb” moment. Instead of a light bulb, it will be more like a slow-moving tortoise going up a slippery, muddy hill that slides back two feet for every three feet it goes forward. We waited for years for my son, who struggles so much, to magically get that “light bulb” experience. It has not yet happened.

Gradually and reluctantly, I have come to accept the fact that my son may never will have that “light bulb” experience. He will probably always struggle with reading to some extent. He will probably never be able to have a job that requires a lot of reading. It has been a hard pill for me to swallow but a necessary and important thing for me to accept.

A forth important lesson I learned is to rejoice in each little victory. I remember the first time my son read the word “of.” He was ten years old. He had struggled with this particular word from age six when we first began his long, difficult up-hill reading endeavor. I had shown him flashcards with this word. I had read him chapter books and had him read this word every time we came to it. He had rolled out this word with play dough. He had written it in sand and in salt. We had cut that word out of newspapers and magazines in many different fonts. Still, every time he came to that word in the books he would read aloud to me, he would not know it.

One day, after four years of working on this word, he was reading a story to me in his usual painfully halting and slow way. He got to the word “of” and he read it!! I held my breath waiting to see if it was a fluke. Sure enough, he got to the word “of” further in the story and read it again. I got so excited and I said to him, “Did you know that you just read the word ‘of’ twice!” He grinned and was as excited as I was. He saw my excitement and heard my praise, but what he didn’t know was that after he finished the story, I went to my room, shut the door and cried. I was thinking, “I can’t believe I am crying tears of joy because my ten year old can read the word “of.” But if you have a child who struggles so much, those little things mean the world to you.

I should tell the rest of the story. The next day, he could not read the word “of.” I didn’t say anything to him, but I was inwardly heartbroken. However, over the next few days and weeks, he read it more often than not, and eventually was able to read the word correctly every single time he saw it. That is what I mean about a tortoise going up a slippery, muddy hill.

Each new word that my struggling learners learn to read and spell brings me joy. Every new concept that they grasp is a cause for celebration.

This brings me to my fifth point. As homeschoolers, we tend to avoid outside help. However, with my son, my husband and I came to the point where we knew we needed it.

In the reference pages of the handout, you will see the names, telephone numbers and websites of the places where you might be able to find help for your struggling learner.

I would like to talk specifically about some places we received the most help with our son. The first one was from Lynne Popp, who works out of Omaha. She tested our son and was able to give us curriculum ideas and other tips that have greatly helped him. Lynne Popp helped me realize that my son did not have any phonemic awareness. This has nothing to do with phonics. Phonemic awareness is the ability for one to be able to depict and distinguish the different sounds in the spoken language. It is a step before phonics that happens naturally for most children but did not happen for our son. Lynne Popp taught a two day class that has helped me in teaching our son phonemic awareness. I have also used these principles with our daughters and we have seen great benefits from implementing many of her suggestions.

Lynne Popp introduced us to a great program that has really helped our son and both daughters to have phonemic awareness. You will find it listed on the reference sheet. It is called Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program. It takes the parents about two weeks of studying this program for about one hour a day to fully grasp it, but if your child has a phonemic awareness issue, it is well worth your time.

The second place we received help for our son was from Dianne Craft. I watched two of her lectures on DVD. They are listed in the handout. I have also purchased curriculum and curriculum supplements from her that have greatly benefited my struggling learners. One example of her material would be these phonics flashcards. Most phonics flashcards have the sound on the back of the picture or down in the corner. However, many children, especially right brain children, often remember the sound much better if the sound is imposed over the actual picture. These cards have helped some of my children learn specific phonics blends that they were not able to learn in other ways. I have brought a few more of her materials and you are welcome to look at them after the workshop.

The third place that we have received great help for our son has been from Dr. Paul Moss. He is a chiropractor in Ankeny. Dr Moss has treated our son with adjustments, supplements and nutrition. He has been treating our son for several months and we have seen improvement in his ability to read, reason and articulate his thoughts.

I should caution though, that outside help, however good it may be, may not remove our child’s learning struggles. Outside sources are often a great benefit in helping our child reach his full potential, but most of the time, they will not remove the child’s learning struggles completely.

My sixth point is that in our desire to help our child academically that we need to be careful not to neglect something even more important and that is to help them grow spiritually. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the academic struggles of our children, that we forget about helping them to grow to be more like Christ. It occurred to me once a few years ago, when my son was struggling greatly with a particular sin, that I should be far more concerned about his sin than I should be about the fact that he could not yet read. Yes, learning to read is crucial, but more importantly still, we need to keep eternal values in view.

Sometimes we are tempted to overlook behavioral issues with our learning disabled child. Life is already tough for them and we don’t want to add to their burdens. Yet, sin is still sin, no matter what their disabilities may be. We still need to help them grow and become more Christ like with each passing year. We do not do our leaning disabled children any favors if we overlook their sins.

Along the same vein, we should be careful not to pity our child who is a struggling learner. We can encourage and help them to achieve the best of their ability. We can sympathize with them when they are discouraged, yes. But never pity them. It will cause them to grow up with a “Woe is me, the world is against me and life is so unfair” attitude, and that will not help them in any way, shape or form.

The seventh important thing that I learned is not to hold any of my children back from learning because they cannot read well. They can still learn so much about science, history, literature and most of all, God’s Word. I read to my children constantly. It is one of my favorite things to do. I read the Bible, great works of literature, science and history textbooks, character building books and just plain fun books to them. Often my non-strugglers will listen, too, even though they could read the material on their own.

They can also learn in other ways. They can still memorize Scripture if I help them orally. It may take my struggling learners longer to learn verses but they can still do it. We also do science experiments, take family nature hikes and do art projects.

My eighth point is that over the years, I have learned that the whole world does not need to know about my children’s learning struggles. I have learned not to talk about it except with people that I really trust because it opens up my child for criticism and the possibility of being pre-judged. Plus, as I have mentioned before, I have come to realize that most people do not truly understand unless they have gone through it.

Our personal family choice has been to not put specific public labels on our children. My husband and I do not want our children to be mainly known as the child who has Sensory Integration dysfunction or dyslexia or what ever the case may be though I should add, that personal knowledge about our children’s specific struggles can be helpful because then we can research ways to help them reach their full potential. However, this is a decision that each family has to make and there is really no “right” or “wrong.”

Since my children’s learning struggles are something that is utmost on my mind, it is easy to want to talk about it to every new friend I make, especially if they homeschool. But I know that I would not appreciate my husband going to work and talking to his coworkers about my struggles. Just as I want him to respect my privacy, I should respect my children’s privacy.

I talk about my children’s learning disabilities on a “need to know” basis only. For example, if they are promoting to a new Sunday School class, I will let the teacher know so that they will not ask my child to read something outloud that they are not capable of reading. I also have a couple very close friends that I talk to about my children’s struggles on a regular basis. I know they love my children very much and they will keep what I say confidential.

My next point is one that is hard for me to admit because it shows that I am less than spiritually perfect in my trust in God’s sovereignty. I found that I did go through a grieving process about my children’s learning struggles, much like what I went through after each of my eight miscarriages. I went through denial, sadness, anger and finally acceptance. It is difficult to see one’s child struggle in any way and it is normal for most of us who have children who struggle academically to grieve because of it.

The important thing to remember is something that a good friend of mine said after she went through an unimaginably difficult time in her life, “Run to Jesus, run to Jesus, run to Jesus.” There is nothing sinful about grieving or the Bible would not tell us to weep with those who weep. It is comforting to know that we can run to the arms of our Savior and He is waiting and ready to comfort us. Through this journey of teaching children who learn differently, I have cried out many times to the Lord in tears and He heard my prayers and brought me comfort in many ways. He brought me hope and comfort through the encouraging words of friends and family, through passages of Scripture, and just from knowing that He cares about my children, and understands my children and loves my children even more than I do.

My tenth and final point is that it is very important to accept our children the way God made them. Each of our children are a blessing from God, even if they don’t fit the world’s idea of “normal.” And, really, who defines “normal” anyway. They may struggle in ways that most children do not, but they are still precious children created in the image of God. If they get even a sense that they are a disappointment to us, it can leave scars that may last a lifetime. God created our children the way He wanted them to be. As hard is it may be to believe this, God loves our precious children more than we do. No matter what their struggles may be, they can be used of God and they can live a life that glorifies God.

Our children who learn differently have their own unique talents and strengths. We should help them develop those gifts to the best of their ability. My son who struggles so much with reading has a tender heart, is very good at crafts, is fascinated by medieval weapons, and wants to be an inventor some day. I have learned to really appreciate his gifts and to focus on those instead of worrying so much about what he can’t do.

Sometimes it may be hard to see their gifts. I have a difficult time with this with one of my struggling learners. I will always remember the day she looked up at me and said, with a tearful voice, “I am not smart. I am not good at anything.” That day I began to fervently pray that God would show me her gifts and talents so I could help her develop them. The Lord showed me that she has the gift of a compassionate and tender heart. She has been able to reach out to others and encourage them when they go through difficult times by baking for them, writing sweet notes and things like that. I am still praying that God will show me other strengths she has so that we can develop those as well. We can pray and ask God to show us our children’s strengths so that in turn, we can encourage our child with the knowledge of these special abilities and help foster that talent or gift in their life.

Like my daughter, some children really struggle with the fact that they have learning disabilities. It is hard for them when they are not able to accomplish everything their peers accomplish…or at least not able to accomplish it as quickly as other children. However, it is important to teach our children that our main purpose in life is to glorify God. How ever God created them is how God knew our child could most glorify Him. Our child’s job, like ours, is simply to be faithful and to do their best according to the ability that God has given them.

A friend of mine uses the following example and I have shared it with my children. A butterfly struggles to come out of it’s cocoon but the struggle strengthens it to fly. In the same way, our child’s struggles, whether it be learning disabilities or something else… strengthen them so they can soar spiritually.

In closing I’d like to share something another friend of mine said to me. I was sharing some of my son’s struggles with this close friend once. She said something that I always remember. She said basically this, “I am kind of jealous. If God feels you can handle a son with these learning disabilities, you are very blessed.” I have always remembered those words and God often brings them to my mind when I am discouraged.

It is also very important to remember that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Teaching our struggling learners often seems overwhelming from the human perspective. I have often thought, “Lord, I can’t do this one more day.“ That is exactly the time when I must run to the loving Arms of our Heavenly Father and ask Him for strength, mercy and wisdom to help my children.

May God bless you as you homeschool your children, whatever their strengths and their struggles may be.

Notes for Struggling Learner Workshop

Helping Your Struggling Learner

1. Pray, Pray, Pray!

2. Try not to worry about what others may think. This is much easier said than done!

3. Avoid homeschooling articles that may discourage you.

4. Rejoice in every little victory.

5. Seek outside help if necessary.

6. In the desire to help our child academically we need to be careful not to neglect their spiritual condition.

7. Even if our child can not read well, he or she can still learn.

8. We need to be discerning when we talk about our child’s learning struggles.

9. Many of us will go through a grieving process because of our child’s learning struggles.

10. We need to accept our child the way God made him or her.

Kim Stilwell
Family blog:

Reference pages for Struggling Learner Workshop

Curriculum that may be Helpful for Children Who Learn Differently

Scaredy Cat Phonics (

Handwriting Without Tears (

Math U See (

Mastering Math Essentials by Richard Fisher, 20 minutes a day workbook

Right Brain Phonics Reading Book by Dianne Craft
( )

“Right Brain Phonics Flashcards” by Dianne Craft

“Sight Word Cards” by Dianne Craft

“Right Brain Multiplication Cards” by Dianne Craft

Wise Owl Math Worksheets

Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program

Passport Learning, LLC (

Daily Grams (

Easy Grammar (

Hooked on Phonics (

Explode the Code (

Resources that Parents of Children Who Learn Differently may find Helpful

“Teaching the Right Brain Child” DVD by Dianne Craft

“Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner” DVD by Dianne Craft

NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

The Out of Sync Child by Karen Stock Kranowitz

Homeschool Legal Defense Association

*The IEP Manual: Individual Education Planning by Jim and Debby Mills
supplies goals, skill lists, and ideas for planning your child's program.
Available from

*LinguiSystems has many professional authored resources for writing IEPs.
Available at

*The New Language of Toys; Teaching Communication Skill to Children with
Special Needs by Sue Schwartz lists developmental milestones and contains
charts to record your child's progress. Available through

*The Student Education Plan (SEP): A Preparation Guide by Judith Munday
walks parents through the SEP process. Available from

*Teaching Your Special Needs Student: Strategies and Tools That Really Work
by Judith Munday provide evaluation information, scoring rubrics, graphic
organizers, and more. Available from

*HSLDA members can also contact their special needs coordinator.

*Joyce Herzog has Luke's Life List (and Luke's School List) that would
beneficial in helping parents to see they are making progress and to help
avoid discouragement. They, along with other resources, are available at

*They were from an article by Andrea Longbottom in the March/April 2009 issue of "The Home School Court Report".

People That May Be Helpful to Your Child Who Learns Differently

Dr Paul Moss
1932 SW 3rd Street, Suite 6
Ankeny, Iowa
(515) 964-9114

Lynne Popp
Omaha, Nebraska
Tel: (402) 498-8708
Fax: (402) 445-0433

Dianne Craft