Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Cottage School is Born

Jubilee Academy at KavanaughToday I finalized plans for Jubilee Academy to operate at Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center in Crestwood, KY. I am excited about this venture, because this is an opportunity to do what I love–which is teaching–while including the people I love–my kids–for the most important reason of all–God‘s glory.

I got the idea of beginning a cottage school because I didn’t want to quit teaching professionally even though I decided to homeschool my own children. There are several fabulous cottage schools in the Louisville, KY area, but I wanted to build a unique program based on my own philosophy of education. Jubilee Academy is a blend of the best of progressive and the best of traditional education. Students will participate in reading, writing, and math workshops each day. They will receive instruction from me, and then they’ll put the skills to use while working individually or in groups. Those needing extra instruction will have individual conferences or focus groups with me.

Since I am certified in special education, as well as in elementary education, and since I personally have two children who have ADHD, I want to reach out to others with children who struggle. I have a passion for teaching all kinds of students–students who are considered typical, as well as those with ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Asperger’s Syndrome, and High Functioning AutismJubilee Academy will admit students with and without learning challenges.

In the Old Testament, the Jubilee was the year when everyone got back any property they had mortgaged, when debts were forgiven, and when captives were set free. I see Jubilee Academy as a place of freedom and joy for students. I also see this venture as part of my personal journey of freedom.

I am looking forward to seeing what God does with Jubilee Academy in this venture of creating a cottage school.

Is Homeschooling for you?

Example of unschooling (home-based, interesed-...
Example of unschooling (home-based, interesed-led, child-led form of education). These children are trying to dig out bugpoop (insects’ excrements) out of tree bark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. But it probably is for more people than are doing it.

How do you know if it’s for you? I don’t recommend just going with your gut or making a decision based on feelings. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just an educational choice. Here are a few points to consider:

1. Have you prayed about it? Ask God to guide your educational choices, and then listen to His guidance. Be willing to do whatever He leads you to do. Ask Him to lead your spouse (if you’re married) to the same conclusion.

2. Have you searched the Scriptures? Is God confirming a homeschooling decision through His Word? I think it’s important to be careful here. You can find scores of websites and well-meaning homeschoolers who will tell you that homeschooling is the only viable choice for Christians. There are many Scriptures that can be used to back up this argument. Christians also can find Scriptures to back up Christian schooling and public schooling. Some truths of Scripture are universal. Other times God uses Scripture to convey His truth to us individually. Educational choice is an individual decision, and God speaks to families through His Word about decisions like this.

3. Are you and your spouse united about a decision to homeschool? If you’re not, it’s probably best not to do it. I believe it’s more important to have family unity than to homeschool. I have a friend who wanted to homeschool, but her husband wasn’t in agreement. She looks back and is glad they made the decision not to homeschool, and she is very happy with the educational choice they made.

4. Are you willing to be mom (or dad) and teacher 24/7? It can be physically and emotionally exhausting to be with your kids all the time. Some people need more downtime than that to recharge. Others really don’t find teaching to be enjoyable or desirable. Homeschooling is a huge undertaking, not to be taken lightly. But it can also be a huge blessing to be with your children all day long. Time spent together provides many opportunities for bonding and discipleship.

5. If you have a child with special needs, can you provide everything he/she needs? In most cases, homeschool parents can provide adequately for special needs children, especially if they have mild disabilities. But sometimes another option is better.  It’s also important to consider how homeschooling a child with challenges will affect other children in your family. Some parents choose only to homeschool a special needs child while sending their other children to school. Others decide to homeschool the other children, but to send the child with learning issues to school. Still others feel equipped and called to homeschool both typical and special needs children. If you have a special needs child, the following articles may be of help to you:

Do you have what it takes homeschool a child with special needs?

Homeschooling a child with Autism

6. Do you want to homeschool? This may seem obvious. However, some people choose to homeschool because they feel like they “should.” They do it because they feel guilty or because many of their friends are doing it. You’re more likely to have a joyful homeschool if you want to do it. Some people, however, homeschool out of obedience to what God is calling them to do, even though they are reluctant. We always should obey God, even if He calls us to do something we don’t want to do. (Think about the story of Jonah.)

My goal in writing this isn’t to talk you out of homeschooling. On the contrary, I believe homeschooling is the best educational choice in many cases. I hope that, by considering my questions, you can feel an assurance about whatever God is calling you to do. When I decided to return to homeschooling, I considered all of these questions myself. Doing so led me to a decision to homeschool. It also led me to start A+ Educational Solutions LLC and Jubilee Academy, because I want to help others overcome homeschooling challenges. If , after carefully considering the questions I presented, you do choose to homeschool, I believe you’ll find it to be a blessing to your family.

Do you have what it takes homeschool a child with special needs?


Shouldn’t you have a degree in special education in order to homeschool a child with ADHD, learning disabilities, Autism, or other special needs? You should at least be a “special kind of person,” right? You know, that proverbial “special kind of person” that God designed to educate challenging children.

Homeschooling a typical student is challenging enough, right? But when you have a child who doesn’t respond to the typical curriculums available on the homeschool market, that’s when you may just have to send your child to school, where there are “experts” with degrees and experience, right?

Probably not.

As one of the “experts” with a Master’s Degree and a Rank 1 in both elementary and special education who has taught in public school, I can tell you that you probably can do a better job educating your child at home than I could in public school. Sure, special educators generally are fabulous people who have a lot of knowledge about research-based techniques, and that’s important for sure. But what they generally don’t have is enough time and a small enough teacher-student ratio to do what you can do at home. They also often don’t have the freedom to teach your child what he needs to learn most, because they are subject to laws that say they have to teach the same standards to your child as the typical children in her grade, even if she’s not ready to learn them. And if your child isn’t eligible for smaller special education classes, he will be in a class with 24 to 35 students, depending on grade level, and he probably won’t always have a special education teacher available in those classes.

Even though, as a special education teacher, I wanted desperately wanted to do what I thought was best for students, my hands were often tied by federal laws, such as No Child Left Behind, and by state adherence to the Common Core Standards. It broke my heart to be obligated to teach long division to frustrated students who needed to learn how to subtract a single digit number from a two digit number. It didn’t make sense to have to teach students to balance chemical equations when they were five years below grade level in reading.

As a homeschooler, however, you have the freedom to educate each of your children according to his needs and abilities. You can assess where each child is, make goals for progress, and make a plan to get there. You don’t have to submit to laws that say that you have to teach her something for which she’s not ready. You can spend as long as needed on each concept and you can skip unnecessary material at your own discretion.

Yes, I’m an expert in special education, but you’re an expert about something far more important: You are an expert about your child. A teacher can learn a lot about your child over a few months, but it’s hard to beat the kind of expertise that comes from living with a child day in and day out for years, from tucking her in every night, from reassuring him about his fears, from sharing her hopes and dreams, from cuddling her when she’s upset or sick. It’s actually much easier for you to become an expert at techniques that can benefit your child than it is for a public school teacher to fully understand your child and to have the amount of time needed to give him the time he needs to make progress.

I’m not suggesting that homeschooling a child with learning challenges is easy, and I’m not saying that you can do it the same way as you would teach a typical child. It will likely take more time, effort, and patience on your part. You will want to educate yourself on the best research-based techniques for teaching children with your child’s disability. It will most likely take a different approach than many other homeschooling parents use, but it can be done. And chances are, you can do it better than the “experts.”

Parenting special needs children doesn’t have to be isolating


“Isolated.” That’s the word she used–a word I’ve heard countless times from moms who have kids with special needs. A word I’ve used to describe my own situation.

Yesterday I was talking with another mom whose child has special needs. She was so relieved to find someone else who understands what it is like to have a challenging child. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. I have talked with numerous moms who feel like nobody understands them. That nobody understands their children.

I remember back about a decade when my daughter was little. The looks we’d get. The well-meaning comments: “Maybe you should try … ” or “She just needs … ” Well, we did try all of those things. They didn’t work. Nothing “worked.”

It’s an awful feeling to be judged because of your child, especially when it’s due to a disability or condition that can’t be changed. It’s also heartbreaking to watch others–children and adults–judge your child. In the store. At the park. Even at church.

Yes, “isolated” is the proper word.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If more people understood disabilities and if more people decided to withhold judgment, we could support each other. Those in the church and in the homeschooling community should be the first to support each other, but often we’re the first to judge each other.

Many moms give up on homeschooling because of the challenges of raising a child with special needs. I did. (Many families give up on going to church because of those same challenges. Brothers and sisters, this should not be!)

I have come back to homeschooling mainly because of another special needs child. My youngest was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year. I had him evaluated after his teacher expressed concerns. His Christian school will no longer be able to accommodate him next year, as he enters 1st grade. I could have sent him to public school, but as a special education teacher, I’ve seen first-hand that kids with ADHD rarely get what they need in public school. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is.

This time around I’m going to do things differently. I know a lot more about educating special needs children than I did the first time I homeschooled. And I want to share what I know with others. I want to encourage homeschool families who have children with challenges. That’s why I started A+ Educational Solutions and Jubilee Academy. I want homeschoolers to feel that they are able to stay the course, whether they have typical children but are burned out, or whether they have children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or other challenges. I want them to feel supported instead of isolated.

So the next time you talk to a homeschool mom who is having a tough time with a challenging kid, or the next time you see a family at church who is having trouble with their child, consider the possibility that they may be dealing with things you can’t understand. And be supportive. Instead of giving them a look of disapproval or pity, give them a genuine smile. Instead of giving well-meaning advice, listen to them and pray with them. If you know them, offer to babysit so they can have a break. Read up on their children’s disabilities. Reach out however you can. But please, don’t make them feel isolated.

Turning the Page to Reveal a Brand New Story

One thing I like about storybooks is that, when you finish a story, there’s a fresh one waiting for you. You just have to turn the page. Sometimes, when my kids ask me to read another one, I tell them that they have to go to bed. Other times, I indulge them with “just one more.” Either way, there’s another story waiting.

Life is like that, too. When we end one stage in our lives, all we have to do is turn the page and another begins.

Yesterday was my last day teaching in public school. I’ve really enjoyed my job, so it was difficult to think of that chapter ending. But today it is time for a new story to begin. I am preparing to return to homeschooling, after taking five years off. I am going to teach at a local cottage school two days a week. And I’m getting serious about my own business, A+ Educational Solutions, which provides tutoring, educational testing, homeschool curriculum consulting, and lesson planning. As part of A+ Educational Solutions, I’m beginning Jubilee Academy, a cottage school for Grades 1-6 that will meet Mondays and Wednesdays, 9-2:30, in Crestwood, KY for the 2013-14 school year. I’ve located the spot where I plan for Jubilee Academy to meet, and it’s a wonderful location. I will finalize it in the next couple of weeks, and then announce it. I’m very excited about the opportunity to continue to teach classes while I homeschool my own kids. I’m also preparing to promote A+ Educational Solutions and Jubilee Academy at a couple of local homeschool events–the HFHG Curriculum Swap and possibly the CHEK Convention. After that, I’m going to have an open house for Jubilee Academy, probably in mid-June.

I’m excited to see what God is going to do in my story as I turn the page from one great chapter to another.


Following God’s Plan Can Be Bittersweet

The road God calls us to walk is sometimes bittersweet.

Tomorrow will be my last day teaching at Cartmell Elementary. I have had the craziest year there, and there have definitely been ups and downs at school and at home. But when it comes right down to it, I love working there. I love everything about teaching in public school—everything except the time I spend away from my own children. I love classroom decorations, lesson planning, and working with other teachers. (OK, I don’t always love meetings and paperwork, but those don’t even bother me that much.) Most of all, I love the students, and I love knowing I’m making even a small difference in their lives.

This year was a little bit rough at work because of some unusual circumstances, but even with the difficulties, I still loved teaching—every minute of it. So saying goodbye to full-time teaching has me kind of down. Most teachers are so excited about the coming summer vacation. I will enjoy my summer for sure. But I’m probably the least excited teacher at my school right now. Packing up boxes and taking down decorations has brought some definite sorrow.

Sometimes God calls us to do things that bring us some sadness. Contrary to our society’s philosophy that we should do what feels good, the Lord calls us to sacrifice. So many people sacrifice what’s best for their children to do what feels good to them. The Lord often calls us to sacrifice our own desires for the good of our children.

So, while I feel kind of down about leaving full-time public school teaching, I am hopeful that God will bless my sacrifice and benefit my family because of it.

Closed Doors May Reveal God’s Will

Sometimes I think I’m on the right track, but God’s will is different. Other times, I simply don’t know God’s will but press on with what seems logical. To my shame, I also have had times when I didn’t even seriously consider God’s will in my decision making process.

Recently I have been trying to make some decisions that will seriously impact my life and the lives of my children. I have been much more tenderhearted toward God than I have been in years. But I still couldn’t discern His will. He knew that I wanted His will, whatever it was, and that I wanted it more than my own desires. And so He is graciously revealing His will, a little at a time, by closing one door after another. I am looking forward to walking through the doors He has chosen for me.

Ultimately, though, I have learned God’s will—His overall will for me and for every person who has ever walked the face of the earth. His will is for me (and you) to know Him. He cares much less about our circumstances than He does about our relationships. Our relationship with Him is to be the primary focus of our lives, and our relationships with others are a natural outflow of our relationship with Him. When we focus on Him, we will naturally know and do His will.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 NLT)

Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Provides, if we give Him the chance

The Israelites Gather Manna in the Wilderness ...
The Israelites Gather Manna in the Wilderness (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God provides all of the time. Sometimes we try to provide for ourselves. I think that when we do that, we miss out on God’s blessings. We work so hard in our own strength to do something that God would happily do for us. How silly is that? Why would we insist on doing work that has already been done, or that we know someone else is planning to do for us?

There are two main reasons I can think of that we might do this: pride and lack of trust. Pride says, “I can’t stand the thought of God doing something I may be able to do on my own if I work hard enough. That would make me look weak, lazy, etc. (fill in the blank) Pride also says, “I have to earn God’s favor and I have to pay Him back for the gift of salvation. I can’t ask Him for anything else.” Lack of trust says, “If I don’t do it, it might not happen.” We may believe God is able to provide, but we may wonder whether He actually will. Or we may believe that our problem isn’t big enough for God to care about. Maybe we take care of all the “small stuff” and only approach Him with things we can’t possibly take care of on our own.

Just because we can provide something on our own doesn’t mean God wants us to do it in our own strength. We can do a lot of things on our own, but we also may neglect relationships with God and people in the process. We may burn ourselves out. We may take responsibility for something someone else is supposed to be doing. We may rob someone else of the opportunity to serve. We may miss out on what God really wants us to do.

Could the Israelites have provided for themselves in the desert? Maybe they couldn’t have produced much food, but they certainly could have allowed hunger to drive them to the promised land in their own time, rather than in God’s. Or, they could have decided that they would rely on God’s provision of manna for a short time, but figured that God didn’t want them relying on Him for too long. They could have pressed on to Canaan too quickly because of their lack of trust and their pride. That would have ended in disaster! Surely their enemies would have defeated them, or they would have met with other challenges for which they were unprepared. Trusting God’s provision and His timing, though it was probably difficult to do, was the best course of action.

Trusting God to provide is always our best course of action too. God is the same today as He was in Moses’s day. No matter how bleak our circumstances look, God is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides.

Heavenly Father, I don’t always know how you’re going to provide. Right now I’m in a season of having to trust You because I know You’ve called me to make a change that looks kind of crazy in the world’s eyes. But I trust You will provide, and I will give you the glory for it.

Walking by Faith for Baptism and Beyond

ImageToday our church had a special baptism service. Baptisms occur every weekend, but there was a special emphasis this weekend. I especially loved one of Pastor Kyle Idleman’s points: He said that there are many great questions about baptism, but the one he doesn’t like people to ask is, “Do I have to be baptized?” Baptism is a privilege–a response to receiving the very great gift of salvation which was purchased with Jesus’ blood.

When I was baptized 20 years ago, I did so in response to God’s amazing grace. I came to a realization that I could never do enough good deeds to win God’s favor or to spend eternity with Him. I understood that I would never have peace without accepting the free gift of salvation He was offering me. I remember being very nervous about getting baptized, but then feeling so much peace as I came up out of the water. I knew that I was a new creation in Christ and that something was totally, radically different. Other people could tell too. So many things changed about me on the inside and on the outside.

Since then, many years have passed and many changes have taken place in my life. I have become more comfortable in my faith. That may sound like a good thing. We consider comfort to be positive, right? But in this case, it’s not. Christians should never become comfortable in their faith. Believers should always be reaching out of their comfort zone and allowing the Lord to stretch them. They should be characterized by doing things that they can’t possibly do without God’s help. When we live in our comfortable Christian circles and don’t share our lives with unbelievers, and when we only do what we know we can do in our own strength, God gets very little glory.

I was convicted today during the baptism service that I need to be more dependent on Jesus. That I need to “be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10) That I need to listen for His direction instead of being so self-reliant. That I need to trust Him completely. If I can trust Him with my eternity, I certainly can trust Him with the details of this life. 

Jesus, forgive my complacency, my fears, my doubt, my self-reliance. Make me into the person you want me to be. I want to do whatever you want me to do. I want to know You.