Homeschooling can seem like a daunting journey, especially for those who are new to the concept. We are unsure of where to start, overwhelmed by the notion of taking on our children’s education, and feel as if we are not enough. May we offer encouragement for families unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.
Joining us today is Cindi Hartley, a fellow homeschooler and blogger. As a mother of two little boys and the leader of Dog for David, she is here with us today offering encouragement for parents of children with special needs considering the homeschool journey. May this inspire and encourage families wishing to take a more active role in their children’s education.
Homeschooling. Special needs. Two terms that can feel like an oxymoron when first put together. I am here to share with you though how they can actually be a quite harmonious pair. First let me encourage you by saying that homeschooling is never as hard as it seems at first. It has it’s challenges yes, just like most things in life, but the rewards that you and your child reap far outweigh the rest.
I have been homeschooling my two sons for about three years now and I have found that it was the best choice I could have made for them. No longer bound by desks, rigid routines, crowded classrooms, and specific curriculum my children have found the freedom to start growing and learning at their own pace and in their own ways. From curriculum choices to class schedules, and everything in between, the homeschooling environment provides you and your child the freedom to adjust not only your resources, but the way you use them as well until the perfect fit for your child is found.
Can’t sit still? No problem! Races, games, dancing, and other activity that involves movement is easy to incorporate into the day as much as needed. They can even become valuable teaching tools for that child that learns best while on the move.
Behind in some areas, but advanced in others? The homeschooling environment isn’t bound by grade based curriculum and crowd based interests. Plus, who better to know when to push a child to reach their potential and when to back off and let them go at a slower pace than their own parent? Someone who has been by their side from day one; a teacher who doesn’t need an IEP or 504 plan to know where their child struggles or excels, or what motivates them, or how to calm them when they are overwhelmed? You have always been your child’s biggest fan. Now you get to be their biggest help and encourager too, ensuring they don’t get left behind when they struggle and that they don’t get held back when they are ready for more.
Sensory problems, anxiety, meltdowns? When schooling is done from home, the outside influences that can cause overloads are much more easily controlled. Whether your child needs a more predictable routine, a less crowded classroom, the flexibility to keep working on a task until they are done, fewer distractions, or even some quiet “white noise” to help them filter out the extras and focus on what they’re learning, you now have the power to give it to them! And for those moments when that still isn’t enough (it does happen), the child will find comfort in having someone they already know and trust to turn to in their moment of need.
What about life skills and socialization? For one, life skills are learned best when taught by actually practicing them. Learning how to count money? Take them to the store and let them help you pay at the register. Need to work on laundry skills or cooking? Get them their own laundry basket and apron and let them become your special helper. Bonus! Those activities easily allow for lessons on sorting, measurements, sequencing and more. They also come with naturally built-in fine motor practice!
As for the socialization, consider the fact that sitting in a room with a bunch of children around the same age, does not alone make for a social environment. Especially when one is to be quiet and still most of the day, and struggles with standing out on a regular basis due to their special needs. When your child is learning with you however, social opportunities are much more easily added into the day in much more natural ways. Plus, the child has the freedom to approach the situations in ways that are most comfortable instead of being forced to adhere to the norm. No eye contact? You can work on just having them look at the person in general, even if it’s below face level. Communication struggles or general social awkwardness? Chances are high you will be right there to guide them through it, and that the person on the other end will be more patient with the situation.
You also are no longer limited to just children of a similar age and in a particular environment. Your child will meet people of all ages, both young and old, and in all kinds of different situations. Talk about social practice and opportunity. ;)
In conclusion, even though it can seem a daunting task at first, there are a number of ways that homeschooling and special needs actually fit very well together. If you are feeling led to start this journey with your child, I encourage you to not be afraid to do so.
“… Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
You can follow Cindi at her blog, Stripes and Puzzle Pieces, where she shares more about parenting and homeschooling, or at An Autism Diary, where she records daily interactions to help track autism. If you’d like to stay connected, don’t forget to follow on YouTube and Facebook!