The decision to homeschool my child with special needs was not an easy one. But I am so glad I made it.
I used to be extremely opposed, super judgy, uninformed and militantly against homeschooling.
(I was once so rude and condescending to a homeschooling mom at the park that I wish I could go back in time and not only take it back, but clean her kitchen for her while she sips a glass of wine.)
So, if you feel that same violent opposition, there is nothing but understanding and a hug for you here.
It’s a little crazy how much our perspectives change over the course of motherhood.
Making the decision to homeschool was not an easy one.
I don’t think it ever is, but add special needs to the mix, and it can become downright terrifying.
Suffice to say, my perspective on homeschooling has changed dramatically since my less-informed years.
What did it was enrolling my son in public school.
After two years, it was clear that although he was in the top 1% of second graders in the school district and had perfect grades, he was miserable every single day (and therefore so was I).
It was also painfully clear that, because he was so advanced academically, he was not learning anything new at all.
It took seeing him struggling to fit in, hearing kids tease him about his 6th grade reading level, having meltdowns every morning over having to put on shoes/get out the door, constant bullying, the his teacher telling me that she didn’t need my input, my son’s never-ending overload from bells ringing, crowded cafeterias, PE on the prickly grass…
It took all of this to cause me to take a step back and say, maybe this isn’t working.
I made the decision to homeschool my child with special needs.
A year after we began homeschooling, we found out he was on the autism spectrum. A year after that, his younger brother was diagnosed with dyslexia, then ADHD and a mood disorder.
In the midst of all of these diagnoses, one question was asked of me more than any other.
When are you going to put them back in school?
The impression was, and often continues to be, that the school system is better equipped to deal with children with special needs. I understand the argument. Teaching children with learning differences and special needs, does require some education and specialization, but no more than a mom often acquires about her child’s differences, even while they are still enrolled in school.
Seven years later, I can say that the decision to homeschool has proven to be one of the most beneficial I have made, for my boys and for our family. I would even venture to say that it has been the best decision I have made in how we approach their learning differences and special needs.
Making The Decision To Homeschool My Child With Special Needs
Having two children with near genius level IQ’s, but also brain differences that in a school setting would classify them as “behind” means we individualize everything. For example, my youngest still struggles with basic reading skills and has for the last seven years. He is also completing math lessons that are several grade levels ahead, and has historic and scientific knowledge that is advanced for even a high schooler. I am able to continue to challenge him and move him along in subjects that he is naturally more adept, because I can read the directions, the worksheets, and the books to him. In a school setting, not only would he not be able to advance this significantly, he wouldn’t have the support necessary to be able to focus on learning the subject matter, instead of struggling to read the most basic information.
On the other hand, my oldest is way ahead in most subjects, but struggles with holding a pencil and writing his own name. Challenging him and truly helping him learn, always requires tailoring the plan to both his level of knowledge and his sensory-motor needs.
With the crazy that can sometimes rear its ugly head around here (especially with intense meltdowns or completely sleepless, neurologically impaired nights), it has been a huge benefit to be able to tailor our days to our capabilities. On the worst days, we simply don’t complete much school work. We may leave the house and head to the aquarium or call up some friends and ask if they want to come over and do a project in the kitchen or garden. When we have better days, we load up on the more detailed learning. We end up even in the end, and sometimes even ahead on our lesson plans.
In the past, I was super critical of the “socialization” part of homeschooling.
I still hear it a lot. How will they be socialized? Won’t they be weird? For the record, my son did not have a very “social” year in public school second grade. If anything, what he learned in a formal school environment was stay away from most other kids.
One of the greatest surprises and benefits for us have been the sweet, close friendships the boys have developed because they are homeschooled. When they connect with other children, there is time to get to know one another at park days or play dates or field trips. They don’t interact in short snippets of recess time. They have hours to learn to get along. Because we are not changing grades and classrooms each school year, my sons have both had close friendships for three years. There is so much good that has come from this..
Here is one of the most salient examples I can share – A few years ago, my oldest was with one of his closest friends (we will call her Flower). They were outside playing with some of the neighborhood kids, when one of them came up to Flower and told her that she thought my son was “really weird” (to this day, I am not sure if my son heard her). Sounds like a sad story, but the beautiful part comes next. Flower and her little brother, were outraged. Flower stood up to the little neighbor girl, while her brother ran into the house, went straight to his room and started crying because he felt so bad for his friend. My son had so much support and love surrounding him, that I am not even sure it registered with him the way it did for his friends.
My point is, these friendships are real. They don’t end because of summer break, or because of the latest drama on the playground. They matter to my boys and they matter to me. . I couldn’t ask for a better environment in which to “socialize” my children.
Please know that this is what works for our crazy life and my wonderfully made boys. It may not be what’s best for yours, and that’s OK. I support that. I am a big fan of moms, homeschooling or not.
My decision to homeschool my child with special needs was just that – mine.
You choose what is best for your child and I will celebrate it with you. Happily.
How Do You Homeschool In The Midst Of Receiving Your Child’s Diagnosis?
Please join me today at Hide The Chocolate, where I am sharing what it’s like to homeschool in the midst of receiving a diagnosis for your child. My post is part of a month-long series – How To Homeschool In The Midst Of Hard Things.
For more information on Homeschooling Children With Learning Differences and Special Needs:
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.