My Honest Regrets About Homeschooling My Child With Special Needs
I know I am not the only mom, homeschooling a child with special needs, or any child for that matter, who doesn’t have a least a few regrets looking back. I think this is likely completely normal, so here are my honest regrets about homeschooling my child with special needs.
I went into the parent portal for my son’s homeschool hybrid school yesterday.
He has participated in afternoon classes there for almost five years. He still homeschools for most of his academics, but this program gives him access to chatty philosophy classes and other teens who like the same kind of music. He has teachers who have seen him grow and have become respected mentors.
It’s the best possible scenario for my child.
But when I logged into the portal yesterday, I immediately caught my breath and began to blink back hot tears. The landing page had been updated, and now read his name and his upcoming grade level.
Please, don’t misunderstand. I am thrilled that this child has grown into a wonderful man. I am excited for all the things he has in store this final year of high school and beyond. My reaction had nothing to do with not wanting him to grow up. It had everything to do with realizing the hour glass is running out of sand.
In that moment, my first panicky thought was, “Oh no! There’s so many things I haven’t done. There’s so much I wanted to do for him.”
In that moment, I was painfully aware of how many regrets I have about our homeschooling journey.
My Honest Regrets About Homeschooling My Child With Special Needs
I am sharing these with you in an attempt to be as transparent as possible about the reality in all of this. Please know, although I really do feel all of these, viscerally, I am also not spending a ton of time beating myself up or feeling shame because of them.
As my child has grown and developed, so has his mom. He was my first born. Of course I had no clue most of the time.
Regret #1 – I pushed too hard.
When I think back to when my son was first diagnosed with autism, I cringe at some of my daily decisions.
We had already been homeschooling for a year and, although I knew his diagnosis meant he likely needed accommodations in learning, I still tried to make him learn in ways that felt most comfortable for me to teach. This meant a ton of tears and frustration. It meant him shutting down and not seeing me as someone on his side. I pushed way too hard those first few years.
Regret #2 – I didn’t push hard enough.
When he began melting down, every day, sometimes several times a day, I really struggled to stay engaged. While I would never say that one should require learning anywhere near a meltdown, I know more now about how to return to normalcy and get back on track. But back then, I would let it tank our entire day, even week, in my own depression and discouragement.
As time went on, I found that sometimes, my son needed me to give him a little loving push in some areas. I learned that sometimes, being his mom means requiring him to step outside his comfort zone, even when it felt really, really hard.
It is a balance to this day, and one I wish I had learned sooner.
Regret #3 – Math
Oh math. What can I say? You are just one big pile of homeschool regret here.
We did not learn that my son had dyscalculia until he was eleven years old. By then, math had already become a major battle field. While I firmly believe that my son needed a strength based approach, and was never going to be a math professor anyway, I regret not finding some ways to make it more accessible and interesting for him.
At the time, it felt like the last thing we needed to worry about, and truthfully, I think it was. But any guilty homeschool mom will tell you, it’s the subjects they struggle in that keep you up at night. He calls math his Nemesis. It’s mine too.
Regret # 4 – I didn’t embrace the delight.
This is the one that really gets me choked up. Again, his is my first born child. I didn’t realize how quickly it would go.
I didn’t know that it was OK to just let him be a nine year old, reading and exploring in the backyard all day. I didn’t know it was OK to let him watch the cooking show he adored and even get into it with him. I thought he needed more formality and in pushing it, I missed so many opportunities to experience his delight.
I know I am not the only mom, homeschooling a child with special needs, or any child for that matter, who doesn’t have a least a few regrets looking back. I think this is likely completely normal.
I am sharing it because I want you to know I do have some regrets. Many of you have been reading about his child, here, for seven years now. You have been with us all along the way.
And more than anything, I want you to know that I will never regret making the decision to homeschool this boy and his brother. Its been one of the greatest joys and accomplishments of my life, being able to do this with him. It’s been one of the greatest challenges, in all the hard ways and in all the good ways.
He is a confident, capable young man and I truly believe that being allowed to learn in an environment and manner that made sense for his individual needs has made all the difference.
Don’t worry, I am not going to spend too much time here being sappy as we work through Grade 12 this year.
I will however, end with this.
For all my regrets, there are so many more surprising, genuinely wonderful things that have come from homeschooling my child.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
For more ideas, encouragement and support
Does this count as school?
For the anxious homeschool mom
What you should know about homeschooling a child with 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.
Regret number 1, check.
Regret number 2, check.
Regret number 3, check.
Regrets number 4, check.
Yep Shawna, I can relate to all of these. It is true though that it is not our fault that when our babies, and grandbabies, were born, we had no clue about their special needs, including that they had any. It Is by God’s grace that we survived the learning curve. We and our children. And by God’s grace and mercy they still love us. And by God’s grace and mercy we did come out on the other side of the learning curve with a lot of wisdom. So in the end our grief is not as bad as it could be, huh?
I appreciate you so much I Shawna! Sending this to you now with tears, a mixture of many emotions.
Amen and Amen, Ann!
Now that I am well into the grandparenting stage of life, I can tell you that there will always be regrets. You will always look back and see things you wish you had done differently. That’s probably why there are so many parenting advice books! Not because the author got it right but because they had regrets and want to spare their readers the same regrets (which only causes the reader to trade up for a whole different set of regrets!). Sadly, we don’t get do-overs, so while we can acknowledge the regrets, we can only move forward and hope that the best we offer now is enough.
Well said, Deb! Thank you.
Thank you for sharing this, Shawna. I can relate to pretty much all of these, and we are only in our 6th year of homeschool. THANK YOU for being honest with all of us. Your writing has helped encourage me for years now, and this is no exception.
Thank you so much, Abi. I appreciate your being so kind.
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