My First Year Homeschooling Children With Learning Differences
My oldest spent the last half of his second grade year miserable.
He cried every single morning and physically fought me when it was time to go to school.
He lost recess every day because he couldn’t finish the math timed tests in under 3 minutes and had to stay in until they were complete.
He was bullied over his shoes, his speech, and his intellect.
He had straight A’s without even trying, and was in the 99th percentile on every single standardized test he was ever given. He was reading at a high school level, but was only allowed to check out library books up to a fourth grade level.
He was depressed and frantic, all the time. I was depressed and frantic, all the time.
When the last day of school finally arrived, I knew he would not be going back.
Our decision to homeschool was one of the best we have ever made for my boys. It works well for our family. It works well for this teacher turned momma. It works well with their learning differences.
We have done it for eight years now, because it works so well. But please hear me when I say, the first year was really, really difficult. Making a change like this is significant, for everyone. It takes time, patience and lots of coffee, in my experience.
Looking back, I can see that there are some things I did that helped. I can also see that there are some things I did that made everyone’s adjustment even harder.
Your First Year Homeschooling Children With Learning Differences
Here is what I wish I knew in our first year homeschooling.
Deschooling Is A Thing
The term deschooling is used to describe the transition a child/family goes through after being in a formal school setting. I had heard of this, prior to our first year at home, but honestly, did not pay much attention to it.
I should have.
Deschooling is a real need – not just for the kids but for mom. Taking some time to just rest and connect relationally, before jumping into more structured learning is good for all homeschooling families. Add in the fact that many children with learning experiences have very traumatic experiences at school, and this transition time is even more essential.
I wish, in our first year, we had spend at least a few months just going on field trips, playing at the beach, coloring and watching documentaries together. That would’ve been far more beneficial and effective than the math worksheets I was so quick to assign.
I share more about our first year and the importance of deschooling in this post at Bethany Ishee –
Life Skills Matter
Children with learning differences often struggle most with basic life skills. For my boys, taking a shower is much more challenging than completing a history lesson. As such, I have learned to incorporate life and basic study skills into our learning.
Don’t Do What Doesn’t Work
I knew that a traditional school approach did not work well for my son. So what did I do that first year homeschooling? I recreated a traditional school approach at home. (Y’all, I even rang a bell to start our day.) It did not serve any of us well, and about mid-way through the first quarter, I was ready to give-up in total defeat.
It sounds simple, but it’s true. If it’s just not working for your family, you don’t have to do it.
Slow Can Be Fast In Long Run
It can sometimes be difficult to measure progress when homeschooling children with learning differences. That first year, in a desperate attempt to feel like we were moving forward, I tried to speed up our lessons. Because my boys didn’t retain what they needed to learn (because of my pace), we had to go back and cover it all again. It was a valuable lesson. Sometimes, with out-of-the-box kids, slow is actually the fastest way to learn.
Different Is Not Less
Our homeschool looks absolutely nothing like any one else’s I know. My first year, this terrified me. As time has gone on however, I have come to understand that different does not mean less. Just because we learn math on a trampoline sometimes or cut out pictures of an esophagus instead of completing a science worksheet, doesn’t mean my children are learning any less.
In the interest of full disclosure, I really have no idea what I am doing, even today, even seven years later. I am not sure that feeling ever really goes away – in motherhood or in homeschooling.
The one thing I wish I knew my first year homeschooling is that the difficulty is normal. Just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.
We do the best we can. We love fiercely and fight for our kids. We give up and cry in the bathroom, then wash our faces and return to the day. We have good days, when the learning just seems to flow. We have bad days, when we are sure that we need to send our kids back to school tomorrow.
It’s important to be reminded of this – you are not the only one. Your child is not the only one.
You are not alone.
If you are new to this homeschooling gig, welcome. It’s amazing. It’s the worst sometimes, but, please hear me when it say, it really is a wonderful option for our children.
For More On Homeschooling Children With Learning Differences
Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned educational consultant, and mom of two brilliant boys who have learning differences and special needs.
Shawna has also written four books: Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos, and Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. A passionate advocate for individualized education, Shawna is frequently featured on Today.com, Simple Homeschool, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Mighty. She can also be found supporting parents online at her own site, DifferentByDesignLearning.com.