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People homeschool for all kinds of reasons - sometimes faith-based, sometimes for the flexibility it offers, and sometimes for academic reasons. Perhaps a child is not being challenged enough, or perhaps he or she learns in a different way than a regular school can provide. We began homeschooling mostly out of a desire to incorporate our faith into our children's education. Along the way, we found out that our son has certain issues that are mild compared to many others, but nevertheless, they make learning more challenging than it would be otherwise. Dealing with that allowed me to enter into the world of special needs homeschoolers, a world filled with amazing, resilient parents and students both! And in the last several years, I've learned several lessons I want to share.
You are your child's first teacher, and you know your child better than anyone else. Homeschooling allows your child to have individualized instruction from someone who knows and loves him or her inside and out. You can do this!
There is an amazing number of resources out there today for homeschooling parents of special needs students, whether a blog, a social media group, a local resource center, or a specialized curriculum. In addition to this, most public schools offer some special services, such as speech, to homeschool students. There are also some incredible apps that help students to adapt their work in ways that they can do it more independently. One that has been helpful to us is SnapType, which was developed by a married couple, an occupational therapist and an engineer. It allows you to take a picture of an assignment, which a student can then complete by typing or even writing with a finger. (If you get this, get the Pro version right off, which is less than five dollars and includes the drawing option and an unlimited number of documents. Do NOT purchase it from within the free version or you won’t be able to access it from multiple devices.)
Don't worry about completing a certain book by a certain date, or making sure your child can read fluently by a certain age. Children progress at different rates, even without special needs, and the important thing is that your child is moving forward, at his or her own pace. Rejoice in the small steps forward that you see and don't be overly discouraged by the steps back that will happen. If the general trajectory is not moving forward, by all means reach out for help from others, but if your child has not mastered a certain point in reading and spelling, it doesn't mean that homeschooling is not working. Keep pressing on!
Many children with special needs struggle with particular skills. Maybe reading is hard, or writing, or math. That doesn’t mean your child can’t learn amazing, rich content. Explore other ways to make that accessible for your child, whether through audio books or video or hands-on learning. We have made our third grade son’s homeschool curriculum almost completely oral, in that I read most content to him, and I am also often his scribe for written answers. We are gradually moving him to more independence, but in the meantime, he has learned about American History, Greek Mythology, US geography, the amazing diversity of mammals, and Latin, along with reading wonderful children’s classics together, such as Charlotte’s Web and Farmer Boy. Find out how to accommodate your child’s curriculum to make learning accessible at the same time you are strengthening areas that are weak.
Any special needs parent will tell you that rarely do they stumble upon the perfect curriculum right from the beginning - and even more rarely do they find everything in the same place. Our son uses one curriculum for spelling, a different one for math, and yet another one for most of his content learning. One of the best resources we have found has been the Simply Classical arm of Memoria Press, a classical Christian curriculum company. Developed by Cheryl Swope, herself a homeschool mom of two special needs children and the author of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, it offers a gentle approach to learning that meets students where they are, while still stretching them and providing them with the richness of a classical education. The Memoria Press forums include one specifically for Simply Classical where parents can give and receive advice from one another as well as from curriculum experts.
Give grace to yourself and to your child. Expect great things, but hold expectations loosely as you see how God leads you. Homeschooling is a great adventure that can certainly include your child with special needs. Offer it to the Lord and see what He will do with it, on His timetable and in His way.
Welcome! My name is Kristi. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a writer, a musician... but most of all a child and worshiper of God discovering that even in life's messes, God is still good. Learn more about me and my journey here!
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