Category Archives: Special Needs Homeschooling

Do you have what it takes homeschool a child with special needs?

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Shouldn’t you have a degree in special education in order to homeschool a child with ADHD, learning disabilities, Autism, or other special needs? You should at least be a “special kind of person,” right? You know, that proverbial “special kind of person” that God designed to educate challenging children.

Homeschooling a typical student is challenging enough, right? But when you have a child who doesn’t respond to the typical curriculums available on the homeschool market, that’s when you may just have to send your child to school, where there are “experts” with degrees and experience, right?

Probably not.

As one of the “experts” with a Master’s Degree and a Rank 1 in both elementary and special education who has taught in public school, I can tell you that you probably can do a better job educating your child at home than I could in public school. Sure, special educators generally are fabulous people who have a lot of knowledge about research-based techniques, and that’s important for sure. But what they generally don’t have is enough time and a small enough teacher-student ratio to do what you can do at home. They also often don’t have the freedom to teach your child what he needs to learn most, because they are subject to laws that say they have to teach the same standards to your child as the typical children in her grade, even if she’s not ready to learn them. And if your child isn’t eligible for smaller special education classes, he will be in a class with 24 to 35 students, depending on grade level, and he probably won’t always have a special education teacher available in those classes.

Even though, as a special education teacher, I wanted desperately wanted to do what I thought was best for students, my hands were often tied by federal laws, such as No Child Left Behind, and by state adherence to the Common Core Standards. It broke my heart to be obligated to teach long division to frustrated students who needed to learn how to subtract a single digit number from a two digit number. It didn’t make sense to have to teach students to balance chemical equations when they were five years below grade level in reading.

As a homeschooler, however, you have the freedom to educate each of your children according to his needs and abilities. You can assess where each child is, make goals for progress, and make a plan to get there. You don’t have to submit to laws that say that you have to teach her something for which she’s not ready. You can spend as long as needed on each concept and you can skip unnecessary material at your own discretion.

Yes, I’m an expert in special education, but you’re an expert about something far more important: You are an expert about your child. A teacher can learn a lot about your child over a few months, but it’s hard to beat the kind of expertise that comes from living with a child day in and day out for years, from tucking her in every night, from reassuring him about his fears, from sharing her hopes and dreams, from cuddling her when she’s upset or sick. It’s actually much easier for you to become an expert at techniques that can benefit your child than it is for a public school teacher to fully understand your child and to have the amount of time needed to give him the time he needs to make progress.

I’m not suggesting that homeschooling a child with learning challenges is easy, and I’m not saying that you can do it the same way as you would teach a typical child. It will likely take more time, effort, and patience on your part. You will want to educate yourself on the best research-based techniques for teaching children with your child’s disability. It will most likely take a different approach than many other homeschooling parents use, but it can be done. And chances are, you can do it better than the “experts.”

Parenting special needs children doesn’t have to be isolating

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“Isolated.” That’s the word she used–a word I’ve heard countless times from moms who have kids with special needs. A word I’ve used to describe my own situation.

Yesterday I was talking with another mom whose child has special needs. She was so relieved to find someone else who understands what it is like to have a challenging child. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. I have talked with numerous moms who feel like nobody understands them. That nobody understands their children.

I remember back about a decade when my daughter was little. The looks we’d get. The well-meaning comments: “Maybe you should try … ” or “She just needs … ” Well, we did try all of those things. They didn’t work. Nothing “worked.”

It’s an awful feeling to be judged because of your child, especially when it’s due to a disability or condition that can’t be changed. It’s also heartbreaking to watch others–children and adults–judge your child. In the store. At the park. Even at church.

Yes, “isolated” is the proper word.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If more people understood disabilities and if more people decided to withhold judgment, we could support each other. Those in the church and in the homeschooling community should be the first to support each other, but often we’re the first to judge each other.

Many moms give up on homeschooling because of the challenges of raising a child with special needs. I did. (Many families give up on going to church because of those same challenges. Brothers and sisters, this should not be!)

I have come back to homeschooling mainly because of another special needs child. My youngest was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year. I had him evaluated after his teacher expressed concerns. His Christian school will no longer be able to accommodate him next year, as he enters 1st grade. I could have sent him to public school, but as a special education teacher, I’ve seen first-hand that kids with ADHD rarely get what they need in public school. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is.

This time around I’m going to do things differently. I know a lot more about educating special needs children than I did the first time I homeschooled. And I want to share what I know with others. I want to encourage homeschool families who have children with challenges. That’s why I started A+ Educational Solutions and Jubilee Academy. I want homeschoolers to feel that they are able to stay the course, whether they have typical children but are burned out, or whether they have children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or other challenges. I want them to feel supported instead of isolated.

So the next time you talk to a homeschool mom who is having a tough time with a challenging kid, or the next time you see a family at church who is having trouble with their child, consider the possibility that they may be dealing with things you can’t understand. And be supportive. Instead of giving them a look of disapproval or pity, give them a genuine smile. Instead of giving well-meaning advice, listen to them and pray with them. If you know them, offer to babysit so they can have a break. Read up on their children’s disabilities. Reach out however you can. But please, don’t make them feel isolated.

ADHD–Medicate to educate?

I’m not against medicating for ADHD. I am opposed to it, however, as a way to keep children in educational situations that don’t work for them. That’s a major reason why I’m returning to home education. I’ve had two of my children diagnosed with ADHD in the past couple of months (one of them just today) and I want to provide them with a more individualized education that considers their personal learning styles, talents, and bents. I don’t want to medicate them in order to have to sit still for 7 hours a day learning in a way that doesn’t fit their learning style. I want them to love learning, not dread it. One day recently, my 6 year old came home from kindergarten and said, “Mommy, I HATE learning! Learning is boring!” What a heartbreaking thing to hear from anyone, especially a Kindergartener! I’m a teacher, and I know how hard teachers work to provide lessons, so that makes it even more heartbreaking for me. I’m confident that I can reverse my son’s opinion of learning as I provide an atmosphere more conducive to him.

My Journey Away From Homeschooling … And Back Again

I homeschooled for 5 1/2 years before calling it quits. I loved it at first, and felt called by God to do it. But it was hard, especially with a child with ADHD. I got burned out. I remember leaving the kitchen table to put in a load of laundry while the girls were doing their work at the table. I’d come back and they’d have run out the back door to play. Not just once … this was the kind of thing that happened regularly. Eventually I got burned out because I began homeschooling in my own very limited strength, rather than depending on God’s endless strength. I was tired and I had two babies, and I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore. So, rather than getting first-time obedience from my children, and rather than seeking God’s strength, I sent them to school.

It’s been five years since I made that decision. In the meantime I got my Master’s degree in education, worked part-time at a couple of part-time programs for homeschoolers, and worked for two years as a special education teacher. It’s interesting that I struggled to educate my own special needs child, but I decided to teach other people’s special needs children.

What’s even more interesting are the reasons I’m returning to homeschooling. First, it’s time to go back and fix the problems in my relationship with my children that caused me to quit homeschooling the first time. (Amazingly, sending them to school did not fix the problems, as I had thought it would.) Second, my 6 year old has been diagnosed with ADHD. His teacher says it will be very hard for him to be successful in the 1st grade because there will be 24 kids in the class and he needs more attention than he will get. My boys go to a Christian school that is not equipped to deal with attention issues or learning disabilities.

So now I want to establish the proper relationship with my kids and give them the BEST possible education. I know the importance of individual attention and individual education. ¬†Even though most teachers are fabulous people who want to give the best to their students, it’s so hard to give your best to 24 students! I absolutely believe homeschooling can be the BEST educational choice.

Another goal I have is to help other people to be able to homeschool their children through difficult circumstances, like ADHD, behavior issues, and learning disabilities. I want to help people not to give up, like I did the first time. I don’t know exactly how God wants to use my experiences, but I trust that He does.

I’m looking forward to homeschooling in the power of the Holy Spirit this time!

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A New Perspective and a New Venture

After two years of teaching public school and a couple of years of prep-work that came before, I am making a radical change after this school year. I am going to teach part-time at a cottage school so I can homeschool three of my children. This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, because I absolutely love my teaching job. But I love my family more, so after spending a couple of years giving my best to other people’s kids, it’s time to give my best to my own kids.