Guest Author - Valerie Shoopman
The decision to homeschool your child is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Homeschooling is not much different from life itself. There will be ups and downs; there is no doubt about that. It is how well you are prepared, and how you handle those ups and downs that make the difference.
The Pros –
You will be able to have much more control over your child’s learning environment and any positive or negative influences on them. Also on your side is the fact that you intuitively know your child and what their individual needs are. Educating your own child allows you many opportunities to share your own thoughts and views with them on a variety of topics; education, religion, character development, and more, thus allowing you to have a better chance of instilling in them the values and virtues that you think are important.
Resources and support for homeschoolers is becoming much easier to gain access to than in the past. There are many homeschooling resources online in addition to forums and support groups. However, you will have to search a little harder and longer to find homeschooling resources that include strategies and information on homeschooling your special needs child. I will be putting together an online resource book for homeschooling special needs children in the near future to reduce the time and effort required to find helpful information and resources on homeschooling special needs children.
Communication about resources and support groups within local communities and school districts has increased greatly in the past few years as well. In many areas, the school district will provide therapy for special needs children, even if they are homeschooled. In addition, Pediatricians, Psychologists, Therapists, and Special Education Coordinators and Teachers are great resources themselves and many times can recommend strategies, or local community resources that fit your child’s particular needs.
The important things for you to remember are:
You are not alone; there are others out there with the same struggles and issues.
There are local and online resources available to help you.
Do not give up too soon on yourself or your child.
Homeschooling works best when both parents agree that homeschooling is the preferred educational option for their child with special needs. You must be comfortable about your depth of knowledge in the variety of topics needed to provide a well-rounded education, and your ability to convey those topics to your child in an interesting and informative manner tailored to their unique learning style. You will need to have a well-structured, organized plan in place in order to accomplish all the goals you will have to meet. In addition, having established routines in place and disciplinary methods that work for you and your child already set up before you begin homeschooling will help you immensely throughout the course of your homeschooling career.
The Cons –
Homeschooling your special needs child can be a very laborious process. As a result, you start to feel stressed and burned out. This is not good for you or your child. Most times, it is hard for you to be everything to your child - the teacher, the coach, the therapist, the parent, the social coordinator, and the list goes on. Consider enlisting others help and make sure that you have some private time away from your child, even if it is just for a few minutes a day. This will help decrease your stress level and improve your attitude immensely.
If your child is not getting a particular concept, such as in Math for example, you can feel like you have hit a brick wall and that their learning has come to a screeching halt. If this happens, seek out advice and suggestions on how others have gotten the concept across. Just laboriously trying to pound it into them the same way is not going to work any better the 20th time! Absolutely do not feel like you are a failure. More than likely, the case is that they need the information presented to them in a different way, the abstract concept made more concrete, or the information just broken down into smaller chunks. The important thing is to seek help in getting over the hump, do not make it a power struggle.
The opportunities for social interaction are difficult to achieve in most homeschooling environments. You have to make a conscious effort to provide ways for your child to practice how to interact in different social situations. Creating these real life situations with subtle coaching on your part can make a world of difference for your child. Lack of social skills and the opportunity for friendships is the number one negative thing that comes to most certified teachers’ minds when a parent is considering homeschooling.
The financial strain of staying home, plus all the extra doctor bills, obviously can be very difficult. If you are homeschooling your special needs child, then more than likely, that task will completely consume you. You will not have the time or energy to do meaningful work in a paying job. If you are capable of making good money out in the working world, you might consider finding appropriate educational placement for your child and begin the task of building a team of educators and resources that can help you bear the weight of raising and educating a child with special needs.