Homeschooling is fast becoming a favored option for those who aren’t comfortable with public or private schools. Many people feel it is beneficial to children of all ages and walks of life, bringing the family closer together while tailoring the education to the individual student. However, when the student has special needs, people have a tendency to change their minds. They believe that these children cannot possibly be taught at home and require trained staff to teach. Sadly, this viewpoint is shared by many within the homeschooling community, causing division among families who need the support of others who are teaching their children at home.
Focus on grade level
Many families feel that children who learn at home are under pressure to remain at the same grade level as peers of the same age. When a child is not at grade level, the parent who is responsible for teaching is often blamed. Many children with special needs have learning deficits that make it impossible to stay at grade level in every subject, regardless of if they are learning at home or in a school setting. Many children in public schools remain below grade level and are promoted, regardless. This is because the schools recognize that progression is all that matters when a child has learning disabilities. Therefore, this would apply to those learning at home, as well.
Parents who are teaching children with learning disabilities are often more interested in the child excelling at life skills rather than getting straight A’s in schoolwork. Many of these children face physical needs that require doctor visits and can be quite painful. This may make it hard to concentrate on school work, causing school to be conducted during good days and not on bad days. This will affect the child’s grades. Other students may have problems that make it hard to sit still or are bothered by sensory stimulation, making it hard to conduct school for long periods at a time. The parent takes all of this into consideration. Pushing the student will not help and may hurt the situation, causing him to hate doing school work or the learning process.
While this is a concern the general public has with any child learning at home, even those in the homeschooling community take issue with this when children have special needs. Many children who are home educated have forms of autism that makes it difficult to be in a classroom for six hours a day under fluorescent lighting, being surrounded by too many children all at once. It is determined by many that keeping these children at home will further make it difficult for them to learn to read social cues or respond to their peers. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. When a child is at home with siblings, going to group therapy or play dates, it is more beneficial to learning social skills than being in a classroom.
The reason this happens is that when surrounded by large groups of loud, energetic children, the child with autism is too overwhelmed to properly pick up on good behavior verses bad behavior. All too often, they pick up on the bad behavior and learn to mimic that. They need to be taught what is proper and what is not. This is best taught with the child involved in smaller groups, where she can be supervised and her actions or the actions of others explained to her. She is less apt to feel overwhelmed in smaller groups, making it easier to teach her how to properly socialize. She will feel less threatened when a trusted adult is there to ensure she is not being bullied.
Parents who choose to teach their own children with special needs are often criticized by other homeschooling parents because the parents are not experts in the fields their children may be lacking. It is believed that someone needs to go to school and get a degree to know how to work with a child with autism or Down Syndrome. However, many parents have successfully graduated children with needs who have overcome incredible obstacles academically, physically and emotionally. This is possible because only a parent has enough love for a child to learn whatever is necessary to reach that child. Only a parent understands the child’s strengths and weaknesses completely.
While a teacher may have great intentions and trained professionals have worked very hard to understand special needs, the focus is on the most common needs and the most common symptoms. They learn how to meet these children in general, but not individually. A parent has known the child for a minimum of three years, inside and out, before sending him to school for someone to work with him for six hours a day. The parent has the advantage over any trained professional in this area. Parents learn all they can about their own child’s needs, not every form of special needs. This intense focus is a benefit to the child learning at home.
Because homeschooling is still criticized by most of the world, those who choose this form of education for their children need to stand together without finding reasons for division. There are several benefits to homeschooling children with special needs just as there are for children without needs. The common ground everyone should focus on is a love for a child and a desire to give him the best education possible.