Do you home school your child? Part of what I love about blogging is giving other people the opportunity to share their own perspective and talk about their experiences.
Jackie Nunes is a blogger at WonderMoms.org. She is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time homeschool educator. She and her husband have three children. Their middle child suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was 4. Now 11 years old, she is hearing impaired and uses a wheelchair. Jackie and two other moms created Wonder Moms as a project to share real talk, helpful information, and practical advice with parents of kids who have intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, language and speech delays, deafness, chronic illness, and traumatic brain injury.
Thank you Jackie for sharing your own story and writing this article about the pros and cons of homeschooling a child with disabilities. For more information about guest posts on Gravitybread, click here.
A Guest Post by Jackie Nunes
“How was school today?”
It’s such a simple question – unless you have a child with special needs. Often, children with disabilities can’t effectively communicate the details of their day at school. Parents have to rely on whatever teachers send home in backpacks. And those little notes and checklists rarely answer the questions you most yearn to ask:
- Is my child happy at school?
- Does my child have friends?
- Is my child getting attention and support?
- Is my child being challenged?
- Is my child safe?
School comes with ups and downs for all kids, but children with special needs can be especially vulnerable. At one extreme, there are risks of bullying and mistreatment. At the other extreme, there is the risk that low expectations and too much coddling will prevent your child from becoming independent.
If your child isn’t having a positive experience in school, you can try to fight the system. Or you can leave the system altogether. Homeschooling isn’t an option for all families; it requires that one adult be able to stay home during the day. And there are things you miss out on by not being enrolled in a traditional school. But for many children with special needs, it’s a great solution.
If you’re thinking about teaching your child with special needs at home, here are some of the pros and cons to consider.
Advantages of Homeschooling
- Focus on your child’s interests: When homeschooling your child, you’re the one who chooses how to approach the lessons you teach. This means that you can tailor your teaching style and curriculum to make learning more fun for your child. Doing activities that make them feel excited and accomplished will make them more interested in learning.
- Work in terms of strengths and weaknesses: No one is good at everything. Homeschooling your child means you get to see first-hand how they perform in different subjects. Particularly difficult subjects or assignments can be focused on for longer periods of time. Taking more time to practice a particular subject will help your child strengthen their aptitude for that subject.
- School is in a familiar setting: Homeschooling reduces anxiety among children. Teaching your kids from home allows them to stop worrying about the stressors they would face at a traditional school and instead turn all their attention to learning and having a good time while doing so.
- Schedule flexibility: Timing can be everything when you’re teaching a child with special needs. If your child is having an off day or needs frequent breaks, that’s much easier to accommodate when they learn at home. Scheduling doctor and therapy appointments is also a lot easier.
- Less sensory overload: Often times attending a traditional school comes with a constant barrage of sights and sounds as well as high volumes of people in close quarters. All of these factors add up and can completely overwhelm a child. Schooling from home allows for your kids to learn in a much more comfortable, calmer setting.
- Home and school connect: One of the big benefits of homeschooling is that you can turn anything into a lesson. Kids get to see how what they learn connects with everyday life instead of seeing school and home as two strictly separate entities.
- Field trips are more fun: Without the pressure to keep up with his or her classmates, your child can take as much time as they want to look at paintings or reading signs. It’s just an experience for your child, so it’s up to him or her to decide how they want their field trip to go. If they love lions, most of your zoo field trip can be learning about and watching the lions.
- Keep a better eye on social interactions: While it takes parents who homeschool their children more effort to organize gatherings or group activities, they have the benefit of being able to see first-hand how their children are treated by others, as well as how they treat others. This lets parents ensure their children are taking part in positive interactions.
Disadvantages of Homeschooling
- Less structure: If your children thrive with a very structured routine, getting accustomed to homeschooling may be a little challenging. Homeschooling isn’t as structured as traditional schooling. Sometimes children have trouble visualizing the line between school and home.
- Setting aside part of your home as your homeschooling space can help your kids better understand when it’s time to play and when it’s time to learn. Creating a schedule and placing it where your child can see it can also help add more structure to homeschooling.
- School nurse unavailable: While traditional schools have a nurse’s office your child can go to if they get hurt, your home does not.
- Parents – especially those of children with disabilities – should consider learning basic first aid and getting CPR certified before beginning to homeschool their children.
- Social isolation: Children who are homeschooled often have fewer opportunities to socialize with kids their age.
- Networking with other parents who homeschool in your town will help you find opportunities for your child to get some social interaction and make friends with other kids.
- No art, music or sports facilities: Your child won’t have access to a gym, art room, or music auditorium while being homeschooled.
- To make up for this, many parents sign their children up for art classes, music lessons, or community sports teams (either regular or Special Olympics). You can also stock up on craft supplies and try DIY activities that you find online.
- Finding specialists: Many public school districts employ various therapists, counselors, and special education teachers.
- While those who homeschool often have to work harder to find specialists and therapists, it’s not impossible. First look into your health insurance plans and school district, and then go from there. Parents can usually have specialists come to see their child in the home.
- Burnout: Being a parent is exhausting enough in and of itself. But when you also take on the roles of teacher and counselor, things get enough more tiring.
- Pace yourself when getting into homeschooling. Make sure you take time to relax and to socialize with other adults. Always remember you can better teach your child if you take care of yourself first.
Final Thoughts About Homeschooling a Child with Disabilities
Making the weighty decision about whether or not to homeschool your child is never easy. There are many benefits. You can control what and how your child learns, and tailor it to what you know your child likes and needs. However, it comes with some potential drawbacks, as well. Parents should know, going in, what those are and how to overcome them in order to have the most fulfilling experience.
Homeschooling can be difficult, but when you are able to see the excitement in your child’s eyes when they are learning, it’s all worth it.