As parents of children, challenged or not, we want the best for them. All children need love and support and the needs of challenging children, both emotional and academic, can be far more intense.
Self-confidence and self-esteem: Children who learn or act differently may experience self-confidence and self-esteem issues as they continue to notice their differences. While homeschooling is not the answer for everyone, it can shelter your child from some destructive situations. If your child is already in the special education system, bringing them home may also bring healing for damaged emotions. One mom noted that she was in special education when she was a child. Walking to the resource room while the other children remained in the regular classroom was lonely and humiliating. Homeschooling her child was her answer to spare her child that feeling of humiliation she felt under those circumstances. Children are spared the brunt of comparison and competition that are rampant in the classroom. It also allows us to practice selective socialization, apart from pain and ridicule of school. We can help our children to nurture friendships that are God-honoring and respecting of individual differences.
One-on-one attention and efficient use of time: A classic classroom environment with perfectly aligned student desks simply can’t give your child the one-on-one attention that is possible in the home. If your child is in school and struggles, consider how much time you spend helping with homework. Have you ever wondered why all the work can’t be completed during the school day? Often it is because the child needs additional one-on-one time or practice with a concept. When you homeschool, you eliminate homework because it’s all “home work!” If you have helped a tired, cranky, challenging child with homework, rest assured that you will be able to handle homeschooling this child.
Flexibility: Consider also the tremendous benefit of flexibility. You can strengthen the weaknesses and teach to strengths. In addition, you can use materials on many grade levels, instead of learning lock-step with the rest of a school. Many of us have children who are at one grade level in math and at a completely different grade level in language arts, for example. In the homeschool setting, we work with the children with no stigma or shame, using materials and instruction that are appropriate for that individual child. Your schooling environment and program can be perfectly tailored to meet the individual needs of your child.
Physical environment: In the home, one can exercise greater control over the physical environment. Consider the child with dietary restrictions who daily visits the school cafeteria to be bombarded with the sights and smells of delicacies (often disguised as processed foods) which, if ingested, would send his behavior and concentration into a nosedive. At home, a child’s diet can be monitored and the environment can be modified to deal with physical distractions.
Is homeschooling the alternative for your challenging child? Consider this:
- Homeschooling can provide you with time and energy to work on your relationship with him;
- Homeschooling can give you the chance to teach critical life skills, which often have little to do with academics. Our goal is to launch them out of home as productive, God-honoring husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and workers in the workplace;
- It can afford you the opportunity to impart God-honoring values and to build on your family’s strengths;
- You can be instrumental in instilling in your child that he is a person of value and worth.
Look beyond the temporary frustration of raising a challenging child to see the person you will launch out of your home at adulthood. This is where your vision for homeschooling is birthed.
You will never regret the energy you invest in growing another human being.
Will They Be OK?
Let’s face it: Even parents who homeschool neuro-typical kids struggle with self- doubt. Include a learning disability or a difference in style or personality into the mix and the doubt can become crippling. How do we know we are doing the right thing for this child?
Regrettably, not much serious academic research has been done in this area. One encouraging study, however, set out to determine if ordinary parents, who were not certified teachers, could provide an adequate learning environment for special needs kids. The sample was admittedly small – six elementary and two junior high students. The study looked at the amount of time students spent making academic responses. In this setting, that meant the amount of time spent responding to mom’s teaching. Why is this significant? It is a truism of educational theory that increased academic engaged time (AET) will lead to an increase in achievement gains. This study showed that, “Generally, the measures of classroom ecology and achievement showed that home schools, when compared to special education programs, provided equal if not more advantageous instructional environments for children with learning disabilities.” Because of fewer children in the home school, they were afforded greater AET (academic engaged time), so they gained more, overall, on standardized testing. The study’s authors noted, “ten times as much one-on-one instruction was observed in home school versus public school settings.” The testing showed homeschooled students making large gains in reading and written language while the public school students lost ground in reading and made only small gains in written language. (Steven E. Duvall, D. Lawrence Ward, Joseph C. Delquadri, Charles R. Greenwood, “An Exploratory Study of Home School Instructional Environments and Their Effect on the Basic Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities,” Education and Treatment of Children, 20 (1997) 150-172)
The beauty of homeschooling is finally being recognized as a superior academic alternative. Homeschooling parents KNOW they can accomplish more in a few hours of intense instruction that a classroom teacher with twenty of thirty students can accomplish in six hours of the school day. Now we know that this phenomenon has a name – academic engaged time. Because of the increased one-on-one time, homeschooling has been referred to as the Cadillac of education. Your challenging child should have as good a ride!
Can I Do It?
Homeschooling can be an extension of active, involved parenting. When your child is a challenging child, we must become more active and educated to learn to deal with their difficulties. The Lord reminded Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. God will work through your weaknesses, in His grace, to accomplish what He wishes in your life and in your child’s life.
So where to begin? Like any spiritual journey, begin with prayer. Your goal is to facilitate your child’s growth, but you will experience enormous growth as well. God may stretch you, but He is faithful.
It is imperative that prayer be followed up with some parent education. Do you have an idea of how to teach a child who learns differently? It is challenging enough to teach non-challenged kids. You will need to spend a season of parent education. I strongly discourage you from bringing your child home before you have a battle plan for how you will teach them.
Here are some must-read resources as your consider homeschooling your special needs child: