I’m often asked why we decided to homeschool our daughter. The truth is, we were already homeschooling when we realized we have a child with special needs. It’s not that the needs weren’t there; it’s just that we were in denial. (That’s a story for another time.)
When my husband and I finally admitted that we were dealing with a special needs situation, we were already a couple of years into homeschooling our older daughter. Things were going well. My experience as a classroom teacher had left me well-prepared, and after ironing out the differences between teaching twenty to thirty kids and teaching only one child, I was feeling good about our educational choices and was confident I could easily add our younger daughter to the mix. After all, we were only dealing with medical and health issues.
Except we weren’t. When my younger daughter started her kindergarten year, it quickly became evident that there was more going on than just medical issues. My bright, bubbly five-year-old struggled to learn. I had to connect with learning disability specialists to get the help we needed.
Then I addressed some other concerns that had been bothering me for years, and we ended up with neurodevelopmental diagnoses as well. That added another piece to the puzzle and additional things we needed to work on.
Despite all the challenges we’ve faced, I haven’t questioned our decision to homeschool our special needs child. In fact, we have decided that homeschooling has been the best choice for her.
Benefits of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs
- Fewer sick days. My child has an immune deficiency, and she is active in our community, so she picks up germs despite the fact that she’s not in public school. She still gets sick, but she doesn’t have to miss school completely and then struggle to catch up. I can modify the day’s assignments according to her health status. Lighter days when she’s ill, and heavier days when she’s well. It’s amazing how much we get done, even on “sick” days!
- One-on-one instruction. My older daughter is able (and prefers) to work independently, so she comes to me to grade her work and to ask questions. That means my younger daughter and I can work on her math, reading, and language arts together. (We do other subjects as a group, at least while the girls are both in elementary school.) She gets my full attention, and I can balance her need for me to be there with her need to learn to work independently, closely monitoring the situation for signs of frustration and struggle. Even on days when they both need me, it’s not difficult to move back and forth between the two of them.
- Customized instruction. As I work with various specialists, I buy or borrow the materials we need to use to help her make progress and reach her potential. (And I don’t have to wait for my yearly classroom budget and supply list to be approved!)
- Hands-on learning. We do a lot of hands-on activities that meet my daughter’s therapeutic and academic needs at the same time, and we take a lot of field trips to provide learning experiences that help her better understand what we study at home. Fortunately, we live in an area with state parks, hands-on science museums, zoos, and a national park within a couple of hours’ drive!
- Flexible scheduling. Homeschooling allows us a lot of flexibility for therapy sessions, specialist appointments, medical procedures, regular lab work, etc. We have done lessons in the car while traveling, in waiting rooms, in the children’s hospital, and anywhere else we find ourselves as we travel the special needs journey. For us, homeschooling definitely does not occur only at home.
Homeschooling has been a great fit for our family, but I’m thankful that all of us have the freedom to make the educational choices that are best for our particular situations.