Homeschooling Your Special Needs Child
By Joy Kita
As a homeschooling mother of four children I have my “special days”-the kind where you wonder whatever possessed you to teach your children at home, days when you wish you had the local school on speed dial and a red “easy” button that was more than wishful thinking. These days are fewer than my successful ones, days when all the pieces fall into place, such as math without tears, writing without a fuss, and the to-do list all checked off, yet it bothers me that they exist at all. I struggle with not being the perfect woman who lives in my imagination- getting it all done, doing it all right. Sometimes my homeschool journey becomes stale and rote and I can’t find the energy to be creative. I approach lessons with half-heartedness that my children emulate, which only perpetuates the funk. It is in these times that I need inspiration from another source to keep me blazing my trail.
Meet Julie. She is one incredible woman who never ceases to inspire me and remind me of all my blessings. Julie has four children, two of which have special needs. She decided to homeschool when it became clear that her other options would never yield the same results she knew she could obtain. Many people might peer into Julie’s world and wonder at her courage; I know that I do. I hope I would make similar choices if my children presented the same unique challenges, but I’m not sure I would. When you homeschool a special needs child, you face a daily challenge of faith, patience, and endurance that requires endless energy and resources. I stumble after a few difficult days. Every day for Julie is difficult, yet she embraces her choices with a fiery stubbornness to do the best by her children no matter the personal cost-the very picture of the Lord’s heart for us. Julie’s eldest daughter is severely developmentally challenged; she does not communicate except through beginning stages of sign language. Her lack of ability to communicate causes great frustration for both mom and daughter, but with the help of an incredible behavioral therapist, they are learning together. Julie’s homeschool goals for her daughter are not curriculum-based but all about expectation and progression. Julie’s son suffers from high anxiety and leans toward Attention Deficit Disorder. Working alongside of him requires constant patience and a willingness to endure acts of willful defiance and work through physical outbursts. Julie’s homeschool goals for her son are all about incentives. She reinforces positive behavior with special treats and surprises. Their day consists of a lot of movement and flexibility. She uses balls with spelling, scavenger hunts for math, and reward boxes for everything in between. Julie does not focus on grade levels and curriculum but on forward progression and hallmark moments. Julie’s biggest piece of advice is to find people willing to work alongside you and follow through. This is a rarity. Today she moves on quickly if someone can’t or won’t support her. Julie does not have time to waste. She is a warrior mother on a mission: to provide the very best for her children no matter the cost.
Meet Mary. She is another example of a selfless giver and believer in the power of homeschooling. Mary’s two children were born deaf. Many years passed during which her children’s fate was in the hands of others before Mary realized that the best place for them to be was at home. Mary’s dedication to her children took her away from family to Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, where she spent four years watching them begin to function at a higher level and being trained herself on how to integrate them back into the mainstream. The idea of surrendering her children over to the “system” was too much for Mary; she knew they would slip through the cracks. She also knew there was a better way, one that would include a path that would accommodate a slower pace, thorough teaching, and specialized focuses. What does Mary desire most for her children? She hopes they develop an independent work ethic. She would like them to chase after knowledge and not wait for the learning to come to them. It is this enduring belief in homeschooling that inspires me to continue on even during the rough patches. Mary believes her choice to teach the children at home is the very best thing she could have ever done for her family. It is all about sticking it out together, drawing in as one, and sorting the rest out as it comes.
I do not homeschool special needs children, but I do have the privilege of walking alongside these two women, learning from their accomplishments, gaining strength from their perseverance, and seeing the hand of God at work as they carry on in the way in which they have been called.
Joy Kita is a mother of four and is the blessed wife of Stan. She has been homeschooling for seven years and is currently the director of a thriving co-op with more than eighty children. She is an author specializing in adventures for boys. Her newest book, Fable Nation, will be released by Brighter Books in 2013. She stays motivated by her all-consuming love for the Father. You can read her blog, Fluorescent Fingerprints, at www.joyamykita.wordpress.com <http://www.joyamykita.wordpress.com>
and check out her innovative publisher: www.brighterbooks.com <www.brighterbooks.com> .
Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com <http://www.tosmagazine.com/> or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com <http://www.TOSApps.com> to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
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