I never thought I would homeschool. I was a public school teacher and believed wholeheartedly in everything the public school offered children. As a teacher, I knew what I was capable of and what I knew in my heart to be right. I saw teachers and administrators working day in and day out to help the children in our school district thrive. Then I had my oldest son.
They diagnosed my son with epilepsy before he turned one-year-old. Our life in those early days after his diagnosis are a complete blur to me. We tried medication after medication, seeking specialists out of state and more testing than I can remember.
My husband is active duty military and with his job it became clear I needed to step down from my full-time role as teacher and manage my son’s care. We enrolled in Early Intervention and received occupational therapy and speech therapy. I fell into a rhythm and we thrived. I was in an area that I had many colleagues and I knew how to find the services we needed. This helped so much!
We were fortunate my family was available for extra support since this epilepsy diagnosis was not but a minor blip on our radar. Then we received news from the military we were moving across the country!
My mind was flooded with unanswered questions. How do I handle preschool enrollment in an unfamiliar state? How would his IFSP transfer? So many questions we needed to find answers to. Luckily I enrolled our son in a special education preschool in our district, and at first glance it seemed like a wonderful program.
That preschool year started out great, but as the year progressed the classroom added more children until it became clear the teacher had become overwhelmed and needed help. This situation frustrated me with the lack of services that were not being given to my son, even when his needs were clear on his IEP.
We had two IEP meetings before Thanksgiving and each time I left defeated and in tears. The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement. Why? He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced. The school was not offering anything to make me feel like public school was a better fit. My husband and I agreed that he would come home and we would try preschool at home.
“The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement. Why? He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.“
Then, before we knew it, we were moving again. Another unfamiliar state and new schools. I again started the enrollment process only to find our district in this new state could not find the right school for my son. The school close to our new home did not have a school nurse, the school in the opposite direction was at capacity. The solution was to enroll him across town. I just could not believe we were fighting to enroll our son in kindergarten.
Then it hit me. It does not have to be this hard. I went home and started researching. I was a kindergarten teacher before I was his mom. How hard could teaching our son at home really be? No one I knew homeschooled their children and no one I talked to really understood how I could even consider this crazy idea. But I was a determined mom.
What I found was that our current state did not require an affidavit until age 6, so my rationale was that if I messed up this year, we could try kindergarten the next year in the public school. My son could work at his own pace. We could customize his education and set goals meaningful to his unique needs.
Fast forward to the current school year. We are finishing up our 5th year of homeschooling. We actually homeschool our daughter too. She has always been a homeschooler and when you ask if she would be interested in attending public school she replies with a “no, thank you.”
The joy and peace homeschooling has brought our family could never stand up against the fear I felt that first year. Epilepsy has taken so much from our family, but it gave us the gift of homeschooling. Our children are closer than ever, we have freedom to explore and travel, and when the military shakes up our lives we have consistent education in our home.
I believe my children have been able to blossom because we do not place them in a fish bowl of only children their same age, which is unnatural if you think about actual life. They get to interact with children and adults of all ages. They are not compared, rather they are celebrated for the individuals they are. They are 100% comfortable with who they are. They are free to express themselves without the fear.
Thinking about homeschooling? Research your rights, services available to you in your area within your budget, school district or insurance based. I also suggest sitting down and making a list of strengths and weaknesses that your child has. This will help you find curriculum and activities to fill your day.
The best part of homeschooling is the flexibility you have at your fingertips. Home environments offer flexibility that a classroom never can. You can take breaks as needed and create your schedule to work around things like doctor or therapy appointments. Find friends in the homeschooling community that you can lean on and learn from. Therapists are also a significant source for activities and help. Isolation and exhaustion in special needs parenting is a real threat, so finding that community whatever it looks like is key. Lastly, celebrate! Create moments to celebrate every day. Dance, make pancakes with sprinkles, and clean up that mess later! We get to stop, slow down and enjoy the adventure with our children.