Ashly Barta

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Community Member Nick H.

 

Last year I became a homeschooling father to a 7-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy.  My son’s mom had already started the home school process with him, but as circumstances dictated I took over from there.

At first, I assumed homeschooling would hold a kid back from the sped up progress that traditional school settings achieve.  I could not see how a few hours of school work at home compared to 8-hour traditional school days could equate to greater learning outcomes.  This year has taught me that equating time to learning was wrong.

Being a father who homeschools has given me an alternative view on homeschooling and the advantages it provides my son like one-on-one teaching, reduced distractions, and individualized accommodations. 

 

…I have learned how much easier I can accommodate for the needs of my son at home versus the process an equivalent accommodation would require in a traditional school.

 

Homeschooling has given me a new appreciation for education.  As a parent of a child that has Cerebral Palsy, I have learned how much easier I can accommodate for the needs of my son at home versus the process an equivalent accommodation would require in a traditional school.

Teaching as a homeschooling parent isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. The way my son interacts with his mom and I during his schooling is amazing. He seems so much more focused and confident in doing his schoolwork. Watching him grow and learn has been the biggest highlight on my new homeschooling dad journey.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Am I the Best Teacher for My Child? This is a question that I still ask myself all the time. I know it is driven by two things guilt and fear. Guilt that I am not doing things perfectly and the fear that I never will.

 

Well I am right I am not doing it perfectly and I never will, but that is okay. I am learning that my kids don’t need a perfect mom or teacher. Instead, what they need is for me to keep going and never give up on them or myself.

 

Homeschooling is a journey of trial and error and finding out what works. Sometimes it is trying 5 different math curriculums before you find the one that is the right fit. Just because you make the effort to try each of those options and don’t give up is is what makes you the right person to homeschool your child. You kept looking and searching. No one loves your child like you and wants him or her to succeed like you do. You make it your mission to wake up every morning and help your child to do better to learn something new.

 

Teaching special needs children can be tiring when your child is not catching onto a concept you have been teaching for weeks. But you have the gift of not moving on because you are homeschooling and can set the pace based on the needs of your child. I would think I was failing my child because she was not learning to read or learning a new math concept, but I realized in the midst of that struggle that I am the best teacher for my child because I push her on and we work through it together.

 

My daughter has a learning disability and remembering things for her can be a struggle. We keep trying and working through lessons until she gets them. My heart takes it personally when she is not learning and the fear comes when I start to think I am not teaching her what she needs.

 

Momma guilt is real. Anyone can teach your child, but it’s your heart’s pursuit to teach beyond the struggles which will make your child soar. Just the other day, my daughter reminded me of this exact thing. While she was playing, and she looked up at me and said, “Momma thank you for believing that I am smart.” I melted. Then, I prayed. “God let me see teaching my children is not about me being perfect, but having a willing and open heart to teach them the best I can each day.”

 

So yes, I am the right teacher for my child and so are you.

 

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By Dyana Robbins, M.Ed.

As the new year approaches, more families will be considering homeschooling. Each January, an influx of new homeschoolers hits online forums, support groups and homeschooling resources looking for encouragement and help. If you are one of those families, making the leap into homeschooling might seem terrifying. I hope to dispel that fear by sharing the reasons our family chose to homeschool and how that decision has played out the last eleven years.

1. American culture is tough on childhood
Some areas are blessedly immune from the frantic pace characterizing the majority American culture, but I don’t live in one of them. Pressure to have children involved in lots of activities and perform at a high level erodes the quality of life for even our youngest children. As we pushed back against this trend, we found that a more relaxed lifestyle allowed our children to thrive. This led us to reconsider schooling options as they approached kindergarten. We wanted our family to have a rich, well-rounded life and to be well-rested and happy.


2. We wanted a strong family for our children

The pressures on families today mean that they spend little time together that is not rushed. We desired to model and teach our children life lessons through daily life and shared experiences. I’m so thankful we have been able to do that the last eleven years. We have traveled many places, made special family relationships, shared ministry experiences, and collected a lifetime’s worth of joyful memories. While our family is far from perfect, we laugh, cry, live, and love well together. I credit much of that to the lifestyle homeschooling has afforded us.


3. Our children do not learn well in typical classrooms

Our preschool experiences demonstrated that typical classroom learning failed to impart true learning to our boys. We had committed, skilled teachers, a great environment, and still they could not learn well. When our children were diagnosed with developmental and learning disabilities, we hoped they could thrive in a classroom with appropriate supports. That did not happen for us. This does not mean that all families in our situation should homeschool, but I do believe it means homeschooling must be an option for all families who need it.


Homeschooling has allowed our children to surpass every expectation therapists and doctors originally held out to us. With all the time, love, help, and attention we have been able to offer them, we have seen tremendous improvement. I am so thankful that we have had the ability and freedom to make this choice for our family when we needed it most.

4. Our Spiritual Convictions
Spiritual reasons are often cited for homeschooling, but I think our family has a twist on this qualifier. Yes, our beliefs were important to us and we wanted our curriculum to reflect those beliefs. However, we also wanted our children to gain exposure to opposing value systems and grapple with them. Homeschooling has allowed both in a way that provides the time and space for deeper discussion, interaction and reflection.

Also, we wanted our lifestyle to reflect a greater focus on others and service that flows from our convictions. Traditional schooling schedules make that very challenging. Homeschooling offers freedom to live our convictions more fully.

5. It’s an Adventure!
So, if you are standing on the edge of this decision, you might be experiencing fear or apprehension. You don’t know how this will turn out. Will your children thrive? Can you teach them well? How will you stay sane while living all day with your children? These are common questions almost every parent considering homeschooling asks. We had them too.

Can I suggest to you that those very questions might just be a reason that you should homeschool? No adventure comes without risk. That risk is the heart of all grand journeys. Following expected paths may seem comforting, but it will never challenge, stimulate, or incite growth in your family like launching into the unknown will. Our family has enjoyed many wonderful experiences and changed in ways we never could have if we had followed a wider path.

The learning, and self-awareness that comes with homeschooling is worth the leap. Even if you decide after a while that homeschooling is not the right decision for your family, you will make that choice with the confidence and knowledge gained from experience.

Eleven Years In
My oldest son is a ninth grader and decided he wanted to attend our local high school this year to graduate with a trade certificate and explore a world he doesn’t know. We grappled deeply with this decision and allowed him to attend school this year. We are still homeschooling our younger son.

Having a foot in both worlds reveals several things to me that I share in the hopes it might help you with your decisions.

  • My son is only able to be successful in public school because of his years of homeschooling.
  • The concerns we had about public schooling are valid, but his age and maturity are allowing him to navigate them well. The strong base of responsibility and family support that homeschooling has helped us cultivate is partly responsible for his success.
  • Our family has a deeper appreciation for all that homeschooling has given us as a foundation for the children’s teenage years. I am immensely grateful that we have been able to pour so much love, instruction, and time into them.

 

 

 


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