By Peggy Ployhar
As I cited in my previous article, The Then and Now of Special Education Homeschooling, more parents who have children with special educational needs are choosing to homeschool as a reaction to the lesser quality educational options offered by public or private schools. But, with this transition, many parents unknowingly bring the same teaching mindset they were looking to leave at school into their new homeschooling experience.
Below are the 4 most important distinctions of how specialized home education differs from an institutionalized special education program and opens the freedom potential parents have in homeschooling a child outside the box of special education.
1 – Schooling is focused on the positive aspects of your child, not the negative
Special education within a school setting was created to detect and correct a child’s learning issues. By focusing on what doesn’t work well for a child, the negative aspects of a child’s learning disability becomes pronounced in their lesson plans and overall educational goals.
The beauty of homeschooling is that although a child may still struggle with an ability to learn, a parent has the freedom to design lessons around the positive ways a child can learn. Over time homeschooled children learn what methods and tools work best to help them learn, which they then can adapt and eventually carry into their adulthood.
2 – A child is taught according to their gifts, not their deficits
All children have specific gifts, as well as deficits. Unfortunately, non-academic gifts are outside the reach of a traditional special education classroom. Homeschooling allows a parent to supplement a child’s studies with opportunities to work on specific skill sets and gifting alongside the subjects the child struggles in. This ability to blend academic and non-academic pursuits allows a child to find success in their studies where before they may have only met defeat.
Turning interests like cooking, woodworking, computer programming, acting, or even martial arts into school subjects is not out of the question when you homeschool. The options are endless on what you can turn into an area of study and the benefit of adding these classes for children who struggle in core curriculum subjects, is they start to realize learning can be fun instead of an always defeating experience.
3- Progression happens at the rate your child learns, not against a “norm”
Classroom learning and grading, in general, are based on norms. If a child is not keeping up with a specific norm, then they are considered “behind.” Schools focus on working with a child to get them “caught up”. Unfortunately, each child is unique and those who are more pronounced in their uniqueness will never quite match a level of “normal.”
Homeschooling, on the other hand, not only allows children to be unique it can celebrate their unique qualities. Schooling at home allows a child time to discover how they learn best, not how to learn like everyone else. Each lesson learned by a child in a homeschool setting sets the bar for what lesson comes next, no matter how long it takes the child to move from one step to the next.
4 – A lifestyle of learning replaces a compartmentalized learning process
Many children with learning challenges also struggle with translating a learned concept to another part of their life. This inability for a child to learn one lesson at school and then translate that same lesson to a scenario at home or in a “real world” setting prolongs the learning process for these children.
When a family starts homeschooling, they also start a shift in how learning is perceived. Learning is no longer just found in books, in classrooms, or on a computer, but everywhere in life. Every experience, every encounter, and every relationship brings lessons to be taught as well as lessons to be learned that flow over the boundaries of subjects and grade levels. This decompartmentalization of learning removes many learning translation issues which in turn speeds up the child’s overall learning process.
For a child who experiences learning challenges, educational delays, or struggles with a disability or medical condition, a specialized home education approach provides opportunities to succeed in learning instead of hurdles they must get beyond. If you embrace those freedoms as a homeschooling parent, you will be rewarded in watching your child soar above their struggles and embrace the learning process…for life!
If you would like more information about getting started in homeschooling your student with special educational needs, make sure to visit our Getting Started Page .
We would also love to have you as part of our community! Come connect with almost 2k families on our SPED Homeschool Facebook Support group as we daily discuss the ups and downs and ins and outs of homeschooling a child with learning differences. If you are not on Facebook, make sure you sign up for our newsletter because we have some new regional groups launching soon that will allow you to connect with other local special education homeschooling families in your area.