By Tracy Glockle

Getting started in homeschooling is like sitting on a roller coaster, waiting for it to lunge forward. You know there will be twists and turns, ups and downs; yet, there is no way of knowing exactly what those will look like. Even after seven years of homeschooling my own kids, my stomach turns somersaults with excited panic as I look over my well-laid plans and anticipate the beginning of another year.

My school space is organized, my curriculum is purchased and lining the bookshelves, and our supplies are neatly stored. Our routine is thought out, typed out, and neatly hung on the wall. I’m ready, I think. But really, after plenty of my own rough starts and bumpy beginnings, I’ve learned that the most important part of preparing for the school year is not necessarily the supplies, the curriculum, or the routine.


The most important part of getting started in homeschooling is setting the right expectations.
No matter what your situation, there are some things you can expect.

 

Expect a slow start.
Ease into this lifestyle change slowly. Read books together. Play learning games together. Take a hike and explore nature together. Expect to spend some time getting to know your kids. Watch them play and take some mental notes about how they choose to learn and what they choose to learn about. Expect to spend some time getting to know yourself. Do you like to homeschool in the morning or in the afternoon? Do you like a scripted plan to read and follow to the letter, or do you like to create your own learning plan? A slow start gives you an opportunity to find out the answers to these questions.

 

Expect to make adjustments.
In fact, a good goal for your first year in homeschooling would be to try new things. Experiment with different routines and with different learning approaches. Take notes on what you liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t work. Also, don’t expect your kids to like everything you try. They will need a period of adjustment, too. If you approach your first year as an experiment, you automatically give yourself (and your kids) the space to try new things, to make mistakes, and to try again. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


Expect obstacles.

Life is messy, parenting is messy, and homeschooling is messy. We don’t expect to get everything right on the first day of any other job, and we can’t expect to get everything right on the first try in homeschooling either. Expect that it’s going to take some time to get the hang of this. It’s going to look messy for a while, and that’s okay. Realize that the obstacles are not because you’ve failed. Sometimes the tools we are using aren’t getting the job done the way we’d like. Choose a different tool. Do some trouble-shooting. Reach out to others in your support group. (Don’t have a support group yet? Join us at SPED Homeschool Support Group.)


Expect a unique homeschool.

In other words, don’t expect your homeschool to look like the school you just left, your best friend’s homeschool, or your experience in the past. Homeschooling is not an institution; it’s a family learning together. Your homeschool is going to look just as unique as your family. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.


Expect success to surprise you.

Success never comes when I’m expecting it, and success never looks exactly like I’m expecting it to look. Instead, success surprises me when a child mentions a fact from a story I was sure he wasn’t listening to, when a child tries something new for the first time without a meltdown, or when we both realize that a skill that has always been so difficult is suddenly easier. Look for success each day, in the small things.

Expect a future harvest.
Our kids are not educated in a day; it takes years to get the job done. Today is planting a seed. Tomorrow is watering and weeding. We may not see the benefits of that hard work right away. There will be days when we feel like we are watering fallow ground. Some seeds take much longer than others; some plants grow much taller and faster than others. But those seeds will sprout and grow.

You can’t prepare for everything, but you can be ready for anything if you’ve set the right expectations. Getting started in homeschooling is thrilling and scary, but it’s worth the ride.

 

 


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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.

This article was originally written for School House Rocked but was re-edited and reprinted with the author’s permission.

 

 

 


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By Dyana Robbins

 

There is nothing like the excitement of starting something new. The sense of adventure, hopefulness, and the promise of new ventures can be intoxicating. Some people experience a new challenge with enthusiasm that borders on fanaticism. I am one of them. It happened to me when I began homeschooling.

 

I started homeschooling out of a deep conviction that it was the only good option for my son. This was based on my experience trying all the other available options. Those experiences led me to reroute my career and life to meet his needs.

 

These factors set me up to embrace homeschooling like a drowning person grabs a flotation device. Some great things resulted from those bumpy beginnings, but eleven years later, I see my mistakes during that time too.

 

1. Jumping Into a Pressure Cooker
The intense responsibility and commitment I felt to my son drove me to extremes. I learned EVERYTHING I could about homeschooling and I fell into thinking homeschooling was the best educational option period. For everybody. 

 

Not only that, but a certain brand of homeschooling that idealized parental authority and influence dominated my thinking. It seemed to provide the remedies for the problems in our culture and educational systems by strengthening the parent’s influence in their children’s’ lives.

 

I still agree with many tenets of this movement, but recognize that I had thrown my hope into a method as THE answer rather than seeing it as one part of the healing and help my son needed. This led to me being stressed when my family didn’t mirror the results or lifestyle idealized in this group. 

 

I was not a relaxed and joyful homeschool mom; I was striving and driving us towards an ideal that intensified our struggles. You can be wiser than me; avoid the idealization of any one method or even homeschooling itself!

 

2. Defending Our Decision to Homeschool
We had never known anyone who homeschooled when we decided to pursue it. It seemed such a foreign and radical idea. My struggle with the decision made others’ questioning of it painful.

 

People who were merely curious met with the same lengthy explanations as those who opposed our decision. Thankfully, none of these exchanges were heated, but I’m sure those on the receiving end of my explanations often wished they weren’t!

 

Those who disagreed with us did not change their opinions following lengthy discourses. Several friends, professionals, and family DID change their opinions by seeing the results of our choice over time.

 

3. Homeschooling as Insurance
Some of homeschooling’s appeal for me centered on its insulation from bullying and negative social pressure. That is a benefit of homeschooling but it isn’t foolproof: We have still encountered these things in co-ops and social gatherings.

 

Maybe all parents secretly desire the formula or program that guarantees successful parenting…I don’t know. I do know that despite my attempts to avoid that trap, I fell into it anyway. Somewhere along our journey, I began trusting that homeschooling was insurance against some of the very human struggles my children would face; within and without.

 

I overemphasized our influence and underestimated humanity’s sin nature and the natural developmental challenges we all face. My children have not fallen into any great difficulty so far, but I know they might one day. If that day comes, it will not be homeschooling that saves us.

 

Homeschooling has been a wonderful tool that the Lord has allowed for shaping and disciplining our children, but it is only a tool in the Lord’s hands. He alone has the power to restrain and forgive their sin and to overcome their struggles as they trust in Him.

 

4. Doubting my Decisions…and Then Doubting Them Again!
A list of all the decisions on curriculum, therapies, and activities that I questioned could fill this page. After lots of research and deliberation for each decision, I would move forward and then proceed to question everything we did. This did not make for a happy homeschool.

 

Thankfully, time and experience revealed that our choices could be easily changed or tweaked without destroying our children’s future. The weight of each decision was much lighter than my fears led me to believe. More experienced homeschooling moms encouraged and helped me past this hangup. Their assurances that we didn’t have to have it all figured out to be successful lifted the crushing burden I kept picking up.

 

5. Comparisons
Oy yoy yoy…this was terrible. If you want peace, don’t compare your homeschool, family or life with anyone else’s. Looking for affirmation that we were not failing our kids in every way, I would at times check our progress against other families,’ hoping for encouragement. No, no and no.

 

One more NOOOOOOOO. This is a life-stealing, joy-killing practice. If you want to become a judgmental, condemning person or feel like a failure at every turn, this is the path for you. However, if balance and health matter to you, run from this temptation every time it dares to pop up.

 

Most of us would agree that our families’ needs are unique and that comparisons are fruitless….it’s why we homeschool. Join Facebook forums, support groups or co-ops and it becomes evident that comparisons to others run rampant anyway. We talk about curriculum, lifestyle, method, or educational choice in ways that reveal the comparisons undergirding our positions.

 

We have to guard against forming harsh judgments of ourselves and others based on what works in other families. Hopefully, you can sidestep this pitfall and be an encouragement to others.

 

In Conclusion…
Reflecting on the mistakes of my early homeschooling years hurts a little. Exposing it to you hurts a little more, but I also hope it encourages you. If you find yourself commiserating with my past experience, you should know that homeschooling doesn’t have to be that way. You can change and move forward differently.

 

If you are wondering how such a crazy, immature, and fearful woman got into homeschooling anyway, I’m with you. But, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and I’m living proof of that truth. Somehow, our sons grew beyond every prognosis we were given and are even likely to be productive members of society (that’s a joke; they will!). We’ve all changed and grown. We are still changing and growing. When I graduate them, I’ll be writing an article about mistakes I made at this point. Stay tuned…

 

 


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