When my third child was born, I went on maternity leave, expecting that I would return to work. I was anxious about it, though, because my little boy had suffered a stroke at birth and was having seizures. When I discovered that I was being laid off, instead, it was clearly a blessing.
As the time to begin school approached, we prayerfully made the decision to homeschool. By this time, my son had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as a result of his stroke. Giving up the public school option meant that we were also giving up special services that the school may have provided free of charge. We still feel that this is the best option for our child, though, and that there are some unique benefits to homeschooling a child with special needs. Here are just four.
1. A flexible schedule allows more time for doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions
My son has physical therapy once a week with the same therapist who has worked with him since he was a baby. We have a standing mid-day appointment, which is the only one that’s available. He meets on a regular basis with several specialists, has fittings and adjustments for his orthotics, and occasionally has other tests or procedures. Last year, we had many “sick days” that would have been very disruptive if he had been enrolled in traditional school. However, we just continued working during the summer months until we completed our school year.
2. Homeschooling allows us to work at his pace
My son has been very blessed, because his cognitive ability has not been greatly impacted by his stroke. He does have permanent brain damage, though, which has caused difficulty in reading and a tendency to become overwhelmed and anxious if he is having trouble processing information or recalling something that he has learned before. Homeschooling allows us to work at his pace, giving him the time and attention that he needs. He won’t be pushed ahead in order to keep up with the class—causing him unnecessary stress while leaving gaps in his learning—or held back at times when he is ready to move forward.
3. My child isn’t learning that his worth is determined by others
My eldest daughter went to public school and was diagnosed with ADHD. For the most part, her schools did not meet her needs. She was bounced back and forth between a traditional classroom and a special education class, neither of which was the right fit for her. As a young adult, she confessed to me that she believed she was stupid—because her classmates had told her that she was.
I don’t want my son to feel inferior just because there is something different about him. Since he does not deal with the day-to-day competition in school, he doesn’t have to compare his abilities to his peers, including children who do not face the challenges that he does. In the book Dumbing Us Down, author John Taylor Gatto discusses the flaws in teaching children to look to an institution to determine their self-worth for them. I saw a firsthand example of the dangers of that recently when a child that I know who is an intelligent, straight-A student, received his roster for the upcoming school year in the mail. He’d mistakenly been placed in average classes instead of advanced. He immediately began worrying that he hadn’t scored well on his standardized tests and told his mother, “I must be stupid.” I believe that there is something inherently wrong in a system where a child’s opinion of his own intelligence can be turned on a dime by one class roster or standardized test.
4. Not having daily comparison with peers
In addition to a flexible schedule and the ability to work at our own pace, I believe the best part about homeschooling a child with special needs is not having the daily comparison with peers. I want my child to see himself the way that God sees him, not to look to an institution to define his worth. Like everyone else, he has strengths, and he has weaknesses. My hope is that he will discover and develop the unique gifts that God has endowed him with and not be discouraged by the areas where he has struggles, especially as a result of his condition.
I believe that learning at home will allow him to grow into the man that God intends for him to be, without restraint.
Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.