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Your homeschool may be the best place for your child with autism, Down syndrome, specific learning disabilities, or other special needs. You can T.E.A.C.H. your child to give him unique advantages from the comfort and safety of your own home.
With one-on-one instruction, homeschooling can prevent “falling through the cracks” academically. You can teach the sequential subjects of reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic to mastery. You can start wherever your child needs to begin. (Resources exist to help you!) You might combine Bible study and read-alouds, science, history, music, or art, or choose online academies, tutors, or lessons where needed, but taking the tutorial approach for their weakest academic areas can make a powerful and lasting difference.
Homeschooling can be efficient! Your child won’t travel on a bus or wait in line. You can keep a reasonably disciplined schedule and include a specific time to return calls or messages. Most children with special needs benefit from the predictability of a gentle but efficient routine with frequent, steady teaching to make success more immediate and attainable.
Homeschooling allows for the flexibility to adapt. If your child needs more intensive reading, spelling, or writing instruction, you can do this every day, rather than the more sporadic services he might receive elsewhere. Perhaps he can manage higher levels of math, science, and history. Adapt upward. If he enjoys creative, musical, or athletic interests, encourage him in these areas. In homeschooling, you can discern needs and nurture abilities.
In homeschooling, you have your finger on the pulse of destructive influences. You can protect him both from himself and outside temptations. Excellent literature can foster insight, tenderness, and compassion for others. Think of Almanzo’s sacrifices for family in Farmer Boy, or Fern’s love of her pig, Wilbur. Your child will not be perfect—no child is—but through God’s Word, you can lead him to contrition, repentance, and forgiveness, resulting in a humble appreciation of mercy.
In a homeschool setting, with the freedom to set high standards, you can instill in your child good habits of manners, healthy nutrition, hard work, and refreshing play. You can train good habits of faith by attending church together, singing heartily, giving thanks, and reading and praying God’s Word together. In physical, academic, and spiritual realms, you can help form lifelong habits.
Not only can you teach, but you can teach with H.E.A.R.T.
Encourage mental and physical health with daily doses of fresh air and sunshine, play and exercise, and the warmth of good friendships. Involve your child in setting the table for guests, creating place cards, or arranging flowers. Counter crippling attachments to devices by sharing time with neighbors, friends from church, or relatives. When gathering is not possible, a quick family board game can bring refreshment.
Children with special needs often make incremental progress that can go unnoticed. In your homeschool, you can be intentional about honoring strong effort with a view to the student’s capacities, rather than comparing him to others. Keep visible charts of his progress. Use a bar graph to chart the increasing number of flashcards he has mastered. Keep portfolios of drawings, writings, and math problems to show your student (and yourself) that much can be accomplished when small tasks are tackled frequently and steadily.
In your homeschool, even on your least energetic days, you have your finger on the pulse of medical needs, subtle mood changes, and weaker academic areas in ways a teacher with twenty-eight other students cannot. You can communicate with doctors, therapists, insurance companies, or educational consultants for your child’s good. You may note patterns, identify triggers, and share insights with professionals that will make you an invaluable resource. Whether choosing proper curriculum, preventing regression, or noting lab tests for a medical condition, your analytical powers combined with proximity to your child while homeschooling can help you meet his needs with expertise.
In homeschooling, you can witness accomplishments much more closely. One of the most rewarding achievements of my life was teaching both of my adopted children to read. This was made all the more rewarding, not only because of my children’s severe special needs, but also because of teacher training that had left me oddly ill-equipped to teach anyone to read. The academic, personal, and relational fruits of homeschooling—trials and all—have been deeply gratifying.
In your homeschool, you can hold your children with special needs to high standards such as respect, politeness, and diligence. We need not create lives of ease for our children with special needs. In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller proposed, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
We can also give our children a timelessness to their understanding of the world, its Creator, and our Redeemer, as “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16–17). “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19–20). No matter what happens in our children’s lives, if through God’s Word we lead them to Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit, then perhaps we will look back and say that our homeschool was, indeed, the best place for our children.
Copyright 2021, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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