Monday, May 1, 2017

Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

The following is a guest post by Stacie Servantes Farias, a Mexican-American mom of 4 who does not blog because she is too busy reading other blogs to write one of her own.

Stacie’s Story: Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

If you would indulge me for a moment and allow me to say something very important: I am blessed to be homeschooling. Seriously. Homeschooling my children is absolutely my calling in life and it is my pleasure, my honor, and my privilege. I mean it! As a military family, homeschooling has been a tremendous blessing and the answer to prayers I did not even know I prayed.

All that said, homeschooling is HARD. Homeschooling my children has been frustrating, annoying, heartbreaking, confusing, and exhausting in every way imaginable. Why can my son memorize math facts one week, then forget them the next? Why does my daughter scan the page when she reads, looking at the pictures for clues? In no way am I an expert on homeschooling children with special needs, but there are a few of things I have learned while homeschooling my dyslexic/dyscalculic son and dyslexic daughter and if sharing them helps you in any way, I am happy to help.

Listen to the voice.

You know THE voice. It is the same internal one that said you should give homeschooling a shot. That voice will keep nagging until you finally allow yourself to think there is something more going on with your child. Maybe it IS more than, “well, I guess my kid just going to be a bad speller.” You will probably hear other voices too, most likely from professional teachers (the ones who paid), or pediatricians or family members that will say the following regarding your child’s struggles, “if your child was in ‘real’ school…” or the very popular “maybe your child needs a ‘real’ teacher.” If the words are said in judgment of you and your family’s choice to homeschool, please do not take them to heart. There are compassionate, wonderful, lovely people who want to help you and your child and who understand your struggles. Their words will encourage you and inspire you. They will NOT judge you.

Talk to other homeschool moms.

You are probably thinking, “How is that advice? Talk to other moms. Really?” Yup. Talk to other homeschool moms. Throughout your homeschooling journey, you will find there are many families who have decided to homeschool because conventional school systems, educational professionals, and even medical professionals have failed their children. If you suspect or know that you have a child with special needs, there is a homeschooling mama (or dad) that has been through exactly what you are going through. Guaranteed. Sometimes this kindred homeschooling mama will be in your city or state, or maybe you will never meet them except you happen to be in the same homeschooling-related Facebook group. If you open up about your struggles with your special needs child, the homeschooling community will reach back and enthusiastically provide guidance, encouragement, whatever you need. The reality is you cannot get us to shut up about curriculum, therapies, strategies, pedagogy, etc. We. Don’t. Stop. Talking. About. It. EVER!!

Your homeschooling style is whatever your child needs it to be.

Don’t get me wrong. It is helpful, useful, and even a lot of fun determining what kind of homeschool style suits you. Classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, traditional, Montessori, unschooling…I could go on. Every style has elements that are beautiful and inspiring. The question you should be asking yourself as a homeschooler to a child with special needs is, does this suit MY child? If you are homeschooling a child with dysgraphia, there might lots of tears when trying to do the copywork recommended by the Charlotte Mason method. If your child has ADHD or ADD, they may experience great difficulty sitting for the workbooks used in more traditional “school-at-home” type programs. A child with dyslexia may not find the amount of reading recommended through classical programs mentally exhausting. So what do you do? You have fallen in love with a certain style, read all the books, subscribed to the blogs, created new Pinterest boards dedicated to that style. Don’t panic. Just adapt. You are the teacher and expert on how your child learns best. You CAN be a Charlotte Mason homeschooler to a child with dysgraphia, just hold off the copywork until you have found a handwriting program to remediate. You CAN be a traditional homeschooler to a child with ADHD, you may just need to take a lot of breaks in between subjects. You CAN be a classical homeschooler to a child with dyslexia, just read out loud for them. Maybe you need a particular curriculum or program that does not follow the pedagogy but works well with your child’s specific learning needs. So what?! Who is going to make a fuss? The curriculum police? Make your style whatever your child needs it to be.

I have one final disclaimer. My mother is a retired public school teacher. I have more relatives that work in the public school system than work in every other field put together. I have a profound respect for professional teachers and what they try to do. But my husband and I made the decision to homeschool because we believe it to be what is best for OUR children. If keeping your child with special needs in school is what you believe is best for your child, then wonderful. But let it be YOUR choice because it is YOUR child and whether you realize it or not, you are already their teacher. Here is a quote from someone much smarter than me, who said it with way more eloquence than I could ever hope to muster. It is my hope that it comforts you as much as it comforts me.

“If family education rediscovers the pride of its leadership, many things will change for the better, for uncertain parents and for disappointed children. It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their educational role. We hope that the Lord gives this grace to parents: not be to exile themselves from the education of their children. And this can only be done with love, tenderness, and patience.” – Pope Francis, in his address to the general audience. May 20, 2015.

Here are some of my favorite resources regarding dyslexia:

photo credit: © fidelio

Stacie Servantes Farias is an Army wife and mom of 6 with a “very healthy” obsession for Snoopy, Disney movies, Audrey Hepburn, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, books, and homeschooling. Originally from Mission, Texas, Stacie and her high-school sweetheart hubby live with their kids and dog in a different home every few years, because that is the military life. She has big plans to write a book exploring her theory that La Llorona drowned her children because they would take their socks off all over the house and then would complain that they never had clean socks! Stacie also thinks she is really funny, but she is mostly lame.    

Did you enjoy this article? Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Let me help! My book - The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling - covers everything you see here and more. 


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