Can Special Needs Children Be Homeschooled?
The answer is a resounding, yes! People ask this question as if brick and mortar schools have magic wands or secret weapons that only work on school property. Do you believe anyone, even with special needs, can and should receive an education?
If you answered, yes, like I hope you did, then the question of how is irrelevant. Homeschooling isn’t the neglected, younger stepsister of a good education. Homeschooling is an education, and provides amazing opportunities that other models never could.
So can special needs children be homeschooled? If they are living at home and an integral part of the family unit, they are already being homeschooled on at least a part time basis. Every child is homeschooled to some extent.
Homeschooling Provides Individualized Education
Every child has his own special needs and gifts. We tend to focus on the special needs of students who are struggling in some way or have challenges to overcome. However, none of us are perfect. Also, each student is an individual, an individual with needs as well as gifts to share.
Homeschooling provides an individual educational experience like none other. The ability to create a curriculum that serves not only a child’s needs but his gifts is powerful! If a child is two grades ahead in math, but three grades behind in reading, it’s irrelevant. In fact, there is no behind, or ahead in a true education, because education is a journey not a race.
Homeschooling Allows for Support AND Independence
Most IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans for special needs students) include some level of additional support. This can range from extra time on a test to a full time aide.
The truth of the matter is though, that very, very few provide the amount of support a child needs to truly overcome his obstacles. Some extra time helps, but does not teach the child how to improve in test taking.
A paraprofessional providing in class support does give the IEP students additional attention, however they are still in a classroom filled with distraction, completing a curriculum not designed for their success.
Homeschooling allows for one on one instruction on a regular basis, as well as the freedom to gain independence in the areas of mastery. This independence and support can even change from day to day or subject to subject.
While an IEP is only updated once per year and only after a length process, the support and independence of homeschooled children can be assessed and adjusted as needed by the people who knows them best–their parents.
A Child Is More than His Weaknesses
In traditional school, children are labelled by their weaknesses in terms of special education. The entire system is primarily focused on how to address and adapt to a given weakness or struggle. However, a child is more than his weakness.
All children have gifts and abilities to share with the world. Every child is worthy of success. How can success come, though, if we only focus on what a child’s challenges are?
Did you know that homeschooling gives children the opportunity to grow their strengths instead of being caught in a system that highlights their weaknesses? When a child “can’t keep up” it is not the fault of the child, but that of the system that is just not build for individual learners.
Through homeschooling, children with learning differences can learn differently and excel because they are measured against themselves, instead of racing to keep up with standards that don’t conform to their timetable.
A classic example is that the average child learns how to read between the ages of 4.5 and 9 year old. How can we then expect every child to read in kindergarten?
Does reading at nine, which is still “normal” and “average” predict a child’s future success versus a child who comes into school already reading? The facts show that it doesn’t.
No matter where on that continuum a child masters reading, by age 11, all the children are on the same reading level.
The same is true with every subject, there is a continuum and a range of styles and abilities. No one style is right, and no one ability is the only essential ability. It is in pooling our strengths, weaknesses, gifts, abilities, struggles, and styles that we create a strong and prosperous society.
Homeschooling is perfect for special needs learners because it is the only school model that allows every learner to be special!
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Jennifer Elia, homeschool mentor, curriculum creator, blogger, and author, is Founder of Aurelius Cabrini Homeschool Resource Center which is dedicated to giving homeschool moms the tools they need to thrive in their home education career. Jennifer provides one-on-one mentoring, personalized and original curriculum plans, and practical advice for those just beginning their homeschool journey, as well as those who just need a little boost. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children whom she has been educating at home for the past 10 years. When Jennifer isn’t busy researching the best curriculum solutions, she enjoys gardening, crafting, and writing. You can find Jennifer on Facebook and Pinterest.
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