homeschooling a child with special needs

Following on from this post I thought I’d write about how homeschooling is going. Earlier this year we removed our daughter from a small special school to homeschool her. It was a stressful time because our plans for the year had to change. A new baby was coming into the family and we were certainly worried how we would manage it all.

And before I start I have to say that special needs really does cover a whole range of things and every child is different. But when you are searching on the internet for resources or help you just need to type in special needs homeschooling to find that information. I’m not assuming all children with special needs are the same!

When we started out our little girl knew a few letters of the alphabet and could write a few letters too. She could count to 5 but after that it was muddled up. She has a mild intellectual disability (moderate for verbal) and a genetic deletion (which also causes some physical issues).

I liked that we were starting at a local learning centre and we are there twice a week for a total of 2 hours learning. In fact it was during their assessment when I was shown a plan of what they would teach and what she could work through that I decided that she was certainly not going back to school. I could see that we could do much more in those 2 hours than she would get in a week at school. Edited to add this is where we attend, if you live in Sydney and can get here you will love the personalised attention, happy and dedicated teachers and there are a wide range of students who attend from kids who just need a bit of help in maths or english to special needs children. We also do our speech here and that’s amazing too.

They have taught her the alphabet with letterland and a variety of resources and at home we’ve been doing handwriting and more activities. She can now write the entire alphabet. If you spell out a word letter by letter then she will write the word, She copies whole sentences if it’s written above for her and she correctly forms all letters as well. She always had great pencil grip but this was much faster progress than we were expecting.

She is being taught to read simple readers and a few sight words. She loves writing and spelling out words and just last week spelt out the word ‘jam’ as I was making breakfast and was very proud of herself then saying ‘here tis again j – a – m, jam!’. Tears in my eyes that morning.

Numbers are tricky and she can count to 10 and write the numbers to 10 but still can get a bit muddled so I think maths will be harder for her.

Our week is quite busy but it’s much more relaxed than a school day was. Monday and Tuesday mornings we are at the learning centre, Wednesday is our home day where we get things done (as in I catch up on washing, floors and the kitchen), Thursday mornings we have speech, every 2nd Friday we have OT in the park, Saturday mornings we do gymnastics and Sunday afternoons she has swimming. In between we play at home, do our handwriting books and activities, she loves to play with her little brother and cook. We do colouring, read books, write out our letters, play outside on our scooter, visit the park and library, run our errands like the Post office, shops. other kids activities and dr’s appointments. She is learning lots of skills wherever we are and I now realise even more than ever that life outside a classroom will be her best teacher. I am always there to prompt her when she needs it or help her out and no where else would she get that focus.

Her speech which has always been our greatest challenge is coming along so well because we are always helping her with it. She is saying longer sentences and often blurts out words that are perfectly pronounced. She can tell us what she wants, when something is hurt, when she is angry (oh she likes to tell me that one) and we working on pronouncing our name as everyone thinks it’s annie when she says it.

We see benefits all the time and are amazed at her progress. She won’t go back to a classroom anytime soon. Our goals are to have her reading and writing and to find her talents. Our bigger goals are to see her have a part time job, travel on transport independently, have friends, participate in special olympics and her activities. We have a family dream of running our own business to provide her and our other children with opportunities to work together and be happy. It’s always a big worry what happens when we won’t be here but that’s for another blog post.

In terms of resources we are using lots of different ones. I love letterland, teachers pay teachers, seton handwriting books, pre-k workbooks designed for preschoolers before school, online resources too.

It’s not easy to homeschool, there are days I would like a break because it’s a big job having a child who still needs assistance with a lot of tasks that other children her age would be able to do. Every day without fail we will have an emotional moment. It just is part of life when she doesn’t get her way or is angry. That’s the hardest bit for me. The beauty of an unstructured day and not being tied to our books at this age is that we can go and do something fun to tire her out or change the mood of the day. The hard bit is when she decides she doesn’t want to do her hour at the centre or speech. At the moment banana bread and a hot chocolate (she calls it coffee tea) are making things easier.

In the beginning we also had a big problem with separating. As in I couldn’t leave the house without her. She wanted to be with me all the time and when the babysitter came in so I could go to the dentist she would want to come with me not be left at home. This lasted for a few months and thankfully we have moved on from this stage.

If you are thinking about taking a child out of school I would say do it. You’ll never regret it and you’ll only wish you did it earlier. School will always be there as an option if you need to and some homeschooling families do put their children into school at various times when things happen or if things aren’t going to plan. I do wish it was presented as a viable option for schooling instead of being seen mostly as a last resort option. It shouldn’t be. It’s a more natural way to teach our children what they need to learn and I feel that by being at special school she would be locked away from the outside world for most of the next 11 years or so.

I do have to say that I know families with children with special needs who need the time that their children are at school. Children who run away, hurt themselves or others, can’t be left alone unsupervised or have severe behavioural issues or very high care needs. I am sure those parents would wonder how on earth they could do the care 24/7 for 365 days a year and be the teacher as well. I can’t tell you that everything would be perfect and that you could cope. In those cases I would really say you would need your respite and breaks organised so that you did get a break. Whether that could be provided by the NDIS as part of your plan or through the AIC payment and you paying for that help yourself.Any questions just ask……….

Comments

  1. looks like you have really found the right option for her. It seems to be working well

  2. I love hearing such positive feedback. We can’t believer the difference homeschooling has made and other people are noticing it now as well. My son takes chocolate coffee (hot chocolate) to his therapy sessions at the moment as well. We have actually combined OT and speech together at the moment which has been good only one appointment to force him to. We are looking into tutoring at the moment, is the learning centre you go to specifically for special needs children as just google searching in my area you get the generic tutoring places but I’m not sure they cater to special needs.

    • oh so glad it’s going well! It’s a big decision but then once you’ve made it you realise it’s not that big a decision. This is where we go, https://www.thehillslc.com.au/ and I do think it can be hard to find as tutoring centres seem to be for kids with no special needs but see if you can find something near you. We are so happy to have somewhere we can go as they know more about different styles of teaching and helping than I do so I think it also saves time rather than me going through trial and error. Love the chocolate coffee!

  3. Sounds like you are making great progress Corrie! Well done to both of you.
    If it’s any help, I have found using a number line has really helped my kindergartener with his numbers. If you google ‘number line’ there will be heaps that come up and you can print them and laminate them. Also Kindergarten works on Teachers pay teachers has great maths resources.

    With reading, the phonics hero app has been amazing. There is a free trial so you see if it works for you before committing.

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