I wrote this article in 2013 for the HEA magazine. I’m sharing it here as it’s still entirely relevant, and promoting homeschooling for children with special needs is a passion of mine – they’re the kids that need individualised schedules and one-on-one attention the most. My now eleven year old son has still never been teased, but his younger brother has been taller than him for years. Enjoy!
While home education is considered odd, but kind of understandable for your ‘average’ child, you can be seen as a lunatic if you consider it for your child with special needs. Nowhere is the professionalisation of childhood stronger than in this area.
From birth, we were thrown into what seemed to be a never-ending list of appointments – paediatricians, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, geneticists. We were referred for hearing tests, ultrasounds, x-rays and an echocardiogram. And this is simply seen as what you need to do. You have a child with an issue – they need help.
And the somewhat sinister undertone to all of this is that your child needs to be changed, that what they are is not quite good enough. When they get to school (or more likely, early education) this continues. Therapies, assessments, (not) measuring up to yardsticks and milestones – this is their daily experience.
Home education is the perfect antidote to this absolute insanity, this system that demands performance to a schedule and achievement from young children who may be struggling just to understand the basics of everyday life. Home education allows you to surround your child with positivity. At home, they can be accepted for who they are. There’s no need to stick to an imposed schedule, there’s no peer pressure, it’s not a competitive environment. Only when happiness, calmness and self-confidence are in place can you reap the full benefits of academics.
My seven year old son happily wears his bright blue hearing aids, unaware that some people would tease him about them. While aware that he has some physical differences, he definitely does not want surgery to ‘fix’ them. In fact, he’s proud of them. And while he knows he’s short, he’s still taller than his four year old brother, which is the most important thing. Even though said younger brother does help him with his maths book!
At home, we can give him an environment of total acceptance and love, with the security to be who he is, with all of his oddities, with no fear of derision. We can give him an academic environment that is inclusive and supportive, not competitive, and is completely tailored to his needs and abilities, day by day and hour by hour. We can remain positive, patient and encouraging (or at least, can strive to).
In short, he doesn’t have to worry about fitting in. No matter what he does or who he is, he will. That is something that you simply can’t outsource. And that is one of the many reasons I love homeschooling.