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Special Needs Homeschooling is NOT “School at Home”
I attended public schools. I taught in public schools. When I began homeschooling my older daughter, our days looked much like the ones I’d participated in all my life—first as a student and then as a classroom teacher. I knew I wanted to homeschool my daughter, but I had no idea what homeschooling was. For a long time I thought it meant doing school (the way I had always seen it done) at home. I had no concept of homeschooling as a lifestyle of learning the whole family is engaged in. I bought books. I taught. She did the lessons. That was that.
Since my older daughter is a traditional learner, that worked okay for a while. The only thing that didn’t work was that she didn’t like the scripted lessons which required my being very involved. She wanted me to let her work independently. We found a different curriculum that let her work on her own, for the most part, and she was happy. I had taken one step away from the way I was taught by allowing her the independence she desired. She finished within a few hours and spent the rest of her days reading and exploring—teaching herself how to knit and crochet, learning about animals she loves, and writing songs and choreographing dances. It was an important step for our homeschool, because when my younger daughter began her formal lessons, I was going to have to make even bigger changes.
I started my younger daughter’s kindergarten year the same way I had with my older daughter. The very colorful, very expensive curriculum was back in play, with brand new consumable books ready to use. I read the scripted lessons, was heavily involved in assisting with concepts she didn’t understand, and expected the learning to go just as well as it had with her sister. It didn’t.
By Thanksgiving, I was on reading curriculum number four, and it wasn’t working either. I admitted defeat, began seeking answers, and found a whole new way to homeschool. I learned very quickly that my younger daughter’s learning glitches meant that she needed hands-on activities involving as many senses as possible (multisensory activities) to process, learn, and understand concepts. That’s when my thinking about learning—and the way I homeschool—changed.
The thing is that multisensory activities look a lot like play. I am amazed at how many concepts are “caught” through playing board games together, cooking together, shopping together, reading together, and just generally sharing life together.
Do I still buy books, curriculum, and resources for my kids? Yes, I do. My older daughter still uses the same curriculum she helped choose all those years ago for reading, language arts, and math, although science and social studies change from year to year depending on what we’re going to study as a family. My younger daughter uses a hodgepodge of resources that I pull together for her throughout the year, depending on when she’s ready to progress to the next level in a subject.
Now, however, I realize that all children learn through play and hands-on experiences, but it’s critical for children with special needs to have these opportunities so they can more fully engage with the concepts they need to learn. Because of my desire to provide as many of these experiences as possible for my children, we go on more field trips. We visit state parks, the zoo, hands-on science museums, and visit local landmarks to learn local history. We do hands-on science activities, lots of sensory integration activities, and plenty of read alouds! We have developed a lifestyle of learning that doesn’t end when we close the books and formal lessons are over for the day.
For us, special needs homeschooling is definitely not “school at home.”
Want to read more? Check out these related articles:
- Ultimate Guide to Sensory Integration Activities
- 10 Sensory Integration Activities for Your Homeschool Day
- Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs
- I Can’t Homeschool Because My Child Has Special Needs
- Planning Homeschool for the Struggling Learner
- Aslan’s Academy – Homeschool Curriculum 2012-13
- Aslan’s Academy Curriculum Choices for 2013-14
- Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-15 (4th and 6th grades)
FREE through July 31, 2014 – Well Planned Homeschool, Focus on Special Needs ebook at HEDUA. (I wrote one chapter. ) The discount is applied at checkout, so be sure to checkout for your free digital download!