What Special Needs Taught Me About Learning
My education consisted of very traditional teaching methods that involved lectures, diagrams or notes on chalkboards or overhead projectors, textbooks, workbooks, and worksheets. Hands-on projects were reserved primarily for science, and they weren’t in abundance there. It worked for me. My brain effectively processes and stores information received through visual and auditory methods.
One of my daughters also thrives on learning using primarily her eyes and ears. Her learning style is very similar to mine, so I know how her brain processes information, making it easy to choose curriculum for her and keeping me pretty comfortable in my role as former classroom teacher turned homeschooling mom.
Then my other daughter started kindergarten. It quickly became evident that her brain doesn’t process information the same way mine does. The traditional textbooks, books, workbooks, and explanations didn’t help her much. To get the information into a form that she could do something with, I was forced to get out of my auditory-visual box and do hands-on learning as much as possible.
It was difficult at first, but I incorporated more and more multisensory activities. Gradually, I realized how much learning takes place doing the daily hands-on activities that make up our days, and I began to use those teachable moments to full advantage. Instead of relying solely on curriculum, reference cards and charts, and books, I discovered how many basic math skills can be “caught” while playing board games together. Measurement can be reinforced through cooking and working on crafts projects. Reading practice is everywhere. Field trips have been a very effective way to teach science and social studies (and to jumpstart studies on subjects we haven’t touched on yet), and science also happens while observing the world around us. These observations often lead to research and projects I would never have thought to do with the girls (like the time we studied the Arkansas Chocolate Tarantula after seeing one cross the road on the way home from a specialist appointment).
I have found that homeschooling is really about developing a lifestyle of learning, and that is the best way for both of my daughters to learn. I order books and curriculum every year, and we use them every day, but much learning takes place in the natural flow of our days, from running errands together to doing household chores to planned (and unplanned) field trips. I used to see these as interruptions to our “real schooling,” but now I embrace and actively seek them out. I know that my children are not only learning academic concepts in these moments, but they are also learning life skills and developing a love of learning that will serve them well throughout their lives.
I’ve also seen how much I discover alongside them, and I try to be a role model in this lifestyle of learning by allowing my children to see me research topics that interest me, learn new hobbies by pursuing them with passion and lots of practice, and read a range of topics and genres.
Having special needs in our family taught me that there’s much more to learning than the book stuff. That’s important, but we’re pushing through to a lifestyle that keeps us open to the wonder and excitement all around us.
How does your family embrace a lifestyle of learning?
You might be interested in:
- Special Needs Homeschooling is Not School at Home
- Why My Child Almost Failed Kindergarten—And Yours Doesn’t Have To
- Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs
- My Real Schedule: A Day in the Life of a Special Needs Mom
Want to see how other homeschooling families embrace a lifestyle of learning—and why? Check out My Lifestyle of Learning with the bloggers of iHomeschool Network!