Monday, September 24, 2012

Homeschooling With One Child

When you think of homeschooling you often picture a fairly large family with a lot of activity, however that is not always the case.  There are some families in the homeschool community who, like mine, have only one child at home.  Gess actually has two older brothers, but they are much older and no longer live at the house.  The youngest of them graduated when she was only 4 years old.  So, while Gess is not an only child, she is the only one at home and incidentally is the only one I have ever homeschooled.

Homeschooling only one child has its advantages and disadvantages.  I believe the advantages are obvious.  How often have you heard people in public school complaining about class size and teacher to student ratios?  That's because the smaller the class size the better the student performs.  Well, it's hard to top a one to one student to teacher ratio!  What student wouldn't have an advantage being the only one in the classroom?  If the child is struggling with a topic you can take more time, if they grasp it quickly you can move on rather than bore them. There's no holding the other students back.  It also helps in choosing your curriculum, activities, field trips, projects and so on.  Tailoring them to your student's specific interests and challenges almost guarantees success.  Now add in that extra factor of educating a child with special needs and you can see how beneficial this can be.


It allows me make every part of our day about her educational and therapy needs.  I took the grand-kids shopping the other day and was reminded of how hard it is to do all your errands with the kids in tow.  Usually its just Gess and myself and therefore I try to make it a learning process.  When she was little we would talk about what I put in the cart so she could learn the name and product.  I would do things like have her find "fruit" and "vegetables."  As she started to read I would have her find a few things on the shelf for me.  If she got curious and wanted to browse we usually took the time to do that.  Now she has her own list and I follow her around.  She sure has come a long way. 


Of course there are also drawbacks as well.  Since the child is lacking playmates during the day you have to work extra hard to find some for them.  Gess is enrolled in many extra curricular activities that my boys never got to do.  That was partly because we couldn't afford it.  It's simply less expensive to enroll one child in an activity than it is two or more.  The other reason is because they didn't need it.  They had each other to play with when mom was busy, Gess does not.  Besides enrolling in things like ballet, gymnastics (and various other sports), and horseback riding lessons we also get involved in church activities, community events, library reading programs and so on.


We also have to fight a self-contentedness that it creates.  We really have to emphasize that life isn't all about Gess.  Part of that is due to the fact that her special needs require extra attention and part of that is being the only child at home.  That's just one more thing we address in our schooling.  We really emphasize respect, manners and putting others first.  Just last night we went to a homeschool party and there were over 100 people there and at that point Gess did perfectly fine.  Other than wanting to serve during volleyball more than her fair share, she was generally content and happy to play with the other kids.  In fact, I was quite impressed with how well all the children played together.  I think that was a testament to homeschooling no matter how many children you have at home.

I certainly think the positive outweighs the negative, especially in schooling Gess who has Down syndrome.  This is confirmed in many ways.  We recently went to her yearly Down syndrome appointment and each specialist commented on how well she was doing. She was described as "a friendly girl" who "maintained a very pleasant disposition" and was "very nicely social."  Yes, there are still times she wants to be at the front of the line, play with a certain toy, or not clean her room but what child doesn't have those moments?  What's important is that she understands those behaviors are not acceptable or tolerated.  Not getting away with it sure makes acting that way less desirable so they are not the norm.  So while homeschooling one child can have it's challenges, I think with a little work you can address those in such a way that it you hardly notice them at all.  In the end I know I will cherish every moment that Gess and I have spent one on one together.  For me I know that its the right choice.



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