Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Homeschooling With Special Needs Encouragment and Resources

I have been "officially" homeschooling Gess who has Down syndrome for almost 6 years now.  She is technically in the 5th grade although her skill level may vary in certain subjects.  I remember when she was born how we struggled with whether or not we could actually homeschool because of her special needs and I am here to tell you, yes you can!

I felt all alone when I first started.  Living in a small town I found that our homeschool support group was already small and there were not any other parents who had a child with special needs. I am also involved in a Down syndrome support group but none of those moms were homeschooling.  It is frightening to think you are doing this alone, especially since you don't know what to expect.  I had never homeschooled at all before so finding out that the child I intended to homeschool also had special needs made me really reconsider my options.

One of the major factors that changed my perspective was hearing the horror stories of what parents with kids in the public school system were going through.  It was then I realized that "professionals" do not always know what they are doing either and even when they do it doesn't mean that they alone can do it. Even when you have the greatest teachers and para in the world, they will never want more or better for your child than you do.  Sure we might miss a few things along the way, but you know what?  Every child does no matter where they go to school.  There is no perfect system or perfect people.  We work with what we have and what is best for us.

While I knew I was doing the right thing, I still felt all alone.  Then I stared this blog and wouldn't you know it, there were lots of other moms homeschooling their child with Down syndrome too, they just didn't live in my town.  So I started following their blogs and seeking more of them out.  It was not long before I was convinced that I could do it and I was absolutely not alone.  To help you realize that too I am sharing some of the great tools and groups that I found helpful.  As you look around my blog you will see how well things are going for us but these resources will help you see that it is not just me.  Many families are finding success in homeschooling a child with special needs.  It is not only possible for you to do, it is also one of the most rewarding and amazing journeys your family will take! 

I first joined a Yahoo group called Homeschooling and Down Syndrome.  I have been very active in that in the past and am still a member, though I must confess my time to keep up with it is limited.  As my blogging grows my time for other things diminishes.  I do tend to be more active in my Facebook groups which many of the members in the Yahoo group also belong to.  We recently just merged some Facebook groups together.  For Facebook I started a group titled Down Syndrome & Homeschooling Moms.

Of course there are other special needs resources that are not Down syndrome related but our needs are so specific that I try to stay mostly tied into those groups.  My favorite all around "special needs" resource is Special Needs Homeschooling. They offer many great helps on their website and also host a group on Facebook called Special Needs Homeschooling Group.

As for the "how to" types of resources I relied heavily on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association that offers information for Struggling Learners.  They give you information about what to keep track of and how to keep yourself legal but they also offer great information about all aspects of homeschooling.  They were great in providing resources to help us in doing our own speech therapy among other things.  They have three special needs consultants that are available by phone and they do help you out!  I know, I have used them!  You can also sign up for the monthly Struggling Learner Newsletter.  You will have to enter your email address in the first two steps then they will email you a link to set up what things you want emailed to you.  All you do is click on Struggling Learner and it will start arriving once a month.  I also encourage you to join HSLDA who will provide counsel if you are ever accused of educational neglect because you have decided to homeschool your child with special needs.  We have been members since Gess was in preschool.

 Homeschool conventions are also a great resource to help you not feel so alone.  Most conventions have workshops that cover special needs instruction.  The ones I have attended have been very helpful and it is where I met up with and hired our private speech pathologist.   While you are there you will also meet other moms of kids with special needs and hear about their experiences too.  It sure makes you feel less alone.  The conventions in my area are sponsored by some of the major support groups there.  HSLDA has a page to help you find a support group in your area.  Contact them or visit their website to find their conventions.  In Kansas I recommend the Midwest Parent Educators in the Kansas City area or the Teaching Parents Association of Wichita if you live near there.  I have been to both and found them most valuable.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine which is an excellent resource for homeschoolers will always have an article for The Struggling Homeschooler which addresses many things children with special needs struggle with.

On my own blog I share resources that work for us, not because I am paid for it, but just to help you out.  I have tried to sort some of the major ones out by category: Math, Reading and Down Syndrome.  I hope to have my Therapy page done soon too. You will also find that the Schoolhouse Reviews that I do in exchange for products always mention whether I found them specifically helpful for special needs or not.

I am just one blog.  There are tons more out there. In fact this article is part of a linky of other moms who homeschool their children with special needs too so follow the links and read their words of encouragement.  I know it will inspire you.  I hope they will also convince you that not only can you homeschool, but you will find that you actually want to.


lighthouseharbor said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

Emilee Roberts said...

Thank-you for sharing your story and all the wonderful resources!

Julie Filter said...

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your story. The numbers of us choosing homeschool as best for our special children continue to grow, and for that I am thankful! Be blessed!


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