Welcome to Day 13 of the 31 Days of Random Reflections on Raising and Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs. You can find the main page for this series here.
Like many parents in our shoes, I explored the natural and holistic approach to health and healing when everything else failed. It’s no wonder, then, that homeschooling appealed to me. Homeschooling, is, in effect, holistic education.
Holistic education, as defined by Wikipedia is: “a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace.”
Back in teacher’s ed., I was fascinated by the philosophies of alternative schools. I thought them to be beautiful and romantic and harmoniously tranquil. I was pulled in by the learning that happens between human beings and nature. Something about these schools felt like they were what education was intended to be.
This is probably why I struggled so much with not only my place in the public classroom, but also with the therapies my son received.
Something about the strict rules and the consequences for breaking them, the must-follow-steps from grade levels to leveled reading programs, and the relentless questioning and testing of children never jived with me. It still doesn’t.
I resist it when I feel it coming on with a therapist. It’s an instinctive, gut reaction to anyone insisting things be done a certain way.
Without realizing that I was already immersed in holistic education in my heart, it wasn’t until I contemplated a solution to a behavioral problem that I knew I was carving a different path for our family.
After years of testing out step-by-step “fixes” for our son’s aggressiveness, I asked myself, exasperated:
- “What if the solution were actually simpler than this?”
- “What if we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves?”
- “What if we’re putting too much pressure on him?”
- “What if I stop reading the “how-tos” and just love him right where he is? What if I don’t try to change him, but just accept him, reassure him, and promise to work through this with him, as opposed to doing this to him?”
The truth is, while therapists and medical professionals are necessary, parents are the only people who get the holistic picture of the child. Professionals get bits and pieces and hardly ever confer to put the pieces together in the way a parent does. This is why homeschooling is a huge benefit to a child with special needs.
It’s not just the child who is important, the family is important, too. Also, the experiences, the trials, the joys, the environment, the relationships, the emotional development, the pacing, the respect, the acceptance of the whole child — all of it is important for the education of the child with special needs.
When we cultivate holistic homeschooling, whether it’s intentional or not, each of these aspects become an integral part of the educational experience.
While not all of our homeschooling is beautiful and romantic and harmoniously tranquil, I still hold that vision in my heart as one of true meaningful, holistic living education.