This has come to my attention repeatedly over the years: parents’ hesitancy to educate to the full potential that homeschooling permits with concern their child won’t be able to catch-up if eventually placed in a school system.
On the one hand, parents experience the freedom to target their child’s individual needs using the method that works best for him. On the other hand, they worry that they’re not bringing their child up to par, so they resort to school-like methods “just-in-case” their child enters the school system one day.
The reason this “just-in-case” teaching raises alarms for me is that I worry that we’re losing the big vision on the altar of fear.
Having been both on the inside (as a teacher), and on the outside (as a homeschooling mom) — what I share here is a reflection of my experiences in both worlds.
I think it’s fair to say that as homeschooling parents we share the goal of wanting to prepare our child for life after academics. We want to be sure our child becomes a life-long learner and that he becomes able to function within many diverse circles and able to cope with many new situations.
As parents of children with special needs, we also want our child to be able to fit into a society that doesn’t fully understand him and his daily frustrations. In the process, we want to spare him humiliation and hurt feelings because want to reduce the need for him to struggle further.
You may find yourself relying on the “just-in-case” method of teaching because, “just-in-case” you send your child into a school system, then he will not be made to feel anxious/frustrated in this new environment since the books and worksheets will be familiar to him.
While these are valid worries, let me reassure you with the following words:
Don’t fall prey to a system within the freedom of your homeschooling
The school system is a system.
It’s not real life. It barely even reflects it.
You have the freedom to tap into your child’s learning style (which may or may not include worksheets). Don’t limit education in your home. School teachers only wish they had the resources, time, and possibilities you can offer your child at home.
All children have to adapt to change on a yearly basis
Children who have always been a part of the school system face some of the same anxieties, frustrations, and struggles that we homeschooling parents worry our children will face in the classroom.
Yearly, children are introduced to a new teacher (often many teachers), new classmates, and a new environment.
Teachers are very dedicated to their profession and offer the best to their students. However, each teacher brings a different perspective by providing a different teaching style to his/her students. This means, from year to year, children are made to adapt to several changes. In so doing, students experience initial anxieties and frustrations because things are different from what they became accustomed to the year before. It’s no secret that it takes a good month for both teachers and students to adjust to their new relationship.
Your child is no farther behind
You need not assume that your homeschooled child will be any farther behind than his public-schooled peers. Over the summer, children forget. Everyone starts with a clean slate.
One year, I had the privilege of looping (teaching the same group of children over a span of two years). The advantage was the children knew me, and I knew them. They didn’t need to adapt to my teaching style. They knew what was expected of them. You’d assume that we were able to plow full steam ahead into subject areas in September, right?
Even though I knew I had taught the concepts, even though I knew they had been exposed to the concepts the previous year, there were only a handful of children whose eyes lit up when I asked, “What is a fraction?” Most students drew blanks because it had been too long. They hadn’t practiced the skills over the summer, and they all needed an honest review.
If you send your child to school, he’ll be making those adjustments right alongside his peers (even if in his own way). He will be learning the concepts as though it were the first time – just like his peers. And, he’ll be raising questions – just like his peers.
Your child has an advantage over other children
When I was in the classroom, I always said that children with special needs, who are on an IEP, are the luckiest of all. They are already on the teacher’s radar because they have a file that explains all of the needs and recommendations to an already overwhelmed teacher. She can take action with your child first because of the reports and meetings that come along with your child.
Further, a child with special needs often has an aide/childcare worker assigned to him. He is given adapted materials and extra special care and attention.
If your child were to enter the classroom, he is probably going to receive more support in all of the transitions/changes than most other children in his class.
Give yourself and your child credit
Finally, it needs to be said that homeschoolers need to be given more credit. You need to give yourself more credit. Your child needs to be given more credit.
In teaching your child with the freedom that homeschooling allows (and deserves), you are expanding your child’s potential exponentially. Your home educating doesn’t have the limitations that a school system holds. Your child can explore in real life with real tools and real people and within real situations. A tremendous amount of learning occurs when textbooks are closed, and the mind is open to question and wonder within an authentic learning environment.
Homeschooled children who are permitted to fly with their learning style can later enter the classroom and excel.
Even with special needs, your child is at a greater advantage than his peers with special needs. He has life experiences under his belt unlike anything his peers have experienced in a classroom. He has internalized problem-solving by solving many of life’s challenges head-on (and not only on paper). He can communicate in his way because he has been given time to express himself (without the need to raise his hand and hope to be called upon). He has built profound relationships because his family and friends contributed to his learning in meaningful ways (and not just on weekends and holidays). He was given one-on-one, undivided attention that he otherwise may not have received. And, because of these experiences, he can shine in a classroom setting.
I worry that you may be holding back in your homeschooling. You may be clutching onto worksheets, textbooks, and tests because they most resemble what your child would use “just-in-case” he was to enter a classroom one day.
Even if your goal is to send your child to school next year, please consider the points above and the questions below.
Questions to ask yourself
Plan tomorrow’s lessons geared toward your child’s learning style — not toward the threat a “just-in-case” doubt can bring.
- Why did you decide to homeschool?
- What is your ultimate goal for your child’s education?
- What is your ultimate goal for your child’s life?
- Do you want to be building life skills or helping your child fit a system?
- Do your lessons today reflect the desires you expressed in the questions above?
Now, teach. Freely.