NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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Homeschooling Failure?

By Sherry Bushnell


I sat down heavily in my chair. Looking out the dining room window the fall leaves of orange, yellow and green skittered across the yard. Some of them blew up against the childrens’ Tonka toys, remaining stuck there until a gust blew them another direction.

My 5 ˝ year old son sat beside me playing with the sorting objects we were working on. He looked over at me and smiled a big smile. My heart was heavy inside. I had imagined it all to be simple. So much easier. I wiped the drool off his chin with a Kleenex. From what I had read, children with Down Syndrome were to be expected to progress...albeit at a slower rate than other children without DS, but what was I doing wrong? We had been working at this simple task of sorting easy shapes for weeks. No progress.

Homeschooling Jordan has been a wonderful experience but our lack of skills being gained presently was really discouraging me. Other homeschooling parents of children with Down Syndrome were reporting such great successes. Their children could say the alphabet, talk legibly, listen and follow directions...were potty training....

So that was how I felt. Stuck. We were going nowhere. The Lord used a conversation with an acquaintance to help me see a problem. My sights were set too high. Our goals were not being accomplished because I was asking Jordan to do things he simply was not ready to do. It was not that he would never accomplish that which we were working on...it was just too soon. The range of mental capabilities in children with DS is wide. I had been hoping Jordan would out-shine them all. Is that so abnormal for a proud mom?

This painful little glimpse into a part of my life I look back fondly on now. It was a real turning point in my attitude and feelings towards homeschooling. A gradual realization that Jordan and I did not have to measure up to the successes of others was a real relief. My failure-type attitude changed into one of looking only toward the next goal to conquer. Jordan and I could now have a great time just where we were at. So what if he was behind the others who shared his disability. My other children were thriving and learning quickly. I knew Jordan’s slower progress was not due to my lack of skill or the time or attention he was receiving. He could only go forward at the rate God had chosen to give him. Not at the rate others were given.

Why were we homeschooling in the first place? The answers were plentiful...

Because I wanted to be with Jordan...because character training was such a vital, vital, aspect of our family’s homeschooling agenda...because we cared about Jordan’s health...because we knew that no one would or could give Jordan the undivided attention and care that we could as parents... Looking back now I can see other areas beside academics that Jordan had been doing terrific in. He was obedient, liked to share his toys and help carry in firewood and groceries. He liked to eat wholesome food (he hates McDonalds food), was gentle to the baby animals, could ride a trike, play on the slide and swings. Jordan was cheerful and rarely grumpy...the list could go on. All of our children have many wonderful areas of positive achievement, but not necessarily in the academic area. It seemed like such a simple solution. I needed to relax. I found goals that Jordan and I could meet. We broke up the tasks to learn into smaller segments. We love to achieve our ambitions. Success is sooooo...sweet! A rule we continue to use: "The more we expect of our children, they more they seem capable of doing." AND, God made them just the way they are!