Getting Started Home Schooling a Special Needs Child
By Tom and Sherry Bushnell
Here are a few suggestions to get you going in the great adventure of homeschooling. These suggestions are by no means inclusive and all may not apply to every family. These recommendations are directed at the family who is facing teaching a challenged child. We would like to thank those of you who have sent in suggestions here and there on this topic. We cannot remember all the namesÖbut we do remember the suggestions! If any of you have ideas that are not mentioned here, by all means send them in and weíll let others know.
1. Sit down and decide why you are home schooling. It is important to be firm in your convictions. Home schooling itself can be a controversial matter. Home schooling a child with disabilities can be even more so. Be in agreement with each other as husband and wife. Pray for the Lordís wisdom in making choices.
2. Write down the goals you would like to see accomplished with your child in the year, next six months, and next month or so. Be specific. Break the steps down into manageable pieces to be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. Beware of "overestimating" and donít be afraid to back up. What is it going to take to get there? Will you need equipment, curriculum, teaching aids or help? Next order catalogs. Write for information on curriculum that you feel may suit your needs. Try to find a broad base to choose from.
3. Establish control in your home. Your child needs to be able and willing to follow your instructions. This comes about through consistent, loving discipline. Letting your child know what is expected of him/her and following through with your requests with bite not just bark really works. The Bible is clear on this one!
4. If you are worried about harassment by your local district or professional personnel, join HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association). They are great confidence boosters! File your local districtís Intent to Homeschool form on time.
5. Set aside funds each month for equipment, teaching aids or other supportive material. Budget wisely and be prepared to shop around. Many materials are expensive but there are ways around the costs.
6. Find a supportive educational consultant if you are feeling muddled or bogged down. With notebook in hand, try hiring a professional you trust as a consultant.
7. Get involved in a support group. If you cannot find one you are comfortable with (or that is comfortable with you), create your own. Get involved with the NATHHAN Network and/or NATHHAN Directory and get a copy right away from us. You need not wait until spring when the new ones are printed. As soon as you have sent in your confidential questionnaire with YES for directory, you can ask us for one. Write to a bunch of families that look like they might be able to help. So many great friendships have been formed this way. We cannot stress enough how encouraging it is to know you are not alone in this home schooling endeavor.
8. Learn to keep track of your progress records. IEPís may not legally be required in your state, but it is wise to make a game plan of action, to mark progress and to see how far youíve come. Make two copies of your records, including medical, and store them in two different places.
9. Set aside a shelf or cupboard in your home for just your homeschooling supplies. This one area may need to be bigger or smaller depending on how much equipment, books, games, teaching aids and curriculum you need. Be organized. This is a real key to eliminating frustration every morning. It is a waste of time when you go to get started and cannot find the things you need.
A note about scheduling from Sherry Bushnell.
We have found that in the midst of a very busy household, being organized is the secret to not becoming overwhelmed. Getting started on an organized schedule can be hard. Once youíve spent a few days working the bugs out of your system, life is admittedly calmer. The arguments about who does what, where, and when are eliminated. My boys actually have fun trying to beat the clock to earn extra free time after their chores are done.
Take advantage of little moments of time. Speech therapy can be performed at odd moments of the day in 3-5 minute intervals. The ABCís can be sung in the car on the way to town or shopping. Make to-do lists. Writing down goals and keeping track of them in your little notebook can be done while you wait for appointments or on the couch while you are putting your feet up for a moment. I, for one, leave a pad of paper next to my bed because I am always thinking of important thoughts or things to do in the night. (It isnít unusual for me to be writing the newsletter in my sleep!) The important idea is to Seize the moment!