Occasionally, the TOS Blog Cruise topic of the week is something that is completely out of my realm of knowledge or experience. Some topics I have dropped the ball from finding another homeschooler to act as a guest writer for the blog. But, when I saw this week’s topic I knew exactly who I wanted to ask.
The topic is “How do you juggle homeschooling a child with special needs, therapy, etc. ?”
The homeschool mom I thought about is not someone I’ve met in person. Instead, I stumbled upon her blog a while back and have conversed a bit through comments and the occasional email. I am in awe of the task she has undertaken by homeschooling with multiple children diagnosed with special needs. Her honesty in struggles through her blog posts has always impressed me and I just knew she’d be the person to write this guest post.
So….enjoy Happy Elf Mom’s writing about homeschooling while juggling multiple appointments and the needs of her children…..
Don’t you HATE those stupid homeschooling "success" stories you get in your inbox sometimes? Yep, within three months, this or that family was able to homeschool their kid right out of a major disability! Aaand the child is now twelve and ready for college. Homeschooling REALLY WORKS if you’re doing it right and belong to their organization and/or use their curriculum!
Well, I have to tell you I’m not a success story. Not like that. Four of my six children are autistic and do you know what? One of them is almost completely non-verbal. So… I’m not going to pretend to have it all together. I’m just going to try to encourage you to keep up the good fight if you’re a homeschooler like me whose children will likely still be disabled tomorrow and next year. You’ll find my advice works well enough with littles in the house as well as special older children. Or, you might find my advice doesn’t work for you at all and toss it out the window. It’s ok. It’s all about what works, isn’t it?
One thing I learned is to stay at home as much as possible and get as much done in the early mornings as I can. I HATE getting my homeschoolers up at 5:30 in the morning to get maths done, but honestly and truly, that’s the only way they’re going to at least start on it while the house is quiet. I find maths to be the most difficult subject, so we tackle that first. I also do two lessons every weekday, summers included, which means I now have a nine-year-old who is almost ready for Algebra I. Yes, he is. But it also means that I have another older homeschooler who is taking fifth grade maths for the third time in a row after taking fourth grade maths twice. That thought can be downright discouraging, but we don’t get to choose our abilities. We can change the curriculum and present the subject differently, but it takes time for true competence to be built sometimes. It just does.
I assign reading for the children to do on their own when I am serving breakfast to smaller children. They’re pretty good about not dallying with that now that they are older, but this advice is NOT going to work for your small people who are still sounding sounds out or who aren’t in the habit of just getting the work done. When I had smaller elementary-aged children and babies, the babies would sit on squares of carpet with their sippies and a bowl of dry Cheerios while we read nearby. I vacuumed a lot, but it worked.
But why do I front-load my day like this? Having several children with disabilities means therapies and appointments, and in my house, an appointment or other change in schedule is going to throw the whole day off. If we begin work before 6 a.m., that appointment at 10 a.m. I couldn’t schedule for a decent afternoon time won’t ruin the entire day. I’ll at least be able to get three crucial hours in. A little reading aloud before bed, and call it good.
I used to try to bring schoolwork TO these appointments, but appointments are really hard enough without that added work. I mean added work for ME, keeping track of everyone’s stuff so I don’t have to make another trip back for forgotten things, or tapping their papers to remind children to "get cracking" on their worksheets. It just doesn’t work. Reading aloud works in the car, sometimes. But leave the science and spelling at home. Bring big-button calculators and old keys, cheap pinwheels and slinkies. That sort of thing. People will hate you for it, but they’ll hate you LESS than they would if your children got bored and began running full-tilt into the wall crazy mosh pit/wrestling style or spinning and screaming things like, "LOOK! I have an axis!"
You just have to learn that sometimes, people are going to dislike you. And you will never be good enough, not if you compare yourself with others. You will never do a good enough job when you look at it like that.
But you’ll do a good enough job. You really will. Trust in that, and hit the delete button when you get pompous emails about "struggling learners," cures and general snake oil sales.
Happy Elf Mom lives near Kansas City, Missouri, and has been homeschooling for four years.
You can find her writing about life as a homeschool mom over at Homeschool and Etc.