Homeschooling: Could It Work For Your Child with LD or ADHD?
By Suzanne H. Stevens
Have you ever dreamed of leaping to your feet right in the middle of an IEP meeting and shrieking, “I quit?” When the nightly homework battle erupts into shouts and tears are you tempted to crumple into a chair whimpering, “I can’t take this anymore. I give up.” All parents caught in this trap sometimes wonder if there isn’t a better way.
Some families have found a better way through homeschooling. It isn’t for everybody. But under the right circumstances, educating a student with learning disabilities at home can work miracles for the child and his entire family.
When considering homeschooling, the first question must be: Is there a qualified adult in the family who has the temperament for such a demanding, long-term commitment?
This is not a job for the fainthearted, easily discouraged, perfectionist, or disorganized.
Successfully homeschooling an LD/ADHD student requires a thorough understanding of the particular youngster involved as well as a willingness to coach, encourage, commiserate, and remain flexible. One teaching mom had to search out a different reading program for each of her six children with LD. Not everybody has that kind of patience or time.
Homeschooling is labor-intensive. In addition to finding and learning to use effective techniques and materials, each lesson requires advance preparation as well as close supervision. For this kind of child, the standard “Get out your book, turn to page 53, and start where we left off yesterday” won’t work. Anybody thinking of homeschooling a child with learning differences needs to be prepared to design lessons that can capture and hold the attention of this sometimes wiggly, distractible youngster. And that isn’t always easy.
Know Your State’s Guidelines
|State guidelines along with the necessary application forms can usually be obtained with a phone call to the state Board of Education. Online information on homeschooling requirements in every state can be found at http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp.|
Then, there’s the question of the law. Before jumping into the home education business, parents need to be well-informed about their state’s homeschooling regulations. Every state has its own requirements, and they vary widely.
Not all parents will qualify. In North Carolina, for example, anyone with a high school education can homeschool a child as long as he or she keeps good attendance records and provides the state with a set of standardized test scores annually. Other states are much stricter. Some require the teaching parent to have a college degree or a teaching certificate. Others allow homeschooling only under the supervision of the local public school system.
Do Your Homework: Consult with Others
If the preliminary investigation makes homeschooling look like a reasonable option, it’s wise to talk to people who are actively involved in it. The library, the internet, and local churches can usually provide names of families, groups, or organizations committed to this form of education.
Do be aware that many homeschoolers do so for religious reasons and band together with others of the same persuasion. Such groups often prefer to exclude non-believers. However, those that welcome outsiders and focus their attention on supporting homeschoolers in developing sound educational practices can be extremely helpful.
For those who decide to leap in, it’s wise to take an experimental approach. Without permanently cutting any ties, allow a semester for healing and learning. Give the homeschooling pair the opportunity to discover that the key to success is observation, preparation, developing a routine, and persistence. Give the partners time to discover unexpected delights and talents, which they will then use to resolve persistent problems.
When it works well—when the parent and child make a good working team, when the student has had a semester or two to heal from the shame of failure and public humiliation, when satisfying learning experiences begin to accumulate—parents say that the eager, enthusiastic, inquisitive child who delighted them as a four-year-old resurfaces.
I’ve heard it over and over. The successful homeschooling mother proclaims, usually with tear-filled eyes, “I’ve got my child back.”
Suzanne H. Stevens is the author of The LD Child and the ADHD Child: Ways Parents and Professionals Can Help and Classroom Success for the LD and ADHD Child, available through John F. Blair Publisher, www.blairpub.com