School For A Special Needs Child
When I was growing up, we lived in an extremely rural place. Think 40 miles above the Arctic Circle with our nearest neighbor 40 miles away, the nearest town (our mailbox) was 90 miles away and the nearest grocery store was over 200 miles. Honestly, I don’t even know where the nearest school was.
Needless to say, I was homeschooled. In fact, my educational background has been very eclectic, to say the least. I was taught using various homeschooling methods until I was 13 when we moved to a small town that had a school. It was a small one-room school that was kindergarten – 8th grade. Think Little House on the Prairie with a few more modern conveniences.
High school in the big city
Once I graduated 8th grade, we moved back to Oregon, and I started my freshman year of high school in Portland, Oregon. Culture shock!!
But because of my varied educational background, I had always leaned towards not putting my kids into public school. So when our oldest was born with disabilities, I REALLY didn’t want to put him into public school and luckily, my husband agreed with me. Looking back now, I think the school system should thank us for that decision! LOL!
So what did our schooling look like?
This is a 2 part answer.
When we started school for C-Bear, a lot of it was the simplistic things that all kindergarteners do. Learning the alphabet, body parts, and colors, and reading a lot of books to him. Handwriting wasn’t something we worked too much on because of his lack of fine motor skills but he worked with an Occupational Therapist weekly as well as a Physical Therapist and I counted that towards his schooling also.
American Sign Language was also a big focus for us as that was his preferred method of communication, although with his lack of fine motor skills, it wasn’t true ASL but he developed his own versions of the signs he couldn’t do.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do much of this schooling because in October of his kindergarten year, C-Bear developed epilepsy and his first seizure lasted over 4 hours and centered in the communication portion of his brain.
Everything that he had learned up to that point became locked in his brain and he didn’t have access to it. I firmly believe the knowledge is there but he hasn’t figured out how to communicate it like he used to.
The pre-epilepsy C-Bear was apples and oranges to the post-epilepsy one and we had to make changes.
It took a while before I gave up on my original lesson plans because I kept thinking he would get back to where he had been, but he never did.
So I went towards a more auditory approach. We did a lot of educational programs and audiobooks. I had no way of knowing what he retained but I kept forging forward because I have always said that he knows more than he lets on. Because of his lack of fine motor and communication skills, there was no way to test him either. I was fine with that because its not like with his disabilities, he is ever going to go to college or have a job.
So this is what we did every year. Lots of audiobooks, reading books aloud to him and watching educational shows. Plus we work on Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy goals with him every day.
Then last year, as he was hospitalized yet again, I looked at C-Bear and said “you have graduated”. Honestly, nothing is really going to change for him after graduating high school because we still do and will continue to do, all those things we did before.
Granted, Oregon is a pretty easy state to homeschool in unlike some others so what worked for us may not work for you if you are considering homeschooling. Research the requirements in your area and do what works for your family.
One of the options I looked into before homeschooling my oldest was a program for homebound students. My pediatrician couldn’t give educational advice but he had concerns about C-Bear being exposed to all the illnesses that we know run rampant through schools.
So I approached my local school district and asked them what services they would be able to provide my son if 1. He was enrolled and physically went to public school, 2. If he went to a Life Skills classroom and 3. Was a homebound student.
It was obvious early on that the school district did not want to support my son in any way and the Depart of Education actually urged me to file a lawsuit and told me that they would back me up and could even recommend a lawyer.
C-Bear at this time was facing a major surgery that was going to make him bedbound for 6 months so I did not want to and did not pursue this at all. I maybe should have, if not for him then for all the other students that came behind him.
The Life Skills classroom was a joke.
Homebound students could receive 1 hour of education from a teacher daily. And if I actually sent him to the local school, which is 30 minutes away, they would just ferry him to another district that was an additional hour away. So a kid that doesn’t do well traveling, would have been on a bus for 3-4 hours a day. No, thank you!!
I am happy with what we did and that he is officially out of school.
Then there is his brother…
When it came time for M-Bear to go to school, my husband really wanted him to go to public school. I really wanted a chance to homeschool a neurotypical child and give him a wonderful education from home.
We compromised on a charter school. The spring before M-Bear would enter kindergarten, a new charter school opened up that would allow us to either have him attend the school full or part-time or school at home full or part-time and we would get a stipend towards his education for supplies and curriculum.
We have been with the school ever since and it has been great. We chose to school at home full time because the school is 35 minutes away. The type of schooling that we do is fairly inexpensive but it is nice to have the school pick up the tab and still have money left over for some fun things that maybe we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.
M-Bear is getting ready to enter 7th grade next week so we have some time but I am not sure what we are going to do for high school. Our school just implemented high school last year but so far, I am not impressed with how they are doing it and we may end up parting ways. I am not sure if we will try another charter school or if we will just go it alone. I will worry about that another day.
What does this mean to you?
My point in all of this is that there are lots of educational opportunities out there for both your neurodivergent and neurotypical kids.
I am a working Mom so I am usually busy during the day so we homeschool when I am not working. And M-Bear is fine with that. He has certain subjects that he has independent work on and then we work on our together stuff when I am done with my job for the day. Sometimes, we don’t have much time during the week, so we will work weekends, during the summer, or during school holidays. The important thing is that he is getting an education, not when he is getting it. Having flexibility works for us.
School is about getting an education
School is about getting an education, not how or when you do it. If public school isn’t an option for your family, look into private school. Yes, it can be expensive but see if you can get a scholarship.
Still can’t afford private school, look into charter schools. There are all kinds of charter schools out there and they all have different ways of doing things. With some, you don’t have a choice with your educational materials, and for some you do. With some charter schools, everything is done online, while some use only books or some do a hybrid.
If charter schools don’t work for you, but you don’t want to go it alone, look into homeschooling pods. These are schools where the parents hire a teacher and pay for all curriculum and supplies themselves. Pods are usually done in small groups with the kids being similar in age.
Don’t want to do a pod, how about a co-op? In a co-op, the parents are the teachers and this can be done in a variety of ways. Sometimes the co-op just does core topics or sometimes it covers everything.
If co-ops aren’t your thing, try homeschooling. With homeschooling, you get to choose what curriculum you use and when and for how long a day you school. You have all the flexibility in the world with this one (depending upon the homeschooling laws where you live) but you do have to pay out of pocket for everything and more than likely, you will not be able to claim any of it on your taxes.
Thanks to the day and technological age that we live in, you can literally school for free, or very cheap. There are so many free resources online and at your local libraries, that if you are on a tight budget, you can still give your kids a rich education on very little money.
Whichever way you decide to school your kids, just know that there is lots of information for you to tap into online. Check out social media for local groups and information. Go into your browser search bar and type in ‘(type of schooling you are interested in) in (your country/state/city)’ and see what comes up. For example; charter schools in Oregon. Or type in ‘homeschooling laws in (city/state/country)’ to find out what your local laws are.
Hopefully, all of this has been helpful for you. I know that with the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of families have moved away from public school because online learning wasn’t meeting the needs of their neurodivergent learners. But once they decide to pull their kids from public school, they aren’t sure what to do and think that there is just one homeschooling program that they need to use. But there are so many options for families nowadays that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to start.
The important thing is to just start. If you are doing a pod, co-op, private, or charter school, they will be able to help you figure things out. If you are going to straight homeschool, start with the 3 R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic) and add more as you get comfortable with your new team. This is only as hard as you make it.
I look forward to spring every year because I love planning our following school year! My son may not be so thrilled but I offer to let him help choose the curriculum but so far, he has turned me down. I keep telling him that if he chooses not to help with the process, he can’t complain. It’s kind of like voting!
If you need some help choosing a curriculum and creating a schedule, I do have some tools in my Etsy shop that can help. Go to Stonybear Designs and look for my homeschool curriculum planners.
Have a great school year!
The fine line between abuse and frustration
Power to the people!
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