Considering Homeschooling Your Older Child
Homeschooling Your Older Child Who Learns Differently
When the gap between learning and potential turns into a
chasm: time to consider home education?
Many people consider switching from homeschooling to traditional
schooling as a student grows older, for reasons including
more challenging content, social and athletic opportunities,
and growth and independence.
For the special needs child, the reverse often occurs. It
is at home that the student can be appropriately challenged
and can become an independent learner. This is for a number
Challenges often become more troublesome, and often students
are deprived of academic opportunities because they cannot
take advantage of the way that learning is being offered.
School often simply becomes more competitive.
Gaps between reading and writing skills and intellectual
ability become much more of a problem as students are
given reading and writing assignments that *may* be appropriate
for most students - and if not, most students can survive
them -- but are overwhelming to the student with dyslexia
Many schools that provide excellent special services
to students in elementary school simply don't provide
them at upper levels.
Other schools don't provide the services students need at
all -- but a bright student can compensate for a while. Many
the student who has not been taught accurate reading skills
has successfully memorized enough words and used his native
intelligence and pictures and context to succeed in elementary
school; then when a "reading problem" is discovered in middle
school, parents are told "it's too late to remediate." It's
At some point in the school year, often in that interminable
tunnel between New Year's and Spring Break, many parents begin
to wonder, "Couldn't I do a better job myself?"
And many (especially if the current situation is toxic,
and as one parent said "You read about the signs of child
abuse and they are there in my child") are thinking "yes,
Making the jump to homeschooling can be intimidating. Here's
a bit of structure to help you decide whether this is an option
that could work for you -- and help you get started if it
- Whatever your way of making yourself a "to do" list and
completing a big project -- do it for this one. I would
get a big binder and a few pocket folders and lots of blank
paper. Even if you don't end up homeschooling you'll be
glad you have the information organized.
- Go to the "get
started" article at the Homeschooling
Support on the Internet site. Read it and make your
first "to do" list and ... get started! Have sections for
things like "websites," "legal information," "local support
groups," and "printed out articles."
- Figure out what to teach and how to teach it.
Don't panic. This isn't as scary as it seems. Start with
your priorities and don't be afraid to start small. Do put
enough structure and activity into your lives so your child
isn't simply sitting idle for most of the hours s/he would
be in school, especially older students. Don't, please don't,
feel like you have to spend 7 hours at a desk with trips
to lockers and the lunchroom!
In my experience the best approach is to teach content
areas to the kid's strength, and work on problem skills
separately -- with connections between the skills and
content, for sure, but basically not making the kid have
to use his "weak learning channel" such as reading to
learn science or history or mechanics or drama or math.
Movies are one way to do this; but structure the learning
so that the movie is used to teach the content and terms.
Guide: GLory for an example of questions to guide
learning; see Teaching
with Movies for lots of information about specific
movies.) One of the most common issues with kids with
any of the various LDs is that they need tasks broken
down a bit more, and then they need to be taught how to
make connections between those broken down steps to put
A general outline for learning content is:
- Teach the content to the strength and assess to the
strength (so for a visual learner and/or struggling
reader, make lots of connections between verbal and
non-verbal, visual and auditory. See Lowering
the Language Barriers in Middle and Secondary School
for more information about this.
- When the content is mastered, then bring in the weaker
area. So, *after* a struggling reader has learned about
the Industrial Revolution, and has seen videos and can
label and talk about pictures of various inventions,
have him read a passage about familiar content and answer
questions about it. If he can't, review using both strong
and weaker 'channels' to make those connections.
- In the meantime, work every day at filling in the
holes in those skills.
Seek a balance between working with strengths on things
your child will feel great about, and working on those
challenges that you want to overcome. Consider problem
skills or thinking processes as "weaker mental muscles,"
and don't demand that the student use those muscles for
carrying the new, heavy knowledge into the brain. You
need to make sure the information gets all over the brain,
though, not just where the strong "mental muscles" like
to drop things off (they're bulky, you know, and have
trouble maneuvering in small places :-). So, getting that
learning over the threshold and between the ears should
be done with the strong muscles-- but let the less developed
skills get stronger by giving them the job of making connections
and reinforcing and practicing the knowledge.
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