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Homefires' Teleconference Speaker: Kathy Kuhl

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Homeschooling Children with
Learning Differences and Special Needs

When homeschoolers see our children struggling beyond what we ever imagined, we must decide whether and how to keep on. We may long for professionals trained in special education to take over. We may fear we are failing our children.

Don't panic. What you need is knowledge, resources and confidence. I am not saying that every parent should homeschool every child, regardless of their special needs. But you should realize that, hardworking and well-trained as the best special education teachers are, you have many advantages as a homeschooler:

  • You know the child better, while teachers face many students every year.
  • You have fewer students. You can be more flexible, limiting distractions and helping your child manage frustrations.
  • You can modify your daily, weekly, and yearly schedule to suit the child.
  • You can change curricula more easily.
  • Finally, you are more determined to help your child succeed.

This isn't simply my opinion. I interviewed 64 families homeschooling children with learning problems. Here's what they said.

Rose in New Hampshire adopted a son who was later diagnosed with autism and other difficulties. Although she already was homeschooling his big sister, she thought school would serve him best. After one and a half difficult years in public school, she brought him home two years ago. I asked her about the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling him:

"Calm! He's more calm. We're more calm. He's soared ahead and I have no doubt he would have been trailing behind if left in public school. They were using occupational therapy techniques that were for the profoundly retarded and not for a very bright Asperger/ASD child.

"Disadvantages? Compared to dealing with professionals at the public school who did not get my son? There are no disadvantages."

In Florida, Denise homeschools three struggling learners. She wrote:

"I planned to homeschool before I was even aware of my oldest child's learning challenges, based on the examples set by friends I admired. I tried to give up on homeschooling once the challenges became overwhelming, but that didn't work out well!

"One and a half years in the public school system (third and fourth grade) got us on the path to diagnosis, but directed us back to homeschool. I was surprised to find that the teachers were no more patient than I was, and even more clueless on how to teach him! It wasn't just me! In the end, it became evident that homeschooling was the only option--and I didn't want to try again! But now I am glad we ventured it. With the help of diet, medication, and less stressful methods, we are finally making progress!"

Jen is a homeschooling mother in Virginia and a former special education teacher. Like two other former special education teachers I interviewed who now homeschool, Jen feels strongly that hard-working parents can give their children a good education:

"In a homeschool setting, a student doesn't have to worry about answering a question wrong because someone might make fun of them. They can experience much more success [being homeschooled] than if they were in a public school setting."

You can homeschool a struggling learner. It takes time, dedication, and effort. If you have been homeschooling other children and now must teach a struggling learner, the road ahead will be harder. But for a conscientious parent, the rewards can be great.

Reprinted with permission of the author, Kathy Kuhl.

Adapted from chapter 4, "Do You Need to Put Your Homeschooled Child in School?" of Kathy Kuhl's book, Homeschooling Your struggling Learner.

© 2009, Kathy Kuhl, All Rights Reserved.

About Kathy Kuhl:

Kathy Kuhl did not set out to homeschool her son. Getting him and his homework out the door on school mornings was hard enough. Despite his intelligence and his excellent school, however, he struggled with learning and attention problems. She began homeschooling him in fourth grade, and continued through twelfth grade. He worked hard, made great strides in reading and math, developed interests in writing and backpacking, and became an Eagle Scout.

Since his graduation, Kathy began working on this book, a comprehensive introduction to homeschooling struggling learners. To prepare for this book, she interviewed 64 homeschooling parents with children with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and other difficulties.

Kathy now writes, consults, and speaks, helping parents teach their children at home. She speaks to homeschool conventions, patient advocacy organizations (including national conferences of CHADD, LDA, and ASA) and other groups. Still active in her local homeschool community, she also teaches math and English to homeschooled teens and leads a support group for homeschoolers with children with special needs.

To find out more visit Kathy Kuhl's website: Learn Differently