The Then and Now of Special Education Homeschooling
Special Education Homeschooling
When our family started our special education homeschooling journey almost 15 years ago, the homeschooling landscape was very different than it is today. From my own perspective of homeschooling two children with learning challenges, as well as a decade of experience helping other parents navigate special education homeschooling, I have seen this backdrop dramatically affect the special education homeschooling movement as well as the families who choose to homeschool their children with special needs.
These changes are neither good nor bad but can create both positive and negative results if a family does not understand how to navigate them. Thus, I want to share with you a picture of before and after in each of these areas and how families who homeschool children with special educational needs can use these trends towards a positive impact in their own homeschooling efforts.
Special Education Resources
15 years ago, there was no such thing as a homeschool curriculum written for a struggling learner. There were very few curriculum choices for parents in general. Parents who chose to homeschool did so with whatever books or curriculum they could find or make work. It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but teaching resources were looked upon in general as catalysts for parents to use to impart wisdom into their children’s lives.
Nowadays, there are so many homeschooling curriculum options for parents of struggling learners, that narrowing down the choices can be daunting. Parents can find more options than they know what to do with, and not only in the form of books, but also from online teaching resources, apps, and mainstream curriculum providers who are now catering to the special education homeschooling community.
Special Education Support
Homeschool support systems of the past were comprised of local families who were trying to find ways to connect with other homeschooling families. These groups were about community and building relationships so every family, and each member of the family, could find a way to connect and feel involved. Families who had children with special educational needs were welcomed along with the rest because these groups focused on relationships and commonalities.
Over the years homeschooling groups have mostly turned into structured programs to allow parents to share their teaching load. There still are some meet up groups that focus on playdates and field trips, but these groups are often harder to find. In general, though, academics have become the driving factor behind most groups that bring homeschoolers together. And, unfortunately, as part of this trend, parents of children who struggle with academics or in working/learning in a classroom environment, have found less support for their families within these groups.
Special Education Foundational Basis
The onset of the homeschooling movement in the United States was undergirded by parents who desired to instill in their Christian faith into their children. Faith in God, and His call to “train up [children] in the way they should go,” was the main reason most people homeschooled. This commonality joined homeschoolers together and it was almost assumed that if you were homeschooling your children, you were doing so because you had been convicted and called to this way of schooling.
If you were to ask 20 different homeschooling parents now why they homeschool, you will probably get 20 different answers. Families not only homeschool because of their faith, but also because of school violence, so they can travel, for the ability to teach towards their child’s gifts…or because the school was failing to teach to their child’s specific needs. In general, instead of homeschooling being a choice of conviction it is now becoming a reactionary choice because of circumstances external factors that move parents towards the homeschooling option.
Special Education Information
Yes, it is hard to believe that just 15 short years ago, the Internet was in its infancy. Smartphones were not around, neither was Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of the other places most of us frequent daily to not only get information but to stay connected with one another. Our world is changing quickly, and so are the jobs we are preparing our children for as we homeschool them.
The days of spending a homeschooling afternoon at the library seem almost antiquated. As parents, we are bombarded with information, and for parents, with struggling children the information can be smothering. Special education research on what causes children to struggle with learning as well as the latest methods to help them conquer their deficiencies are everywhere. This information is in a constant state of flux and parents are never quite sure who they can trust and what information is going to be beneficial in helping their children. This surplus of information makes parents uneasy about their decision because they are pressured to make the “right” choice to help their child best overcome their learning challenges.
Special Education Choices
Parents who chose to homeschool 20 years ago were pioneers. When I started homeschooling the stories of how these pioneering families fought for our freedom to homeschool were still prevalent in homeschooling circles. For this reason, homeschooling families were diligent about record keeping and staying active in politics. They intimately knew the price paid for their freedom to homeschool, and they were determined to not have that freedom compromised.
Today, many homeschooling parents seem to have an attitude of indifference towards their freedom to homeschool. Families, in general, are not as committed to the homeschooling lifestyle. Instead, many parents view homeschooling as an option that may be least restrictive, more affordable, or their current best schooling scenario. However, should a better school choice for their child arise, they will consider a switch.
Planning for the Future of Special Education Homeschooling
I can’t say I have all the answers, nor can I predict the future, but based on the changes I have discussed above, it is very clear that special education homeschooling has not become easier over the years. And, while the simplicity of homeschooling a struggling learner has diminished, the ease of homeschooling our unique children has become a more viable choice for parents who otherwise would not have considered this option.
As I look ahead, the best advice I have to give parents who are homeschooling, or considering the leap into homeschooling, their children with special educational needs is: Be discerning about resources you choose, find commonality in a supportive homeschooling community, witness to other homeschooling families, teach others what you have learned on your own homeschooling journey, and understand homeschooling is a wonderful freedom that some will choose for the long-haul while others may only make this choice for a season.
Written by Peggy Ployhar from SPED Homeschool