Special Needs, Public School vs. Homeschool — a guest post

You may remember Lindsey  she has posted for me before. TWICE!  Once on being the typical sib of a special needs child, and once on honesty.

So for a good long while I had a friend who listened to my frustrations with public school, and often suggested I homeschool. I told her repeatedly, “I could never do that.”

She told me I was wrong.

She was right.

Last year my 3rd grade son (who qualifies for a diagnosis of Asperger’s), was struggling in school. Truth be told, it had been going on since 1st grade but I didn’t think it was the SCHOOL, it was HIM – you know- not applying himself. I was dead set in my ways of thinking, after all, public school provided socialization, public school KNEW what my son needed to learn, public school had trained professionals, public school HAD to be better, more patient and well equipped to teach my son what he NEEDED to learn.

Towards the end of the year my son was having anxiety attacks over tests, and then, one day- the smallest thing just made me realize that it didn’t matter if I THOUGHT I could homeschool him… it was what HE NEEDED.

MN 2012 001

Now I’m not saying that homeschool is the right choice for all parents, it’s a personal choice. As parents we all know what is best for our children. When I realized my 3rd grader still couldn’t read a regular clock- I was perplexed, he had learned that in 1st grade! Why didn’t he know how? Then… it dawned on me. They were merely teaching him to test and he wasn’t able to retain the information due to the high pressure he was feeling just to pass that test, he took 3 tests a week on average, he had 45 minutes of homework a night and he simply WAS NOT LEARNING. “No Child Left Behind” was leaving my child in the dust.

I sucked up my fear, and thought to myself: “This is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.”

No, it really isn’t.

I spent the better half of the summer looking at what I could use as an aid to help me. I didn’t have a clue of what to teach him. I found so many resources between the internet, Facebook and friends of mine who homeschool I was amazed. On August 24th we began OUR school year.

My Favorite Programs which are relatively inexpensive would be:


 Time 4 Learning
www.time4learning.com

Time4Learning is an awesome program that offers a BASE curriculum for $19.99/month. It follows your STATE requirements and tells you what your child needs to learn to be at the same state standard as all children who attend public school. You can manipulate the age PER SUBJECT, so if your child is
like mine and excels in Math and Science but struggles in Reading and Language, you can manipulate the level of each subject so that it fits your child best. My son is in 4th grade this year and is getting close to entering 5th grade science. However we have gone down to 3rd grade for Reading and Language Arts. Overall this is my favorite program- not all things are online- you can print worksheets and it offers recommended reading for various subjects based on that particular lesson. All records are saved in a professional manner and can be printed so if/when you decide to send your child to public school, the records will be accurate and acceptable among all school districts.

Spelling City
www.spellingcity.com

Spelling City is my second favorite! You make your own spelling lists which then can be used in online game play OR generated worksheets. You can use these lists for vocabulary, spelling, sentence structure or handwriting. When we do a science chapter- I take all the vocabulary words and plug them in to spelling city, then I can assign tasks using those words for my son to do. It’s a great follow up. In addition- they offer grade lists for words that your child should know how to spell based on their grade. You can create tests, or activities from crosswords to multiple choice. They offer a free portion of the website – if you don’t want to go “premium” but for only $29.99/YEAR you can save all records, and it is good for up to 5 students!

I should also mention- this program saves all your records as well, and lists- each list can be grouped (if premium membership) into categories. Highly effective and fun learning. My son’s reading and spelling has improved IMMENSELY using this resource.

Ticket to Read
www.tickettoread.com

Ticket to read is a great “extra” if your child is struggling in reading.  It engages the child in a fun way. They are able to build a clubhouse with “award tickets’ which can only be acquired by reading and answering questions. It’s a limited program with prices varying from $10-$20. You purchase them in the form of Semesters and Summer. We use this program for “fun time” and it is great for reading comprehension. This program only works for up to 5th grade.

Aside from learning all the “how to’s” of homeschooling, I had another ‘obstacle’ of sorts. I was worried that no public school would mean no socialization and my son who is a social butterfly would become bored and resistant. The opposite happened.

Yes he still misses his FRIENDS – but the friends he had which since we moved he would make new friends anyhow. Overall, I’d say he doesn’t care because now learning is FUN and he is retaining much more information. I never realized how detrimental the public school atmosphere had been for him. The teachers (and his test scores) indicated he was right on track. Each year they would tell me at the beginning of the year he was behind in reading- I would enroll him in a SCHOOL BASED tutoring program- and by the end of the year he would be up to par- after 2 years of tutoring and him entering 3rd grade, and the teacher telling me – once again – he was falling behind for his age- I became suspicious. Once we started homeschool, I tested him myself to find out that my 4th grade student, was falling into a 2nd grade reading level. I had been doing everything at home they were telling me, I had him read into a recorder, I had him read to me, I had him do 2x the reading they required at school, yet nothing was getting better. Well, if you can’t SPELL it’s hard to read- and that’s what I learned.

The methods the school was using to teach spelling words was one that was just NOT working for my son. I switched the teaching method- and my son started flourishing.

At public school he was often picked on and told he was “weird”, he struggled with tests and teachers, he was getting to a point where I was fearing depression, and in such a young child – this made me worried.

I’m not saying ALL children need/ or should be homeschooled but what I will tell you is do not FEAR it as I did. Do not be afraid your child won’t socialize because without a ton of homework “after school” – there is more time and energy for sports and other extracurricular activities.

Never think you aren’t Smart enough to teach your child because odds are? Even if in some subjects are harder for you? You will learn with them. When I am working as my son’s guide through Science and Social studies, I find I am learning many things I have forgotten; only now as an adult I am able to retain so much more.

Don’t look at it as a HUGE task that just can’t be done, it’s fairly easy with all the information on the web, I assure you- it can be done. And I can guarantee you its much EASIER than you would think.

Now my son is excited for school and learning. We moved and it was rocky for a while, he was out of school for almost a month (besides little activities) – He was ASKING EVERY DAY – “When does my homeschooling start again?” He couldn’t wait to be back into it. Overall he is a happier child, he is learning far more- and as fast as children grow? How can you not at least be TEMPTED to spend every ounce of extra time with them? Structure and routine is key- everything in life is easier with that- in the end one thing I stand by- “Mama Knows Best” (or should I say parents do). So, if your child is struggling and you feel trapped and you are battling schools, do yourself a favor – in the summer – give it a try- you may be surprised at the results. I know I was!

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