February 18, 2010

Special Guest Post from a Special Mom

My mom is the final guest in this homeschool feature week.

This special mom teaches a special student at home. I am so pleased she was willing to share about their experience and some issues they've had to realize and deal with while homeschooling a special needs student.
If you are a mom faced with some similar challenges, learning disabilities and/or physical handicaps, then I hope you will find encouragement from the following.

(Karina) Briefly describe Kurtis' needs and/or limitations.
(Mom) Kurtis will be 15 years old in April.  He is an active teen-aged boy who has limitations in his cognitive abilities, because of a brain injury that he incurred from a virus at eighteen-months of age.  This has affected his speech and education.  It affects his ability to make some decisions for himself and limits him from some independent activities.

Why public school to begin his education since you were already homeschooling four children. It would seem natural to homeschool him as well? 
Although I was homeschooling four other children at the time, Kurtis went to public because I was told he would be able to obtain speech therapy, physio-therapy and occupational therapy.  At the time I accepted this, because Kurtis could not speak while entering into kindergarten, and I felt we needed all the help we could get.

What was one or two positive things about sending him to public school? One or two negatives?
Kurtis enjoyed and thrived in the public school system.  He was fortunate to have the same Education Assistant from grade 1 right until grade 7, which is very unusual.  He also had a school mate with special needs, and the two of them were a good match to teach and spend time together. He developed his speech; and learned to read and write and do math at a primary level. He was well accepted at school by classmates and teachers. However as he reached his later years in elementary school, he slowly became isolated from his peers as he had limitations physically and socially. 

Why did you decide to make the switch to homeschooling after seven years in the public system?
I decided to homeschool him when he was going to start high-school.  I had an interview with the supervising teacher of the Life Skills program at the highschool at the end of his grade seven year.  I was already considering homeschooling Kurtis at the beginning of highschool, so I tried to go to the interview with an open mind to see what they could offer him there.  After the interview, I felt even stronger about keeping him at home.  I was confident that the resources I had at home would meet Kurtis’ needs and meet the requirements any school would have for a “Special Education” student.

What benefits have you experienced with bringing him into the homeschool environment?
We have definitely had many positive experiences in the homeschool environment.  I have the flexibility to adapt all the subjects to his specific needs.  We can do math, spelling and reading in smaller intervals of time, and even do these subjects two or three times a day in different formats in order to give him the practice he needs.  One example is that everyday we read aloud together, each of us taking turns reading a sentence at a time.  This gives me time to listen for correct speech pronunciation and enables Kurtis to work through difficult vocabulary. I’m convinced he would not have this kind of an opportunity in high school.  Kurtis is able to be a participant in science experiments, and learns history from audio and visual presentations.  With the funding provided as a registered homeschooler, Kurtis attends private speech therapy sessions at intervals of time that would not be available through the school system, nor could we otherwise afford.  Kurtis has also enjoyed private swimming lessons, which are paid for from his school funds.  He has excelled in swimming, and this is another activity we couldn’t have pursued at this level.   Kurtis has volunteered weekly at his former elementary school, which was another  opportunity that I feared he would only have, if he  attended the “Special Education” program in public school. 

One challenge you have discovered in bringing him home?
The challenge I have had in bringing him home to school is, to keep school at a pace where Kurtis is learning without becoming overly frustrated.  Learning levels increase at a much slower pace than the average student.  I must keep in mind Kurtis’ learning needs, not compare him to others, and challenge his capabilities so that he can learn as he is best able.

Any surprises? Good or bad?
The biggest surprise was how easily he adapted to being at home.  With school only being two minutes away from our house, and the schedule set into our daily routine of going to school, I was afraid he would really miss going to school.  Kurtis adapted easily. Going to public school time occupies a full day, and I was worried he wouldn’t know what to do with himself once his school work was done at home, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised that he does occupy himself in his spare time fairly well.

An encouragement you could give to a mother who is considering options for her special needs child?
You know your child better than anyone does.  Don’t let the professionals intimidate you or make you feel like you don’t know what is best for your child. 

Where do you find encouragement and motivation to keep on?
The time and commitment to homeschool are demanding, but the benefits are worth it.  Watching Kurtis succeed is a great encouragement.  I need to remind myself to continually seek the Lord’s guidance and intervention, as He is the greatest source of motivation.  He knows what’s best for Kurtis. There are times I bring a situation to Him when I don’t know what else to do, and He always brings a new idea or opportunity to my mind.  God is good.  Whenever it seems that we have hit a roadblock, He does make a way possible.  It may be a math lesson, or curriculum I have to sort through.  God even brought a volunteering opportunity that Kurtis has been involved in, since he has been at home.  Our family has been very supportive.  His siblings love having him at home, and watching him do so well.  Also, his grandparents are very important to us.  They are supportive of his achievements, and they do all they can to encourage him.

Thank you, Mom, for taking time to answer these questions. Your diligence and commitment are an inspiration to me as I begin my own homeschooling journey, and I hope an encouragement to other moms out there, perhaps needing a bit of inspiration as well!

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Melissa-Ann said...

Very neat idea for the last couple of posts. Cute pictures and good memory's.
Reminds me of similar things in our homeschooling family.

Shannon said...

Well done!!! Truly a source of inspiration! I hope lots of homeschooling moms read this and are encouraged by it!!!