__Due to ongoing health issues, the Special Needs Homeschool site has not been updated. The resources here are timeless and I hope you continue to visit and share! I am hoping to get back here as soon as the dust settles to update and revive SNH. In the meantime, the SNH Facebook page and group are hopping with resources and support.
When a parent first starts homeschooling, it's hard not to get sucked into the glamour of it all. Shiny new desk, the old chalkboard the school was throwing out, all those beautiful new textbooks, and let's not forget, the overly expensive teacher manuals. One can easily spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on curriculum.
See the picture to the right? That is our learning room. See all those books? There is one 'curriculum' item in the bunch. The green book right smack in the middle of the picture and I got it for free. It wasn't always like this. I bought into the shiny new classroom set-up when I first started out too. Oh I was so excited! My son was not. He didn't share in my overwhelming happiness to begin this homeschooling adventure. Oh, did I try to get his interest and peak his curiousity! Oh, did I TRY! I spent a lot of money, he should at least try to share in my excitement. It took me awhile, but I eventually clued in. Take a few words of wisdom from this 10 year veteran of homeschooling, don't do that.
Step 1: DESCHOOL: If your child was in school, take time out. The usual rule of thumb is one month for every year your child was in school. That's right! If your child was pulled out in grade 7, take the full seven months without actual 'homeschooling'. The child won't get 'behind' and will 'catch up' when ready. Don't worry about it. During those months, do the following:
Step 2: OBSERVE: Take time to observe your child. Learn his/her interests and how they do things. Do they pick up facts quicker visually? Or listening to their MP3 player? Maybe they enjoy reading? Are they journaling? Would they rather be jumping on the trampoline? Learn how your child learns. Does your son know all the hockey stats? Maybe your daughter remembered the entire song after listening to it only a few times? The simple act of observation, can teach us so much. You can easily pick up your child's learning style, just by this method.
Step 3: EVALUATE: Is your child at a grade 3 level for reading and a grade 6 level for math? Do levels even matter to you? Maybe life skills and character development are more important? Make this a family event! Discuss things with everyone and formulate an idea of where you want to go on this journey. All good things stem from one good idea.
Step 4: FUN: Once you have tapped in to how your child learns and your child seems ready, begin! It is good to have a philosophy in place but stay away from having the philosophy rule how you do things. For example: You may enjoy the book approach for history but your child enjoys watching documentaries instead. Learning is learning, that's great! Maybe you can find a way to work in both, maybe not. If you choose the Classical Learning approach but after a few months decide to move to Charlotte Mason, go for it! If you decided to use textbooks then move completely to Life-learning, go for it. The idea is to have fun learning and foster a love for learning.
A few tips: With children that have special needs, a full boxed curriculum actually working, is extremely rare. Don't spend a lot of money until you have talked to other homeschoolers and done a lot of research. You can get most items cheaper and sometimes even for free. Ask friends to borrow before buying. Keep in mind that sometimes children are ahead in some things and behind in some things, by what standard? The school's standard and this varies largely from country to country (but that's a whole other topic for another day). It is not necessarily based on the child's developmental stages. Go by YOUR standard. You know your child best. Go with your instincts, just like you did when your child was little. You knew when she/he was ready to take their first steps. You knew when it was time for the 'big bed'. You will know when the learning is taking place. Every child develops differently, take that into consideration and try not to compare.
Sometimes curriculum is the best option for you and your child, sometimes it is the worse option. For example: My eldest enjoys learning with curriculum. He likes knowing what's expected of him and having an organized plan laid out in front of him. My youngest enjoys life-learning. He likes learning by his interests and researching things. There are as many different ways to homeschool, as there are homeschoolers. Do not get sucked into the 'this is a fail proof method' commercialism. Keep in mind what works for one family, may not work for another family. Be accepting of what others are doing and share ideas!