Out! (Transition to Home Education)
Making the transition
to homeschooling when school isn't working any more
You're seriously considering homeschooling your child - at
least for a little while. You've figured out the legalities
and your priorities. You've even got a good idea of what you're
going to teach, maybe even how you're going to teach it. You
didn't start out with this in mind, but you can't help but
think -- at least hope - you can do a better job than the
Now for the scary part. How can you deal with your child's
"special needs?" And how are you going to succeed where others
Make your child your partner in this. Age and personality
will have much to do with exactly how you manage this, but
respect your child's input while still keeping in charge.
The two of you are going to take control of this situation
Start with your bottom line priorities. Some possibilities:
To get the skills to be able to go back to school next
year and succeed.
To stop the destructive forces you can see damaging
your child's academic opportunities and/or wreaking havoc
on his/her emotions and self-esteem.
Academic, study skills and special strategies to succeed
A whole book could be written about this -- it can be as
simple or complicated as you want it to be. The important
thing is to figure out some priorities. This is because one
of your main goals will probably have to be to:
Design the schooling so that your child can begin to
unlearn that s/he's a failure as a student. You don't
want your child thinking that you've removed him/her from
school because s/he just can't make it at school. Then expectations
of self will be even lower than they have been, and that's
probably pretty low.
Often, though they have not told anyone, students may
have deep fears that they are damaged goods, and that
you just don't understand that.(You're the parent after all,
you always say nice things. That's your job.) They may even
be afraid that if you become their teacher, you'll find out
just how stupid they are and won't love them anymore. That's
not common, fortunately.
Because of this, simply "deschooling" as many homeschoolers
do may send exactly the wrong message to your child. If
you make no academic demands for a time, your child may perceive
that it's because you have no academic expectations. You need
to "deschool," but it needs to be more than just an "absence
Many students with learning disabilities or attention
problems need more structure. Some lose skills quickly
when they aren't practicing them. It pays to understand your
child and realize that what works wonderfully for another
child simply isn't appropriate for yours. You want to provide
the positives of the structure that your child needs, without
all the negative experiences that may be associated with it.
Prove to your child that s/he can learn. Then prove it
again. It may take lots of evidence and time. What might
be obvious to you as good progress and good work isn't at
all obvious to kids. They will assume they are eons behind
"regular" students regardless of the validity of that belief.
I've also had students who didn't realize that things that
were easy for them were actually difficult for others. They
were convinced that that high IQ score was a fluke. Many of
these children have it deeply ingrained that anything they
can do, anybody else could have done better. Sometimes (though
not always!) the child who proclaims that he is so smart he
doesn't need any of this (if you would only appreciate his
genius) is the most afraid that you'll really discover that
he is too stupid to learn. A reading notebook is one way to
do provide daily evidence of progress. Keeping a good portfolio
of projects and assignments is another.
Never underestimate the need for them to consciously
make the connection between their work and intelligence with
There's a concept in education called in the jargon the "locus
of control." If it's "external," you think that life happens
to you and you don't have a lot to say about it. If it's "internal,"
then you think that you can have an impact on your own life.Consider
that for many students, there hasn't been a good connection
between trying hard and success. This is especially true of
gifted students with learning disabilities. Things that they
put very little effort into may be praised and lauded; but
that spelling test they studied for an hour for? "Needs improvement."
What's easy for others is hard for them and vice versa.
Giving back the feeling that what *you* do is the most important
factor in what you learn is a first step to getting to where
what you think of the results is more important than what
Don't forget your own transition. Stay away from "I
*don't* want." You want to build towards, not run from.If
you're leaving the school system in frustration, consider
this: rebellions and revolutions have life cycles. You can
guide your rebellion from the school system down paths that
are more likely to lead to success, especially if you're aware
Letting your anger be your main motivation will mean that
you are more concerned with "showing" the school system something,
and with NOT doing what they did. That might be exactly the
right thing for your child -- or not. Why do you need to impress
the school system, anyway? You're not truly free from its
hold if you're still waiting for a bigger superintendent to
come along and set things right.
And, eventually, that anger subsides -- and then where are
you? Unfortunately it may leave you looking for something
else to get angry about (without necessarily being aware of
it.) Consciously guide your planning towards the goals
and priorities you have set. Use the energy from your anger,
but shape it into something positive. It's an infinitely more
effective statement of your success.
Look for support and use it. For example, if you're
ADD, you may need help building a structure -- and sticking
to it. Don't be afraid to acknowledge this (and realize there
are teachers out there being paid for the job who are just
as disorganized as you are and they don't quit). Consider
bringing in outside help, especially if working with your
child is going to bring up ghosts of your own. Sympathy can
be a good thing if you share learning problems with your child,
but it can also keep you from being able to successfully teach
in a problem area. Sometimes having had to learn "the hard
way" gives you an advantage, but not if you insist that your
child learn *your* hard way when that may not be appropriate.
Don't expect perfection. You will make mistakes.
When you are drowning in self-doubt, hunt down support and
perspective. If need be, focus harder on the things that are
working -- and don't be afraid to talk it over with your child.
It could be that modeling how you handle mistakes and grow
from them and learn from them is the most important lesson