You're mad, frustrated, tired....your child is suffering in school...needed services aren't being given, or the services aren't helpful...you are in constant struggle with staff to get the IEP implemented...your child is making progress according to his goals, but you think the school isn't doing enough...the social situation is awful...your child is wilting like a flower watered with chlorine bleach and you are ready to yank her out of school and start homeschooling today (or you just pulled him out yesterday).
Go ahead and breathe; here is a ten-step guide that will help you and your child progress from reactionary crisis mode to confident homeschooling.
It is unfortunate that this must be the first step, but it is. You can quickly gather a load of more trouble than you can handle in some states if you aren't following the law strictly. (For more information about potential problems, read Legal Issues).
State laws vary considerably; what is true in one state may not remotely resemble the situation in a neighboring state. Begin your research at the State Homeschool Laws Page. Where possible, legal information about homeschooling children with special needs is provided. Not all states support, or permit, this. Know before you leap.
Nothing will be so helpful to you as other people who have been there, done that. Find a local support group. Other homeschooling families are the most helpful sources of good information about your community. Begin your search for a support group at the Local Support Groups. You may also want to join an E-mail list. There are some specifically for parents homeschooling deaf and hard of hearing children.
Do not underestimate the value of support. There are going to be tough times ahead when you doubt yourself, times when you will be challenged by the questions and criticisms from others; support will be invaluable.
Local support groups also provide crucial opportunities for social interaction, both for you and your child.
This is a research phase. Don't make any decisions yet. Find out how others homeschool...read about the common homeschooling methods...discover your personal learning style...your child's learning style. Begin to get an idea of what kind of resources are out there.
Then sit with it for a while. What methods feel most comfortable to you...school-at-home, unschooling, somewhere between? Trust yourself; don't choose a particular method because it is highly recommended, or your sister-in-law uses it. Choose a method that works the best for you, and your family.
Take a careful look at your home to see if it is set up in a way to facilitate learning. Are books, craft materials, science equipment, etc. easily accessible? Is there a good sturdy table to work at? Is there a good spot to be messy? Are there nooks or hidey-holes for privacy and quiet time?
If you are pursuing a very structured school-at-home approach, you may want to set up a school room.
The complexity of your record-keeping system will depend, in large part, on the record-keeping and reporting requirements of your state. Make sure you are familiar with those aspects of the homeschool law before you start.
There are many different ways to organize your records and your child's work. The important thing is to set up the system before you start. It will be much easier to use.
This may be difficult as some may not agree with your decision. Be firm in your position and clear that you are asking for their personal support even if they don't necessarily agree with your choices.
Be prepared with specific, practical suggestions for ways that they can help you, whether it be a listening ear, funds for supplemental classes, or simply their silence.
A warning: do not complain about the challenges of homeschooling to those you know disagree with you; they will likely seize it as ammunition to use in their arguments against you. Turn to people who support homeschooling for those challenges.
This is not a joke. Take a vacation with your child sometime during the first month of homeschooling. You and your child will need it. You are learning new ways of relating to each other, new ways of learning and teaching. A short vacation (even a weekend) allows everyone to relax and refocus. Repeat as necessary throughout your homeschooling years.
Now you can get to work. Remain flexible. If a material doesn't seem to be working, don't flog your child through it; you have the option of choosing a different approach, a different textbook, a different time. This is a learning experience for everyone involved.
Trust your child to be your guide on this path. Watch him for cues that an approach isn't working. Honor her delight in a particular subject by supporting it. Trust yourself to be what your child needs. Trust your ability to seek out the necessary information, resources and support to guide your child in academic areas that are unfamiliar to you. Trust that you have the answers inside yourself.
Really. Take a deep breath and relax. See what happens. Many children need an extensive recovery period after leaving school. This deschooling phase may take a few weeks or several months.
Relax. The worst thing that will happen if you don't do much the first year is...nothing. Nothing bad will happen at all. Your child needs time to regain her natural sense of curiosity and to adjust to managing time and resources without the rigid structure of bells and teachers.
If you have followed all the steps above, you have a solid base of research and self-knowledge behind you, a good support network, and a flexible structure to guide you.
Deschooling and Recovery from School
Hints for helping your child deschool and recover from negative school experiences.
Tips and resources for getting started with homeschooling.
Making the Decision
Factors to consider when deciding to homeschool a deaf or hard of hearing child.
In crisis is cleverness born. - Chinese Proverb
©2000-2013 Barbara L.M. Handley