How To Homeschool Your Developmentally Delayed Child
My journey began in 2009. It was towards the end of the year and my first grader was struggling. She was never on-grade level with her peers, even in Pre-K. I was always assured that it was normal and she would catch up. We scheduled many parent-teacher meetings only to be told the same thing. "Don't worry. She'll be fine. She's just a little behind. She'll catch on." Worried, I even asked if there was fear that she might not pass. I was met with "Absolutely not. We take retention very seriously. If this is considered we will have a meeting with you and the counselor and the Principal to discuss the options."
Imagine my surprise when I received a letter a week before school was over stating that the school wanted to retain her. What happened to the meeting and the promises? At first I was mad at her teacher and the school system. All the times I has spent asking about her progress. All the times I had asked for help for her. All the times that I was assured things were fine. The whole time, things weren't. The lack of communication prevented me from helping my child earlier. I still blame the school to a degree. But I do know it was not the teacher's fault. They spend so much time teaching to standards that the school board presents to them. They do not have time to spend on a child that is not on level with the rest of the class.
In spite of this, I can't say that I took it well. I cried. I pointed blame at everyone including myself. Maybe if I would have read that extra story. Maybe if I had stopped working an extra hour. Maybe if I had gotten her a tutor.
After I stopped blaming and feeling pity, I took action. We called her pediatrician who then recommended us to a psychologist.
At this point in time, she has been evaluated and watched and tested. Sometimes I feel like when I was making decisions I was using her as a guinea pig. I know this did nothing for her self esteem. But I needed answers. At her age, she didn't understand herself. On the outside I had this healthy, vibrant, outgoing child. On the inside she struggled with understanding basic concepts.
It's been a rough journey and I'd like to share my experience in order to help others that are standing at the fork in the road. The decision to homeschool is a tough one. But it is definitely a good one, provided you have the time to dedicate to teaching your child.
What I learned was each child is different and it is extremely hard not to compare them with other children. Accept your child for what they are and what their abilities are. Stop trying to push them on grade level. Set goals. As long as they are reaching those goals then they are learning.
Things You Will Need To Do
First, you should take your child to the physician. Make sure he or she is evaluated for strengths and weaknesses. A good psychologist can be invaluable in telling you how to approach your child's learning abilities. We had two separate opinions, which I highly recommend. Both told us that because our child is a quiet, well-adjusted child, she was left behind. Basically, she is a little slow but because class size has grown with the poor economy, she was swept under the rug.
Once you've identified or eliminated a learning disability, the next step is to contact your local school district and tell them that you plan to homeschool. They will send you a sheet to fill out with the intent to homeschool. You should fill this out and fax it back to the school. You will also receive an attendance form that will be completed monthly and faxed to the school system. These steps are very important and can not be overlooked.
Choose your curriculum. This was extremely confusing to me. I went into this thinking that because I have an MBA teaching would be a breeze. How hard can it be right? I have a college education I can teach a child. I want to dispel that thought immediately. It isn't easy.
If you are extremely organized you can make your own curriculum. If you are worried about creating your own, there are many good sites online that will help you create one. Just do a google search and you will find a wealth of information to help you. If you are faced with a learning disability then search for a curriculum for children with similar issues.
I bought numerous books and at first decided to teach through the use of second grade books. This did work initially, but I found after I started looking around that this was not the best method. My daughter would do sheets and sheets of work and would get bored. I was trying to follow the methods used in school. If I would have truly thought about this I would have understood that this was not the best method for her. She was not successful in school. She would not be successful following the same methods. Preparing a curriculum for your child takes time. You should spend days in advance working through this.
I went online and purchased a book called "What Your Second Grader Needs to Know". This explains everything that is needed to pass mandatory testing and to keep them on grade level with their public school peers. In addition to this you can add bible lessons or other subjects that you would like to do with your child.
You will need to incorporate a physical education program into your lessons. This can be anything from weekly dance lessons, YMCA sports or yoga DVD's that your child can work with at home. We did horseback riding because our child rides twice a week.
Another homeschooling option is to sign up for free cyber schools. These schools are part of the public school system. The advantage to these programs is you receive all of the books and materials that you need for the whole year and you do not have to pay for them. You receive all of your lesson plans via the Internet and all you have to do is set aside the time each day to do them with your child. You are assigned a certified teacher to help you if you get in a bind and need help. This teacher meets with your child occasionally and you have dedicated online class time each week to reinforce skills being taught.
We did choose this method. Again it was trial and error and I spent so much time trying to keep her on schedule that we eventually went on our own. If you do choose a cyber academy, understand that you CAN take you own time. If you need two weeks to complete a lesson you can take that long and there are no consequences. If you reach a unit that your child can do, you can give her the test at the end of the unit and skip the whole unit if she passes the test. Even though it is part of the public school system you can cater it to your needs.
One important thing to consider is if your child struggled with public school then they will probably struggle at home. The key ingredient to your child's success is you and your ability to spend one on one time with them. In public school the teacher has to move on. At home you have all the time you need.
Find out what works for your child. Ask others that have been in your position for advice. Read books on homeschooling. Hire a tutor for difficult subjects and most importantly, maintain a positive attitude. Your child can learn and be successful with your help. Just be patient and seek help.