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You CAN Homeschool Your Learning Challenged Child

by Sandy Cook

Brennie and the Panda

One of the questions I'm asked most frequently is, "Can I homeschool my child? He (she) has learning disabilities." Parents are often terrified at the thought of having to meet the special learning needs of a challenging child.

My answer is an emphatic, "YES!" You can homeschool your child, and he will probably do better than he could in a traditional school setting. By the simple fact that you will be providing your child with one-on-one, direct instruction, he will progress faster than he could in a traditional classroom.

Another fact that may be concerning you is whether you are 'qualified' to teach your child. Again, I say, "YES!" Did you know that very few classroom teachers have any specialized training in teaching children with learning disabilities? In college, students studying to become teachers are generally required to take one special education class. The topic of that class is "How to recognize special need or learning disabilities". The class only teaches recognition, not remediation. This is why so many children 'fall through the cracks' in traditional classrooms - their teachers are not qualified to meet there specific learning needs.

Generally speaking, you are as capable of teaching your child as any general education classroom teacher. Specialists in Special Education Resource classes may, or may not, have special education backgrounds which qualify them to teach your child.

Many school districts place general education teachers into Resource Room settings simply because they need a teacher for that room. Some teachers are specially trained, and qualified to be Resource Room teachers, but whether or not the teacher has training specific to your child's needs is yet another issue. Basically, chances of getting a highly qualified teacher able to meet your child's specific needs in a typical school setting are not that great, although No Child Left Behind does seek to increase that possibility.

So, if you do decide to homeschool, where do you begin? Three resources will help you extensively:

  1. The Internet - There are any number of resources for helping parents get acquainted with the idea of homeschooling a child with special learning challenges. There are special resource sites for just about any learning difficulty. The site "Learning Abled Kids" provides links, curriculum resources, a support group, and other information that can help you get started teaching a child with a Specific Learning Disability such as ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, mild Asperger's, mild Autism, or other such resources. If your child has a physical impairment, such as blindness, deafness, Cerebral Palsy, etc., you can find resources specific to your child by searching for "Homeschool [name of disability]".
  2. Your Local Library - Libraries are great places to find books about homeschooling in general, your child's specific learning challenge, teaching methods, and even books about your homeschooling your special needs child. If you find out about a book that you think would be helpful, but your local library doesn't have the book, ask your librarian about "Inter-Library Loans". Most libraries offer this service. They will borrow the book from a library that has the book, and will let you check it out. It can take longer to get the book, but I have found I can get just about any book I want to read this way.
  3. Local Support Groups - If you live in a large metropolitan area, there are likely to be all kinds of support groups around town. You may even be able to find one specific to homeschooling children with learning difficulties. If you live in a smaller community without many resources, your likelihood of finding a special needs group are slimmer, but you can probably still find a homeschool support group nearby. Unfortunately, if you live in a truly remote location, you probably won't find people to meet with, but you can get lots of help and support from groups on the Internet. A good place to start is the Learning Abled Kids Yahoo group. As with item #1 above, the group is specific to homeschooling children with Specific Learning Disabilities. You can find other Yahoo Support Groups by searching Yahoo groups for "Homeschool ".

Most parents who begin homeschooling a child with Learning Challenges are concerned about being able to meet their child's specific needs. You know your child better than anyone on this great planet, so no one is more qualified than you to meet your child's needs. Homeschooling isn't for the faint-hearted though, as it is considerable work, but the rewards are hefty when you see your child leap forward. And you will see many, many leaps through homeschooling. Many more than you would see in a traditional classroom setting.

I hope I've answered some of your basic questions about getting started. If you find you need additional help, stop by Learning Abled Kids, check out the resources, join our group, and everyone will help you as best we can!

Best Wishes in getting started,
Sandy Cook
Learning Abled Kids

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