We had been educating our children at home for quite a few years already by the time Bethany was diagnosed with brain cancer so her illness did nothing to dissuade us from continuing down the homeschooling path.
Home computers were relatively new in 2000. There was no Facebook, Skype, or any other communication systems available back then that would have made teaching my children back at home much easier, while Bethany and I lived in the hospital for two months, but we did make use of email and of course the phone.
We are living proof that a family can continue to homeschool long distance during a medical crisis.
After Bethany was released from the hospital she had to learn how to sit up, walk, talk and use her arms and hands all over again. Thankfully, she was eligible for in-home physical, occupational, and speech therapy. When it became obvious that Bethany would benefit from learning sign language, she had lessons at home for that too. In fact, our whole family did!
Luckily for me, Bethany's sign language teacher was a special education preschool teacher as well! She supported our homeschool endeavors and was more than willing to give me some hints and tips on how to teach Bethany preschool academic skills!
However, when Bethany was about six years old I began to feel inadequate as her teacher. I had been able to successfully teach her many skills and concepts, including teaching her all the letter sounds. But try as hard as I might, I was not able to teach her how to blend the sounds together into actual words.
I felt like I was failing her as a teacher and began to entertain the idea that perhaps being taught by a trained and educated special education teacher would be better for Bethany. I was wrong.
Although Bethany loved her first year attending a special education class at our local public school, by February of her second year, she began having many more seizures than usual. She nearly stopped eating altogether and lost so much weight that she became overdosed on her medications. She was so ill that we had to take her out of school until she fully recovered, which didn't happen until the next school year. We tried school again.
This time Bethany was in a different classroom. She had to walk through a long, noisy and chaotic corridor and climb a set of stairs to get to her new classroom. It was right around this time in her life that Bethany began to get violent and have behavior problems. By February of her second school year, we found ourselves facing the same health issues Bethany began having lots of seizures again. She became anorexic, and overdosed on her medication again.
We now believe that the stress of attending such a big, noisy, and chaotic school was too much for her. We withdrew her from school again. This time we kept her home for about three years.
I once again began to feel inadequate as her teacher so we decided to look for a more suitable educational placement for Bethany. We discovered a small, cozy, private special education school which seemed like the ideal and perfect placement for Bethany. we decided to give it a shot.
Bethany made it through a year and a half at the private school before she began having so many seizures that it became nearly impossible and definitely dangerous to continue sending her to there. At this point, I resigned myself to the fact that my sweet, precious daughter needed to be at home full-time and all attempts of trying to send Bethany to school ceased forever!
We did try a short time of having in-home instruction with a teacher from the public school, but Bethany's seizure disorder was so chaotic that it too, soon became pointless. You can't schedule seizures to occur only after school hours!
I finally learned that I would have to be Bethany's teacher and that we'd have to schedule her learning experiences around her seizures disorder.
So we took advantage of her good days and let her rest on her bad days and that's what we are still doing to this day!
Advantages of Homeschooling a Special Needs Student:
• The parent knows and understands their child's needs better than anyone else.
• The parent can create a truly individualized educational program for their special child.
• Homeschooling provides the child with 1:1 instruction.
• Homeschooling eliminates many stressors from special needs students' lives.
• Homeschooling offers the flexibility to schedule lessons for when your child is feeling best able to learn.
• Homeschooling offers the flexibility to teach for as long or as short of a time as your child is able to attend.
• Homeschooling offers the flexibility to schedule school time around medical appointments.
• Homeschooling offers a safer environment, especially if your child depends on special medical equipment.
• Homeschooling offers a safer environment for medically fragile children who may be more susceptible to getting dangerously ill from common childhood germs and bacteria.
While I certainly have nothing against sending any child, those with special needs included, to public or private schools, I have learned that homeschooling my special needs daughter has been the better choice for her and it may be a good one for your child too.
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