For some parents and guardians, having their child attend a regular public school isn’t an option. This is due to many factors: religious or cultural concerns; clashes with administration; bullying issues; physical abilities that are not or cannot be addressed by the school and mental health/neurological issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism or concussion.
In these instances, some parents decide to go the homeschooling route. Even as a child I had heard about homeschooling but no one I knew/know was homeschooled and, up until quite recently, I knew very little about how one would go about setting up a home school and teaching their children. That has changed!
Through a blogging community I belong to, I have “virtually” met many wonderful people who are doing amazing work through their blogs/sites. One of these wonderful people is Heidi who runs The Unexpected Homeschooler.
Heidi has kindly agreed to answer some questions about homeschooling and about why parents or guardians of children with mental health challenges might do better learning from home. She lives in the U.S. and worked for many years as a special education teacher in a public school system.
1) From your perspective, what’s the criteria for homeschooling? For instance, do you feel it’s best in all cases for both parent and/or child?
I think homeschooling is a personal choice for every family, and sometimes even per child. It has a lot to do with their reasons. For some families, it’s a religious reason and they most likely would want all their children homeschooled. For others, it may be academics or special needs and it would depend on each child’s needs.
2) What would you say to a parent who is considering homeschooling due to their child’s anxiety, depression, bullying, etc.?
As a parent of a child with anxiety, I personally feel being at home is the best place for her. Of course it can depend on the type of anxiety a child has, but the public school system can be overwhelming for a lot of these kids and even detrimental in some cases. Being able to provide a positive, loving environment allows these children to have exposures to certain situations when they are ready for it. They can be themselves without being ridiculed, teased, or bullied. I have found that most of them blossom when homeschooled and have much more success.
3) What are some characteristics of successful homeschooling parents/teachers? What are two or three things that must be in place?
I think every parent is a homeschooler whether they realize it or not. They have been teaching their children since the day they were born. No one else is going to love or understand a child better than his parent. The best homeschool parents/teachers are the ones that understand every child learns differently and at his own pace. It is not a race and we can’t compare our children to everyone else’s.
Figuring out their child’s learning style and presenting information in that format can make a huge difference. That’s not something that can be done in a classroom of 25 students. The second factor is a combination of organization and teaching their children to become independent learners. If the parent can set up systems to teach their students to work on their own, the benefits are huge and will carry over into adulthood.
4) Obviously, each state/country/province’s rules differ, but what do parents need to know before they pull a child out of public or private school?
Any time a child is pulled out of the school system, the parent needs to realize the child may need some time to “de-school” especially if the child is coming from a negative situation. De-schooling is the adjustment period a child goes through when he leaves the school system. He may need time to explore his interests, feel safe (if he’s come from a situation where he was bullied), time to figure out how he learns best, and perhaps time to build some self-esteem.
Learning at home is different from school and parents need to realize it’s okay to take a few weeks or even a few months to let their child get used to it. It doesn’t mean academics aren’t being taught; they are just being presented in a different way. It could be in the form of field trips, projects, reading books, and many other ways.
5) Do you know of instances where homeschooling has made a positive difference in a child’s life that was previously difficult due to mental health matters?
I don’t. However, while my own daughter has always been homeschooled, I do think putting her in the school system would have had a negative effect. I think her anxiety would have gotten in the way of her learning.
I also know of a child who is autistic and was not getting the kind of education he was capable of in the school system. In fact, he wasn’t even being supervised properly. This child is now doing amazingly well and has far exceeded the educational expectations the school system had for him.
6) Do you know of instances where it hasn’t worked?
I don’t know of any particular situation where it hasn’t worked but I know it can be more difficult to pull a child out in the high school years because of the loss of friends. Homeschoolers are socialized, despite what many people think, but older teens don’t want always want to make new friends at that age.
7) What resources can you recommend?
I recommend finding a local homeschool group so families can have support and find friends to do things with. It’s not necessary, but often when a family is new to homeschooling, it’s nice to have other parents who have been through it to ask questions. Also, there are a lot of Facebook groups homeschoolers are active on and these are a great resource as well.
8) Do you feel that liaising with other parents/teachers/families in similar situations makes a big difference?
It’s always nice to have a circle of homeschoolers to bounce ideas off of and to do outside activities with. It’s very helpful, especially when you are just starting to homeschool.
I also want to add that parents (regardless of your country of origin) should look into the rules and regulations for homeschooling in your state or province and what type of exams, essays and tests that children must take in order to qualify legally for homeschooling.
Enjoy your autumn,