NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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Why Homeschool Children Who Are Disabled?

By Tom and Sherry Bushnell


There is no doubt about it. Teaching disabled children at home is on the rise. Why???

Many professionals are shocked when they come nose to nose with a family pulling their child out of the system. After all, teachers, therapists (and they assume parents) have worked hard to achieve a program that produces results.

Many parents feel trapped between a rock and a hard place. There are very few private schools, especially from a Christian perspective, that will take on a child with deeper needs than mild to moderate learning delays. Where are the professionals knowledgeable about disability that is willing to open up their skills to the public for private education? Perhaps it doesn't pay enough.

A shift in laws making private and home schooling a legal option for parents for all children has opened a great new vista of education. In fact, it has put the very definition of "education" on the chopping block. No longer is "education" simply academics, but preparing a child for adulthood.

From a Christian perspective, there is no greater joy for a parent to see (or dream about if children are younger) their young adult flourishing in spiritual growth, responsibility, a happy marriage and well-behaved children. Success.

Parents of more severe special needs children have to toss away these dreams. Are they replaced with equally wonderful dreams?

By default, and maybe because they have no more hope than what a simple prognosis or professional might tell them, families fill the void with "let's just make it to the young adult years". Then hopefully a plethora of adult vocational opportunities, interesting group homes and sheltered living might be the answer.

With new age tendencies of government sponsored living situations that foster acceptance of alternative life styles, "I'm number one", and other easily absorbed concepts, Christian parents are looking at the total picture, and saying, "No!"

Have you noticed that your vulnerability when you have a disabled child increases? Have you and your children been the recipient of friendly, but unsolicited attention and advice? This really became a problem for us when our girls were younger. They were cute enough to be a magnet for men and women (not children). Unfortunately our children's attachment issues played right into the unsolicited attention, making public appearances painful for us as parents. We could spend days undoing a well-meaning, overly affectionate person. Even today, lots of personalized attention means a day of trouble for our girls. Sad, but true.

Disabled children need to be treated normally, not like a doll or a cuddly plush toy.

Changing ideas about disability in our country have really evoked a well-meaning crowd trying hard (especially when there is money attached) to meet the needs of handicapped children and their parents. The problem may be that what the world perceives as our "need" and what we as Christian parents see as our needs, are very different. Eager professionals may see a parent and a disabled child as a unit, assuming they will be eternally grateful for all the help they can get. The parent might play into this as they portray "ignorance" about their child's problems. A parent's refusal of help may signal "denial of their child's disability."

More and more parents are not ignorant. The chances are too high that someone might set off a chain of events ruining their child's innocence, ability to be creative, and feelings of God's love and acceptance. Even severely disabled children can communicate thankfulness...unless they have been fed a diet of self-love, self-indulgence, and helplessness. Can a worldly-wise professional understand this?

In the area of academics, parents of special needs children should have an interest in fostering reading and math, but not to the exclusion of character.

Public education prevents teachers, by law, from implementing programs or ideas for growth that do not pertain to teaching academics. In other words, getting a child to read would take presidents over getting a child to create a way to bless others or think of others first.

Individual Education Plans, worked out between parents and professional are the bare bones of what a child requires for growth. A parent truly sees a child's need to put others first, to obey happily and to be willing to adapt to others. What would you rather have? A fifteen year old son with developmental delays who cannot read, but likes to help with the dishes, chop firewood, entertain the baby, and eats what is offered with thankfulness, happily living within a family.... or a fifteen year old that reads simple words, is self absorbed, spending large quantities of time alone in their room listening to "their" music, refusing to help or even be taught how to help, teasing their siblings to tears, only eating hamburgers and French fries with gratefulness. Years of a daily diet of institutionalized-style input trained him in the finer arts of selfishness.

Our family made a choice to get out of the system's "free help" when our disabled children were younger. We spent a bit of time looking around at older special needs children and their families. The picture was pathetic. Most parents were eager to transfer care to a group home or sheltered home environment gaining freedom from every day care, even though they knew the dangers for their child were greater. Even though they understood that for all practical purposes their adult child was still mentally quite small (age 5 - 10). Would you send your normally developing 5 - 10 year old out of the family for life?

Education for a special needs child can be a wonderful opportunity of learning for life. When a child reaches age 18- 20, the public funds for education stop, but learning does not. Thousands of parents are realizing they can start afresh when their child stops going to school. With a healthy program at home, families watch their child make progress in polite social skills and a desire to help around the house. Many of these young adults actually lose the academic skills they "graduated" with.

What ground was lost, what good was lost? Those years in a classroom, devoid of individual creative opportunities to learn as God made them with their hands and heart. We see this as the true loss.

So, why homeschool?

As Christians, we see education more than just academics. Character is more important than learning to read and write. Although the 3 R's are important, we refuse to sacrifice learning to be a blessing, for academics, if it should come to this.

We feel parents are truly inspired teachers when it comes to meeting the long-range goals of their disabled children. Loving parents, realizing their child's life is their responsibility now and in the future, can shape a child's life for God's glory with His help.

Sure, it might be easier to delegate the teaching of academics, character, spiritual growth and abilities, but this does not negate the fact that God has given the responsibility to parents. This role, taken seriously by parents, from a Biblical perspective, reaps beautiful rewards. Here are thousands of families to prove it.

You can do this! You can take control. There is no better way for parents to grow educationally and spiritually than to reach further than they think possible in meeting the needs of their challenged child. The resources are surely out there.

Shocked professionals can take their breath back in and stand in agreement. Seeing is believing. Parents are great teachers!