What is homeschooling? Homeschooling is exactly what the word suggests. It is schooling at home. Instead of sending your child to school to learn, you teach him or her at home.
What about socializing? There are a lot of alternatives to schools for socializing. Every time you socialize with your neighbors, friends, family, it is an opportunity for your kids to socialize. You can also take them to parks, activity centers, hobby classes for peer interaction.
What about exams? Passing exams does not equate to learning. Yes, we need to be certified to apply for jobs, but that comes later. When starting homeschooling, I suggest that parents keep their focus on learning, and not on testing. Children are curious by nature and learning is as natural as breathing. Give them lots of opportunities to learn. This can be done through various means - life experiences, books, videos, educational games, activities. Find out what works best for your child and teach them in the way that works for them. When they are older, you can start training them to give exams. Exams can be given through NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling), Government of India's national open schooling platform.
What about syllabus and schedule? Homeschooling a child with special needs involves working on various areas of life and not just academics. Here are a few tips to help you homeschool your child:
- Let go of all your pre-conceived notions about education.
- Forget about grades and exams and what you think your child should know and should be able to do.
- Focus on your child. Evaluate where your child stands, irrespective of his or her age, academically, mentally, emotionally, socially and physically.
- Be holistic in your approach. Work on your child's overall development, not just on academics. Focus on all areas required to lead a successful, independent life. These include motor skills, self-help skills, communication skills, social skills, self-regulation skills, life skills.
- Schedule your day to include ADLs (activities of daily living), academics, therapies, play time, physical activity time, outdoor activity time, family time, free time, relaxation time.
- Don't try to squeeze everything in one day and overwhelm your child and yourself. Allot different days for different activities and cover all activities over the week.
- Take time to relax and enjoy your child without always trying to teach him or her something.
- Be flexible. Everything is always changing, our situations, our needs, our children's needs. What's working for us today may not work for us tomorrow. Be open to change of plans and direction.
The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers when compared to traditional schooling. This is a huge plus point when educating children with special needs as it allows us to create a program that is suitable for the child, giving the child the best chance at succeeding.