Homeschooling Kids With Learning Differences: 4 Moms

Around the Thanksgiving table a couple of years ago with my extended family the conversation had turned to our childhood when one of my brothers said,

Wait a minute, are you telling me that I have a learning disability?

He had a college degree, a masters degree, a patent and a job that many would envy and now in his mid-late twenties, he’s finding out that if he had been in traditional schools he would have been in the special needs classes.

moms of many manageThis week the 4 Moms Moms of Many are talking about educating the challenging child.

As I talk about this topic please remember that we believe that when God gives us our specific children, He also gives us the ability and wisdom that we need to raise that child for His glory. We believe that one of the best teachers for your child is you. You know and love your child better than anyone else and He has called you to train your child in the most important skills in life, the fear and instruction of the Lord.

I’m not presuming to tell you what to do with your children, just sharing some of our experiences and what we’ve done with ours.

We have a few children who have more difficulty learning than our other children. When young, one of them tested on the autism spectrum. We chose not to have further testing done and though this child continues to have challenges, they are now able to relate socially to others, they are talking and communicating at an appropriate level for their age and although “late” by current standards are now reading, comprehending and learning math.

Here are some things that I watched my mother do with my brother and that we’ve done with our children who learn differently.

We pray.

Matthew 7:7-11 and James 1:5

We haven’t given them a label.

I recognize that this is a personal decision, but I do not think that my brother would have done what he did educationally if he had been labeled with his learning disability or if he had been in ‘special’ classes.

While we’ve extensively discussed our children’s learning with our pediatrician and we chose to have some developmental testing done because of  possibly related health concerns, we have not sought an official diagnosis. If we did (so that we could better understand how to help our child/children learn) I don’t think that we would tell our child.

Many have argued that there is government help for those who have these labels, but since our family does not accept government assistance in any form, this point is moot for us.

We focus on what God requires.

God does have a standard for educational achievement, but it’s not reading by age 6 or taking Algebra in high school. His standard is character and relationship. The book of Proverbs is a great place to start when it comes to what God expects us to teach our children.

We take a deep breath, relax and try not to compare with others.

My brother wasn’t able to write his name or read until he was around 8 or 9 years old and reading continues to be a challenge for him. Knowing this has helped me dramatically as we’ve watched a couple of our kids struggle with reading.

While most of our children have been early readers. One of our children did not begin reading until 9 and another is still struggling at an age that most people would assume they would be fluent.

I understand the pressure, especially as a homeschooler, to have children tracking on grade level. However, I think that our children would benefit if we would realize that children are all different and that perhaps the notion that everyone is ready to read at 5 years of age is false. Perhaps God created one of our children to develop in such a way that they weren’t ready to read at 5 or 6 or even 7. Perhaps that child was created to learn to read at age 9, who am I to  to say or think that there must be something wrong with them?

We don’t push beyond what they are able.

This is where the parental wisdom comes in, we don’t want to allow our children to be lazy and not learn what they can, but we also don’t want to push them to learn what they are not able to learn. We aim to have our child’s heart so that they want to please us, then we pray for wisdom.

We aren’t married to an educational methodology or curriculum.

God does give us a method for educating our children and it’s not Charlotte Mason or Classical Christian. It’s not Sonlight, Abeka or My Father’s World. Hold to His standard and within that find what works best for your child.

We love and praise our children.

God has created each of our children after His image. He has created them for His purpose and  He has created them differently. We accept them as they are and let them know that we are grateful for them and proud of them.

What did I miss? How are you educating your challenging children?

 

Visit the other moms of many to read their thoughts and ideas:
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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18 Responses to Homeschooling Kids With Learning Differences: 4 Moms
  1. Christi
    June 16, 2011 | 8:17 am

    Thanks for sharing your insight. My three oldest all have learning challenges and it is hard and overwhelming at times. I constantly have to remind myself that God doesn’t make mistakes and that He will equip me. These challenges have forced me to seek Him more diligently.

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  2. Brit @MomAnswersWithBrit.com
    June 16, 2011 | 8:49 am

    I love this! My husband and I pray that God will give us the opportunity to homeschool our children.

    I was raised in the public school and had this same issue. Fortunately, it worked out for me, but not so much for others. I was considered to be “special needs” when I was in 5th and 6th grade. This label humiliated me. I had different teachers and different classrooms.

    Thankfully, God blessed me with a great teacher who did not treat us as “special needs.” I remember him telling my mom that I just learned a different way, but that I’m really smart. Between the positive support from my teacher and my mom I was able to succeed and not be as embarrassed.

    People can’t believe it when I tell them that now (after graduating in the top 10 of my high school and college class). I totally agree with not telling your child they are “different.” What a great example you have with your mom!

    Just a side note for child with learning differences… my mom also did a lot of reading with me because she didn’t believe I wasn’t able to learn. She enrolled me in piano lessons, and everything seemed to click! There was a direct correlation between the time I started taking piano lessons and in my school work (especially math! which I love now!).

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  3. Michelle
    June 16, 2011 | 9:32 am

    Kimberly, this is a wonderful post (as they all are!) I agree 100% with avoiding labels, and accepting that children are not all on the same time table. Knowing all this, I still sometimes fall into the trap of comparing my children, not in front of them, but in my own mind. For example: “Child A was speaking clear sentences at two; why is Child B still struggling with speech at 3 1/2?” I occasionally have similar, worrisome thought patterns with reading, math, spelling, writing, grammar, etc. Your brother’s experience and your own trusting attitude with your challenging children is so encouraging. Your post reminds me that God created our children just the way they are, no mistakes!

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I don’t often comment, but I do subscribe to your feed and enjoy every post. :-)

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    Michelle Reply:

    To correct myself, I don’t mean “challenging children.” I mean, “children with learning challenges.” ;-)

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  4. Courtney
    June 16, 2011 | 9:57 am

    As a special education public school teacher turned homeschooling mother of 4… I can honestly say that the best place for a special needs child is at home. I have always said that if I had a child with a disability they would for sure be homeschooled. There are some great services out there and wonderful knowledgeable teachers, use them, and learn from them, but educate yourself and you do the teaching. I now have a toddler with a speech disability and I am educating myself, learning from the SLP and he’s making great progress.

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  5. Laura
    June 16, 2011 | 10:03 am

    Yes, yes, yes! Get rid of the labels. We all learn in slightly or majorly different ways from each other. :-)
    We have had 2 children out of 9 not interested or ready to learn to read until ages 6/7/8. One of our children did not get to that point until 9 years old. We caught a lot of flack from family who did not like us homeschooling in the first place. Those same children of ours now, as young adults, read at a real adult level, and they read A LOT. :-)

    There is so much to be gained from paying attention to your children to find out when they are ready for different things.

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  6. Terri Edwards
    June 16, 2011 | 10:08 am

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post. Our oldest child has a hard time learning to read, and still struggles with writing at the age of 8. My husband and I both have a hard time not comparing her to public and private school standards, but at the same time have found it’s not worth the emotional struggle and frustration to push her (and us) to tears to attempt to get her to read and write better. Our 6 yr old is much more proficient at reading and at writing than she is, and we face lots of pressure from family that we are “failing” at homeschooling the oldest. Thank you for the reminder that If it is God’s will for her to be proficient at certain things or not, we must be satisfied with God’s timing in those things.

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  7. Kallie
    June 16, 2011 | 11:07 am

    I appreciate this. My husband was homeschooled and my mother-in-law says he didn’t really read until he was 10. Now, he can read fluently in three languages and is going to graduate summa cum laude with his Master of Divinity on Sunday. All in God’s time :)

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  8. Kristy
    June 16, 2011 | 2:16 pm

    Thank you.

    While we don’t have learning issues, we do have strong willed children (and we are potty training the youngest this week, definitely a challenge!). The advice you are sharing is perfectly what I needed to hear today.

    Thank you

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  9. Louise
    June 16, 2011 | 3:15 pm

    Thank you for your well thought out and gracious approach to teaching those who would not be ‘average’ by the state’s standards.

    We have homeschooled our kiddos all the way from birth to the beginnings of High School now. One of our children had to be in the school system at one time (they were not fully ours yet) and we had to deal with label issues. I agree that is it humiliating! Fortunately, that child was very young and did not understand the label given!

    While we have always shaped our schooling to each child, we have recently had to REALLY change our expectations with certain children. I am in the process of seeking out various books, trying out online classes, and changing lesson plans for our children who learn differently. God brought this topic and your response specifically at just the right time! Thank you!

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  10. Kyle Thorp
    June 16, 2011 | 4:31 pm

    I love this post and the previous comments. It’s amazing how kids who seem to be at a disadvantage can become successful in the right environment. Very cool.

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  11. abba12
    June 16, 2011 | 6:41 pm

    I like what you say about labels. While I personally think a full diagnosis is benefitial and important for my family, it dosen’t mean anything should change as labels tend to do.

    I have aspergers syndrome, and I was treated the same way as my siblings. I learnt the social skills I was missing because I had to, and my mother knew I would have to in life. I figured it out by trial and error. I mightn’t understand them all lol, but I know them! I also have sensory overload issues related to my visual impairment, one example of this was not tollerating the feeling of sand. So my mum dumped me in the sandpit, played with me and held me there until I became used to it. It took many sessions but now the beach is my favourite place in the world.

    I read recently about a woman with an aspie son, who felt calm seeing the colour red. So she wore red every day. What happens when his workmates wont wear red for him? Now the red can be a tool, it needn’t be ignored, but basing your entire wardrobe around this? And for what? So he has to learn to cope without that security when hes 18 instead of 8?

    Of course there are certain things a parent needs to be understanding about, but if we completely cater to a disability like this, the child will never deal with it, they will come to expect others to deal with him, expect things to change for them, and most of the time, things won’t be changed.

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  12. Gabe
    June 17, 2011 | 12:05 am

    God gave us the blessing of a child that from very early on was a bit “different” my step-mom even thought he was autistic (she is a school counselor/special ed teacher). While we did talk to the pediatrician we, like you, decided that seeking a diagnosis was not in his best interest for his future. God also used this dear boy to bring us to realize that homeschooling was the best choice for not only him, but for all of our children. No one would ever guess now that we struggled so much with him those first years!

    I can remember one day after an extra difficult reading lesson with this little guy having this talk with him…. “You know, God made your brain to work differently, to look at things in ways that others don’t. Its not a bad thing, God knows that we need people that look at things differently and can think through problems in a different way. That may mean that you are going to work extra hard at some things, but I’ll be working hard to help you along.” The smile that went across his face was priceless. He now understood that though he had to work extra hard that he had a partner in me and that God had made him that way, and it was a blessing!

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  13. Sandra
    June 17, 2011 | 12:44 am

    I just wanted to say Hi, I´m from Sweden and enjoy reading about your family. In Swedwn you can´t homeschool, so there´s a difference from US.
    Keep up the good work with your children.

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  14. Becky
    June 19, 2011 | 12:07 am

    thanks so much for post! I have been in prayer for my 3 year old son so much and this was a blessing to read. The special doctors think my son has Aspergers Syndrome (or Bi-polar they are not 100%)with Sensory overload issues which causes some aggressive & anxious behavior! I am scheduled to get him officially diagnosed in August plus they want me to start him on Meds ASAP. I have been struggling what to do. They wanted to put him in “special pre-school class” but he was over qualified due to him being so smart. We are on task to try a christian pre-school in fall but many don’t think he will make it there! I work with him now with mommy schooling him getting him ready…it really makes my stomach sick to think he may sit in time-out chair all day. This gives me some hope and maybe the Lord is trying to tell me not to go this route.

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  15. Carrie
    June 21, 2011 | 12:00 am

    Thank you for this. Even for parents of “normal” kids (show me one. . .), this is a great post.

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  16. Anna Barnes
    June 25, 2011 | 6:41 am

    Thank you for this precious and insightful blog. It has given me ‘fresh eyes’ to look at my eldest son.

    God Bless you and your beautiful family.

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  17. Shanna
    March 7, 2012 | 6:17 pm

    I’m really being blessed by reading some of the entries in your down-to-earth website. We have an adopted daughter who God sent to us when she was 2 1/2 (7 years ago). There are some challenges that we struggle with and I honestly find myself at times frustrated how to help her understand what to me seems so intuitive.

    I honestly think what hurts the most is when people assume that “you’re not strict enough with her” or “doing more” will just solve every problem. I can’t blame people, though, because before I undertook this “mission” I did not understand about learning differences, either. I blamed it all on the child’s laziness or the teacher’s ineptness. I will never forget the day in 3rd Grade when we were looking at a number line and she was trying to tell me which numbers came “after” or “before” a certain number. We were at 5 and she kept saying that 6 came before 5. Finally she said, “But Mama, 4 and 6 switch places sometimes.” That’s when I found that numbers and letters move around the page, and also that if she can spell a word forwards, she can spell it backwards just as fluently. That

    I can honestly say that I have to pray to be released from society’s expectations of “scope and sequence”….because while we make progress, it’s often two-steps-up-and-one-step-back. I’ve also found that she learns in what to me is a rather chaotic, non-sequential way, so I’ve had to get out of MY comfort zone (and put more trust in God) in some curriculum areas.

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