By Jenny Wise
If your child isn’t thriving in the public (or private) school system, you may have toyed with the thought of homeschooling. There are many benefits to this customized approach to education, and children on the spectrum, and with other disabilities, can benefit by stepping away from the classroom. It’s an investment in time and an education for you both, but it’s worth the effort. From tips on how to get started to information on the different learning styles, there’s a lot to know before you grab the apple. We’ll touch on these things and more.
The greatest benefit of homeschooling is that it’s flexible. If you’re a parent or homeschool instructor, you should know that you can change your style to meet the needs of your student as needed. HomeAdvisor lists these as unit study, Thomas Jefferson education, Charlotte Mason, classical, traditional, and unschooling.
Thomas Jefferson— A teaching method prized by alternative educators, the Thomas Jefferson Education method (TJEd) has three distinct areas, each with two phases. It starts by emphasizing core values and continues throughout adulthood.
Charlotte Mason— A style that uses “living books” and experiences instead of rote memorization to teach children of all age. Charlotte Mason particularly liked to dictate scripture to teach everything from nature to art and music, according to TheHomeSchoolMom.com.
Traditional— Essentially, the process of creating your own academic setting to closely resemble what your child would have in school. This includes a fully-structured schedule.
Classical— Classical teaching starts off with teaching facts, then progresses to using logic to figure things out. It finishes with students gaining wisdom and learning the skill of judgment.
Unit study— Unit study is using one topic to learn many areas. For example, a unit on Virginia might include its history, geographic features, and demographics. Some families with autistic children enjoy this method because it is flexible and versatile.
Unschooling— Child-led learning. For autistic children, this may be the most adaptable method and gives your child some control over their education.
Before you choose a teaching style, pay attention to how your child learns on their own. If they like books, pick a style that emphasizes reading. If they have a short attention span, unit study may be the way to go. Only you know your child and their preferences. Your child’s learning style may sway heavily to one area, such as visual or tactile learning. Once you narrow this down, you’ll be better able to tailor their studies.
Your first goal is to make sure that your child knows that his days will change. Creating a routine around your school day will help, and if they are old enough to read, having a schedule written out will eliminate surprises. StagesLearning.com points out that kids on the spectrum may be sensitive to things like a buzzing light fixture, so make sure your education station is sensory-friendly.
Your teaching area should be comfortable, and you should always be direct with your child and give them clear instructions. You may have to get to know your child as a student, as they may behave differently in a learning environment than when simply hanging out at home. If you are concerned about socialization, you can look online for other homeschool groups or look for ways to integrate your child into extracurricular activities, such as art or gymnastics.
Finally, take the time to get to know the homeschool laws in your state. While you have a right to educate your child, there will be rules you must follow to make the process legal.
Your child is fully capable of learning, and you of teaching. It takes preparation, but the end results will likely be far more valuable than the time you’ll invest.
***Author Jenny Wise created “Special Home Educator” as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families. She has four children. Her youngest daughter has autism.**