Unintended benefits of homeschooling

When I started homeschooling six years ago, I had the lone goal of teaching my then-5yo to read, so that when he entered “normal” school, he’d have a leg up on the rest of his first grade class, and we’d bypass all the uncertainty of different reading/teaching methods.  That year, though it didn’t feel like it went smoothly, was successful in that, not only did Ethan learn to read, but his then-3yo brother Grant learned to read, as well.  I decided to continue.  (Well, actually, I had decided not to continue, and had Ethan enrolled in a local charter school, until another homeschooling friend introduced me to Sonlight, which fit my goals and needs perfectly, and then I decided to continue.  But, that’s another story.)

Since that time, I have discovered all sort of unintended benefits from homeschooling. 

One is that my son, Grant, who is now 9yo, has a very odd learning disorder — Nonverbal Learning Disorder — that affects (obviously) the way he learns, his motor skills, and affects him socially.  (NLD is similar in many ways to high-functioning autism, like Asperger’s Syndrome, and is considered by many doctors, ours included, to actually be part of the autism spectrum, though it isn’t — yet — technically classified as such.)  Turns out Grant does best in smaller, consistent environments without a lot of change, distraction, noise and chaos, and with instruction coming from someone who knows him well and loves him.  Hmmm…  Other than the “noise” part, that sounds like homeschooling to me!  His developmental pediatrician even encourages me to continue homeschooling him, as does his occupational therapist who also works in the public school system.

What is on my heart right now, though, is my son Wesley, who is nearly seven, and entering into 2nd grade in just a couple of weeks.  Wes has celiac disease (meaning he can’t have ANY wheat, rye, barley or oats), plus multiple other food sensitivities and allergies, including a serious one to milk (it induces near-immediate asthma, even in miniscule amounts), and he’s anaphylaxic to peanuts, meaning that he stops breathing in the presence of peanuts.  We have to carry Benedryl and an emergency dose/shot of epinephrine – to force open his airways and to jump-start his heart – everywhere we go. 

I recently joined a Yahoo group that is local to my area, and is populated by people who have life-threatening allergies, like Wesley.  For most everyone on the list, that allergy is to peanuts.  Reading what many people are going through right now, especially as school is starting up again, is heartbreaking.  There is a lot of confusion about the allergy-emergency protocol for each of the different school districts, and how each school handles the presence of a severely allergic child, and a lot of angst amongst the parents.  There are also reports of difficult meetings with teachers, and run-ins with other parents when they find out that peanut butter is no longer allowed in their classroom, including this response, from another parent, to the PRESCHOOLER with a severe peanut problem:

And she looks at my son and says – “wow, we can’t even look at you the wrong way can we”. 

That would have shocked me if I hadn’t taken part in a peanut-allergy discussion on another parenting forum, where I came upon a LOT of similar attitudes, a LOT of bitterness among parents who resent not being able to send their kid to school with a PB&J.

It makes me want to encourage everyone to homeschool.  I haven’t.  I haven’t even mentioned it on the list, nor to anyone privately.  I understand that not every family can homeschool, and I don’t even think every family should homeschool.  I’ve found that when I bring up the topic among people who don’t feel led, or competent, or whatever, to homeschool, my words are taken as an affront, and they do more harm than good, no matter what my intentions are.

But I find myself, yet again, feeling like God, in His foresight, led me down the path to homeschooling, and put encouragements along that path when I needed them in order to continue. 

My motivations to continue homeschooling have expanded way beyond my original intentions…  Here I am, mother to two boys who would really have great difficulty in a regular school environment.  And rather than struggling with other parents, teachers, administrations, kids, school policies, school therapists, etc., all of that is circumvented simply by the fact that we were already homeschooling before I knew about Grant’s and Wesley’s “issues.”

In short, and in retrospect, I really feel like God led me to homeschool — even though I didn’t realize that on the outset. 

Since I am the product of both a home and school environment where those around me might best be described as insular, and at worst be described as paranoid, it was important to me, when choosing to homeschool, that my motivations to keep my kids at home were NOT based out of fear.  They weren’t.  They still aren’t.  But, still, I feel like God has protected our family, protected me, protected my kids with my decision to homeschool them, and I find myself extremely grateful, both for His protection, and for the fact that we can continue to homeschool.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 12, 2008, in Allergies, Celiac Disease, Christianity, Family, Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, Medical Stuff, Motherhood, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, Parenting, Sad Things, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. zhappyhomemaker

    Yes! I, too, believe that God led us to homeschool, and that we also were protected from so many things that would have faced our children.

    I knew I wanted to homeschool before I got married. Back then, I’d never even heard of Asperger’s, which my oldest ds has, and we are beginning to think my second ds does as well. But even when my first was a (high-needs) baby/toddler/preschooler, my supportive mother would say, “Thank God you are homeschooling him. They would eat him alive in the schools.”

    It’s not to say that my sons could not handle school life, but that I believe traditional schooling would change them irrevocably.

    When I hear of all the difficulties other families have as a result of trying to help their (gifted, Asperger’s, allergic…you name it) child into the system, it makes me want to cry with relief that God knew me and my husband well enough to know that homeschooling would be so much a better fit for us. And that God, who created my beautiful, brilliant sons, loved them enough to urge their parents to plan to do for them what it turns out that they need more than I’d have ever guessed.

  2. It’s awesome knowing that you can keep your children safe in spite of their dietary restrictions. School can be scary.

    I’ve heard some very negative responses regarding allergy precautions from parents of OTHER allergy kids. Its funny how one parent is okay with a peanut restriction because their child has that allergy, but they raised muck about other restrictions for children with severe allergies. That’s the mentality I will NEVER understand. For me and my pb loving kids, its an easy enough option to substitute with sunbutter. They think its PB… and we don’t have to worry about sending anyone into a breathing emergency! I also feel that schools can handle this without entirely banning nuts (our school does not have a ban) by having separate eating areas for severe allergy kiddos and serving nut free hot lunches. I have known parents who have gone into PANIC mode because they can’t send PB for their child (who has a host of other sensory/behavior issues) because that child will eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches. Many of us can remember what its like to feed sensitive children! So, I can understand why those parents are so worried about the restrictions.

    My hubby isn’t on board (YET) for me to homeschool all our kids. He thinks I won’t be able to meet the diverse needs of their age groups. I am homeschooling the oldest and will hopefully bring all of them home eventually. Until then, I am at the school DAILY. I’m communicating with the Teachers, making sure to have individual packs of Enjoy Life Cookies in desks/cubbies at all times for the last minute classroom parties, packing all lunches and snacks EVERY day, etc… I also go on all outings/field trips, etc… where there is an increased chance of exposure to a potential allergen.

    It’s a delicate balance that’s for sure! And just another factor in my favor for homeschooling!

    Cheers!
    Jamie

  3. Thank you for writing this. 🙂 I have a boy (age 8) who has been diagnosed with ADHD, but I have a feeling he may actually have NLD and stumbled upon this from google. I recently started homeschooling in January (kind of dove in head first) and it does just reconfirm why it is such a good thing for him and that it was the right decision. Just to pick your brain for a second… with Sonlight Curriculum – is much of it verbal? In order to work well with NLD? Anyway… thanks! 🙂

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