One thing was blatantly obvious – I was going to need a skateboard.
I had 25 kids on my roster. According to the spreadsheet in front me, 17 of those 25 had accomodation needs.
My finger scanned the righthand column.
And then the big one: 10 students required preferential seating.
I worked in a small private high school. My classroom wasn’t that big. To give these kids a level playing field in freshman English I’d have to sprout wheels or hang from the ceiling.
This wasn’t what differentiated instruction was supposed to mean.
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Despite what some believe about the educational system, the vast majority of teachers want their students to succeed.
They spend hours outside the classroom working on professional development – not just to maintain a license, but to reach every kid in that room.
I was one of those teachers once. For a while, I believed I could reach every child. The questions began when I had students whose needs I couldn’t accommodate.
Again, modern education isn’t a bad thing. It is, however, a box.
It has to be in order for the system to function: reaching such a large group of children requires a measure of conformity.
But what happens to the children who don’t fit?
Our oldest, a brilliant, creative kiddo with a penchant for order had a meltdown in the end-of-day sticker line. It didn’t end there – each week brought some new disaster to the forefront:
- Running from the classroom
- Hitting the art teacher
- Hiding under tables
- Throwing things
What was going on with my child?
I lived in denial for some time. She was an accomplished reader, a curious child with a memory for facts and figures. I really expected achievement, honors, and accolades from faculty.
We had failing grades, phone calls, and trips to the principal’s office instead.
That spring we sat in a boardroom and listened to a panel of experts give us their report. High IQ with sensory processing disorder. She would have an IEP, they said, and they would take good care of her.
That IEP stipulated only half an hour of social skills counseling a week.
“What about her academics? Is acceleration a possibility?”
“We don’t start acceleration until the third grade, actually. And anyway, her behavior needs a major overhaul to be eligible for the Advanced Academic track.”
The anxiety and sensory overload weren’t going to dissipate. She had an IEP – yes – but what would 30 minutes of counseling accomplish? She would continue to flounder despite differentiated instruction.
It was the best decision we’ve ever made.
Homeschooling is the best because I can meet my child’s needs
My child can learn at her own comfortable pace.
While her sensory issues have lessened with therapy and maturity, she’s still a textbook case of asynchronous development. Leaps and gaps in her academic skills will prove problematic in a classroom. What would happen when she finished a year’s worth of history or literature in two months but remained behind level in math?
My child can explore rabbit holes
I can’t tell you how many times I would get phone calls from the school, complaining my daughter was unwilling to move on to something new. She would get fixated, they said, on particular stations in the classroom, wanting to stay there well beyond the allotted 15 minutes.
It was like that at home, too, with various topics she enjoyed. We spent years learning everything about dinosaurs, then dragons, and now wolves. Homeschooling allows her to dig in without fear of censure or failure. She can study topics to her heart’s content.
My child can learn without external stressors
Despite her years of therapy and growth, sensory processing disorder still has an impact on her ability to learn.
Homeschooling allows us to take breaks, go outside, or just relax when we need to. She gets an education without social and emotional stress.
Homeschooling honors exceptional children, those whose needs place them outside the box. Like my daughter, they can learn in an environment tailored to them, not others – skateboard or acrobatic equipment not required.
Ginny Kochis is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom to three quirky kiddos. A former high school English teacher, Ginny writes about homeschooling, Catholic motherhood, and gifted/2E parenting on her blog, Not So Formulaic. You can connect with Ginny on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.