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The Blessings of Homeschooling a Special Needs ChildHomeschooling my son Austin has been just that, a True Blessing!

Some of you have been following our successes, but for those of you that are new to our story, you may want to read this About the Trayer’s and you may also be interested in hearing how we overcame nearly 97% of my sons autistic and asperger tendencies here:  http://trayerwilderness.com/what-we-have-learned-and-conquered-with-autism.

Schooling today is a difficult subject no matter if you have a special needs child or not and no matter if you are homeschooling or your child is in a public school! Our son was part of the public school system up until he finished his 7th grade school year.   We then relocated from PA to ID in 2010 and Austin was again scheduled for the public school here in ID.

Now let me jump back in time a bit here. We had a LOT of struggles, especially in Austin’s early years, but one thing that stands apart from those struggles were the angels that we were blessed to have cross our path.

Every school he attended and every teacher and principal he had were amazing and together we worked as a team for the betterment of Austin. We were blessed and I know this does not happen for everyone. So if you are reading this and your child is in a public school and you are NOT able to homeschool for whatever reason – I’d like to encourage you to make amends with the teachers and principals and try to work together with them and with your IEP. If you do not have an IEP you need to get one – it is an Individualized Education Program which should be designed to help your child grow in a positive way in the public school system. There are often times county programs available to your child as well such as speech therapy, mobile therapists and more. Please check to see what is available to you during this time. The more you put in place while your child is still young the better the improvements and successes will be. Another thing I would like to encourage is to NEVER give up on your child!! If one thing doesn’t work find something that does, if one person is not working well with your child seek another and the same goes for a doctor. I also found that kindness on my part and a positive spirit got me so much further and more than anything I wanted the best relationships I could get with the individuals that would be caring for my child!

I also found that holding my son accountable both at home and at school for his mistakes and poor behavior at school made a big difference. I also did not allow the school to change the rules for him at school – for example he got very upset when playing games when he would lose so they wanted to change the rules to the game to make it easier. I would not allow that because I felt they were setting him up for failure later in life when he would expect rules to molded to him. If he was going to live a real life he needed to live with real rules – no false hopes. This may sound harsh, BUT it made him accountable for his actions and it instilled in him a reason to work harder.

Now let’s jump ahead again to 2010. Austin was tested at the new school in Idaho and again we were blessed with teachers and a principal that were REALLY going the extra mile to help us out. I have always thought about homeschooling my son, but because I am a self employed web designer and a writer I did not want my work to jeopardize his education so being afraid that I would not be able to give him enough time I refrained from doing so.

Now we are not your average American family. We call ourselves EMBRACERS! When God opens doors for us, we are good and obedient and we jump in with both feet and scream hallelujah. In moving to Idaho in 2010 we arrived at our overgrown raw wilderness land with no utilities that we purchased site unseen from PA, setup an 8′ x 14′ canvas wall tent that we called home for the next 8 1/2 months. This adventure started in May, so when the school contacted us and informed us that Austin’s bus stop was at 6:30 am more than 3 miles from our home this started us thinking. We were still living in the wall tent, still building our home ourselves, we did not yet have running water on site so showers were definitely not a daily thing and our lane wasn’t passable in the Spring and Winter months SO we decided that this was God’s time for me to start homeschooling! We did move into our home that December on Austin’s birthday and we are living a 100% off-grid lifestyle with solar power.

Honestly, this was the BEST thing I could have ever done for my son. Being a part of the public school system was very overwhelming and overstimulating for him. When we arrived here in Idaho he was going into 8th grade, but was academically between 3rd and 4th grade so he was also very behind due to all the distractions.

I had several friend’s using Alpha Omega Publications and the Switched On Schoolhouse program. This is available in both textbook or software programs. I chose the pc version of the program because Austin was a very quick learner on the computer and from the start he LOVED it! This program allows your child to work at their own pace. Austin loved it so much that the 1st and 2nd year using the program he actually did two school years in one!! Woot woot! So we quickly started filling the learning gap that had formed. He enjoyed what he was doing, we found a location that worked for him and he was determined to do well. I think often our children’s biggest struggle in the public school system is their unhappiness with themselves because they want to do well and have a hard time doing this with so many distractions in big classrooms. Austin was blessed to be in a classroom of eight, but even this was too distracting for him.

Now did we struggle once we started homeschooling? Yes sometimes, but not near as often as we had previously done just trying to do homework. He was so wore out from school, trying to do homework was a complete nightmare. Something else that often would happen and I am sure that you can relate is Austin and I, as we coined it, would disconnect!

Often times our children are trying to tell us something and we are not always listening OR they are not telling you directly what the problem is so you have to learn to read between the lines. We need to become very good detectives, super good listeners and accumulate a LOT of patience, love and kindness!

When Austin is learning something new I can usually count on some sort of a struggle. Now with his current age he is able to tell me better what is bugging him, but sometimes his frustrations were not clear so when this would occur I would give him 15 to 20 minutes doing something physical such as riding a bike, going for a walk, or jumping on a trampoline because it would get his endorphins moving and clear away his stresses. 9 times out of 10 he would come back refreshed and with his brain functioning in high gear. Don’t let situations like this get heated, just give them a few minutes and yourself a few minutes and see what happens. We would often times even go for a walk together and by the end of the walk we were both laughing and having a good time so my endorphins were moving too! 🙂

Something else I found is that our children learn differently. Most times they are more visual learners and I found a GREAT tool for when my hand drawn graphics, diagrams or problems were not getting through to him, I would open up Khanacadamy.org and search their learning files for their version of what I was trying to teach. What is funny, is several times Khan Academy was doing the same exact thing, but he got it! So don’t wear yourself out, use other resources that are available to you.

Something else to remember, if you are having a bad day or your child is having a bad day and it is not looking like there will be recovery from your child’s maybe overstimulation or being overwhelmed, there is no sense pushing forward because nothing productive will come of it. End your school day there and maybe teach a life skill. Go for a walk together and come back and make a dessert or dinner together and start fresh the next day.

The trick is learning what works best for your child and also keep in mind that as your child ages, their approach and methods may change. This also applies to you – do what works best for you and maybe your methods will change as you go. You are the teacher now, so be creative, have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff!

Do you have questions? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me…


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