by Wendy Young

Twenty-three years ago, when we started homeschooling our 4 children, there was much less known about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), children on the Autistic spectrum and other learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia and emotional dysregulations of impulse control, (Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), (Borderline Personality Disorder) BPD and self harm.

Back then, some folk believed that homeschooling would fix all these difficulties. In a world where there were no smart phones and very limited computer games, most kids, who were left to rough and tumble, play in mud and ride horses for their childhood years, did escape the social anxiety, depression and other side effects of social media and screens.

But homeschooling per se did not solve the issue of dyslexia with more reading, or ADHD with less stimulus from a class environment. It did, however, provide a safe place for our children with their different needs and neurological wiring, to grow and learn at their own pace. For me, Wendy, it provided an opportunity to find the right material to develop their struggling areas. A bonus for me, was that I could learn more about my own atypical neurological wiring and go on my own journey of growth alongside my children.

Thesedays there is much more information for parents who want to homeschool a child who is atypical. There are many more technological helps to enable children to overcome reading and writing difficulties and develop basic competencies for future learning and employment. This is truly a blessing for many parents who want to homeschool but are fearful of how to go about it, with a child who has particular needs.

With the worldwide focus on mental health issues, many of the situations that were once never talked about as homeschoolers – like anxiety, depression, self harm – are now much more accepted.
Parents can feel very isolated if they face these challenges in their own lives or their children’s, and this furthers the pain. Some feel shame and struggle to speak about it to their community. But nowadays, families who have been on their own journey of pain and growth through their children’s struggles can give great encouragement to others who are still in that process.

Homeschooling provides a safe environment where everyone in the family can grow and learn from one or more that have difficulties.

While not always the easiest thing to do, having children on the Autistic spectrum, with learning difficulties or emotional troubles certainly can be a great catalyst for growth and change in everyone in the family.

Parents have more time to walk alongside their children in their struggles, to counsel and love and support them on bad days, and cheer them on, on good days.

This is the first in a series of articles about supporting children with specific educational needs.