Our Journey : Unexpectedly Homeschooling a Twice Exceptional Child

Secular Homeschooling & the Twice Exceptional Child

How We Got Here

Our Unexpected Journey into Homeschooling

In this guest post by Mary Paul of Homeschooling2e, she discusses her unexpected journey into homeschooling her twice exceptional child. If you are parent to a gifted or 2e child, we welcome you to join SEA’s Gifted & 2e support group.


It’s funny sometimes – there never seemed to be a “plan” for us to homeschool, but looking back I think that we never really had a choice. Like a one-way road that forces you onto the highway, our road led straight to homeschooling. And I was dragged, kicking and screaming all the way to the lead parent and teacher role.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to homeschool. Truly. Because I knew what it would be like. I knew how much work it would be. And I knew, having raised my oldest to the ripe old age of 5, that it would be difficult to keep up with him. More like impossible, but I’m being optimistic here.

It’s not a well-kept secret now if you read my blog Homeschooling2e at all. I was homeschooled K-12 at a time when only the outliers homeschooled. When not most, but ALL of the homeschool curriculum was faith-based in a very in-your-face way. So I knew what I was getting into, and I was all for the grand idea of putting my kid on the shiny yellow school bus and sending him off to kindergarten.

Life happens. And here we are.

Homeschooling The Twice Exceptional Child

My oldest is twice exceptional. That means he’s advanced in some ways, and hampered by learning disabilities in others. He is so far out of the box that there is no box, only his path to learning. I worried about him starting Kindergarten and struggling with a class full of other 5-year-olds who weren’t fascinated by volcanos and couldn’t skip count by 50s already.

We did our best to start him off with the help he needed for his disabilities by doing an IEP (individual education plan) evaluation before school even started. And that’s where we got our first taste of the system. The system that doesn’t like dealing with out-of-the-box kids, that isn’t equipped to help them succeed.

I should note: I don’t hate the school system. Our local schools are quite good, and we have friends with kids in the system that do well. For our situation and our son’s needs, it just didn’t work out.

They refused to give him the IEP because “he’s so smart he’ll cope.” Sorry, “smart” can’t cope with sensory issues that sent my child screaming out of public restrooms because someone turned on a hand dryer. “Smart” doesn’t help him at all when the school rule is “no talking in the hallways” and he cannot seem to turn his mouth off. “Smart” discounts the fact that he is twice exceptional and has struggles too.

I read the rule handbook for his base school – by their rules, my child would have been expelled within 3 days. For behaviors he had no control over. It was a disaster just waiting to happen, in a state where a full 7.5 hour day was the norm.

So that was that. We were homeschooling.

Unexpectedly Homeschooling – Not Quite What Was Expected

We started off without me worrying too much about it. After all, I lived this. I knew what I was doing, right? Wrong. It turns out, trying to teach a twice exceptional student is wildly different than what I was used to. I was right: it is a ton of work. Mostly because I have to make most of his materials to accommodate the pre-reader interested in things not usually found in elementary textbooks.

On my low days I admit to how resentful I feel about the way this whole thing turned out. Before kids I was an artist. Scratch that – I’m still an artist! I just don’t have the time or energy to create anything right now. I keep hoping that magical break that I’m trying to catch is right around the corner, but the deeper we get into this homeschooling gig the more I realize I’m slipping away.

The person I am – the person I wanted to be – has become subsumed in this homeschooling mom persona that eerily resembles my mom. Homeschooling is what my child needs for his mental, physical, and educational health right now, but I’m not blind to what it has cost me personally or us as a family.

Homeschooling is a Choice – Not An Easy One

Despite being homeschooled and loving certain things about it, I never lose sight of the fact that not all homeschoolers chose this path. Not everyone wanted to make the kind of sacrifices we do, or is entirely happy about this whole thing.

Homeschoolers often feel like they have to defend homeschooling as the “best” choice to naysayers. It’s a choice. It’s not always the best choice. And for some of us, it wasn’t a choice at all.

So for those of you who secretly feel resentful and sad about how your road dragged you here, I see you. I am you. And I promise you that you won’t regret what you do to help your child succeed. Because that’s why you’re homeschooling, right?

It’s worth it. I’m living proof that all of the sacrifice, the work, and the struggles are worth it. Don’t give up.

 

More great posts we know you’ll love:

 

Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschoolers School Choice Week Online Conference
If you’re homeschooling a child who is neurodiverse, meet us at the Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschoolers Online Conference in January, when we will have a great line up of speakers sharing their insight and wisdom about homeschooling children across the learning spectrum.
Secular Homeschooling - Unexpectedly homeschooling a twice exceptional child




Why Secular Homeschoolers Choose to Home Educate?

Why Choose to Home Educate? Five Reasons My Family Home Educates

Why Secular Homeschoolers Choose to Home Educate?

Five Reasons My Family Home Educates

Why choose to home educate? Well, there are plenty of reasons why you might choose to home educate your children. In the 2013 NCHENZ survey the top 5 reasons, in order of the number of responses were:

  • learning at their own pace
  • more flexible lifestyle
  • closer family unit
  • not happy with the school system
  • family values more central

Interestingly this year’s survey found an almost identical choice of answers. And as you can clearly see, the majority of people actively choose this option from a positive perspective. Of the top five reasons, four are all about the positive benefits of home education and only one is about avoiding the school system.

I think that this fairly reflects my view on things too. As neither of our kids have been to school, there were no issues around bullying or being left to drift, or possibly struggling in some areas. We haven’t been forced into choosing this path for the Oh Waily kids, and our view has always been about the positives rather than the negatives.

Individualized Learning and Flexible Lifestyle

While both the Oh Waily parents did very well in school, there were things we thought home educating would do that schools simply can’t. Individualised learning being one of the main ones. Our kids can go as fast or as slow as they want in learning, without fears of being teased or ‘aware’ that they are either ‘geeky-bright’ or ‘falling behind’.
The little blighters have one-on-one tutelage available to them on call, 24/7.

We have a fabulously flexible lifestyle that allows for lots and lots of experiences that school kids often have to ‘save up’ for the school holidays or weekends. During quiet times, we get to go places and enjoy a more relaxed meander through and around places that otherwise might be teeming with people. Case in point – last week we went to Auckland with Mr Oh Waily, who had to be up that neck of the woods for work. While he worked, the kids and I went to Kelly Tarlton’s, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Zoo and Butterfly Creek. We finished off with a game of mini-golf at Adventure Golf. And along with that, they got to catch up with their grandparents as part of the trip.

Closer Family Unit (the good and the bad)

Are we a closer family unit? I’d like to think so. For the most part my pair of monkeys get on really well and look after each other when they need to. They scrap like other siblings do, but are also brilliant at co-operating when the mood takes them. And I hope that this continues and grows as the kids age.

Is it all a bed of roses? No. We are together 24/7 and that has its moments. But I love being with them and can’t imagine farming them out on a permanent basis to anyone else to teach and be with. Even when they’re driving me nuts. Well maybe not right at the moment they’re driving me nuts, but afterwards… for sure.

Unhappiness With The School System

As for being unhappy with the school system, yeah I guess as we’ve gone along I have come to thinking that way about things. This isn’t to say that it’s all a mess, but there are things about it that no longer make sense to me when I watch my kids learning. First off, I don’t want them to disappear in amongst 20 or 30 other kids. I don’t want them to have to take tests to show skills – at least while they are young. This was reinforced in my own mind when I had to sit tests and exams last year for a university paper I took, and had it confirm for me that all it was doing was showing how many snippets of knowledge I could remember and get out on paper in three hours.

I don’t want them to waste their lives on ‘busy work’ while they wait for the remainder of the class to catch up (or be left behind and have their self-esteem and confidence take a blow, while others waited on them). My 7 year old daughter does not have to do work on topics that she has clearly shown she understands and is capable of doing, over and over and over again. Revision of information, sure. Repetitive work, no.
This can sideline creativity. I want my kids to be as rounded as possible – as whole as possible. Homeschooling gives I want them to indulge their sporting sides, their art and crafting sides, and if it ever shows up…their musical sides. (In the meantime, I’ll settle for their love of dance and appreciation of the wide variety of music I play to them. This being a current favorite.) And I don’t want them to be convinced that their interests are ‘geeky’ or ‘odd’ or ‘weird’ or whatever the term du jour is for kids who dance to their own beat.

Family Values

That covers the family values side of things too. With home educating. the kids get to be themselves, learn at their own pace and be valued for who they are and what they’re interested in learning about. I want them to have a childhood where they can spend at least 50% or more of their time in creative, playful explorations of their own. I want to provide as many opportunities for life experiences as we can and is sensible to do at this stage of their lives.

Home educating. I think, we can give them the best environment to do that in.

I know that’s not possible in school as they would already be spending seven hours most days following other people’s rules about how they spend their time. They only have to follow mine for a tiny fraction of that time during our days.

In our household that leaves roughly two hours in the morning (6:30am rising in this house, people!) and four hours in the evening for “their time” – and that doesn’t include time out for dinner and to do any homework. (I included an arbitrary 30 minutes before & after school in my estimates for travel & general faffing around, but knowing the shamble that my pair are like getting ready to go anywhere…it’d be much longer and more nagging on my part than I care to think about, just to get ready.)

Why Choose to Home Educate?

Is this choice for everyone? Nope. Not at all.

Does it have its downsides? Yep. You don’t get nearly as much ‘time off’ or ‘personal time’ or ‘personal space’. You need to have a robust support network or ridiculously strong internal fortitude – either / or both. You will often have to live your family life on one income and still fund all of the learning opportunities you want your kids to have. Thankfully a lot of learning opportunities do not cost an arm and a leg. Still, a little bit more than $700 a year from the government would be nice, since we’re saving them several thousands of dollars per child per year in funding. A little bit more for us would be nice. How single parents do home ed, I have no idea, but they have my fullest admiration as I can’t even begin to imagine how much harder that would make it.

Does the downside outweigh the positives? For us, nope. For others they may be a deal breaker. Like all things to do with home education… it is entirely personal. Your kids, you and your family. Your situation, your life, your expectations.

It truly is the beauty of home education in a nutshell. Nothing need come out of a box. You can create it from scratch and make it fit to you. If it doesn’t fit, then you don’t need to try and make it. It is simply another educational path to take, nothing more and nothing less.

 

If you enjoyed this post, check out these posts about secular homeschooling on the Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschoolers site: 

Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschoolers School Choice Week Online Conference
Join us in January as we discuss neurodiversity in our homeschools at the SEA School Choice Week Online Conference!