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Overcoming Objections by the Local School to Home Educating Children with Special Needs

by Beverley Paine

This article was first published in the Autumn 2011 issue of Stepping Stones for Home Educators, HEA members' magazine.

Parents considering home educating children who have special needs are sometimes asked to attend meetings at the school to discuss various issues, especially socialisation, with concerned staff. In a recent post on the South Australian home education community yahoo group parents had some pertinent advice to a family who found themselves in this position with a hostile principal and teaching staff.
Kristin questioned the need for the school to insist on a meeting at all, especially in South Australia where the home education application is assessed by the Education Department and not the school. “It’s a bit like asking a butcher how they feel about vegetarian diets”, she said.

Several people echoed Michelle’s ‘stock answer’ of “Yes, socialisation will be a problem because there are so many homeschool groups that sometimes you do more socialising than schoolwork!” Amanda pointed out that schools can’t and don’t offer the one-on-one instruction and assistance in the classroom and playground and that as homeschooling parents we have the ability to tailor the social opportunities to match our children’s needs: our children are not forced to socialise on a day when we know they won’t cope with it. She pointed out that all it takes is an email or phone call to quickly organise social activities with friends when our children are in the right frame of mind.

Georgina suggested asking the staff about the bullying rates in public schools, particularly of children with special needs. Can they guarantee the child will receive the social skill tutoring and mentoring he or she requires in a safe environment? Or the kind of tailor-made social development program parents can provide from home?
Georgina also recommended not attending the meeting alone, taking an advocate or an experienced friend along. She advised not to agree to anything unless you are happy with it. Politely let the staff know that their advice will be considered and replied to in writing.

Books on homeschooling children with special needs can be useful in bolstering confidence. The Well-Adjusted Child by Rachel Gathercole helped to allay Cheryl’s concerns about homeschooling, she said, and offer “legitimacy to what I already logically knew”.

Stephanie related how her teenage son was diagnosed with Aspergers many years into homeschooling and related how she has recently joined an Autism SA support group for teens. Her advice was to not give up. “Every single parent talks about the horribly difficult time their child had at school, and the long-term effects it has had on their children… I sit in the group quietly counting my lucky stars for our homeschooling choice.”

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the
World of Home Education
and Learning without School!

We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!

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