Homeschooling Our Stroke Survivor – Academic Challenges

We didn’t set out planning to homeschool.  It just kind of evolved from the situations we found ourselves in.  We had been advised to hold E back for a year before starting Kindergarten as she also has constitutional growth delay in addition to her gross motor delays (balance, coordination, physical skills).  She didn’t qualify for an aide (being “too functional” to qualify for access to the limited pot of funding), but was unable to independently potty or dress and has difficulty navigating in crowded situations.  So instead, I homeschooled her so that she wouldn’t fall behind.  The further we get into this adventure, the more I appreciate it!  We have also started homeschooling our younger child.

The process here is that we join a school board and notify them of our intent to homeschool (starting in Grade 1; Kindergarten is optional).  We then choose Aligned (teacher directed), Traditional (parent directed), or some combination of the two.  Last year we did Aligned, this year we did Traditional.  Either way, E has a teacher who comes to our house several times a year to view her portfolio and progress.  We just save up all her crafts, workbooks, writing samples, and pictures of projects and field trips.  I have an IEP in place for E just like in public school, which allows her to dictate answers to me to reduce some of the fine motor burden of writing.  We also have other fine and gross motor goals for her specified.

We have completed 3 years of homeschooling now, and have discovered that E does have some learning challenges.  This was unexpected since her stroke was sub-cortical.  I am wondering if it’s because her brain has had to do so much rewiring that her neurological connections may not be very streamlined, or that maybe because her brain has to work so much harder at typical tasks that it doesn’t have the energy for academics?  Whatever the reason, it has guided me into a much more relaxed approach to learning.  I started out very excited in Preschool / Kindergarten and set out with charts and workbooks and learning resources.  E struggled with all the workbooks, hated school, and resisted all formal learning.  Since the early years are supposed to be FUN, I had to re-evaluate what our goals are.  Learning is vitally important to me – I am a lifelong learner who has a passion for study.  However, for E, I have cut everything back to the basics of reading, writing, and math for now.  We watch The Magic School Bus and Dr. Binocs for science, and do experiments.  We talk about abilities, disabilities, social issues, and health as situations present.  Everything else is about life – practical, everyday things.

Here are some wonderful resources for this approach:

The Hurried Child – I really love this book and it has given me much-needed perspective

Article on The Hurried Child

Better Late Than Early  / School Can Wait – I haven’t read these but they came recommended to me

Homeschooling approaches that work best with learning challenges:

Charlotte Mason / Unit Studies

Unschooling

Learning Disabilities Online

E’s academic struggles (early elementary):

Writing:  She finds the fine motor skill of writing difficult, and it takes her a long time and a lot of concentration to form letters. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t enjoy it at all.  I try not to pressure her too much, so we try to do just a little bit of writing a day (Handwriting Without Tears workbooks/copywork).  Since her stroke has forced her to be left-handed, I feel it’s probably kind of like all those left-handed kids that were forced in school to be right-handed back in the day.  It doesn’t come naturally, it’s strained, and sloppier than if she would have been able to be right-handed.

Reading: E has been read to extensively since birth, and has always enjoyed stories.  We do notice that her expressive language is challenging for her (she struggles to put things into words).  Reading also has been coming slowly for E.  She is making wonderful progress, but it hasn’t come quickly or easily.  We have been reinforcing the basics with a variety of phonics programs (www.readingeggs.com; Hooked on Phonics; BOB books; various phonics books).

Math:  E struggles with the relationships between numbers.  Again, we have been trying to lay a solid foundation on the basics of adding and subtracting.  She *really* dislikes workbooks and worksheets so I am trying not to panic but we are taking things slowly.  We started out with Math-U-See, which has manipulatives and DVD teacher presentations, and will continue with this in the future.  However currently we are using http://www.mathseeds.com.

Homeschooling Benefits:

  • Is an excellent way to bond with your children
  • Instead of losing them to “peer orientation”, you are able to pass down your values and worldview.
  • Homeschoolers generally perform better in all aspects of academia and social skills than their public schooled counterparts [see this Fraser Institute Paper on Canadian Homeschooling]
  • The child-to-teacher ratio is very low, individual attention is high
  • Children get MUCH more time to play and explore their interests
  • Busywork can be eliminated, focusing on what you and the child deem important to learn instead
  • Nothing “falls through the cracks” – you know exactly what your child’s strengths and weakness are and can tailor learning and help appropriately
  • You get to learn along with your child
  • You have lots more time for therapy, appointments, and can properly apply and monitor orthoses

I encourage you to consider this option for your child, if you think you might be able to make it work!  There are many resources and supports for homeschooling these days – try finding a facebook homeschooling group in your area!

Here might be some places to start:

Our Family’s Educational Philosophy

Each child is a unique person, with different interests, strengths, and challenges.  Each child is capable of becoming a responsible citizen, developing good character, and making wise choices.  Progression will be at each child’s own pace; encouraging areas of strength and allowing extra assistance in areas of weakness.

Throughout our child’s education we will endeavor to develop:

  • The desire and skill for life-long learning
  • Excellence in reading, and oral and written communication
  • Excellence in mathematical ability and spacial/abstract thinking
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills
  • Curiosity and imagination
  • Exploration and understanding of the world using the scientific method
  • Resilience and instill confidence in own abilities, strengths, and uniqueness
  • An evaluation of the past and present of humanity, utilizing biographies and “living books”
  • An understanding of social issues, and a discussion of root causes
  • An understanding of and respect for political, cultural, and religious diversity around the world
  • Introspection and reflection for self-evaluation
  • A healthy, active lifestyle
  • Well-informed choices and habits that contribute to the well-being of self and others
  • An appreciation for excellence in literature, art, and music
  • A foundation of good citizenship – rights and responsibilities, service to others
  • A priority for relationships and empathic thinking
  • Practical life skills, including: budgeting & work, cleanliness, communication, community, food & nutrition, hygiene & personal habits, survival skills
  • Strength of character – raising moral, responsible, authentic people of integrity, including: courage (bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, personal initiative, truthfulness, fortitude), decency and propriety (cleanliness, neatness, order, regularity, diligence, self-discipline, hard work, obedience, self-control, self-regulation, even temper), humanity (love, kindness, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, courtesy, forgiveness, good manners, generosity, faithfulness, usefulness, mercy), justice (citizenship, responsibility, loyalty, teamwork, fairness, leadership), temperance (humility, modesty, prudence, self-restraint), transcendence (appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, joyfulness, humor, meditation, reverence, outdoor appreciation, thanksgiving, spirituality), wisdom and knowledge (creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, attention, imagining, observation, remembering, thinking)
  • Social IQ – the ability to negotiate a variety of social situations with grace and skill
  • Emotional IQ – the ability to manage the range of human emotions with dignity
  • Biblical discernment and worldview, including an understanding of place and purpose

We will endeavor to provide a practical, living education that maximizes each child’s potential.  Our approach is eclectic – a blend of Charlotte Mason’s unit studies and “living books”, Classical Education’s guidance through the three stages of learning: Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom, and Unschooling’s holistic child-directed learning and lack of rote memorization of isolated facts.

I strongly believe that in this life, nothing happens by accident or coincidence – things aren’t determined by fate or luck (good or bad).  I believe there is an overarching story – a beautiful picture of love, loss, and redemption – and that there is Someone who cares and is in control.  You are already a part of this story, whether you know or believe it or not.  While the end of the story has already been written, your own part lays open before you for you to choose your ultimate destiny.  Maybe all your life has been leading to this one moment: The Bridge to God.

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