“What’s that mean?” exclaimed every single kid I met during grade school.
“It means my mom teaches me at home.” I’d respond, waiting for the predictable follow up question.
“So do you get to wear your pajamas all day long???”
Homeschooling was literally unheard by most of my peers back in the nineties.
Who woulda thunk that 2020 would usher in a time of state mandated “school at home” and so many parents would be, for the first time, seriously considering homeschooling.
So if you’re re-evaluating the educational options for your kiddos this year, you’re not alone!
Maybe you’ve never thought about how your child’s sensory needs would affect the homeschooling process.
You guys, I’ve got some GOOD NEWS for you…
Homeschooling is a WONDERFUL way to help your sensory child thrive!
Here are just a few ways that homeschooling can be a serious advantage to your sensory child.
Different Grade Levels for Different Subjects
If your child struggles in a certain area, there’s no massive pressure to make sure he keeps up with his peers in that area. My son has dyslexia on top of sensory issues, so reading has been VERY hard for him. Instead of burdening him with an intense need to always be at grade level reading skills each and every year, I can slow down, go at his pace, and still have a chance that while he may be late to the game, he’ll still love reading for pleasure.
And the opposite is true as well, if your child has a large aptitude for a particular subject, there’s no need to restrain them so that they’re still learning with a class of peers. I never would have thought my boys would take to Shakespeare or enjoy the read alouds and board games that are meant for middle schoolers, but they eat it up!
I want to also add that, not having grade levels is a self-esteem protection. While my son is well aware that he struggles with reading (since his younger brother reads at an insanely above grade level pace), we have tried to make it clear that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Struggles are a part of life that build their character and we value THAT far more than grades.
Sensory Friendly Schedules
One of the best things about homeschooling is how you get to create a schedule that works for your family. For us, that means we prioritize movement and play. Sensory kids NEED lots of sensory input throughout the day and it’s tough to get that while sitting at a desk (though more on that in the next section).
When I plan out our day, I’m always thinking about what will help facilitate my kids being outside the most. For us, that means we switch up our entire school year and school day so that we are off in the winter when the weather is nice, and while we school in the summer, we take the cooler mornings off, and hunker down in the AC in the afternoon.
While our Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling encourages very short lessons to help keep kids attention and encourage focus, we still incorporate “brain breaks” throughout the school hours so they get their sensory needs met.
In between subjects, turn on a song and dance. Before math, swing for three minutes. When frustration is setting in, do jumping jacks or try and push over a wall.
Whatever it is, remember, homeschooling gives you the freedom to respect the body brain connection and meet those needs!
Movement WHILE Learning
Now just because your child will need to spend time learning, doesn’t mean the sensory input has to halt. There are literally millions of ways to get sensory input WHILE learning and there are tons of ideas on my site as well as around the web.
Just because it’s impractical for an entire classroom to recite their spelling words on the swings, doesn’t mean you as a homeschooler can’t do just that! We’ll memorize poems while climbing trees. We’ll spell while hopping from letter to letter. We’ll write math equations in shaving cream. I’ll read history while they dig in the garden. I’ll make sure science experiments involve movement.
Pick the Curriculum that Works for Your Kid
Home schools are completely customizable. You don’t have to get a boxed curriculum or try and learn from the one option picked out by the state. Instead, mix and match. Learn from other sensory and special needs homeschoolers in facebook groups what has worked for them and why.
Consider what philosophy of education will best meet your children’s needs. It’s no secret I love the tenants of Charlotte Mason as well as much of classical education. The short lessons, variety, immersion with nature and all the reading aloud fit our family really really well. I also found courage to go a non-traditional route because Charlotte Mason insists that we honor children as born persons, not things we need to fit into a mold.
If you’re looking for some of our favorite sensory curriculum, check out the math program that FINALLY clicked for my boys and is designed for tactical needs and struggling learners. I also suggest an Orton Gillingham homeschool curriculum when it comes to reading for a child who is struggling in that area. I’ve seen it work wonders.
Even if my son didn’t have special needs, I had a million reasons I wanted to homeschool him. Special sensory needs are just another reason we have found homeschooling to be the perfect fit for our family.