By Shari McMinn
We frequently read labels for food ingredients, cleaning chemicals, and operating power tools. Why? Because it helps us become more successful with their use in our overall lives. If we apply this concept to our homeschools, should we be intimidated or afraid to discover there is a label for our children who struggle in school? No, because by better understanding who they are, we will be more successful in teaching and discipling them to become the person God created them to be. We can praise the Lord for His wonderful works in our children, including their sometimes frustrating labels.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14 ESV).
Sometimes, families begin homeschooling only to find their student struggles in some or all subjects. Other parents choose to homeschool when an institutional school — even a government-funded school with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the student — does not benefit their child in the short or long term. Homeschoolers can benefit from understanding labels and learning how to raise their children with them to soar instead of stagnate. (You can download an IEP Withdrawal Letter template here to turn in to the school district along with your withdrawal documents.)
As a parent who home educated nine children, most with one or more learning struggles, I want to be clear from the outset: labels don’t excuse inappropriate behavior, but they can help explain why our struggling learners might act out the way they do. Understanding the root cause of their issues helps us better address routines and strategies that we might implement, so our children can begin to thrive.
What learning labels are the most common?1
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Auditory Processing Disorder
Other labels include, but are not limited to: Auditory Memory Deficit, Autism and Asperger’s Syndromes, Developmental Disabilities, Food Allergies/Sensitivities, Highly Gifted, Lack of Motivation/Reluctant Learner, Late Bloomer, Math challenges (Dyscalculia, Story-Problem Struggles), Physical Disabilities, Reading Difficulties, Sensory Integration Processing Disorder, Vision Processing and Perception Challenges, Visual Memory Deficit, Visual-Spatial Learner, Writer’s Block, Writing Struggles-Pencil Resistance.
In CHEC’s comprehensive resource, The Homeschool GUIDEBOOK for Colorado, under chapter eight, “Different Learners,” section E. “Learning Challenges and Teaching Strategies,” you’ll find details on 20 struggling learner labels and a checklist for parents regarding each. Spending time closely observing your child and reviewing the behavior expressions on the lists will assist you with pinpointing areas of concern. Once this parent evaluation of your student is complete, you can begin to consider and put into practice some or all of the following:
- Utilize the professional evaluation, therapy, testing, and tutoring services listed under the Unique Learners Resource Listing.
- Attend a family-friendly church regularly for counseling, spiritual growth, and tangible support. Here is one resource to consider for finding a family-friendly church.
- Find the time to establish a daily routine with one-on-one teaching time and breaks in between.
- Fit curriculum to your child’s learning style for improvement in their areas of struggle.
- Locate an in-person homeschool support group for your family and online for you.
Determining labels that define your child’s struggles in homeschool will better equip you to bring out the best in your student. It is important to engage them as you teach the three R’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) by using their interests to help overcome their struggles. Does your son hate to write? Find a topic he is interested in to write about — cars, Legos, rockets, weapons …. Does your daughter hate math? Tie-in memorizing math facts and working on story problems to what she is passionate about — crafts, fashion, horses, sports etc.
I suggest you become a detective-parent teacher, studying every aspect of your child to understand what makes them tick. Being able to put a name to their learning issues is akin to finding a missing puzzle piece. Once discovered, it completes one area so you can work on the overall picture of their life.
There are several trustworthy online websites that are helpful for homeschooling your student with struggling learner or learning disability labels. I hope you’ll take time to visit and investigate one or all of these for continuing education research as your child’s first and best teacher.
- Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) Unique Learners
- Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Teaching My Kids – Special Needs
- Special Education (SPED) Homeschool
As you homeschool your unique learner, know you are not alone. You may contact me anytime via email, Shari@CHEC.org or reach out to the staff who answer the CHEC office phone, 720-842-4852, Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm, for assistance. My November blog post, “The Holidays Can Be So Hard!,” will talk about pro-actively building resilience when trauma in a unique learner never seems to go away.
1https://ihomeschoolnetwork.com/homeschooling-learning-disabilities/. Access date 10/20/2021.