Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Homeschooling and Down Syndrome

We made the decision to homeschool very early in the lives of our children. Once we made the decision to educate our children at home, I read everything I could get my hands on about homeschooling.

As we moved through our homeschooling journey, much of what I learned about homeschooling and Down syndrome (DS) I learned the hard way by working with my daughter. Initially, I didn't have internet access and therefore no access to information on how children with DS learn or even others homeschooling families with children with DS. Professionals were not really helpful because they had little specific knowledge about DS. We even engaged a consultant with a Masters in special education as an educational consultant. He gave us suggestions for curriculum and general information about learning in children with cognitive challenges - and information about academic and developmental skills progression in typically developing children. He also gave me the confidence to homeschool our daughter with special needs but did not have the answers on how to overcome the challenges we faced. It wasn't really the fault of the professionals we worked with - it takes a LONG time for research to trickle down to those working in the field. In fact, with R, I had to unlearn much of what I knew about homeschooling and learn with her, about her & her unique needs. I now have a room (seriously) filled with research into how children with DS learn along with my regular homeschooling stuff!

The fact is children with Down syndrome learn differently. Simply put, they are wired differently. Methods used for typically developing children may eventually work I suppose, but to lessen frustration all around & increase learning potential (and keep motivation high) they need their specific learning profile targeted for success. The learning profile is a list of strengths and weaknesses common to children with DS - different from typically developing children and children with other causes of developmental delays.

Today, there is a great deal of support for families homeschooling children with DS primarily found on the internet. For more information:

Homeschooling and Down Syndrome
A family oriented list.

Home Education and Down Syndrome
A list for committed homeschooling families that focuses on the special learning needs of children with Down syndrome - resources, curriculum, strategies for teaching etc.

Homeschooling Kids with Down Syndrome
A list comprised of only homeschoolers with children with Down syndrome. It is a closed list but I have pull :-)

National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN), a Christian support network for those homeschooling children with special needs, also offers e-mail support for those of us homeschooling children with Ds. Send me an e-mail and I'll give you the contact information.

Of course, I also love to read about the lives of bloggers who homeschool their children with DS - the numbers are growing rapidly given the lists I moderate and the bloggers I am meeting. I know two families via the blogosphere with older children with Down syndrome - Barbara and Laurie who share their wisdom, insights and experiences - and many families with younger children. There is no need for anyone on this journey to do it alone like I did for all those years!

11 comments:

Renna said...

Amy, I've no doubt that your blog and the information you share is invaluable to those like you once were, who are just starting out on that road of homeschooling their child with Down Syndrome.

Bravo for you, for taking the time to share it!

Amy said...

Thank you Renna!

It has been my ministry for many years to share what I have learned.

Barbara Frank said...

Great post with excellent links, Amy! I just posted mine and included a link to yours:

http://barbaramfrank.blogspot.com/2008/04/homeschooling-your-child-with-down.html

Laurie said...

I'd love to come sit with you in your research room! It is so wonderful to share ideas. You've been a wonderful support over the years I've known you. Someday....... we'll meet!

Sarah said...

Hi Amy,

I came to your blog via Barbara's. I've had a difficult time finding Christian mothers who blog about homeschooling children with Down syndrome, and here I find two in one day!

We have three children and are finishing our third year of homeschooling the older two. We are just beginning the "formal" educational journey with our 5yo dd who has Down syndrome.

Amy said...

Ahhh, thank you all!

Laurie, You're welcome anytime :-)

Sarah, I'm so glad you found us! There are many, many more of us and we will be glad to welcome you into our community!

Maretha said...

Hi Amy.

I am from South Africa and have 3 children. The eldest with down syndrome, who is 6 years old. We are at the crossroad to homeschool or put him in a "special school" or mainstream school. He was for the past 4 years in a pre-school. It went very well with him until this year when we put him in a private school in grade R. It was very difficult for him. It helped me allot to read your story about your child. Its just difficult for me to get started on a homeschooling programme. Don't know where to start. Can you give me any advise? Regards Maretha Stoltz

Amy said...

Maretha,

Deciding to homeschool your child with Ds and getting started is the hardest part! I always advise those new to homeschooling to meet your child where is is developmentally and build on skills that they have - very important for the child with Ds.


Also, I must tell you based on the many stories of those who have been there, done that, that a child who has had a difficult time in government schools will need some time to decompress from their difficult experiences. Learning through fun activities and games will help them regain their desire to learn and move forward.

Please feel free to contact me privately through the e-mail addy in my side bar!

HS Schulte said...

I decided today to homeschool my youngest 2 boys with Ds. I've been toying with the idea for sometime and finally got the courage to withdraw them from school. I have used some activities from "Teaching Math to Children with Down Syndrome," and "Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome," in the past to experiment and get a feel for their skill level. I can tell you that they ENJOY the game focused activities, but if I pull out a worksheet that resembles school work they are used to doing they immediately start avoidance behaviors. What you said about needing time to decompress from their school experience is right on.

Amy said...

Heather, Welcome to the world of homeschooling! It sounds like the boys are making the typical entry into homeschooling. It is going to be quite an adjustment for all I'm sure. I hope you'll join one of the yahoo groups so you can chat about how is going for you and the boys!

Jeri@readinghorizons.com said...

I found your blog through Barbara Frank's like several of the other moms. I only homeschooled our daughter (w/DS) for one year when she was 6 in order to teach her to read. She is now 16. Knowing how to read has been HUGE, as you can imagine. A systematic, sequential, and explicit phonics program is essential for children with DS challenges. It also needs to be very slow-paced.