Last fall we had two of our children evaluated by a psychologist regarding the possibility/probablity of learning disabilities. One daughter we knew without a doubt, we just wanted an official report for her records. The other daughter was mostly for my own sanity as I felt like I was beating my head against the wall. Her learning quirks are not just my imagination.
We saw the same psychologist again for a diagnosis for our son. As I was lamenting that I should have caught this sooner, she said “don’t beat yourself up”. Her point of view was that while he may have been diagnosed earlier in a classroom, it would have been because he was struggling and would have potential slipped through the cracks. The fact that he was home meant we were adjusting most everything to play to his strengths. As an aside, this particular psychologist is a gem! She is very pro homeschooling and very complimentary. It’s her opinion that are children are thriving in our homeschool environment despite their learning quirks. I wish I would have recorded her words so I could listen to them each morning before we started our day. Homeschooling special needs and quirky kids means positive affirmations are hard to come by. They aren’t out winning accolades and awards for their achievements at every turn. Not that homeschool parents do what they do for the awards, but teaching special needs children is a test of perseverance.
Does a Diagnosis Make a Difference?
I would argue that a diagnosis does make a difference and can be a game changer for the child and the family. For one of our daughters the “officialness” was mainly for record keeping purposes (for now). A report that I could add to her file so I never appeared negligent in her education. The other daughter just confirmed what we suspected and took some of the pressure off (of me!). It wasn’t just an issue of her and I clashing, she truly has some deficiencies. Not that I’m happy she struggles, but it has better equipped me to adjust my expectations and focus more on building on her strengths. A diagnosis can also mean there is a reason behind the struggle. So many kids think “I am dumb”. They aren’t! They just learn in more non traditional ways. I know I felt validated for always having a more relaxed approach to learning.
Working with a Label
A label does not change anything except perhaps our plan of attack. The overall goals are the same, we want our children to function to the best of their ability. How we get their will look different for everyone. Quirky kids can be particularly interesting because they can excel in many areas, yet struggle mightily in others. It can make purchasing curriculum interesting! No purchasing a boxed curriculum for a child that reads at a 3rd grade level, does math at a 1st grade level, and works through science concepts at a 5th grade level.
Adjust Curriculum to Fit Needs
The biggest tip to homeschooling effectively is to know a child’s learning strengths and weaknesses and adjust curriculum accordingly. Easier said than done, but I would argue most parents know their children more than they even realize. I think that’s why as homeschoolers we tend to change and/or modify curriculum frequently. We read a description online, product sounds like a perfect fit but until we are actually using it with our quirky child we just don’t know for sure.
It’s very difficult to set a workbook in front of a child that reads slowly and writes even more slowly and expect he or she to be jumping for joy over learning. It’s not going to happen. This is also a time that “keep your eyes on your own work” comes even more into play. Comparison really IS the thief of joy. Don’t even go there!
Homeschooling quirky learners often means slow progress. Like life, homeschooling is a marathon not a sprint. The goodness comes from getting up each day, meeting the challenge and not being discouraged by the day to day gunk and to keep the big picture at the forefront.