High school, homeschool, and special needs
For those of us blessed with special learners in our homeschool families, we can take a deep breath and look back at all we have accomplished once we reach the high school years. At the same time, we are looking ahead and wondering if we have the strength to keep going, wondering what high school really looks like, and wondering what the future looks like for our special needs high school student.
You’ve made it to the high school years! You are doing great! I hope to inspire you and give you helpful tidbits to keep you going. Let me start by telling you my story.
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My first born is a deaf achondroplastic dwarf with CMV induced loss of myelin. Lots of big words there! Basically, she’s a deaf dwarf with no white matter in her brain. Deafness affected learning in every way! We tried out public and private schools her 3 and 4-year-old years, then finally settling on homeschool for kindergarten. I found the one on one attention to be much better than what the schools could provide and I could cater to her specific needs without the distraction of multiple students. We joined the military 5 years later and moving around made finding resources an added challenge, but totally doable.
My second born has ADHD and my third born ADD with a lack of vestibular sense and eye tracking issues. We tried many natural approaches to their care and education. Years later my 5th born has some processing issues that required speech therapy, but he’s functioning great today and my sixth born is a sensory seeker. I’ve experienced a wide range of different needs over the last 19 years of parenting. But I love that homeschooling allows me the opportunity to meet each child where they are at, how God made them so uniquely themselves.
I will be transparent and let you know that my deaf daughter has attended three different deaf schools. She chose to do so in order to find deaf friends and deaf mentors. But just because she was in public school, did not end my involvement in her education. She attended Colorado School for the Deaf for 5th, 6th and 8th grades. She attended Hawaii School for the Deaf for her 10th-grade year. And she attended Texas School for the Deaf her 11th and 12th-grade years. My ADHD son is graduating this year and is doing well. He is looking forward to attending Diesel Mechanics school next year. And the ADD daughter is a Junior this year, a struggling student but eager to attend an agricultural school for college.
Now that you know my resume, I hope to give you confidence in how you decide to educate your special needs high school student.
Homeschooling allows you to be flexible and creative in finding solutions that best suit your families needs. But since you have already made it to high school, I’m assuming you already know that! Don’t get scared now that you are at high school!
First recommendation is to research what high school diplomas are offered in your state. My daughter graduated from high school with a vocational diploma in the state of Texas. Her high school years, both homeschooled and public school, comprised of life skills and vocational skills. She also kept up on her math and English, but we were very focused on giving her tools she could use after high school. Her freshman year, the year we homeschooled her, she took a course on accounting, spent loads of time training her horse and then showing, copying and reading her Bible for English and studied Creation Science. It fit her needs and our family had the resources available to us that year. When she transferred to public school all these courses counted and her horse work went down as her PE credit.
For my son, he is a year behind age-wise because of repeating the 3rd grade, but again – homeschool flexibility! His high school years have been small engines, poultry, grade level language arts, standard math, and basic science. Nothing too academically wow-ing, but he’s getting a good, rounded education.
This flexibility is amazing and a gift to your child! Run with it!
4-Year Plans and Credits
The scariest thing about high school is creating a 4-year plan and counting credits. And don’t be scared about credits. Visit Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) for information on your state’s requirements and how to determine credits.
We create a 4-year plan the freshman year and then re-visit it at the beginning of each school year. Include your student in this process, it’s putting their goals on paper. Let them dream of all the things they want to do and then find resources to reach those goals. This is also a time of some hard reality. In 2014 I wrote an article for a national deaf educator’s magazine titled “High Expectations means Never say ‘Never’,” which summed up how we raised our deaf daughter with an amazing can-do attitude. At the same time we have to be honest and real with our soon-to-be-adult special needs teens. These are the years that we hone in on their awesomeness and face their challenges with reality.
For example, my deaf daughter had to take the fact that her reading ability hadn’t improved in five years and figure out how she was going to get around that. She understood that a 4-year degree wasn’t in her future, but knew she could complete continuing education at the local college. She graduated high school with a floral design certificate from Austin Community College.
We are so blessed with an overwhelming amount of resources at our fingertips! I love to research, but not everyone enjoys the digging process. I’m not going to go into therapy resources, as I’m sure you have a handle on that at this point in your homeschooling journey. I do want to focus in on some amazing curriculum available, but mostly I am just going to talk about how to adapt curriculum to meet high school credits here. If you need help and want specific information on curriculum for your child, feel free to take advantage of my free curriculum planning service.
I do want to mention 4-H as a great resource for teaching vocational skills. Use their curriculum and record hours spent on each project to determine credits earned. But generally, one 4-H book is a half credit. My children have had many opportunities for public speaking, teamwork, community service, not to mention all the incredible projects. Check it out! Another worthy resource is Schoolhouse Teachers. With your membership you get access to amazing courses for all grade levels and all subjects. It’s worth it.
I’m going to use my third born as an example this time. She was really struggling with a textbook history course. She could read it, but there was little comprehension happening. The boxed curriculum is a full year credit, but it wasn’t going to work for her. Instead of pushing her through it, I pulled it. I grabbed a middle school history and embellished it with more hands-on activities. I found living history books to add depth. Yes, I had to count hours and make sure she was getting a full credit, but she was retaining the information.
I know your child is unique and different than mine. I want you to walk away from this article with this:
- Don’t be scared of high school credits.
- Create that 4-year plan so you have an end goal in mind.
- Find opportunities for your child to go and do, things that line up with their dreams.
- And think creatively when choosing curriculum, it doesn’t have to be high school boxed sets. 😉
Stay tuned for a giveaway I’m sponsoring in tomorrow’s post out what happens after high school!
More about Felicia Johnson
I’m Felicia. Daughter, wife and mama. I’ve been homeschooling now for 16 years! I have eight kiddos ranging from infant to 19 years old. Every child is unique and special, just the way God made them. I just happened to be blessed with a deaf child, a couple ADD kids, a sensory kiddo and four more incredibly unique individuals. Come visit me over at www.teachingmyzoo.com.
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