This special needs blog series, generated by arguments against statements made by Angie Delaney in her paper “Perspectives of Parents of Students With Disabilities Towards Public and Homeschool Learning Environments,” set out to disprove some of the biggest arguments held by the public educational system toward the practice of special needs home schooling. In this final post for this series, I want to start by sharing how delightful it has been to encourage and provide factual information as a way to help special needs parents stand up against the most common arguments that often times hold them back from following their hearts to home school their special needs children.
Does Home Schooling Provide for Future Independence?
As a fitting end to this series, we will address the final stage of home schooling–finishing well in the high school years. Although Ms. Delaney in her paper does not focus her discussion on this phase of home schooling, as her study was primarily focused on why parents choose to home school, and thus most of her study subjects had younger children, she does state the following about her perception that special needs home schooling parents could very likely lose track of their educational goals for their child because of their fixation on their choice.
“ . . . by homeschooling, parents may not produce the ultimate impact on their children that the parents are intending. Depending on their reasons for homeschooling, such as control over the environment . . . the outcome of that environment will not influence their child’s behavior. Parents can make the choice to homeschool, but all they will get from a child’s behavior is ‘information,’ which may be a sacrifice if learning is not the primary goal of parents homeschooling” (page 17).
This quote by Ms. Delaney contradicts my daily experience in consulting with parents who home school their special needs children. Rarely do I feel the need to remind a parent that the future of their child is in their hands when they choose to take on oversight of their child’s education. Addressing the issue of diligent home schooling within the special needs home schooling community is like telling a bee it needs to collect pollen. The trials and tribulations of being special needs parents in a society filled with skeptics who are constantly questioning every move they make in trying to best raise their child, build within these parents the tenacity to research, document, and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are doing what they know to be best because of the deep concern they have about their child’s future. Consequently, the process of diligent home schooling tends to be inbred into their parenting.
In the blog I wrote last week about diligently home schooling through high school, I addressed things like transcripts and diplomas and how daunting the whole process for preparing a student for life beyond home school can seem at times. When considering home schooling a special needs child into the high school years, there are some additional things to be aware of, some unique challenges in the planning process, but many unique and wonderful opportunities to explore also.
Disability Testing Results on an IEP
First of all, if your child is to have an IEP that will carry on with him or her beyond high school, and be used as a means to show needs for accommodations and modifications on employment tests, state certification tests, or in any post-secondary educational setting, you will need to ensure that the testing and the test administrators notes that validate those needs have taken place after your child turned 13 years of age. Any testing done before the age of 13 is usually fine for use in solidifying IEP modifications and accommodations before the end of high school, but is not recognized by most testing entities upon the student’s graduation.
Once special needs children in the public school start their freshman year, a transition plan is usually built into their IEP. This plan usually contains lists of specific skills and goals for the students that will aid in their process of transitioning into adult life. Life skills, occupational skills, and educational goals are usually all part of a transition plan that takes into account possible avenues of employment or community involvement a student will have upon graduation.
Most typical high school transcripts are built with an aim to fulfill a general college admission standard and include a typical number of courses in specific areas of educational study. Many children with special needs do not plan to attend a four-year college; therefore, their transitional planning needs to be more in line with where they or their parents foresee as their next step beyond high school. Some alternatives to consider when thinking about other routes for your student to take after the completion of high school are for him or her to:
- Start a business or market a current hobby
- Enter a missionary training program
- Pursue a trade certification
- Find an artisan under whom to apprentice
- Enroll for a two-year degree at a community college that has a special needs department
- Join the military
- Get a job with the intention of learning and growing in the industry
- Take online or community adult education classes in areas of interest to learn marketable skills
- Volunteer at a church, community center, animal shelter, nursing home, or school
After considering the transition plan for your student, it is best to write out a graduation plan that documents the specific courses or milestones your student should reach upon completion of the high school career. This document can be as simple as a list or as complex as a series of IEP measurable goals; but in the end, all of the work done by your student should be documented in a high school transcript where courses are listed indicating credits and grades.
For example, say your student had the transition goal of going to culinary school upon graduation. If you were to teach your child specific cooking techniques each year of the high school career, then you could document credits for a specific course, like different bread baking techniques. To learn more about how to grade a class like this, you can reference the THSC blog entitled “How to Measure Success for Your Students.” To learn more about how to create a course for addition to a transcript, reference this THSC blog entitled How to Successfully Home School through High School.
The final step in completing your students’ home schooling career is presenting them with a high school diploma. Home schools within Texas are considered a type of private school and therefore are not required to subject their students to the state standardized mandates for high school graduation. Instead, your home school has the right to set its own high school graduation requirements, and they can be different for each of your students as you determine the most optimal graduation and transition plan for each of your children. You the parents are the ones who will issue your student’s diploma, and as a member of THSC you have the ability to use our diploma template to make a professional diploma for your student upon graduation.
While this is the end of this series, be assured there is still much more we at THSC have to share with special needs parents about home schooling and staying strong in fighting for your right to home school your child. It is our prayer that as you finish your home schooling years, you will be able to say what the apostle Paul said near the end of his race about the persistence he was able to keep in doing what the Lord had put in front of him to accomplish:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
How We Want to Help You
As you keep up the good fight in teaching your special needs child at home, we at THSC promise to keep fighting for your parental freedom to home school in Texas. May God continue to bless you in your effort and confirm your calling as you chose to teach your special needs child amidst any opposition traditional government schooling mindsets have against your freedom to do so.
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