Sometimes it can seem frightening to look for a support system among strangers. You may worry about how you and your special family will be accepted. Many homeschool groups don’t have special families as members, so this may be a new experience for them as well.
Read CHEA’s paper Finding a Homeschool Group, also available in An Introduction to Home Education, to get a general idea of how to choose a group for your family.
Here are some additional questions you may want to ask regarding your special needs child:
1. Is the private school satellite program (PSP) or support group willing to accept special families? Are they flexible? There are good reasons why they may not be, so don’t take this personally. It is normal for some PSPs to not accept every family that applies.
2. In the case of a PSP, is the person who keeps records familiar with special needs OR willing to work with your special situation? Do they have a system that allows your child to learn differently? How do they deal with high school? Do they have anyone who can offer help and counsel?You know more about your child’s needs than anyone else, so it isn’t necessary for the group leader or record keeper to know more than you, but it is necessary they be willing to learn and flexible to your needs. You in turn need to be responsible and not make unreasonable demands. You want a group where you can work together.
3. If there are mandatory meetings how will the group accommodate your needs if a child cannot be left with others? Do make every effort for mom and dad to attend support meetings or activities together. Your marriage and your united stance with homeschooling are important. But think this through. At least one group in the Support Network does not have meetings because the majority of their families must stay home with their child.
4. Is it possible to have a “trial period” with the group to determine how your child will interact with other children in the group? You will also want to see how other children respond to your special child.
5. What is the general group attitude toward special children? You don’t want other mothers telling you that your child is demon-possessed or imposing academic and behavior standards that are impossible for you or your child to meet. On the other hand, it will help if you are not defensive or overprotective of your child. Special children can make a difference for an entire group in a very positive way.
6. Does a PSP you’re considering require testing and are exemptions or alternatives allowed?
7. Does the time commitment involved fit your needs as a family? Involvement in a homeschool group can be beneficial to your child and your family. However, don’t feel that you have to take part in every activity or in a group at all if your family’s situation doesn’t allow it at this time.
CHEA’s Homeschool Directory lists PSPs and support groups around the state. You can look for groups that offer specific opportunities for families with special learners.