by Marian Soderholm
2014 Speaker at CHEA’s Annual Convention
Many years back, Erna would come by with a loaf of bread, leave it on the porch, and cross back over to her side of the street, where she had lived as our neighbor for more than 17 years. Why was this significant? Because God used her to help provide food for our family as we weathered a tough time with my husband losing his job. Her weekly food gifts continued to remind me of His faithfulness during some very difficult and uncertain times.
Over the past 15 years that I have been working with the homeschooling community as a resource and learning disabilities specialist, I have seen repeated evidence of God’s faithfulness in the lives of families teaching children with different types of learning issues. I have been impressed with the efforts that many parents will make to help their students succeed. Having spent many years learning how to work with my own brain wiring, as well as my children’s, I know how much effort and research a parent must put into seeing the results they hope for.
To provide the best educational opportunities they can, parents will put forth great effort, often working long hours in their homeschooling days as they help their student grasp concepts and retain information, two things vital to the learning process. There is also the sacrifice of time involved as parents become adept at being their child’s advocate, in seeking appropriate assessments, and curriculum best suited to their particular type of processing and learning strengths and weaknesses.
I often get asked the question, “Is it better to homeschool a child with learning issues or should they go into a classroom situation?” My heartfelt answer is that it is FAR BETTER for that child to be taught in their home setting by loving, proactive parents, who will go the extra mile because of personal involvement. I think it is wise for parents to seek outside services, when necessary, such as sensory-integration therapy, visual/auditory processing therapies, and language remediation for Dyslexia etc. However, I feel that the everyday give and take of working through the learning process, identifying glitches, and teaching that child to work with his or her own style is much better served in the home.
At home there is time for repetition and strengthening of skills without the pressure of conforming to one schedule or set way of learning. There is also time for prayer, essential to this very special task. It is important to teach our children good, solid academic skills, but even more critical are the character qualities necessary to deal with living purposeful and productive lives in God’s kingdom, believing they are made in the image of God, and He has a plan for each of us and with His help we can live up to that potential He has given us.
The beauty of homeschooling a student with learning issues or specific needs such as Dyslexia or Dysgraphia, etc. is that the student gets to go at his or her own pace. There are more opportunities for daily one-on-one learning that can incorporate good teaching techniques such as matching visual aids to verbal content, a great way to teach a child having trouble with learning to spell, or mastering subject content. An example would be imaging, a technique which involves the parent spelling the word in the air, and having the student copy the air spelling, both forwards and backwards. The act of doing this helps retain the letters better, strengthening their visual memory. Moving their finger gives them the “feel” of the letters and the sounds they must make to match each letter, an essential part of language processing which involves the auditory and visual memory.
Children with ADHD, Aspergers, or Autism Spectrum issues benefit greatly from a one-on-one learning environment, especially accompanied by multisensory teaching techniques and a staggered subject schedule. Also, students with this wiring like to have ways in which they can master the stimulus in their environment and control input which would help them handle their sensory overload. They often need auditory help as they do not automatically sequence directions verbally, nor do they perceptually get what they are seeing 100% of the time.
The Lord knows what our children need and will be faithful to help us to get where we need to go. He will also encourage us all along the journey as He is faithful in rewarding our efforts to raise our children up in the nurture and admonition of Him. Homeschooling is a unique opportunity to create an academically rich and spiritually rewarding place for our families to grow into who they were meant to be by God, not by man.
I am not a fan of labels or pigeonholing children into any one box, as someone born with ADHD and Aspergers. I have learned by trail and error, God’s guidance, and much reworking of my goals and steps to achieve them and I have been successful often as a result of doing so. No one has the right to tell you or our children that they have to be a certain way. Only God defines who we are, and He is the God of all hope.
Copyright 2001. Used by permission of the author. Adapted from an article that first appeared in the California Parent Educator magazine, February/March 2001.
Photo by Mateusz Stachowski. Copyright 2009. Used by permission.
Marian S. Soderholm is a trained LD Specialist, former college professor, family therapist and veteran homeschooling mom. Marian has been assessing students since 1999. In a personalized friendly setting, she identifies learning strengths, sensory processing issues, grade levels, IQ scores, and helps develop an educational plan suited to achieving each student’s God given potential.