Homeschooling the Deaf or
Hard of Hearing Child
When I started homeschooling my deaf son six years ago, I didn’t do it because he was deaf. My reasons were based on our religious and academic goals, as well as to provide him with positive social environments. However, as we have continued through the years, I have come to realize the added bonus we have achieved in dealing with his hearing loss as well. The nature of homeschooling is very conducive to teaching a child with hearing loss, or nearly any special needs situation, for the same reason it is very conducive to the needs of any other child. Education at home can be adapted to fit the unique needs, interests, abilities, learning style, and attention span of the child.
Home educating has been around in various forms for millennia, and is regaining popularity in recent times. Most people now know someone who homeschools. People often have preconceived ideas of what homeschooling is or is not. Methods vary almost as much as the families who participate. People from all walks of life educate children at home and for a wide variety of reasons. You may be surprised at the way it could “fit” the circumstances of your family. It may not be the choice that is right for your family at this time, or it may be just the solution you’ve been looking for. Perhaps it would be a good choice for a limited season in your child’s life. Either way, it is good to be aware of your options.
Reasons to consider homeschooling your deaf or hard of hearing child…
- You know the needs of your child better than anyone else!
- If you are tired of fighting “the system”, you can utilize the public or private services you need without having to buy into the whole deal.
- If qualified public services are not available in your area.
- If the length of commute to and from school is excessive.
- If there are poor acoustics in the classroom. At home you can take advantage of the “Close and Quiet” learning environment – close proximity to the speaker with a quiet background.
- If large class sizes with minimal individual attention is a problem.
- If your child is academically delayed due to hearing loss and is suffering socially/emotionally as he tries to keep up.
- If your child is suffering from problems with peers: teasing, missing out on communication, or not having the availability of friends with hearing loss. By homeschooling, you have more flexibility to choose beneficial opportunities for peer interactions.
- If you are spending more time than you desire volunteering in the classroom, meeting with teachers and administrators, and preparing Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s).
- If the high costs of private programs are burdensome. Homeschooling is less expensive than private school programs.
- If you want to be able to make sure your child’s hearing device is functioning properly and being worn all day.
- If you want your child to be receiving speech and language assistance in their modality throughout their educational day, not just at scheduled times with the school speech or language therapist.
Reasons to consider homeschooling ANY child…
- You want to grow their self-concept in a safe and loving environment so that they are well established before meeting the social hardships of life. It’s the “greenhouse concept”. You protect a young plant and let it grow roots before you expose it to the harsh weather.
- You want to offer them a wider range of experiences and ways of learning than a traditional school can provide.
- You want to include them in more of your daily activities, providing them more opportunities in the community with a variety of people of different ages.
- You want them to progress as their abilities and interests lead them, instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all education model.
- You want them to have more individualized instruction with a much smaller class size.
You want to be the one to witness your child’s milestones as they happen, instead of hearing about them (or not) later on.
- You want to be the one providing wisdom and walking with them through the difficulties and challenges they face as they happen.
- You want to have more control over what your child is taught, and by whom, concerning the social engineering issues of the day.
- You want your child to have more of an opportunity for very close relationships with his siblings and with you.
- You want to utilize their time better for outside interests and opportunities. The same subjects can be covered in far less time at home than at school by avoiding the waiting in line, waiting for the bus, and busy work that make up an average mainstream school day.
Home Education Q&A
Q: Is it legal?
A: Yes, in all 50 states. Each state has its own regulations, so check them out first. Standardized testing is available from public and private sources, and in some states testing is required. So you can track your child’s progress against state and national statistics. Also, it is relatively easy to transfer in or out of the public school system. So you are free to teach your child at home for one year, all the way through high school, or any combination in between. As the needs of your child change, you can re-evaluate and change placement if necessary. Specific regulations for homeschooling in all 50 states can be found at the National Home Education Network at http://www.nhen.org/leginfo/state_list.asp.
Q: Am I qualified?
A: Yes, in most states, being a certified teacher is not required. Think of all the things you have already taught your child before they reach “school age”. You are arguably the most qualified person to teach your child. You know their skills, their limitations, their temperaments, and the accommodations they need with their hearing loss better than anyone else. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are co-ops, where parents swap teaching with other parents on certain subjects. There are small, in-home classes available for a variety of subjects. There are support groups that organize field trips and share resources.
Q: What about socialization?
A: Usually this question has to do with a fear that the child will be isolated from society and their peers. Instead, homeschooling provides the flexibility to allow for more time for meaningful interaction with friends and neighbors, running errands with the family, volunteering with the elderly, or whatever other activities are important to your family. You can provide a variety of positive peer or age-integrated social experiences, while protecting your child from much (not all) of the well-known cruelties of childhood. Homeschooled children are free to participate in the same community sports, scouts, clubs, church organizations or the like, that other kids enjoy. Homeschool support groups often organize activities specifically to get kids together. For a spectacular and humorous commentary on the subject of socialization written by a homeschool mom go to http://www.tnhomeed.com/LRSocial.html.
Q: Are there resources to help me?
A: ABSOLUTELY! Everything from guidelines for yearly academic progress to family support groups; from online classes to complete boxed curriculums are available. There are websites, associations, curriculum fairs, books and DVD’s that cover what to do and how to do it, and some that practically do it all for you. Many private schools, and even some public schools, have programs that offer oversight, curriculum, and accountability for your home program. Or you can just pick and choose the subjects and resources ala carte. For specific resources for homeschooling a deaf or hard-of-hearing child, check out http://www.deafhomeschool.com. The originator of this unique website, Barbara Handley, once wrote an article for The Communicator entitled, “Another Path: A Resource for Homeschooling Your Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child”. It can be accessed at http://www.handsandvoices.org/articles/education/ed/hm_school.html.
Q: Will my child be able to go to college?
A: Yes, on average homeschooled children routinely perform academically above their regularly schooled peers. For 10 years now, as long as it’s been tracked, home educated students outscored the national average on the ACT test. Most colleges accept a homeschool diploma and transcript. Many colleges and branches of the military are actually recruiting homeschooled students. Your child can begin college level work as soon as they are ready for it, not just once they graduate from high school. Community colleges and online correspondence courses are available for high school students that want to get a jump on some college credits.
Q: How will my child fare as an adult?
A: A recent study of adults who were homeschooled has found that on average they are more likely to be involved in their community, involved politically, and are more successful and stable in life than the US adult population at large. See the study at http://www.hslda.org/research/ray2003/default.asp
For our family, home education has meant more quality AND quantity time together. I love to learn right along with the kids. My deaf son, now 10 years old, is very comfortable with who he is and enjoys interacting with people of all ages. He confidently demonstrates his cochlear implants and explains how they work to anyone who asks him about them in public. He is excelling academically and loves to learn. I’ve been able to focus my efforts toward him and his education rather than fighting the system. Not that fighting the system is bad. I do that now as a member of Hands & Voices, but I don’t have the pressure of having to do it for my son’s academic survival. We have a flexible routine that fits my husband’s unusual work schedule. Rather than lacking social involvement, we have to work to keep from being overcommitted with outside activities. We have a routine and discipline, yet we also get to read history snuggling on the couch (yes, occasionally in our pajamas). I love the freedom of taking family vacations in the off-season. I love seeing my older kids excited to help teach the younger ones. My deaf son is actually giving beginning piano lessons to his younger (hearing) sister. I don’t begrudge the time I spend when I see the results!
Just as with our communication methodologies, we make our education choices based on what is right for our own families at any given time. It’s great to have choices! And, as we know at Hands & Voices, “What works for your child is what makes the choice right”!