Love it or not, the back-to-school season is upon us. Students across the world have either gone back to school or are expecting to go back soon – whether that’s in schools, or at home.
Due to certain circumstances, we’re forecasting record-breaking numbers of kids who will homeschool, or study remotely at home.
In this article, we’ll dive into the topics of homeschooling, as well as virtual learning, as options for kids with sensory challenges. Advantages and disadvantages, tips and tricks to get through it- you’ll find all that, and more.
Let’s get into it!
Homeschooling vs Virtual Learning
First and foremost, let’s clear up the confusion around these two terms.
Many people get confused and use these terms interchangeably, which is a mistake. This is an understandable confusion, though- both offer students a flexible learning mode and allow them to study in the comfort of their homes.
However, there’s one major difference between the two.
In homeschooling, you- as a parent- serve as the teacher by planning and building your own curriculum.
Meanwhile, in virtual learning, parents use an established curriculum and serve as learning coaches alongside hired teachers.
In both cases, parents play a huge role in the learning process.
Your Role As A Parent
Before the school year begins, a homeschooling parent builds a curriculum suitable for their child.
You can purchase a predetermined guideline online to make it easier to meet the state-required benchmarks in learning. However, some use their flexibility and freedom to structure the year’s learning materials according to their own kid’s needs and learning style.
In a home school setting, all facilitation and assessment are managed by the parent. You won’t have access to resources or support from your local school board, unfortunately. However, you do have the flexibility of building a curriculum style and learning environment that suits the unique needs and preferences of your kid.
Advantages For Kids With Sensory Challenges
1. Individualized Focus – Homeschooling empowers you to focus the teaching strategy on your child’s strengths, preferences, and interests. With homeschooling, you can choose the curriculum, follow your own child’s pace, and discover the best ways to help their child grasp and retain new knowledge.
2. Flexible Scheduling – While neurodiverse children often benefit from routine, there is something to be said for the advantage of schedule flexibility. As a homeschooling parent, it allows freedom to take breaks as needed and adjust the plan whenever your child feels off.
3. Positive Social Experiences – Bullying is one of the biggest fears of parents, especially parents of kids on the spectrum, or who struggle with sensory challenges. Homeschooling removes these worries by giving the parent control over the child’s social interaction – at least in the early years. These positive social experiences help make sure your kid grows up confident, and with high self-esteem.
4. Decreased Anxiety – Children with sensory challenges may find it difficult to learn in a traditional school setting. The crowds, sights, sounds, and chaos can be overwhelming and disorienting. With homeschooling, you can create a peaceful and nurturing space conducive for your child’s learning.
Disadvantages For Kids With Sensory Challenges
1. Lack of Daily Structure – As much as the parent tries to create routine and structure, the predictability at home may not be the same as in the traditional set-up. Children with sensory challenges may prefer a level of structure beyond what homeschooling can provide.
2. Lack of School Professionals – Depending on where you live, getting access to educators, therapists, psychologists, and other professionals may be quite a challenge when schools close. Check to see what services your state can provide to help you!
Tips for Homeschooling Your Child
1. Stick to a Routine – You should create a daily routine and post it somewhere the child can see. This helps them feel that comforting, predictable flow of a school day. Routine and discipline are important for all kids- and routine is even more important, in particular, for neurodiverse kids.
2. Adapt to Your Child’s Needs– As you know, asking your child to sit still and focus on learning can be a bit of a challenge. Take some time to experiment, and find a teaching style and classroom environment that suits your kiddo perfectly.
3. Create Sensory Centers – Whether your kid is more of a sensory seeker or sensory avoider, you can create a fun play area or relaxation zone to relieve sensory stress through the integration of various sensations. What should you put in this zone? Depends on what your kid needs, in terms of sensation- yoga balls, play-dough, musical instruments, and any sensory solutions you may have gotten from us.
4. Remove Distractions – Since stimuli are a concern for children with sensory challenges, building a homeschooling environment that promotes learning and minimizes distractions is essential. Noise-canceling gear like Earbuddies, a quiet area away from the busier parts of the home, and of course a neutral, clean, and organized workplace can help your child focus on tasks longer.
Homeschooling a child with sensory challenges is both rewarding and exhausting. At the end of the day, it comes down to making sure that your kiddo can feel comfortable where they are, and enjoy a learning environment tailored to them.
For many parents, it’s the best way to help their child learn, grow, and adapt to this overwhelming world
It will be a long and exciting journey, whether you are already on it or just starting!
No matter what, just know that there are many families in the same boat as you. Resources and support are always within your reach, and the Sensory Scout team has got your back.