My kids have never been much for a traditional school experience and so getting them excited about school is not an easy process. Add in the autism, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADHD and you need to pull out all of the stops when it comes to how you approach education. We’ve been homeschooling since MJ, who just graduated from high school, started school. However, I don’t think these lessons are for homeschoolers only, but being solely responsible for the kids education means that we have to be in trenches. Now before I go on I want to be clear that Mrs. Superdad does the vast majority of the schooling; although I have helped over the years, my work schedule has made it difficult to be consistent. Yet, I have learned from her that certain tactics work pretty consistently regardless of the child.
- The carrot: Positive re-enforcement works much more consistently than negative in education. We want kids to love learning so we try to keep it positive. Several years ago my wife instituted the prize box. It is filled with a bunch or small/cheap items that would appeal to the kids.
- Focus on what they like: Obviously there are basic skills that every kid must learn, the 3 Rs, but the kids do better when they have a passion for what they are learning. Our kids really like to do science experiments and cook. So Mrs. Superdad tries to integrate them into the lessons whenever possible.
- Hands on: Most people learn better by doing than by listening or reading. Our kids are no exception. Over the years we have built models of the International Space Station out of 2 liter bottles, made homemade strawberry jam, built a model of the ear large enough for the kids to crawl thru, made pizza to look like several of Jupiter’s moons, and are planning to learn to pan for gold this year at the suggestion of CJ.
Ultimately it is the parents that are responsible for a child’s education, homeschooled or traditional. I know some people try to outsource that responsibility, but that is unfair to both teachers and kids. It is unreasonable to expect that a teacher with 20+ other kids in his/her class could tailor a class experience that meets every child’s individual needs. They can provide a good general education in a wide range of subjects, but rarely are able to dig into the passion of a single child. That means it is up to us. If we want our kids to be everything they can be and to be happy we need to help them explore their passions.
We may have special needs kids, but they still have abilities and passions that as parents we need to foster. We are all born with a tremendous amount creativity and curiosity yet somewhere along the way so many of us lose that wonderful gift. I believe we lose it because most of us never take the opportunity to explore our passions. Both Mrs. Superdad and I strive to do our best to insure that AC and her siblings get the best education because being successful isn’t defined by your title or the size of your salary. Being successful and happy is providing value to others and living your passion; that is what we want for our children and yours.