It's about time that the wider community began to acknowledge that there are three education options for all students. Public education, independent and catholic, and home education. As the numbers of home educating families continues to grow at a rapid rate, there needs to be a wider understanding of what home education really is, so that families can feel empowered to make the right educational choice for their family. For too long those who work in the field of education have assumed that they know what is best for children who in reality they know little about. This is of even greater importance to families of children with special needs.
Last night I met a mother who has just started to home educate her older children. She has a younger child who has special needs, and she has been warned off home education by therapists and teachers who work with her son. One told her that her son needs to be in school to be socialised and that he needed to learn to sit at a desk. Both are reasonable goals, however neither is exclusively the domain of a school setting! In fact socialisation is often the main factor why many families decide to home educate. Unfortunately I am confident that neither of these professionals knows the first thing about home education, and has probably never met a home educated child, or talked to parents who home educate their child with special needs.
These ignorant, biased people need to stop and consider the messages they send families who consider home educating their children. Home education is a legal and valid educational alternative which therefore needs to be respected. Parents who are considering home educating their child with special needs must be encouraged and supported as they discern what is best for their family. Home educating these children can be difficult which these parents would no doubt be aware of! After all they support then at home and are more aware then anyone else of the challenges and strengths associated with their child.
What a wonderful thing it is for a family to be prepared to commit to the time and energy sacrifices it takes to home educate a child with special needs! Such parents do not need to be viewed as either saints in training nor as simpletons who wouldn't know the first thing about education, but as parents who only want to investigate all the options before them.
My hope is that as more families decide to go down this road less travelled, more so called professionals will become aware that home educating is the best option for some families, and as a result they will encourage those families rather than glibly assume they know what is best.
I feel sorry for those families who have been dissuaded from home education when it might have been the one thing that made a significant difference for their child. What a tragedy.