We have come a long way since the days of educational segregation. However, it still goes without saying that we humans tend to shun that which is different from the norm. In relation to special needs, one need only look at our collective past and present. Then you will realize that this is all too true.
For most of the 20th century, children with special needs were separate from others. Sent away to special schools away from the rest of the student population. Parents had very little support from school districts and government officials, if any assistance at all. And so a significant percentage of our youth became increasingly more isolated. These children and their families had no welcoming place in the educational arena. Therefore, they either remained at home or sent away to group homes. With virtually no government financial assistance, parents struggled to advocate for their children.
Where were their educational resources? Sadly, it was the societal mindset at the time. Children with disabilities were considered ineducable and therefore parents were all but left on their own. As human nature seems to be, the more isolated people are, the more they are seen with feared and/or shunned and this ignorance has proven devastating.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act came into effect. Essentially mandating public schools to provide equal access to education for all children. This truly acted as the catalyst for educational reform vis à vis students with disabilities. It has since become known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA mandates all public schools in the United States to provide free, appropriate, public education to all students in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
Throughout the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and the first decade of the 21st Century, the United States has continued to make gains in the area of Special Education. This is thanks in great part to the growing number of advocacy groups bringing awareness of children with special needs to the front line and to parents who continue to strive for the well-being of their children – mind, body, and soul.
Changes, tweaks and improvements in educational reform continue in thanks in large part to these amazing individuals and groups. Many who, throughout history, have been and continue to be brave enough to step away from the crowd when they feel something is gravely out of balance and negatively impacting on the health and well-being of our youth. However, we still have a long road ahead.
Special Needs and Homeschooling
One area in particular that deserves attention and respect is the strange and mysterious world of homeschooling.
Do families really have the right to educate their own children? Do they really have the right to homeschool their children with special needs? And why would they want to if all of these strides have been made in the public school system?
The world at large is still vastly unaware of the homeschooling underworld. Families who choose to homeschool their children feel as though they are reliving the educational dark years of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
To answer the first question, Do families really have the right to educate their own children?, the answer is unequivocal, Yes. To the second question, Do they really have the right to homeschool their children with special needs?, the answer is indubitably, Yes. And finally, to the last question. Why would they want to if all of these strides have been made in the public school system? The answers vary greatly, are personal, and could be complicated or straightforward. So, although we are told time and time again not to answer a question with a question, my answer truly is, Why not?
Just like the world of public education, homeschooling has been growing by leaps and bounds. Once shunned and treated as strange and weird, it is now becoming more commonplace and accepted. Not that the vast majority of homeschooling families worry about how they fit in, per se. The homeschooling world is a mixture of individuals from free-thinkers to Christians, unschoolers and traditional homeschoolers, families who follow the Waldorf philosophy, the classical path, and even the Montessori approach, just to name a few.
In other words, the sky’s the limit when it comes to homeschooling. So why do people choose to homeschool whether or not their children have special needs? I suppose the mother of all answers, the umbrella under which all homeschooling families fall, is simply because homeschooling families feel it is the best approach to education for their children. And just as we all desire and deserve respect for the proactive decisions we make with regard to our children’s well-being – mind, body, and soul – homeschooling families are certainly no different.
So, if you have been one in the past to shun the homeschooling world and have looked upon them as different and therefore, weird, you may want to re-think your attitude, open up your mind and heart and learn about the amazing world of homeschooling!
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit