Children with special needs learn differently. The teaching and learning method suitable for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might not work well on dyslexic children. Gifted children spend less time to understand and master a concept if compared to normal children. Children with special needs require individualized and self-paced learning method to address their unique needs. They need an advocate who understand them, believes in their ability to learn and is willing to help them fulfill their potential.(Teel, 2007) How does homeschooling able to cater each child's unique needs by allowing flexible teaching and learning method?
"Remember, there is no single answer to the question "What is an appropriate education for students with disabilities?"â€¦[because] "One does not fit all'." (Borthwick-Duffy, Palmer, & Lane, 1996)
2.1 Different learning method for children with different special needs.
Although Winston Churchill was unable to read until he reached his teenage, he knew a lot about classics and world history because he was homeschooled and his family read to him. (Suzanne, 1997)
Dyslexia is a learning disorder which affects one out of every five children in America.Â (Sally & Shaywitz,2004 ) The Free Dictionary (n.d) defines dyslexia as a condition which the patient finds difficulty in reading and spelling. They require individualized and systematic instruction to help them read and spell.
Multisensory learning method, which auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning pathways are integrated, is effective in helping dyslexic children to master reading skill by improving their memory and understanding. (Susan & Jones, n.d) However, techniques used in this learning method require longer learning period and one-to-one attention between educator and student. Techniques such as recording reading mistakes and direct instruction on mouth positions for language sounds which require individual coaching and counseling is able to be carried out in homeschooling. (International Dyslexia Association and Michael Minsky, 2007)
" I was always at the foot of the class, and had come almost to regard myself as a dunce." Thomas Edison recalled. Today, we understand that children with ADHD, just like young Thomas Edison, do not excel in academic because they need special attention and traditional teaching methods are not suitable for them. "( Teel, 2007, p.2)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another learning disorder affecting 10% to 15% of America's school-age population. (National Institutes of Health, n.d)
Smith (2007, p.207) explained that children diagnosed with ADHD are characterized by their inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Since children with ADHD are easily distracted, carefully planned and neatly organized academic lesson is used to help them to focus their attention on academic. It is essential to let the children with ADHD to know exactly what is expected of them each day and the consequences of not achieving the expectation. Educator should inform and explain to the children the lesson structure before each lesson and revision on the past lesson can be done to reinforce their memory and comprehension. In addition, instructions and plans communicated to children with ADHD should be simplified so that they are able to understand and complete them in time. Special tools such as visual aids, and banner charts are commonly used to improve their organization of everyday tasks. (Teel,2007 p.p 51-55)
The learning method used by dyslexic children differ from the learning method used by children with ADHD. Educating dyslexic children requires extra patience and attention while discipline and organization are important in teaching children with ADHD. Therefore, it can be concluded that homeschooling, which allows individualized learning method, is a better choice of education for children with special needs.
2.2 Self-paced learning
"All children have the right to learn new concepts in school every day." (Silverman,n.d)
Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan (1982) defined gifted children as children who score above the third or fourth standard deviation on IQ tests or prodigies in a certain field. Bernal (2003) stated that professionals today consent that gifted children should be given chances to access the curriculum at their own level. Most parents decide to homeschool their gifted children so that the latter will not be restrained by the slow speed of their classmate in public school. (Teel ,2007, p.48)
Gifted children need challenges to be motivated or to learn at an accelerated pace. The normal education classroom, however, is unable to provide them with such challenges, (Teel, 2007,p.48) Kanevsky & Keighlry (2003) pointed out that the uninteresting educational program in school causes gifted children unable to reach their potential and underachievement occurs. Some gifted children dropped out form school (Marland,1972), became juvenile delinquent (Seeley & Mahoney, 1981), suffered from depression (Kerr, 1991) and even commit suicide (Delisie,1990) .
Homeschooling has made self-paced learning practical. Some gifted children have uneven or asynchronous development.(Rivero, 2003) A four-grader may find college level's Mathematics easy but struggle to understand his or her own grade's Geography syllabus. Homeschooling allows parents to design a tailor-made curriculum based on the children's intellectual progress . (Rivero, 2003) Individualized curriculum encourages gifted children to excel at their own pace without losing confidence in their ability.
" When my son understands something, we move forward; when he doesn't, we remain at the point in the lesson until he does. I don't feel that he has to remain on the same rigid timetable as the public school." a mother explained. (Teel, 2007, p.48)
Some gifted children are prodigies in certain domain such as music or writing. Homeschooling allows them to design a individualized schedule that enables them to pursue their interest without affecting their academic performance. They may want to spend more time on their interest while progress slower in academic subjects. Christopher Paolini, a young genius novel writer who was homeschooled, was able to continue his academic lesson at home without affecting his writing schedule. (Smith, 2007, p.495) Therefore, it is obvious that homeschooling which allows self-paced learning is a better choice of education for children with special needs.
Public schools provide special education services.
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) was introduced under Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA'04). IEPs provides special education to each student ages between 3 to 21 who is diagnosed with a disability. Supportive services such as therapies and assistive technologies are provided in IEPs. This special education program is carried out in public schools.(Smith, 2007, pp. 25-30)
It is true that IEPs do bring benefit to children with special needs. However, IEPs is not feasible for every child with special needs. IEPs aim at providing least restrictive environment (LRE), an environment where children with disabilities learns together with the nondisabled students. (Smith, 2007, p.30) Unfortunately, LRE is unsuitable for children diagnosed with ADHD as these children require one-to-one attention and a learning environment with minimum distraction which are unable to be achieved in public schools. Furthermore, not all public schools provide IEPs. Thus, it will become a burden of travel for families who live in rural areas away from the public school which has IEPs and learning centre for children with special needs. (International Dyslexia Association and Michael Minsky, 2007) Since giftedness is not included in 13 disability categories under IDEA, gifted children are not eligible for IEPs in most of the states.( U.S.Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programme, 2006) Therefore, homeschooling is the only alternative of education for most gifted children.
Furthermore, IEPs is not always successful in educating children with special needs. According to the research study ""A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Special Education Services" by Paul, Morgan, Michelle, Farkas and Hibel, children who receive special education services in public schools did not show greater reading skills in 2004 when compared to closely matched peers who did not receive these service. These children who received special education did not show improvement in academic but were lagged behind their peers. (Hansen, 2010) Homeschooling, on the contrary, has shown better achievement of students. Homeschooled students score better in standardized achievement tests than the general population. (National Home Education Research Institute, 1997) Galloway (1995) also pointed that homeschooled students show higher achievement in ACT English subject scores when compared to conventional schools' students.
In conclusion, homeschooling will benefit children with special needs and thus is a better choice of education for them.