by Kathy Kuhl Review of Homeschooling When Learning Isn’t Easy, by Heather Laurie.
Are you considering homeschooling because you have several children with special needs? Are therapies and hospitalizations a regular part of your life? Do you want encouragement from a Christian mother who’s been down that road?
Meet Heather Laurie
Heather and her husband Christopher are the parents of five children. Four have autism, several have ADHD, one struggled with mental illness, and all are homeschooled. Several years ago, Heather and her children were diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, which explained the autism, seizures, strokes, and other challenges they face.
But don’t think of the labels. Think of a family of interesting people of many ages, and of children politely helping their parents’ business/ministry, traveling and seeing the country as their mother speaks.
Heather knows about managing special diets and illnesses on a tight budget, homeschooling from a hospital bed parked in their living room, and helping nurture the giftedness of children with disabilities. She tells stories from their family’s journey, including practical advice, and sharing her deep passion for homeschooling.
Heather is a leader and speaker in the homeschool community. She has spoken at homeschool conventions and support groups around the country. In November, 2015, she, Kristin Eckenwiler, and I were the speakers at NCHE’s first Summit for Teaching Exceptional Children, a special homeschool conference near Charlotte, North Carolina.
Heather has blogged for ten years, and leads a large online community, Special Needs Homeschooling, and several Facebook groups.
I have no idea how she does it all.
Highlights of Homeschooling When Learning Isn’t Easy
Heather wants to encourage you when the road is hard.
She has good suggestions on dealing with resistance from many sources. Her family has coped with school systems that took them to court on mistaken truancy charges. She gives sound advice on how to leave public school, either for an emergency situation or normally.
Heather gives good advice on meeting opposition from “Nosy Nellies,” as she calls the neighbors, relatives, and even strangers who sometimes stridently oppose to your decision to homeschool.
(Many of us have met people who think our kids would be fine if we just put them in school.)
Heather provides some good answers to them. She keep reminding us to set boundaries and limit our contact with difficult people. Like me, Heather encourages us to be civil. She is not looking for fights, but she knows that homeschooling children with significant disabilities is hard enough without battling naysayers.
She has more advice for dealing with…
“Medical Nosy Nellies”
that is, health care professionals who object to your homeschooling. (While all the medical professionals I dealt with have been respectful and encouraging, that’s not the story for everyone. I heard this many times while interviewing 64 homeschooling families for Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner.) Heather says:
The first and most important rule when dealing with therapists and other medical professional is that you are hiring them for their medical opinion. They are not in charge. They are there only so long as you find them helpful and necessary. If your child doesn’t like their therapist I can guarantee they will make less progress than if they enjoy and get along with them. If the doctor is constantly belittling or countermanding your opinion then you need to decide whether or not they are worth all that trouble. We have kicked very prominent doctors out of our medical care team because if they won’t listen to me, the patient, how will they listen to the medical team? In the end what is best for my child? (p. 77)
Heather notes that schools and medical professionals are becoming more aware of homeschooling and some support it.
Heather gives good advice on what to do if one of these “Nosy Nellies” calls Child Protective Services, and you find CPS at your door. Like me, she favors joining HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association, as soon as you prepare to homeschool and following their advice. They can be on the phone in minutes if someone comes to your door. They have helped many families in that and other challenging situations. They also have advice on homeschooling children with special needs and struggling learners. (The National Center for Life and Liberty’s Homeschool Center is another place to get help.)
Heather also gives tips on:
- homeschooling children with autism and ADHD,
- helping children with mental illness,
- teaching medically fragile children at home,
- keeping records and giving grades,
- starting a special needs homeschool support group,
- homeschooling when a parent has a chronic illness,
- homeschooling when a child or parent is dying,
- planning for the child who will not live independently as a adult.
These are sober topics, but Heather is practical and very positive. Life isn’t always sparkles and rainbows, and we parents with exceptional children know it.
I should mention that Heather Laurie is a Christian, and her book has a decidedly Christian tone. She describes how God has “uniquely blessed” her family. She often says that God can sustain his people through difficulties.
I am happy for Heather that, even while she is on hospice care, she has finished this book. It comes out August 16, but if you click here and preorder, you can save five dollars, and get the ebook version free. Congratulations, Heather!