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I remember the first time I started to think that I could teach my daughter at home. We were living overseas and were going to a special needs center twice a week for an hour of play and therapy. It took an hour to get there on the bus, then another hour for the therapy, and then a third hour to ride the bus home. I began to think, “I need to just do this at home.”
As I began this, I went for guidance to my shelf of books about Down Syndrome. I began to understand how to teach and help her develop the skills she needed. We did lots of flash cards to help develop her cognitive skills.
I had to remember that my daughter was unique. I could not compare her to her cousins her age, or even to other Down Syndrome children. We worked at her pace and with her abilities.
My daughter was born in Taiwan, which is a whole story in itself. When I began homeschooling preschool, we were still living there, and of course that impacted homeschooling. I developed learning activities with the resources available. At that time she was our only child, so I had plenty of time to work with her on developing those early skills.
Before she even came home from the hospital, I joined an online group for homeschooling Down Syndrome kids. At the time I wasn’t homeschooling, but they were a welcoming group and gave encouragement along the way. I picked up on all kinds of tips, like the best curricula to try. This group helped me a lot, especially in those early years.
I have found that I have to look for ways to adapt things. I learned that markers are easier to use then pencils. Markers do not require as much pressure. The math program used linking cubes, but the fine motor skills required to link those cubes detracted from the math lesson. I discovered magnetic marbles that worked just as well. I often needed to adapt, removing unnecessary obstacles so that we could focus on our learning objectives.
We moved back to the US when my daughter was four and went to a preschool program for a year so she could get therapyWhen it was time to transition to kindergarten, I discovered that they were going to put her in a life skills class, which would have underestimated her learning potential. I decided it was time to bring her home. I wrote the goals for that first year. We met some of those goals, and some of those goals we are still working towards. It is slow going at times.
How to handle therapy has always been a question. After she was born, I knew we needed therapy, but I did not know how to get the therapy she needed in Taiwan. God provided a PT at the hospital where she was born. The PT saw that my daughter could achieve her milestones, and would push to get her to the next goal. When we later moved to Hong Kong, God provided an American speech therapist in our community. After returning to the US she received therapy through the school system for a year, and then we transitioned to a local children’s therapy center. Now that we are preparing to move overseas again, I am once again doing the therapy myself.
At times it is hard work to homeschool my daughter, and yet it is rewarding. To listen to her recite the timeline that she learned in Classical Conversations is amazing. She has learned so much more than she would have learned in the life skills class in the public school.
I am thankful for the opportunity to teach her at home.
Beth is a missionary spouse who learned how to homeschool while living in Asia. Her two children, ages 8 and 12, were both born overseas. The youngest has Down Syndrome; the oldest was adopted from Ukraine. Their different needs and maturity levels make for an interesting school experience! Beth has found ways that these very different children can learn together, using a classical approach that allows for some of the curriculum to be shared. Beth enjoys coffee, sews and scrapbooks in her spare time, and reads avidly on her Kindle. Her homeschool journey is a regular feature on her blog: As He Leads is Joy.
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