Dispelling common misconceptions about homeschooling

Considering all options as we decide on the best path for our daughter

Richard E. Poulin III avatar

by Richard E. Poulin III |

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A supportive and loving community has sprung up around my daughter, Rylae-Ann. She says hello to everyone she meets on her way to school and makes it home without incident, all the while grinning and preparing to tell her tale when I return home from work. What else could I possibly desire?

Still, my wife, Judy, and I have been doing more reflecting. Our daughter attends an amazing private school in Bangkok, Thailand. Fortunately, the tuition is at a discount since Judy works there, but we’ve been crunching numbers and debating the following question: Would moving Rylae-Ann to a homeschooling environment result in greater progress and success?

Before answering this question, we had to dispel a few of the common myths and misconceptions many parents harbor about homeschooling.

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Myth: Parents aren’t qualified to teach their child

A young girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old, sits at a table and colors in a worksheet. The assignment shows pictures of six objects and asks the child to select which letter the object starts with. The girl has circled several letters and colored in a few of the objects, and appears very focused on her work.

Rylae-Ann made significant progress while learning at home with her parents. (Photo by Richard E. Poulin III)

Judy is a certified special needs and elementary teacher. But a parent doesn’t need these qualifications to be an excellent teacher. Though it helps to be an experienced professional, not having a background in this profession doesn’t rule you out as a potential educator.

Like many parents, we’ve been teaching Rylae-Ann since the day she was born. On the other hand, we encountered new difficulties for which we were unprepared. Rylae-Ann was born with a rare disease known as aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency. The devastating symptoms included low muscle tone, difficulty swallowing, and an inability to speak.

Despite having zero background in this rare disease, we were able to assist our daughter in learning and accomplishing developmental milestones. We even quickly learned strategies to support therapy at home. Initially, our abilities were lacking, but we picked up the concepts quickly.

Powerful learning happens when there is passion and determination. Never sell yourself short.

Myth: Socialization isn’t a benefit of homeschooling

We were most worried about this myth. After considering it closely, we realized it wasn’t the case.

Many homeschooled children have well-developed social skills. In fact, homeschooling can provide even more opportunities and a greater diversity of socialization. If we homeschooled our daughter, we would plan more activities for after her lessons.

Rylae-Ann could still go to the playground, attend events, and participate in after-school activities. Judy considered that she would give more “field trips” than a traditional school. Not only would this increase social interactions, but it would also provide real-world learning. At school, it isn’t feasible to take a large group of students on regular outings, so field trips are sparingly scheduled throughout the academic year.

At school, I often see children hanging out with the same small group of kids. Although there are many more kids at school and chances for varied social interactions, children typically gravitate toward the friends they already know and stick with them.

Myth: Homeschooled children have lower academic performance

This isn’t the case for neurotypical families, and I would argue that it’s definitely not the case for rare disease families. Judy and I are the only ones who genuinely understand our daughter. We know her limitations and weaknesses. Even when Rylae-Ann seems hesitant, we know when she’s capable of doing more, whereas a teacher may not push past her inhibitions.

Teachers have to divide their attention among the students in class. They strive to give personal attention and individualize work, but with homeschooling, this isn’t a problem.

If we chose to homeschool Rylae-Ann, we could provide her with a superior education. Even after a long day at work, Judy and I already spend time creating unique educational activities with a layer of therapy strategies. Rylae-Ann has made incredible strides because of this combination that teachers couldn’t accomplish. We wonder if the progress would be even greater if we dedicated our entire effort to her learning.

We are undecided, but the scenario we’re considering is to homeschool Rylae-Ann until she reaches high school age. At that time, we could place her back in school or continue homeschooling. Either way, there’s no discrimination against homeschooled students attending universities.

Judy was initially apprehensive about homeschooling, but it seems to be a better choice the more we consider it. Homeschooling shouldn’t be disregarded as an option by any parent who’s having trouble finding a suitable school or who’s unhappy with the education their child receives at school.

While it’s important to consider all of our alternatives, we must also avoid getting caught up in the illusion that things will get better once we cross over. By weighing all options, we can choose the path that will provide the greatest benefit to our family.

Note: AADC News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of AADC News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase deficiency.


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