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Diversity, Disability and Social Inclusion

The Pitch

Homeschooling involves providing education to a student at home or any other setting that is not a formal school set up. There are many reasons why parents would prefer homeschooling over mainstream schools. Taking Padma's case into consideration, she has a diagnosis of Spina Bifida, which brings with it physical as well as mental and learning limitations. Given Padma's condition, homeschooling would be the obvious choice in comparison to keeping her in a regular schooling program.

Children with disabilities not only fall behind academically due to learning difficulties, they also get excluded from social and group activities on account of being "different" from the others. In extreme cases, they even get bullied, resulting in feelings of extreme sadness which, if not kept in check could culminate into depression. Due to a lack of maturity and understanding among children in primary schools, they are not able to deal sensitively with their specially-abled peers. This lack of sensitisation causes the child with disabilities to not have friends or other social relationships, leading them to feel isolated. Adding academic troubles to this already fragile situation, makes the child feel like a complete failure and maybe the reason behind low self-esteem later.

There have been previous instances of Padma getting bullied at school. Also, she is prone to seldom bowel accidents of which she is extremely conscious about. In light of these events, homeschooling would be the best alternative for her and the ideal way to move forward.

As parents, being concerned for the child is normal. Making a switch from mainstream schools to a homeschool setting may daunting at first, but it will be beneficial in the long run. For starters, you will have full freedom to decide on the curriculum, centring it around Padma's interests and abilities. Also, the pace at which she completes the curriculum is to be decided as per her comfort levels. The curriculum, pace of instructions and aligning of schooling activities with daily routines are some of the benefits specified by the parents about homeschooling (Hurlbutt, 2011; Loten, 2011). A lot of parents have enjoyed the transition into homeschooling as they have more control over their children's education.

Since Padma already has good social support within her family as well as extended family, she will have plenty of assistance for everyday homeschooling activities. Children and parents of children who are homeschooled are said to have found support in other families with homeschooled children. Most parents reported feeling satisfied with the socialization opportunities that their children received from other homeschooling groups (Kidd & Kaczmarek, 2010). By homeschooling Padma, she is less likely to get bullied, enjoy better social relationships and friendships. Besides, she will not have to worry about bowel accidents if she is in the privacy of her own home. Many parents of disabled children have, overall, chosen to homeschool over mainstream schools, the main motivation being that they were unhappy with the way mainstream schools were not inclusive enough.

Coming to the important question, why choose Simply Homeschool? A platform such as ours is perfect for candidates like Padma. Simply Homeschool provides a host of features and services for the parents as well as the child. Here at Simply Homeschool, we provide consultations to parents that are free of cost. During the consultation, we assess Padma's abilities - both motor and mental. Based on her results, we prepare a tailor-made learning plan for her that will best cater to her needs and interests. The learning plan will be based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning, meaning it will focus on the different ways through which learning for Padma can take place, different means through which Padma can demonstrate and express what she has learnt and multiple methods of engagement which focus on her interests, thus challenging her and motivating her to be curious. She will also be assessed on her learnings.

Simply Homeschool endorses a holistic approach to learning. Padma will not only be focusing on her academics, but also other areas of interests. Learning is not limited to academics. Her non-academic interests will also be focused upon. Music, art, physical activities, talking skills and other areas will be addressed, ensuring that Padma's development is well rounded and complete.

Practical application of knowledge is something we promote here at Simply Homeschool. Padma will be taught to apply things she has learnt into her everyday life. For instance, since she has trouble with math and number concepts, we will integrate math into daily activities, like asking her to calculate the discount on something she is buying. 

Integrating difficult concepts into the daily routine will not only make it interesting, but it will also help address her issues and resistance to learning those concepts. Eventually, they will stop looking like challenges to her.

However, we will also ensure that care is taken to not overwhelm her. She will not be assigned daunting tasks or piles of homework. Strengthening certain goals and milestones will be focused upon. Big tasks will be broken down into small achievable tasks. This will help foster a sense of accomplishment in Padma as well as encourage her to keep on bettering herself.

As you have understood by now, we create specialised programs for children with disabilities. We understand how difficult it must be to be educated in s set up which does not judge everyone equally. Padma cannot be evaluated on the same parameters as other children neither is it fair to assess her abilities like others in a mainstream school. Hence, a personalised program would benefit her, by assessing her in a way where she is not at a disadvantage. She is a bright and talented child and through an individualized education plan, she will thrive and realise her maximum potential.

We also have an in-built record-keeping system which helps track each child's progress. We have monthly, quarterly as well as annual reports where a child's progress is noted through graphs, charts and reports. Recommendations are provided according to the comfort level of the child and how often do the parents want consultations for the same. There are weekly goals as well as monthly and even yearly goals which are tracked and the pace at which the child achieves them is decided by the child.

Lastly, there are residential recreational camps as well as online community groups for parents with children who are being homeschooled. It is to ensure that you do not miss out on the regular schooling experience of fostering social relationships with other children and their parents. Since everyone there is being homeschooled you may find a lot of common ground to have conversations on and this will help instil a sense of community, belongingness and help avoid isolation, all in a sensitive and inclusive environment.

Learning Reflection

Before working on this assignment, I did not have a lot of insight into the difficulties faced by children with disabilities. When I was researching and reading about the experiences of such children and their parents I felt a sense of admiration for them, for being so brave and for meeting challenges head-on. It changed my perception of homeschooling and how it can be a boon for so many students out there.

While developing the pitch, I understood the point of view of the people who work as disability officers and also the point of view of a concerned parent. As a disability officer, it takes a lot of effort and patience to talk to and convince parents of children with disabilities that your program will benefit them. Parents of children with special needs tend to be cynical, worried and sceptical because they have been made a lot of promises throughout their child's life - promises involving how a certain treatment program or drug would help their child but nothing ends up working as the condition of their child deteriorates. To convince such parents requires a lot of skill and persistence from the disability officer's end. Coming to the parents, watching your child not being able to live their lives to the fullest does bring with it feelings of helplessness and sorrow. Plus, there have been so many times when they've been let down by false claims. Trusting a new service or a product takes courage. Trying not to get your hopes too high at the same time giving it your best so that the particular program works for the child requires a lot of bravery and hope.

Working on this assignment changed my perception and has made me respect the people involved in these endeavours. It as also taught me how to research efficiently, focus on the details and keywords and work under pressure.

Learning Goals for Next Assignment

There are certain things I would like to improve upon. Firstly I would like to improve upon my time management skills. Even though I timed myself so that I could finish before time, I was not able to complete the task at the pace I was hoping.

Another thing I would want to work upon would be on my problem with procrastination. I tend to procrastinate a lot and that results in not being able to manage time and work efficiently.

The reason I would like to work upon these issues is that in future, as a professional, I will be working under pressure and will have to keep up with multiple deadlines. In such a scenario I would suffer if I don't work on my time management skills and keep my habit of procrastination under control.

Some of the ways which I can think of to tackle these problems would be to probably divide my tasks into subtasks. When I view a big task or project as a whole, it may seem overwhelming and as a result, I tend to delay working on it as the mere thought of it is exhausting. By dividing that one big task into smaller subtasks, it will help me not get overwhelmed and complete the smaller tasks quickly. Another strategy that I would like to employ is to create a timetable - allot a specific time for work and leisure and stick to it. 

References for Homeschooling Children with Disabilities

Cook, K. B., Bennett, K. E., Lane, J. D., & Mataras, T. K. (2013). Beyond the brick walls: Homeschooling students with special needs. Physical Disabilities: Education and Related Services, 32(2), 98–111. https://doi.org/10.14434/pders.v32i2.12997

Mantey, E. E. (2017). Discrimination against children with disabilities in mainstream schools in Southern Ghana: Challenges and perspectives from stakeholders. International Journal of Educational Development, 54, 18–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2017.02.001

Pivik, J., McComas, J., & Laflamme, M. (2002). Barriers and Facilitators to Inclusive Education. Exceptional Children, 69(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.1177/001440290206900107

Other Sources

Pavlides, M. (2004). Homeschooling children with disabilities: Balancing freedom and responsibility.

Npr, K. A. (2017, May 22). Homeschooling Makes Learning Personal For Some Special Education Students. KPBS Public Media. https://www.kpbs.org/news/2017/may/22/homeschooling-makes-learning-personal-for-some/

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