1. I have more patience than I thought I did.
Although I used to have quite a lot of patience, I didn’t think it would translate well into teaching my kids. I’ve been surprised to discover that when it comes to teaching them the concepts that they are struggling with, I have a lot more patience than I would have thought I did.
2. I have less patience than I thought I did.
The ironic thing is that in being with my kids so much because of the homeschooling, I have also discovered that when it comes to things such as behaviour and sibling rivalry, I have much less patience than I thought I did! My patience has a limit and this means that at times, I need to take breaks like getting out to have tea with a friend or taking a bath to refill my patience bucket.
3. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the big difference.
I used to think that it was the grand gestures and bells and whistles that made things great. With my special needs kids though, it’s really been the small things that have been the big things.
With 4 of my kids having Sensory Processing Disorder in addition to their other special needs, taking five or ten minutes a week to make a sensory bin has done more than taking hours to plan out learning strategies ever would. Starting our homeschool morning with just a five minute time of prayer and devotion changes the whole day. Throwing the housework or schoolwork aside to rock or snuggle one of the kids or to look them in the eye and really hear what they are saying is what will define the outcomes of their learning more than any book work ever could.
4. Attitude is everything.
By that, I mean that my attitude is everything. As the mom and teacher, I really do set the tone for the whole house. If I am cheerful and speak in a soft, kind voice, the kids will for the most part, mimic that in their interactions with each other. If I am frustrated and angry, the whole house erupts. In our homeschooling, if I approach problems as if they will easily be solved, the kids will try for longer, be less inclined to give up or get frustrated, and seem to get more joy out of learning. Even with this nugget of truth, my attitude is far too often not where it should be. I still have much to learn!
5. It’s not about me.
You would think that I would have learned this about myself just in being a mom, but with our two oldest kids (who are neurotypical), I did not have to change much of what came naturally for me. In homeschooling them, I could go with what was easiest and most natural for me and still have them succeed.
Now in homeschooling our younger five, four of whom have special needs, there is no doubt in my mind that it is not about me. What works for me does not make a lick of difference if it doesn’t work for them. The fact that I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, disorganized, unstructured unschooler at heart doesn’t matter because that is not what works for them. They need scheduling and planning and at least some structure. Without it, they cannot function well or succeed, so I go against what I want and do instead what they need.
6. I need to relax.
It doesn’t do me any good to worry about tomorrow or worry about the day when I will have five teenagers in the house all at the same time! I need to relax and enjoy today. I need to find joy in the little moments, the everyday banter, the discovery of frogs in the backyard, the excitement over a lost tooth. I need to find joy in the here and now instead of robbing today from my kids while I worry about tomorrow.
7. Celebrating the small steps is what makes the journey.
When parenting or homeschooling kids with special needs, the progress can be slow, discouragingly so. If I wait to celebrate the big achievements, I will be waiting a long time. Our oldest daughter was 11 by the time she was able to read for the first time and that was accomplished through a ton of work on my part, her part and with the help of tutors and programs galore. Had I waited until she was reading to take notice of her efforts, she would have missed out and I would have as well. By acknowledging the steps along the way and even in acknowledging her efforts along the way, she and I were both able to stay positive and be encouraged.
With special needs kids, the celebrations may not come in big milestones like they do with other kids. It may be in the making eye contact with a playmate, learning the sound of one letter, expressing their feelings appropriately, or going on an outing without a tantrum that the celebration can begin.
8. My best is good enough…and so is theirs.
This is one I am still working on learning. Most days, I still question if my best is good enough. Their best is all I can ask of my kids and therefore, my best is all I can give. I’m trying to come to terms with that.
9. It’s important to balance adjusting my expectations with being careful not to limit potential.
I learned pretty quickly that I needed to adjust my expectations of my kids based on their abilities, limitations, differences, talents, skills, quirks, and personalities. God made each of them unique and my job is not to turn them into little robots or clones of each other. My job isn’t to compare them to each other or place unrealistic expectations and pressure on them. My job is to facilitate their learning and development and help them to reach their fullest possible potential, whatever that potential may be.
10. My kids teach me infinitely more than I could ever teach them!
I could never in my lifetime hope to teach my kids as much as they have taught me. I have learned more from my kids, especially my kids who face challenges than I ever thought possible. They teach me every day the power of determination, motivation, optimism, and a positive attitude. My kids model the type of unrestrained faith and passion for Jesus that I hope to someday achieve. Despite many obstacles, they never give up…they are simply amazing! I want to be just like them when I grow up!