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Homeschooling Expert Advice from Isabel Shaw

Q: My husband and I have a dilemma. My stepson resides with us for 60 percent of each week. Unfortunately, his mother doesn't understand the importance of her son being stable through his school years and insists that she have him on Thursday and Friday as opposed to Saturday and Sunday. He is going to a school near his mother's house (by court order), but it is 50 miles from our home. Since we have him for three days of the week, he has to travel about three hours each day to and from school.

We were thinking of homeschooling him, but we're afraid he wouldn't have interaction with a group or with other children. We are becoming foster parents and his foster siblings will be in a public school local to our home.

My stepson has ADD and has a hard time paying attention -- especially in a group environment. This was one area I wanted him to be part of, so that he will learn to deal with and react to other children his age. He is extremely bored when he is home all day with no other kids.

I used to work as a special education aide and I am pretty much staying at home now. His natural mother sits at home collecting welfare, so both of us would have the time. Please let me know if you think homeschooling may be the solution to our problem.

A: There certainly is a lot going on in your household! I'll try to address each issue that you raised, but first, I'm going to assume the split-week situation has been okayed with the courts. It just seems like a difficult arrangement for any child. Have you all been to family counseling? Professional advice from a trained therapist might be very helpful to your stepson, his natural mother, and you and your husband.

You mentioned your son has ADD, and has difficulty learning in a group environment. In my experience, children who are labeled ADD appear to experience a remarkable improvement when they homeschool. Often they appear to be symptom-free by the second year. Free of distractions and a curriculum that does not support their needs, these kids often discover that they love learning -- many for the first time in their lives.

You mentioned he is bored at home all day with no friends -- any child (or adult) would certainly feel the same way. Fortunately, homeschooling isn't about staying home all day, or I never would have made it through the last 10 years! For my family, homeschooling is a way of life. By contacting homeschool support and resource groups, I've met many families who learn at home. We enjoy field trips, park days, sports, group activities, clubs, and travel opportunities, just to name a few. In fact, we are really only home one morning during the week -- and with homeschool soccer starting, that day will no longer be free. With the resources available to families today, there is no reason for any homeschooling family to be stuck in the house all day, and certainly none of the homeschoolers I've met homeschool in that manner.

Now the complicated part. Do you think the boy's natural mother has the ability to homechool? Is she willing to read about home learning, network with other homeschooling families, and help your stepson learn at home? The rewards are great, but homeschooling involves a serious commitment by a generous, loving parent. I think you would do well, but you'll have the additional burden of communicating regularly with this woman, and maybe even occasionally working together for your stepson's benefit. I certainly admire your intention to help your stepson, but I would think seriously about what this joint venture would involve. Good luck!

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Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to FamilyEducation.com, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.


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