Recent statistics show that homeschooling was growing by 2-8% annually. However, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, in the spring of 2021, there were over 5 million students being homeschooled. This, partially caused by the pandemic, has more than doubled since 2019.
My family began homeschooling in 2016 simply because of the timing of our move; we moved in May and did not want to register our children in a new school for a measly 4 weeks. However, we quickly fell in love with the freedoms and flexibility of homeschooling. Now, 5 years later, I can truly say that this unexpected journey has been my greatest accomplishment both professionally and personally.
Personally, homeschooling allowed me to focus specifically on what my children need and want to do, the true definition of occupation. We catered our day around my children’s interests as well as focus on adaptations for my middle son. In January 2019, my then 7 year old was extremely frustrated with reading. He would listen to an audiobook and could narrate the stories back yet hated reading even the simplest books. Since he was born at 36 weeks, I knew he may take a longer time for this skill to develop, but he was getting so frustrated and the inability to read was carrying over into other subjects. We started with our local optometrist to evaluate acuity and he did need glasses. But, in my heart of hearts, I knew this wasn't the solution. He would ask me, "Mom, how do you read when the words move on the page?" uummmm they don't--
Our next step was the developmental ophthalmologist. She did testing and confirmed my suspicions. His eye musculature was immature and his eyes were not teaming together. As a result, he could not converge (turning the two eyes toward each other to maintain single vision when looking at a close object), he had poor saccades (rapid eye movement when the eyes move together from one location to another like looking from one work or group of words when reading), and as a result had poor binocular fusion(the brain's ability to gather information from both eyes and place it into one single image). No wonder he hated reading! Fortunately, we were able to focus specifically on the skills he needed throughout our homeschool day. This, building the motor the motor and process skills needed to engage in the necessary occupation is occupational therapy at its finest.
In addition to addressing the skills, we were able to make changes to the actual occupation of handwriting. We changed our handwriting curriculum to Handwriting Without Tears. We backtracked to handwriting utilizing the slate to give him the visual and tactile cues of where each letter began. He also benefitted from using two lined paper to reduce visual overstimulation. A short 3 months later, we began using cursive only to allow him to flow his letters rather than the quick stop and start with printing.
In addition to the tremendous personal journey, professionally, homeschooling has led to a new career path for me. In April 2019, I attended a Handwriting Without Tears workshop. While there, the instructor suggested I combine my background as an occupational therapist with my passion for homeschooling to influence the greater homeschooling community. I did miss helping others and a part of me always knew that I wanted to resume my career in some capacity. Collins Academy Therapy Services allows me to consult with families across the nation to form plans so homeschools can influence success in what their specific children want and need to do. The ultimate goal is to ensure all 2.5 million students choosing this path for education have the opportunity to thrive in the homeschooling world.
If your homeschool would benefit from recommendations to influence success in what your children need or want to do, please consider a consultation with Collins Academy Therapy Services. You can begin the process here.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework (4th ed.). American Occupational Therapy. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S2001
College of Optometrists in Visual Development. (2021). Vital Visual Skills. https://www.covd.org/page/Visual_Skills
Ray, B. D. (January 15, 2021). Research Facts on Homeschooling. National Home Education Research Institute. https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/