Home Educating a Child with a visual impairment

I’ll never forget the look on our daughter’s face the day we told her she did not have to go to school anymore. At first she didn’t believe us – then she cried with joy, I cried with relief, and her Dad dutifully fetched the tissues. That was almost three years ago now and our lives have changed beyond belief.

Our beautiful daughter had been diagnosed as severely partially sighted at six months of age, and we had done everything possible from that moment on to help her lead a ‘normal’ life. She went to a ‘normal’ school and had extra help with classroom and other activities, but the school system failed to encourage and nurture the full potential of our child, instead she was bullied because of the way she looked. Our daughter who once sang out loud no matter where she was or who was listening had become silent and withdrawn. As parents we were desperate to help but didn’t know there was another option to school. The day we found out about home education was like a new beginning.

In September 2001 the new term started and we began our new life. At first it was difficult – I had done lots of research and bought lots of books, I knew in my heart that home education was the right thing to do, but because I was such a ‘schooled’ person it was difficult to let go of that, so I made up a timetable of ‘studies’ and we began. However, it didn’t take long before I realised that E certainly wasn’t enjoying this and to be honest neither was I. I began to recall hours of sitting in class daydreaming because I didn’t like the subject being taught, besides – if she wanted formal lessons we could have tried another school. After that we decided to take a more autonomous approach.

So, a couple of weeks into autonomous education and the difference it made was incredible. It was then the questions started, at all times of the day – and night, and E had begun to take an interest in everything. The sparkle came back into her eyes and then, one day, she started singing again – we finally had our daughter back.

Our days are filled with doing whatever comes along. We don’t do any formal work because we work on whatever E wants to do. She loves animals so we can incorporate maths (How much would the animal cost to buy, how much per month would it cost us to feed etc), English (discussion, spelling etc), geography (where do they come from and what is the terrain like), I.T. using the Internet to find out as much as we can about the animal etc, all this and more from just one thing that she was interested in.

Because E is visually impaired writing is uncomfortable for her so she has learned to touch type using a great children’s cd-rom, yet if she were at school she wouldn’t be learning this for another 4/5 years!!! Our computer has been one of our best resources as the disability settings on it make it large enough for E to read comfortably, this helps us enormously as E doesn’t do much reading because it causes too much discomfort (even with magnifiers), we also have a subscription to talking books which have everything from stories to factual tapes.

E is very creative and is always designing; she also goes to a riding for the disabled class and has piano, guitar (and shortly) violin lessons – all her own choice. These are things she would not be fully able to do if she was at school because visually impaired children can become more tired than their peers, and in E’s case she was too tired to do enjoy after school activities – now it doesn’t matter, and her music tutors think this is great because their busiest time is after school!!! E is composing her own music and writing songs and her confidence is soaring.

I have no formal qualifications to teach whatsoever, but I didn’t need qualifications to help her learn to walk, talk, and learn about life. There is a huge amount of knowledge out there in the world and as I get older the more I realise that experience and learning about who you really are and not having to ‘fit in’ to please others is one of the best pieces of knowledge one can have.

We now have a funny, spirited child who is learning at a pace we cannot believe – and she is setting the pace – not us.

So for us home education has been, and still is, a wonderful journey of discovery. If at any point in the future E decides she would like to go back to school then that is fine, but for the moment she says she is quite happy and has no plans to return.


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