Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do You Trust Your Instincts?

The biggest challenge in raising a special needs kiddo is deciding when to intervene with extra help and when to let a kid be a kid. I err (by choice) on the latter. The Boss is excellent at stepping in when a little extra help is needed. Our decisions are made with lots of discussion, prayerfully considered. I trust my wife’s instincts, which is why I agreed to her wishes over the last couple of years where our daughter’s education was concerned. The end result was that Captain Chaos spent far more time than I was comfortable with in our local elementary school. This year I decided to trust my instincts. We scaled back our time at the local school to only speech and occupational therapy. That made our daughter our third fulltime homeschooler.

I’m in my eighth year of homeschooling, but in some ways it feels like my first. Those same concerns (Can I do this?) that I experienced in my first year resurfaced when I realized that I was solely responsible for the education of my special needs daughter. I don’t usually define the Captain as “special needs.” She’s simply my daughter in the same way that my sons are my sons. She’s my child. I adore her. Where her education is concerned, there are other issues that must be addressed. Teaching her is not as easy as was teaching General Mayhem. I learned very quickly in this young school year that having three children with three distinctly different learning styles makes for quite the instructional juggling act. Of the three, the Captain needs the highest level of one-on-one instruction. Ultimately, the biggest question we had was whether or not we would be able to use the same curriculum with Captain Chaos that we used with her brothers. My gut told me the answer to that question was, “Yes.” I’m glad that I trusted my instincts.

Yesterday, Captain Chaos took her first math test. After spending the first nine days of the school year sitting by her side while she completed her math lessons, I spent most of lesson ten in another room while she completed the test on her own. We’ve suspected for a while that the Captain likes to keep her intelligence a closely guarded secret. She let that secret slip with this:

We are thrilled!

I learned two things about teaching my daughter from this test. The Captain caught her own mistake on the first tower. She corrected her mistake by writing X’s on the boxes that she should not have colored. Later on, she told her mother that her mistake bothered her a great deal. The Captain possesses a level of self-awareness about the accuracy of her work that she does not demonstrate on a daily basis. The second point of interest came from the third tower. At first glance, it appears that she sloppily colored two squares when she should have colored three. If you take a second look you will see that she colored four, put an X through the fourth box, and then decided to erase it. For reasons too silly to explain here, Dad hasn’t allowed her to use the block eraser very often. She doesn’t have much practice. She doesn’t have much control over the eraser, either. Lesson learned. Let the girl erase.

Captain Chaos will take her first grammar test tomorrow. It's the same curriculum we used with the boys. I’m hoping for similar results. Good instincts, prayerfully considered. Trust them.


  1. So much about homeschooling is about trusting your instincts. It's really about knowing your kids better than anyone. And those parental instincts fly in the face of the "I don't have the training or passion about teaching" argument you shared in the last post. There isn't a teacher on the planet that can have the same instinctual concern for your child that you have. It's just not possible.

    Instinct trumps training.

  2. "Instinct trumps training."

    Well said.

    And in far fewer words than I used.

  3. Hello! I knew someone must have linked to my blog post because I have been getting comments far outside of our usual realm -- which is great! Just unexpected.

    I realize now that my post came off as attacking homsechoolers. That was not at all my intention, and I'm sorry for it. I have a one year old, so I haven't had to give this any depth of thought yet. I write for a very casual, journal-style blog where my primary goal is to start conversations. The point was to link to another blog that is actually very pro-homeschooling that I thought was well done and had made me give homeschooling serious thought really for the first time. If I could go back in time and delete the word "staunch" in my lede I would.

    And, moreover, I do not think homeschooling is bad or that any parent should make any other decision than what they think is best for their family. I only meant that I've been opposed to doing it myself, and I think I was pretty clear in that post that I was softening to the idea.

  4. Kara: I don't think you were attacking homeschooling in your article. I was simply responding to a couple of ideas you presented. If anything, your writing started a dialogue. Good writing does that. I wasn't attacking you. I was responding to an idea presented in your writing. I would like to invite you to share your ideas about homeschooling here at THA. My co-blogger Linda and I encourage guests writers to share their thoughts. You will find, if you take me up on the offer, that we are very fair. You can find me at