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School or School-Home that is the question

Dylan is standing in front of his School-Home building, holding his iPad and a co-drawn story.

If you're new to this blog you may be wondering why we decided to teach Dylan, our 17-year old son with CHARGE syndrome, at home. I will tell you it was not an easy decision. I knew there would be many losses if we pulled Dylan from school as well as the potential for many gains. What about his peers? What about his trusted Intervener? What about his brilliant communication specialist and orientation and mobility instructor? What about the availability of technology? What about his sense of connection and competence? There were clearly many reasons to stay.

But what about the possible gains, would they outweigh the negatives? Could we regain Dylan’s health, his smile, and his laughter? Would we see forward progress with his language, his learning, and his independence?

In Arizona, we are fortunate to have what is called an Empowerment Scholarship Account or ESA. What this does is provide funds to educate Dylan in a setting that is specific to his needs. After years of weighing the pros and cons, Roy and I decided the only setting specific to Dylan’s needs at the time was home. With equal parts giddy excitement and sheer terror, I accepted the scholarship and the responsibility of teaching Dylan, forfeiting all rights to his IDEA protections for as long as he was taught at home.

Still I was leery. I’d been teaching providers in the field of deafblindness for 16 years, but could I channel my focus into teaching Dylan daily, and be prepared with lessons and activities the way he would need it to be done? Were we making the right decision?

A short time later I randomly picked up a book, The Spark, by Kristine Barnett. As I read, I cried; I highlighted; I celebrated the serendipitous timing of picking up this book. In it the author described exactly what we wanted to do. Her philosophies fit perfectly with deafblind education and my own beliefs. But fortunately I wasn’t on my own like she was. Dylan’s ESA provided funds to hire a team to support him – and me.

With The Spark as inspiration we opened Dylan’s “School-Home” with the following Teaching Philosophies and Mission Statement:

Teaching Philosophies

  • Follow Dylan’s passion – what sparks his curiosity, his enjoyment, his learning

  • Measure success through smiles and laughter

  • Believe in Dylan’s present knowledge and his capacity to learn

  • Honor Dylan’s contribution to the world

  • Meet Dylan where he is at and follow his lead

  • Enter his world and then offer a bridge to ours

We believed creating an

  • Environment specific to Dylan’s needs

  • Routines specific to Dylan’s needs

  • Adaptations specific to Dylan’s needs and

  • Lessons and activities specific to Dylan’s interests ---

--- would lead to Dylan being able to express what he already knew and provide the opportunity for Dylan to expand his learning, paving the way to greater independence, self-respect, self-determination, enjoyment, and health.

With the decision made, it was time to follow Dylan's spark and see where this new path of lofty ideals would take us.

PS - We call it School-Home, because that is the order Dylan signs the words, and to recognize that it is still state supported, team driven education, compared to a typical homeschool model.

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