in the rehab hospital
My first year homeschooling looked nothing like I’d planned – and it wasn’t just because it never looks like the plan. My dreams of my son happily learning Math, Reading, Latin, Greek, Hindi, and Hebrew, while memorizing poems and stories and cheerfully doing copywork in kindergarten weren’t very realistic anyway, but there was a far more important reason our first year of homeschooling didn’t look like I expected.
My son was recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
A month after his fifth birthday, he fell head first out a window and three stories onto concrete. We are thankful every day that my then three-year-old daughter, the only other person upstairs, knew to come get us right away. We are also thankful that he did not have any major permanent damage. However our lives changed with his accident. He was in the PICU for almost two weeks, spent five days in a regular room at the hospital and then spent another three and a half weeks at a pediatric rehab hospital. It was a life-altering time for all of us.
When his plethora of therapists – physical , occupational, speech – and doctors asked our plans for kindergarten, we said we’d always planned to homeschool and those plans had not changed. Each of them had the same response: “That is a very good choice for him at this time.”
He came home from the hospital in the last week of June. We started homeschooling a day or two later. Our homeschool routine for the first six months was frequently interrupted by doctor and therapy appointments. We were fortunate in that he and his sister had been attending a wonderful preschool that took both our daughter and our younger son full-time for the summer and kept our youngest full-time until December, while my daughter went back to the part-day program that fall. Having both the younger children with caregivers when their brother had doctor and therapy appointments 30-45 minutes away made it easier. In the beginning, he had PT once a week and OT twice a week. Weekly speech transitioned to twice a week when the school year started. He also had a weekly talk therapy appointment and numerous doctor appointments for check-ups. We spent three to four days a week at various therapies and doctor appointments during those early months. This greatly cut into the time we spent on formal education.
One of the most noticeable new issues resulting from his injury was hyperactivity. My son could no longer sit for more than ten seconds at a time. Before the accident, he was able to sit and attend for ten minutes, which would have been enough time for schoolwork. Ten seconds, on the other hand, made it hard to get him to attend to his work. We had to come up with alternative strategies. He often did his math while running around the living room or jumping on the trampoline. His reading instruction was haphazard. We would often break a ten minute reading lesson into three days, only working for three or four minutes per day. We also streamlined what we were studying. I had dreamed of teaching my son all about history and science. In reality, between his various appointments, focusing issues, and general healing from concussion, if we read two or three science and history picture books at random times during the week we counted it a win.
Eight months after the accident, my son moved to once a week OT, finished PT, and his doctor appointments slowed down to every six months. Even then, we still had days when we got nothing done except his therapy. Many times through our first year, homeschooling was a lifesaver. Because doctor appointments consumed our days, taking three weeks off would not have been possible in a regular school environment. With homeschooling we were able to work in a break when we had many appointment and were still able to finish off his kindergarten year with him advancing enough to move to first grade on a normal schedule. That type of flexibility would not have been possible in a public school setting. We also did not have to deal with IEPs and making sure it was followed while he was in a large class, which could have easily overwhelmed him at that point in his recovery. We were able to focus on him and his needs thanks to homeschooling and the wonderful preschool our other children attended.
Fast forward twenty-one months after his accident: you’d never know that my son fell out a window nor would you notice the issues we dealt with last year. There were still some issues that appeared as he healed that needed to be addressed, but most of them were not on our radar during his recovery period. Once the main portion of his healing and therapy had ended, those issues were far easier to address. He is still in OT, speech, and behavioral therapy to address a few lingering effects of his accident; however it is far easier to handle a handful of weekly appointment than a wide variety of daily appointments. He’s on track to finish first grade even though he isn’t able to sit for three hours of schoolwork. My dreams have been a bit modified from having him happily learn Latin, Hindi, and Greek, but he is doing well, learning, and having fun.
Sarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully). She enjoys reading, board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.