As a mother of five, it’s no big surprise to find myself back on the education bandwagon. After all, it takes a village—right? I’m privileged to be just a part of the village helping to educate our granddaughter, Lilly. With a mom and dad who work full time, it has fallen to me to help find some of the extra curricular activities that can help her become a well-rounded young lady.
Lilly has Down syndrome. While her “disability” (I choose to call it the extra chromosome that makes her spectacular) in itself poses some educational issues, her public school is doing a stellar job on that front. Not everything they offer for extra-curricular activities, however, is appropriate for Lilly. There are the typical plethora of sports, drama club, and the various branches of student government. And while these are exceptional programs, they simply aren’t the best use of her time at this stage of the game.
You see, when educating a child with Down syndrome, it’s vital to engage in a healthy balance of work and play, but it’s also of great importance that she learn from the leisure time activities. And while she needn’t necessary know she’s learning—to her it’s simply having fun—her continued development is in many ways dependent on her forms of play.
As anyone with a child with Down syndrome knows, practically everything Lilly does outside of her home requires the services of a one-on-one aid. And while she’s in school, two fabulous ladies share those duties. Outside of school is another story, however. And if Mom or Dad isn’t available to serve in that capacity, it falls to Nana. That’s me.
Following years of disappointment with various after school programs (they were great for playing, but not necessarily of educational value) I stumbled across something from my past that became our ace in the hole. Having homeschooled two of my own kids—one of Lilly’s aunts and one of her uncles—I realized my best resource for extra-curricular activities was likely no further than my fingertips. And it opened up a wealth of learning opportunities for Lilly.
Since homeschoolers typically don’t adhere to the kinds of schedules public and private schools observe, what might seem like an extra-curricular activity could very well be their big learning project for the day. I needed to simply discover when and where this learning would take place, and interject myself into the plans.
Before you deem me overly aggressive—or downright rude—rest assured this is quite commonplace in many homeschooling circles. And since most circles reply upon other parents within it to provide specific lessons, I could even offer my hand at helping out.
Soon I found myself helping one homeschooling group with its creative writing class while Lilly engaged in modern dance movement. I helped another with a poetry project while she learned to ride a horse. She experienced things we’d never have found via the traditional extra-curricular activity circuit. She still had the one-on-one adult that is necessary with everything she does, and she learned two fabulous things her parents wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.
Don’t think that because you may have never homeschooled any of your children that you wouldn’t be welcomed inside these circles. Most homeschooling groups are frequently looking for ways to ramp up their curriculum and provide new experiences for their children. And most are open and welcoming and eager to watch their educational circles grow. For parents who are not familiar with homeschooling, extensive information is available online on the subject matter. I have included URLs to couple sites that I find useful at the end of this article.
I never once threw in the towel with any of my own children, and they were all difference behavioral and learning types. I used my creativity to find ideas and situations that furthered their education and bettered their skills. In my role as Nana, I’ll never throw in the towel with my grandchildren either. Lilly is just one example of how reaching outside the box is often the very best place to start. She’s not the only one who’s grown in doing so, either. As anyone with homeschooling experience will attest, you truly never stop learning!
Useful Links on Home Schooling Resources