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picture courtesy The Selective Mutism Network
picture courtesy The Selective Mutism Network

A few months ago, my husband and I started to seriously discuss homeschooling our youngest child.  The one with Selective Mutism.  The one that although has struggled since he entered preschool as a three year old, has made incredible progress with his social anxiety.   His academic performance is within the normal range, he ended his kindergarten year whispering to his teacher, even giving a couple presentations in front of his class and parents (all whispered- but still he stood up and “talked”).  He now looks forward to attending friends’ birthday parties (although he won’t speak or whisper to the other children), talks to clerks and waitresses, talks to strangers in the neighborhood, and when visiting new friends’ homes.

But this is also the kid that for this entire school year would come home from school angry, frustrated, and sometimes full of rage.  Just when I would get him calmed down, it would be bed time and his anxiety about the next day would drive him to tears.  In the morning, my usually jovial child would refuse to get dressed and sob that he did not want to go to school.  He begged me to homeschool him. We knew that much of this behavior was a result not being able to talk out loud or express his emotions the entire day.  All his emotions were repressed and stifled.

So, my husband and I decided that what was best for our family was for me to be home to take care of and nurture our family without the stress and distraction of me working.With that decision meant that I had to officially resign from my teaching position at the private school where my two youngest sons attended.  And with that decision meant that we could no longer afford to keep the boys enrolled.

The thought of putting my son in public school terrified him and me. He had made so much progress in and especially out of school with his social interactions.  We were afraid if he was to attend public school next fall, he would regress, which is common in some children with Selective Mutism when faced with major changes. Their coping skills are immature and they are not equipped to deal with the “normal” stressful situations that their peers can.  For many S.M. children, school is the source of intense pressure and anxiety.  My son is no exception.

As I was exploring my homeschool options, I decided that what would be best for my son would be to use a cyber-school.  As I studied the different options available to me in the state of Pennsylvania, I chose one whose curriculum was aligned with my personal teaching philosophies.  In PA, we have several options of cyber schools from which to choose.  A cyber charter school is an on-line school completed at home that uses a PA state approved curriculum and certified teachers.  As we learned more about this, we decided to enroll both of our boys instead of sending them to our local public school.


 Why Did We Make the Decision to Cyber-School?

  • To allow my S.M. child to embrace learning in an environment where he can talk out loud about his learning. As teachers, we know how very vital it is to discuss one’s learning. Brain based research tells us that learning is not a solitary behavior. Learning is augmented when done is social situations that involves various modalities and social interactions.
  • We want to help our son apply these skills in more structured, “school-like” situations.  For example, attending craft time at the library, participating in sports, and attending home school functions and co-ops. We want to remove the stress from a brick and mortar school and work on changing his perception that any school environment is frightening.  We will take baby steps to help him develop more appropriate coping skills in dealing with his intense anxiety.
  • It was important to us as parents that we choose curricula that reflect research-based best practices and that prepare our children for 21st century learning.  Although I hold two degrees, one in English and one in reading and am a certified reading specialist, I am not a content expert.  Homeschool curricula are expensive, and I want the best for my boys. I don’t want a piece-meal program that is limited by my lack of funds. With their enrollment in the cyber charter school, they are provided a computer, printer, textbooks, manipulatives, and equipment and supplies for things such as conducting science experiments. All at no cost to my family.
  • Using a cyber-school, provides a state-approved curriculum and certified teachers.  I will be their learning coach, but their teacher will offer support to the entire family.  If the boys enter a brick and mortar public school in the future, their transition will be smoother since they have been learning the same content as their peers.
  • To be very candid, I do not want my children in a public school where test prep, data, and meeting AYP are the focus. Sure, my boys will have some of that with their cyber school, but it will not be as intense.
  •   I do not want my children in large classes.  Class size matters.  And these boys are coming from a school where they never had more than fourteen children in their classes.
  • Bringing the boys home allows me to have more of an input into their education.  Even though we will have a very structured school day, I will still have flexibility and the time to add student-led projects and additional studies.
  • My decision to educate my children at home is not based on me making all the educational decisions of what and how they learn.  I spent fourteen years as a public school educator and seven years teaching in private schools. I am used to having a curriculum to follow and I firmly believe that any child, no matter where they are educated, needs an integrated, balanced, research-based education.  More on this later.


Our family is very excited about this new adventure.  I was looking forward to joining our local homeschool association, participating in co-ops, and having my boys socialize on a regular basis with other homeschool children.  Then just as I was researching, I discovered that using a cyber-charter school is not homeschool and that I would most likely not be accepted by my local homeschool community. 

Why?  I will delve into this topic in my next installment of Cyber School Chronicles.


I've been a reading specialist for the last ten years and most recently a literacy coach for Pre-K...

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