Resources for Special Needs Homeschoolers, Interview with Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville

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This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Resources for Special Needs Homeschoolers, Interview with Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville.

Resources for Special Needs Homeschoolers, Interview with Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville

If you are looking for information and resources for homeschoolers with special needs, you are in the right place today. Because today we are with Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville, an expert in special education and provides helpful tips on how to create a successful homeschooling environment for special needs children. 

About Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville

Rochelle is a wife and mama of six boisterous kids, all very, very different from one another. She has been homeschooling for almost fifteen years now, and her biggest accomplishment was graduating her oldest son in 2021. 

They did not know if they would be able to make it happen but they did, and he was homeschooled all the way through. And now, her son is about to graduate at the University of Maryland as a mechanical engineer.

But before this great accomplishment, Rochelle did not necessarily know if she wanted to homeschool, having not been a homeschooler herself, although she knew she loved learning. 

She had very intimate, passionate and positive images and memories of her schooling. Her mother was a teacher, and what she remembers in her childhood is a deep love of learning. She enjoyed learning about everything around her all the time even when she was not in school, such as during days trips with her family and at church. 

What she grew up with was a positive understanding and idea of learning. And this was exactly what she wanted for her own children, to have that same positive image of their childhood. 

When She Decided To Homeschool

Fast forward to the birth of her first-born son who was actually born two weeks after she received her doctorate degree. And as he grew up, they had tons of rich learning experiences out in the community, and she ensured she was very present with him, soaking up education all around him during his first few years. 

At that time, she was also working at the university, and it was time for him to go to school. Rochelle did not want him to stop loving learning. And she did not want it to be shoved “in the box.” 

She did not want his learning to be tamed

Because what he had learned so far was not necessarily systematically appropriate for his age level, or what society or the public school system considered “ready” as a kindergartner. 

For example, if he learned a piece of calculus, he learned that’s what it was. If he learned a piece of social studies that was typical for sixth grade, that is what he learned. This reasoning prompted her with the final decision to homeschool her son.

When she decided to homeschool, she wasn’t running away from anything. She always tells people she was running to something, like the ability to be free with just learning. 

It was the most exciting time in the world for Rochelle. And their homeschool style was very eclectic. But her family was skeptical if any learning was happening. 

Because their homeschooling looked very different from what they were used to seeing for educating a child in a traditional sense. Rochelle still worked full-time and after she got off work, she would come home, eat dinner with her family, and then would do a little school for about one to two hours in the evening.

Her Professional Experience

Rochelle has had a myriad of experiences in her homeschooling years. She is a full-time consultant with Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). She is also the team leader of the Special Needs Educational Consultants.

In addition to that, Rochelle owns her own educational consultant company. Furthermore, she is a mentor teacher, and she pours into the community. She’s also a director for Classical Conversations, which is her local homeschool group.

She believes that she is a vessel in the mission field for God. And she absolutely loves every single minute of it! 

Her website is full of richness and wisdom for you, especially if you have a child you are curious about whether there’s some learning disabilities or differences, and you want advice.

A Mecca of Resources

Rochelle was looking for support for students with a special needs because there weren’t many from what she could find. She decided she was going to be a change maker and step out on faith. She created her own company called EFM Education.

What she did was create small groups and programs and just community support that included not only students with special needs, but also non-disabled students. 

And because she also has a personal investment in it with three of her kids being neurodivergent, she created a space for homeschool moms to get some encouragement and guidance from somebody who is trained, an experienced expert and also a real life mom who understands.

Rochelle is a mecca of resources, as she puts it. Sometimes families just don’t know where to go to find resources. Although she cannot necessarily list every resource, she can get moms or dads on the right path. 

What she says to moms feeling insecure about homeschooling or to moms who went to college to get a degree and became a homeschool mom:

How can you not give the best of you? They may be experts in the curriculum, but you are the expert in your children. Nobody knows your children like you. Nobody is invested in your children like you. Our children are our richest investment. You are not wasting anything investing in these kids.

Tips For Moms With Neurodivergent Kids

Let’s focus on the important things 

Reset and focus before you begin to plan. Think about the reasons why you are even homeschooling or considering homeschool. Think about what is unique and special about your child. Do not think about the obvious answers, think more about the deep-seated ones. 

Then think about your goals. What are your personal goals for this particular child? 

Once you do that, you realize you do know your child, and you start believing you can do this. Because if you only focus on remediating, you forget that you are bringing lots of strengths to the table. 

Hone in on what your child is good at and what their strengths are

Anything that your child is good at, start working from that strength, not from what he is not good at. Whatever the strength is that your child, he or she is bringing that to the table. 

If your child is funny, work from that strength. If your child is a good artist, start there. It doesn’t matter if your child is not reading by the third grade because you can work on those strengths.

For example, you can take that funny personality and work through all these others. There is a place for everybody. There is a skillset that you can shape. 

Know that there is something for everybody

When discouraged parents say they do not think their child is ever going to get a job, that is not true. There is something for everybody. Every job is gracious and valuable in God’s eyes. 

If the Trashman did not go up and down the street, if the mailman did not go up and down the street, if the person did not stock the shelves or did not stack the books correctly, this world would be total chaos. Every little bit counts. 

Some require you to interact with people. Some require you to never talk to a person.You really just have to process what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are and figure out where they belong.

If your child is not a communicator, you can find a job where they never have to talk to anybody.

Not everybody has to be a rocket scientist to have a place in society. You just have to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to do in order to get them to that space. 

How To Connect With Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville

Now you know why you need to work with Dr. Rochelle Matthews! As insightful as this is, there’s so much more you can learn from her through her website and resources. Her website is EFM Education and you can contact her via email at info@efmeducation.com or directly on the phone at (240) 528-0867.

You can also find her at HSLDA.org or via email at special needs@hslda.com. 

Also, check out these resources:

Thank you to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for writing this blog post!

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