Jean Wetherilt, pictured far right, is MPE’s coordinator for Struggling Learners / Special Needs, helping families find answers to their questions and guiding them to resources. She also serves on the conference committee, arranging speakers for the struggling learners’ track. Jean and her husband Todd, from Prairie Village, Kansas, have been married for 33 years. Their two children, Caitlyn and Will, are both homeschool and college graduates. Both children are married and Todd and Jean have one grandson.
Why did you first begin volunteering for MPE?
Honestly it has been too long to remember my original reason, although I do vividly remember my thoughts about the topic of homeschooling children with learning differences and challenges even though it was about 18 years ago!
A homeschooling family contacted me to consult with them regarding occupational therapy for their daughter who had cognitive, sensory, and motor difficulties. She could not tolerate changes in lighting, floor surfaces, etc. and would have melt-downs when entering new environments such as stores.
Her whole family was incredibly helpful, and her two sisters did her therapy right alongside her. It was the best possible situation for the whole family. I observed progress like I had never observed when working in formal school settings. She changed so quickly with the loving help of her family.
I frequently refer to parents as the “experts” since they know their children best and can give them what they need with the right support.
In preparation to write this article, I found an email that I wrote in 2003 where I wrote, “My ultimate career goal is to consult with families who are homeschooling their children with special needs.”
Thanks be to God that he has allowed me to do just that for the last 18 years both in ministry and professionally!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Approximately 15 years ago, another homeschooling mom and I started researching resources and compiling a list of books, website, organizations and specialists for homeschooling children with special needs. There was very little to be found.
That original list is part of the current resource list, which you can get from MPE. (See our online version here.)
I love to hear stories about how families have found help. I also love to hear about how specific speakers or topics have encouraged and empowered parents to homeschool in seemingly impossible situations.
Watching God miraculously bring together the conference every year is also a thrill.
Any surprises or challenges with your volunteer position?
I shouldn’t be surprised, but there really is huge growth in the number of families that have discovered that they can successfully homeschool their children with learning differences. It has been impossible to keep up with all the new resources as they grow both nationally and locally.
I love that there is a growing acceptance of including these children in the various cluster groups, play dates, and supplementary programs.
Share a little about your family with us.
Todd is self-employed as an architect. We started PossAbilities Pediatric Therapy in 2003 while we were still homeschooling so it was very part time.
It is now a clinic with 6 therapists and housed in a free-standing building. Todd and I divide our work days between working at our home offices and the clinic.
We are also involved in a new church plant. We spend several extended weekends a year traveling to Milwaukee and Miami to visit our children and grandson.
What were your reasons for choosing to homeschool? Why is homeschooling important to you?
When we were weighing all of the schooling options as our children neared school age, homeschooling was always on the list. There came a time when we were not seeing adequate academic progress while our children were in a formal school in kindergarten and second grade.
Enrolling our children in extracurricular activities such as Awana, scouting, music and art lessons, as well as getting family time at home, were important to us. We did not see how we could fit in those activities with the growing homework load.
After prayer and discussion, we came we both concluded that it was the best for our family.
How would you encourage other MPE homeschooling families?
Pray constantly for your kids! Stay in the “war room” as long as is needed. Study your children to understand how they learn, their interests and how they interact with others.
If you see concerns, seek out help. Don’t discount the value of teaching your children life skills and to become independent learners.
Take advantage of your flexible schedule to get your children in the community and churches to serve, be with intergenerational and diverse groups and to learn to fellowship with others.
Be cautious to use social media as a resource, but not as a means of fellowship.
Thanks so much, Jean Wetherilt!
See how you can volunteer your time and talents by filling out this form.