Christian Homeschool Resources & Homeschooling Advice

Homeschooling Special Needs Children

  • Christine Field Author, Attorney, and Home-School Mother
  • 2003 28 Apr
Homeschooling Special Needs Children

"[Sherry] knew that special ed was not rocket science and that with information she could do as good a job as a teacher." - Tom Bushnell, NATHHAN

When our daughter was first diagnosed with a learning disability, a friend asked me, "Do you know about NATHHAN?" I know a few kids named Nathan, but she was referring to the NATional cHallenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN). I have since been incredibly informed and blessed by this gracious, loving group of individuals. It's more than a group. Really, it's an entire support network for families with special needs kids.

We have the great pleasure to speak with Tom and Sherry Bushnell, the current lead caretakers of NATHHAN. Join us as they share their incredible story and their vision for helping others.

Q: Welcome, Bushnells! Tell us about your family, their names, ages, and stages of life.

A: My name is Tom and my wife is Sherry. We live in Porthill, Idaho, one mile from the Canadian border. We live in a log home that we built on 46 acres. We farm garlic, alfalfa and have Alpine dairy goats. We have 10 children at home and one in heaven. Our oldest is Jacob, 19, and attending Bible school in Pennsylvania. Our second oldest, Josh, is 17. He has learning differences and learned to read at age 13. Tally, our daughter in heaven, is 15, and has Down syndrome. Jordan, our adopted son, is 14, and also has Down syndrome. Sheela is 13, and was born without eyes. We adopted her from India when she was 21 months old. Zack, our fourth son is 11. Lynny, our daughter with cerebral palsy and autism, is 10. She was adopted from India at 15 months. Zeph, our fifth son, is 9. Then we have Sheraya, who is 7, Mercy Grace, who is 5, and Jayben, our sixth son, who is 1.

Q: Have you always homeschooled?

A: Yes. Sherry was independently schooled instead of attending a high school back in the '80s. She also knew that homeschooling was what she wanted for her children even before our children were born.

Q: What gave you the inspiration to start the ministry of NATHHAN?

A: We were homeschooling our oldest two, Jake and Josh, and then baby Jordan, our son with Down syndrome, came into our lives. Having worked in a special ed classroom, Sherry was not about to have her son babysat all day. She knew that special ed was not rocket science and that with information she could do as good a job as a teacher. Sherry got in touch with a group called NATHHAN in 1990. Diane Macbeth was running it along with Kathy Salars. They could not continue after the group grew into the hundreds, so they asked for help. Our family took the job on and it has grown like crazy ever since.

Q: What does NATHHAN offer homeschoolers?

A: NATHHAN's job is to equip parents to teach their special needs children at home. Part of what we do is match families with other families with like disabilities. We publish a magazine and operate a lending library through the mail plus a large web page. Part of our job also includes saving pre-born babies from death by abortion by giving birth moms an option of a loving home for their baby (inside) with disabilities. Many of our families in NATHHAN have adopted their challenged children. Many are willing to take another. All homeschoolers are needed here at NATHHAN and can work on the front lines against abortion by supporting families choosing adoption instead of abortion for pre-born, special needs children. NATHHAN offers support and the "how-to" for teaching families to care for these challenged children.

You may contact the Bushnells at: NATHHAN/CHASK, P.O. Box 39, Porthill, Idaho, 83853, 208-267-6246,

Christine M. Field practiced law for eight years before becoming a full-time mommy. She and her husband live and homeschool their four children in Wheaton, Ill., where her husband serves as chief of police. Three of their four children are adopted: one through private adoption and two from Korea. As special needs expert columnist of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Resource Room, Christine welcomes readers' comments, personal stories and questions. Please contact Christine at As the author of books, Help For the Harried Homeschooler, A Field Guide to Home Schooling, Coming Home to Raise Your Children, Should You Adopt? and Life Skills for Kids, Christine is a ready and willing help to the homeschooling community. has featured her a number of times, as have other publications. For more information on Christine and her resources please visit her website:

Copyright 2003. Used with permission by The Old Schoohouse Magazine,