Editor’s note: Amanda Bryant of Polk City and her husband are raising nine children, six of whom are homeschooled and three of whom have special needs. Bryant wrote this commentary for the Lakeland Ledger explaining her family’s reliance on the Gardiner Scholarship, which provides education choice to families of special needs children regardless of income. 

When it comes to blended families, “The Brady Bunch” has nothing on mine.

My husband and I are parents or guardians to eight children under our roof. We also have a daughter who is away in college.

Six of them are home-schooled. Four of those are the children of my late sister-in-law. Two are my (very) younger sisters, who needed a more stable home life than what my mother could provide them.

Three boys have special needs: Eli, 14, has cystic fibrosis. He and his biological brother Ellis, 12, were both born with common variable immune deficiency (CVID), which makes them highly susceptible to infections. Ellis also has been diagnosed with level 2 autism. Their adopted brother, Easton, 6, is developmentally delayed. He has been diagnosed with apraxia of speech disorder (AOS) and is being tested for autism.

Eli and Ellis briefly attended public schools in their early elementary years, but their health issues eventually made it impossible to continue. They missed too much time being ill, and they were unable to obtain all the services they required. Home schooling is by far their best option. Easton is beginning kindergarten at home.

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