You CAN Homeschool your Special Needs Student
I can EITHER spend my energy working to tell others what accommodations my child needs to learn and progress
I can use my energy to make him successful and we can keep our focus on learning instead of the accommodations.
Getting an IEP for my autistic son was a nightmare, it included a denial and an advocate. His needs don’t show up accurately in the testing environment because he is a good reader and has a great memory. We tried applying a second time after we had his official Autism diagnosis and it was uphill battle because their previous testing showed no need. Eventually we got one only to have it reduced the next year. He was thriving, but he was thriving only because of the IEP accommodations. We knew he would not be able to adjust to a normal classroom environment.
I had had enough and we withdrew him from the school and he began homeschooling with his sister. It can be overwhelming to think about educating a special needs child at home. You have to plan the academic content, but also prepare for the unique challenges the child has. It definitely has it’s exhausting moments, and I would want to be clear that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. However, overall it has been the best decision for us, and I’d like to share some reasons why it might be the best decision for you, too.
We as parents know our child better than anyone else
I don’t know how to handle a variety of challenging kids, but I am an expert on my own. As a parent I know what my child can and can’t do. I know what makes him tick and what he loves to do. Working with his therapists I can implement the same ideas and strategies at home. I know his strengths and weaknesses and I can work on both of them.
For instance, I know how much he loves Star Wars, so after his handwriting book was completed and he still needed to practice, we bought a Star Wars themed handwriting book. The previous month, he would complain about a sentence of copywork. The first week of the Star Wars book he copied 4 sentences in a day without a second thought! That Star Wars book unlocked writing for him. He could write and wanted to write because it was a subject that was interesting to him.
We are invested in their success more than anyone else
I think one of the hardest things when I’m talking to a professional about my son is trying to give them the right picture of who he is. I see his awesome personality everyday beyond his medical diagnosis. One of the hardest parts of seeking a diagnosis was convincing doctors to really look at him and see his struggles because they weren’t on the surface. A classroom teacher has other students to teach in addition to yours, so they will likely not be able to take the time to slow down and figure out your kid and what accommodations they need to help them succeed. Even the best teachers who sincerely want to help are just busy and will always be pulled in several different directions, just by the nature of the work.
Our kids teach us how to adjust for their needs
There is likely only one place in the world that is already configured with all of the accommodations that best fit your unique child: your own home. We as parents spend many hours with our child over the week. When the teacher is with our child at school, they have a whole classroom to attend to. We learn intuitively how we need to adapt normal activities in our home for our special kids, and much of that subconscious knowledge transfers very easily to schoolwork.
I have learned I need to give only one direction at a time, and be extremely specific on what I want done so that he can accomplish it well. “Clean Up the Legos” is not good enough. I have learned I need to tell him “Fill 1 bucket with the loose pieces on the floor,” to get a successful response. We do the same thing when it comes to his school work: short, concise instructions help him thrive. You are the best one to watch your child and learn their strengths and weaknesses.
Its Efficient and Flexible
Remember the struggle your student is having waiting for the rest of the class to finish an activity or get in line? That doesn’t exist in homeschool. The reverse is true as well. That math concept that isn’t clicking, you can spend a week on it if you need to. It won’t hold the class back. You are the class! Our homeschool has 3 students in 3 grades and we are always done before lunch. THis leaves our afternoons open for therapy appointments and play.
When there are lots of doctor and therapy appointments school can be scheduled around the appointments. So material isn’t missed and no one gets behind. Its also OK to take Spring break when you need to travel for a procedure instead of when the calendar says to. We took our spring break this year to attend a conference as a family. We then schooled right through the local public school Spring Break week. It wasn’t a hardship: the parks were too busy to visit anyways.
Resources are available
If you choose to homeschool your special child, there is support available! It probably won’t come from the sources you are used to, like the school district or therapists. Facebook has several communities devoted to homeschooling with special needs. You will find homeschool conferences that have special sessions just for you and the unique challenges you have.
Many curriculum creators are more than happy to discuss how their material can be adapted to fit your student. Our reading and discussion based history program is a perfect fit because writing (Cub’s weakness) doesn’t hinder our progress. He needed a writing program that wasn’t tied to the other language arts. Separating the language arts allowed him to excel in the other areas and still work on his writing at a pace that works for him.
It’s not your mother’s homeschool journey
You are not alone in wanting what is best for your kids, and kudos to you for fighting for it. Homeschooling is no longer a fringe, “hippie” activity. More and more families are choosing to homeschool because the accommodations and needs of their out of the box kids are not being met in the typical classroom. I’m here, and I’ve tested the waters. It not too bad and most days we really like it, so come join us. I’m here for you, just let me know how I can help.