There are many advantages of homeschooling a child with special needs. Not only does it gift you with the opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your unique learner. It also provides your child with individualized attention that would simply not be possible in a classroom environment.
While many schools offer programs that offer additional learning assistance to children with special needs, these situations may not be ideal for your child.
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As a parent of a child who may benefit from special education services, you may have a variety of different concerns about programs like these. If so, know that you are not alone!
Often times, schools face challenges related to the the teacher-student ratio not allowing the teachers to provide individual attention and care to the special needs children in their classroom.
In our situation, choosing to homeschool has been the answer to this overarching concern that would impact so much about our daughter’s learning experience.
This is why you will see our family consistently support political candidates who fight for school choice!
School choice always benefits the most vulnerable.
For more information about how school choice does not negatively impact vulnerable students, we highly recommend Allie Beth Stuckey’s interview with Corey DeAngelis.
For our family, homeschooling our children has given us the time and flexibility to personalize each of our kids’ educational experiences.
We are grateful we have been able to offer them additional learning programs, community service projects, field trips/travel, and opportunities to socialize with a wide variety of people which they would not be able to connect with in a classroom setting.
We truly love this lifestyle and look forward to encouraging each of our kids to reach their full potential as they learn and grow.
However, homeschooling does indeed include its own special challenges.
If you are considering homeschooling a student with special needs, here is some encouragement I hope will help you as you’re getting started.
1. Consider your child’s needs and interests.
What unique needs does your child have? What specific challenges do they face? Do they struggle with emotional regulation?
Does a physical need impact the flow of their day? Is there an area of concern that has you currently seeking additional assistance? What is your child’s learning style?
Understanding your child is key to deciding how you want to set up their learning environment and structure their days learning at home with you.
As you begin to set learning goals, choose curriculum, plan and prepare activities and experiences, knowing your child will make all the difference.
Spend extra time here on this piece of encouragement.
When you know what challenges to expect as you teach your child, you can be prepared and equipped for success.
Many will tell you that only a professionally trained special education teacher is equipped to teach your child. I wholeheartedly disagree!
Yes, we have amazing therapists, coaches, etc. who assist us in helping our daughter reach her full potential. We are so grateful for their expertise. However, we also believe that no one knows and understands our daughter better than we do.
This knowing and understanding of your child is what equips you to be the very best possible teacher for them.
Depending on your child’s unique situation, you may be more of a facilitator of learning for them. This includes choosing and planning educational experiences that are suited to their specific needs.
You are no longer depending on the public school system to show the level of thoughtfulness and consideration you as a parent will.
2. Remember the reasons why you chose this path.
Of course, you want your child to achieve academic success, but what specifically has your heart feeling pulled in this direction to homeschool your child with special needs?
- Are you craving more time together as family?
- Is your child struggling with their current learning environment and you feel a change would be best for them right now?
- Do you feel passionate about providing them a more individualized learning experience?
- Would your child benefit with the space they need to work more at their own pace?
- Have they recently walked through a difficult season and a different approach to school would support your child as they heal?
- Does your child need opportunities for more physical activity? Time for more experiences that will grow their social skills? Space to focus on important life skills? Adjustments that will address concerns related to their sensory processing disorder? Assistive technology that is not available to them in your local district?
No matter the unique design of the students involved, homeschooling is not an easy endeavor. It is a lifestyle that includes great days as well as challenging ones.
Knowing and remember the reason(s) why you have made this educational choice can help to encourage you on those difficult days when you question the decision you’ve made.
Maybe you have family members or friends who are questioning your decision. Remember your why.
You may even experience a situation where your child’s former teacher expresses concern over this choice your family has made. Remember your why.
It is always best to respond in a positive way – expressing the good you feel this will bring to your child’s life. This will hopefully help to diffuse any tense or negative situations you may find yourself in as a parent.
3. Plan your homeschooling budget.
Honestly, home education can be as expensive as you want it to be! The options available for homeschooling families make it possible for homeschooling to quickly become as expensive, if not more expensive, than attending private school.
However, with a little bit of resourcefulness and a whole lot of passion, many homeschool families are able to educate their children at home without spending a lot of money.
Each family’s homeschooling style varies greatly, and I think that’s beautiful! Consider your family’s unique approach to living and learning together.
As a home educator, where does it make the most sense for you to spend money? There are so many options available these days!
- Curriculum Kits, Textbooks, Student Workbooks
- Therapy (Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, etc.)
- Books for your Home Library
- Art Supplies
- Outdoor Play Equipment
- Music Therapy/Music Lessons
- Online Classes (Get $20 toward Outschool Classes here.)
- Field Trips and Travel
- Sports Activities/Other Extracurricular Activities
- Educational Summer Camps and Programs
4. Explore curriculum options that suit your child.
Keep in mind that the curriculum you use for other kids in your homeschool may not be the best fit for your child with special needs.
Always remember to consider the needs of each child.
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to explore new curriculum, but you and your child will both benefit from you taking the time to discover options that suit their unique learning needs.
No one wants to invest in expensive curriculum only to realize they’ve made a mistake in purchasing a particular product(s).
Maybe consider these ideas as you explore:
- While exploring curriculum, request sample pages. Oftentimes viewing or requesting sample lessons is a standard option on websites that offer homeschool curriculum.
- Ask another homeschooling parent if you can browse any curriculum they have within arm’s reach. It can be so helpful to hold the resources in your hands. Do you know another homeschooling family who would be willing to share a peek at any books, programs, etc. they already have on hand?
- Browse social media posts and online videos. Consider following specific hashtags, joining a Facebook group, connecting with a local homeschool group or network online, etc. Not only might these other homeschooling parents be able to point you toward curriculum that will assist you, but this may also prove to be one of the best ways to connect with special services, social events, etc. available to homeschooled students in your area.
I would definitely caution you that watching what other families share online can lead to overwhelm, but maybe narrow it down to a couple of different things you’d like to know more about and watch what is being shared about those specific resources.
- Visit a second-hand homeschooling store. In our area, we have a couple of different homeschool consignment stores that carry a wealth of resources. When I’ve been interested in exploring a new curriculum option, I visit these stores and look closely at the books. Once again, it can be a good idea to hold the resources your hands before making a purchase.
- Consider a company’s return policy. Some curriculum companies allow you to try a curriculum before you commit. This can be a great way to try before you buy! While I don’t recommend repeatedly changing course, I do recommend being flexible and willing to make an adjustment when needed! This freedom to make necessary changes is one of the greatest perks of homeschooling – don’t miss out on this benefit.
What subjects are most challenging for your child? These are the areas where your homeschooled student may need individual attention from you as their teacher.
For other subjects, homeschooling families have found it helpful to do more of a family-style approach to learning. Whether around the kitchen table or spread out on couches in the living, families can learn together as a group. In our house, this has worked especially well for Bible, Science, and History.
As you consider each individual learner in your home and the specific season your family is in at this time, be patient.
Be patient with your students. Be patient with yourself. Don’t forget to be willing to adjust where needed – again, always remembering your why.
5. Embrace rhythms and routines that suit your family’s lifestyle.
Instead of trying to fit your family life in around your school routines, consider ways you can more comfortable incorporate learning opportunities into your family’s already established rhythms and routines.
Especially if your child is moving out of a traditional classroom setting, this will make the transition to homeschooling more comfortable for everyone.
- When are your already established mealtimes? What can be read/discussed before, during, or after those times together at the table?
- At what times of day is your family more energetic? More restful? How can you take advantage of this natural ebb and flow to your days together? Plan accordingly and then be willing to adjust as needed.
- What does your family already do on the weekends? How can those experiences become more educational in their focus?
This lifestyle homeschooling approach can be especially beneficial to a child with special needs, providing them with a comfortable atmosphere in which to thrive.
- Is is possible to have maintain stable rhythms while still leaving room for flexibility? Yes!
- Can a family embrace the comforts of home while still setting high expectations for their learner? Yes!
6. Find support and offer support.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Maybe a whole lot overwhelmed?
What type of support opportunities would feel most comfortable to you? Not everyone craves the same type of support.
For me personally, there are opportunities within the special needs community that have really never felt all that helpful to me – but other families really enjoy!
It’s okay to say no to things that others have appreciated and focus on ways you personally would be encouraged.
Ideas to Consider:
- Does your church offer support for those within the special needs community?
- Are non-fiction books focused on your child’s needs encouraging to you?
- Are you energized by researching special education needs and related services?
- Do you enjoy getting together with families walking a similar path as yours?
- Is there an online network of parents you enjoy interacting with regularly?
- Are you aware of a blog or website that shares helpful resources for homeschool parents and/or homeschool students?
- Do you find it helpful to attend trainings? Join support groups? Sign up for coaching sessions?
- Would a get-together with another homeschooling mom in your local area be helpful to you? Maybe you could meet every so often – just to talk things through…
Some of the above ideas have been really important in my own personal journey, while the others haven’t been as much my style.
As you serve the family God has given you, what do you feel would encourage your heart?
As you walk along in your journey, it’s important to find ways to help you avoid burn out and overwhelm.
While these feelings can be normal at times, it’s crucial that we see them coming and find ways to stay encouraged! This will reduce our frustration along the way and provide us with tools as we work to reduce frustration for our kids as well.
Along the way, don’t forget!
You may be able to offer support and encouragement to other families! Never underestimate a kind word or the sharing of a simple idea. Your openness and willingness to cheer on and inspire another homeschooling parent could make all the difference!
As difficult as your days may feel at times, you are not alone! I’m here – and so is an army of other families educating their kids at home.
7. Gift yourself with timeouts.
I despise how our culture has used these phrases to sell women a bundle of lies. So please know I’m not talking about this movement of self that has permeated our culture.
What I’m talking about is providing yourself with breaks that allow you to rest.
Most importantly, this rest should always involve abiding in the One Who gifts us with the strength we need to walk out the calling He has for us.
- Are you reading God’s Word? Are you really?
- Do you have a consistent back-and-forth communication with Him throughout the day through prayer?
When I’m struggling most, it’s usually because these areas have been neglected.
How about for you?
Beyond these spiritual necessities, also consider these things:
- Have you had enough rest?
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Is the temperature in your house a comfortable one?
- Are you wearing a bra or undies that are too tight? Um, I’m serious here. This can make a woman grouchy.
- Is it PMS week? Do you need to lighten the load a bit to accommodate your, um…issues? Again, I’m serious.
- Are you overwhelmed with stuff? You can enter here to read about our simplifying journey. It has made such a difference in our home!
- Is your calendar too full?
Now once you make sure you’re drinking enough water and make sure your bra fits, think about some intentional ways you can find daily pockets of rest.
First, set down your phone. I promise if you do that, you will find all kinds of time to be intentional.
- Would you enjoy reading for a few minutes in the mornings?
- Does an evening bath help to relax you?
- Do you enjoy sitting on the back porch with your coffee or tea?
- Is there an opportunity for you to take a walk in the mornings? Or the evenings?
- Would a phone call with a friend encourage you?
- Is it possible to plan a date night?
Notice these aren’t extravagant ideas. The goal is not to find ways for you to completely escape.
The idea is to find little pockets of your day when you can take a minute to just breathe…and pray.
I understand if your current season is a challenging one. You may feel like these ideas are completely out of reach. My prayer for you is that you will simply be inspired to think of something that will encourage you and make it happen.
I know I have had days when my only timeout moment included stepping out on the front porch, taking a deep breath, and walking right back inside the house.
May I remind you again that you are not alone and you are so loved.
8. Celebrate accomplishments.
Want to keep your child motivated? Hoping to keep yourself motivated along this homeschool journey?
My advice? Celebrate every single accomplishment.
No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, find a way to celebrate!
You will see what a difference this makes in your family’s day-to-day life as homeschoolers.
There will be times when these little celebrations are such a boost as you continue traveling along the path God has designed for your family.