As a parent of a child with special needs, you are already well aware of how difficult it is for your child to get the attention he or she needs in a classroom full of students. That’s just one reason why homeschooling a special needs child can be a better option for learning compared to traditional mainstream methods.
Then, when you factor in concerns for your child’s overall well-being and the modern-day issues of bullying, it makes sense that you might be considering homeschooling your child. But, public schools have resources that you most likely do not have at home. Therefore, the decision of how to educate your child is not an easy one.
Many parents are making the same decision to transition from public schooling to homeschooling. And, they are finding great success!
Children with special needs often thrive through homeschooling. In this less stressful environment, they can learn at their own pace without the added pressure of the traditional classroom. In fact, Christopher J. Klicka of HSLDA reports, “Objective studies demonstrate that parents are providing a superior form of education for their special needs children by teaching them at home.”
For those considering homeschooling their kids with special needs, here are 11 tips to help ensure homeschooling success.
1. Identify your child’s needs.
Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone else. You know their strengths and weaknesses. Your parental knowledge will provide a solid foundation for understanding what works best for your child and what doesn’t.
If your child has not been assessed, it is a wise decision to do so prior to homeschooling. An assessment will help you understand more clearly your child needs and how to meet them. If your child has already received a diagnosis, then you should educate yourself about how to help a child with this diagnosis learn effectively.
2. Develop an ISP or SEP.
Children with special needs currently in the public school setting already have an IEP. However, IEP’s do not simply transfer to homeschooling. The laws governing IEP’s and homeschooling vary state-by-state (you can assess your state’s laws here).
While IEP’s are the gateway to free services for students with special needs in public schools, states are not required to offer the same services to students who are homeschooled. You should be prepared to receive fewer services when you transition to homeschooling. It is also wise to develop an ISP (individualized student plan) or a SEP (student education plan) to help you advocate for your child.
Additionally, you should hold on to your child’s IEP in case your child should ever return to public school or need proof he or she needs accommodations when attending college.
3. Create a homeschool space in your home.
Have a special part of your home designated as the learning area. This is your home’s classroom. It doesn’t have to look like a traditional school space with a student desk and whiteboard. You can have bean bags, a swing, a mini trampoline, and anything else that might enhance your child’s learning. You can create sensory centers and stock up on essential crafting supplies. Having a designated homeschooling space will make it much easier to focus on the task at hand and switch from educational activities to school-free time.
4. Find a curriculum and tailor it to your child.
Do your homework and research various curricula. Don’t just buy the first homeschooling special needs curriculum you find. Spend time researching options until you find the resources that meet your child’s needs and learning style.
Plus, a major benefit of homeschooling is the ability to mix and match different materials. You are not forced to pick one and stick with it. Feel free to customize the curriculum around topics that interest your child’s interests.
5. Make a routine and follow it (but be flexible).
Children with special needs thrive on routines. Therefore, it is important to have a daily routine. It is even better if you can make a visual daily routine poster to display in your homeschooling space.
With that being said, a major perk of homeschooling is that you are allowed to be flexible. While routine is important, you have the ability to slow down or stop when you see your child has reached a stopping point.
6. Join support groups.
There are tons of support groups for parents who are homeschooling special needs kids as well as support groups for parents homeschooling children without special needs. State homeschooling organizations, special needs organizations, and groups like the National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN) provide support and a wealth of resources.
7. Take a CPR class.
Most states require teachers, childcare workers, and school staff to have CPR training in case of an emergency. It is typically not required for homeschooling parents, but it’s a good idea to have a well-stocked first aid kit and know how to use it. Online CPR and first aid certification courses can teach you basic life-saving techniques and help you be prepared for any potential emergencies.
8. Leave your home.
You are homeschooling, but you should leave your home often! Homeschooling is more enjoyable when you get outside your home and explore the world around you. Look for learning opportunities where your child can explore his or her interests in the real world.
Along these same lines, leaving home is important for socialization. Children with special needs will benefit from engaging with peers through homeschooling field trips, co-ops, and events.
9. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
As a parent of a child with special needs, you are already tired. When you add homeschooling to the mix, you will be exhausted. So, it is critical that you take care of yourself. You need to look for little pockets of the time throughout the day to take care of yourself.
10. Motivate, encourage, and celebrate your child.*
When your days start to look the same, it can be hard to see how much you have accomplished. To avoid this issue, document your child’s progress. Each day you should be aiming to motivate and encourage your child to achieve the next goal. And, when he or she reaches that goal – no matter how small – celebrate! It will make your days less mundane and remind of why you made this decision in the first place.
11. Don’t try to do it all by yourself.
Homeschooling is full of challenges, and while you are fully capable of educating your child, there will be times when you need help. For example, your child may need therapy, or you may need extra help from a tutor. Getting help from professionals does not lessen the work you are doing day in and day out.