Homeschooling special needs students is a hot topic with parents, whether they have begun the homeschool journey or are still in the public school system. There are so many normal life issues with special needs children that it can seem overwhelming for parents to become responsible for their education, too. So I asked my fellow homeschool bloggers for their best advice and blog posts to encourage, inform, and inspire you if this is where you are.
Before we begin with the homeschooling topics, I encourage you to read this heartfelt post by Patty at A Mother’s Random Thoughts called Surviving Autism: Joy Comes in the Morning. And then follow her blog for their journey.
And one of my top pieces of advice to ANY homeschooling parent is to remember that There is No Such Thing as Behind in Homeschooling.
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Anyone Can Homeschool
In my 20+ years of homeschooling I have learned through personal experience as well as conversations with friends that there is hardly any obstacle to homeschooling that can’t be overcome. That includes families with a unique learner or children with learning disabilities. In my book, Anyone Can Homeschool, the first two chapters explain how very different the homeschool environment is from a typical public or private school. Plus, I devoted a chapter to the parents of special-needs children. In it you’ll read interviews with moms of special needs students who share their daily schedules, advice, and encouragement.
The unique needs of homeschool children with attention deficit disorder, auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, Down’s Syndrome, or any other learning disability actually benefit from a relaxed schedule and the security of the home environment. While the local public school district may offer special services that are free, they are not always flexible or accomodating. Government funding through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is never enough. Special needs public school students suffer deficits in their education plan in the wake of increased online schooling and other problems, such as bullying or Covid pandemic restrictions. In the home, the parent of a child with special needs can help their son or daughter work at their own pace and still reach their full potential.
Why homeschooling special needs children is so beneficial
Let’s begin with the basics. The good news is tht there are various reasons why homeschooling can often be a better fit for special needs children than a typical classroom.
Jenny at Autismland shared recently that homeschooling builds a strong family bond, and how important that is for a special needs family:
“Sure, there are sacrifices to be made when homeschooling your child with autism. Let’s face it, there are sacrifices to be made by every parent, regardless of disability. Homeschooling is no different. When you put family as a priority, all the sacrifices will seem worth it. A strong family bond will produce benefits that are unattainable solo. It will take you out of survival mode into thriving mode. Homeschooling is the perfect choice for families with special needs to make that happen.”
Though I don’t have special needs children, I found this to be true in many situations in our family, such as emotional upheavals, family changes, extended illness, and more. The family flow does not need to be interrupted for “school” because education can happen on a very flexible schedule.
This post at Inside Our Normal called You CAN Homeschool Your Special Needs Student echoes what I’ve heard so many parents say about the flexible, child-friendly environment of home education:
“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.”
Joy at Bean Post Farmstead shares some excellent insight from her experience with homeschooling her children with Down Syndrome:
“You may not be an expert in Special Education, but you are an expert when it comes to your child. You know what motivates him/her, you know their likes, dislikes, and you know when they are at their limit. You know them like no one else, and this will help you teach them like no one else. On top of all of this, you have the advantage of the “teachable moment”. Unlike a formal school setting, you can see an opportunity for a concept to sink in with your child any time of the day or night! You are almost constantly present and available to “teach”, or what I like to call – facilitate learning. When they are interested, or a moment presents itself that makes a learning moment more possible than in “school time”, you don’t have to wait until it’s class time. This is HUGE for special needs kids, especially in areas that book learning is hard for them. And some concepts are almost impossible for them to learn without hands on experience.”
Resources for Homeschooling
Hearing from parents who are walking through this journey is the most encouraging and realistic advice you can get. Every family is different and the needs are unique, but with so many moms with years of experience under their belt, you will be sure to glean some wisdom in some of these posts. Whether you are homeschooling a special needs preschooler or you’re wondering how to tackle high school, these bloggers are a wealth of resources that public education simply cannot offer.
If you have a child with autism, you will definitely want to check out Jenny’s entire blog, “Our Crazy Adventures in Autismland.” From her blog: “Just a homeschooling mom attempting to navigate autismland with my teenage son with autism and the rest of my goofy family. We love Jesus and live gluten free. One kid with celiac and one gluten free for his autism. We utilize the Charlotte Mason approach mixed with lots of field trips. Just sharing my adventures to make you feel better about your family and maybe learn a thing or two that helps!”
If you have a child who enjoys online games, check out Reading Eggs. It’s fun, interactive, and teaches reading through letter recognition and phonics.
Teaching kids with writing difficulties, like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or processing disorders, comes with special challenges. Helping Hand Homeschool shares some really helpful tips (like recording verbal stories) for making writing a fun and out-of-the-box process for your student, and she includes links to several more great resources.
Jeana Kinne wrote a great little book called Soothing Sammy. From her website:
Soothing Sammy is a golden retriever that children visit when they are upset. Throughout the book, children visit Sammy’s house. Sammy gives children different items which directly affect their sensory system, helping them regulate their bodies and emotions. At the end of the book, there are four pages that describe all of the sensory components addressed by the items in Sammy’s house (this includes auditory, visual, tactile, gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), vestibular and proprioceptive) and which objects address each component!
Jeana also has a great Pre-K curriculum for special needs homeschool students called Pre-K Your Way. Read this excellent review by Bean Post Farmstead. And check out Jeana’s post on Top 5 Toys for Children With Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as Top 5 Toys for Children Learning to Walk.
Bean Post Farmstead also has some other great blog posts. Check out Homeschooling My Child Who Has Special Needs: Writing Evaluations and How to use Books To Encourage MORE WORDS In Your Child.
Sarah at Holistic Homeschooler shares her journey in ALL ABOUT LEARNING: DYSLEXIA AND THE ORTON-GILLINGHAM METHOD. Read how she discovered that her daughter had visual processing issues and how she was able to tailor her reading program to fit her needs.
Melinda at The Farm Chick tells her story of discovering her daughter’s dyslexia and how she set about to meet the challenge in her post “Homeschooling with Dyslexia.”
Need some great ideas for multi-sensory Bible lessons? In All You Do has a very helpful list of realistic activities to bring Bible studies to life for your special learner!
True North Homeschool Academy has many one-of-a-kind live on-line small groups classes for Math, English and ASL, also Creating Priorities (Exec Functioning): Study Skills, Organizing for Parents AND students. Also, read this helpful post on Executive Functioning in Your Homeschool
Deb at Living Montessori Now has a very detailed list of education resources for many specific needs and disabilities.
Elena at My Domestic Church (I LOVE that blog name!) shares how she identified her daughter as a right-brained learner and then worked to help her read confidently.
Go check out this entire blog by Lara where she writes all about homeschooling Apraxia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, SPD, and giftedness.
Institute for Excellence in Writing has a good selection of encouraging posts and resource recommendations on their website. I highly recommend IEW homeschool resources for ANY student! Start with this podcast called “The Special Education Journey,” where Jill Pike and Andrew Pudewa spend an hour chatting about struggling learners and ways parents can help them. Jennifer Mauser has a good post detailing how she has used IEW resources for her special needs learners, who are now all in college. And finally, Andrew Pudewa presents a webinar called “Thoughts on Dyslexia” in which he shares ways parents can help their children through this struggle.
Home School Legal Defense Association not only assists with understanding the homeschool law in your state, but offers articles and resources for special education at home.
If you’re on social media, click through to each of these bloggers and find their accounts, Facebook group, and other online resources and follow them. Even if you don’t have local support groups for special needs homeschooling, you can curate one online that fits your family’s needs.
Other Helpful Tips
If you struggle to fit multiple therapies into your week, you will enjoy this practical post by Heather at Fearless Faithful Mom. She shares 5 Easy Ways to Add Therapy to Your School Day. by Autism Homeschool Mama. If picky eaters live at your house, she also has this insightful article on investigating the causes and finding solutions.
If you need some in-depth counseling and help for homeschooling special needs children, True North Homeschool Academy offers a counseling service for homeschooling you special needs student(s). Get more information here. And this post includes links to many helpful articles on navigating the holiday season with various special needs.
If a special needs diagnosis is very recent, you will find some straight talk and encouragement in this post called “HELP! My child has special needs!” by Fearless Faithful Mom.
Is this you?
“This isn’t what I signed up for. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m overwhelmed. Parenthood was supposed to be joyful. I was supposed to be happy. I was going to spend my days cuddling and reading books and my nights resting while my children slept. There was supposed to be peace. I never expected to have children with special needs. What I got was more tantrums than cuddles. More exhaustion than rest. I feel more overwhelmed than peaceful.”
Stay connected for support
Homeschooling in itself is a long commitment; homeschooling special needs children might seem overwhelming. But as many parents have learned, the tough times are where we deepen our faith. This post, “In Everything Give Thanks” is a wonderful reminder that hard is not impossible, and it usually makes us stronger.
Follow Sped Homeschool for resources, training, tools, and encouragement for homeschool families with special needs students.
Last, but certainly not least, I recommend the book “Different” by Sally and Nathan Clarkson. It’s about Sally’s journey raising her son Nathan with his quirks and learning difficulties. Nathan (now grown) co-authored the book with his mom. Nathan was exclusively homeschooled, but this book is about much more than home education; it’s about the life, emotions, struggles, and experiences of a mom with a special needs child. I was on the book launch team for this book when it was released, and I highly recommend it. You can also read this review by Suzanna at Wonder-Filled Days for more.
Moms and dads, you can do this!