One question that I am asked a lot is “As a mom of a special needs child, can I homeschool my children?” We are here today to tell you that you can!
I’m joined today by my good friend, Shawna Wingert, from Different By Design Learning. She is a former teacher and training and development professional turned author and homeschool mom. She has homeschooled her own two unique learners for more than a decade and she’s going to help me tackle this important topic in homeschooling.
Is Is Even Possible To Homeschool A Child With Special Needs?
It’s a question that comes up a lot, and I am happy to say that the answer is yes, it is possible and legal to homeschool your child with additional needs.
In fact, homeschooling a child with special needs or learning differences can actually be incredibly beneficial. In some respects, it can even be easier than managing the school system, when you have a child who is on an IEP or has 504 accommodations plan.
Homeschooling allows you to really give them the individualized attention that they need. When you’re homeschooling, you are able to look at what their strengths are, what the areas of opportunities are, and then come up with a plan to address them.
I think the reason why a lot of moms ask this question is because there is this false belief and myth out there that it’s not possible to do it. Moms often hear this from doctors and therapists who have preconceived notions of homeschool. They send the false message that there’s absolutely no way you could accomplish this at home.
This can make things daunting, especially when you’re first getting started and making the decision. It almost feels like going against doctor’s orders. But the truth is the more people do it, the more we are able to hear voices out there and say, not only is it possible, but it’s completely reasonable and doable.
In the long run, it can absolutely be the right choice for your kids.
The Advantages Of Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs
There are some very distinct advantages to homeschooling your child who has special needs. These three top the list.
- Pace of learning
- Interest-Led options
- Learner confidence
Let’s explore all three in more detail.
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Pace Of Learning
We are able to accelerate what we need to accelerate and slow down the learning that our children need more time to comprehend and retain.. For example, my oldest is interested in history and is actually now a history major in college. As a part of our homeschool, we were able to go all the way through every single history program, curriculum, and book that he could find to the point that by the time he got to his senior year of high school, he was doing masters level coursework in history.
Conversely with math, we were still struggling along at a fifth or sixth grade level. Being able to pace the learning appropriately for his learning style, his learning needs and learning differences was so much easier to do at home. It just wouldn’t have been possible in a traditional school setting.
Interests As A Basis For Learning
The second advantage, and this goes along with what I just described, is being able to use interests to buffer the gap between learning differences. If your child has an intense interest in one particular topic, they can become passionately obsessed. This interest may actually be what helps a child learn in subject that is difficult for them.
An example of this would be with my youngest. He has struggled with reading basically his whole life. The way that we’ve been able to help him learn to read is by taking things that he’s naturally interested in, and using that to develop fluency instead of the typical readers or the typical curriculum that’s out there.
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Looking back, I can see that creating a learning environment that worked best for my kids gave them so much more confidence than I know they would have had if they had been in a more traditional educational program.
The reality is that in a standard educational program for children with special needs, the focus is always on what a child can’t do.
You’re struggling to read, and so we’re going to spend extra time reading. You’re going to have tutoring after school and extra work. Your weakness is always going to be pointed out to you.
Not having that be the focus and allowing your child to really excel in the areas they enjoy, creates a confident and engaged learner, no matter what the learning differences. It was a natural by-product of our decision to homeschool, and our decision to create a learning environment that gave as much weight, if not more weight, to what they were strong in and what they were interested in, as opposed to the things that they struggled with. I think homeschool is the best possible place to do this.
What If I Am Not A Formally Trained Teacher?
When you have a child with a diagnosed difference, the stakes can feel very high.
However, the reality is that special education teachers actually receive very little training about specific diagnoses. As a homeschool mom, you likely have more time to learn as much as you can about the individual differences that you’re dealing with in your home. You probably already know more just by the fact that you live with them every day. You see what this translates to in terms of their abilities, what’s not working and the struggles that they have socially.
You have a collective base of knowledge that can be far more productive and effective educationally than any teacher would ever have for your child. Determining how to make learning click for a child who is really struggling as a learner is difficult. It requires time, consistency, attention and individualization that you, as a homeschool mom, are the best equipped to provide.
However, inadequate you feel, please know that there’s likely no one who is that’s going to be able to do it better than you can anyway. It might not be perfect. It’s probably not going to be ideal or textbook, but you have what you need to begin and you have what you need to continue. What I’ve learned is that, just like any homeschool mom, you only have to be one day ahead of your kid.
With any situation in homeschooling, there’s just no better advocate than a mother who is willing to learn and do what they need to help their child succeed.
Resources For Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs
Different By Design Learning has an abundance of resources specifically homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. You’ll find support and encouragement specifically for the mom of children with differences.
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