Introduce the topic of homeschooling to any group of parents and you’re likely to get a mix of responses. There will be some who are thoroughly in favor of homeschooling, some who are ardently against, and some who are just plain terrified of the idea! But what about homeschooling children who have special needs? Is that an option for parents? The answer is yes! Let’s explore a few reasons why a parent of a child with special needs might choose to homeschool, and how to get started.
Reasons Parents Choose to Homeschool
Why would a parent want to consider homeschooling a child with special needs? Most of the reasons are the same as for a typically developing child, and they include the following:
- Wanting to teach subjects not offered in the school setting
- Wanting more time with child
- Needing to help child get caught up academically
- Dissatisfaction with the school, teacher, or school system
- Lack of resources within the current school system
- Inappropriate placement in classroom setting
- Child’s comfort level in school setting
- Wanting to teach in a way that conforms to family’s belief system
- Wanting a more flexible schedule
- …and many others
The first step a parent should take is to research their state’s homeschooling laws and requirements. Most states require parents to register for homeschooling before a child is withdrawn from their current school. Find out who is eligible to teach your child, as many states have a minimum education requirement for anyone who will serve as a homeschool teacher. It’s also important to become familiar with all the state’s requirements, such as keeping an attendance log, grades, and end-of-year testing.
In North Carolina, parents can apply to register their homeschool by visiting www.ncdnpe.org.
Typically, the parent may withdraw their child from the current school as soon as they receive approval from the state. This is allowed at any time during the school year.
As a mother of children with special needs who homeschooled for one year, I heartily recommend getting all your materials selected and organized before beginning to homeschool. Research different curricula and evaluate them for appropriateness for your child, ease of use, and cost. Research can be done either online or at a local homeschooling store. If you are fortunate enough to have a homeschooling store in your area, I definitely recommend visiting! Often, homeschooling stores are staffed with parents who are experienced homeschoolers and are a wealth of good information!
I also recommend finding a local homeschooling group. This will help with socialization and combat feelings of isolation. Some homeschooling groups have social outings, field trips, proms, and even organized classes together. See what is available in your area. If you don’t find any groups by searching the internet, call some larger local churches, as homeschool groups often use them for meetings.
What About the IEP?
Before withdrawing your child, ask the Special Education staff at your child’s school what will happen to the IEP when your child is withdrawn from the school system. This is valuable information if you choose to re-enroll your child in the school system at any time in the future. Often, an IEP will remain “on hold” for a certain amount of time. A school system may or may not require re-testing should you re-enroll your child.
What about any ancillary services that your school provided as a part of the IEP? Do you have the right to continue those services, such at Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy? Often, the answer is yes, though this varies state to state. The parent will most likely be required to provide transportation to and from the school to receive such services. If your child benefits from such services, it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue to receive school-based services or find other options.
In most states, children who are homeschooled are still eligible to participate in team sports at their public base school. If this is something you and your child would be interested in, contact your individual school for details.
Above all, construct your schedule in a way that best benefits your child with special needs. Children on the autism spectrum need a firm schedule, while those with ADHD may need built in breaks with physical activity. With a little planning and organization, you can set your child up for success!