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How to Successfully Homeschool Your Child with Special Needs

As a researcher, specializing in disability topics, I often get emails from parent or grandparents interested in home schooling their child (grandchild) with special needs.
Most recently, I received this message from Joyce:

- I would appreciate leads on home schooling Special Needs kids with multiple diagnosis as we will home school our angel after this year of home based Special Education '8th grade. Getting various sites together and ordering things available to home schooling parents and/or teachers. Any suggestions appreciated. Your site is a real help and inspiration for us at our house! -

The reasons parents decide to home school a child with special needs vary:

- They want their child to be able to learn at their own pace.
- They want their child to work at a level that is appropriate to their developmental stage and have the flexibility to introduce new skills and concepts when the child is ready. - They want to create a more 'ideal' learning environment. Children with learning disabilities frequently have difficulty with concentration and focus in a traditional classroom. - They want to use teaching methods that suit their child's particular learning style. - They want their child to feel accepted and free from teasing, bullying or humiliation from peers. - They are looking for an alternative where their children can gain self-confidence 'one that includes less criticism from teachers and less comparison with other children. - They want their children with special needs to reach their full potential and not be limited by the use of "cookie cutter" educational methods or the lack of experience with special needs in their neighborhood school.
- They want to ensure that their at-risk child will not be exposed to gangs, drugs, and guns.

Their needs, however, when they prepare to tackle this challenge, are often very similar. They want to know where they can find the information, tools, and support to be an effective educator for their child. If you are interested in home schooling a child with special needs, here are the resources to help you get started.

1. Learn the rules. Each state has their own set of regulations for home schooling and you will need to be familiar with yours. Read the regulations and discuss them with current home schoolers in your own state, as many regulations may be vague and open to interpretation. A seasoned home schooler in your home state should be able to tell you how confusing regulations are generally understood. You can find the home school regulations for many states here:

2. Study the fundamentals. The National Home Education Network offers a 'New Homeschooler Information Area' as well as a 'New Homeschooler Encouragement Newsletter' to help you get off to a good start.

3. Consider joining a national support network. Frequently parents can gain valuable information and contacts by joining an association specifically for home schoolers. Two you will want to consider:
- The National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network
NATHHAN is a Christian based association that specializes in equipping parents (or grandparents) to home school children with special needs.
- American Homeschool Association
AHA is a service organization sponsored in part by the publishers of Home Education Magazine. The AHA was created in 1995 to network home schoolers on a national level. They provide online news and offer a discussion list, which provides news, information, and resources for home schoolers.

4. Use online resources to brainstorm lesson plan ideas. There are several excellent informational websites that offer tons of practical tips and ideas when it comes to home schooling a child with special needs. Check out:
- Home schooling Children with Special Needs

- Home schooling Kids with Disabilities

- Home schooling Special Needs

5. Learn from the experts. For more detailed ideas and instructions that you can refer to frequently, you will probably want to invest in some resource books. Some I recommend are:

- Home schooling the Child with ADD (or Other Special Needs): Your Complete Guide to Successfully Home schooling the Child with Learning Differences

- Home Schooling Children With Special Needs

- Choosing & Using Curriculum: For Your Special Child

6. Learn from other parents. I always encourage parents to find a place where they can safely exchange ideas and vent frustrations. If there is a local support group of parents that home school, join. Even if they have limited experience with special needs they may still be able to provide general support regarding home schooling regulations and materials. For special needs expertise, you may want to consider an online support or discussion group.
The Home school 'Autism Discussion List
Home schooling Special Needs

Blindhomeschoolers This is for families who are home schooling/parenting a blind child. Teachers of the Visually Impaired who would like to share tips and suggestions are also welcome.

Home Schooling Kids with Special Needs

Home schooling Kids With Disabilities

Home schooling Children Who Are Language Impaired

Home schooling Deaf and Hard of Hearing children

Special Needs Home schooling! Forum

Home schooling Email List for Special Needs/Medically Fragile Children.

7. And finally, look for curriculum and daily lesson materials that are from a quality provider and offer true value to your child. Resources that I recommend include:

- How to Learn 'How to learn is an excellent starting place when it comes to materials because they offer a free learning styles inventory. The inventory is a quick and easy online test that will help you figure out how your child learns best -- by seeing, hearing, or doing. After the test, there is a follow up article to help you understand how to use this information to help your child succeed. In additional they several terrific solutions for students struggling with reading, spelling, and test taking.

- The Home School Source 'Although this site offers many excellent home schooling products for sale, the unique feature of the Home School Source is their lending library. This is a terrific option for new home schoolers because it allows you to check out and try and a wide variety of learning materials for a very reasonable membership fee.

- Remedia Publications 'For daily work, Remedia can be a great solution. You can select the subject (math, reading, social studies) or skill (listening, following directions, test taking) you're interested in and find products targeted for specific grades. Another plus -- virtually all of Remedia's products include some type of worksheets. s

Home schooling is not the right solution for every family. However, if it's the right solution for yours 'I hope that these tips and resources will help make the transition a little easier.

Copyright 2004, Lisa Simmons
About the author:

Lisa is the director of the Ideal Lives Advocacy & Inclusion Center -- an online community of support and learning for parents raising kids with special needs.

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