In Part One of this post, we discussed the myriad of advantages that come with deciding to homeschool your child with special needs. In this post, we will discuss the disadvantages.
1. You just went from being Mom, to Mom and Teacher. While this could also be considered an advantage, and while this is also true for a child who is typical, it has added weight if your child has special needs. Children with special needs can require, more time and more patience. If you are mom and teacher, you will not have much break. For some it is mentally and physically healthy to have this break, especially if you have other children in your care.
Only you can decide what you can handle and handle realistically. For us, my stress level went DOWN, not up when we started homeschooling our twins with special needs because I know longer had the daily call from the school and was no longer making the daily trip to the public school to find out “what was wrong now”, but I have had other wonderful friends, wonderful mothers, decide to try homeschooling their child with special needs, and realized it was not for them.
2. Got therapies? This is a biggie. If you’re child is in a public school, then the public school is mandated by Law, by the child’s IEP, to provide needed therapies within the school day that help your child to have success in the least restrictive environment. These are at the public school professionals discretion but typically includes Speech, Occupational and Physical therapy, or any combination thereof. If you decide to homeschool, you may no longer have access to these free therapies. With the average cost of a private sector speech therapy session at $80/hour, it is important to have a plan for your child’s needed therapy services.
3.Time & Twins. While I find that homeschooling the twins has been paramount to their success and progress we have made with their subjects, their ADL’s and home tasks, there is one thing that the public school did help me with…potty training. The boys first few years of school were in public school. They were in a phenomenal program with a teacher who WANTED them to SUCCEED. At the IEP meeting, the goal to help them be potty trained including the classroom aid taking them to the potty every hour on the hour (if not more frequently) and backward chaining the undressing and dressing sequences with them to help them become independent.
I don’t know that I would have been able to do that as diligently at home as they did at the school for at the time I was still working outside the home and even without that, Audrey was a new baby. To be completely honest, at the time, I did not have the energy or patience to do any task hourly with them in that detail (times two!) and so I was fortunate that they had a wonderful public school program. Had they had that teacher every year, I may not have made the decision to homeschool them…she was that wonderful. Point is, there are periods in your special needs child development that are more time or labor intensive than others. Factor this into your decision.
4. Documentation. Some states require a good deal of documentation, others….not so much. If you are homeschooling a child with special needs I recommend doing more than the minimum amount required. This need not be cumbersome but can include attendance record, copies of outside evaluations done or therapies performed (speech, OT, PT, etc). I like to do a yearly portfolio that also includes descriptions/photos of field trips, family vacations and community experiences. Besides being a great memento of your child’s homeschool year they are very helpful if your child transfers back into a public/private school if/when your homeschool journey ends! Why is this in the disadvantages post? Because some states require alot of documentation. More so with a child with special needs. Which requires more of your time. To find out your states regulations, visit HSLDA.
5. Socialization. This is on both the advantages list and the disadvantages list. While homeschooling keeps your child with special needs from picking up undesirable social behaviours from classmates, it now becomes your responsibility to find social outlets for your child. I am lucky, in that I live in an area that offers great community rec programs for children with special needs, lots of venues, a strong Special Olympics community and even a summer day camp for kids with disabilities that the boys attend each year (check that out HERE), but even with all that, there have been different times it has been challenging to find something that one: would accept the boys two: worked into the schedule that three: was not expensive. Be prepared to think outside the box for social opportunities remembering that a child with special needs, needs outings, sunshine, field trips and friends as much as their typical peers!
6. Routine. Routine was #10 on the advantages list. (“You can change the routine as needed. If your child did not sleep the night before, as most children with special needs (80% as compared to 30% in their typical peers) have sleep issues, you can adjust the days learning schedule. Likewise, you can keep the schedule as rigid as need be for your child’s comfort level.”) So why is it on the disadvantages list? a child with special needs, depending on their diagnosis, may not only thrive with routine but may require a rigid routine in order to function, learn, remain calm and make progress. If this is your child…if change bothers your child…take this into consideration as it can be a disadvantage to homeschooling if you are not yourself a structured or organized person.
7. Curriculum. (I saved one of the best/worst for last). Why is this on the disadvantages list? well the good news with homeschooling is you can pick your child’s curriculum. The bad news, with a child with special needs, there really aren’t any. I find each year, I make my own from scratch for the boys…I pick and choose subject curriculums from various resources and various grade levels based on what i feel their current level at the beginning of that school year is. While there are some blanket homeschool companies (AZ virtual academy, for one) that has a spec. ed department that can assist/mentor you, be prepared to have to figure out on your own what science, math, and spelling is best for you special student and also be prepared to modify. Now, I’m one of those weird “I love planning” types, so I don’t really find this to be a disadvantage. That being said it takes twice as long (easy) to plan out the boys school year as it does their typical sisters.
Interestingly enough, there were almost twice as many advantages on the advantages list as there is on this list, the disadvantages. In the end, only you can decide if homeschooling your child with special needs is right for you and right for them. I will leave you with this final thought…
** Everyone’s situation, child, patience level and circumstance is different. Only you can decide what is best for your family….but don’t NOT give homeschooling your child with special needs a try out of fear. What is the worst that can happen? you put them back into public school? if they are already there, then you have lost nothing to try something that may end up being a wonderful journey for you and your child. And, that is why I started blogging about homeschool to begin with…to show other parents that homeschooling children with special needs successfully was possible! And with the boys (and my typical girls) homeschooling is a decision I make every year. Every year I assess if the previous year was successful and positive for them and for me. If I can answer yes to both of those then I continue our current journey for the next year.
I welcome your comments and if you have anything to add to this list, please let us know!