I Have No Idea How To Homeschool My Child With Special Needs
Most of the time, I have no idea how to homeschool my child with special needs. This is the only way I know to push through.
I spoke with a mom last week about her son with learning differences.
After getting into a few details about his reading delay and processing speed, she said, “I know that homeschooling is the best choice for him. I just have no idea how to actually do it.”
I actually nodded my head in agreement, even though we were on the phone.
“None of us really do,” I replied.
I wrote a book all about Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs, and yet this is still my firm belief.
None of us really know how to do this. We just do it, because we know it is what is right for our child.
Along the way, we learn a bit, we fail a lot and eventually, we begin to understand what works.
With this in mind, I want to share the things that I have found to be universally true for all of us, no matter what the diagnosis or educational circumstances leading up to our decisions to homeschool.
I Have No Idea How To Homeschool My Child With Special Needs (but here’s what I do know)
DIFFERENT IS NOT LESS. DIFFICULT IS NOT WRONG.
One of the most challenging parts of homeschooling a child with special needs is how completely different it looks, compared to other homeschools and traditional classrooms.
My son learned to read with a combination of YouTube, sidewalk chalk and Harry Potter audiobooks, y’all. It looked nothing like everyone said it should.
We need the reminder that different is not less than other, more traditional approaches.
More importantly, we need the reminder than just because it’s difficult (and it is!) doesn’t mean we are doing it wrong.
It’s just really difficult sometimes – that’s not your fault and it doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong!
CONFIDENCE MATTERS MORE THAN CURRICULUM.
It is really easy to worry that we are using the wrong curriculum or need to explore all the other options available in an attempt to “fix” what is not working.
While it is appropriate to change up your curriculum from time to time, the truth is, the best thing we can do is focus on what is working and do more of it for a while.
If you are worried about your math curriculum, instead of obsessing about other math options, spend more time on the things that are natural strengths and interests for your child.
This approach develops much more confidence in learning, both for you and for your child.
You can and will always come back and work out the curriculum challenges later.
WE KEEP GOING, EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE NOTHING IS WORKING.
This one is really, really difficult. And, it’s really, really accurate.
Many times, when you are helping a struggling learner, it will seem like they are making no progress at all. Even worse, sometimes, it seems like they might be losing ground.
For example, it took almost three years for my son to master reading the word ‘the.’ It was my nemesis and his.
Three years, but it eventually “stuck” and now he can read it beautifully, every single time.
We keep going, even when it seems like nothing’s working. This is simply part of homeschooling a child with special needs.
IT ALL ADDS UP.
This is one of the most surprising parts of this homeschooling journey to me.
My children are 17 and 14. Looking back over the past almost decade of homeschooling, I can tell you that more than the curriculum or the tutors, the co-op or the online program – what has made the most signifcant impact in my boys’ overall education is just simply showing up and doing what I can.
What I can see now, looking back, is that it all adds up.
Every random audio book and conversation about reptiles. All the times spent driving from one aquarium store to the next, looking for just the right fish. The pencils broken in frustration and the sidewalk chalk phonics.
All of it is adding up to an education that is working for my boys.
Want to see what this looks like in real time?
My brand new Homeschool Day In The Life is up on Simple Homeschool this week.
Not only can you see what an average day looks like now, but you can also compare it to the past five years I have shared this glimpse into the reality of our days.
- 2020: Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with a 14- and 17-year-old)
- 2019: Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with a 13- and 16-year-old)
- 2018: Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with a 12- and 15-year-old)
- 2017: Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with an 11- & 14-year-old)
- 2016: Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with a 10- & 13-year-old)
- 2015: Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with an 8- & 11-year-old)
I am so grateful to be able to see that all of the work, tears, prayers and hopes are forming a pretty amazing education and life.
I have no idea how to homeschool my children and yet, somehow, it’s working.
For more on Homeschooling A Child With Special Needs
Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned educational consultant, and mom of two brilliant boys who have learning differences and special needs.
Shawna has also written four books: Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos, and Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. A passionate advocate for individualized education, Shawna is frequently featured on Today.com, Simple Homeschool, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Mighty. She can also be found supporting parents online at her own site, DifferentByDesignLearning.com.