I am surprised to be saying this, but I have found it to be true. An IEP helps you homeschool your child with special needs. Here’s how…
A few years ago, I was struggling to balance all the things.
My youngest son was 10 at the time. He needed constant care for his chronic illness. We had several different therapies each week, and doctor appointments on top of those throughout the month.
It was a very difficult time, and one that never seemed to let up.
While it seems a little silly looking back, at the time, I was totally stressed about the fact that we weren’t doing school as regularly as I thought we should.
How is he ever going to learn to read?
We only did math twice last week and even then, he tore up the paper and melted down.
I am not even sure if he knows the days of the week.
I spent so many sleepless nights, feeling overwhelmed and pretty sure I was failing my child.
At one point, I thought maybe I should enroll him in school.
I thought they could help. They would teach him. They would cover all the gaps I simply couldn’t.
My husband, who tends to be the voice of reason when I am freaking out about the boys’ education, asked me a question that completely changed my perspective.
What would the school system do with all the other stuff – the therapies, the need for chronic illness care and bathroom issues, the missed classroom time for doctors appointments and blood tests? Those would still be necessary. How could they possibly teach him anymore than you already are?
The answer was so simple, I almost cried.
The school would create an IEP that included all of these things as part of his educational goals. Why couldn’t I take the same approach?
What Is An IEP?
If you are not familiar with the technicalities of an IEP, please allow me to explain. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan. It is both a legal document, and a way of defining what a child needs according to her diagnoses. It’s essentially a map that lays out the program of special education instruction, supports and services kids need to make progress and succeed in school.
Please read that last sentence again – it includes not just educational instruction, but supports and services as well.
The school system includes all the things that I thought were “getting in the way” of our being able to accomplish learning in our homeschool as part of the learning objectives.
Public IEP’s and Homeschooling
For many homeschooling families, support services like speech therapy and OT are offered through the school district. In order to access these public services, most districts require an IEP as part of the legal process of obtaining services. We have done this in the past, with varying degrees of success. You can read about our experiences in these posts below, but please know, this type of formal IEP is not what I am discussing today.
How An IEP Helps You Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs
Perhaps it would be best if we think of an IEP as more of an ILP – an individualized learning plan – because that’s essentially what I have found to be most helpful as a homeschooling mom.
At the beginning of each year, I put together my own version of an IEP that has some academic goals and plans, but also includes goals and plans for life skills and therapies.
This allows me to look at my child’s needs and overall progress from a more accurate and holistic perspective.
Most importantly, it allows me to have much more realistic expectations of what we are working on at any given point in time. Let me give you some examples.
Creating Your Own Homeschool IEP
Just like the formal process requires in school, at the end of each school year, I assess what’s working and what’s not working in academics and supports. From there, I create 3-5 goals for my son’s next school year.
Here is a snapshot of what this looked like a few years ago when I first tried this approach.
Goal One: Currently able to recognize 70 of the top 200 sight words with accuracy. Increase to 180 by the end of the school year.
Goal Two: Use natural strengths in science and history to form 80% of each day’s learning (strength based approach).
Life Skills Learning
Goal One: Use restroom independently, without support, 90% of time at home and in public.
Support Services Learning Goal
Goal One: Use Zones of Regulation and weekly therapy appointments to help with emotional regulation. Increase ability to identify own emotions either verbally or with picture prompts when sad, frustrated and/or angry.
This may seem basic, and I guess it is, but creating these four goals as part of my own IEP completely changed our homeschool.
I felt more confident in my son’s overall progress. He felt less stressed as I stopped trying to do all the things, and instead focused on what would make the greatest difference in his overall life.
We both felt more successful as he learned.
I was amazed when I revisited these goals in the middle of our year and at the end. Taking time to actually measure how he was doing allowed me to see the progress actually being made and celebrate it! Before, I would just feel bad as I focused on all the things we weren’t doing, instead of seeing the good that was happening everyday right before me.
Would you like to give it a try?
I have put together a cheat sheet to help you get started – you can download it HERE.
Wishing you so much love and learning,
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