Yes, It’s Stressful To Homeschool My Child With Special Needs

It’s one of the questions I am most often asked. The answer is, “Yes, it is stressful to homeschool my child with special needs.”

I worked on my son’s high school transcript this week.

I found myself thinking, “How did this happen? First of all, a tenth grader? What is that all about?” and then “What happened to ‘I’ll just homeschool them for a few years and then they can go to a private high school?‘”

This same boy was in public school until third grade.

When I think back on that time frame, I remember the feeling of dread each morning. I remember the anger and frustration I felt when he wasn’t getting the services he needed. I remember the fear of bullying and social maladjustment.

And I remember the intense pressure I felt all the time to find a workable solution.

It is stressful to homeschool my child with special needs


Homeschooling, for us, began as a way to relieve that stress and pressure.

And it did.

But the truth is, homeschooling any child brings with it a completely different kind of pressure – add special needs and learning differences to the mix and sometimes, it can be totally overwhelming.

One of the most common questions I am asked about homeschooling with learning differences is, “Isn’t that a lot of pressure on you?”

The answer is yes. It is a ton of pressure sometimes.

I felt like this was an important topic to cover as part of our 5 Days Of Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences Series. I want to give you an honest look at what homeschooling children with learning differences is really like. Sometimes it’s amazing hands-on activities – sometimes it’s crying in the bathroom, certain that I am messing up my children for life.

I think homeschooling brings pressure for every mom – no matter what the child’s needs. But my experience has shown that there are some areas that are simply more intense for the family educating a child with learning differences.

The Pressures of Homeschooling My Child With Special Needs

Educating Myself

I often hear homeschool moms of children without significant differences worrying about how they will teach math when their children are older. “What about algebra? How will I teach that? I don’t know anything about it!

This is exactly what homeschooling a child with learning differences feels like to me – but for all the subjects.

A significant part of the extra stress and pressure I feel comes from needing to educate myself so that I can educate my children.

What’s the Orton-Gillingham Approach to teaching dyslexic students to read?

How are math drills typically accommodated in a school setting?

What does the research say about executive function and learning? How do I help my sons with both?

This is just a small sample of the ongoing questions I need to answer and the reading, research, and learning I need to do, before I can effectively help my sons learn.

Dealing with Doctors and Therapists

Children with learning differences are also more likely to be involved in many more outside therapies and doctors appointments. This means their mom is more likely to be questioned about homeschooling, socialization and high school far more than the average homeschooling mom.

Having to explain at best and often defend at worst, our decision to homeschool and the progress my boys have made because of it, is a constant stressor.

Comparison Is Awful

This is true for every single mom I know, hands down, homeschooling or not. Comparing ourselves to others is a really quick way to ruin our days.

I find that comparison when it comes to homeschooling my children with learning differences can be downright devastating. My heart feels like it’s breaking sometimes when I look at what my friend’s youngest son can do, versus my own youngest. Hers is five years younger than mine and is ahead of him in school. It’s the worst, isn’t it?

Comparison hurts me. It hurts my son. And it brings more unnecessary pressure.

Am I Doing The Right Thing?

Again, this is a universal motherhood pressure that is aggravated by our differences. Most of the time, this sounds like, “There are people more trained and with more experience in the school special education system. Am I doing the right thing? Maybe I should just let the ‘experts” handle it, no matter what our experience has been.”

“Am I doing the right thing?” is a loaded question around here. It inevitably brings me to the greatest pressure I feel as a mom homeschooling children with learning differences…

It’s All On Me

The mother of all mother pressures, this one takes me out sometimes. My son learning to read with profound dyslexia, executive function strategies, therapy decisions, measuring progress and now, even high school transcripts – they are all on me to figure out. At least it feels that way sometimes.

The truth is, we have an entire team of professionals that help me navigate these decisions and needs. I have a ton of support in person and online. But the “It’s all on me” feeling still comes more often than I would like, and the pressure it creates is never helpful.

Yes, It’s Stressful To Homeschool My Child With Special Needs

All this pressure. All this stress. Why do this? Why homeschool at all?

Because, after everything I just described, I can also tell you that it is 100% worth it.

Homeschooling is far less stressful for me and for my boys than being in the school system was for us. Yes, the pressures and stress of homeschooling children with learning differences are difficult sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade the progress my sons are making and the days we spend learning together for anything.

Want to learn more?

This post is part of a 5 Day Series – Homeschooling Children With Learning Differences.

Homeschooling children with learning differences


The Surprising Benefits Of Homeschooling My Child With Special Needs

It may be stressful to homeschool my child with special needs, but there have also been benefits that I never anticipated. 

Today, I’m sharing the surprising benefits of homeschooling my child with special needs at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. 

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  1. Heather Meenach says:

    Great article, so true. But what team of professionals do you have to help you navigate this? I have no team.

    1. Thanks Heather. We currently have a developmental pediatrician and a cognitive behavioral therapist. In the past we have used an educational therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist as well.

  2. Tracy Criswell says:

    Shawna, thank you for this article. I have been homeschooling my four children since 2011. My three youngest have different special needs: 12-year-old daughter has ADHD, Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Anxiety; a 15-year-old son that has ADHD, learning disability, undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome (both of his pediatric doctors agree with this), Anxiety, and Sensory Processing Disorder, and a 16-year-old daughter with ADHD, Anxiety, Other Specified Neurodevelopmental Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Vision Processing Disorder and Anxiety.

    Do you have any advice for children at the secondary level (I will have a 7th grader, 10th grader and 11th grader)? All three are nontraditional learners that need this type of approach. The areas that I’m struggling with is English (reading, writing, grammar, spelling, etc.), math, etc. I’m trying to balance their school work with life skills so that they will have options after high school (post-secondary plans).

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