Homeschooling a struggling learner is not what I thought it would be. It’s so much better and in some ways, worse.
When my son was in public school, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about what it would be like if I could stay home with him and homeschool.
No drop-off meltdowns.
No calls from the teacher.
No sinking feeling at pick-up time, seeing the other boys making fun of his shoes.
The thought that I might be able to bring him home and make it better haunted me.
Then, at the end of second grade, we did it.
We began homeschooling.
Eight years later, I can say with absolute certainty that it was the right decision for my family.
But, looking back, I also realize that my assumption that homeschooling would “fix” it all was way, way off.
With that in mind, I today I want to share an honest look at, what I consider to be, the pros and cons specific to homeschooling children with special needs.
The Pros And Cons Of Homeschooling A Struggling Learner
A Focus On Strengths
One of the greatest pros is that homeschooling allows us to focus on and build upon my children’s strengths, rather than re-mediating weaknesses. This approach helps build confidence and over time, my sons have been better able to perform in all areas. I have actaully created an entire series about this topic and how beneficial it has been for my son and his educational progress. You can find it here – Strength Based Learning series.
Both of my sons have anxiety disorder diagnoses. Both are significantly less anxious because we homeschool. My oldest’s explosive behavior decreased significantly when we removed the daily expectation that he function in a school environment. For more about how homeschooling has helped with my sons’ anxiety, please take a look at all the details in this post.
Quality Social Opportunities
Although one of the main criticisms of homeschooling is that it decreases a child’s opportunity for socialization, the truth is that for my kids, homeschooling has allowed for better social opportunities than school ever provided. First, no bullies. Second, when they meet a friend, they have time to work through any social discomfort in a relaxed environment. Moreover, my children have friends that have stayed friends for years. They have grown together, worked through differences together and developed deeper relationships than a 20 minute recess could ever provide.
I have shared, time and time again, about the benefits of homeschooling my children with special needs. In fact, I have an entire post that lists 101 reasons why it works for us.
Although I have shared a lot about the benefits, this is the first time I have created a list of things that are actually more difficult because of our decision to homeschool, particularly because of my children’s struggles.
Lack of Daily Structure
As much as I try to create a routine and structure to our days, there is simply no way I can offer the same level of predictability in our home that a formal school setting offers. Because children on the spectrum and with mood disorders thrive and often demand a level of structure beyond what homeschooling provides, this is a con that must be noted and considered. I believe my youngest would, in fact, benefit from the daily predictability that school provides.
Every single outside resource we employ operates with a school mindset. Doctors and therapists are trained to help school age kids in ways that include the school environment. Even some diagnoses require an assessment of school ability and social/behavioral performance in order to diagnose (I can’t tell you how many doctors have looked at the parent assessment and teacher assessment forms and struggled to figure out which one to give me).
The truth is, our world assumes a typical school experience for children. Most professionals are not sure what to do with a child who is homeschooled.
Because I am teacher, mom, and even therapist most days, I am tired. I am overworked and have very little time for outside interests. (One of my son’s therapists once asked him what his mom’s hobbies were and he, looking puzzled, answered, “Doing the dishes?”) A realistic look at the pros and cons of homeschooling would be incomplete without this very present reality.
After looking at the pros and cons for my family, I find, over and over again, that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Although I realize that in some areas, a formal school might better meet our needs, when I look at the entire picture I can easily see that homeschooling allows the type of childhood that I want for my children, and even the type of motherhood I crave for myself.
I have learned that there is no perfect solution and all educational options have their own lists of pros and cons.
Homeschooling Children A Struggling Learner Is A Wonderful Option!
If you are looking for support and resources to help you as you homeschool your child, you are in the right place. These are some of our most-read and well-loved posts.
One of the main reasons we started homeschooling was because of the sheer sensory overload my son experienced in school. He had a flight or fight response every single morning as we left for school. I know now that his response was consistent with a child suffering from chronic sensory disregulation.
Please join me today at Simple Homeschool where I am sharing more specifics of what it’s like to homeschool a child with sensory processing disorder, and how our homeschool has changed in order to accommodate a new sensory lifestyle.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.