My second oldest son thrust us into the world of public school IEPs. He was labeled both “highly gifted” and “special needs” half-way through second grade at our neighborhood elementary school. The principal, who knew our family very well from my time serving on the PTA, suggested we consider homeschooling him. That was a very rare educational choice back in the mid-1990’s. She encouraged my late-husband and I that “homeschooling would be good for him” due to its inherent one-on-one nature. She recommended we investigate home-based education then come back in a year to follow-up on his IEP.
Knowing nothing about homeschooling, how to educate a “twice exceptional” child, and not yet having the internet easily accessible, we purchased some resources at our local bookstore and jumped into a totally unknown future. Despite our lack of educational training and limited understanding of how to homeschool, our efforts paid off when his IEP was closed out by the school the following year due to his overall academic improvement. With him as our home-education guinea pig, we went on to eventually homeschool eight more of our children. He is now a happily married family man. Before he became a highly successful entrepreneur, after home high school he earned — with honors — both a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing.
Is your student’s existing IEP holding you back from considering homeschooling? Let me encourage you that if we could do it, you can, too! Even if your child does not have an IEP, homeschooling works well for all children regardless of their learning strengths and weaknesses. Home education can be successfully accomplished by any parent who chooses to do so, whether tag-teaming as a married couple, alone as a single parent (I was widowed with five children still in homeschool for nine more years), or a working parent (I was that, too). Here are basic reasons why I believe homeschooling can provide an effective education for your child:
- A family works out their own convenient daily routine, not fitting into a mandatory schedule.
- Enrichment activities like art, music, and nature walks complete a well-rounded school day.
- Fewer distractions allow for greater focus on what is being learned.
- Grocery shopping, medical appointments, and other life needs integrate into holistic learning.
- Hands-on, small group experiences in other subjects with siblings or friends create a fun, social environment where learning retention is higher compared to classroom reading or lecturing.
- Legally, you can withdraw a child from a public school where he/she has an open IEP.
- Mom or dad teaching their children at home means less bullying and increased safety.
- One-on-one tutorials for math and English can help both gifted and struggling learners advance.
- Schoolwork time is reduced to four hours per day, allowing for other meaningful activities.
- Special needs services are available through private therapies you contract directly for.
- Specific family practices such as diet restrictions and faith can be incorporated.
- Time can be consciously spent on developing close and respectful family relationships.
- With limited structure, the home environment can be less chaotic and stressful.
Families new to homeschooling quickly discover the benefit of a lifestyle that is enjoyable and promotes life-long learning. Moms and dads can both be involved with teaching in their subjects of interest. In our family’s homeschool on our rural Colorado farm, my husband helped our children learn animal husbandry, auto mechanics, electricity, home remodeling, horsemanship, and shooting sports. He also was in-charge of bedtime preparation with read-aloud literature and goodnight prayers. My domain with our children was daily schoolwork, gardening, home economics and management. In addition to job-sharing in our home businesses, we both enjoyed helping our children with their 4H projects and playing recreational sports after lunch or supper. These relationship-based activities were a blessing to all of us, even more so for our children with learning disability labels.
Further considerations for you to begin a positive homeschool experience include:
- Be an encouraging, joy-filled teacher with at least seven compliments to one correction.
- Be consistent — “slow and steady wins the race”.
- Begin at their ability level, not their ‘grade’ level, particularly with gifted or struggling students.
- Discover your child’s struggles and gifts then search out curriculum based on their learning style(s) to help them progress in their weak areas and soar in their strengths.
- For struggling students, be realistic with expectations and build confidence by starting simply.
- Start slowly, adding in subjects and activities over time, leaving wide margins for trial and error.
- Try short teaching times interspersed with exercise, hands-on learning, and a snack with water.
- Use alternative evaluation methods for a more accurate snapshot of your child’s abilities versus only what standardized testing examines.
- Your child’s current IEP (or standardized test or report card) becomes the baseline to go up from.
Yes, there are some hard homeschool days when even the most loving and patient parent wants to give up. I experienced many through the years! On those days I recommend you close the books, hit the ice cream shop, and start over again the next morning. The days are often long but the years do fly by. Homeschooling is well worth the consideration regardless of your student’s current situation. An unexpected outcome I currently enjoy is that my now adult children became my best friends and a vital part of my inner circle. Our homeschool journey was one of the grandest adventures of our mutual lifetimes and well worth any sacrifices as a family or individuals we had to make along the way.
Need more information about homeschooling in general or for an IEP student? I hope you will take time to check out these resources online: