Homeschooling And Special Needs Education


Children and young adults with special needs rarely find the support, resources, and environment of the public education system adequate. This has made home education prevalent among many families with special needs and disabled children. Although homeschooling is often a better option, this does not mean it is an easy job. Making the decision to educate a special needs child requires lots of time, effort, patience, and love.

One of the most frequently asked questions is:

Do I have the right to homeschool my child if he/she has special challenges?

The answer is yes. Parents can homeschool their children in every state and regardless of any challenges they may face. In fact, there are many scenarios involving disabilities and troubled students that lead to 'accidental homeschoolers.'

The law, public schools, and special needs

The public schools are legally required to give an appropriate education to all of their students. Children with special needs are given a individualized education plans (IEP). Under the law, public schools must evaluate the specific needs of each child and design an education program that is tailored to the child's needs. While this sounds great, it is impossible to implement. Schools do not have enough funding to make this into a reality.

Parents that have been paying close attention thus far might already notice a critical minutia in the legal description of education. By definition of the law, not a single child actually receives an "appropriate" education in public school. Why are parents of special needs children the only ones who take action?

So, very rarely do public schools hold up the 'requirements.' A parent can involve lawyers, but the school will usually find a way to cut corners until the academic year has finished. Even if a family takes the school to court and wins, there are a plethora of additional details the parents must sort out. Who will provide the child the services he or she deserves? Who will ensure they actually follow up? The sad truth is that the public school systems spend less money defending a few fruitless court cases each year than they would spend if they implemented the IEPs each child legally deserves. The local school cannot afford to provide special needs children with the educational services they should receive by law.

Why does this system make so little sense? A large factor is the disconnection and lack of communication between the people who make the laws and the individuals in charge of budgets.

Should I pursue legal action?

If your child does not receive an adequate education through the public school system, it is within your right to take action, hire lawyers, and take the school to court. But is it worth it? Most parents who take legal action never see their efforts rewarded (monetarily) and pay more in legal fees than it would have cost to pay for their child's education.

Ideally, this legal system will be modified. However, a frugal parent will likely be better off financially if they do not attempt to get what their child qualifies for and instead spend their time and money creating something that their child will really need.

For more information on important caselaw sections on autism see

Common Core and special needs

At the beginning of 2016 there was a wave of controversy surrounding Common Core and special needs children. Special needs children who could not read were expected to read "To Kill A Mockingbid" and provide meaningful feedback. In the words of public school teacher Jill Cataldo:

Even in special education, our curriculum is based on Common Core standards. I’ll have to teach about seasons to a child who doesn’t know his own name. I’m expected to teach To Kill A Mockingbird to a classroom full of nonverbal students, some of whom may be wearing diapers and haven’t learned their ABCs. I think it’s insulting to tell students what they’re going to learn, regardless of their abilities and needs. But I try to work some magic and design a lesson plan where everyone in the class can take something away from the story. For the least advanced students, we just use To Kill A Mockingbird to practice the alphabet. Then I’m also expected to teach Algebra. I try my best using lots of velcro and lamination, but I can’t say that many of my students have ever learned how to solve for x. We spend so much energy on learning how to sit still. I think special populations should be focused more on vocational training like filling out forms and budgeting money—things that will give them confidence and prepare them for independence. But I keep my mouth shut and do my best to work within the system. When I first began teaching, my mentor told me: ‘If there’s anything about the system that you want to fight, just make sure it’s the hill you want to die on."

— Humans of New York [source]

There is no doubt that under Common Core, the learning curve with special needs grows much, much larger. Common Core requires that special needs students achieve the same levels of academic mastery as all of their peers. A study by Hallie Smith shows that special needs students often need 30-40 additional days of instruction to learn material. It is clear that Common Core standards overlook the law that states that special needs students should have IEPs.

Homeschooling often provides an ideal environment

Homeschooling can provide the flexibility, encouragement, and opportunities that these students need most. Daily life with a handicap is an ongoing challenge. The last thing that these determined children need is another daily challenge that provides a constant reminder of their struggles. Most spcial needs students are constantly aware of their inabilities which often lead to depression and feelings of inadequacy. If the parent is ready to accept the task, they can easily provide a much better learning environment for their child. Additionally, the flexibility of homeschooling allows parents the opportunity to be involved in support groups, homeschool co-ops, and other social settings that are actually much more beneficial for these children.

Last modified: March 20, 2017