There are many myths that surround homeschooling, but one of the biggest is that it is too difficult for parents to homeschool their children with special needs. However, the reality is that many parents homeschool their special needs children because the regular public schools often fail to offer the type of individualized learning that their children need to succeed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the serious shortcomings of the regular public schools, especially when it comes to meeting the needs of students with special needs.
A Kansas City mom with a daughter with special needs, was not crazy about the special education program at her daughter’s middle school.
During the pandemic, things got much worse for her daughter. She had a great deal of trouble with Zoom distance learning. Her learning suffered as a result and the school was not helpful.
“After dealing with all that and getting nowhere,” she said, “I pulled my daughter and started homeschooling.”
Nelson joined the thousands of parents who have switched to homeschooling their special needs children.
In my new book The Homeschool Boom, which analyzes the rise in homeschooling and profiles homeschool parents and educators, I devote an entire chapter to homeschooling children with special needs.
Jackie Nunes, a former pediatric nurse, decided to pull her daughter, who is developmentally delayed, out of her public school to homeschool her instead.
She cites key advantages of homeschooling special needs children: parents can teach in a personalized manner all day, every day; flexible scheduling allows for breaks and therapy appointments; parents can choose the curriculum that best fits the child; and parents can customize the learning environment to their child so as to eliminate distractions and meet their individual attention and studying needs.
One parent that I profile in my book is Carrie Carlson, whose son Garrett has autism and dyslexia.
Garrett’s public school did not recognize his special needs and he was put in the lowest-performing group in his class, which included mostly non-English speakers. she asked, “How is this even helping him?”
The principal at the school told Carlson: “I don’t ever tell a person to do this, but I can’t promise you that I have teachers that are going to cater to your child. I would tell you to homeschool your kid.”
She pulled Garrett out of the school the next day.
Carlson took Garrett to a neurologist who advised her that her son would not learn the same way other people learn so, she recalled, he advised her to “keep him as far away from schools, teachers, and classrooms as possible.”
The neurologist recommended that she take Garrett to museums, take him on field trips, and let him explore the world because that was how he was going to learn.
“We did exactly what the neurologist told us to do,” she said. And because Garrett is dyslexic and has a hard time reading, she transitioned him to audio books.
“He devoured books on audio,” she observed, and calls Garrett “probably one of the most well-read dyslexic kids I’ve ever met.”
Indeed, when he was eight, Garrett went through the entire mammoth J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy The Lord of the Rings on audio books.
“I think that one of the things that has been great about being able to homeschool him is being able to adjust his learning of content to fit his pace,” she says. She notes that what has worked for him is going slower, taking things in smaller chunks, and taking lots of breaks.”
Homeschooling, therefore, can often be the best way for a special needs child to learn and be fulfilled. As Carlson says, “At the end of the day, what we really want are kind, well-functioning, and happy people.”
Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute. He is the author of the new PRI book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.