10 Twists to Homeschooling with Special Needs

I’m joining iHomeschool Network and Angie at Many Little Blessings for another Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic is “10 reasons why you chose your homeschooling method.”

If our “method” of homeschooling has a name, I guess it is survival. I work very hard to provide both of our children with an excellent education, but I have had to find unique ways of doing this to work around our specialist appointments and therapy schedule. Here are our ten twists to homeschooling with special needs:

  1. I set priorities. I cannot possibly do everything I would like to with the kids in the 180+ days that we work on our lessons each school year. If I take the time to sit down and decide exactly what it is I want the girls to learn that year, it makes it easier for me to stay focused on what we need to do. This is especially important for my younger daughter, who can’t work straight through a curriculum from a box and call it done for the year.
  2. I encourage independence where possible. My younger daughter needs lots of one-on-one time, but my older daughter loves to be “on her own.” I use a curriculum (yes, it’s sort of “boxed”) for her that allows her to work independently on reading, language arts, and math, asking questions as needed. I check her work daily, help her make corrections to her work, and listen to her read aloud. This makes it easy for me to keep tabs on the areas she has trouble in and make sure she continues to make progress.
  3. I teach multi-level subjects when possible. I didn’t do this the first few years we homeschooled, but when my younger daughter started first grade, I realized how ridiculous it was to try to teach two separate social studies, Bible, and science classes each day. I began choosing curriculum that was appropriate for both grade levels and adjusted expectations based on grade level and ability. This has worked nicely for our family, and we’re branching out even more with notebooking!
  4. I finally learned that therapy “counts” as school. On therapy days, I used to push my younger daughter to do all the school work we usually do. She got tired and frustrated, and it was then that I realized just how tiring therapy is! Now, on therapy days, we do reading and math in addition to the therapeutic activities I sneak in at home.
  5. I overcame my fear of failure and trying something new. When I realized my daughter’s kindergarten curriculum wasn’t working for her, it took me a while to admit it. I had used the same curriculum for my older daughter, and it had worked fine. I felt that if I changed curriculum, it meant I had failed as a teacher. The truth is that I would have been a failure if I had stuck with something that obviously wasn’t working. I no longer buy boxed curriculum for my younger daughter. Instead, I purchase inexpensive, often used, materials for her as we go. That way I know exactly what we need!
  6. I learned to car-school. Because of lots of out-of-town trips to specialist appointments, I have gotten creative with our travel time. I have learned to sneak in learning opportunities in ways the girls don’t expect. On one trip, this meant I taught them about mile markers (to cut down on are we there yet?), and they also practiced counting forward and backward as they watched the miles go by.
  7. We take field trips. Truthfully, we take a lot of field trips. We go to the zoo or a hands-on science museum almost every time we make one of those specialist trips. We visit a local state park regularly. We take advantage of free and inexpensive opportunities in our community. We go on field trips with our local homeschool group. These real-life experiences have been some of our best learning times. The girls have made connections to things we’ve studied during our lessons, and it has been great to review those with them as they see that concept “in action.”
  8. Technology is my friend. My younger daughter learns much more easily with technology than pencil and paper. Because of that, she has subscriptions to various web sites for math, reading, and other subjects. She also owns several Nintendo DSi games that were specifically chosen to meet therapy goals. The Wii is also good to help her meet some of her therapy goals, as well as to work out the wiggles so she can focus better. We use more technology than I ever dreamed we would!
  9. I learned to be flexible. This was huge for me. When I quit thinking every day had to go according to schedule, our homeschool became a lot happier. It’s just not possible to gauge how much my younger daughter will be able to do in a day. Sometimes, for various reasons, she just can’t do what I’m asking her to do. On those days, we take a step back, approach the objective in a gentler way, and try again the next day. Usually, by the next day, we’re pushing forward again!
  10. I put God first. This is critical for me. When I don’t take the time to connect with God before our day starts, it doesn’t go well. I usually begin praying before I ever open my eyes, which often leads my family to believe I sleep later than I really do! I also take time each day to spend time reading my Bible and trying to hear what God is saying to me through His Word.
How did you choose your homeschooling method?
Join the fun by linking up your post at Many Little Blessings today. Any Top Ten list will do!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings






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Photo credit: Jennifer A. Janes

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12 Responses to 10 Twists to Homeschooling with Special Needs

  1. Rebecca says:


    As I have watched you travel this road, I have been in awe of the way you have kept your eyes on God – not flinching, yes…going through the trials, but holding on to him! I am thankful for your love and friendship….this post….is one that many need to read!

  2. You describe a beautiful homeschooling journey. My ADHD son brought me to my homeschool journey so I can really appreciate your list. And I love the car-schooling part. So true.

  3. Dawn says:

    Love this list. We use all of these methods to help our special needs family thrive.
    Blessings, Dawn

  4. Betsy says:

    We are walking a parallel journey of discovery – the last couple years of special needs homeschooling have certainly been a refining process!! =)

  5. Amy Young says:

    Excellent post, as always! I could use most (if not all) of these tips in various aspects of my life! Anyone who homeschools, and certainly those who homeschool children with special needs have my upmost respect. Y’all are amazing!

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