High Needs Homeschooling

“High needs homeschooling” is a term I use to describe any of the following situations:  homeschooling children with special needs;  homeschooling a supreme extrovert with an introverted, highly sensitive parent;  homeschooling with difficult home dynamics (whether that is medical crisis or financial crisis or something else).

I think in all of these cases, we have to think carefully about whether or not homeschooling is meeting the needs of the entirety of the family, including the parents.  Here are just a few thoughts on homeschooling in these situations:

When you are an introverted, highly sensitive mother with extroverted children:

Consider the long-term plan. Homeschooling numbers tend to dwindle going into middle school and moreso into high school. Will there be enough of a peer group to support your extroverted child? Understand that extroverts are not automatically met better in the school environment, but I do think it is something that deserves thought as an extrovert nears the high school age.   If your extroverted child wants lots to do – clubs and sports- are you willing to drive and be out of the house?  If that doesn’t nourish you, and you feel that you must do it, how will you replenish yourself?

How will you structure your day so you will feel nourished?  This could include the use of audio books instead of reading outloud every day ( yes, I know this wouldn’t happen in a Waldorf School but remember Waldorf homeschooling is not Waldorf School); it could include daily quiet time; it could include sending multiple children outside to play in a safe space without you; it could include the fun of pairing up older siblings and younger siblings for helping with school-related tasks; it could be gently transitioning older students into more independent work so long as they don’t have learning challenges that make this difficult.  Oak Meadow used to be one of the only options for this approach of writing to the student, but I am pleased to see some new products coming out from Christopherus that are geared directly to the middle school student and acknowledges the changes that can occur in the upper grades in homeschooling and the need for more independent work.

Finally, please do acknowledge that all of us need relationships, whether we are introverted or extroverted. We can plan our time with other people carefully if it drains us, but maybe we should be finding relationships for everyone in the family that aren’t draining.  Good lesson for life.  And if you really feel you don’t need one friend, one time out to be without your children during the month…well, maybe you are early in your homeschooling journey or your children are small, but I really think you will want this eventually. 🙂

Homeschooling Children with Special Needs…

This can be very draining and lonely for some parents.  It is hard to teach the same things year after year, such a large amount of repetition, and see only incremental progress.  It is hard to teach every single subject through high school when your child cannot prepare any of the work by themselves at all – so it is still all on you as the teacher, tutor, guide.  And, it is something few other homeschooling parents can really understand unless they are in it themselves.  It can be a grieving process at times, especially as children enter the teen years.   So, you need to know going into homeschooling your child with special needs is that the overall goal may be more about being steady and persistent in engaging our children to learn, and not so much about the final, perfect outcome.

Remember all the other parts of “education” – experience, the arts, social learning, emotional learning, nature studies, practical work – all of these things are so very important.  You cannot change and wish away your child’s struggles, but you can expand all the opportunities and you can celebrate all the victories!

Find your support.  This is important for every homeschooling parent, but incredibly important for parents who are teaching children with special needs.  Also, find support for your children – this might be therapy, or getting neuropsychological testing, or finding other children who accept your child, or the support of a wonderful community.  Every situation looks different, but support is crucial.

There are studies that show homeschoolers with special needs are more engaged with their academic work than students in traditional school settings.  Please don’t undervalue your hard work!  You are making a difference, even if it seems small to you right now.

Homeschooling with extenuating circumstances :

The homeschool community often seems hit hard with bad luck and misfortune.  I think we all know families (or we have been that family!)  that have been hit with one thing right after another, from loss of employment, low funds, house fires, accidents that caused medical bills, chronic disease, and more.  Sometimes a family is really forced to give up homeschooling for traditional school and parental employment, but I have seen other families really hang on through the worst of times.  In these circumstances, which are so individual, it is hard to give specific suggestions except to…

Live within your means, and work to decrease debt and increase income for the family member who is working.  I thought this article did a good job regarding thinking about homeschooling on one income.

Consider how to homeschool as inexpensively as possible.  Traditional homeschooling – ie, used textbooks or free on line sources, may be some of the cheaper ways to homeschool, but I think there are many ways one can homeschool using Waldorf methodology on a budget as well.  The library is a fantastic resource for putting blocks together.

(A side note here:  Waldorf curriculum is rather a difficult thing to afford for many families.  On one hand,  the authors deserve to be fairly compensated for their experience and work (hours and hours to create a curriculum!); I think the cost that many complain about in the Waldorf homeschooling community regarding curriculum isn’t that different a cost than many of the mainstream curriculums that are inclusive.  However many families I know still can’t really afford to buy a homeschooling curriculum.  There are more and more free resources out there for Waldorf homeschooling, especially for grades 1-3, so that can be helpful.  The upper grades can still be self- done, I have done it several times over, but it takes a lot of work and time.  Might be something to consider in planning if you are going to homeschool through middle school and high school. 

Garner support from your extended family and community.  You may need meals, help with cleaning or laundry or outside work, support, help with caring for children.  Build up your support network, and trade these things as best as you can.  Sometimes places of worship, or networks built around a love of  a particular activity can be helpful.

Here is a back post of possible interest:  Surving Bedrest and Being Homebound with Medically Fragile Children

I would love to hear how you have tackled some of these situations in your family!  Please share your experiences and help other families out.

Blessings and love on this fourth day of Christmastide!  I am posting some of my inner work from Christmastide on Facebook and Instagram, so please do follow me over there – Facebook  and @theparentingpassageway on Instagram.







4 thoughts on “High Needs Homeschooling

  1. Thank you for this, Carrie. We’re 3 for 3 over here! One foot in front of the other! Happy New Year; I wish many blessings for you in 2019!

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