Homeschooling a high school student has it’s challenges, but homeschooling a special needs high schooler is another level of challenging.
Eighteen years ago I found myself homeschooling a three-year-old deaf daughter. I never thought I would homeschool because I wanted that time at home while the children were away. I wanted to watch them do school plays, participate in school sports, and proudly cheer on my kid at school awards ceremonies. School was something I enjoyed and wanted that for my children.
Suddenly finding myself in a position where there wasn’t adequate services for my special needs kiddo in our small town school district, God called me to bring her home. Shortly after my son was diagnosed with ADHD and my third child was diagnosed with undefinable learning difficulties, leading me to turn my home into a special needs learning environment.
Specialty School, Medication, or Just Wing It?
I had to alter a lot of curriculum, but I felt I had lots of options. Those options seemed to disappear as high school neared. I will admit, my deaf daughter ended up graduating from Texas School for the Deaf. Not because I didn’t feel like I could homeschool her, but because of the deaf opportunities available to her at school. And while we are being honest, I regret that decision. Another topic, another post.
My ADHD son began medication at age 12 and this one change allowed him to graduate with a standard high school diploma in 2018. Was this the best option? Maybe, maybe not. But I want to stress that every kid is different and the beauty of homeschooling is being able to adjust to each learner. He has chosen to not use meds in his adult life and has been medication free for a year.
My current high schooler is on a five-year plan. She has struggled for years with little help from specialists, with no vestibular sense, horrible fine motor skills, extremely forgetful, and little common sense. She loves animals and being outside, smiles all the time, knows how to really love on people, and has a servant’s heart. But her academic world was full of frustrations and disappointments.
Learning to Adapt
You now can learn from my trial and error. I’ve learned that each child is unique and so is their schooling. Many days I feel like Mary Poppins with my magic bag, pulling out something new every day. The wonderful thing is that by high school, you know your child pretty well. This greatly aids in curriculum choice.
I noticed that most high school courses were geared towards a college-bound student and my dyslexic daughter struggled to keep up. I scale most curriculum to fit her needs, but she knows. Not only am I learning to adapt, but my daughter is also learning to accept her weaknesses and use her strengths.
My #1 tip for a successful special needs high school: Academics are not the goal!
There is so much more to an education than academics. I am a literature nerd and love to sit and discuss C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and Tennyson, but does my daughter need that to be a successful adult? Absolutely not. I highly suggest helping your child find their passion during high school. Think of it as a vocational school.
You can have all the education in the world, but if you don’t have any experience you are way behind. If your kid is into tech, let play with robotics. A horse lover, take her to rodeo’s and horse judging competitions. Does he crave working with his hands? Teach him welding, carpentry, or mechanics.
Tip #2: College is possible!
She dreams of going to college, so I do what I can to support that dream. We have focused my daughter’s high school education on her desire to be a therapeutic horseback instructor. We took into consideration her college choice’s requirements when planning out her high school courses. This was no easy task because she struggles with math, higher level sciences, and reading comprehension. But who am I to tell her this dream is too lofty?
We are so blessed to have many services available and universities now offer whole offices devoted to provided accommodations to make learning accessible for all. It’s a bit tricky for us homeschoolers to qualify though. Colleges are looking for a diagnosis and accommodations list less than two years old. These tests are not cheap and insurance doesn’t usually cover them unless it has a clinical diagnosis. But it’s so worth it!
Tip #3: Find Support!
This is a hard road, don’t do it alone. Find local homeschooling mamas (or dads) who are running a special needs high school too. If there isn’t anyone nearby, there are many online communities available. Having someone or a group where you can turn to and ask questions, is a valuable resource.
Homeschooling is a challenging, but very rewarding endeavor. It can be overwhelming though. Want some help planning out high school? Need some direction and guidance? I would love to help you! Check out my High School Planning Course and let me encourage you!
Our special needs kids have a way better chance at being contributing members of society, well-rounded adults through our homeschooling efforts. Character always comes before academics. You make character more valuable and your kids will value it over academics as well.