Thinking About Homeschooling Your Special Needs Child?

I can’t believe how quickly the summer flies by.

I hate that.

I love summer.

And educating my kids is the hardest part of parenting for me.

My special needs daughter had the very best kindergarten teacher in the world. Really, she did. I am not just saying that. This particular teacher is likely, realistically, in the top 1% of teachers in the nation.

She is THAT good.

However, not everyone is that good. The next grade, my daughter (who was mainstreamed in a typical 1st grade class) got her first report card. The entire thing was filled with the grade N/A. Not Applicable.

Gets along well with others? Not applicable.

Follows classroom rules? Not applicable.

Every category didn’t count for her. Obviously, that was not going to work.

When we went to look for a second grade teacher, I observed the class of the most highly recommended teacher at the school. Everyone raved about her. She was clearly uninterested in my daughter. She was curt when I was in her class, unwilling to attend any planning meeting, and if she saw me in the hallway would turn around and head the other way.

Obviously, that was not going to work.

The coordinator for her case at the school insisted we go look at the special education class. Ryan climbed up into my lap, curled into fetal position, and sucked her thumb the whole time we were there.

Obviously, that was not going to work.

That same coordinator, at the next meeting, would not put my concern/complaint about the school’s speech therapist into my daughter’s file. My daughter never hit a single IEP goal for speech; the therapist would not allow her to bring her school-paid-for-speech-device to speech. But complaints were not allowed to be put into the file.

Obviously, that was not going to work.

So we moved to private school. But the school changed and the enthusiasm for her weaned, so eventually we decided to homeschool.

Perhaps you are there, wondering what to do for your precious little person, asking if homeschool is the best available option.

I am a terrible homeschooler. I have moments of unbelievable glory, but incredible inconsistency. However, it is absolutely the very best thing for our family. We began in California and have continued in Texas. We did not sell our home in California for nearly two years, so we did not have the money I wanted for the therapies she needed. Additionally, in the two years since we moved, my mother in law passed away after a twenty year battle with dementia and my mother was diagnosed with A Typical Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

My mom can no longer talk. She eats liquid food only. It is difficult and full of grief and anguish; and lots and lots of appointments. So there are HUGE things stacked against me in may quest to do a great job homeschooling.

But my daughter is cherished every day. She is not picking up behaviors I don’t like. We are learning–step by step. We have made progress and are ready for what will be our best year ever.

If you are wondering, YOU CAN DO THIS. Let me give you my recommendations:

  • Meet Sarah MacKenzie. She is the author of Teaching From Rest and The Read Aloud Family. She has a podcast and blog called The Read Aloud Revival. Make your number one priority to fill your world with great stories.
  • Audible. Actually, there is probably a free way to get audio books, so look there. But add audiobooks to your day’s plan. We have recently begun this and I LOVE not having the IPad out in the car. Instead, we have great stories to listen to. Running errands or going to appointments has become a productive part of our days.
  • Five In A Row. Five in A Row is a curriculum centered around reading the same story 5 days in a row. There is incredible learning tied into each story including life skills, geography, writing, comprehension and social studies. It is wonderful. It is the easiest I have come across that helps us feel like we are doing a great job day after day.
  • Light Tables. Light tables offer an open ended activity that encourages exploring and creativity. I have LOVED our activities and intend to build on that this year.
  • Play games. We play Yahtzee, go fish, and Whack-A-Mole. I am hoping to promote quick thinking and math skills. We are struggling in math.

If you add to the repertoire art and music and field trips, you will feel good about your child’s education. We have the 5 In A Row cookbook, so we will add cleaning up and cooking to the day.

Once I understood that sitting at the table for two hours each day makes all the difference in the world, things worked smoothly. Not two hours in a row–we break it up with walks, or giving her books to retreat for quiet reading time, or chores–but two hours at a table makes an incredible home school day.

It is so much less stressful than watching the system fail her..

Great Moments

I love summer. I love the changing of seasons; not seasons of nature but seasons of life. The coming of summer and the end of school inherently provide a time to regroup.

I often need time to regroup.

Here is the truth of my life: I think I am getting better at it. 

I am not perfect. Obviously. But I am also not a perfectionist, I am a pragmatist. What I am constantly trying to move toward is a life that works. For me that means my calendar matches my priorities. In quantity of time my family comes first, but in priority of time my faith comes first.

This season is working for me because, as it turns out, I love to learn. In church and Bible Study I am in a fruitful season of learning God’s word and how it applies to life. In parenting, my girls are in a fantastic school–on campus a few days a weeks and at home the others. Reagan is completely in charge of her own learning, and Ryan is homeschooled a few days a week.

After four years, I may be getting the hang of it. I actually finished the school year with momentum…and I am excited about the coming year.

It’s crazy, I know. I was actually…organized.

I want to push pause on a moment. In one of our homeschool days this spring, there was a breakthrough.


This is an activity we have done many, many times. Baking soda, vinegar, water, corn starch and food coloring have provided hours of entertaining engagement. This day we were using it as our fine motor activity. All of the squeezing and pinching making her little hands stronger on our road to learn to write.




Mostly I sat back and watched, letting her explore and combine.



The breakthrough came…for the first time, ever, Ryan did not combine all the colors into one big brownish-greyish gloomy mess.





Obviously she is still a bit messy. ($3 clear shower curtains get a lot of use as craft-table covers in our home.) But she was more careful than I have ever seen her.

This summer we want to continue to strengthen her foundational skills so that we can embrace the curriculum more thoroughly this fall. We intend to read more and exercise more. In August she and I will head to Connecticut to get a thorough evaluation and several sessions with an expert in Oral Motor Placement Therapy. It is our attempt to progress in teaching her to talk.

We are not ready to give up hope.

Meanwhile, we will do all we can do to enjoy this season, these moments, this child.

“And God looked at all He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

Genesis 1:31

This Is Your Moment

Educating my kids is the hardest part of parenting for me.

The truth is that I ended up hating school, as did my son.  And my heart breaks wanting things to be different for my girls.

Three and a half years ago, as my middle was finishing up fifth grade, my hubby and I set out to look at different education options with only one question in mind: Where will she get the most excellent education?

The choice, within that framework, was very easy. That fall our family became part of the San Luis Classical Academy family. It is a hybrid education, where she was in classes with wonderful teachers two days a week, and home schooled the other three. They guided the home days, and we got to add our own stamp to what we learned.

It was the best educational decision we have ever made.

Now she has started high school. And the school is having its very first CIF teams. Ever. It is our first volleyball season as parents, hers as a player and the schools as a team. We love it.

At the game the other day, the senior member of the team started encouraging the girls by saying, “This is your moment.” We were loving it in the stands…every time momentum was going in the wrong direction, she would call it out.

She was right. These really ARE the moments. Life, an abundant life, certainly has grand gestures and big events, but it is the simple of the everyday that really makes things beautiful.



Right before my eyes, she is changing. It feels like she grows an inch a week, and if I could I would sweep her back to chubby cheeks and endless days right by my side. But I can’t, so I will do what I can to pay attention today…because there is so much to be awed by.

She loves school because she loves to learn. We are watching and rooting her on, as we wipe away the tears when she’s not looking. Seeing my kids grow up breaks my heart with beauty.

We are transfixed. We are grateful. She has read Chaucer and Shakespeare; The Illiad and Beowolf. She has been wrapped in science and loves geometry. She joined the Writers Club. After volleyball she heads downtown to get dinner and then attends youth group at church with her friends.

My heart is overflowing with gratitude that God has blessed this process so abundantly, and I will breathe it in deeply because this moment will be gone all to soon.