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Getting Started


Are you looking to create a SPED (Specialized Education) homeschool experience for your out-of-the-box learner?

Below is a step-by-step guide on what you need to know, and do, when planning your own SPED homeschool

Step 1:  Know Your State's Laws

Each state sets their own education laws, and therefore you should become familiar with the specific homeschooling laws in your state.  

 

Step 2:  Join an Organization Who Will Back Up Your Right to Homeschool

Protecting your family’s choice to homeschool is usually a bigger battle for families who have special needs children because these families work with doctors, therapists, and caregivers who do not always agree with a parent’s choice to homeschool their child.  
Therefore, being a member of a homeschool organization who will back up your choice to homeschool, is even more advantageous for your family.  These organizations are equipped to help you not only answer questions about your legal right to homeschool your child, but they also write letters to any entity who may question your right.
In most states, there is a state homeschool organization affiliated with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) and we would recommend your family have a membership with the state organization affiliated with HSLDA as well as HSLDA.
In Texas, the THSC (Texas Home School Coalition) is able to provide complete coverage in this area for Texas homeschooling families.

 

Step 3:  Make Paperwork Considerations

Let's be real, special education homeschooling necessitates more paperwork no matter how much is required in your specific state.  But, there are ways to streamline the paperwork process by following these simple steps.
  1. If you are withdrawing your student from a public or private school, ask for copies of your student's records before you start the withdraw process.  Keep these records in a file whether or not you agree with them.  You never know when you may need to refer to them.
  2.  Partner with every specialist your child sees on a regular basis to create comprehensive documentation to track all areas of progress - educational, therapeutic, behavioral, social, mental, and physical.
  3. Document 3 main, and measurable, goals per year.  Predetermine how and when your student will be evaluated throughout the school year as well as how you will teach towards those goals, test progress, and determine success.
  4. Consider keeping a yearly homeschool IEP (Individual Education Plan/Program) to record:
    • Student's yearly baseline status
    • Current testing records
    • Accommodations, modifications and assistive technology used
    • Specific goals, as described above (#3)
    • Therapy integration
    • Transition planning, if student is age 14 or older
    • Behavior intervention strategies 

 

Step 4:  Find Your Curriculum

Curriculum that is most successful for use in special education homeschooling is multi-sensory, adaptable for specific student accommodations or modifications, and/or can be used with assistive technology.  
There is not one specific curriculum that is best for students with special learning needs nor a specific diagnosis.  Therefore, it is recommended before you consider purchasing any curriculum for your SPED homeschool, you think through these critical questions:
  1. What is the cognitive ability of your student?
  2. Is your student progressing at the same pace in all subjects?
  3. What subjects does your state law require you teach?
  4. Does your state law require a specific amount of instructional hours?
  5. How much activity does your student need incorporated into daily instruction?
  6. How much structure, schedules and lesson planning do you need a curriculum to provide you for teaching your student?
  7. Are you going to be your student’s primary teacher or will other individuals also be providing instruction?
  8. Is a computer, app, or online curriculum program a viable instruction method for your student?
  9. How much independent work can your student do in one sitting?  Each day?  Each week?
  10. Does your student have interests which help focus learning and attention?
  11. What types of therapy/medical/field trips/activities does your curriculum need to be able to work around or with?
  12. Is your student 14 or older?  What transition plans need to be incorporated into your student’s curriculum and schedule?
After you have answers to all of these questions, we then recommended you look through our SPED homeschool parent top curriculum picks page, visit the website links on that page, try various curriculum samples, and then have your student take placement tests for your top picks.  Then, when you have gone through all those steps, finally consider purchasing products you feel will work best for your SPED homeschool.

 

Step 5:  Determine Therapy Options

Federal and State Funded Services:  The IDEA, or Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act, provides federal funding to each state to provide services to special education students, including homeschooled students.  Each state handles these funds differently, but if you desire public school services for your homeschooled student, then you should check out this page to see your specific state law and then contact your local school district to see how you can access the services provided by these funds.

Private Insurance Funded Services:  Private health insurance plans sometimes cover therapy and using health insurance for this purpose is how many SPED homeschool families cover some or all of their student’s therapy needs.  To determine what services your insurance covers, and local therapists covered by your plan, call your insurance provider.

Parent Provided Services:  Another option that is growing in popularity is for parents to use books, videos and/or online materials to provide their student in-home therapy.  If you are interested in this option, you can visit our At Home Therapy Resource Page for links to the top online resources available to SPED homeschool parents.
Educational Therapy Services/Consulting:  One more option is to hire a private therapist or consultant who is willing to work with both you and your student, for a predetermined time at a basic rate, to do therapy with your child, and in some cases train you to do therapy with your child.  Many of the SPED Homeschool team members offer these services to families and are beneficial for families to use if they want to move towards parent provided therapy for their student, but want to work with an experienced SPED homeschool parent who has a background in educational therapy.


Step 6:  Find Your Tribe
Being connected to fellow, in-the-trenches, homeschooling families is essential to keeping your perspective and gaining the ongoing support you need to continue running your SPED homeschool.  There are multiple ways to make these connections, and no choice is best for every SPED homeschooling family. Therefore, as you look through the options you have for getting support, make sure to take into account your typical weekly schedule as well as your child’s needs and limitations.
SPED Homeschool’s Facebook Support Group:  SPED Homeschool moderates a closed Facebook support group that connects over 1,000 SPED homeschooling families from all over the world.  This group’s feed is constantly being updated with new resources, articles, words of encouragement, and questions to other members on how to tackle specific SPED homeschooling issues. One added benefit for Texas residents who join this group is they can receive a discounted membership to THSC (Texas Home School Coalition).  To join this group, go to https:/www.facebook.com/groups/spedhomeschoolsupport/
Local Homeschool Co-ops/Support Groups: Local homeschool co-ops and support groups exist in every state.  The best way to find groups in your area is to connect with your state homeschool organization who will be able to give you their contact information.  Before taking the leap to join one of these groups it is best first to take into consideration whether or not the groups in your area have the ability to work with the specific needs of your child AND if your child is prepared to be part of an inclusion environment.  
SPED Homeschool, in conjunction with THSC (Texas Home School Coalition), has created a series of videos to help parents think through these considerations so they can wisely choose if this type of support is best for their SPED homeschooling family.
Local Homeschool Facebook Groups:  The fastest growing trend in homeschooling  is Facebook homeschool groups.  These groups now exist in just about every city.  To find a local group near you, just search Facebook for your specific city along with the word “homeschool”.  
You are likely to find groups that meet for organized sports, mom social activities, field trips, park meetups, and even teen-specific activities.  The advantage many SPED homeschool families find with these groups, is they allow families to pick and choose activities which fit into their complicated schedules and are accommodating to their children with physical and/or social issues.  

 

Step 7:  Reprogram Your Educational Philosophy

Deprogramming is a term used in the homeschooling world to describe efforts to move from the desk and textbook model of instruction towards a lifestyle of learning approach where everything around a child becomes a means of teaching and learning.   Oftentimes parents take weeks to months at the beginning of their homeschooling adventure to purposefully reprogram their family by prioritizing field trips, educational games, family read-out-louds, and other related activities while holding off the use of any formal curriculum.

 

Step 8:  Maintain Your Student’s Individuality

The tendency to motivate students to a norm is pervasive in our society and perpetuated by parents who start SPED homeschooling by asking, “How can I best get my child caught up?”  The danger associated with this question is not that children shouldn’t be pushed to accomplish specific learning goals, but rather that their performance should be judged against their peers.  
You will find throughout your homeschooling career that your child will not progress on a steady and even learning curve, but rather that there will be times when there are roadblocks to progress and other times when giant leaps of understanding and growth happen.
Through all of this sporadic learning progression it is always best to continually set before your child that learning is not a race to the finish line, but instead an enriched path that will continue the rest of his/her life.
A better way to view, track, and determine progress is by setting specific learning goals for you child.  This is where an IEP becomes more than just another piece of paper to track information.  Year after year, when progress is documented in a student’s IEP portfolio, a parent creates historic educational data that is not only helpful in tailoring their homeschooling teaching efforts, but also in advocating services for their student outside of their homeschool.

 

Step 9:  Create a Homeschool Mission Statement

Once you are in the SPED homeschooling trenches, it is easy to get off course from your original goals for starting your SPED homeschool.  For this reason, it is best to develop a mission statement for your homeschool.  Here are 5 simple steps to follow for developing your own homeschool mission statement:
  1. Give your reason for starting to homeschool
  2. Describe how you see homeschooling will improve the overall outlook for your child and/or family
  3. Include specific ways you feel homeschooling will make improvements in your child’s life and your family
  4. Add details on how the parent(s) and student(s) of your homeschool will be involved in fulfilling your homeschool mission
  5. Create a short paragraph that summarizes all the above information, print it out and put it somewhere you will look at it often while you are homeschooling
And, if you still have more questions about getting started, make sure to check out all the Getting Started videos on our YouTube Channel.

You are going to do great and we at SPED Homeschool are here to help you every step of the way.  We look forward to you being part of our community and being part of your homeschooling journey.

 

 

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