Addressing Special Educational Needs in Homeschooling

Note: This article is an excerpt from the upcoming Schoolhouse Rocked Homeschool Quick-Start Guide. Sign up here to get your copy as soon as it is released!

Homeschooling a child with special educational needs may seem like a daunting task, but in many ways, the flexibility of the homeschooling model makes it a perfect alternative for teaching children who otherwise may fall between the cracks or can’t excel within the confines of an institutionalized educational setting.

The homeschooling movement didn’t begin with the purpose of catering to the instruction of unique children, but as traditional schools have increasingly favored normalizing instruction, special education homeschooling has become an increasingly favored option among parents, either by choice or necessity, for educating children who learn best using non-traditional methods.  In fact, at the Global Home Education Conference in 2018, almost every nation represented stated that special needs ranked as one of the top reasons parents chose to home educate in their country.

Aiding this rise is the exponential growth of veteran special education homeschooling families who are daily providing unique testimonies across homeschooling networks.  These parents, who include the entire team and board at SPED Homeschool, encourage new families to take the leap into special education homeschooling every day by sharing how homeschooling has allowed their children to flourish and surpass previous expectations set by professional educators, therapists, and doctors.  

Slowly, but steadily, these personal success stories are debunking the lie that parents can’t teach their own children, especially when their children struggle to learn. In fact, these families have shown they have something even greater than training; love and devotion to see their children succeed no matter what it takes.   

It is our goal at SPED Homeschool to equip parents for this call to homeschool their children with special educational needs.  We provide parents resources, training and support through various means and our goal is to continue to improve upon these offerings as we grow and discern how to best fill the gaps that currently exist in each of these areas.  

Resources parents can find on our website are checklists, articles, and organizations we have vetted to ensure they offer products or services useful to parents who homeschool children with various learning needs.

Parent training materials range from instructional blogs, podcasts, videos, and live Facebook interviews with various homeschooling and special education experts.

As for support, we offer a variety of ways parents can get connect through online groups currently, but it is our hope that in the near future we will have the resources to start planting local groups in communities all of the United States, and someday hopefully worldwide.   

Our services are completely free and donor-funded, so no matter what your financial situation, we invite you to check out what we have to offer. You can visit our website at to connect with us and learn more about how we can help you homeschool your unique learner.

Want more on this subject? Peggy Ployhar was a recent guest on the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast, where she and host, Yvette Hampton had a great talk on teaching your child with special educational needs.

Peggy Ployhar is the founder and CEO of SPED Homeschool. She is a leader in the special education homeschooling community and a frequent writer and speaker on special education homeschooling issues. Peggy’s home school journey started when her oldest child was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Now with 16 years of homeschooling under her belt, she thanks God for all the experiences He has given her so she can use them to encourage other special needs homeschooling parents.

You can find Peggy online at

Listen to the SPED Homeschool Conversations podcast at

Connect with SPED Homeschool on Facebook at

Check out the SPED Homeschool YouTube Channel at

Photos by Aaron BurdenJESHOOTS.COM, and Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Missing Link in Special Education Homeschool Instruction

Missing link in homeschool special education

Missing link in homeschool special education

Recently I received a call from an exasperated mother who was desperately trying to find a way to teach her son.  After homeschooling for 14 years and graduating her oldest who was also a struggling learner due to a brain injury, she felt she had exhausted her teaching arsenal and was still coming up short in being able to teach her younger autistic son.

Our conversation started with this mother asking if I knew of any different curriculum options she could try.  But, instead of offering my best advice on curriculum, I led her through a series of questions to find out what teaching techniques had worked with her son and what his main interests and hobbies were.  At first, her responses to my questions centered around all the curriculums she had bought in the past that were now filling her shelves but no longer being used for one reason or another. But, as I continued my questioning she started deviating from talking about curriculum to talking about her son and the success he had experience through their homeschooling endeavors. Eventually, our discussion moved into ways she could use the curriculum she already had, employ the services of her local librarian to find books focused around her son’s interests, and start to build learning around those interests.

As our conversation came to an end, this mother confessed to me “Maybe I just need to change how I teach my son instead of trying to find another curriculum.”  Of course, this conclusion had been the main goal of my questioning, but if I had just told her to change her way of teaching at the beginning of our conversation, she wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about.  It was only after leading and letting her discover the importance of individualizing her son’s education, that she truly understood how teaching her son was more about what she did instead of what she used.

Did you know in a survey done in 2002 of special education homeschooling parents “the majority of survey parents (58%) designed a curriculum for their children.” As a matter of fact, this same study reported that “All the parents in the case studies designed the curricula for their children based upon their ability and interest levels” And, “most of the mothers criticized packaged curricula.” Now, you must understand that back in 2002 when this survey was conducted, there weren’t many homeschool curriculum options specifically targeted to children with learning challenges.

It is interesting to note though, that in 2012 when special needs homeschooling curriculum was starting to abound across the country at homeschool conventions and book fairs, Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI summarized in an exploratory study of homeschooling outcomes the main advantage of homeschooling both learning disabled and gifted children was “The informal environment that homeschooling provides allows ‘differentiated instruction,’ not a one-size-fits-all version that is typical in public schools where teachers must meet the varied needs of twenty or more students in the classroom. The personal approach of schooling at home provides a natural environment to customize the curriculum for learning disabled and academically gifted children alike.”

In looking over many studies and surveys, including those cited above, as well as drawing from my decade of experience in consulting with special needs homeschooling families, it’s clear that differentiated instruction utilizing student specific accommodations and modifications is not only the best way to homeschool a struggling learner but a homeschooling freedom that’s particularly advantageous to utilize with children who do not adapt well to traditional teaching methods.

I apologize ahead of time to anyone I may offend with my following remarks, but the reason I feel many special education homeschooling parents have moved away from implementing specific differentiated instruction has to do with special needs homeschooling curriculums marketing products towards a specific diagnosis or learning disability.  Now, I love curriculum and do feel parents can benefit from using both regular and special needs homeschooling curriculum, but when a parent believes a specific curriculum will teach to their child’s specific need to the point the curriculum itself provides the necessary differentiated instruction, that is a problem.

Too many homeschooling parents have reasoned themselves out of providing specific and individualized instruction for their child because they believe their special needs curriculum is providing enough learning variation on its own.  Unfortunately, with the vast spectrum of learning disabilities and challenges confronting special needs homeschooling families, it’s impossible for curriculum providers to create materials able to meet the specific needs of all these unique children.

Ultimately, parents who homeschool children with special educational needs will find the most effective way to teach their child doesn’t come in a package.  Rather it comes from being a student of their child, learning how to implement specific teaching strategies and methods and figuring out which ones work best in teaching to their child’s needs, locating resources that work with their child, and coaching their child one-on-one through the learning process.

Written by Peggy Ployhar at SPED Homeschool

How Homeschooling Transforms Special Education into Specialized Education

Special education at home transforms into specialized education.

Special education at home transforms into specialized education.

How Homeschooling Transforms Special Education into Specialized Education

As I cited in my previous article, The Then and Now of Special Education Homeschooling, more parents who have children with special educational needs are choosing to homeschool as a reaction to the lesser quality educational options offered by public or private schools.  But, with this transition, many parents unknowingly bring the same teaching mindset they were looking to leave into their new homeschooling experience.

Below are what I believe are the 4 most important distinctions of how specialized home education differs from an institutionalized special education program and opens the freedom potential parents have in homeschooling a child outside the box of special education.

1. Schooling is focused on the positive aspects of your child, not the negative

Special education within the school setting was created to detect and correct a child’s learning issues.  By focusing on what doesn’t work well for a child, the negative aspects of a child’s learning disability becomes pronounced in their lesson plans and overall educational goals.  The beauty of homeschooling is that although a child may still struggle with an ability to learn, a parent has the freedom to design lessons around the positive ways a child can learn.  Over time homeschooled children learn what methods and tools work best to help them learn, which they then can adapt to take into their adulthood.

2. A child is taught according to their gifts, not their deficits

All children have specific gifts, as well as deficits.  Unfortunately, non-academic gifts are outside the reach of a traditional special education classroom.  Homeschooling allows a parent to supplement a child’s studies with opportunities to work on specific skill sets and gifting alongside the subjects the child struggles in, which allows a child to find success in their studies where before they may have only met defeat. Turning interest in cooking, woodworking, computer programming, acting, or even martial arts into school subjects is not out of the question.  The options are endless on what you can turn into an academic subject and the benefit of adding these classes for children who struggle in core curriculum subjects, is they start to realize that learning can be fun instead of always a defeating experience.

3. Progression happens at the rate your child learns, not against a “norm”

Classroom learning and grading, in general, are based on norms.  If a child is not keeping up Special education at home becomes specialized education.with a specific norm, then they are considered “behind.”   Schools focus on working with a child to make them just like everyone else. Unfortunately, each child is unique and those who are more pronounced in their uniqueness will never quite reach what society deems “normal.”   Homeschooling, on the other hand, allows children to be unique and to discover how they learn best, not how everyone else does so they can be the same or “get caught up”. Each lesson learned by a child in a homeschool setting sets the bar for what lesson comes next, no matter how long it takes the child to move from one step to the next.

4. A lifestyle of learning takes education into every realm of life instead of compartmentalized the process

Many children with learning challenges also struggle with translating a learned concept from one mode of education to another part of their life.  This inability for a child to learn one lesson at school and then translate that same lesson to a scenario at home or in a “real world” setting prolongs the learning process for these children.  When a family starts homeschooling, they also start a shift in how learning is perceived. Learning is no longer just found in books, in classrooms, or on a computer, but everywhere in life. Every experience, every encounter, and every relationship bring lessons to be taught as well as lessons to be learned that flow over the boundaries of subjects and grade levels.

For a child who experiences learning challenges, educational delays, or struggles with a disability or medical condition, a specialized home education approach provides opportunities to succeed in learning instead of hurdles they must get beyond.  Embrace those freedoms as a homeschooling parent and watch your child soar above their struggles.

Written by Peggy Ployhar of SPED Homeschool

The Then and Now of Special Education Homeschooling

Special education homeschooling has changed drastically over the years. Learn when you can do to help your special needs homeschooled child.

Special education homeschooling has changed drastically over the years. Learn when you can do to help your special needs homeschooled child.

Special Education Homeschooling

When our family started our special education homeschooling journey almost 15 years ago, the homeschooling landscape was very different than it is today.  From my own perspective of homeschooling two children with learning challenges, as well as a decade of experience helping other parents navigate special education homeschooling, I have seen this backdrop dramatically affect the special education homeschooling movement as well as the families who choose to homeschool their children with special needs.

These changes are neither good nor bad but can create both positive and negative results if a family does not understand how to navigate them.  Thus, I want to share with you a picture of before and after in each of these areas and how families who homeschool children with special educational needs can use these trends towards a positive impact in their own homeschooling efforts.

Special Education Resources

15 years ago, there was no such thing as a homeschool curriculum written for a struggling learner.  There were very few curriculum choices for parents in general. Parents who chose to homeschool did so with whatever books or curriculum they could find or make work.  It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but teaching resources were looked upon in general as catalysts for parents to use to impart wisdom into their children’s lives.

Nowadays, there are so many homeschooling curriculum options for parents of struggling learners, that narrowing down the choices can be daunting.  Parents can find more options than they know what to do with, and not only in the form of books, but also from online teaching resources, apps, and mainstream curriculum providers who are now catering to the special education homeschooling community.  

Special Education Support

Homeschool support systems of the past were comprised of local families who were trying to find ways to connect with other homeschooling families.  These groups were about community and building relationships so every family, and each member of the family, could find a way to connect and feel involved. Families who had children with special educational needs were welcomed along with the rest because these groups focused on relationships and commonalities.

Over the years homeschooling groups have mostly turned into structured programs to allow parents to share their teaching load. There still are some meet up groups that focus on playdates and field trips, but these groups are often harder to find.  In general, though, academics have become the driving factor behind most groups that bring homeschoolers together.  And, unfortunately, as part of this trend, parents of children who struggle with academics or in working/learning in a classroom environment, have found less support for their families within these groups.

Special Education Foundational Basis

The onset of the homeschooling movement in the United States was undergirded by parents Special education homeschooling has changed drastically over the years. Learn when you can do to help your special needs homeschooled child.who desired to instill in their Christian faith into their children.  Faith in God, and His call to “train up [children] in the way they should go,” was the main reason most people homeschooled.  This commonality joined homeschoolers together and it was almost assumed that if you were homeschooling your children, you were doing so because you had been convicted and called to this way of schooling.

If you were to ask 20 different homeschooling parents now why they homeschool, you will probably get 20 different answers.  Families not only homeschool because of their faith, but also because of school violence, so they can travel, for the ability to teach towards their child’s gifts…or because the school was failing to teach to their child’s specific needs.  In general, instead of homeschooling being a choice of conviction it is now becoming a reactionary choice because of circumstances external factors that move parents towards the homeschooling option.

Special Education Information

Yes, it is hard to believe that just 15 short years ago, the Internet was in its infancy.  Smartphones were not around, neither was Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of the other places most of us frequent daily to not only get information but to stay connected with one another.  Our world is changing quickly, and so are the jobs we are preparing our children for as we homeschool them.

The days of spending a homeschooling afternoon at the library seem almost antiquated.  As parents, we are bombarded with information, and for parents, with struggling children the information can be smothering.  Special education research on what causes children to struggle with learning as well as the latest methods to help them conquer their deficiencies are everywhere.  This information is in a constant state of flux and parents are never quite sure who they can trust and what information is going to be beneficial in helping their children.  This surplus of information makes parents uneasy about their decision because they are pressured to make the “right” choice to help their child best overcome their learning challenges.

Special Education Choices

Parents who chose to homeschool 20 years ago were pioneers.  When I started homeschooling the stories of how these pioneering families fought for our freedom to homeschool were still prevalent in homeschooling circles.  For this reason, homeschooling families were diligent about record keeping and staying active in politics.  They intimately knew the price paid for their freedom to homeschool, and they were determined to not have that freedom compromised.

Today, many homeschooling parents seem to have an attitude of indifference towards their freedom to homeschool.  Families, in general, are not as committed to the homeschooling lifestyle.  Instead, many parents view homeschooling as an option that may be least restrictive, more affordable, or their current best schooling scenario. However, should a better school choice for their child arise, they will consider a switch.

Planning for the Future of Special Education Homeschooling

I can’t say I have all the answers, nor can I predict the future, but based on the changes I have discussed above, it is very clear that special education homeschooling has not become easier over the years.  And, while the simplicity of homeschooling a struggling learner has diminished, the ease of homeschooling our unique children has become a more viable choice for parents who otherwise would not have considered this option.   

As I look ahead, the best advice I have to give parents who are homeschooling, or considering the leap into homeschooling, their children with special educational needs is:  Be discerning about resources you choose, find commonality in a supportive homeschooling community, witness to other homeschooling families, teach others what you have learned on your own homeschooling journey, and understand homeschooling is a wonderful freedom that some will choose for the long-haul while others may only make this  choice for a season.

Written by Peggy Ployhar from SPED Homeschool