Are you about to step into the world of homeschooling, but you fear leaving behind your child’s IEP? Often, an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is hard-won ground that helps your child function in school. IEPs often give students accommodations that make a difficult school situation easier. An IEP might give your child more time on tests, or assignments. It might let them have an aid in class, sit up front, or attend therapies at school. For some students, a good IEP makes school much more than it could be without.
It went out the window
This spring, as schools shut down or went virtual, many of those IEPs were ignored like wrapping paper the day after Christmas. Schools often had no clue how to teach anything online, much less how to follow an IEP that gave students accommodations designed to help them succeed. How do you seat a child “in the front of the class” when the whole class is now on Zoom? How do you make sure a child is staying “on task” when you can no longer walk past their desk? While some tutoring or therapies switched to being on-line, not all accommodations can even be done in this new world.
Welcome to DIY Schooling
If you are a parent who has realized that your child’s education is going to have to be DIY this year, Welcome to the World of Homeschooling! The good news is that every child here basically has an IEP. All of us are giving our kids an individualized education. There is no reason your child has to complete their work at the same rate as a class full of other kids. You can go slowly. Back up. Re-teach math from the ground up if you need to. Whatever your child needs, you can do.
This new power can be both elating and terrifying. You may wonder if your child will be left far behind due to your teaching. The good news is that in practice that almost never happens. Homeschooling children with learning disabilities generally fair better with the one-on-one teaching they get while homeschooling. Parents report that when they can back up and help students fill in gaps, then move ahead at the child’s pace, kids learn by leaps and bounds.
It isn’t easy
This isn’t an easy job. Homeschooling is hard. Parenting a child that has special needs or learning challenges is hard. Putting them together takes some work. But you can do this. Find a curriculum you like. Take days to help your child learn life skills and make art. Do things that engage your child as a whole person, not just a student.
This is when the magic happens. Let them read comic books. It still counts as reading. Let them paint, knit, and sew. Forget that school is supposed to look a certain way. School at your house can look like whatever you want it to. It can be poetry with breakfast and baking cookies at noon, so you can work on division with actual cookies. Let me tell you, there isn’t a child alive who isn’t going to want to figure out their fair share of homemade cookies!
None of us long-time homeschoolers had to quit school due to a pandemic. We are all figuring out this pandemic homeschooling thing together. But, many of us have decided to create a different way to teach our children. It can be scary and exhausting but it is worth it.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.