What Comes Next? Life Skills with Special Needs Homeschoolers

For some parents, having a special needs child is the impetus to homeschool. Many families are choosing to homeschool because their special needs children’s needs are not being met in the traditional classroom. For others, it’s just one more challenge they aren’t sure how to face. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, homeschooling a special needs child is an adventure!

Homeschooling allows the flexibility for students to go at their own pace.  You get the set the schedule.  You can change the curriculum if it isn’t working.  You can have one long work period, or several shorter work periods spaced out with transitional times.  With family-style schooling, older special needs students can school alongside younger siblings, at the same level, without them feeling as though they’re “behind.”

It can daunting to think about what post-graduation brings for the special needs student, but s/he is in a great position as a homeschooler!  In the upper grades years, homeschooling allows students the time to explore passions and career interests.  Take some time to examine your special needs student’s strengths, combining those and their interests to find a career exploration starting point.

Background Information & Resources

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers thirteen specific disabilities, but its implementation varies widely from state to state when it comes to assisting homeschool families.  Learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, health disabilities, impairments (speech, visual, hearing, orthopedic, and emotional), intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries are all addressed by the act.  Check with your state department of education, and HSLDA, to see what your state will and won’t do for homeschooling students.  

A federal agency, the Rehabilitation Services Administration provides vocational rehabilitation and other services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment and independence after the high school years.  Each state has their own local agency to help work one-on-one with families.

SPED Homeschool and HSLDA are good general resources for any homeschooling family with special needs students.  These resources are primarily for the younger student, but are a good place to start.


Getting Started with SPED Homeschooling


Addressing Specific Needs


Life Skills for SPED Teens

Special Needs-Friendly Curriculum


Celebrating the Autumn Holidays in Your Homeschool

It’s time for pumpkin spice and everything nice!  By autumn, we’re starting to settle into our homeschooling routine, thinking about upcoming holidays, and wondering how we’ll fit it all in…  Here are activities, books, and resources for incorporating the holidays into your homeschool.  Pick and choose what works best for your family.  Happy fall, y’all!

All of these resources are appropriate for middle and high school.


Books to Incorporate


Unit Studies


Online Unit Studies


Cooking Activities


Download the entire holiday bundle of book lists for free.  Can’t get enough of the holidays?  Incorporate the Bricks Through the Year and History of Our Holidays bundles into your homeschool year, too!  

Pick up the Gnome-Themed Autumn Cookbook totally FREE!

This adorable gnome-themed cookbook is perfect for your seasonal autumn and winter recipes. Pages include:

  • Family stories & memories
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Dessert
  • Blank Pages (reproducible to add your family’s favorites)

Legal Documents Every 18 Year Old Needs


After eighteen years of caring for your child, it can be alarming to realize that on that magical birthday, they suddenly take on ALL the responsibilities of adulthood, whether they are equipped or not. Young adults who are eager for independence may push back against a request to sign a college power of attorney, believing they don’t really need it or you’re trying to control them.  However, at some point or another, most young adults find themselves in over their heads, may end up in credit card debt, wind up in a car accident, or get into trouble at school. All of these are scenarios you, the parent, could assist with at age 17, but cannot once they turn 18…unless you have some legal protections in place ahead of time.

Medical Emergencies

HIPPA / Healthcare

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is a federal law that creation national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.  This act also contains standards for individuals’ rights to understand and control how their health information is used. 

The act was created to make protect individuals’ healthcare information, but comes into play with your adult children when, at age 18, you can no longer legally go with them to appointments, inquire about test results, or even find out why they are in the hospital unless the child has given express, written consent.  

A few of the things you need HIPAA consent for include:
  • Appointments
  • Test Results
  • Insurance claims
  • Billing
  • Benefit eligibility inquiries
  • Referral authorization requests
Protect your child by having him/her complete a HIPPA authorization form.  Send one to the college and keep one on file at home.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney form is strictly for health care choices should your son or daughter become incapacitated.  There is also the option of a general durable power of attorney, which covers financial decisions as well as medical.  Find your state’s medical power of attorney information here.


Financial / Durable Power of Attorney

Durable POA enables a designated agent (such as the parents) to make financial and medical decisions on the student’s behalf.  When signing it, your child can choose whether that power transfers immediately or only if s/he becomes incapacitated.  You can also write in start and end dates to reassure that this is a limited power of attorney for college.

Powers may include:
  • Managing bank accounts
  • Paying bills
  • Filing taxes
  • Applying for government benefits
  • Breaking a lease

A durable power of attorney document applies only in the state in which it was formed—so if your child is attending school in another state, you should secure power of attorney for the other state as well. Some states also require the signature of a witness or a notary public.

College-Specific

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Generally, schools must have written permission from the student to release any information from a student’s education record.  This includes class schedules, transcripts, and grade point averages, but also extends to financial records within the school, such as scholarship information and money due, and living circumstances, such as dorm room assignment or any personal issues the student experiences.

Protect your child by having them provide written permission allowing the school to discuss all FERPA-related topics with you, as needed.


Protect Your Child in 10 Minutes

You can get all of these young adult power of attorney documents at Mama Bear Legal Forms.  It’s considerably cheaper than going through a standard lawyer because this is what she does, and she has templates for each state, rather than re-creating the wheel each time (it’s the time that costs you more money).  

You’ll want to have these in place before your child goes off to school, but don’t fret if you’re running behind — there’s no time like the present!  The package includes: HIPPA, FERPA, power of attorney for health and finances, plus a free App for scanning, storing and sharing.  If you visit through this link, you’ll also save 20% off your order.

Homeschooling Around Town – The Art of the Field Trip!

A big part of our school year is the field trips. Generally, we will study a topic ahead of time and then take the field trip – this helps them to fully understand the hands-on experiences. The kids have been to nearly every state, and experienced a wide range of of historical, scientific, and cultural activities that they wouldn’t have been able to do solely in our home state. Not every family is able to road school, but that doesn’t mean that field trips shouldn’t be a part of your school.

Field Trips in Town

  • Attend a library program
  • Local historic architecture
  • Air Shows
  • Historic Re-enactments
  • Climb rocks
  • Historic Museums (some are free)
  • Pick-Your-Own Farm Visit
  • Zoo (only free on certain days, or with a pass)
  • Local newspaper
  • Factory tours (some are free)
  • Visit the beach, lake, or riverbank
  • State Fairs have homeschool days
  • Visit the local airport
  • Work in a community garden
  • Shadow a business (teens)
  • Animal workshop at the pet shop

Field Trip Starters


Unique Field Trips


More Field Trip Ideas

  • Check out the Roadschooling Page to find unit studies and field trips built around your location.  There’s something for just about every state in the United States up there!
  • Finally, though these aren’t free, educational subscription boxes are a great way to bring the field trip into your home. Here are some of our favorites!
  • Use the world diversity book studies from Literary Adventures to travel the world from the comfort of your own home.  You can go anywhere!

Finding Your Groove — Homeschool Styles

When looking for curriculum, you’ll want to consider your homeschool style.  It may take a few years to settle down into the right fit for your family, and that’s completely normal.  

Not sure what your style is?  


Consider…

  • What’s your teaching style?
  • What are your goals?
  • How do your kids learn best?
  • What values do you want to instill in your children?
  • What’s your lifestyle? Do you prefer routine or flexibility?

Within each of these homeschool styles, you have the flexibility to be creative and make your own student-directed classes.  Maybe your child is interested in becoming a veterinarian, but you can’t find a class for that…make your own!  You’ll need approximately 140 hours of work, hands on and academic, to count it as a full year.  Use this Create-Your-Own Class Planner to help you get started.

Download and print the Homeschool Curriculum Guide

Classical

Focusing on the trivium, the three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, this is a Socratic method that includes public speaking, memorization, and a full school day. The trivium stages match up with elementary, middle, and secondary school. This is a rigorous approach to schooling, but produces results.  Compass Classroom offers several great options for classical instruction, and you can try their sample resources for free.

Charlotte Mason

Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, fine arts studies, and living books are all a part of this approach, and there is a focus on instill good character habits.  One of our favorite Charlotte Mason providers is The Homeschool Garden.  (See more information, or just try them free.)

Unit Studies

This approach takes all of the subjects and integrates them in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).  Field trips and hand-on projects are frequently utilized. Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together.  Techie Homeschool Mom offers fantastic, online unit studies that also teach various technologies.  Try one free!

Unschooling

Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom, with a focus for teaching a love of learning and developing the ability to be self-educating. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.

Waldorf

Similar to unschooling, this is a child-centered approach that focuses on nature, arts, crafts, music, and movement.  Much of schooling is done out in nature, and technology is not a big part of this curriculum.

Eclectic

The eclectic method is just a fancy way of saying ‘a combination of styles.’  This includes picking and choosing from the smorgasboard of different curriculum providers to meet your student’s various needs.  Literary Adventures for Kids is a beautifully-eclectic, online language arts program that your kids are sure to love!  Try their Psychology course for upper grades free here.

Textbooks

This is a fairly common style in the first few years of homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your children out of public school, to build confidence.  Don’t forget to do a bit of de-schooling before starting the semester!  Traditional schoolers focus on common standards and often complete a full day of classwork.

Stay-at-Home School

A lot of organizations don’t consider this to be “real” homeschooling since it’s being paid for and run by the government and someone else is doing all of the teaching.  For a small percentage of people, though, whether it be because of job commitments, life ‘events,’ or something else that is preventing them from being able to sit down and dedicate themselves fully to educating their children, institutions such as K12 and Epic really are the best fit.  It’s never my first recommendation, but still a valid option.


One of our favorite all-in-one resources for families is SchoolhouseTeachers.  It includes all classes, for all grades…and it’s one price for the entire family, whether you have two children or twelve.  There are many different learning styles to select from, so if you have one visual kid who needs a relaxed pace and one aural kid who needs a more stringent pace, there are classes that will fit them each.  With over 475 classes available, plus extras for mom and dad, this is my favorite resource to offer new families who are wanting to dip their toe into homeschooling but aren’t sure how to begin!


Want a little help getting started?  Download the free e-book, Getting Your Homeschool Off on the Right Foot!

When choosing a curriculum for your family, you’ll want to consider ‘intelligence’ and learning styles.  A Genius in Every Seat helps you work through determining these factors…
This e-book comes with a workbook component for surveying yourself and your students, along with suggestions for putting the results into practice.