Advocacy for

Special Education Students

Since March of 2020 more and more children with special needs are being homeschooled as a direct result of COVID and the chaos that occurred as schools scrambled to address the needs of children with special needs.

Under IDEA special needs includes those with disabilities as well as the gifted and twice exceptional (gifted and learning disabled). Homeschooling is now a serious option to many more families. Families have quickly adapted to major change and realized how their child’s education has been put in jeopardy. In fact, 38 % of the 2.5 million students receiving home schooling have special needs. This is almost three times higher than the 14%  of students being served in public school special education programs nationally.

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The Basics About Homeschooling Advocacy For Students With Special Needs

  • Homeschooling and students with disabilities
  • Reasons for choosing homeschooling
  • Types of learning disabilities
  • Homeschool statistics
  • Benefits of homeschooling
  • Homeschool costs
  • Educational philosophies used in homeschooling
  • State requirements for homeschooling
  • Parent planning for homeschooling
  • Homeschooling stressors
  • Frequently used resources for homeschooling
  • Truancy and homeschooling
  • Testing accommodations in homeschooling
  • Special education support services and homeschooling
  • Terminating an IEP in homeschooling
  • Evaluations- educational need identification for homeschoolers
  • Extracurricular activities and homeschooling
  • Dual and concurrent enrollment for homeschoolers
  • Use of school district resources for homeschooling
  • How to be an advocate for a homeschooler 


Homeschooling Students With Disabilities

There are requirements for students who have been identified as needing special education per the federal IDEA. Specific learning disabilities need to be IDENTIFIED EARLY and EARLY INTERVENTIONS provided so children improve their ability to access their education, learn new skills, and close any educational gaps.

Learning  disabilities relate to deficits in ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. Other educational deficits can include vision, hearing, sensory, executive functioning or motor deficits as well as  intellectual, or emotional disabilities.


Features of home schooling education across the country are unique in every state!

Consider the following when you advocate for a special needs child who is being homeschooled.

  • Homeschooling" is not "schooling at home". It is simply the act of parents accepting the responsibility for educating their own children, in whatever form that takes.
  • There is a lot of legwork that needs to be done before starting homeschooling don’t jump in with blinders.
  • Research the laws and policies.
  • Some parents can get better evaluations to identify special educational needs through medical insurance than through schools, because a lot of related services are paid for through insurance.
  • Home schooling is a full time job for the parent.
  • It requires research to pool resources.
  • It requires a parent to find their tribe within the homeschooling population.
  • You must ask other knowledgeable homeschool parents for accurate information about policies and laws because many times information given to parents is inaccurate or only ½ true.
  • Many national homeschooling websites post inaccurate information or have significant conflicts of interest or agendas that are not disclosed. Be careful! For open conversations about home schooling and accurate information go to
  • You need to reimagine what schooling is and understand that it is a lifestyle choice also.
  • Homeschooling is more successful when parents, and children, have the freedom to follow the children's natural curiosity and interest. Flexibility and freedom of choice in time, methods, and materials, often makes the crucial difference in meeting the individual needs of a child.



More parents are now choosing to homeschool instead of sending their children to public or private schools. The National Center of Education Sciences NCES noted that the top reasons for choosing homeschooling are:

  • 61% are dissatisfied with academic instruction in public schools
    • private schools too expensive
    • gifted programming inadequate
    • progress inadequate
  • 80% are concerned about public school environments
    • including bullying
    • safety, violence
    • drug and alcohol use
  • 67% desire to provide a moral education
  • 51% desire to provide religious education
  • 39% desire to provide a non-traditional approach
  • 20% child has special needs
    • 61% were in public school and not making academic progress
    • 5% in public school and made academic progress
  • 14% child has a physical or mental health issue
  • 4% child has a temporary illness

Homeschooling is successful for many students. It actively integrates the two strongest predictors of academic achievement: 1) parental involvement and 2) one-on-one learning. Parents are experts on their children’s learning styles and needs but being a teacher requires commitment.

Homeschooling requires a parent to take FULL responsibility for your child’s education. It is a parental investment of time and effort. A typical homeschool day takes less time than it does in a public school setting. Children with special needs can be homeschooled and thrive.



Learning disabilities may include deficits in:

  • Oral Expression
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Written Expression
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics/ Decoding
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading Fluency
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematical Calculation
  • Mathematical Problem Solving
  • Theory of Mind
  • Social Cognition
  • Friendship skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Sensory integration
  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Expressive language
  • Receptive language
  • Pragmatic language
  • Articulation
  • Working memory
  • Organization
  • Visual motor skills
  • Attention
  • Functional vision skills

They may occur in and involve ASD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, non-verbal learning disorder, oral/written specific disabilities in reading, math and writing, ADHD, Dyspraxia, and Executive Functioning deficits. Additionally, related services such as PT, OT, S/L, Audiology, Psychologists, Assistive technology, Orientation and mobility, nursing, therapeutic recreation and counseling may be needed to support the child accessing their homeschooling education.



  • There are about 2.5 million homeschool students in the United States. This represents 4% of school-age children. The homeschool population continues to grow up to 8% per annum.
  • Each state has the constitutional authority to determine how they regulate education. So, we have 50 different regulations.
    • 6 states have strict laws regulating homeschooling: 
      • New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Florida and Pennsylvania.
    • 17 states have moderate regulations 
      • register intent, assessments, teacher qualifications, and specific subject mater 
    • 16 states have low regulations 
      • register intent and regular assessments
    • 11 states have no regulations
      • No requirements to report to any government official
  • Research has shown that there is no correlation between academic outcomes for homeschooled students and the level of regulation in their state, . 
  • Homeschoolers have higher graduation rates in college, 67% complete their graduation as compared to 59% of public-school students.
  • Homeschooler ethnicity: White 59%, Black e 8%, Hispanics 26%, and Asian or Pacific Islanders 3%
  • 5 million students are homeschoolers
  • Homeschooled students are evenly split between neurotypical and special needs and 11% less in the gifted population.
    • 38% have special needs (950,000)
      • 13% have learning disabilities
      • 14% have emotional or behavioral disabilities
      • 3% twice exceptional - both gifted and have learning disabilities
      • 8% have other disabilities
    • 24% gifted (600,000)
    • 38 neurotypical students (950,000)
  • Homeschool students often attend public school based advanced placement classes and enroll in community college classes and begin their college studies early.
  • Homeschoolers standardized test scores average in the 87th percentile. Public school student’s average score in the 50th percentile. This survey did not focus on children with special needs.
  • Ivy League universities have recruited and accepted homeschooled graduates.
  • Homeschooling is currently the fastest-growing form of education. Due to its popularity it has multiple research based resources



It can be customized and can address:

  • Autonomy and improved independence – decreased prompt dependence
  • Child focused education - No teaching to the test or minimal standards delivery of individualized methods of instruction that matches the child's unique interests, ability, and learning style.
  • Community involvement - Natural social development , community activities, volunteering, and entrepreneurship, seeing how academics are applied
  • Customized learning styles or grade levels
  • Enrichment and in-depth study -  inquiry and interest led
  • Environmental accommodations – for quiet or active, students, travel
  • Family values -  safety, different viewpoints, faith development.
  • Flexibility- Self paced/ ahead or behind / gifted /special needs
  • Fund of knowledge building -  despite academic deficits
  • Generalization and gaining confidence -for skills practice
  • Good Transcripts for college – increased school success without burnout or busy work
  • Dual enrollment in colleges, vocational, AP and IB programs and online programs can give student’s high school and college credits, and finish those Freshman Comp requirements
  • Homework - decreased need for traditional homework and schoolwork is often completed in a shorter time frame. Assignments can be tailored accordingly to achievement or areas of need.
  • Direct Individualized Instruction - with direct instruction the parent can keep track of a child's proficiency. This allows progress at student’s own pace until they have mastered the necessary materials.
  • Individual issues – intensity of instruction to address behavioral, and physical health.
  • Individual prioritization -  academics as well as mental and emotional health, recognizing needs of child that the school did not
  • Life skills. Solid preparation for  “adulting” part of living and learning.
  • Meaningful learning – less distractions, effective and efficient Instruction - Lower student-teacher ratio, direct instruction, no busy work
  • Meeting State compulsory attendance requirements -  in every state, decreased truancy
  • Mental health issues -  making therapy, coping skills, and medical care the priority without giving up academics
  • Natural Environment Training – contextual instruction, enrichment related to concepts
  • Parent choice- different learning  approaches and curriculums, parent empowerment
  • Peer influence - less exposure to drugs, alcohol, sexual activity and behaviors
  • Pursuing advanced achievement or passions – Sports/ Olympics, music, theater, allows for intensity of training and coaching
  • Removal from negative school situations-  bullies, school-induced stress, decrease in school refusals, reduced need for behavioral plans
  • Scheduling flexibility – schooling at night or weekends, weekly schedules can change and do not need to follow the structure of their school year. school year-round, or take off during specific weeks for family travel or whenever they need breaks.
  • Sleep issues – internal clocks- especially with teenagers
  • Social development – learning of conflict resolution, see parents as role models
  • Special circumstances – illness, family circumstances, graduation requirements, traveling families, military families, family lifestyles 
  • Stereotypes and stigmas – decreased exposure to prejudices race, cultural, nerds, special education
  • Strength based learning – improving self-confidence and self esteem
  • Vocation or entrepreneurship preparation - informal apprenticeships or mentorships



States don’t fund homeschooling. Enrollment in a state/ school based programing is optional and specific resources are provided. Dual enrollment can occur. 

Homeschoolers in most states have access to an array of resources and social networks. Some families have classes together, have social events, attend lectures, field trips, art classes, music instruction, sports, and playdates.

Homeschooling costs depend on what resources you use. They can include:

  • Borrowed curriculums
  • Buying new or used books
    • Correspondence courses
    • Curriculums that may be purchased from many diverse sources
    • Dual enrollment in classes at the public school district (at the discretion of the district)
  • Enrichment trips.
    • Enrollment in universities or other higher educational choices
  • Exchange of services
    • Homeschool cooperatives (Co-Ops)
    • Individuals who specialize in particular subjects
    • Internet materials
    • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • Online courses
    • Private cyber schools or other online courses
    • Relatives
    • Selective classes at a private school (cannot be dually enrolled)
    • Self-developed materials
    • Umbrella schools
  • Use of free curriculums
  • Use of public or private libraries
  • Use of the teacher guide provided in curriculum texts to provide structure and appropriate teaching methods .
  • Video courses



There are a wide variety of educational methods, philosophies or blends to address unique learning styles and a child’s educational needs. It's exciting to have the freedom to blend these styles, so find what works best for your own children.

  • Charlotte Mason Philosophy focused on high-quality, rich living books in literature vs textbooks, nature study, and retelling and narration vs worksheets. It includes a variety of subjects in short and high interest lesson, nurturing a love of learning vs just a presentation of information.
  • Classical Philosophy is learning in three: foundational/memorization/rules (elementary 6-10), logic/debate/ the why’s (middle school 10-12), rigorous studies and the art of persuasive speaking (high school 13-18)
  • Montessori philosophy focuses on hands-on experience, movement, choice, and order in the learning environment.
  • Thomas Jefferson Education is leadership education that does not just teach what to think but teaches one how to think. It focuses on reading classics and discussing them with a mentor.
  • Traditional philosophy has separate textbooks to read and workbooks to answer for each subject.
  • Unit studies Philosophy uses themes or topics incorporated into all the school subjects
  • Unschooling Philosophy is interest-led learning that allows a child’s interest to be the basis of their studies. There is no set curriculum
  • Waldorf Philosophy integrates intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in a holistic manner. It focuses on child development and educating the student as a whole person

Each philosophy has many curriculums available to support homeschooling. Additional curriculums and interventions may be needed for specific areas of educational need for children with special needs.



Requirements for homeschooling in the U.S. vary from State to State from few or no requirements to  portfolio reviews and standardized testing at certain intervals. Parents do not need a degree in education to homeschool. Parents must adhere to the requirements in their particular state.

Some states require:

  • Schooling for Ages 6-18
  • A letter of withdrawal to superintendent noting your intent to homeschool
  • Notice of Intent to Conduct a Home Education Program
  • State Mandated Subjects to be taught
  • Assessment requirements
  • Immunization documentation
  • An identified supervisor
  • Assurance that subjects are taught in English
  • Outline of proposed education objectives by subject area
  • Evidence of immunization and health and medical services required by law
  • Certification that the supervisor and all adults living within the home, and persons having legal custody of the children have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses within the past five years.
  • Home education program approved by a state-certified special education teacher or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist.
  • Provide the required days/hours of instruction. 
  • Maintaining of a portfolio,
    • Log of instruction time and materials used
    • Assessment requirements and subject testing
    • Student work samples
    • Standardized testing: In grades 3, 5, and 8
    • An evaluation by a qualified evaluator
    • Submission of the evaluator’s certification to the school district’s superintendent each year.



Homeschooling is not a panacea. It requires commitment and means you have to be smart about your approach and identify your child’s needs and advocate for your child. Home schooling is not based on minimum State Department of Education standards or a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many benefits but there are no guarantees of success. Many homeschool students have challenges and outcomes can vary.

Effective homeschooling requires that parents plan:

  • Curriculum schedules
    • Lesson Planning
    • Curriculum Planning
    • Mapping the year planning
  • Arrange delegation to tutors, other parents, to online courses, or local programs.
  • Arrange field trips
  • Provide recordkeeping
  • Assure that testing and assessments are done
  • Use appropriate consultants to assist you
  • Collect and manage resources

It is important to create a team approach that supports you as a teaching parent and the skills necessary to address your child’s needs. DO NOT ALWAYS TAKE WHAT YOU SEE ON THE WEB AS GOSPEL. In researching this article, I found that many are uninformed, inaccurate or leave out crucial information.



Parent stressors may include:

  • Being around your children all day long even when they misbehave.
  • Explaining your reasons for homeschooling to friends and family who may be confused about your decision
  • Using positive reinforcement during instruction and remaining patient
  • Making sure you do the portfolio development - if required.
  • Handling the difficulties of moving at a different pace than public school instruction
  • Spending time and money on books, learning materials, curriculum and consultants.
  • Constantly motivating your child.
  • Spend time determining what learning style is best suited for your child’s learning needs
  • Spend more time finding playmates for your children



  • Academic Earth
  • BrainPop
  • Bedtime Math
  • Big History Project
  • Chrome Music Lab
  • Clickschooling
  • Club SciKidz
  • CNN Student News
  • org
  • Discovery K12
  • DuoLingo
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool
  • Enchanted Learning
  • Google Earth
  • Khan Academy
  • Learning Library
  • NatGeo Kids
  • National Geographic
  • Online Education Sites
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Reading Eggs
  • Scholastic Learn at Home
  • Smithsonian Learning Lab
  • Starfall
  • Storyline
  • Teachers Pay Teachers
  • The CK12 Foundation
  • The Handbook of Nature Study
  • Time4Learning
  • S. Forest Service
  • Virtual Field Trips and World Tours



Homeschooled are not bound by the days and hours that public school is in session and may not be considered truant during those times. The supervisor of the home education program sets the periods of time for studies, which may be defined as evenings and weekends.



The supervisor of the home education program is responsible for determining whether the test publisher allows for accommodations on the particular test and to ensure that the publisher’s policies are followed.



School districts are not required to provide support, but may at their discretion. The provision of services must be agreed to by both the supervisor and the school district or state agency. All services shall be provided in the public schools or in a private school licensed to provide such programs and services; these services will not be provided in your home.



If a parent terminates the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of their homeschooled child, the requirement for pre-approval of the educational plan no longer applies and the school district will not provide services. Opting out of the special education designation closes the door to other state and federal assistance programs. 

  • It is at the discretion of the district to provide related services.
  • When you return to the district the IEP process will start over and this may include a new Evaluation and the timelines.



If a parent believes that that their child is disabled and in need of special education services, but has not been evaluated, the school district in which you reside is required to evaluate the child, without charge, when you make such a request in writing. The school district must explain the results of the evaluation to you.



A school district must allow homeschooled students in their district to participate in the district’s extracurricular activities and not limited to, clubs, musical ensembles, athletics and theatrical productions, interscholastic athletics, varsity sports and intramural sports. This also includes all activities related to competitive sports contests, games, events or exhibitions involving individual students or teams of students that occur between schools within the school district or between schools outside of the school district.

Co-curricular vs. Extracurricular

  • Co-curricular activities are an extension of the formal learning experiences in an academic program
  • Extracurricular activities are offered or coordinated by a school, and not explicitly connected to academic learning.
  •  Athletics is thought of as an extracurricular activity, but in some schools they are considered co-curricular. It is important to find out the district's policy since chorus or playing an instrument if written as co-curricular, prevents homeschoolers from participating.



A school district may allow students that are homeschooled or being privately tutored to attend classes in the district’s schools. This provision of services is totally dependent on the school district’s policy and not mandated. The particular courses and the number of classes a homeschooled student may take by dual enrollment are determined by each school district’s policy. Credits that are taken by dual enrollment count toward curriculum requirements for the student.

If a school district has a concurrent enrollment program (enrollment in an institution of higher learning), homeschooled students must be allowed to participate. These are reimbursable costs.

School districts have written policies regarding participation of homeschooled students in curricular programs, such as science classes, computer labs, the arts, and foreign language courses. Contact your local school district for this information. Unlike extracurricular activities, the provision of these services is totally dependent on the school district’s policy and not mandated.



A parent, may choose to take advantage of the planned courses, textbooks and other curriculum materials appropriate to the student's age and grade level used by the school district. These are available for borrowing simply by requesting them; there is no fee and the school district is legally required to lend them.



Advocates for homeschoolers with special needs are required to be well educated in the field of special education, related services, and IDEA. They need to:

  • Refer clients to state specific regulations and requirements and NOT give legal advice
    • State regulations need to be looked up
    • is a resource
  • Know why the client choose homeschooling
  • Know the local school districts regulations related
    • To homeschooling
    • Access to extracurricular activities rules
    • Dual enrollment regulations
    • School district requests
      • What are beyond state regulations and what are unreasonable requests
    • Knowing how to get comprehensive special education evaluations for homeschoolers
  • Knowing how to integrate the related services needed for a homeschooler
    • Understand equitable services distribution
  • Keep an eye on proposed state and community policies and defend a parent’s right to homeschool
  • Actively network within the homeschooling communities
  • Facilitate the parent answering inquiries quickly and accurately
    • Make sure that parents always respond in writing and via certified mail- return receipt
    • Following up with school district to assure they send appropriate documentation (approval letter if required)
  • Defend your client’s choices
  • Continue getting training and instruction through workshops, conferences, and CEUs
  • Assist clients through the complex special education maze so that their child can access their education commensurate with their abilities
  • Provide information on accessing services, related service providers, educational consultants to assist the parents to meet their children’s educational needs.
  • Know who provides quality consultations and comprehensive educational assistance in your area
  • Know special education resources nationally, state wide and locally.
    • Remember that gifted education is part of special education.