Pros and Cons of Homeschooling | Can I Get an IEP if I Homeschool?

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

In recent years, many of us were thrown into some version of homeschooling that we never planned on. Those experiences have caused many parents to reevaluate their IEP situation, their family situation and wonder…should I just homeschool my child?

Making the decision to homeschool your child is huge and one parents spend a long time agonizing over. So, I thought it may be useful to outline some of the pros and cons of homeschooling that I have seen families experience.

pros and cons homeschool

Homeschooling can be an effective educational program for children of all ages, and offers many benefits. But like everything else in life, there are some downsides too. Learning at home works well for many families, and if you are in the throes of deciding whether or not to homeschool, then this list is for you.

For the purposes of this article, I am using the generic term “homeschooling” to cover just about everything that includes a child staying at home to learn. Whether that’s a cyber charter or the parent developing their own curriculum, homeschooling means different things to different families.

This post however, does not cover homebound placement on an IEP, which is a different issue entirely. Yes, for homebound placement, the child stays home. However it should be approached differently.

But, I think we all agree that if the child is going to stay home and learn, then an adult has to stay home too. That’s a big step for many families.

Homeschooling is Not Forever

I think it’s worth noting that this decision does not have to be a forever decision. If your child is high risk, you may want to do this for a few years during the pandemic. If your child is having frequent health crises, you may want to do this until they are stable.

But at any point, you can change your mind and reenroll in your public school district. Yes, you likely will have to start over with your IEP. But the skills, confidence and stabilization they gain from a few years of homeschooling may outweigh any downside to redoing an IEP.

child wearing confidence tshirt

In fact, this just might be your opportunity to try an intervention with your child and demonstrate progress.

Can I get an IEP if I homeschool?

The short answer to this is…maybe. There are several scenarios.

  • Cyber Charter: Cyber Charter schools are public schools that receive public funding. And, are bound to IDEA and must provide special education services. However, what the laws say and what really happens are two different things. Charters are often permitted to operate on their own set of rules, including denying needed IEP services to students and getting away with it. Proceed with extreme caution–as it has been my experience that many promises are made but follow-through is extremely poor. The cyber charters in my state–they have a less than 50% graduation rate for IEP students!
  • True Homeschooling: When I say “true homeschooling” I mean that the family cuts all ties with any public district. The parents choose and implement all materials. In some states, students in this situation can still receive related services like OT and PT. However, again, in my experience, the frequency and duration of such services is inferior to the students in school. You should read up on your state’s regs and see if this is available for your child.
  • Private Online Schooling: There are some online private options for families. This is the same as enrolling your child in a private school, except your child does not go to a physical location. Private schools are not bound to IDEA and therefore do not have to provide IEPs.

Pros of Homeschooling

Flexibility-The biggest advantage of homeschooling is its flexibility. You can teach and learn what you want, when you want to, and how you want to. This is a great option for families who wish to travel and not be tied down to a traditional school calendar. Or, a child who has intense commitments to something like a sport or acting/theater and requires a flexible schedule.

Families can also choose when they learn, for example a few weeks of learning followed by a break or 3 days a week year round.

The choice of how to teach is up to the family, so they can choose unconventional approaches such as Montessori, or a faith-based curriculum that aligns with their beliefs and values.

Tailor-fit to the child-Homeschooling is fluid and flexible so parents can tailor-fit their curriculum or learning to their child’s abilities, interests, pace and learning style.

There is also no pressure to keep up with the lesson of the day and students can start or finish their lessons any time of the day. So, if they are engaged in something interesting the lesson doesn’t have to end to move on to something else.

Equally, the student can spend as long as they need on an area the find more difficult. *Please note, if you choose a cyber charter for your modem of learning, the self pace option may not be available. While some virtual learning platforms offer a flexible time frame, not all do. Many have “live” teachers doing Zoom classes and such.

Hands-on learning-Homeschooling is by its very nature an unstructured educational program, which allows for more freedom in terms of learning activities. Parents can decide what to do to better teach the subject. This means that there can be more unstructured learning exercises such as visits to museums or historical sites.

Unlike a traditional public school curriculum, there is flexibility for field trips and fun activities that go beyond a printed scheme of work.

Cons of Homeschooling

Needs and Services-This is usually the main sticking point for many IEP parents. My child receives a tremendous amount of supports and services per his IEP. I could never replicate those myself, and it would be irresponsible and reckless of me to try. I’m a great mom. But I am not an OT, PT, SLP or TVI. Some states and districts provide IEP related services to homeschooled students. However, every student client that I have had in this situation experienced a significant decrease in services when choosing to homeschool.

Socialization-A lack of social interaction is often seen as one of the downsides of homeschooling as children do not learn essential social and communication skills.

However, this can easily be overcome by organizing social activities for children often by joining a local homeschool co-op or group. But, it should be noted that in a traditional school setting, these scenarios happen naturally during lunch, recess and other unscheduled times. With homeschooling, it can happen naturally but a larger onus is on the parent to ensure and create these opportunities.

two boys making a funny face

Children will also learn to communicate with people of all ages and walks of life as they interact with neighbors, staff in stores, the post office, and any other places you run errands together. And of course, there are neighborhood kids to make friends and play with.

Time-Homeschooling is time consuming for the parents, and you will be with your kids far more than if they attended school. As well as teaching your child, you will spend time preparing work and resources, planning, filling out state paperwork etc.

Money-To be at home with your child full-time, one parent will probably need to give up working outside the home. It may be possible to start a home-based business to run alongside homeschooling, but this will usually mean a reduction in income, at least for a while.

money at home

The actual costs of homeschooling depend very much on your choices. If you purchase a new curriculum each year, books and resources it will soon add up. But you can get many resources at a discount or even free, and your local library will soon be your money-saving friend!

If you are willing to give up some of your time, and wish to spend a lot of time with your child, and are not too worried about having to live on a budget, homeschooling could work for your family. For many kids with various disabilities, this is a fantastic option. It’s just important to weigh everything before making the leap.

Good luck in your decision!

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