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It’s easy to worry when deciding whether or not to homeschool their child with special needs. If the child has previously been in public school, that worry is usually focused around the child’s individualized education plan, or IEP. “Do I need a homeschool IEP?” you might wonder.
IEPs in the public school are a legal document. They require classroom teachers, special ed teachers, even substitute teachers to teach your child in a way that best suits your child’s individual needs. This can mean offering special services like OT, PT, or speech therapy. It also might mean using specific types of curriculum, aides, allowing for motor breaks, or a thousand other accommodations.
But homeschooling is very different from public schooling. You don’t have to worry about creating an individual experience for your child at home- it’s the default! So why have a homeschool IEP at all?
- You might need extra documentation for your state’s homeschool guidelines
- It gives you a way to track your child’s progress
- It might help you access certain services in your area
So What Is a Homeschool IEP?
A homeschool IEP is one of two things. A) It might be a modified version of the IEP from your child’s time in public school. B) It can be a document you create 100% on your own (the only option if you’re homeschooling from day 1).
There are some important things to keep in mind that make a homeschool IEP different from a public school IEP.
- A homeschool IEP is not legally binding. You can’t take someone to court and sue them for not following it like you could a public school IEP.
- You can’t force someone to follow a homeschool IEP. It won’t help if your child attends a co-op, community college, or other type of learning opportunity outside your home. (Though of course you could show it to their other teachers and trust that they’ll do as much as they can in the best interest of your child.)
- A homeschool IEP can’t automatically grant you access to publicly-funded services and therapies.
Instead, these documents are mostly for your own notekeeping, progress benchmarking, and homeschool portfolio.
How to Create Your Own Homeschool IEP
There are five different items you’ll need to add to optimize your IEP. Some of these sections will require you to look back at documents your pediatrician, psychologist, or other professional gave you in the past. You’ll also want specific data from test scores,
Right from the top, you should describe your child’s special needs. Do they have Autism? ADHD? A Learning Disability? Are they Gifted? Do they have multiple disabilities?
Describing why your child needs accommodations is key in understanding how to help them.
This item describes where your child stands today, in terms of what they can and can’t do. If you update your IEP from year to year (and I suggest you do, at a minimum), you’ll add their ending point from last year as their beginning point for this year. You can’t create a map forward without knowing where to start!
The tests you include might be data you created yourself, like their end-of-year math grade. It could be results from tests included in your curriculum, too. If your kid has been to a pediatrician, child psychologist, therapist, or other professional associated with their disability, any data from them is a huge plus.
It’s also useful if you have information about what other children around your child’s age are able to do. For example, maybe your 9th grader is reading at a 3rd grade level, or your 10-year-old has the social skills of a toddler. These might be a cause for more concern than if they were only a year or two behind. I’m a huge proponent for the “everyone learns at their own pace” model of education, but general benchmarks do have a purpose for determining how much a kid is struggling, and how much help they need.
Finally, I think it’s important to include a brief parent observation in this section. No one knows your child like you, and it’s a good idea to write about what they’re like in this exact moment. You might be surprised by how far they came when you look back at these notes after a year.
Strengths and Weaknesses
No one likes it when others only focus on what they can’t do. A good IEP will note what your child’s strengths are, too! This section is critical for understanding how to overcome struggles, since success usually comes through strengths.
Homeschool IEP Goals
Here’s the meat and potatoes of your IEP. This is where you look at where your child is starting and plot a path forward for the next year. Don’t forget to include goals relevant to both their strengths and weaknesses!
When writing goals, you should make sure they’re “SMART,” or
Never write vague, impossible goals. They’ll only serve to frustrate both you and your child by their lack of “progress.” Likewise, don’t include goals for far in the future, or ones that will only make sense years from now. And leave out anything that can’t be measured, like how kind they are. Spell things out!
Think small, short, and sweet. Where is a realistic place for your child to be at the end of the year? Describe what that looks like.
Aids, Services, & Support
Finally, you’ll want to add in any and all methods to help your child meet his or her goals. Because you’re not in a public school, you don’t have to list things like “student may visit the resource room or trusted adult when necessary.” You ARE the resource room and trusted adult in your homeschool!
Instead, focus on describing strategies your child can lean on. I’ve covered lists of strategies extensively, so feel free to check out my previous articles on accommodations for ADHD, anxiety, motivation, and more.
You can also add lines on who else is in your team to help support your child, including medical professionals, therapists, social workers, and other adults.
If you’d like to include your homeschool IEP as part of your end-of-year portfolio, be sure to check out our massive 70 page digital homeschool portfolio! It’s the complete solution for homeschool compliance: Everything you need to track attendance or hours, curriculum, reading lists, unit studies, assessments, classes attended, and more!
For more reading on this topic:
- The Executive Functioning Activity Masterlist
- Homeschooling & ADHD
- What is Alternative Education? Four Options for Your Child
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.