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Homeschooling kids with LD or ADHD: The pros and cons

Get answers to common questions about homeschooling students with special needs.

By Kristin Stanberry

Parents often wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling children with learning disabilities (LD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While there is no single right answer as to whether homeschooling is the best option for your child and family, the following information about this alternative form of education may help guide your decision-making process.

What is homeschooling?

By definition, homeschooling is an education option in which parents accept total responsibility for the education of their children. Home, versus school, becomes the center of the child's educational universe. Homeschooling is an accepted alternative for kids of elementary school age through the high school years.

In recent years, several styles of homeschooling have evolved, including (among others): faith-based education, self-directed learning, cyber-learning (or online learning), and even an approach called unschooling. This article will focus on the more traditional approach to homeschooling, specifically as it applies to kids with learning and/or attention problems, and their families.

Why would parents of kids with LD or ADHD choose to homeschool?

Parents of kids with LD and/or ADHD offer a variety of reasons for homeschooling. Some believe they can do a better job than a public or private school in meeting their children's special needs. Some parents think they can more effectively tailor the curriculum to their children's needs and also protect them from the teasing and stigma associated with being in special education.

Some families opt to homeschool on a short-term basis, to help a child finish a difficult year of school or to reach a certain level of maturity and development. Other parents homeschool their kids from elementary school age through high school years.

What kinds of skills and training do parents need?

Important general factors to take into account when considering homeschooling a child with learning and/or attention problems are:

  • Your overall ability to serve as your child's teacher and meet her individual educational needs
  • How well you can apply self-discipline and structure to your child's homeschool routine (and instill those habits in her)
  • Your flexibility and creativity when you encounter obstacles or need to alter your course to adapt to your child's needs

Homeschooling does allow for individualized curriculum and attention to your child's needs. However, providing targeted interventions to address a child's areas of difficulty may require you to do more research and training than a parent of a homeschooler whose needs are more mainstream.

Some parents feel the need to go through formal training to teach a child with LD or ADHD, while others purchase packaged curricula from vendors who specialize in products for homeschool parents. Other parents create their own homeschool curriculum by combining prepared lesson plans with enrichment components such as field trips, the arts, and community involvement.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.


Comments from readers

"Several homeschoolers who I interviewed for my book said homeschooling reduced their stress, not just their children's stress. Support is important. Your Home Education link is broken, but two other ways to find local groups are: and Don't neglect online support, either. "
"How can free first grade books and tests be obtained? I would like too help my granddaughter when she is with me. I believe she will be with me a great deal this summer and loves to play and study with me. We have all 200 of the high frequency words on flash cards, still studying them. I need first grade work for the summer days. Thanks so much for you're informitive site. You see, sometimes when divorce is involved, even see you're children's books is difficult, sad but true for many people."
"I homeschooled my children for one year after having discussions with the teachers and principal about the fact that my children were 'pegged' in the community as being ok to bully. With the more disciplined one, things went well. With my ADHD child, things were slowly deteriorating. I must admit I was weak in the ability to come up with different approaches when one wasn't working. I would recommend homeschooling to certain disciplined parents but would suggest the children really need you to be involved in some sort of homeschooling network. We need to teach our children how to behave in social situations with groups of peers and parents need the support and help in home school specific problem solving. I should probably end my story with saying we switched school districts and the experience is night and day. The teachers in the new district seem to better understand that the limitations are not poor attitudes and adjust for differences instead of punishing them for being extra work. The kids are blending well with their peers and making good friends in this district perhaps because the teachers show my kids the same respect as everyone else. I know the way I get treated as their parent is night and day. My formerly depressed kids have now bloomed and their ability to concentrate and learn has taken off. I can't believe the difference the learning environment made."
"Pretty good article. But, I wish you'd print more articles for people who are already homeschooling. My son has Asperger's and a few other issues. We've been homeschooling for 8 years, and although I entered into this venture reluctantly, it has turned out to be the best thing I could have done. We only use materials and programs that will allow him to work entirely at his own pace. He may speed several grades ahead in one subject, and lag behind in another. Homeschooling keeps him challenged, but not overwhelmed. No longer spending time fighting the school system, we have plenty of time for clubs and other activities. Socialization has never been a problem. I found it difficult to locate a homeschool support group in my area that was a good fit for us, but online groups have been an excellent alternative. Group therapy sessions at a local hospital have put us in touch with other kids who have issues similar to my son's. It's not surprising that many of them also homeschool."