What to Consider Before You Homeschool Your Child

Many families got a taste of what homeschooling could be like in 2020 and 2021 when public school education moved to online learning. Some children with ADHD benefited from learning at home because it lessened school stress and offered a more flexible pace. For other students, though, learning from home meant less physical activity and staring at a screen for long periods of time.

Following these experiences, some families are considering a switch from in-person instruction to a homeschooling or online education program. Here are some things to keep in mind before making such a change.

Homeschooling increased in recent years

The number of families who chose to homeschool increased from 5.4 percent in the spring semester of 2020 to 11.1 percent in the fall semester of 2021. It used to be that parents who taught their children at home often did so for personal, political, cultural, or religious reasons. Now, an increasing number of parents of children with ADHD or other health conditions are turning to homeschooling because their child’s school hasn’t been able to provide what they consider necessary supports or accommodations.

James Dwyer, a professor at William and Mary Law School and coauthor of Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice, attributes the rise to the fact that “the mainstream middle class, well-educated and not on either political extreme, has been very disenchanted with public schools’ response to the pandemic.”

Most public schools were not prepared for a pandemic that closed campuses, which left many parents frustrated with the lack of support for their child with ADHD or special needs. Some parents may see homeschooling as a less stressful and more accommodating option for their child. Yet homeschooling also comes at what can be a steep price, since parents may have to leave their job or rearrange their work schedule to teach their child at home. Children may miss out on interactions with peers or the routine provided by in-person schooling. As many families realized when campuses were closed, learning from home may work for some but not for every child.

Potential benefits of homeschooling

Each state has its own rules and requirements for homeschool education. While there is limited research on the effectiveness of homeschooling for children with ADHD, some students report feeling less stressed.

One benefit of homeschooling is that parents can provide flexibility for their children to build upon strengths. They can tailor instruction to fit their child’s areas of interest and speed up or slow down the pace of instruction. The added one-on-one time with a parent provides another benefit that teachers with multiple students cannot always offer.

“Children with ADHD are not slow learners, nor do they all have learning disabilities—they just learn differently,” says Carolyn Graves, who homeschools her children. “They need a little more creativity in designing their curriculum and more time to adjust to their surroundings. They also need more focus, love and understanding—the kind only a parent can offer.”

Stephanie Umbro, a former homeschooled student, remembers how she felt when she was in school. She believes her parents made the right decision for her education and well-being.

“I was unpopular at school,” she says. “I was slow. Kids called me fat, lazy and stupid. I was always the last kid to finish my work or to be picked for teams. I tripped over everything—my shadow, my shoes, my tongue.”

She’s been asked if she feels she’s missed out on common experiences because she did not attend school with other students.

“I’m often asked if I felt deprived,” she says. “Yes, I was deprived of a childhood filled with additional pain, pressure, rejection, and despair.”

Before you start a homeschool program

Homeschooling programs can have many different forms, including virtual instruction, one-on-one parent instruction, or a mix of instruction provided through a homeschooling group or online classes. Some school districts allow children to receive instruction in core classes at home and attend school for classes such as gym or art to provide opportunities for socialization and physical activity. Whatever form of instruction you decide on, it is best to consider the ways that your child excels in school, their areas of interest, and what is feasible for your child and family.

Some homeschool parents develop a curriculum based on a specific theme, like the weather, and plan instruction in different subjects with that theme in mind. Some parents of children with ADHD report they find that scheduling instruction in the morning is less stressful, and they don’t have to battle with their children to do homework at the end of the day when most kids with ADHD are tired or their medication has begun to wear off. Homeschooling also allows more experiential learning through visiting museums or taking part in community-based activities. Ultimately, parents must fully consider the needs of their children and family before making the decision to homeschool.

“Parents must find the educational placement that works best for their family and their children,” says author Kathy Kuhl, who advises parents on homeschooling. “That can vary from child to child and year to year. Many parents of children with ADHD are satisfied with their local schools, and some parents seek alternatives. As homeschooling expands, it offers resources that can benefit any parent, including those raising kids with special needs.”

Looking for more perspective on homeschooling options?

Join the discussion: Are you a homeschooling family? Why would you encourage or discourage a family from homeschooling?