Turn a Difficult Special Needs Homeschool Day Into a Win

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I have one of the best poker faces, but I don’t play poker. It has developed over time and necessity. Special needs parenting is hard and many struggles are only amplified by homeschooling. In fact, special needs is one of the more popular reasons kids are homeschooled.

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Remember the old ad, “Never let them see you sweat”? That poker face tries to hide the struggles that we are facing as parents and homeschoolers. It is draining emotionally and we are often left more irritated and exhausted than necessary. It’s hard to keep a smile when you really want to cry. Not that I want to cry all the time, but there are days.

Two of my kids have diagnosed special needs…they have some “differences”. I both hate and celebrate that word. I hate the idea of labels, but I love being able to understand and reach them better. We have a myriad of specific letters going around our house, that describes their exceptionalities.

Those letters! They keep me up at night, bring me to tears, and cause me to overplan and take deep breaths of hope. More than once, I’ve wondered, “You think someone would notice if I just started screaming?”

Special Needs Homeschooling is Hard

As a homeschooling parent to kids with special needs, I spend a lot of time breathing through my nose and biting my tongue. I feel like I have amazing sarcastic wit, so biting my tongue is a struggle in and of itself. The reality is that no amount of love for your children prepares you to deal with the quirks that they might have. Those quirks are amplified when we add special needs. This can leave mom and dad with a weight on their chest that can make it hard to breath.

Invisible special needs carry a ball of stress that is different from obvious special needs. My kids are judged harshly by society when they can’t sit still, struggle to find the right words, can’t jot down the number or send a quick text to a friend. It is gut-wrenching and adds to the complex emotions of the struggle of meeting their needs while still leaving enough in reserve for the other kids, your marriage, and yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids and being a parent. My kids are also amazing people. They are brilliant, funny, and engaging. I bet yours are too.

One of my guys can make an entire room smile with his wit and charm. My other guy is an empath and connects with people in amazing ways, especially adults. He finds the person who needs the hug in the room like some people can locate a light switch.

They are so amazing, but they have differences. Just like everyone, they have strengths and weaknesses. I can’t change society’s judgements, but I can help them reshape their thinking and celebrate their strength. They are exceptional and that is not a bad thing.

How to Give Our Kids and Ourselves a Win for the Day

My kids struggle with language, focus, staying still, and a few other things. This means that subjects like reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes math can be overwhelming. I’ve seen tears at the school table more than once.

My kids love hands-on learning and when it is a bad day and my kids need a win (and I do too) I try to change things up and shift the focus to an area of strength.

What does that look like?

In my house, that means lots of science. A LOT. I am a scientist by training, but it doesn’t take a graduate degree to do this. Focus on how and why and you might be shocked by what your kids can do. Focus on observational science versus heavy data analysis (you can come back to that on a better day).

  • STEM challenges are a great way to get kids working in an area of strength.

These are great for creative problem solvers which many kids with learning differences are. I’ve been shocked by how many times my kids come up with ways to extend science projects and it can become several days of experimenting. You don’t have to do science. Try something else.

Other Passions?

  • Maybe sewing is your kid’s passion. Spend a day or two working on a sewing project.
  • Or what about music? Let your kid have a day to compose, practice, and prepare a show. When my guys were little, they spent a day preparing a puppet show for us (including a large audience of stuffed animals).
  • Video? You might sign up for a filmmaking course. One of my kids has taken a stop motion class and will be working on video editing to start a YouTube channel this year.

What about life skills?

  • cook a meal
  • can food
  • change a tire
  • start a fire
  • plan a garden
  • fix squeaky hinges.

The life skills options are endless! If you need more ideas, check out these important life skills that all kids need to know to be inspired!

These are just a few simple ideas to help you discover ways to help turn your difficult special needs homeschooling days into a win! I hope that they help you and your children enjoy a change of pace as you travel on your homeschooling journey.

I truly believe that it is important when you are having a day of “school work” that is leaving everyone dragging that you stop the action and turn the day into a win.

How do you turn a difficult special needs homeschool day into a win?


Kim is a homeschooling mom, wife, and retired classroom teacher from K-12 & college settings. She has a passion for science and her goal is to support homeschoolers (especially in the sciences). Kim believes that science needs to be accessible to students through easy, fun, and educational activities.

You can read about her adventures at The Learning Hypothesis.

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