I would like to begin homeschooling my child. She has autism. What do I need to know about homeschooling a child with a disability?
Each State has its own rules about homeschooling. In some States, homeschooling is like placing your child in a private school. Your State’s laws will determine whether homeschooling makes your home a “private school.”
The U.S. Department of Education advises that the laws of each State determine whether a home school is a private school. http://www.doe.state.in.us/sservices/hse_mcdowellmemo.html
If your States laws make a homeschool a private school and you decide to home school, you will be placing your child in a private school. IDEA 2004 addresses special education in private schools.
The local education agency (LEA) where you live must do several things. It must “engage in timely and meaningful consultation with private school representatives and parent representatives of private school disabilities to determine the special education and related services” it will provide. It does not have to provide the same special education services in a private school that it must to public school children with disabilities. http://www.ed.gov/nclb/choice/schools/onpefacts.html
Some states, like Indiana, require parents to fill out an enrollment form. Indiana also requires parent who homeschool to provide their child with an education that is “equivalent” to that of a public school. http://www.doe.state.in.us/sservices/homeschool.html. “Equivalent” is not defined.
If your State law requires that private schools provide an “equivalent” education and that homeschooling is the same as placing your child in a private school, there is one more thing of which you may need to be aware. If your State challenges the education you provide to your child with a disability, the burden of proving “equivalency” may be on you. In other words, you may have to prove that your are providing your child with an appropriate and equivalent education. Your State department of education may also require you to keep attendance records. Carefully documenting your child’s education may save you some headaches later on.
Before making the important decision to homeschool, you must learn more about your own State’s requirements for homeschools. It is particularly important that you find out any special requirements you must comply with when homeschooling a child with a disability.
For information about whether your State regulates homeschooling, go to: http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com. Scroll down to your State. Find your State’s Department of Education, then do a search using the term “homeschool.” If that does not work, do a Google search, using the term, “homeschool” and “(your State) department of education.”