Homeschooling Special Needs Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • Applying to homeschool my child in Berkeley

    (5 replies)


    I’ve just moved to Berkeley from Massachusetts, where I’ve been homeschooling my child for the past year. Prior to that time they were on an IEP. I reached out admissions to try to find out how to register my child as a homeschooler here in Berkeley, and was told that they do not offer that option for students with IEPs. I feel like this can’t be true?! I would appreciate any advice or recommendations of how to proceed from any other homeschooling families. Thank you!

    I used this homeschool program for my child during Covid. 

    Welcome to Cali!

    It's super easy to homeschool in California. There are two main options -- one is through a charter school, which gives you a bit of funding but also ties you to requirements (some info: or you can file a PSA (private school affidavit) which is very simple and essentially makes your home into a tiny private school, giving you complete independence over what you do and how and when (info on that:

    We homeschooled for a couple of years using the PSA method. You get total freedom this way, and don't report to anyone, ever. You just need to renew the PSA every year. However, it's wise to keep records of what they worked on (and maybe some work samples) for when/if the kid re-enters conventional school. 

    Also: Sorry you got an unhelpful response from the district! IEPs or neurodivergence should have nothing to do with it. I wonder if you're looking for some kind of program that is run by the district, but which you work on independently at home? I'm sure other folks here will have intel on this, as I don't, but if BUSD has an independent-study program and is telling you it's only available for students without an IEP, that sounds suss, as the kids would say. I'd explore further and even look for some advocacy (here, for example: since gaining equal access is the whole point...

    If you want an IEP, you’ll need to sign up with a homeschool charter school. In your area look at Connecting Waters or Hickman. Sometimes the local school districts will have a program called ISP. Individual service plan. It’s a small pot of money the districts get to service students with learning challenges in their district. However, the name is a misnomer, they only do a triennial evaluation, and it’s up to the private school you are enrolled in to implement the plan. In California, we either homeschool through public school charter or we homeschool independently through a private school affidavit, creating your own home-based private school. The Homeschool Association of California offers a free Homeschool 101 session and the next one is August 16 at 7 PM. Sign up at

    Homeschool charter schools should recognize IEPs. I have heard good things about Hickman.                  Connecting Waters and Valley View might be other options?

    My guess is that BUSD misunderstood your question. It is true that they (and most/all other CA districts) only provide IEP services (speech, OT, etc.) for students enrolled in the district, not for students being homeschooled. In California if you homeschool, you typically do it under a private school affidavit or via a homeschool charter. Some districts have independent study programs that are similar, but not the same as, homeschooling--you can ask what BUSD offers to see if that might meet your needs, and if so, students enrolled in those programs do have access to any services specified in their IEPs. But if you are homeschooling on your own without being enrolled in the district, you typically can't also access services via your local district (because the funding tied to your child isn't going to that district). The first step would be to map out what your child needs so that you can determine whether you can provide it at home or whether you need a charter or district partner to meet those needs. Then you can ask more specific questions about what Berkeley can provide and where you need to be enrolled to make that happen. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Homeschooling a special needs middle schooler

Oct 2013

I have a daughter who will be starting middle school next year, and I think that our public school will be too large and chaotic for her. It's a good school, but there will 3 times as many kids as her elementary school, which is already too crowded for her. We can't afford a private school, so we are looking into charter school options. One of our biggest considerations is that she has some special needs (and an IEP) that manifest mostly in behavior (nothing violent) and social problems. She has great friends outside of school, but the kids at school just think she's weird. She wants a school where the kids are more like her (although I'd be happy just to be at a school with a little more tolerance of quirky, different kids than where we are now). I'm not sure about which schools are welcoming of kids like her and equipped to work with her. Is there a comprehensive list of East Bay charter schools (anywhere from Oakland/Alameda to Pinole)? Can anyone recommend a charter school for quirky kids? We are also considering a homeschool or hybrid option but don't know how we are going to be able to teach her ourselves (as I am not a teacher) while still providing her with socialization. I would really appreciate any advice and recommendations to help us on this journey. Mom of a smart kid

There are several homeschooling charter schools that offer various levels of support -- e.g., Hickman (if you are in Alameda County), which has weekly classes as well as a small stipend you can spend on materials or classes; FAME (Contra Costa or Alameda), which gives you money to pay for materials/classes. Connecting Waters and Visions are two others to check out. Local homeschool groups offer an abundance of social opportunities (park days, camping trips, field trips, co-ops, classes) so you definitely do not have to go it alone. You will be amazed at the rich and varied life that homeschooling offers, and the range of options -- you just have to find what works best for your family.

You may also want to take a look at ''One Room,'' a small hybrid homeschool in Oakland for (mostly) gifted kids; you can learn more about that on the Kids N Dance website. My 11 year old daughter goes there once a week, and we use FAME charter school to help pay for other classes and activities. I do not think of myself as my daughter's ''teacher'' at all -- I help her find what she needs to pursue her interests, and I drive her around a lot, and we do a lot of things together, but we do not do ''school at home.'' There is so much out there -- I'd be happy to talk to you about it if you want to contact me. lori


Homeschooling a kindergartener with ADHD

Oct 2010


Hi, I would love to hear from another parent who is home schooling his/her special needs student. We have not found the right school for her, pubic or private and we are now thinking that the only way to give her education is to home school her. We both work full-time so it would be a major adjustment to our lives. I would to talk to someone who gone though the steps of transitioning to home schooling. Also, is it possible for a child from one family to join another family in the home schooling process? I have not check into all the regulations about home schooling yet. This idea just came to us about 3 days ago. Thank you for any guidance in this matter.

Does homeschooling work for alternative learners? YES! I took my dyslexic son out of private school in the middle of 5th grade. Despite much intervention and tutoring, he was becoming more and more frustrated and was being called unkind names by other kids in his class. He hated school and you could see the toll it was taking on his self-esteem. We started homeschooling 3 years ago, and he has completely blossomed! The first year was a bit of a challenge (for me especially), but there are many homeschooling groups out there, as well as homeschool charter schools that can give you plenty of support, and will even pay for classes and books. My son is also very active with lots of outside interests, (baseball, boy scouts, youth groups) so he doesn't miss out on any of the socialization stuff either. My only regret is that I didn't pull him out of school earlier.  Good luck! Happy 2B home schooling

The date on the teleconference is time sensitive, so I will send this to the list and to your email: I homeschool my three kids, and although none of my kids have special needs- we know those who do, and are very successful. I noticed the other day that Diane Flynn Keith is having a teleconference on this very subject on October 28th: The guest speaker has a website devoted to the topic: It is very simple to homeschool in CA and you have a few choices, some of which allow you to keep an IEP if that's what you would like to do. For everything you would ever need to know about homeschooling in CA, please go to! Also, there are many families in our community that share the journey that is homeschooling, from teaching different classes to co-ops, so it is very possible you could find the situation you are looking for. Good luck with your decision and feel free to email me if I can point you in any other directions.

I just wanted to say also that I admire your effort to find what works for you both. I don't have a kid with special needs, but one of my sons fits the ''spirited child'' (like in the book by Kurcinka) and I knew that, even if I wasn't already homeschooling, a public kindergarten was no place for him. Time for transitions and focus, lots of physical activities, and attention to his perceptiveness are what he needed. He is smart, engaging, social, and I know that if we (and/or he) ever decides to make a different choice and go to school, that these formative years we worked with him and who he is will be the foundation of his success. Sam

I homeschool my child with ADHD/dyslexia. I didn't pull her out of school because of the ADHD/dyslexia, and I don't intend to reintegrate her later, though I am preparing her to go to college, if that counts. So I may not be exactly the right person to answer your question.

Kindergarten is a great time to start homeschooling. Local homeschool groups are flooded each year with K kids so it is the ideal time to form a community.

There are so many kids with special needs in the homeschooling world. Go to a Home Grown Kids or AOHL (Alameda Oakland Home Learners) parkday (both are googleable) or SFBay Area Unschoolers if you are thinking of unschooling.

Homeschooling can work great for ADHD kids--as long as you let go of a school at home vision. I think that the goals of making it ideal for your son and wanting to reintegrate can conflict, but they needn't.

I think the best way to go with special needs kids is to file a private school affidavit and do it your way. We listen to loads of books on tape in the car, watch every David Attenborough video, go on lots of field trips, hikes and nature programs. There is little learning that has to come in the form of kid sitting at desk. And most of that can wait till later.


Thinking about homeschooling a 4th grader with Asperger's

Aug 2009


Hello, I am looking for families who are homeschooling children due to PDD/Aspergers/High Functioning Autism issues. Is there anyone on the lists who is homeschooling who might be willing to talk with me? I am trying to decide whether or not to homeschool a fourth grader with Aspergers who is overwhelmed by regular classes. Thank you. looking for homeschool help

Have you checked out the Yahoo group Homeschooling Creatively? They are not local, but many folks on that list are homeschooling children who are right brained, Aspie, ADHD etc...Perhaps they can answer some of your questions about how to start your homeschooling adventure. However they do tend to lean more towards the side of unschooling than a more traditional curriculum based approach. Best of luck in your research! Andy

Dear fellow parent of child with ASD, I don't know alot about homeschooling. So my response may/or may not be helpful. My thoughts/heart goes out to you I have a child who is ASD like. Of course every child and family are a bit different. I just wanted you to think about another posible option.

First 4th grade is hard I think a ''typical'' school and class is overwhelming for many ASD kids in so many ways, overstimulating, many transitions, more teaching on hard subjects -- inference, main point and context. Recess is a nightmare. So home schooling is an option. There are not many school programs that can ''scaffold'' these youth and help them practice social skills and flexiable learning .

I do think it helpful and important for ASD youth to get supportive practise with social sitaitiona So my bias is if possible a school.First I believe -do no ''harm''. So if a school is overwhelming a child,there has to be a better/positive expereince for the child. I wanted to give you another option.There is another wonderful school in Alameda, Children's Learning Center. C.L.C. has 2 campuses, one for grade school and the other for middle school and high school. C.L.C. provides are a small, warm, school environment with a thoughtful sensitive behavioral system, which encourages/supports students to grow and stretch. The classes are very small. The teacher's are amazing. The staff stays for years and years.It isa supportive learning environment.There are spot on for academics. They work on supporting and learning social thinking.The info is: Children's Learning Center, 1910 Central Avenue, Alameda, CA. 94501, phone 510-769-7100From a parent of a youth at CLC, it wasgreat. She has grown socially and academically. She is less shy and more confident. If you are interested,You need an IEP, and documentation in the IEP that your child needs- a small structured setting with a high staff to student ratio in order ''to learn''. You may want your child evaluated for speech pragmatic issues.They have excelllent training in teaching social thinking which is seen as breaking down learing social cues into digestive cognitivelessons ASD kids can understand and use. What ever you decide you are asking great questions Other good resources include the Strawberry Canyon Blue Camp which has a great social skills program in the summer.Wishing you the best in your search!!! a parent sharing in...

Dear parent, If you decide to home school your child, I think it important for your child to have healthy (body and mind ), social experiences. I wanted you and other parents to know about this wonderful place, Kids in Motion. Kids in Motion offers small classes for children and young teens. The classes are in gymmastics, martial arts, dance (hiophop to ballet) and more. It is a wonderful setting with supportive and fun staff. I think kids who are typical will have fun and learn and I know it is a safe place for children who have a disability ( aspergers, adhd, or a coordination issue, etc)to go, socialize and be part of a supportive group. My daughter likes that: they do things ''step by step'' and if you ''don't get something they will help on one...and she says they encourage or ''push'' the right amount'' ( meaning they will stop if you need them to). They have fun camps, they love kids, and it is a fun safe learning place. Kids in Motion is at 2862 Broadway in Oakland, 601-8424. Best of luck, a parent with similiar concerns

I did not see your first post so I am at a bit of a disadvantage in answering. But please know that children with special needs are very dear to my heart and homeschooling is a passion of mine.

I am a teacher and come from a very long line of them. I have dealt with my fair share of special needs children. I am currently trying to go back to school to get a degree in special needs. And as far as homeschooling, many of my friends growing up were homeschooled, many of my friends now homeschool there children, and I am looking forward to homeschooling my children some day.

Having a child with special needs is very changing, as I am sure you know. Homeschooling is also very challenging (As a teacher just the thought of doing it is even a bit intimidating to me at times). However, I think it is very helpful to both the children and parent. (Especially if the little one has any sort of special needs) The majority of homeschoolers I know have excelled because of being homeschooled.

But it can be challenging. As a teacher I know all too well that children can act differently in school then they do at home. (They tend to behave better at school) Which is I believe one of the main things you need to guard against when homeschooling. The other 2 things are not slacking off in what/how much is taught and combating against the lack of anti- socialness that can happen. (For both you and the children.) And with a child with ASD you need to help teach them how to socialize even more. (Which I believe a small, tight knit, homeschooling group would help.)

One of the best ways to combat those things is to be actively involved in a homeschooling group. (Ideally find a group that has at least on other ASD child) It might take awhile to find the right group for you, but don't give up. You should also find teaching programs and techniques especially make for ASD children.

I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT! And I believe it will be helpful for your child because of the one on one attention, instead of getting lost in the special needs department of whatever school district. GOOD LUCK, you're in my prayers! Katie