A Comparison of Homeschooling Styles for Kids on the Autism Spectrum


Guest post by Kerry Jones.

It’s one of a homeschooling parent’s favorite questions for each other: “What is your homeschooling style?” If the question is new to you, then you are likely new to homeschooling! Don’t worry, it won’t be long before you are approached with it. And it won’t be long, either, before you have an answer!

When you are homeschooling a child on the spectrum, though, the question takes on a particular importance. While parents of neurotypical kiddos may be able to simply “choose” to be unschoolers, or literature-based homeschoolers, or virtual schoolers, we parents of ASD kiddos have specific considerations to take in. So, let’s look at some of the most popular homeschooling styles out there, and talk about them spectrum parent to spectrum parent, shall we?

A comparison of homeschool methods or styles for kids on the autism spectrum

Homeschooling Styles for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Classical Homeschooling

The classical approach has the worthy overall goal of teaching children to think for themselves. Using the “trivium” model, children move through three main stages of learning: concrete learning, critical learning, and abstract learning. It’s a language-focused, literature-focused homeschooling style that has become increasingly popular in many private schools.



  • it focuses heavily on finding connections between math, science, history, and literature – – something that kids on the spectrum seem to have a natural affinity for

  • with it’s forward-focus, it reminds parents to look to what their child can accomplish instead of what they can’t


  • If you have a child who has difficulty focusing on books or printed materials, this homeschooling style can be especially challenging

  • Most all published classical homeschooling curriculum would need to be overhauled when using with a child on the spectrumChild Reading Outside


Charlotte Mason Homeschooling


This whole-child approach to homeschooling is based on the teachings of 19th century writer and educator Charlotte Mason.
A Charlotte Mason homeschool day might consist of nature walks, journaling, dictation, handicrafts, and reading of living books.



  • While it’s difficult to think of too many pros for this copywork/dictation-heavy style of learning, I’ve definitely read narratives by parents who’ve had success with a “gentle CM” approach

  • CM advises a lesson length of no more than 15 minutes at a stretch for younger learners, which is always good advice when working with children on the spectrum


  • With books and journaling at the center of this style of learning, a child with a disinterest in reading and writing would likely be frustrated with this approach

  • Another key focus of the CM method is narration (telling back in your own words what you just heard or read). Need I say more?


The unschooling, or child-led homeschooling style gets a lot of press time, doesn’t it? As you are probably aware, an unschooler usually has no formal curriculum, but is allowed to learn according to his or her own interests, time-table, and motivation. Does this sound like a recipe for disaster for an ASD child? Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages to this approach:


  • Children who have finely honed interests can explore those passions unencumbered by the restrictions of a curriculum

  • Can help keep parents focused less on what a child “should be doing by a specific age”, and focused more on the joy of learning


  • Radical unschooling without any schedule or structure can be unsettling to some children on the spectrum

  • Unschooling depends heavily on a child’s inner motivation to explore the outside world, while many children with autism are content to be occupied with their inner world


Online schooling

Virtual Schooling

As more and more states open virtual schools, it has become a popular option – – particularly among new homeschoolers who worry about completely taking their child’s education into their own hands. A virtual school (technically considered a public charter school in most states) offers parents the ability to school a child at home on the computer while still being under the umbrella of the public school system.



  • For new homeschool parents, it can be a good gateway into homeschooling and can relieve some of the stress of full educational responsibility

  • Scheduled and set up like a public school classroom, which can be comforting to some ASD students who are transitioning to schooling at home


  • Curriculum cannot be easily customized to meet individual student needs

  • Much like a public school classroom, scheduled deadlines for work mean less flexibility in amount of work and time required


Eclectic Homeschooling

Eclectic homeschooling is a bit of a “catch all” phrase to describe a style of homeschooling where parents mix and match curriculum and teaching styles to fit each student. They may go to a weekly homeschool cooperative for science, study history with living books, study math using an online curriculum, and integrate notebooking into language arts. This style of homeschool would look different not only in each homeschool, but for each homeschool student.


  • Students receive a completely customized education for their needs and learning style

  • Because of the flexibility of this style, if one approach or curriculum isn’t working, parents simply try something else


  • Requires significant parental time to research and find resources that will work for each student

  • Can be somewhat expensive to purchase materials for each child unless parents seek out free resources



In my experience, I find that all homeschoolers who have a child on the autism spectrum tend to be at least somewhat in the final category of “Eclectic Homeschooler” even if we see ourselves primarily as another style. That’s because no one homeschooling style is going to fit our kids every day and in every situation. Just as we have to be in every other aspect of our life, our approach to homeschooling has to be flexible. The more we force a style that just isn’t working, the more frustrating homeschool becomes for our kids and us.  And the truth is, learning is fun. So the true homeschool style that will work best for you is simple. It’s the one that reminds you how incredibly fortunate you are to be learning together.


Kerry of Secular Homeschooling




Author Bio: Kerry Jones has been homeschooling since 1999, and has authored multiple homeschooling sites including SecularHomeschool.comLetsHomeschoolHighschool.com, and HomeschoolLiterature.com. Her newest pet project is creating a social community for parents homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum on Facebook and Twitter.




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My Favorite Things for Homeschooling with ADHD

We’re homeschooling several children with ADHD in our family, so we’ve had to make some major adjustments to our homeschooling approach over the years. One of the biggest adjustments has involved adapting my teaching style.

I tend to be a sit-down, book-learnin’ type of educator. I have ADD, so I’m not hyper and I’m capable of long periods of concentration. My hyper kids, though, are not, which means I had to adjust to them in order to help them learn. We’ve found a few items to be especially useful for helping our kids stay on task and pay attention. So today I’m sharing five of my favorite things for homeschooling with ADHD!

My Favorite Things for Homeschooling with ADHD - Look! We're Learning!

Tools for Homeschooling Children with ADHD

  1. Digital Timer – I don’t use a timer that often, but when I do, it’s usually to keep me on schedule. I can get interested in a subject and talk for a bit too long, especially for my kids’ short attention spans. In general, I try to keep each subject to 25 minutes so that we can get up for a “brain break” a couple of times per hour.
  2. Squeeze Balls – Squeeze balls, or stress balls, are great for fidgety kids. They’re quiet, they’re small, and they don’t distract the other kids during lessons. Plus, they’re handy for moms who need a little stress reliever. 😉
  3. Nickelodeon FIT for the Wii – We make physical education a regular part of our school lessons. Sometimes we have P.E. outside and sometimes we use the video game Nickelodeon FIT on our Nintendo Wii. It’s packed with simple fitness activities for young kids, featuring Dora the Explorer, Diego, and other Nickelodeon characters. It’s really fun. I’ve even been known to get in on the game on occasion. :)
  4. Individual White Boards – Most of our kids are visual/kinesthetic learners, so any time I can take a lesson and make it interactive, the kids learn their concepts better. When we cover math, I use a chalkboard but I try to let the kids copy my work on their own white boards. They get to draw, write, and “see” each concept – all of which helps them grasp it better.
  5. The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks – This affordable ebook features simple activities that kids can perform during short “brain breaks” each hour. We had the opportunity to try the program last year and it gave the kids a simple way to move around and get themselves refocused for the rest of the school day.

And those are some of my favorite things for homeschooling with ADHD! We’ve found them all to be useful, especially when we’re covering complex subjects or topics that require concentration.

Do you have any tips for homeschooling active learners? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Selena (11 Posts)

Selena is a homeschooling graduate, a former tax accountant, and a homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She and her husband, Jay, practice eclectic homeschooling to keep their ADHD learners engaged! You can keep up with Selena by following her blog Look! We're Learning! on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.

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22 Tips for Decreasing Sensory Overload in Homeschool


I decided to homeschool my kids for MANY reasons, however, one reason stands out among the others. I’ve mentioned before that two of my kids struggle with sensory processing issues. Sensory overload in homeschool is a huge issue in my house. I’m aware that I’m not alone in this little adventure of mine. Though, I think back to when I first started homeschool and wish I knew then what I know now.

There are many who may just be entering into the world of sensory issues (Sensory Processing Disorder) and Homeschool. Perhaps there is a new diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, Auditory Processing Disorder, ADHD or the like. This article is for all you experiencing something on this level! :)

Sensory Overload

A homeschool room or area can make or break the day when sensory issues abound. My first school room was a terrible thing. For my family, getting to where we are now has only happened through a serious of unfortunate events….or life lessons… Being in a better, calmer place for school has taken a lot of work and brainstorming – researching for hours. We’ve also had a lot of help from therapists.

My children’s speech therapist put sensory overload like this…and I’m paraphrasing…

Think of a whiteboard and imagine that as your child’s brain. Kids who have trouble processing their senses have a full white board already just by the normal day to day activities. When something extra pops up in their senses, it overloads the whiteboard almost immediately!

An overloaded white board (brain) equals shutdown kids or mega meltdowns. Our goal as teachers and as parents is to aid our kids in learning how to handle their whiteboards. But, until then we need to help them with daily life by limiting stimulation. With the list below, keep in mind all the senses: Smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight. Plus, consider other non seen things like stress of something on their minds, fatigue, diet, comfort level, etc.

1. First things first, provide your children with the opportunity to get a good night’s rest. Give high protein snacks before bed and provide higher than normal protein options throughout the day. Limit processed carbs and sugary things. Many top-notch researchers suggest cutting out many ‘normal’ foods in our culture like crackers, breads, etc. Also provide a covered-lid water bottle throughout the day. If water is an issue, try infusing it with citrus, cucumber, or berries.

2. Develop a simple schedule for the day that your child can decipher easily. Or at least have a somewhat predictable routine.

3.  Provide for your kids a chair which allows their feet to be flat. Also make sure the bend at their hips is at 90 degrees. If your chairs are too tall like mine, an easy fix is to place a step stool under their feet. This allows for better posture.

4. Some professionals suggest having desks away from doors and windows. Although I do agree with the door suggestion, in my experience, having the natural muted light from a window is much better than the artificial light of a light bulb. My sensory problematic children have done much better by the window. I don’t allow for bright sunlight to get in their eyes though.

5. I also use clipboards in my school. Even if my son is at a desk, he almost always uses one. This helps keep the paper in place and for some reason he stays on task better.

6. You can also try to shake things up by providing something special for the seating. Some kids enjoy sitting on an exercise ball that they can gently bounce on during their assignments. There are also things like wedge cushions, discs, etc. Bean bags are also an option but it was counterproductive with my children.

7. Up until recently, I also incorporated a gliding rocking chair in our homeschool routine. It’s in another room now because of a lack of space however it is still a great tool. My 6 year old son would rock in it while we did our phonics work. It seemed to be a very useful tool. I just had to get over the fact that he was rocking a lot!

8. If you are in a room that does not have carpet, consider putting a large rug down. If your kids struggle with the auditory side of things, this is very important. Even the slightest sounds echo in a room that has hard floors. Carpet will make a world of difference.

9. Allow your child to learn in various positions or in different locations if needed – even on the floor, outside, in the car, etc.

10. Allow for a decompression area if over-stimulated. This is doable with those cheap kids popup tents and lots of blankets and other comfy things. Or have them go to their room for quiet time mid way through school…or when needed. If you are unable to get them to their decompression area because of a meltdown, remove yourself from the situation for a while.

11. Many suggest displaying some sort of alphabet and numbers list as a resource for your kids but I’m going to suggest otherwise. In my experience any extra visual distraction is one too many. Put things away until they are needed for a specific subject. Don’t have them posted on the walls or on the desk but instead in a resource binder or folder.

12. Building on number 11, greatly limit your wall clutter. This is very overstimulating for children who struggle with any type of sensory processing issue. Have a defined area for these things that is not in clear view of your children’s learning areas. I put things on the sides of book shelves or on one central bulletin board. I replace things often so it doesn’t get crazy.

13. Make your learning area a relaxing, stress and clutter free oasis. One way to do this is to change the color of your room. My school room is a light sage green. It seems to suit us. My furniture pieces and extras are muted tones of creams and blacks.

14. Limit the amount of books, games, and extras that are visible. I’ve made curtains for all of my book shelves and the learning differences were a huge improvement after doing this. See my school room now. Set a goal to keep it simple.

15. Only have work and books out that are currently being worked on. Have other assignments and books in a separate designated area. No need to make them feel overwhelmed.

16. Have a supply of earphones available to use with learning. Although, be prepared to go through several before your child finds some he or she likes. Ear plugs may also be helpful but my children refused to wear them.

17. When speaking to your child assure they are looking at you or your mouth before speaking. Maybe use a white erase board to write down instructions as well. Have the child repeat back to you what was said. This will prevent frustration from not understanding.

18. Give your kids a heads up of schedule changes or changes in their surroundings before it happens.

19. Allow for breaks. But, a break does not mean 15 minutes in front of the TV. This means some kind of swinging, jumping, heavy lifting, or gross motor play. Many parents with sensory kids have mini trampolines. I haven’t purchased one yet but it’s on my list! Also consider looking into the Learning Breakthrough Program which may help with your child’s over all issues. We will be doing this for our school breaks.

20. I have had some good results with allowing my kids to suck on a sucker or chew gum. Although typically the noise from the mouth seems to send the other one into a tail spin. Fidget toys are another option. 😉

21. We’ve also incorporated classical music to help with independent work.

22. When my kids seem to be getting overwhelmed I will massage their shoulders, or pet their hair. It calms them down and helps them to focus.

There are so many other tips out there. I could truly go on for a while on this. I’ve learned to deal with outbursts but it is still a huge work in process! My kids feed off of each other which adds in an extra little bit of fun. 😉

There are a ton of resources and books available to help you with sensory processing issues and sensory overload while homeschooling. Not everything will fit with your family but some definitely will. One great post I read recently is from myaspergerschild.com which has even more ideas!

Do you have a child who struggles in this area? How do you cope? What things do you find helpful?

Heather F (4 Posts)

Heather is a Christian gal who lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she married her high school sweetheart, Levi, 2001. She is newer to homeschool and tries to “keep it simple” while teaching her three “active” children with Classical Conversations. Heather also juggles the responsibilities of being a part-time emergency room RN and police officer’s wife. She has a reputation of creating kitchen disasters, but loves collecting new recipes and learning about natural, holistic living. She is also a wanna-be urban homesteader and has a bunch of chickens, a couple goats, and a rabbit!

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