I have a son with autism and severe ADHD, and that is the reason we are not cruising right now. As you can imagine, we have thought long and hard about this, so I'll share some of that thinking.
While my wife and I are both college educated and fully capable of homeschooling our kids (we'd actually prefer it) -- we have realized that 24/7 with our son would be too much of a burden on us and our neuro-typical daughter. It's more a matter of temperment than ability to teach. His behavioral problems would simply be too much to handle. If your child has a behavioral component to his disability, you may want to think about this. If your child's behavior is not any more stressful than a neuro-typical child's, I don't see any reason why you could not provide him with the same educational services he now gets at his school.
One other reason we decided cruising was not an option was safety
. My son has very little self-awareness of safety
issues (combined with the impulsivity of his ADHD, it's like having a toddler in the house all the time). The supervision that would be required to make sure he was safe on a sailing boat
full time would be almost impossible to guarantee and the consequences of failure too high. This is something you will have to access with your child.
Since every child is different, another thing only you can answer is what affect taking your child out of a land-based community will have on his future independence. If his outlook is good for vocational training leading to independent living, then you might decide to postpone your cruising for another five or six years, so he can get the training he needs to function on his own. If his outlook is such that you will be caring for him for the rest of your life, with arrangements made for a supervised lifestyle after you pass away, then where he spends the next five or six years may make no difference at all on his eventual outcome.
The IEP could be mute point, depending on what services it outlines for your child. The IEP is valuable as a way to make the school system define the services they are obligated to provide your child -- and to make sure they actually provide them. If you are going to home school , YOU will be in charge of those services. You don't need a document to make you do that. The only area I can see where this might affect you is any special materials that are provided to your child that are outlined on the IEP (computers, physical therapy tools, etc). Taking your child out of school and moving him to another district (or constantly changing districts -- or out of the country for long periods, etc) may change the way the IEP laws are interpreted (the school may no longer be obligated to service
a child who does not reside in their district). This is something on which you really need to seek qualified, legal
council (unless you are prepared to personally provide any materials he needs). If your current
district IS legally required to maintain the services, you may have to arrange your cruising plans so that you can continue an IEP program with your son's school. I see no reason why you couldn't attend IEP meetings by conference call.
I have always found that involved parents are orders of magnitude more valuable to a child with special needs than any Special Ed teacher. There is nothing particulalry difficult about the strategies and practices of teaching a child with special needs. If you and your spouse are of average intelligence, I'm sure you can handle it. The books
are available, and you always have the staff at your child's school to ask questions.
You should be prepared to be more involved than you might otherwise be with a neuro-typical high-schooler. Most formal home-school curriculum at that level is self-directed by the student and supplemented by the parent.
If you are concerned with keeping up academicly, go and spend some time at your son's school (if you haven't already). Several, random days spent observing the day-to-day routine will show you how little time is actually spent on academic teaching/learning. A child being home schooled-- on a boat
or not -- getting the personal attention of one or both parents -- will be able to accomplish far more in three or four hours each day than they would in six or seven hours in a formal school. Without the constant interuptions and non-academic distractions (lining up and changing between classes
, "morning meetings," recess, assemblies, "special events" like movies, holiday parties), not to mention the time spent on stuff that has no relevence to your specific child, if your child is available to learn, he will most likely do much better under your tutelage than he would at any school.
I hope someone who is actually cruising with a child with special needs finds this thread and contributes. It would be nice to hear from someone with real world experience.