5 Ways Homeschooling Helps Kids Who Have Bipolar Disorder

Feb 21, 2013

Homeschooling is great for any child, but it's particularly helpful to children who are living with mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. Find out how in this post.

 "It is a lonely existence to be a child with a disability which no-one can see or understand..." - Susan Hampshire
As I learn more about my daughters' individual challenges and symptoms, my understanding of just how fortunate they are to be homeschooled grows. 

Today, I'm focusing on bipolar disorder because it is the predominant challenge in our home.

When you have a child, or anyone in your home, who has bipolar disorder, you may be the driver, but this disorder is always riding shotgun.

You can still enjoy the trip, but you maintain a keen awareness that this passenger is next to you. You understand that at any given moment it may grab the wheel and take you on a wild ride.

This is why I believe my children are so fortunate to be homeschooled and I am blessed to be able to teach them.

Mood States and Changes

Mood swings are the primary symptom of bipolar disorder. These children feel the same emotions that all humans feel but with greater intensity and in disproportion to the situation. The moods change rapidly. I've seen a child cycle the entire gamut of human emotions in 45 minutes.

I can monitor the subtle cues of the mood swings. A teacher with 40 children wouldn't have the time or focus to notice the little things that I notice - the darting eyes, the shortened breaths, the hot (or cool) skin - that tell me in which direction their mood is headed.


I can adjust our activities based upon concentration and energy levels. I can quit altogether if necessary. Homeschooling allows me to handle the situation as needed.

Dietary Needs

People with bipolar disorder need to eat often. Most of them need to avoid sugar, caffeine, and limit carbohydrates. They must consume high-protein foods at every meal. At times, they are ravenous, eating every 30 minutes. 

Ravenous or not, a meal delayed by even an hour can mean trouble. Low blood sugar = mania. A homeschooling child can have their diet individualized. A child is school can not.

Sleep Habits

This particular disorder is actually the result of a "broken," body clock. The children have many nights when they cannot sleep until 2, 3 or even 6 a.m. Once asleep, nothing wakes them. This would be a serious problem if they had to get up for school.

In fact, I had this exact problem when my son was in school. He couldn't sleep at night and nothing would wake him in the mornings. I had trouble with the school system because of this.

Not worth it. Trust me.


Many children with special needs are artistic. I've found this to be true with dyslexia and bipolar disorder. They are incredible musicians, artists, and writers. 

Not only can I foster these interests, but I can actually build our homeschool activities around them.

I can't begin to count the hours that my children spend dancing, drawing, composing, and writing. Because they're homeschooled, they have time to pursue these things until their hearts are content. 

Schools don't do much to foster these creative abilities. Besides, the workload that schools impose on kids would leave little time for them to pursue these interests.

Homeschooling allows my children to have their mental, physical and spiritual needs met by someone who loves them, while also allowing them the freedom to be the creative, talented people they were born to be.

What homeschooling benefits have greatly impacted your family?

Disclaimer: I respect my children's privacy and level of comfort. Posts such as this one have been discussed with and approved by them. 

Homeschooling is great for any child, but it's particularly helpful to children who are living with mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. Find out how in this post.

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. Anonymous2/21/2013

    I have a child with severe social anxiety disorder. Every therapist told me homeschool was a bad idea as she "needs" to be with other kids. I guess the therapists thought forcing her into comfortable situations was more important than the frequent mental health hospitalizations we had to endure because of her breakdowns. Since homeschooling her anxiety is down and she is off all meds. And has friends!

    1. That's interesting. I have social anxiety disorder. I've always had it and I went to school k-12. (To this day the smell of early morning triggers anxiety in me). Social Anxiety can also be called Social Phobia. Who takes a person who has a deathly fear of something .. let's say snakes, spiders, heights... and forces them to encounter that thing , face to face, for 6+ hours per day?

  2. Anonymous2/21/2013

    I meant to say "forcing into uncomfortable"

  3. Anonymous2/23/2013

    Michelle, thank you so much for your post. I have Bipolar and we think our four year old son might too. It is difficult in the first place to explain to people about homeschooling but adding mental illness on to that, is sometimes a bit overwhelming for people to grasp, your post will help me articulate it in future. Have a blessed weekend. Tara.

    1. Tara, I'm happy to hear the post is helpful to you. It's so difficult for me to put these posts "out there" but I keep telling myself, "We're not the only ones. It will help someone else."

  4. Anonymous11/24/2013

    I have a 12 year old son who I'm suspecting may be bipolar... He has fits of rage and sometimes it's for no apparent reason. He gets very upset over the siliest of things... I know he wants to be homeschooled and I think it would help him to have that one on one with me. This is a great post that I'll be sharing with my husband later to see what we should do. My son hasn't been diagnosed yet but hopefully soon we can get him the help he needs and if homeschool is part of that help then I'm ok with that.

    1. I'm hoping you check back in to find this comment. I'm not doctor, but I do have 4 children (adults and minors) with bipolar disorder. We have all the various types. As well, their father had it, his father has it and I've had two best friends who suffered with it.

      If you need anything, feel free to email me at tmichellecannon@gmail.com

  5. I am thinking of homeschooling my daughter who is bipolar, and has generalized anxiety. She is not doing well in school and there seem to be no schools in our area that have teachers that really know how to deal with her issues. This has really helped me to decide its something I should do.

    1. Brandise, I'm so glad you feel encouraged to homeschool. Let me know if there's anything I can do.

  6. Anonymous5/26/2015

    I love every single point you've made here! Very helpful in my decision-making process. Thank you!

  7. Anonymous9/17/2015

    Hi, Michelle. I have been homeschooling my son since kindergarten - he is now 13. He is curently undergoing testing for bipolar - our lives have been turned upside down w/in the past 2 years. (rages, running away, fire setting, destroying property, you name it) Homeschooling came to a stop - it was like our lives were on pause. Yesteday we took him for a psychological evaluation. We have another appt. this Saturday for further testing. We hav resumed school, and finally it is going smoothly - only because I discovered CM. Before that I was trying to follow a traditional, rather strict curriculum. Okay, I'm a late learner here - thank God for CM! Like I said, he has not yet been diagnosed, but we are pretty sure it's bp. He's usually a great kid. Anyway, I want to thank you for this blog & for continuing to write about bipolar. You are helping alot of people.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm sorry for your struggle, but know there is a hope. If you need anything, let me know. I do consultations, and I create videos on Periscope on this very topic.

  8. Anonymous6/05/2016

    Dear Michelle, I have no words to express how delighted I am to read your post, my child has a complex situation that many people cannot comprehend and go around it because they cannot deal with it. If I may, I will bring this post to the attention of the school when I submit my proposal for homeschooling my child, in the past psychologist and child protection services have prevented me from homeschooling, and the school system has failed my dautgher in so many ways, so much that I can say I told you so when I had to agree to placement under threats to have my children taken away. Thank you now I know I am not alone

  9. Anonymous1/23/2017

    Hi, I'm 14 and I'm on the schizophrenic spectrum and I adore your post! It's nice to see that parents can recognize their children's mental health, and do things to help them along. School has been very hard for me, but I'm about to start homeschooling, which really gives me hope for the future!

  10. I am just looking for help and encouragement. We are still fighting to get the right diagnosis for our teen daughter, whom I'm positive is Bipolar. The last two years have strictly been about survival. With self harm and intense depression, homeschooling has been sporadic. We didn't test last year either, which our state requires. But how could we test? I feel like a failure. Anything?

  11. Anonymous10/07/2017

    My son is 16 and diagnosed with bipolar last March. He was in the K-12 program, but the school in our state had very inconsistent teachers, and he was complaining about the lack of socilaization. So this year we enrolled back into the local public school-per his request to do so. It is only October and he has begun school refusal. I understand his torment, and he is telling me his meds are making it impossible for him to retain anything at school. I don't want to force him to school because his life means more to me than grades. And he is sharing that each classroom creates suicidal ideation due to his serious anxiety. His Psychiatriat prescribed klonopin to "get him in school" but it isn't working. I don't know what to do. I think getting him back to an on-line school program will help save him from possible suicide. Any thoughts? I feel stuck and he has made it clear that he will not go back to school. Along with his anxiety he also physical illness symptoms such as throwing up, headache, etc. The school doesn't seem to "get it". I am feeling like a bad parent for allowing him to stay home (societal expectations) How can I make school work for him? On-line or traditional?? I have asked for 504 funding, testing, etc. but nothing has happened...no tutors have been provided, we are literally just surviving this storm and I feel like the boat is sinking. Lucklly the bipolar meds are working, but this illness is stronger than the comorbid issues that accompany bipolar. I just want my son ok and alive. Any good on-line school suggestions for OH other than OVHA would be great.

  12. Hi! I really appreciate your post. I am 15 and have been bipolar and depressed for as long as I can remember. Most of my younger childhood was rage fits and episodes.. I dont remember a lot of when I was younger because of it. I feel like Ive missed a huge chunk of my life because of my mental illness. I actually go to a school for kids like me, its a small school. Im very lucky to have it, but I met someone there who I used to be friends with until they threatened me and my family and called me names. Ever since then I cant stand being around that person. I cant even look at them or I feel very upset. Even though its a small school, I have separation anxiety as well with my mother making it difficult to be anywhere without her. Thats why I have so much anxiety no matter where I am at school. I want her to home school me but she says it will be too much work.. I feel like I need it though and for the first time Im actually asking for what I need instead of bottling it up. No one seems to understand though. I was homeschooled once when I was little, but I was in 2nd grade and was very easy for me to get angry, so she sent me back to school the next year. I also have a lot of social anxiety when it comes to kids my age making it difficult to make good friends and I feel like I cave in often to peer pressure. Any ideas on how I can help my mom understand? Thanks!

  13. I'm sorry you're going through all of this. My daughter has had a similar experience. Due to bipolar disorder when she was younger, she has few memories. When she got older, we learned she also had borderline personality disorder. She doesn't feel comfortable around people her age, either. And, yes, she sticks close to family. I hope your situation improves. Keep me posted.


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