Successful Home Visits with Your Elem. Students – General Ed and Special Ed

September 16, 2017 6 min read
Here are some ideas on how to have successful home visits with your students. I started doing home visits about 15 years ago and have continued to do them in different settings: General ed third grade, special ed elementary self-contained (mild/moderate special day class – mostly kids with learning disabilities, speech, ADHD or autism), and itinerant orthopedic impairment teacher. Now that I am itinerant and have students spread over 3,000 square miles, I am unable to do them as much.  But I have that home visits are a great way to get to know the student, and let the family how much I care about them. 


If you are considering doing home visits, first, you need to determine your purpose. My purpose was to spend time with the child doing whatever he/she wanted… to give them my undivided attention…in order to build a relationship with them. I tried to avoid talking to parents too much while there to keep focused on the child. Of course, you will have some small talk, but I worked hard to keep it from becoming a parent conference. If other siblings/cousins, etc. wanted to play, too, I made it clear my student was in charge of the activity.
You will need to decide what time of year is best for your home visits. Is it best to spread them out over the year, or cluster them together?  Should you do them at the beginning of the year, or in the springtime near the end? I decided to do them earlier in the year. Then, if a situation came up with behavior or anything else, there was a foundation of trust that really helped. An additional benefit is that after the home visit, you will know what the child is talking about when she keeps referring to her siblings, pets, etc., and that shared experience is a great memory!
More specifically regarding time frame, I found that doing home visits at the end of the first quarter during parent conferences worked great.  This is usually early to mid-October. That was better than the first few weeks of school, because by end of the first quarter the kids were more comfortable around me, and not so shy. Parents also knew me a little better. In addition, where I live, it is still daylight when I visit and the weather is pretty good. But most of all, I found it was best for me to introduce the idea in person at the first quarter parent conference itself.  I could explain why I wanted to come and to not worry about cleaning the house, etc. (My house was probably messier than theirs). Plus, I only wanted to spend time with their child, without any other agenda.  Going over it at parent conferences also ensured the paper didn’t get lost going home. On the paper, I listed days/times I could go. 
At our school, the school was dismissed at 1:00 during parent conference week. I used this to my advantage by trying to schedule all the parent conferences earlier in the week, then I would have more time each day to do home visits later that same week. However, I also told parents if the days I listed on the paper don’t work, they could just contact me with another date/time. If parents didn’t show up to conferences, I did send the paper home later and put another one aside to give at the child’s IEP meeting. 
Successful home visits
I always told kids I would do anything they wanted when I came, except go swimming (that took more time than the 20-30 minutes I promised not to go over, plus I’d be wet for the next home visit). So think through what you are willing to do and not do ahead of time. In addition, I dressed more casual on home visit days or at least remembered to bring tennis shoes and something to change into. (The last thing you want is a bummed out student who wants you to play soccer but you have a dress and heels on.) Usually, I’d see their pets, their bedroom, watch them play their favorite video game, meet their siblings, read to them or color together.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched kids jump on a trampoline! One time we stayed in the front yard and played basketball the whole time. Another time, my student (third grade) drove me around their farm on their old golf cart! If the parents gave permission I would take some photos/video clips to show the class the next day. I would also put a photo of the home visit in the class video at the end of the year.
The only time I had an awkward visit was when my student got super shy and didn’t want to do anything.  I think he was shocked that I came to his house even though both his mom and I told him I was coming. (I had to follow the school bus in order to find where he lived). All he wanted to do was sit with his little brother on the couch. I couldn’t get a word or yes/no out of him. After much coaxing on his mother’s part, it ended up that, with my student’s permission, his little brother showed me around and answered all my questions about their pets (a dog and chicken). My student followed us around. The next day, the student was so excited that I came to his house, you would have never known he didn’t really participate much!
Overall, the kids and families loved my visits.  Once a parent told me her child was up and dressed by 6:00 am looking out the window expecting me to come. Then as soon as she got home from school she waited for me by the window again! (Yep, some of our kids have no concept of time, even when we review it with visual schedules, etc!). Some kids even expected me to come every week (or at least every time they got a new bed, TV, pet, etc.). LOL!  Other families never had me come, even if I had the child in my class for 4 years in a row… and that was okay. I never pressured parents about it.  

However, if a child really wanted me to come, but was disappointed that it didn’t work out for the parents (or was jealous of me going to other homes) then there were a couple of things I would do.  First, if the child was involved in an after-school activity like a sports team, I would ask for the schedule, then go!  I haven’t been to a dance recital yet, but I have been to a baptism/catechism, baseball, football, and even a wheelchair basketball game. Second, if an out of school activity wasn’t an option, then in the springtime I would tell him/her we could have a “home visit” at school. We would pick a day when we would spend the whole lunch period together.  Usually, we would eat in my class and afterward we would do whatever he/she wanted, inside the class or outside on the playground.
I’m going to go a little off topic here, but I would also like to say that, even if it is really hard (or awkward), please take time to visit your student if they are in the hospital, or attend a memorial service/rosary/funeral of your student, their sibling or parent. This would include a student you had in past years. Get a co-worker or one of your family members to go with you. The fact that  you came will really bring respect and honor to the student and family during a difficult time. Your act of presence will be a kindness forever remembered by the child/family. 
So in conclusion on home visits, I’m sure there are many ways of doing them, but this is what has worked for me over the years. I hope they give you some good, practical ideas.  I must say, that when I run across former students or parents, they always remember that I came to their house! Also, both kids and parents knew I truly cared about them because I took the time to invest in them outside of school.
  • Shannon Olsen January 30, 2018 at 9:34 PM

    I'm truly inspired by this! I've never done a home visit, but what a powerful way to show how much you care and to make a meaningful connection with your students. That is something they will always remember. Thanks for sharing!

  • Brooke Khan January 30, 2018 at 9:34 PM

    Home visits must give you so much more insight into your students lives! How great that you get to do that!

  • Kim Lepre February 2, 2018 at 3:51 PM

    Lisa, you are amazing! The extent to which you reach out to your students and involve yourself in their lives in beyond inspiring. I don't know it what you do is the norm for home visits, but I'm beyond impressed with what you do. Thanks for sharing this!


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