Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oh, You're One of THOSE?!

Over the years, I have witnessed an exodus of sorts when it comes to the education of friends' children. More and more parents of children with autism and Asperger's Syndrome are choosing to homeschool. We are the well-kept dirty little secret that your school district doesn't want you to know: often our children can be better served at home than in the school system.

I would have never said such six years ago. I was a died-in-the-wool PTA, room mom, get into the system and change it, agent. But one horrific year with my son's classroom (through no fault of the teacher) and I became a true believer. I figured I couldn't do a worse job than the school, and I might even be an improvement. Besides, my son hated school, to the point I was literally dragging him there. Something had to give.

And now? I homeschool all three of my children, and this is our 5th year. Two have been diagnosed with high functioning autism, they are 7 and 10 respectively. My oldest is going on 15, and though she has never been diagnosed, she has many of the deficits of Asperger's, and is also academically gifted. Her father is a computer engineer, and is most likely also on the Spectrum. (he was never tested, but off the record, our psychologist said so) So, you do the math...

In any case, bringing my children home has worked out wonderfully for us. Homeschooling has allowed me to tailor each program according to what works for each child. My 14 yr old, who went to school for 6 years benefits from a very academic program. She enjoys the structure and it works. My middle guy, at 10, is the one I walk the line with. He isn't unschooled, but his academic structure would, at first glance, seem more relaxed. It is still very scheduled, however. But we benefit from frequent breaks, sensory diet and multisensory approaches. I can choose activities that he enjoys, and we keep work periods short and focused. He can take a break for pogo stick or OT work, as needed. My littlest one, at 7, is the one that learns best through games and Mom Time. She needs one-on-one (as does my son) that she wouldn't get in a classroom. She often has to be taught a concept repeatedly before she gets it.

My middle guy is also dyslexic, which makes it interesting, and I am thinking my littlest may be, as well.

As for socialization...which is a joke anyway... but still. We have found with regular play dates, activities and park outings, my children do just fine. There is more time for preferred subjects (my 14 year old taught herself to both play the piano and knit, because she had more time than if she was traditionally schooled.) We have more time (and funds) for field trips and activities. While other kids are sitting in a classroom, mine are out learning in the world.

There is a park day we attend and have for years. The attendance is large, with many different ages and multiple abilities. There are several kids from all ages that are on the spectrum in varying degrees. It is a very welcoming group. Truly, it was the best decision we ever made for our family.

When my son ended 1st grade, he barely read, was behind in math, his writing was still reversals (though he is left handed, so that made it worse). I would literally dress him like a doll and drag him, kicking, to the public school. He would sit under the teacher's desk, or make games. His aide was useless, only serving to keep him from eloping from the classroom. His work was all sent home. I was already homeschooling, and my son was in the school system!

He is now in the 5th grade, and reads at grade level. His math is also at grade level, or just below. He is above in Science, History, Geography. His writing and penmanship has improved 10 fold. and most importantly, he loves to learn. I have found that learning is a broad term for what we do every day. Mythbusters is learning and exploring Science. Going to the Arboretum is a chance to discuss the environment and botany, as well as the food chain. In fact, every activity has inherent learning in it...you just have to find it.

The most important thing to remember about homeschooling? It isn't something you do. It's something you live. And there really is no wrong way to do it. You can, and your child can... and if it doesn't work, keep tweaking. Also, what your state standards may find important, you may find doesn't mesh with your family. That's ok. I have found that as we go, my kids pick up information I didn't formally teach. And the one thing I want to equip my children with? The ability to find information.

The freedom I have found, as well as the free time away from IEPs, discipline meetings and just general headache is now energy I can pour into helping my son love learning. Less time is spent arguing over what the schools think he needs and more time is given to what he actually needs. We have personalized his goals, and we make sure he reaches them. There is no fighting with autism experts who insist my son is meeting goals that are either too broad, too easy or just plain wrong. I am in control. And my children are the better for it.

That, to me, is success.

T, who hopes that clears that up

6 sent chocolate:

topsytechie said...

I love homeschool cheerleading posts. And even when you are preaching to the choir, as in my case, it is always good for one homeschooler to hear another homeschooler's success story. (But I am seriously jealous now of the park group you have. My boys were always treated like lepers at our park day.)

T. said...

Thanks, topsytechie! I am glad that homeschooling is working for you. I wish more mothers would trust themselves with it. But in any case...hopefully, my story will inspire someone, best case scenario.

And if you don't like the park days in your area, may I suggest you start your own? We have a yahoogroup and that is how we started. (I didn't start it, a friend did)

T.

Heather L said...

Yeah! I am homeschooling 5 kids with varying levels of autism due to mitochondrial disorder. I 100% agree that we can more quickly and accurately adjust to our kids unique learning needs!

God bless
Heather L

SheWolf said...

Thank you for the information. I too have a son who was diagnosed Asperger's after having been diagnosed and medicated for 10 years for ADD/ADHD.

He was living with his dad until last June when he came to live with me, completely unmedicated - wooohooo, but suffering from issues that weren't dealt with properly in his other home. School being one of them.

He is behind on credits and it appears he'll have to go an extra year if he continues going to the local high school but he HATES going except to his composites class because that's "fun".

I've been researching Washington Virtual Academies. An online program for kids that don't do well in the mainstream and it can be completely tailored to what your kid(s) need based on their actual current HS transcript. It doesn't cost anything as it is part of the school system.

He loves computers but needs supervision to stay on track. Unfortunately I have to work to support us so I'm not sure how it will work but you brought up good points and gave me a few more things to ponder!

visit my blog at http://blogatthewolfsden.blogspot.com/

Sincerely,
SheWolf in Port Angeles, WA

Curtis_at_bCalm said...

My wife and I are strongly considering homeschool for our two daughters. The oldest, Miriam, will be 3 in a few days.

I like how you put it "homeschooling is something you live" as that seems to be the theme as we research this stuff...

T. said...

Heather L: Thanks so much for stopping by! Glad that homeschooling is working well for you. How do you know it is a mitochondrial disorder?

SheWolf: Stories like yours are the reason I blog! I want to make a difference and give people new information and something to think about. Thanks for letting me know. I am off to check your blog, too.

Curtis: I wish you great success as you embark on your journey of learning. I have never regretted the decision to homeschool.

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

T.

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