Saturday, May 14, 2011

Essay: Why We Are Homeschooling

Imagine what it would be like being in a environment where loud, obnoxious sounds constantly bombarded you. Imagine all your social skills disappearing, making you feel clueless. Imagine feeling extremely uncomfortable being in a throng of of people for hours on end with no way out.

Imagine, being required to remember things even though your short term memory is a bit faulty. Now, imagine trying to deal with all I have described and having to focus on paperwork all day even though the muscles in your hands (and maybe even in the rest of your body) are weak. That is how I envision what school must have been like for my twelve year old son with autism.

For years, we gave public education a good try. We've tried inclusion, mildly impaired classes, and even a life skills class with mild to moderately impaired students. I worked hard with two different school districts (we moved last year), in order to "make it work." I even participated in an intensive program designed to help train parents and staff to educate students with autism.

Finally, it dawned on me that he'd probably struggle with any school environment. I realized that he needed a quiet environment, one-on-one attention, and a highly personalized curriculum designed to motivate him. The best (and really only) place set up to fulfill those needs is home, with a "facilitator" who knows him better than anyone else...his mom!! (That's me!).

Anyway, the clincher was when my son made his own "declaration of intent" to file with the local district if a family plans to home school their child). My son said "I'm not ever going to school again!," We listened. Taking his recent "flight and fight" behaviors at school, it was clear that he had enough public school for awhile.

People initially expressed concern for me and my mental health after we announced the decision to the district, health providers and friends, but I can honestly say I'm far less stressed than I was when he was in school. I no longer have to worry about getting distressing phone calls, or notes. Also, I have a much calmer child on my hands. He is far less stressed at home where his environment can be controlled at home (it's quieter and more predictable.)

Even though I met the qualifications for homeschooling in the state of Washington, I still decided to attend a course on homeschooling which I have just finished. Being new in town, I figured it was a good way to get ideas, meet other moms, find some educational opportunities, and start networking. After a total of 24 hours of instruction, pretty capable of covering all eleven topics as required by our state. I also have a good grasp of our state laws on education as outlined here.

We are still getting services from the school district. They sent us to this place for Speech Therapy, and this one for Occupational Therapy. It's been been going fairly well with more participation than what the public school providers were getting from my son. It helps that both places are ran out of converted houses and do not look anything like school.

Also, I have found that another bonus of homeschooling is that I don't have to worry about scheduling doctor appointments around his school day. Further, we can alter the "school hours" to fit our needs rather than going at the designated hours. Finally, we can go on more field trips and have more fun while learning than what he would have had in public school.

I have tons of ideas. A lot of my plans will be designed to make learning fun again. Some of them will be designed to give him skills to succeed and be more independent as he gets older. We will see how it goes. Wish me luck.


Casdok said...

Wishing you lots of luck x

Mimi said...

It is never an easy decision to home school, but it seems like it is the right one for you and your son. I hope it continues to go well! Thanks for posting this,

Anonymous said...

I've been mentoring special needs children for over seven years. I've worked with children ages two to nineteen, and as you have stated about your son, I do feel that they learn best when in a chaos free environment. In all honesty, I have always felt people with autism do have more challenges than the average person, but they're just like us. Normally, for someone without autism to retain information successfully we would prefer to work in a stable environment as well. The catch is, those without autism do have the ability to block out what happens to be going on around us at times. People with autism can't always do this, and have a harder time handling situations such as what normally goes on during the course of a school day. I think what you're doing for your son is amazing, and encouraging to the parents of children with autism that may be doubting their own abilities to successfully home school. Anyone with autism is capable of doing just as much as one without; someone just has to care enough to take the time to figure out the best way they learn. This is clearly you for your son, and he is very lucky to have a parent that cares so much.

EarthMuffinMama said...

Hi Julie, I am considering whether or not to homeschool my two boys. One was diagnosed this week as "classic" autistic, highly functioning. The other was diagnosed 4 months ago with Asperger's syndrome. We have had troubles at school since day one of preschool for both of them. I agree that it may cut down on stress...for all of us. My kindergartener (the classic autism boy) actually asked me if I would homeschool him after the last disaster of a fieldtrip. I go back and forth, but I would love to find out more of what you learned about homeschooling kids with autism.

Nancy said...

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Thanks for sharing information.

Morgan said...

Sounds like it's going okay so far. Hope it keeps up. And funny how the website for the curriculum mentioned a project on frogs!

Angela said...

Homeschooling is great for children with autism! They can learn more without the distractions as you identified in your blog! I homeschool my daughter part-time with the Son-Rise program. Many blessing to you and your family.