Over the past few months, I have found homeschooling to be a wonderful experience. My son is relaxed and is learning rather than spending all his energy resisting public education. As for me, the stress of worrying about his behavior at school is gone. More importantly, I have gotten to my son so much better and am find the experience to be incredibly enriching.
That said, I realize that the general public might be skeptical about homeschooling. Recent news stories do not do much nullify that skepticism. The most recent story involves a single mother in the United Kingdom who is facing truancy charges for keeping her son at home. This one is heartbreaking, because it seems she is truly trying to do what is best for her son. I'm also concerned that parents rule out homeschooling because they fear that they too will be faced with truancy charges.
A more distressing news report is the story that involves a family in my home state of Washington. In April, a couple in Vancouver, WA, was arrested for keeping two non verbal children with autism in a room with a cage-like door. The apartment as a whole was described as filthy.
The boys did not attend public school. Their step-mother claimed she was homeschooling the children, but their nine-year-old step brother told authorities that she hadn't made any attempt to educate any of them.
This story dismays me, not only because the children were treated so horribly, but because it has the potential to negatively influence public opinion about homeschooling children on the autism spectrum. Also, it is quite possible that families may be discouraged from pursuing this option because of negative attitudes.
Obviously, as in the case with that family in Vancouver, WA, homeschooling is not for everyone. The desire to home school should be there, as should the child's interest in being educated at home. The parent's ability and also the willingness to be held accountable for the decision should also be there. Most importantly though, the decision should be based on what parents think is best for the child.
Ideally, if the home schooling parent can demonstrate teaching skills (or has the desire to acquire them), knows and upholds the regional law, keeps records, and has the resources to keep a decent home (clean, and with a nutritional stockpile of food), then he or she should be able to avoid being faced with truancy charges. I'm hoping parents whose children seem to need the home environment will not opt out of homeschooling because of the implied risks. There are at least five good reasons as listed here by another homeschooling mom which includes the reason of positive (versus negative) socialization.
Putting fear of consequences aside, whether or not homeschooling is best for the child, is something that should be considered on a case-to-case basis. Some children with autism might thrive in an inclusive (mainstreaming) environment in public education. Others might do well in a special education room and private school with smaller class sizes.
Despite the horror stories mentioned above, both the general public and parents alike should realize that homeschooling can be a wonderful option for the child with autism. Hopefully, recent news stories will not discourage parents or guardians from considering homeschooling.