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.