I have hesitated to write this post for sometime now. I feel like I am standing in the front of a dark church basement confessing a sin. My name is Heavily Caffeinated Mommy and Exhausted Daddy and I home school our son and we love it.
The words home schooling are funny ones. To the outside world it usually conjures up images of a family who is exceptionally religious or a family with a multitude of children. Children locked in a house, that never go outside. Children working the family farm and never learning to read. And my all-time favorite, these children are not socialized because they do not attend public school.
Let me start by telling you a little about us. Yes, we do have religious beliefs that are important to our life, but consider ourselves well balanced individuals. We attend church on Sunday and believe in God. Our faith is important to us and we are not afraid of that. Although I did not start home educating for religious reasons, I do feel called to this life now. Secondly, we are not in competition with the Duggars to see how many children we can have. The Lord blessed us with one. We have one. I would have had a dozen (not Exhausted Hubby, one is more than enough for him) and been happy but the Lord decided we needed one. I do not judge based on the size of one’s family. Socializing is a big question we get. Our son is not locked in the house. On outings our son interacts with doctors, pharmacists, checkers at the grocery store, clerks at the bank. He engages people in real life situations. He goes on field trips, has play dates, goes to the store. We interact with neighbors, volunteer and serve in our community. We have friends and enjoy fellowship with them often. And lastly, we don’t live on a farm, so Autism Boy has been forced to learn to read and he loves it.
For all of those that think the home schooling community is really small…NO, we do not know the home schooling family in another town (insert town name here). Although most parents choose public or private school there is a growing home school population. It is legal. I have been asked what qualifies me to teach Autism Boy. Well, first and foremost, I am his mother. I know everything about him. I know when he is struggling, sick, annoyed, confused, scared or happy by the raise of his eyebrow. No public school teacher knows that about my son. I am driven by a desire for my son to have the best education possible to ensure that he succeeds in life, not a paycheck. I have taught him to read, write, tie his shoes, answer a phone and caught him up on 2 years of education, raising his educational standards when the public school system was not adequate. I have a 100 % success rate when most public schools have at least 25% failure rate. I think I am exceptionally qualified to teach my son. I will be the first to say this is a huge commitment, but I would not trade it for anything. I am privileged to be there every day to help shepherd him along his path of learning.
So why am I writing this post. I do not hate public school educators. Many public schools have excellent programs, just as many don’t. Many teachers are motivated, passionate and believe in what they do. In fact I admire their passion for what they do. Our family did try the public school option. We started out like many do in the public school system. Exhausted Daddy and I had both been educated through the local system and thought it was a great choice. So like all parents we trotted Autism Boy down and signed him up. Since Autism Boy needed special services we got a meeting prior to preK to draft up this epic long document called an IEP. This was my first moment where I understood what water boarding must be like. Exhausted Daddy having served in the military compared the meetings to torture.
Public school started out ok for Autism Boy. He sat well, colored and played well with the other Pre-K kids. But then he advanced to Kinder and the extreme difficulties started. We had monthly IEP meetings, letters home, phone calls. It was exhausting and so damaging to Autism Boy. We tried to stick it out but as the years grew on for Autism Boy we found that his superior superhero talents were just not appreciated in the school setting. After serious consideration we found that the educational model and accommodations to the learning center did not make for the best learning environment for Autism Boy and his special needs. So, around start second grade we decided to explore other options. I can’t say that the school was disappointed. I think they were a bit relieved.
Our first days of home schooling were stressful. I frequently wondered what on earth I was doing and how we were going to survive the hour, let alone the day. Fast forward several years and we are now feeling like home schooling rock stars. In the last few years we have tried building the curriculum ourselves, workbook style books, lapbooks, a comprehensive teaching package including videos and unschooling and developed a work study program that works best for Autism Boy. We have learned through trial and error what works best for him and for our family. What works for us may not work for other families. I am proud to say that Autism Boy has caught up on all of his studies and is now far above grade level in many of his subjects (he has 9 subjects, yes 9).
I wrote this post to encourage other families. If your family is drowning in a system that doesn’t appreciate you, maybe there is another option. Sometimes the path least taken is the road you were meant be on.