The question? We learn so much in school. Not only our ABC's, or our 123's, but how to deal with people. How to cope with boredom, and the fact that life isn't always going to go our way. We make friends, test our boundaries, and develop a personality outside of our life at home. How do you help your homeschooler do the same? Jenny talks about her experience homeschooling with autism, and how she's making it work for her.
Homeschooling and the S Word
When I was young, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I went into elementary education, and taught for six years in a private school. My mom assumed because I was a teacher that I would homeschool my children. That rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t want to homeschool. Just because I had a degree and experience in education didn’t mean I wanted to teach my own kids all day!
My oldest son decided to change that. He has Asperger’s syndrome, which on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Regular preschool did not work for him. It was the worst seven weeks of my life. After much agonizing debate, my husband and I decided to put him into the developmental delay preschool room. This worked great…for a while. After a year, my son was at the top of his class, so to speak, and was starting to bring home regressive behaviors. But the other classes were not an option for him.
What to do now? How can I pull a kid who has social delays out of school? But if I don’t, I’m losing all we worked so hard for over the last year. Not an easy decision. What’s a mom to do?
The more I read, the more I found that often kids who are homeschooled get more socialization than their peers. Of course there’s always extremists in every case, but would those hide-away folks be socialized if they went to public school? Probably not.
I read many stories of children who could communicate with any age, not just those within the same birth year or two. (The one comment that really stuck out to me was, a classroom is the only place where we are with people our exact age. Everywhere else, we’re around mixed ages.) These children participate in things like Boy Scouts and 4-H. Many participate in competitions of all kinds across the country. Others reach out to those in their community—visiting elderly or babysitting youngsters. Parents mentioned how sports and fine arts developed not only talent but also social skills in their children.
But what about my child on the autism spectrum, who already has social challenges? I found a book that specifically discussed homeschool and autistic children. Many of the parents interviewed stated that socialization is actually more successful for autistic children who are homeschooled. Why? They can practice the needed skills at home first, in a safe, encouraging environment free from distraction. They can get the social script down pat and then take it out into the community when they are ready.
These kids get to practice in all different settings—grocery store, post office, playground, karate class, church, bank, shopping mall, library, etc.—at all different times of day. They experience social success and gain confidence.
This was a tough decision for me, but I knew we needed to change something. I am now a homeschool mom. Not at all what I expected, but the more I learn and watch, the more I see that the big S (socialization) isn’t such a big deal.
Come learn more about parenting with autism, homeschooling and how to be AWESOME by visiting Jenny over at www.manyhatsmommy.com!