If you follow me on social media, then you would already know of our decision to homeschool our littles. If you don’t already follow me (Facebook & Instagram), what are you doing with your life? Get on that. Like now. I mean, right after you finish reading this post.
Back to why you’re here.
I always knew that homeschool was going to be where I eventually landed. The older the boys got and the more involved I was in advocacy only magnified my frustration with the public school system. The plan was to finish my Master’s and then start homeschooling the following school year. Well, degree accomplished (yay me!), so now it’s time to take on homeschooling.
There was a lot that went on into our decision, but what mostly held me back from doing so was doubting my abilities as an educator. I simply didn’t think I was qualified enough to prepare my children for their future and adulthood. Once I realized that everything that that my children did know, every bit of progress they have made, was because I was the one teaching them “behind the scenes”, before and after school, and between therapy sessions.
I was the one that was attending every Autism and Special Needs seminar and conference, read every book, and conversed with every “professional”, trying to learn all I could to help my boys. I was far more qualified than I had given myself credit for, and chances are, so are you.
As we embark on this new chapter of our lives, like everything else here, I will document our successes, failures, and everything in between on here. Creating a new section of the site specifically devoted to #homeschoolingautism, because let’s face it, all that we do in relation to neurotypical families, will be different and a bit more challenging. I hope that through our journey, others can feel as though they can attempt to take on homeschooling their littles as well. I really think it’s the best decision we have made for our family thus far.
But let’s get into the specific reasons why we went this route, that is, after all why you’re here. Let me see if I can convince you to come on over to #teamhomeschool.
6 Reasons Why…
You are free to homeschool when you want, for however long you want, and teach how you want. This is important for our children who often have periods of the day when they are the most engaged. Typical school is often overwhelming for our children with the long hours and constantly being forced to engage in a manner that isn’t comfortable to them. And then they come home and “explode”. It’s because they’ve spent the entire day keeping their true selves bottled up that when they come home, they unload it all as home is their safe space and you are their person. You understand them and you’ll know what to do.
You’re able to assess where your child is and their engagement level and determine if only a few hours a day are necessary. And most often it is. Your child doesn’t need 8 hours of instruction, they’ll often become bored or disengage or overwhelmed, hell, you too. A few hours of meaningful instruction per day that caters to your child’s specific needs will be enough.
Right now I teach four days per week and our Fridays are off-days or days I’ve reserved for field trips. Oh, that’s another thing, you can field trip whenever and wherever. Awesome, right?
2. You’re the Boss. Literally. You are the “District,” “School Board,” etc.
You are in charge of their curriculum. The Homeschool laws vary from state to state but from what I gather, parents are still feel to choose whatever curriculum they want, even creating their own. Here, in Texas, we simply have to teach five subjects the state deemed necessary, have a curriculum, and use the proper materials. Basically, there needs to be some sort of plan we’re following, have some actual materials they would use for learning, and make sure we at least taught the subjects they want us to teach. Your state might be a little different. Be sure to check with your state’s homeschool laws.
There are so many different curriculums out there, it’s overwhelming. Many cost money, some are free. You can find some at bookstores (like Mardel’s), online, curriculum swaps/sales at local co-ops. I have even found some good workbooks at Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree. Because of our boys’ needs, and this being our first year, I have mixed and matched different curriculums and material. I’ve taken Easy Peasy (a free online curriculum), used it as a foundation, so I can get an idea of what a year of planning looks like and I then expanded upon it, changed some things, bringing in different resources, materials, and other things to learn.
AS THE “BOSS,” YOU CHOOSE HOW AND WHAT THEY LEARN.
Being in charge of what they learn and how they learn it is incredibly important. We know our kids, and we know what they need. With the schools, they focus primarily on the academics; as they should, given they are a school. But where they fail our children is that oftentimes our children need more functional learning than academic.
Our family is choosing to place a lot of emphasis on life skills for our boys, integrating their mandatory subjects in with meaningful skills they would need in the future for independent living. For example, in Texas there is a math requirement, one son has a firm grasp on math skills and the other has no real concept of math (yet). Both struggle in many areas that prevent living on their own one day. My youngest who understands math also learns couponing, how to shop, creating a budget, etc. These are life skills, and it’s also math. My oldest who doesn’t really understand math is a little more difficult. He is learning to clip coupons and use scissors, but we have that falling under ‘Art’, it’s a life skill, but simply clipping them isn’t math. Right now, with him we are working on recognizing numbers.
For our kids it’s important they learn academic subjects but it’s equally, if not more important they learn functional life skills. Homeschooling provides the opportunity to focus on these.
3. Community Learning.
I touched on this earlier with the field trips, but if your children are anything like mine, and they are if they have an Autism diagnosis, they struggle with social interaction and/or being in public. With homeschooling you can create opportunities for your child to be in the community learning how to interact with the world. There’s not much of that in the public school, even in special education. If anything, the school liked to hide my children or keep them away from the others. I am now able to go to the zoo, museum, restaurants, etc. during school/work hours and while these places are not entirely dead zones, there’s FAR less people there than would be if we went on a weekend or after school or during holiday breaks. This allows my children to get out in the community and build up their tolerance. I have my speaking son say “hello” to at least 3 people there and my nonspeaking one I’ll have him do the same with his device.
There are homeschool co-ops, which are communities of other homeschooling families that get together to teach each other’s children, play with one another, go on field trips, and more. These have been amazing for us. There are several co-op groups where i live and we take advantage of each. The classes they have are smaller than those in the school setting and the teaching is individualized. My boys thrive in these environments. Our children with Autism need to learn the skills necessary to interact with the world, school just overwhelmed my kids, with homeschool I’m able to control their exposure, basing it off their needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
4. Everything can be a teachable moment.
I have found myself using any and everything around me to teach my boys something. I like to think i did that before i started homeschool, and I probably did but now I’m on overdrive. I guess because I’m doing the teaching, I’m inspired by our environment. Their chores are now more than chores, they are life skills. I treat them as such because they’ll need them to be more independent in the future. Sorting laundry isn’t just because you need clean clothes, it’s recognizing colors, it’s measuring detergent (math), following directions, time management when you start a load and go work on something else…everything we do at home is purposeful. It has to mean something for their future or we don’t do it.
5. No Standardized Testing.
At least not for those in Texas homeschools. Check your state’s laws.
I loathe state assessments. Teachers are teaching to a test. My kids’ public school would spend roughly two months going over material to pass a state test. They weren’t learning anything else. They we’re doing times tables…in Science class. My boys were taking adaptive tests for the state. They too, were learning things they didn’t need to be learning, all for a test. For our kids, every single thing they learn needs to matter, it needs to have a purpose. Their lives depend on it. Literally. It takes more effort on our part to prepare our children for a world without their parents or guardians. Schools consistently drop the ball here.
It’s true freedom when you homeschool. Most of the reasons I mentioned all highlight the most important aspect of homeschool, freedom. You aren’t bound by the system to teach your child material they don’t need nor understand (yet). You can go as fast or as slow as you want. You can do one subject per day, per week. If you want to only teach three days a week, go for it. If you want to take a trip to an Amazon Fulfillment Center (which is definitely a thing, check that out), on a Tuesday, go ahead.
The freedom to teach a few hours a day or a few days a week has its benefits for therapy purposes as well. I don’t know about you but in my experience most of the therapy times tend to be booked up around the late afternoon/after school hours. With homeschool, you get your pick of any slot during the day, your schedule is that free.
Homeschool is freedom. Pure and simple. You are in full control of what your child learns, how your child learns it, and how they are to be assessed on their retention of the material.
And there you have it…
my reasons for homeschooling my littles with autism. I have received so many messages about why I have chosen to do so, what made me make the decision, etc. so it was fitting that I break posting drought with a comprehensive list of “why.” I will soon include a post of “how” I’m actually doing it. That one will be a bit more challenging to write as I’m still trying to find my footing with scheduling, curriculum, therapy, life skills, appointments, etc. But that will be a much needed post. The HOW is just as important as the WHY. Especially when you factor in the costs associated with homeschooling (it isn’t totally free) and that many of our Autism families are one income. That adds an additional challenge. I am gathering some resources to put together that can help offset the costs of homeschooling, and I’ll share those as a separate post soon.
Also so many of the parents in this community are single parents and that will make homeschooling exceptionally challenging. There are single parents of neurotypical children in several homeschooling groups I am in that somehow manage to make homeschooling and working…work, and I am going to inquire about how best to go about doing that. I’ll pass that information along as well.
I hope that you guys found this post informative and that if you’re on the fence about homeschooling that it helped push you in either direction that leads to homeschooling, LOL. I kid, I kid. But, really, I hope that I have helped you on making an informed decision that is best for you and your family.
As always, I am here to answer any questions you may have…about anything. I’m just an email or DM away.