Compared to many people, I haven’t been homeschooling very long. J, my 10-year old with ADHD, learning disabilities, audio processing difficulties, developmental delays, poor short term memory, and sensory processing issues, all under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, is only just starting his 2nd full year of homeschooling along with his brother, 13, who is neurotypical and a typical early teenager. But deciding to homeschool was no easy task, and I’ve read a lot and thought a lot about why this is the best choice for our family.
If you’re reading this blog post you may be considering homeschooling, too, so I wanted to answer some typical questions people ask me when they find out I homeschool my boys. This is the first post of a series of multiple posts on the subject that will cover issues like homeschooling and socialization, knowing what to teach, structuring your day, how to homeschool and work (because I don’t work full-time outside the home, but I *do* work 20-30 hours from home each week) and balancing it all.
Funny enough, more people ask me about homeschooling my older child than my younger, because they think I need to know all the subjects he’s studying in order to stand in front of him and deliver daily lectures, but once I explain that he takes several classes on the computer (algebra and game design), takes several classes outside the home (science, writing), and at home really only needs to keep on target with assignments they relax a little.
What’s amusing to me about these questions is that the subject matter might be more advanced for my older son, but it’s my younger son who has so many difficulties to deal with before he can even start to learn, whose the real challenge.
To read why we decided to homeschool, click here (warning, it’s long). I’ll summarize: J was falling behind in school, had no friends, was receiving no extra help, and every day from 1st grade on I got notes and calls about his behavior. Yes, I had him tested (privately), but no, the school did nothing. I’m sure they would have eventually done something, but we didn’t want to wait for that to happen. Waiting, or fighting and forcing them to address his issues would have taken time…and meanwhile the child got older, further behind, and was learning every day in school that he was dumb and no one liked him.
Once I wrapped my head around homeschooling it was a pretty easy decision to make. Actually doing it is another story, but I’ve learned a lot, made a bunch of mistakes, and have discovered a lot of truth along the way.
1. The Socialization “problem.”
Remember 2 paragraphs up where I said that at school my child was learning that he was unlikeable? He also took social skills classes (aced ‘em – he can tell you what you’ve taught him, just can’t apply it), which didn’t help, was taught about “character” by the school guidance counselor, and was even in a “good friends club,” which, by gathering all the socially stumped kids in school together, was somehow supposed to give them allies and friends. None of this helped. Bottom line: by the time we pulled him from school his developmental lag was pretty serious. The other kids were becoming more socially sophisticated and he wasn’t. So by being in a class with 25 of his same-age peers, he wasn’t grouped with kids who were his developmental peers at all.
So, I’ve established that school wasn’t really doing much for his socialization. And although yes, it’s true, on an average day J sees and interacts with far fewer people than when he was in school, now that we’re homeschooling his social interactions are of much higher quality and nearly always are “real” encounters that build his self-esteem. For example, on Saturdays J routinely goes to the Farmer’s Market with his grandfather. My step-dad volunteers for a free community lunch at his church, and they go to the Saturday’s Farmer’s market to ask for donations of vegetables that the farmers can’t sell. Apparently, when J goes along with my step-dad, they routinely get 10% more donations! J finds talking to adults easy (as compared to kids) and since the conversations and work he’s doing are for a purpose, and that purpose is valuable to him and valued by others, each encounter is a strong model of appropriate social behavior.
The same goes for our homeschool playgroups. We get together at least once a week with homeschoolers in our area for free play. These are multi-age groups and the kids generally do what they want and play with who they want. When we first started going it provided an excellent opportunity for me to coach J about how to be friends. And while I didn’t exactly hover, I tried to stay near enough so that I could keep an ear out for problems and try to help him out (not intervene) if he floundered. Nowadays I don’t need to do that as much, but certainly the fact that he’s accepted, not judged, and invited to play with the group is nothing but good.
(desk picture by flickr user carolyn.will)