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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Building Confidence and Connections for Homeschooling

Since we'd been thinking on and off about homeschool for years, we'd gotten an earful of anxiety from well-meaning relatives and friends. How could you give up your personal life? How could you make a living? How could you find the patience? Aren't homeschoolers mostly religious nuts? and, of course, How would you provide social opportunities for your son?!

For years, I'd listened closely to all these concerns, and taken them very seriously. But as I learned more about homeschooling, I realized that many of these well-meaning friends were either working from outdated information or flat out ignorant about homeschooling in the 21st century. Perhaps homeschooling really was a fringe way of life twenty years ago - but today things have changed.

I was still worried about my personal life and making a living. But as we came to terms with the idea that we WERE going to homeschool, we started "practicing" on weekends and afterschool. And it was a whole lot more fun than we'd imagined. We took family nature hikes and brought along binoculars and field guides. We pulled out the maps and spent time explaining just exactly where we were going. We tried a few science experiments in the creek and the back yard.

We even got involved with a local homeschool "resource center" built on the theories of "unschooler" John Holt. It was an educational experience - but not much of a fit for us. Not only are we not unschoolers by nature - but we couldn't imagine "unschooling" Tommy. A child with autism may be bright, creative, and even willing to try something new. But he's highly unlikely to just "unschool" himself into communication skills, social relationships, or much outside his comfort zone!

In November we stuffed a storage locker full of our "unnecessaries," and decluttered the house. In February our house went on the market. By April we were back on Cape Cod, house hunting. Now, I had a point of contact: a local homeschooler who I had discovered through a listserve, who was willing to drop by our one-week rental to say hello.


The Glasers said...

Religious nuts? Hey, I resemble that remark. :-P

Patience? I have far more patience with Pamela than bureaucrats who cannot find a way to do what needs to be done for my daughter! I would rather be with her 24/7 than them for any amount of time . . .

In my experience, having an autistic child tends to crowd out your personal life for few people understand what your life is like. It is only after you find effective interventions that you can reclaim it.

Lisa Jo Rudy said...

It's true... I think that may be a big reason why the suburbs were a bust for us! Tom just couldn't play with the neighborhood kids... he had no playdates... didn't do soccer... and so we wound up feeling very "out of the loop." Folks were civil, but that's about it!

Canvas Grey said...

I really think that parents with kids of all types of learning abilities are unhappy with schools in general and the teaching methods used. Change is in the air but it isn't going to move fast enough to help our kids.

I've been frustrated with our schooling system at times and we have a progressive, inclusionary system here in VA.

I've seriously considered homeschooling because our elementary school while excellent is near an area where lock downs occur with a little too much frequency for my taste.

As for your building confidence, you have the smarts, own it and know it!!! :-) Does that mean mistakes won't be made? Nope! But there is no doubt you will be doing the best you can do with love and your kids will know that. I mean this in the most uplifting and supportive way!!!

Connections are more difficult in my experience. When seriously considering homeschooling I went to several different local groups which were advertised through the paper, some kids mags and by googling blogs and groups. I found out that my new neighbor was in a local group. However, she wasn't interested in "sharing" and this year her kids are in the public schools.

I quit trying to figure out if it was because of my son or not...waste of time and effort. If others can't see the joy of him, it is their loss.

Didn't mean to write so much. I really admire what you and hubby have done and grateful that you are so open to share with us! Thanks!

Canvas Grey