This question has really been plaguing me recently. Many homeschool books (and educational advocates) say you should have a vision for your child. You know - that he should achieve X by Y time... that he should have these skills, live this type of life, etc. That way, even if the vision changes, you can still measure your progress based on SOMETHING.
I resisted this idea for the longest time, becaue the whole idea of "steering" my kids just got under my skin. But for Tommy, it does seem important to know what I'm pushing toward.
One day, I think "this child has what it takes to be a real musician. and it's up to me and his dad to find the opportunities and to push him forward." When I think that way, I focus on getting him to the point where he can really manage situations independently; pass tests; manage people; and, of course, excel in music. I look for ensemble groups, and imagine preparing him for auditions for the Boston Symphony Youth Orchestra.
The next day I think, "if this child can just carry on a conversation for more than two exchanges without reverting to a monologue about his imaginary lizard, it will be a miracle!" Then I focus on social skills training, life skills, and teaching "math you can use."
So which is it? And it's not good enough to see "let's see where life takes him," because we're the folks in charge of deciding what life will actually OFFER!
One big problem with having specific goals (like music school) is that it assumes certain passions on Tom's part that I'm not sure are there. Sure, he enjoys playing clarinet, and he's better than the average 5th grader. But it's not because of a passion for music (at least I don't think it is). Rather, I believe he plays well because he has perfect pitch, and because he enjoys practicing. And he seems to enjoy practicing mostly because it's an anxiety-reducing activity. It reduces anxiety because he KNOWS what it takes to get the music right.
But he doesn't play piano or clarinet on his own. We always have to tell him it's time. He's always a little reluctant to go to lessons, or to the "hot jazz group."
So is it just a hobby? Or is it a career direction? Should we be pushing the life skills - or the academics? Should we be coaching him to fit expectations - or to follow his own path? I know that all these things are important, but a schedule that includes EVERYTHING could give us all anxiety attacks!
Bottom line: when it comes to homeschool and autism, what matters most?