Last year my husband decided to move. One that would take us out of the school district we currently lived in. For me, it was the school board that I had taught within. It was an education system that I knew VERY well, and, when you have children with special needs, that’s a HUGE asset for a parent. Little did I know that our move was going to be the final push that I needed to make the decision to homeschool our children.
I went to work connecting with other parents (of both autistic and neurotypical children) over Facebook to see what their experiences had been with the board we would be living in. The answers were not good. Feeling discouraged about our prospects, I was at a loss regarding what to do next.
We all want what’s best for our children:
During my online hunt for information, I noticed a number of groups dedicated to homeschooling. Something I had always (secretly) wished to do, I was happy to see a thriving community so close to home. Curious about what would be my reality, I reached out to a seasoned homeschooling parent I knew. She gave me the lay of the land and the pros and cons. She left me brimming with inspiration. At this point, I knew that this was the best decision for us.
A Candid Conversation: To Homeschool or Not
The next step was to have the discussion with my husband. As I worked from home already, his biggest concerns were:
Why can’t they go to school like we did? I went through everything I had learned from my conversations with parents in the area. While some of the issues were a risk in our old school, it was not the prevailing norm that it would be in our new board.
Would I have the time to homeschool effectively and run a business? This was a valid question. We cannot afford to be a one-income household. Additionally, I am a better parent BECAUSE I work, and my husband knows that. But I was willing to make sacrifices in timelines to make this possible. Nothing had to be tomorrow. Consistent progress in the right direction, at any speed, would still get me where I wanted to go.
What about the other naysayers?
“What about socialization?” they asked. So important for every child, it is especially important for a high-functioning autistic child who yearns for social connection and acceptance, but doesn’t know how to make it happen. Traditionally, my daughter struggles to initiate play in age appropriate ways, maintain conversations and develop friendships. As this type of social communication isn’t taught in our schools in a way the autistic mind can understand, interaction would happen that left her frustrated and confused. I wouldn’t hear about them until later through her limited understanding, making it hard for me to support her.
Being part of our homeschooling community has allowed us to meet a group of like-minded families. We have been able to have meaningful experiences where my daughter can practice her skills and grow without losing friends or being labelled the weird kid. We have been able to scaffold and explicitly teach the socialization skills and habits that Penny never would’ve learned.
A reflection on our first year as a homeschool family:
One year has passed, and my children are flourishing. We use what they are interested in an entry point to bigger conversations and skill growth. We chunk learning throughout the day with adequate sensory breaks built in, something that is not available to us in the traditional school setting.
But, the biggest win for us has been watching our children become responsible for their own learning, make decisions from themselves (no home work fights here), and have access to the resources and expertise that will be relevant to their future. All thanks to the decision that we made to homeschool our children.
We haven’t looked back.