Homeschool. I’m not going to lie, prior to having a special needs child, I had never even considered homeschool. I was married to a teacher after all, and the natural order was to send your child to the local public school. In my case, it would be the same school I had graduated from. I had a plan for how everything would work: he would go to school, be the smartest in his class, everyone would be his friend and maybe…just maybe…he would even be athletic. Then the “A” word entered our life.
I won’t lie — we knew long before we heard the word “autism” that Collier had developmental issues. We never hit a milestone, other than potty training…thank you LORD…, on time and he always seemed more immature than his peers. But I just always assumed if we had enough therapy (we did speech, occupational, physical, music…and on…and on…and on) he would eventually catch up. But by the time he was 5 it was obvious he needed more help than his preschool teachers could give. So I gave up my career, visited the parent-teacher store and started focusing on the ABCs and 123s.
I still did not see myself as a homeschooler; after all, I was really just trying to get him caught up before he started “real” school. I honestly didn’t think I had what it takes to teach full time…and the numerous tears we both shed that year seemed to confirm my initial thoughts. So I dutifully became a full-time therapy chauffeur and a part-time support teacher.
So did I have a change of heart after hearing autism? Did I suddenly believe I could lead this young mind better than anyone else? Nope. I did have a moment of doubt when our school district said he couldn’t go to the school he was zoned for, but would need to be in a self-contained class (oh that I knew then what I know now…that would have been a big HECK NO). But off to public school he went, always on the bus because there was no way I’m fighting a car line. Uh-Uh. No way.
Our first two years of school were rather uneventful (although we did make the district move him back to his home school for first grade). Even though our year of preschool had been emotional, he had learned so much that kindergarten and first grade were not too painful. We managed to keep him up with his typical peers without too much additional trouble.
Then came second grade.
While Collier always had great teachers who really cared for him and had lots of friends, the pace of the work just started to accelerate beyond what he was capable of easily keeping up with. The amount of time we were spending in the evenings going back over his work and relearning objectives from that day just continued to increase. Somehow, we got through that year and he even managed to make the A-B honor roll that year. That summer we did work for an hour or two each day to try and keep him from losing what he had learned that year. I just hoped and prayed third grade would be better than second grade.
It wasn’t. It just got worse.
In third grade we went from spending an hour or two in the evening, to working from the time he got off the bus at 3:30 until he went to bed at 8:30. He had the ability to learn anything you put in front of him…but in his time. And unfortunately time is the one thing you don’t really have in public school. It became difficult for him to continue in Cub Scouts, his swing set sat empty every evening as he worked inside, and he was always tired and upset when his grades didn’t reflect the effort he put into it. Our whole family was constantly on edge and miserable.
One Friday afternoon in November became my breaking point. I looked through his test papers for the week and saw grades of Cs and Ds on things I knew that he could do when he left that morning. I remember sitting and crying for some time. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I knew my original plan was not going to work. Like everything else in our lives, we would have to forge a different path and do things a different way.
After that painful afternoon, I began to really think about homeschooling. I must have checked out almost every book on the topic I could get my hands on, started reading blogs and (of course) started a Pinterest board on the topic. **And I swear I will go back one day and read everything I pinned 😊 ** I slowly began to realize we could do this. I also began to realize this may not just be good for our family, it might SAVE our family. But now that I had convinced myself…. would I be able to sell my plan to Brian, Collier and my parents?
Brian would have to rearrange his schedule to be home a few mornings to teach. My parents would have to be on board because I worked from home three days a week, so they would need to agree to teach Collier for parts of those days. And would Collier agree not only to leave his school but now have 4 teachers?
I wanted Collier to get back a love of learning and be able to teach him when and where he could best learn. I wanted to be able to work things like life skills into his curriculum, because his diagnosis will mean a different life path for him. I wanted a one-on-one environment, so we wouldn’t be spending hours every evening working on homework. Finally, I wanted to be able to take whatever time we needed to make sure he really knew a topic instead of rushing through to the next objective. Could I get everyone on board?
The answer was yes, yes, YES. Brian and my parents were easiest. From the beginning they were ready to do whatever it took to help Collier. We pretty quickly all worked out our schedules and were excited about the coming year. Collier was a little more hesitant, but once he realized it meant he would be able to continue in scouts and spend more time outside…he was in. Once the decision was made, we never looked back.
Has our homeschool journey always been smooth? No
Have we made mistakes along the way? Sure
Would we do it over again? Absolutely
So today, if you are thinking about taking the leap, I want to tell you that you CAN do it. And if you go into it with your child’s best interest at heart, I don’t think you will ever regret it.