Letting Go

“We must let go of the life we have planned in order to accept the one that is waiting on us.”

                                                                                     Joseph Campbell

Fourteen years ago this month, I found out I was pregnant. Brian and I were so happy, we had been married six years and were ready to become parents. I guess almost as soon as you find out there’s a baby coming, you start dreaming. The first one for me was dreaming about whether it would be a boy or girl. For some reason, even from the beginning I felt like we were having a boy, but the wait to find out seemed to take forever.

Then finally, we knew for sure that a boy was on the way, and a whole new set of dreams started. What would he be like? What would he enjoy? What would he be when he grew up? I think Brian probably had dreams of a quarterback, my Dad of a fishing buddy, and me of a history loving bookworm.

Even those first few months staring at that adorable face I just knew all of those dreams would come true. He was precious and seemed perfect in every way. After all, nothing could ever be wrong in our family; we would breeze through life with an incredible son who everyone would wish they would have been lucky enough to have.

Pretty quickly though, things did go wrong in our family. Milestones were delayed, and in some cases missed completely. We watched kids born after Collier rapidly surpass him in almost every measurement. We carried him from doctor to doctor and therapist to therapist amassing several diagnoses along the way. The one day in 2013, right before his 6th birthday, we got the granddaddy of them all……autism.

While part of me did mourn the diagnosis, another part of me went into research mode. If there was a way to help my child, I would find it. New doctors – got them; new dietary program – started immediately; supplements to help him function better— my house looked like a pharmacy. Whatever it took, we would find a way to make Collier succeed and make him the exception to all those scary autism statistics.

The last seven years we have poured our hearts, souls, and finances into helping our son. But over the past few months we’ve had to face the harsh realities that so many of our dreams will not come true. Collier’s autism is also joined by an intellectual disability, and it is not improving, despite all of our interventions. All of our evaluations in the past year have put him in the less than 1 percentile for speech, language, reading, academic fluency, and academic skills. Can you even imagine what it is like to know that more than 99% of kids are more functioning than your child? I honestly hope you don’t, because it’s pure unadulterated heartbreak.

I always thought, if we just work harder he’ll understand. Or if I just find his “style” of learning it will magically click. Or a million other “if onlys” and “maybe this times.” But I think I’m finally ready to let go of some of these thoughts and dreams. It really hit me hard recently. We had spent three days going over an event. We had read an article about it, read a chapter in a book, watched a narrated timeline in a Teachers Pay Teachers unit, and watched three YouTube videos. Afterward I asked him to explain to me what the event was, and he simply looked at me blankly.

It’s not like he didn’t want to tell me. He put his head on the desk, pulled at his hair, tried to come up with something, and ended up in tears still not able to give me a simple answer. But the final stab to the heart was when he asked in a tiny voice, “Are you disappointed in me?” Because the resounding answer to that question is NO! NEVER! I watch this kid work hard every day trying so intensely to get the answer right and trying desperately to fit into a world that isn’t made for him.

It was then I realized, it was time to really, truly, finally let go. To realize that there was no miracle intervention coming, no life changing therapy, no brain curing supplement. To accept that this may be as good as it gets and find a way to live with to celebrate that. To once and for all let go of the life I had planned, not only for Collier but for myself, and embrace the true path before us.

So here I am, letting go. What is that going to mean for us exactly? Well, probably things along the lines of focusing more on how to cook and clean than learning all the amendments to the Constitution.  Or working harder on budgeting and balancing a checkbook than we do algebra. But I think the biggest thing is just accepting and loving Collier for where he is today. I never want my son to feel like a disappointment. Like the Psalmist I want him to know he is fearfully and wonderfully made. How can I advocate for autism acceptance in the world, if I’m not doing it in my own home?

I think it also means finally letting go of other personal dreams I’ve had for him as well. That he would drive, marry, have a job, live independently, and one day make me a grandmother. And how’s that going, you ask?…..Well, if you could see the tears on my keyboard you would know. Could any or all of those things still happen?… Maybe. But I have to get myself to the point that I’m ok if none of them ever do. Otherwise I know I haven’t truly let go and accepted him.

Does this mean I’m giving up? Hardly. I’ve already been in research mode again – but this time for the best functional reading and life skills math curriculums (if you’ve got a suggestion, let a girl know). I’m also working on a list of local social skills programs geared toward young adults for when life gets back to normal again. There will ALWAYS be goals in this house (sorry Brian and Collier), but they will just look a little different from here on out.

And it’s ok to be different.

~Amye

Big Boy Wheels

I’m not really a sentimental guy, as of late. I guess the life of a special needs parent requires you to toughen up a bit, but there are still times where I start to get a little weepy, nay emotional. Cutting grass for the last time in the fall comes to mind. Hearing the crunch of the leaves reminds me that fall is here, and cooler temps are about to prevail (and no more grass cutting!), while at the same time I know the warm days of summer are long gone.

Similarly, an experience this past weekend “got” me a little, after we were home and I started reflecting on it. We went Christmas shopping for Collier while he stayed with his grandparents. Our primary goal was to buy him a new bicycle, as he has pretty much outgrown his current one. This was both a joyous time and one that choked me up a little.

You see, just last month marked four years since Collier learned to ride a bike without training wheels – something we thought we would never see. There are lots of folks on the spectrum who never learn to ride a bike. They may excel at other areas in life, but handling the steering, peddling, and balance all at once are just too much. Every October 5th, though, a video from 2016 pops up on my newsfeed reminding me of how far he has come.

In that video, he is riding his first bicycle in a circle around me, without training wheels, and multiple times I have to restrain myself from reaching out to grab him, to protect him, to keep him on track. But I never touched him. He did it all on his own. After this Christmas, that will be two bicycles ago.

Cut to the present. We upgraded that bicycle a couple of years ago, and we drag his current bike to every campground we go to, and I always let Collier lead the way. I follow at a distance, doing the same thing I did four years ago, though instead of reaching out to catch him, now I’m directing him: Take a left up ahead, watch that pothole, be careful there, be sure to use your brakes on this hill. Still trying to protect him, trying to keep him on track.

Now that bike is getting too small. (The kid grew two inches this year alone).

So when we went to “the Walmarts” to get him a new bike for him, I got a little emotional. The size bike we got him was for adults, from 5’2” to 5’10.” How is that possible? How is it possible the small dude that a few years ago was wobbling around on a kid’s bike now needs a bike made for a full-size adult? (And yes, he is 5’2” – maybe a tad more.)

I get a little weepy thinking about how far he has come. If I think back further, beyond four years ago when he first started riding without training wheels, I remember how I used to run alongside him holding the seat of his bike as he rode around the campground. How he begged me not to let him go, even though I did for short stints of time. Or I begin to think about how I would push him and let him go and Amye or her dad would catch him twenty or thirty yards away. For a while he could ride, but not stop.

And now here we are, buying an adult-sized mountain bike. This one will take a little training and getting used to. There are rows of gears and what looks like about fifty speeds. And disc brakes on the front! But he’ll learn this one, just like he learned the ones before, and as always, I’ll be right behind him, trying to protect him, trying to keep him on track. Guiding and directing.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready for him to be this big. In the past year, he has grown up so much. He learned about Santa Clause and the tooth fairy, though he’s yet to ask about the Easter Bunny. I’m sure that’s coming. Even last week, when he lost one of his last remaining baby teeth, I asked him if he wanted to put it under his pillow. He said, “Nah.” He has to wash his face with a facewash morning and night to prevent acne, and the days when deodorant was just a good suggestion are long gone – it’s an absolute must now. I’m still not sure I’m ready, though I do have to admit, when just the two of us go somewhere together, it’s cool to have him up front in the car.

Did I mention the other Christmas gift we bought on this outing? It was an electric razor for that little ‘stache he’s starting to sprout…

I’m not ready.

~ BR

A Pumpkin and a Perfect Smile

This past weekend Collier had his Boy Scout troop over to roast weenies and carve pumpkins. From the time Brian brought his pumpkin in on Monday, he drove us crazy about when he could carve it. He’s never really been a big pumpkin carving fan, but something tells me a recent Dude Perfect video that included a pumpkin carving contest had something to do with his excitement. I honestly didn’t know if he was going to be able to physically contain himself until the official carving time arrived. 😊

Meanwhile, I was starting to get a little nervous about the whole carving thing. It sounded like fun when we made the plans a few weeks ago, but as it got closer and started to become a bigger and bigger deal to Collier an all too familiar feeling of dread set in. See, there have been so many times in the past when our little Clark Griswold has built things up in his head as the greatest thing ever and then when whatever the activity was got here and he struggled to do it or it didn’t come out the way he wanted, big time disappointment and frustration would hit him. And let’s be honest, for someone who struggles with fine motor skills there’s nothing better than handling miniature saws, knives, and scoopers to make you ruin your day.

I was kind of hoping maybe the excitement of carving would wear off as we made our way through the week and watched the DP video 1,856,324 times, and maybe he wouldn’t hang his entire evening on that activity. But, no luck. He was talking about carving pumpkins before we even got the weenie roasting fire going.

My next big plan was to make the other parts of the party last as long as possible to delay what I knew was going to be a pumpkin carving catastrophe. However, these boys were moving through this party like they had a to-do list: fire started ü, hot dogs roasted ü, brownies eaten ü. Before some of the adults had even finished eating, they were screaming “pumpkin carving.” Honestly, it’s like they were trying to all get the party planning badge.

So with the small pit in my stomach growing bigger by the minute, I collected all the accoutrements of pumpkin carving. In addition to our mini saws and scoopers we had kitchen knives, big spoons, pencils and markers to make our own designs, and books of templates for the more adventurous.  We tried desperately to steer Collier toward a good old fashioned two triangle eyes and a smile pumpkin, but no, he found some kind of template with a skeleton hand reaching over a skull. Oh great, I thought, I can’t imagine how this is going to end.

In the end he won, big surprise, and Brian showed him how to put the template on his pumpkin and use the little punch tool to outline his design. Not too long after that, Brian and I got distracted and started talking to some of the other parents. I didn’t figure it would be too long before he needed help with the saw so I was just in stand by mode. 

After probably 10 or more minutes Brian happened to look over at him and his eyes got big. I saw the face and with a certain amount of apprehension turned to look at Collier. My eyes immediately got big as well. There was Collier, carving out his design by himself. He was handling the saw and knife along the design he had punched, and was carefully pulling out the pieces as he finished a section. He looked up and gave me a big smile.

I can’t describe how proud I was to see him sitting there, participating in an activity just like the rest of his troop. He still needed his dad for some of the final clean up work, but he did the majority of the work himself and was so excited about how it turned out. It was definitely better than any pumpkin I’ve ever carved.

After all the kids were finished, we put candles in the pumpkins and took their pictures. I could tell from Collier’s face how excited he was to have been able to do this on his own. And with each picture I took, my dread melted into delight. I was so happy for him and so thankful we were given an evening where he could just enjoy an activity like every other kid.

It was also such a reminder to me of how far we’ve come. There was a time a few years ago he wouldn’t have been even able to hold the tools steady, let alone use them correctly. But here he was after what feels like an eternity of scissor skills, pincher grasp work, and a million other fine motor skill exercises, actually using those skills successfully.

There are some days that are so hard, when I feel like we’re practicing a skill we should have mastered ages ago. Days when I’m convinced social media exists only to remind me of all the things he should be doing at his age and, even more painfully, of the things he may never do. Days that I’m just not sure anything I’m doing is making any impact. But then along comes a pumpkin and a perfect smile to remind me that we are making progress.

For now, the symbol of that progress is sitting on my front porch, with the candle still inside.

My prayer is that long after the pumpkin is gone, my hope for what he can do lingers, so that next year, when the time comes, I can hand him his pumpkin and let him go.

~ Amye

Love One Another… No, really!

“ So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

 A few weeks ago, our Sunday school class had a Zoom meeting and this is the verse we talked about. It seems like such a simple verse on the surface. “Yeah, I can do that…no problem.” Until someone cuts you off in traffic, or a person makes a snide mask comment in the store, or a family member betrays you, or some stranger uses the “R” word to describe your kid. Now I don’t know about you, but when one of those situations arises, I find myself acting less like Jesus and more like Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

It’s so easy to immediately start coming up with excuses as to why it’s okay to respond the way we do. We tell ourselves even Jesus would understand this one. But the truth is, there are NO qualifiers on this verse. None. Nada. Nil. I am called to treat everyone as I would like to be treated. For us Christians everyone means:

  • People of my race.
  • People of a different race.
  • Just to be clear: PEOPLE OF ALL RACES
  • People who sniff their nose continually instead of JUST BLOWING IT
  • Straight people
  • Gay people
  • All people of different gender/sexual identity
  • People who wear masks
  • People who don’t wear masks
  • People who think FRIENDS is better than The Office (also please add them to your prayer list)
  • Republicans
  • Democrats
  • Libertarians
  • Obnoxious football fans (yes, even Alabama fans – sorry….remember that no qualifier thing)
  • Rich people
  • Poor people
  • People who park right next to you in a parking lot even though there are TONS of other empty spots and then park right on the dang line making it almost impossible to get in your car and….okay Imma stop now; I feel myself channeling “The Snake”
  • People with mental disabilities
  • People with physical disabilities

And this list could literally go on, and on, and on because Jesus truly did mean everyone. As I thought about this “Golden Rule,” I started thinking about the way I truly would want to be treated. I know for every one of us the answer may be different but for me it included:

  • Respect: I like to feel like my accomplishments and abilities are esteemed and valued. There is not a single person on this earth who is not needed. Every culture, country, and person adds to our human experience and our world would not be as rich and wonderful a place without everyone contributing.
  • Kindness: Let’s be honest, isn’t life just better when people are kind to you? A friendly greeting, a smile from a stranger, or even a simple “thank you” can impact our day for the better.
  • Forgiveness: I occasionally make mistakes (please don’t tell my husband I admitted that). When I do, I’m trying to apologize quickly. And isn’t it great when people actually forgive you and don’t continually throw up your mistakes for years after? That’s the kind of forgiveness I love to receive.
  • Grace: Have you ever noticed we always judge others on their actions but ourselves on our intentions? I love it when someone gives me grace when I slip up and don’t live up to my standards.
  • Love: This of course is the big one. We want all kinds of love. While English doesn’t allow us many variants of love, the Greek language breaks loves down into so many categories. I want all of them- philia (friendship love), eros (romantic love), storge (parental love), philautia (loving and being comfortable with yourself), and agape (love of God).

I’m sure I could come up with a ton of other small ways I want to be treated, but these are the biggies. Your list probably has some differences, but I bet there are also some similarities. And that’s not surprising, when you get down to it we are always more similar than different.

While it’s easy to come up with my list for the first part of Matthew 7:12, it’s a whole lot harder to turn around and judge myself by those same attributes that the next part of the verse requires. I don’t know about you, but my toes are almost blue from how hard that part steps on them. Ouch.

But I think that now it is more important than ever that I work as hard as I can at treating others the way I want to be treated. Even if your list has different items than mine, would you ever be disappointed if someone treated you with respect, kindness, forgiveness, grace, and love? I’m betting not.

I also think that now more than maybe ever before it’s difficult to carry out that command. In years past we could treat our neighbors with respect and love because, well, we probably didn’t know a lot about them. Now you know everything from who they are voting for to what they had for dinner. Social media has probably never made the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” more applicable. Especially when our social media friend doesn’t share our political or religious views.

Make no mistake though –  Jesus’s command still stands. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, blah, blah, blah didn’t take him by surprise. It doesn’t need a modern update along the lines of: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, unless they disagree with you online. The command for us is still there.

So here’s where I stand: I’m trying. I really am. I’m trying not to react in anger when someone cuts me off in traffic (full disclosure…my horn not working right now is really helping here). I’m trying to give forgiveness in my heart, even when the offender refuses to ask for it. I’m trying to give grace to everyone I come across, because we are all completely on edge right now. Am I successful every time? No. But when I fail I ask God for forgiveness, accept his grace, and start again.

May I suggest you do the same? After all, election season is coming. If you ever wanted to test your ability to practice The Golden Rule….that’ll do it.

~Amye

The Clock

Collier recently turned 13. Honestly, it’s hard to believe I’m old enough to be the mom of a teenager. There are times I still think of myself as a college freshman, pledging a sorority and attending mixers and formals. Then I turn my head too fast and have neck pain for three days and am reminded that I am, indeed, old enough to have a teenager.

The one gift that Collier really wanted for his 13th birthday was a cell phone. We had held off on the phone thing for several years. I would jokingly argue with him that since he was homeschooled he was always with me or his dad so he didn’t need a phone to let us know where he was. 😊 He was so excited to open that present (or as excited as he ever gets while opening presents), and we have started to work on phone skills, safety, and etiquette.

But probably the most special gift he has gotten for quite some time came from his great-aunt Lori. It was a grandfather clock that belonged to Collier’s great-grandfather. I can still remember the day that Papa bought it; he was so proud of it and it was probably one of his most favorite possessions. I wasn’t sure where we would be able to put it in our small house but when we put it in our entryway, the wall looked like it was made for it. Collier told me we could keep it there until he moved it to his own house.

 When he was younger and talked about his future, it used to make me laugh. At one time he had decided he was going to live in a house in the city with a basement and that he would have two kids, a boy and a girl, named Tim and Juliess (nope, that’s not misspelled, kind of like Juliette but ~ess instead). I would chuckle and tell him that sounded great, but that his wife might like a little input on that.

Nowadays though, when he talks about the future, instead of laughing, I find it difficult to breathe. I want him to have the future he thinks he will, but I know the reality of the world, a reality I’m not sure he will ever understand. I know houses don’t cost $1,000 and people who read at a second-grade level don’t become scientists and that people who struggle with two or three-step directions could not handle being a chef.

As we enter the teenage years, the differences between him and his typical peers are so much more noticeable than they were before. I watch my friend’s kids growing up and getting involved in sports, extracurricular activities, starting to date, and even starting to get driving permits. And then I see my precious son watching Captain Underpants and Veggie Tales.

I’ve always told myself that we had time. Whenever a skill we were trying to learn was a struggle….we have time….he’s just eight, or nine, or ten….we have time….When we were teaching a concept and he just wasn’t getting it….we have time….we can just work a little harder and keep him up with his peers…..we have time…..

But lately I’ve realized that I don’t have enough time to keep him up with his peers. That there isn’t enough time in the day to teach him all the skills and knowledge that I think he needs to know at that point….and that that is completely okay. I’m slowly learning our timeline doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. That our school day doesn’t have to look like yours. That progress, no matter how small or how long it takes, is still progress.

It’s been a very long process for me to get here, to put aside the idea that if we just work hard enough, we can get where I want us to go. Okay, if I’m being completely honest with you, I’m still working to get there. My head knows this is where I need to be, but my heart still betrays me sometimes. My heart still wants him to be able to play sports, and have normal conversations, and go on dates, and drive, and fall in love, and have children. My heart still wipes the tears off my keyboard.

But my heart also believes completely the words of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The future of our family is one that college freshman could never have imagined, but one that this old mom is eager to discover.

And if that grandfather clock never leaves my entryway? Well, I can’t think of a better way to pass our time as a family than to the ringing of Westminster chimes.

~ Amye

A Summer Camp Like No Other

It’s been a week since Collier and I returned from summer camp. In many ways, this was just like any other camp. There were plenty of merit badge offerings, plenty of carb-heavy meals, plenty of sweating, and plenty of yours truly trying to avoid poison ivy. In a Covid-19 world, though, there were also plenty of changes.

For starters, there were hand-washing stations EVERYWHERE. The Boy Scouts of America set up these handwashing stations all around the camp – garage-style sinks with soap dispensers on two-by-fours near most buildings, and a few in fields. This is a far cry from the usual summer camp hygiene. Last year, though Collier and I showered every night, there were a few boys from other troops that I am sure only showered on family night.

Speaking of family night, that was cut this year, so these boys didn’t see their mommas from Sunday morning all the way to the following Saturday afternoon. By mid-week, Collier was getting homesick for Amye, so we had to drive about a mile from camp every night to get a cell signal so he could call home. Morning and evening assemblies were also cut this year, so we only wore our Class A uniforms for opening and closing ceremonies, along with a ceremony Thursday night for the Order of the Arrow. Therefore, the uniforms were not nearly as ripe as they were last year by the time we got home.

Dining in the mess hall also fell victim to Covid-19 this year. Meals were delivered to each troop’s site, and they dined together as a troop. While there is something about seeing all the boys cleaning up the tables and putting things back in their place in the dining hall, I appreciated the slower pace this year, and it was fun to sit around the campsite and eat all of our meals.

Masks also had to be worn any time we went into a building, and in merit badge sessions that had 10 people or more. That didn’t stop Collier from surprising me by volunteering to give CPR to a dummy. He loves the episode of The Office where Dwight cuts the face off the dummy – thankfully, he didn’t do that, though he did count aloud to “Staying Alive” as he pumped the dummy’s chest. The teachers of the Emergency Preparedness badge were great with Collier, talking him through the process.

Collier also surprised me a few other times this year. On one occasion as we were walking toward the waterfront, he randomly struck up a conversation with some boys from another troop on the way, asking them if they were heading down to swim. Conversation skills are things we work on quite a bit around the house. He also used his camp duties to get out of work (I can see myself doing something similar). Collier was our troop Fire Guard, and when it came time to work on our entrance gate, Mr. Greg just happened to be building a fire to make his legendary Dutch Oven Apple Cobbler (which took first place in a Scoutmaster dessert contest later that night, by the way). Collier said he couldn’t work on the gate, because he had to watch the fire 😊.

It was a great week that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have a somewhat love-hate relationship with summer camp, as it is a week of little sleep because of the heat and uncomfortable cots, a ton of walking, as well as bug fighting, but in many ways it is one of my favorite weeks out of the whole year. It’s a solid week of just the guys, and the time I spend with Collier is absolutely priceless. There’s no YouTube, Netflix, or even a Wifi signal distract us. It’s just us in the great outdoors. I think I am a better dad because of it, and I know Collier is a better scout from it.  

Was it a week filled with sweat and bug bites? Yep.

Did I have blisters between my toes from all the walking by the end of the week? Sure.

Was it a hassle to find time to sneak off to the Scoutmaster lounge to get some work done? Of course.

Would I do it again? You betcha.

All in all, we had a great time at camp this year. I’m thankful that we got a week of camp in. The following week of camp was canceled due to low registration, so I feel especially blessed to be able to get our week in.  If you have a son who is homeschooled, you owe it to him and yourself to get him involved in scouts. If you have a son who is on the Autism Spectrum, you owe it to him and yourself to get him involved in scouts. If you have a son, you owe it to him and yourself to get him involved in scouts. The lessons they learn are life lessons that they will take with them forever, not to mention the socialization they get with other great kids and their dads.

We had a great time this year, coming home with lots of memories… and a few chiggers.

~Brian

Is Homeschooling for Us? Of Course it is!

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say the last few months have been an unprecedented time in history. Our world has changed and is still continuing to change. One of the biggest changes for many families became “pandemic schooling.” And while pandemic schooling is not the same as homeschooling, I’ve seen a few parents start to question if true homeschooling may be a good fit for their family – especially as school systems start to lay out their plans and parents have a lot of concerns about how the next year will go.

So if you are one of those families wondering if homeschool is for you let me tell you…..IT IS!!!!

No matter what your family dynamics or the age of your kids or your level of education or..or..or…you can homeschool.

Since we decided to start our homeschool journey over three years ago, I haven’t looked back and am still absolutely convinced we made the right decision. Is every day easy? Of course not. Are there some days I feel frustrated? You betcha. Have I told Collier on those bad days I’m going to send him back to public school if he doesn’t behave? Ha, ha – guilty. But do I lay my head down at night confident that we are doing what is right for our family? Absolutely. And I can promise you there is no feeling like that in the world.

Now that you are thinking about homeschooling, what should you do? While I am by no means a homeschooling “expert,” here are some things I would suggest:

  • Hit up the library: while they still may be closed for inside browsing, most still have curbside pickup. Browse your library’s website for homeschooling books and select one or two or ten that appeal to you. I probably read 15-20 homeschool books in the months before we started. While they weren’t all appropriate for our particular arrangement, I probably did take away an idea or two from each one.
  • Look for webinars: with so many physical meetings being cancelled lots of groups are offering their meetings for free online. Check out Facebook pages like Birmingham Homeschoolers Community and Great Homeschool Conventions for upcoming webinars. Or just talk about looking for them near your phone and Facebook will give you some great suggestions. 😊
  • Pinterest: I’m not sure if Pinterest is still cool or not, but you can find tons of great ideas and articles to get started. And then pin tons of cool field trips you always seem to be too busy to go on….wait maybe that’s just me.
  • Homeschool friends: Talk to your homeschool friends (from the correct social distance of course). Homeschool families are some of the most transparent people I know. We will tell you our favorite (and least favorite) curriculum. We will share our successes and disasters.
  • Blogs and Facebook pages: There are tons of great blogs and Facebook pages for homeschoolers. Join a couple and check out their resources. While you’re here on our blog if you have any questions, ask below. We love to talk about our experiences, obviously!

I am sure that there has never been a better time to be a homeschooling parent. There is a world of information at your fingertips on the internet. There are tons of awesome cover schools and co-op groups who are always doing something educational and fun. There are curriculums out there for every type and level of learner. And when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic, the opportunities for socialization are everywhere.

No one knows your kiddo better than you do, and no one will work harder to make them successful than you will. If the last few months have had you re-thinking public school, now may be the perfect time to dip your feet in the pool of homeschooling.

Let’s do this!

~Amye

Support Each Other

I did something recently I very rarely do on Facebook. I unfriended someone. Now honestly,  I’m not the type of person who normally does this. I can be friends with you if we have different religions, political views, or even ~~shudder~~ if you’re a vegetarian. 😊 But something about this comment just completely rubbed me the wrong way.

I had made a post on my personal page related to a comment Collier had made. We struggle with learning delays and memory issues, and this comment showed that he had been paying attention and remembered a book we had read several months ago. Most of the comments were supportive and cute but then there it was, a comment pointing out that what he said wasn’t 100% accurate and explaining why it was wrong to be so excited about his statement. The comment really stung and was extremely hurtful… because it came from a fellow autism mama.

My first thought was, why would any mama try and lessen an accomplishment another mama was proud of? But as I continued to think about it, my bewilderment turned to aggravation. This was a fellow autism mom for heaven’s sake. She knows what it’s like…..to wait for milestones that are never met, to hear words you could never imagine spoken over your child, to watch as your child is left out, to fight for your child’s place in the world. How could you at best not celebrate with me or, at worst, just simply ignore the post and move on? Why would you ever feel the need to devalue something we are working so hard for?

I’m also VERY aware that what happened to me pales in comparison to what some moms have been subjected to online. From celebrity moms being shamed for wearing make-up to their child’s soccer game to everyday moms getting called out for everything from using baby formula to the length of their kids’ hair. And of course, most all of us who homeschool have had to deflect numerous barbs about our ability to educate our children.

Moms – ALL moms – our job is hard. Especially in the world right now. Our country, or really our whole world, is redefining who we are, and trying to find who we should be. I don’t know about you, but there are times I agonize over seemingly every decision I make. How do I explain everything happening right now? How do I keep him safe and yet still let him experience what’s out there? Am I letting him watch too much TV? Am I pushing him too hard and expecting too much of him? Am I giving him too much sugar or too many carbs? Am I choosing the right therapies to help him succeed? Almost every night as soon as I close his bedroom door, I can think of about a hundred different ways I could have made our day better or been a better teacher and mom.

And I know I’m not alone. Not even close.

So why is it when we know how hard it is, when we know the struggles and the doubts and the worry and the anxiety that we as moms place on ourselves…are we so quick to turn the vitriol on other moms? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Do we think….well at least I didn’t do (fill in the blank here)? Or…I would never behave in such a way? Or maybe there are times we don’t even realize what we’re doing. Maybe we really think we’re giving helpful advice, not realizing the pain we’re causing in the process.

As I stared at that comment with that tone that I hadn’t taught it just exactly right or that Collier knowing this particular fact just wasn’t that important, I almost entered into that black hole of the internet…The Facebook Debate. I could have fired back with a response justifying why his statement WAS accurate based on the historical setting of the book we read and how the author presented the information blah, blah, blah. But then I thought, why? I know how hard he works and I know what a big deal this was, so why in the world should I have to justify it to someone I haven’t physically seen in years?

Then I realized that not only do I not have to justify his learning to someone else, I don’t even have to allow that negativity to hang around at all. So while I’m willing to debate on tons of topics from which candidate is right to if Popeye’s or Chick-fil-A has the best sandwich, there is one thing not up for debate: my son. If you can’t support him and be happy for our little victories, there is no place for you in my tribe. Period.

We may not be on the same paths and may not be fighting the same battles, but there is no reason we can’t support each other as we journey through life together. Our world needs kindness now more than ever. So let’s be good to each other. Support each other. Love each other.

…..and if not, there’s always the “Unfriend” button.

~Amye

Happy Pandemic Homeschooling Mother’s Day

On this Mother’s Day, I want to give a shout out to all the mothers out there who were suddenly thrust into homeschooling. Within one week in March, your lives were turned upside down, and you had to figure out how to finish the school year with your children – on your own, without the school system’s help. I know that there are systems out there with fantastic e-learning platforms, and some assignments were sent home in cases where that wasn’t possible, but let’s be honest – all the stress fell squarely on mom’s back.  

You were worried if you were doing it right. You were worried that what you were teaching wasn’t the way your daughter’s teacher taught it. You were worried that your son would be behind when the next school year rolled around. You were worried that you wouldn’t be able to juggle work, your household, and your child’s education. Your child will be fine, but that didn’t stop you from worrying about it. Please understand, though, that pandemic, “crisis” homeschooling is not the same as regular homeschooling. We miss our friends, too.  

When we decided to homeschool Collier, we made the decision in late fall, for the next school year. That meant that Amye spent the rest of that current school year looking at curriculums online, ordering materials, and ultimately deciding what to teach. The first year we ordered our curriculum from Timberdoodle, a company that pulls materials from a lot of other companies and packages a complete school year of teaching resources. There were things we liked and things we didn’t like,  so after that first year, we picked and chose what resources we wanted to use. With regular homeschooling, you have time to plan.  

Planning isn’t teaching, though. You also get to decide how to teach your child. Amye writes out our lesson plans ahead of time. She has an overall plan for a month or so (a “scope and sequence” for you educator types), and each Sunday night gets the actual next week or two’s plans together. Will this week include a science experiment? A Youtube video to support your history lesson? Would a project better assess this concept versus a traditional test? What life skills do we need to work into the mix? Are there accommodations necessary for special needs? You get to decide all of that.  

Some of you are saying to yourselves – that’s great. Deciding what to teach and how to teach it would be feasible if I had more than a week to prepare, but when would I homeschool? You guessed it – you also get to decide when to teach. Homeschool doesn’t have to take place between the hours of 8:00 and 3:00. If your schedule allows it, sure, but if you have to teach some subjects in the evenings because you work, so be it. Amye works part time from home and plans and teaches around our schedules. I teach some days and she teaches some days, and before the pandemic, her parents would also teach a few subjects.  

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed a common denominator – Amye. Would our lives be easier if we had continued to put Collier on a bus every morning and we simply went to work each day? You bet. But would Collier be getting what he needs? I doubt it – because every student has a unique way of learning, and who’s better at knowing how their child learns than his mother? I often write about the dad’s role in homeschooling, but it takes the heart of a mom to set off on the journey of homeschooling.  

Pandemic, crisis homeschooling is homeschooling, but without all the benefits of having the time to plan what you want to teach and how you are going to teach it. I’m a professional educator, but it takes more than that to pull it all together to plan and teach all the subjects and instill the life lessons that Collier needs. It takes a mother.  

Happy Mother’s Day, Amye! 

~ Brian

Our Auti-versary

As every autism parent knows, the beginning of April means that the annual “Autism Awareness Month” is upon us. Each April we bring out our blue light bulbs, puzzle piece door wreaths and wear our myriad of t-shirts, socks, hats and every other piece of autism awareness clothing we can find. But for our family April has another autism related memory – it is the month that the “a” word first entered our family vocabulary.

By early 2013 Collier had several diagnoses under his belt: low muscle tone, sensory processing disorder and apraxia of speech were the main ones. However, we knew that those alone weren’t responsible for everything we were seeing. After several unsatisfactory visits to our pediatrician and months of worrying and praying, our speech therapist finally suggested a local behavioral health organization who would assess him and see what else may have been going on. After filling out about what seemed like 200 pages of questions (you quickly learn to save those things so you’re not constantly trying to remember when he started solid foods or began to crawl…..my brain is so full of special needs acronyms now it’s running out of space) we had an appointment date and were ready to go in.

I’m not sure what I expected on that April morning, but I don’t think it was the word “autism.” Not my Collier. Now granted until this time my autism knowledge was limited to Rain Man and The Big Bang Theory. And my sweet boy wasn’t like that: he was, and still is, a very affectionate kiddo who likes to hug and say “I love you.” He will look you straight in the eye and hates to know he has hurt your feelings. He also has a horrible memory, not at all like the way autistic savants are portrayed in the media. 

So into this center we went for observation, not knowing when we left just a few hours later we would emerge into a different world. As I watched my son that morning, so many things I hadn’t noticed before jumped out at me. The way he would arrange toys in the kitchen center but never actually play with them. The way he would smell and hold everything to his mouth. After a little while I knew we would leave with some additional diagnosis on our shoulders, I just didn’t know which one yet.

Hours later as I sat in this sweet psychologist’s office, she started going over the results with me and my mom who had gone for moral support. As she handed me her letter and findings she started with, “Based on our sessions, I have diagnosed Collier with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.” I can only imagine that my face looked like she had suddenly started speaking a foreign language because she stopped and clarified, “That is an autism spectrum diagnosis.”

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t hear anything for a few minutes after that. The only thing I could hear in my head was autism, autism, autism, autism, AUTISM. A million thoughts went through my head and my body felt numb. It was almost as though I had lost my son, although he was sitting in the chair beside me. I somehow managed to gather her letter, the 28 pages of her evaluation notes, my son and make it to the car.

My mom and I didn’t talk much on that drive home. If I’m honest with you it was one of those drives where you end up at your destination but really have no memory of getting there. After I got Collier settled at home I took out the letter and started to read. It started:

April 1, 2013

I honestly wasn’t able to get any further than that before I sat the letter down and was overcome with the “laughter through tears” emotion. April 1st. Happy April Fools Day, I thought. Maybe this is all a big mistake I thought, just a prank that the universe is playing on us. Those next few days were a blur of anger, devastation, mourning and even more disbelief. 

It has now been seven years since the word “autism” came into our lives. So many things have changed since then, but unchanged is this: I am proud of and love my son more than he will ever know. Even though there are days when I still feel anger and mourn for what could have been, I can say that I look forward to what his future holds and know that God has an incredible plan for him. Happy auti-versary Collier, I wouldn’t change the wonderful kid you are for anything in the world.

~ Amye

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