January 22, 2013 was a rough day for our little family.
This was the day that Nicholas was diagnosed with Autism.
As a mother, I was terrified that my son would somehow get left behind, forgotten because of a disability that wasn’t his fault. He was, and still is, an incredibly smart little boy. He can pick up a toy for the very first time, take it apart and put it back together all by himself. He can figure out puzzles all on his own and can build some pretty amazing things if you give him some blocks.
After having a full language regression at 16 months, he didn’t speak. He had no words to express himself with. His understanding of our words was minimal.
The majority of our days were spent trying to understand what it was that he wanted and, on many occasions, trying to calm him down because we couldn’t figure it out. Screaming became frequent in our household because that was the only way that he knew to express himself.
After his diagnosis, we started a combination of speech therapy, occupational therapy and a special play group for children his age with Autism.
Initially, we had high hopes for these services. Nicholas was excited to go each week and we watched for any sign of progress.
Nicholas made a little progress, but not the kind we were hoping for. In the almost 6 months he attended, he managed to pick up the habits of spitting and hitting as well as a couple of words. Those words? All cuss words.
His therapists stressed the need for interaction and socialization. For me, the type of “progress” that he was making wasn’t worth it. Towards the end of our time there it became a fight to get him out of the car and once you did get him in the building, he refused to participate.
One afternoon, after a particularly grueling battle in the speech therapy parking lot, I decided that we were done. He obviously didn’t enjoy it and from what we could tell, he wasn’t learning anything helpful.
As soon as we got home I started researching, looking for things that I could do with him at home to help him. What I found is that for his age group, a lot of the speech and occupational therapy activities are just a structured form of play. Being a former preschool teacher, I already had an arsenal of fun songs, books and games that we could use for just such a purpose.
We “played” like this for a couple of days before I really got to thinking about homeschooling. My thoughts returned to our therapy experiences and I wondered if that is what our school experiences would be like in a few years, if Nicholas would fight everyday, if he would hate going, if he would start to hate learning new things.
I want him to love learning new things, I want him to find it exciting, I want to share my love of books with him.
Knowing these things, I started to look deeper, research harder. I’m betting you can guess what I found. Homeschooling.
Here is was, right in front of me. A way that I could make sure that Nicholas was learning but at his own pace, a way that I could reinforce a love of learning while being mindful of his sensory issues so that he wouldn’t get overwhelmed and melt down.
I never saw myself homeschooling my children. I always saw us doing the “normal” things. Have children, they go to preschool, kindergarten, elementary school and so on. Before having children, I didn’t really see it any other way but now? Well, now I see this as an opportunity to help Nicholas grow, to watch him learn (and Skylar as well when she is old enough), to teach him at his own pace, to make sure that he isn’t left behind, and to show him how exciting learning can be.
Homeschooling, for us, gives us the opportunity to see every day, every obstacle, every success as a learning experience that we can all learn and grow from.
To all of you homeschoolers out there, why do you homeschool? How has it affected your child’s view of learning?