Homeschooling, the chance of a lifetime!

We homeschooled Kate through most of her school years. Tried her in the public school setting three times, never successfully.

We began the journey with much trepidation. At that time (12 years ago) not many people were homeschooling. It was thought to be only done by those with very conservative religious views as a way of keeping their children from being influenced in negative ways. By the time we finished...although you never really do... it has become a much more common method of education, lots of resources available for materials, support groups, community awareness, etc.

I worried, too, about Kate (who has AS and is now 19 years old, employed and taking transitional skills courses at the local community college) being isolated. And for a time she was, but she was isolated at school, too. Just because you are in a crowd of people does not mean you are socializing or sharing friendships. What she was doing was learning behaviors and language that was definitely NOT appropriate. I decided if she were going to be mimicing behavior as a way of learning how to behave for herself, I wanted to hand pick the role models and not have that left up to chance. She was like a magnet for behaviors, etc. At 19 she is much more descriminating when choosing how she acts, etc. I never worry anymore about her picking up dangerous or illegal behaviors. (one kid at school had told her he'd be her boyfriend if she'd take something from a store and give it to him) It never occurred to her that was stealing because he did not use that word! anyway, we did find good role models from a wide variety of places. Some of them older, younger than Kate, but all ones that had attributes that she could admire. Fun, energetic, positive, disciplined people. It worked.

The other thing we did was find ways that Kate could experience what she was learning. The times I put her back in school, she would begin to fall apart academically. When that happened, or when we saw her image of herself start to become poor, we took her out again. Her ability to learn and achieve is so dependent upon her vision of and for herself. She has high expectations, she reaches her goals.

Homeschool also gave her the opportunity to know that learning was/is a fun thing to do, not something that is done "to you". We were able to work on her weaknesses yet highlight her strengths. It wasn't always easy and fortunately we had help. I had a stained glass business and sometimes would barter tutoring services for glass panels. We found other people to teach her science and language skills (Spanish and Sign Language).

We homeschooled through highschool, she entered college classes easily because the students there are attending out of choice, rather than as a result of being mandated by law. The teachers focus on the material rather than on discipline and outside activities.

Kate has friends of all ages, we found a nitch for her in Special Olympics (there are many with autism within that organization) Many of them coach teams, gives them a way to get exercies but not have to be a jock. Kate and Dennis (the huband father around here) have all found friends in Special O. Kate and some of her teammates produce the only athlete written and produced newsletter in the United States. (It began because we needed a project for her Computer Science homeschool course) Many like Kate play on teams and coach as well. Dennis and I coach, and are NOT athletically inclinded at all!!! but because the mission is not to be the best athlete, but to enjoy people and get some exercise, it is a safe place for us ;-)

I would encourage anyone to homechool if it "feels" right to you. Make a list of pros and cons, judge whether or not you (or whoever will be teaching her) can work together and try it. If the child is not being happily socialized now, you have nothing to lose. Fortunately, many of those kids who make life difficult for other children do grow up and may become adults with more open and caring spirits.

The bottom line.....If I don't choose to be around people who are not positive influences in my life, why would I make my child do that? I want her to expect to be treated in a positive and courteous way.

One incident that happened last summer confirmed the theory of self image as the determining factor toward life choices and life expectations. Kate was working as a teaching assistant in the college for kids program. They were teaching computer skills to jr and sr high school students. Apparently one of the boys in one of the classes made a negative remark about her. Another student spoke up and suggested that they had better listen to her, because she KNEW computer stuff. Kate's comment to me, "Wasn't that nice of him". She was pleased. She had not taken in the negative comment but rather choice to give credence to the positive one. Needless to say I was elated! Part of that is just her attitude toward life, but I like to think that the attitude was aided in developing because of all the positive people who have filled her life. She simply doesn't take in negative information.

Homeschooling...the adventure of a lifetime!

Good luck with your you can see, I'm more than a little biased.

Got to run, Kate just came in from her first day on a new job site.....
p.s. This summer she's decided to study some more history and government material...not sure why ...except that she knows learning is a lifetime endeavor

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Martha Kate Downey