on homeschool, learning, and new chapters…

dinosaur unit homeschool

A few months into homeschooling, and I realize, that my years of teaching and my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, don’t mean so much.  I ran into a father I knew from my sons’ school a few days back.  He casually mentioned that the only reason I could homeschool is because I was a teacher.  I laughed, and said, if anything, it’s a detriment! My teaching years were rough, and it’s one of the very reasons homeschool will ALWAYS be on the table for my family.

This fall, I had only one “student” enrolled here at the homeschool.  My youngest, dear Monkey, is by far, the most challenging teacher I have had.

I no longer look at him as a “student”, but rather, a partner in this messy process known as homeschooling.  Sometimes, it’s messy. Sometimes, it’s so beautiful, to see a connection made, a lightbulb moment.

I’ve learned that so much time in a school day is wasted.  Kids can accomplish great feats in a 1:1 environment.  Kids can learn to read without a structured program or curriculum.  Some readers are born from love of shared reading, like Monkey.  He astounds people at how well he reads.  I never taught him, he just absorbed the culture of our home.

I’ve learned that learning happens best in the real world, on the move.  I’ve learned for most kids, ignite the fire of curiosity and step away.

I’ve learned WAY more about dinosaurs that I’ve ever thought possible.  I could be raising the next dinosaur whisperer.

dinosaur unit homeschool

I’ve learned that kids sitting in desks and chairs is quite possibly the WORST thing to happen to childhood.  Working on the floor is grand.  There’s more math at the farmer’s market or grocery store than there is in any primary math curriculum.

I’ve learned fresh air cures all. Recess should be early and often.  Monkey and I walk at least a mile or two a day.  He is much more focused after a long trek with the dog.

I’ve come far in this semester, and now, it’s time to reflect a bit.  Homeschooling has magnified the ugly parts of me: my impatience, my disorganization at times, and my tendency to burn the candle at both ends.

It’s reinvigorated the teacher side of me: the playful, the curious, the fun.  Except, this time, it isn’t other people’s children.  It’s my own.  Sure, I don’t have the energy I did when I was 23 and childless, but I still have that love for learning.  There’s no greater gift I can give him than the time we’ve had.

As far as my oldest son Moose, we’ve been flexschooling Moose this year.  He leaves his autism program early each day, so we have time to work on life skills.  Simple things like shopping off a list at a grocery store, when it’s not a sensory overloaded hellhole.  A visit to a Nature Center.  Time to learn to ride a bike! All of the things we didn’t have time for when ABA therapy dominated our lives a year ago.

autism and life skills

A 7 hour school day is exhausting for him, so the early dismissal makes for a happy Moose.  The direction of Moose’s school days is in limbo now.  He is a “learner on the move” and the traditional school paradigm, isn’t really working for him.  Kinesthetic and tactile learners do not fair well in a visual/auditory classroom environment.  Most autism classrooms are heavily invested in PECS, and after 5 years of beating working with PECS visuals, I think a change is due.

He turned 7 this past October, and his language has flatlined.  Anxiety and severe eczema have dominated this entire semester. He isn’t reading, or doing the basic academic goals lined out in his IEP without maximum assistance.  I will never give up hope, but rather, we will leave no “therapy” or “avenue” unturned.

The only thing we really haven’t tried at this point, is NOT outsourcing a thing.  School is outsourcing, homeschool is the DIY hands-on approach that could possibly elevate Moose to the next level.

I’ve been trying out some Montessori methodology with him and have had great results.  I was told he would only whole word read, and NOT learn phonics, but he is learning the sounds and letter formation through Montessori sandpaper letters!  Sure, it will take more time and energy, but we will get there.

montessori homeschool

So, homeschool, seems the only viable option for him as well.  The Chicago Public School system has between 13-16 kids in their autism programs, which, is WAY to big for him.  He needs as small as possible.

Here at the homeschool, class size of 2!  Plus, one obnoxious school mascot.

With question, he will be home with Monkey and me this fall, if not sooner, depending on a variety of circumstances.  If anything, I need some time to plan and prep.  I’m looking into some additional training this March on Orton-Gillingham methodology.

I never set out to be a “special needs” teacher.  I remember when I was subbing for a bit, after Moose was born, I was placed often in sped classrooms. It never dawned on me that I would be thrown head first into this world of special needs on the other side of the desk.  I remember when I was a classroom teacher, feeling awful, that the IEP process was such a colossal pain.  I remember it took an ENTIRE school year to obtain services for one of my lowest students.  The system is broken.  It truly is.

It’s so different advocating for your own kids. These aren’t just students who will move on next year to a teacher down the hall.  These children are my heart, my life.  I’ve grown tired.  Tired of fighting the systems and powers that be.  Tired of the revolving doors of therapies and opinions.   The David and Goliath story reigns true. But sometimes, David knows best, instead of putting your energy in the fight, you put your energy into the two reasons you fight instead.

homeschooling and autism








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  1. Yea for Monkey and Moose will be fine in the end! I love what you are doing. I homeschooled a bit with a Waldorf training behind me. Nada. My youngest, a boy wouldn’t have any part of it. He’s 31 now and doing wonderfully and a father himself. Life is so full of lessons for all of us, not just the little ones!!

  2. I just came across your blog whilst desperately searching for Chicago Homeschoolers, we’re going to be pulling our first grader out of CPS (a myriad of issues, so who knows how long we’ll keep him out at this point) so it’s really great to read the blog of someone homeschooling in Chicago. I just wanted to leave you a comment to say hi, I’m going to be browsing your blog and The Classroom Creative site for the rest of the day 🙂

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