Category Archives: homeschool

Autism and Socialization

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My autistic son, Buddy, will be aging out of his therapeutic day program for autistic children in November, and transition to a program that is just a few hours in the afternoon. When this happens we will homeschool him, for reasons I have gone over the reasons for doing this in previous blog entries, and the simple explanation is we live in Texas and they treat children with special needs horribly and our experience with sending him to public school was horrible.

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Finding What Works: Teaching Buddy to Read

I’ve been experimenting with different methods with teaching Buddy to read. It’s something I’m real excited for him to learn because learning to read helped me out so much as a child. While his language problems seem related more towards expressive difficulties than receptive (mine were receptive) I still think it would be helpful.

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Why I Want to Improve Schools

I just saw this article on NPR on how pre-school teachers are often poorly trained to teach pre-school, and it goes a long way to explaining what went wrong when we sent Buddy to pre-k. His teacher had no idea what was appropriate behavior for pre-schoolers, seemed to have a poor grasp of child development, and was expecting him to have skills above his grade level. Even ignoring the fact that he has autism, his pre-school was not a good environment for him.

I have pulled Buddy out of school and we will likely homeschool him for a few years. It may work so well I may decide to homeschool him the entirety of his school career. Or he may get to a point where he and I feel comfortable sending him to public school. I also had developmental delays that I outgrew when I was 13, and I thrived in junior high. Buddy may be the same way. And right now I’m undecided if I’m going to send Sissy to school or not.

I know some people love homeschooling and are huge enthusiasts. I may grow to love it. As it is, things are too new now and we’re still building our team and finding our momentum. Even if I do fully embrace homeschooling, though, I want to improve public schools.

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Homeschooling Update: Finding What Works

Well, the first week was rough. First, Buddy was not happy about the changes to his schedule, especially in the morning. And in the afternoon, the vibe I got from him was, “I’ve just done five hours of therapy and now you want me to do more directed activities? I’ve had enough!” I was hoping on Friday, when he does not go to therapy, it would be a bit better, but it wasn’t. I could get perhaps 5 minutes of engagement, and that was it.

It was a bit discouraging, especially since I used to do this stuff with him, but I also became concerned that, after 20 hours of therapy a week, asking him to do directed activities at home was asking too much.

I met with the director of his therapy program and discussed my concerns about duplicating what they were doing there while homeschooling. It’s a bit of an awkward time because they are between case managers for him, but the new one coming in used to teach kinder, and the director agreed that we need to work together to make sure I’m not duplicating what they’re doing and burning him out. So for now I’m mostly suspending the homeschooling until I work out some goals with the new case manager with the exception of reading. I should have done this before I launched the homeschooling, but I didn’t anticipate how unenthusiastic he would be.

I had planned to go the Montessori route with teaching writing skills before reading. I’d made some textured letters and prepared a lot of different mediums for him to practice writing, such as salt trays, playdough, white boards, regular paper. While he loves playing with salt trays and playdough and with white boards, though, I had a very difficult time getting him to draw shapes and practice his letters. I used to be able to do it before he was in therapy, but now that he is, he wasn’t interested. Though he would tell me which shape/number/letter he wanted and have me do it.

The other part of this is that his fine motor skills are very poor, and I think for now he just needs to do activities that build them up but aren’t directed.

At the same time, he recognizes his letters and when he sees letters he lists them. He doesn’t know all of them, but it is something he seems interested in doing. And the best learning I get with him is when I read to him at night. Through books I’ve taught him his colors, numbers, and how to count. So I got out some alphabet books and went through it with him, and he enjoyed it. We even have stuffed alphabet letters that he keeps in his bed, and we made a game of finding the stuffed letter that matched the one in the book.

And the nice thing about homeschooling is learning time can be at 8PM and in his bed.

So for now I’m just going to focus on building fine motor skills and working on the alphabet at night. And in the meantime, I observed him at therapy for the first time today, and it was wonderful to watch. For one it helped calm my worries that if I didn’t dive in and do as much homeschooling as possible he wouldn’t be learning anything. He was doing matching games for instance. But overall he was happy, engaged, and practicing his communication skills. He is in a good place!

Let the Homeschooling Start!

This upcoming week, we plan to start homeschooling. This is a bit ironic since the schools in our area are getting out for summer break. However, Buddy thrives off structure, and one of the perks of homeschooling is that his schedule doesn’t get thrown off by summer break, winter break, spring break, and all of the other school breaks!

Buddy is in a therapy program year round, twenty hours a week. While they do work on academic stuff and preparing children for an academic environment, they are not a school. Overall, I am just thanking my lucky stars they continue as normal through the summer so the routine we’ve established won’t be thrown off, and he won’t lose all of the progress he’s made like he did last summer.

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Why Children With Autism Need High Quality Services

Today, my five year old son, Buddy, came up to me and spontaneously said “Happy Mother’s Day!” This is the first time he has ever wished me a happy anything and it was definitely better than the gifts…even the Russell Strover’s chocolate!

Buddy has come so far since we got him into a new therapy program and out of the public schools. He’s started engaging in imaginary play such as having his Yo Gabba Gabba  dolls interact with each other. He’s playing with others more appropriately, he’s more social, and he’s no longer anxious like he was when he was going to public school. He is really blossoming, and I wish every family affected by a family member with autism was able to access the services we are.

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The Educational Goals of an Atheist and a Catholic Couple

As I was walking Buddy to his new school, my husband emailed me that our city was having a big homeschooling convention. A few minutes later he emailed me, “nevermind.” I smiled, knowing exactly why he lost enthusiasm for the convention.

I found out I was right when he got home. He explained that when he investigated the convention, he found they were staunchly conservative Protestant. And while it’s a given that as an atheist I wouldn’t be down with the agenda, as a Catholic, he’s not too fond of it either. And he went on for awhile in exasperation with how out of sync their educational goals were to our own (me being familiar with the homeschooling culture in our area was not surprised).

I don’t think I could have made an interfaith marriage work with a conservative Protestant. But a minimally practicing Catholic? Yeah. It works. And I think a big reason is because it doesn’t affect us much on a day to day basis.

Here are the reasons Andy is not fond of religious based homeschooling, or religious based schooling, period. He believes that it should be left to the church to teach religion. Andy wouldn’t even consider sending our children to a Catholic private school. In his mind, schools should teach academics, and religious instruction should happen solely within the church. This is a mindset I really wish more conservative Protestants would adopt!

The other reason is because Andy, like me, loves science. We read Discover and Scientific American magazines. We love Neil DeGrasse Tyson and watch his shows together. Andy doesn’t see any conflict between evolution, cosmology, and his religious beliefs. And he values science literacy and wants our children to have a firm grasp of how science and the world works.

And while he’s not a history buff like I am, he is concerned about the revisionist history that goes on in those circles. He wants our children to have a firm understanding on how the separation of church and state is fundamental to our government. He also understands that it’s important to acknowledge when our country was wrong, such as the issue of slavery. He does not want to whitewash something as horrible as the Civil War by reducing it to a mere matter of “states rights.”

Andy is able to compartmentalize his beliefs from his day to day life. In some ways I think this is easier for Catholics, because their faith focuses on acts (going to Mass, partaking in the sacraments, etc) than many Protestant sects which focus on belief. But whatever the reason, it works for us, because the educational goals we have for our children end up being the same. We want them to be scientifically literate, have a good understanding of history and how our government works, and believe that religious instruction is best left to the church.