Archive for the ‘homeschooling’ Category

I Never Thought I’d See This   Leave a comment

What a glorious night!

We were at the theater, an older, slightly worn, but very classy one near our city’s downtown.  The lights went down.  The story and music began and I was as entranced as I could be.  Beauty and the Beast has always been one of the best Disney movies ever.  It’s a story in which more than one character is transformed by the events of the story and by love.

By the end of the show, when the cast took their curtain calls, cleared the sets and headed for IHOP to ride the wave of adrenaline, I was
riding it with them.

Remember the line from My Fair Lady?  “I could have danced all night, and still have begged for more…I’ll never know what made me so excited, why all at once my heart took flight!”

Well, unlike Eliza Doolittle, I knew exactly why I was so excited.

My child with an autism spectrum diagnosis was on the stage, acting, dancing and singing.

In those few hours, amidst the emotions that flooded me, came one that has been uncommon: hope.

Why?

Before my eyes was the proof that his life for the past ten years, my life, our lives together were not destined to continue status quo.

I wouldn’t have believed it, even a few years before.  My life was circumscribed by the limits of what my son could handle and the number
of triggers he could cope with per day.

Our lives together were relatively simple, with relatively few outside activities for anyone, because between him and me, we could only handle
so much stress.

He went to occupational therapy because he had to and with a reward program to motivate him.

He went to a STEM class, which was OK because he liked the science topics and because I was with him.  He could never go to any group
activity without a parent to help maneuver the social situation.

He went to church with us because that was non-negotiable for me, but we modified our time there for him.  Most of the time, we didn’t even
try to have him participate in the children’s program after multiple days where he argued with and kicked the volunteer teachers, and we drove two
cars so my husband and I could take turns staying longer to visit or serve, while the other parent took our son and other children home.

He went to the homes of a few friends we had.  They came to our home and those times were usually fun and enjoyable, although there were also
misunderstandings that led to melt-downs.

If we invited a group of friends over, I had to be ready to de-fuse problems or take my son to his room for a cool down time.  I could
never, ever, ever anticipate a straightforward visit for me with other moms or a fun time for him with the other kids, because
invariably, some comment or event would make him either irritated and frustrated, or explosively angry.

There were months and years when I pretty much gave up on my life ever looking different.  We homeschooled and we stayed home a lot,
because that is what we could handle.

But — there he was on the stage.  All because a teen theater group’s director was willing to include him.  All because she had been led to
start the conservatory nineteen years earlier.  All because the environment was one of respect, care, professionalism and mutual growth.

All because God does amazing things.

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Posted July 6, 2017 by swanatbagend in autism, homeschooling

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Download   Leave a comment

I am working on re-organizing the school supplies in my front room. It always been the room where books, toys, games, teacher’s manuals, textbooks, math workbooks and all have been kept.  Plus, there’s a worn blue loveseat we always sit on to read or go through problems together, a chair with a footstool and a table with a desk lamp where we pile up the day’s/week’s materials or crafts, puzzles or projects.  OK, not that many crafts really if I’m honest.

Life has been so full for the past ten years I can’t remember the last time I really purged materials.  I haven’t had the time or the energy to do so.

But, this winter, I have felt the desire to download and re-arrange gradually coming over me.  My youngest is 12 years old.  I know that I won’t be using the kindergarten books again.  I don’t need all the fun science books we used when the kids were little.  Yes, I do plan to keep many of the best toys.  The bins of cars and trucks, the Playmobil animals, the marble run–these are permanent fixtures because we have younger company often enough that they get lots of use.

For that matter, I will probably keep the marble run until they take me to the nursing home.  I love that thing.  The wooden marble dropper too; it’s a stress reliever in the guise of a children’s toy.  You drop a marble in the top bowl and it rolls around, dropping into a lower colored bowl, and so on down six times with the most peaceful noise of marble on wood.

But realistically I see that I am not going to need all the art supplies, the puzzles and the books we have used over the years of homeschooling.

And facing that is harder than I thought it would be.  I actually found myself thinking that perhaps I should save all the historical fiction and read-alouds from our curriculum because I could end up homeschooling someone else’s children.

No offense, self, but barring a miracle that is utter nonsense!

So–realistically I must accept that the time has come to change the look of the school room.  I want to move my computer desk there, where I can enjoy the beautiful curtains and the great morning sunlight through the bay window.  My office can be there when the kids are all grown.  It’s a good thing to contemplate having time and space to do some more writing, research, advocacy and–who knows what else?

It’s still incredibly difficult to box up books.  It’s a life, it’s a season, but it’s a season I’ve been living for many years.

And I don’t want to let it go.

Posted March 13, 2017 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, transitions

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The Baby Bird Bond   Leave a comment

Saying goodbye to your high school graduate is difficult for anyone.  I found that out three years ago.

But I wonder if it may be more difficult to release a child into adulthood when you homeschool.

There is no way to take a scientific angle on this, because who can compare the grief and joy different mothers feel?  It doesn’t matter how your child was educated: home, public, private, Montessori, special ed, traditional school, un-schooling, child-led-learning, Catholic, alternative.  You’re going to miss him terribly.  It cannot be avoided.

At the same time, the transition, it seems, must be different when the child has been educated at home.

For one thing, you’ve spent so much time with him.

For another, the process of fledging probably takes place earlier and over a longer period of time if you’re not the primary educator.  I don’t know this, of course, since I never had a child in a school.  I would think that earlier opportunities for the bond to be stretched, and stretched more often, would be common with public school.  If he were getting on a bus every day, it would have been different.

As it was, there were piano lessons and co-op, where he both learned and taught.  Later on in high school there were entomology camp, a summer college class, and volunteering.  But none of these took him away from his siblings and his parents for 8 or more hours a day.

So, we had years of time together.  We watched Monty Python together, listened to classical music on the way to piano.  We sat around in the living room talking.  We went camping for two weeks at a time in a pop-up camper, after the early local experiments with tent camping generated some great stories that I wouldn’t want to actually repeat.

And the same is now true with the younger siblings.  We have a lot of time together.  Sure, it is full and it goes by quickly.  There are activities, therapies and appointments.  But it’s being spent more or less together, which is something you don’t get to experience if the kids are going to school somewhere else.

So it follows that when your bird flies the nest for college or work or the Peace Corps, you’re going to feel it.  The gap.  The missing piece of your life.

Your friend and companion.

Posted June 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, motherhood

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Must it be so exclusive?   Leave a comment

I spent the first eight years of homeschooling life, if you count preschool co-ops, with a group of people who made decisions by consensus and who took turns doing the work of the co-op.  We met in a church, but had a variety of faith beliefs amongst us.  We talked about what to do in group meetings, which were facilitated by someone who was good at hearing our concerns and helping us hear each other.

I always felt respected in this group.  Each person was free to speak up about problems that had come up with the kids during the co-op.  Each person was valued.  Our children had a lot of fun spending time with each other.  They also got group problem solving laid out for them, not just in the way the adults modeled it, but when Miss Janet helped them to walk through the very same process in circle time when they had conflicts with each other.

So–I thought this model was the norm.

In my current city, there are quite a few homeschool co-ops.  When I moved to the area I had trouble narrowing down the options.  I found few that were similar to what our family was used to.  Many were quite large and well established, which can be a plus for those who want the playing field already marked out.

But in a large group you will find it impractical to solve things by consensus.  And with dozens or hundreds of students and parents, you can’t create the schedule or student conduct guidelines by consulting everyone.  All that is understandable due to size.

What bothers me is that some of the co-ops and homeschool mailing lists require member parents to agree to a statement of faith; in my area that’s the Christian faith.

However, there are quite a few homeschoolers in any metro area who aren’t Christian.

That doesn’t mean Christian homeschoolers don’t have a great deal in common with them.

Most homeschool parents want to give their kids a quality education.

Most have moral standards they live by, such as the Golden Rule.

Most homeschool parents have talent, skills, creativity and energy (well, some energy) to offer the group.

Most people want to experience community.

When you homeschool it’s nice to have a place where your children can learn some new subjects, be part of a group, meet some new friends, and be part of a broader community.

But you can’t really do that if the door is shut in your face up front.

For some online homeschool mailing lists signing a statement of faith is required to be on the list, receive email, and post to the group.  This is viewed as necessary in order to avoid list members getting into doctrinal arguments.  But it seems to me that variable could be avoided by simply stating that discussions of theology should stay off list.  If any person broke that simple rule she could be removed from the list.  Other online groups work in a similar way, for example if flaming occurs.

Possibly more to the point would be a code of conduct which could be effective online and definitely in a co-op.  If the expectations of how the group would work and how the people in the group would treat each other were published up front, everyone would know how the group would operate.  The Golden Rule, conflict resolution, co-op goals, what elements of faith (if any) could be discussed, what the master plan is–all of these could be laid out.

Utilizing a code of conduct would allow people from different backgrounds to come together for a mutual purpose.  You’d know what you were signing up for and how you would be expected to behave, but you wouldn’t have to give assent to a set of religious beliefs that might not be yours.

If you can’t ethically sign a statement saying you adhere to a faith, but all you want is to find a good, active co-op for you and your children to be part of…where does that leave you?

On the outside.

Talk about missed opportunities.   It’s a loss to all parties.

Posted December 22, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, homeschooling, the church

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