Category Archives: Homeschooling

My Autism Interview


(This is taken from a website I’ve just joined, myautismteam.com. I processed so much while answering these questions, that I had to post it here.)

Q: Tell us your autism story.

A:

While completing my degree, then-three-year-old Jonathan and one-year-old Hannah went to the university preschool. That was when we first heard that Jonathan might be autistic. His teacher had a specialist evaluate him (IN the room with 30 other kids running around). Needless to say, he didn’t do well on that test, and the specialist (who was quite insensitive to us) said he was likely autistic. We got a second opinion at a smaller preschool, where they evaluated him in a quiet room with just the teachers. He did much better then, and was labeled developmentally delayed with some social and speech issues (mainly lack of eye-contact and echolailia – repeating/parroting words/sounds, and non-conversational language).

We immediately enrolled in an early intervention program that we attended twice a week with him. He made great strides and by the time he was 5, was bright, energetic, and loved learning. He has an amazing ability to hear something once and be able to remember it. We moved to a new state and I homeschooled him. It was a fun year, teaching him how to read, exploring his favorite subjects (marine biology, history, space), and spending lots of time with him. I did have a hard time with his handwriting…no matter how much we worked on it, it seemed like every day I would have to re-teach him how to write letters. I suspected then that he might be dyslexic, because he was constantly flipping letters.

For kindergarten/pre-first, we enrolled him in a Montessori school. He loves school and his teachers, but his teachers again noticed things that were “off” about Jonathan. He was brilliant, but had no patience. He made lots of friends, but didn’t know how to talk with them. He talked AT everyone, had a hard time sitting still and listening, and had an incredibly short fuse. He was easily frustrated and would get angry very quickly. We noticed a lot of the behavioral stuff at home. He would go from being in a great mood to throwing toys across the room and growling. He would be sitting, playing quietly to suddenly yelling and screaming at apparently nothing. We discussed these concerns with his teacher in his first evaluation (Fall 2011), and she asked our permission to have him tested. We finally had a meeting in April of 2012 with the school’s special education resource person, a child psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, his teacher, and the principal. They were WONDERFUL! Each had done a detailed evaluation of Jonathan and they all seemed to really GET our boy. Through their in-depth testing and discussing all the results, we agreed with their diagnosis that Jonathan has Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism.

We are now in the process of researching therapies, diets, medications, etc. to help Jonathan succeed as he goes into first grade. I also strongly suspect that our two-year-old son, Joshua, is also on the autism spectrum, perhaps even to a greater extent than Jonathan.

Q: Most days I find myself…

A:Waking up to make coffee and lunch for my husband, trying to have a few minutes of quiet time reading or Facebooking before the kids get up for their breakfast. I work from home as an editor, so once the breakfast chaos is over, I bounce back and forth between settling the kids with snacks or activities and getting work done. I try not to let the TV babysit, but it’s especially hard during the summer when it’s too hot for the kids to play outside!

Q:When did you know your child was on the Spectrum?

A:This year, when Jonathan was 6. We didn’t agree with the initial evaluation when he was three, but that was mostly because the way it was presented to us was harsh and totally out of the blue…basically the specialist said that we must not have been paying any attention to our son because he was clearly autistic. We just couldn’t accept that, since he seemed totally fine to us. However, the second evaluation (at age 6) was much more thorough, we were included in every test and the results were very clearly explained to us before the diagnosis was determined.

Q:What therapies (if any) work best for your child?

A:Jonathan definitely has sensory processing issues (sound, mainly), so we try to give him a varied “sensory diet.” He especially responds to deep pressure. When he starts freaking out and getting overwhelmed, we will lay him down on the couch, cover him with the couch cushions (except his face, of course), and lay over him. It sounds crazy, but the “couch sandwich” settles him down SO quickly (it also works with our 2-year-old). We have also noticed that he does much better with a protein-packed breakfast. Days that start with cheesy eggs and sausage go MUCH better than milk-and-cereal days.

Q: What do you wish you knew then, that you know now?

A:Autism is NOT a big, scary word like cancer. You don’t die from it. It’s just a different word that helps describe my child.
Jonathan has blue eyes.
Jonathan has curly hair.
Jonathan is tall.
Jonathan is autistic.

Also, I wish I was more confident in myself as a parent instead of instantly blaming myself. Jonathan’s autism isn’t my fault. It isn’t because of something I did or didn’t do.

Q: What are your biggest challenges or difficulties?

A:We are still working on Jonathan’s intense mood-swings. We are looking into finding a therapist or child psychologist to help him and us come up with better strategies for keeping him from going off so often. In school, he has several goals with respect to handwriting, sitting still, finishing tasks, etc. We are also trying to make our life more predictable, since surprises or changes in schedule are really tough for ALL the kids in our family.

Q: What would you share with parents new to autism?

A:When we walked out of the meeting where Jonathan was officially labeled as autistic, I remember this odd sense of newness, heaviness, strangeness. It wasn’t until we walked into Jonathan’s classroom and he ran up to my husband and me and hugged us that I had a mini-revelation: he’s the same boy. We didn’t get a new kid in our lives, we got a new word. It’s a word with a lot of weight, sure, but our son hadn’t changed one single bit. We had. And we continue to. It’s OK to grieve a little bit, to feel a little bad. We gave ourselves the weekend to mull over the newness of autism in our lives. After that, it was back to normal. Our focus now is how we can help Jonathan.

The autism label has helped us understand some of Jonathan’s behaviors. Things that we used to think were discipline issues (chewing on his shirts, making annoying repetitious sounds/movements), we have realized are clues that he needs sensory stimulation and it’s time for him to go spin, jump, lay down for the couch sandwich, or eat. Autism has given us a different lens to view our son through. It’s not a scary thing, it’s just new. But the great thing is, there are SO many other people who have pioneered the way. Parents new to autism NOW don’t have to go blazing trails, we just have to start looking around and asking for directions.

The crazy things homeschooling moms do…


This blog post from Carol Barnier had me laughing so hard that my little nursling started choking (apparently he DIDN’T want his milk shaken).  Enjoy… and lighten up!!

Mothers Need to Read!


This is a great article on the importance of mothers making time to read the classics and continuing their education at home alongside their children.  I have a degree in English, and I’m shocked at the number of classic books that I did NOT read during my formal education. Click the link to read some reasons why mothers reading is important and how mothers can make time to read (hint: it involves ignoring housework. I’m always OK with that!).  =)

Memoria Press: Classical Education.

Our Homeschooling Basics


My friend Sarah recently sent me the following note about homeschooling, and my response turned into a bloggy post (imagine that!)!

This year we are “officially” going to start school. We’ve had soooo many transitions in the last couple of years (moving 5 times in 2 years, and having a baby), it’s just been too crazy. But I feel like this year, I have it a little bit more together. So, I’m going to pick your brain a bit (hope you don’t mind!): What’s you method? How do you do it? Do you use curriculum? Do you do school in the morning? Or split it up throughout the day? Do you do any school online with the kiddos? At what age do you “officially” start? Questions, questions… =)


Soooo many questions… I’m just starting out so I’m trying to figure it all out myself!

First off, what every book I’ve read about teaching your kids has told me is that reading aloud to your kids is THE most important thing you can do for them. So that’s where I’ve started. I try to make a weekly trip to the library and make a big deal of checking out special picture books for the kids and carve out time each day to read to them. At night, we read chapter books, although getting through a whole chapter every night is a challenge with short attention spans. So far, we’ve read “The Magician’s Nephew“, “Little House in the Big Woods“, “Little House on the Prairie”, and we’re reading the first Harry Potter book now. They like the picture books better, of course, but I always try to read a little above their level to stretch them. When I was in school, I would often read my homework assignments out loud to them, so they were exposed to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and all those guys early on. So far, they aren’t prodigies or anything, but I have hope! =P

I bought a quarter’s worth of preschool curriculum from The School of Tomorrow, but after we got through it, I just ended up jumping to the Kindergarten curriculum instead of buying the rest of the preschool program. I think the preschool stuff was kind of a joke (at least the workbooks were), but I really like the Kindergarten curriculum. It teaches phonics using an animal (Arby Armadillo, Sandy Sunfish, etc.) accompanied by a story that highlights the sound and character trait. After the first week, they start learning how to blend the phonics sounds, so Jonathan is already reading simple words! It’s pretty cool. You can find their website at www.schooloftomorrow.com I do it totally independently, because it’s pretty simple. School of Tomorrow does offer a membership thing to mentor homeschool families, but I don’t know much about it. =-/ Their stuff is really expensive, IMO, but eBay has good deals on their curriculum packages sometimes.

(I forgot to mention this in my original reply to Sarah, but we also have the old classic McGuffey Readers [like they used in Little House!] and I use those to work on Jonathan’s penmanship and reading skills once or twice a week, too.)

As I’m QUITE sure you know, no two days are exactly alike in our house. Some days, we wake up, do breakfast and chores and do a solid hour or so of learning. Other days, I’ll work with Jonathan while Hannah and Josh are napping in the afternoons. I don’t make a whole lot of goals or anything, but I try to get 3 solid lessons in each week. If I only get to the phonics and we don’t do math, that’s fine with me. Honestly, we pushed Jonathan so hard since he was 2 to LEARN (because he had been diagnosed with learning delays) that I’m worried that he won’t enjoy learning. So I try to make everything as fun and lighthearted as possible. Sometimes, with his reading/spelling page, I’ll just leave it on the table and make him do one word each hour… so that by dinner time the page will be done. =P

One of the coolest websites that we’ve found and has really helped with the phonics is www.starfall.com It has lots of games the kids can play, and, if I’m having “one of those days”, I just let them play on Starfall for an hour and call it school. =D

When do you start? Well, technically, Kindergarten starts at age 5. But we’ve been doing homeschooling with Jonathan since January (he’s 5) and Hannah is absorbing a lot of what he is doing because… well, she’s here with him! Some people don’t start doing anything formal with her kids until they are older, and they seem to be doing OK, too. So I think it’s up to you and your boys. Are they ready to learn? Are they showing an interest in reading?

Anyways, Anthony’s laughing at me that I’ve been writing so long. My last advice would be to see if you can go to a homeschooling conference. Arizona’s homeschooling group, Arizona Families for Home Education, had one last month that was awesome, and because we were new homeschoolers, we were able to go for free! See if your state has something like that, it was totally worth it for us!

Homeschool veterans, newbies, and homeschool-curious, please let me know your thoughts, questions, ideas, favorite sites, etc. in the comments section!  I’ve only worked with the School of Tomorrow curriculum, but what else works for the early years?

Homeschooling Part II


In July, my cousin invited us to the Arizona Families for Home Education’s convention in Phoenix, and we tagged along.  This was really where God got both Anthony and I to pay attention.  Through the speakers and our discussions between sessions, we realized that God had a bigger plan for our children than we did.  One of the speakers brought up the verse in Deuteronomy 6 that really convicted us:

4Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord [the only Lord].

5And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might.

6And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then]

7You shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

8And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets (forehead bands) between your eyes.

9And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The conviction, for us, came from the fact that of all the things on this earth, all that we get to bring with us to heaven are our children’s souls.  That’s it.  It doesn’t matter if we never get out of debt.  It doesn’t matter if we never “get” anywhere with our lives or our goals.  If we get to heaven and our children don’t, we have not done our job properly.  Like Pastor Chan says, doing stuff out of fear is never a good thing, but that was really a wake up call for us.  (I realize this is sounding preachy… you don’t have to agree with me, this is just what we have been convicted of, you know?)  If we were to allow someone else to educate our children and have them for a huge portion of their day, are we going to have the appropriate influence on their lives that would make a difference for eternity?  I don’t know.  I realize that there are plenty of Christian schools that could do that job just fine, but we really felt like God gave us our children and we shouldn’t delegate the responsibility for raising them to anyone else.

The thing that I really love about homeschooling Jonathan right now is how I can weave eternal things into all our lessons.  When he gets frustrated about writing, we stop and pray.  We’re doing side-by-side history, so we can study Joseph and the pyramids at the same time!  I can see him growing both mentally and spiritually as I teach him, and the added benefit is that Hannah is learning right along with him.  I’m not doing anything formal with her, but she sits with us for phonics and even sounded out a few words the other day.  It’s really neat.  There aren’t strict grade divisions!  We’re all going to learn together!

Anthony’s favorite thing about homeschooling is that we are free to be a family on our schedule.  Like last night’s spontaneous sleepover: it wouldn’t have happened if Jonathan or the cousins had to be at school the next morning.  And because Jonathan was there during their school time this morning, he learned with them and it was no big deal.  Tomorrow morning is Saturday, but we’re going to do a bit of school anyways, because… why not?  A family from California that we’re really close to is planning a trip out here in September and Jonathan won’t have to miss a second of his best friend’s visit because he’s in school: we’ll just catch up another week.  We aren’t slaves to a school district’s calendar.  We are free to plan school around our family.

As far as how long we’re planning on homeschooling, I don’t know.  I loved finishing high school at home.  I had plenty of time to do normal teenage things and be with friends and I don’t regret not going to prom or any of that (Anthony reminds me that our huge wedding was way better than any prom!).  For my brothers, they really wanted to play sports, so they went to public school as freshmen and they did really well socially, academically, theatrically and athletically.  My youngest siblings have done a mosaic of independent study and charter school education for the last few years.   For this year, this is what we’re called to.  We’re going to pay close attention to what the Lord has planned for our kids in the years to come, because we figure He’s got it planned out a lot better than we do!

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