How to Select an Autism Homeschool Curriculum

This is the time of year that I get the most requests for advice on how to homeschool children on the autism spectrum.  Sometimes it is from parents who have decided to start this journey from day one of the new school year, and other times, it is from discouraged and disappointed parents who have encountered too many roadblocks in their child's traditional school situation to justify continuing to send them to their existing school.  Regardless of the exact situation, it is likely that any parent would feel quite a bit of anxiety at the prospect of bearing the responsibility of their child's special needs education.

So for everyone...

Step 1:  Relax!

Most homeschool "experts" encourage new families to take at least a month off after leaving the traditional school setting.  This is time for both the student and parent to decompress and unlearn some of the bad educational habits picked up from an unhealthy learning environment.  For my son, he left school after an ext…

9th Grade Boy's Autism Curriculum

9th Grade Theme: Decisiveness  

True Story #1:
I came home from an hours shopping trip to find Jackson on the couch with a towel wrapped around his waist.  He had taken a shower while I was gone, and upon finding no clean shorts in his dresser, he just sat in his towel until I got back to find him clean clothes.  He promptly said, "Pants please" when I walked in, to which I responded, "this year, buddy, we are going to work on your problem solving skills!".  There were clean shorts in laundry basket NEXT TO the dresser! 
True Story #2:
Jackson's favorite drink at Starbucks is a Cool Lime Refresher, but occasionally they are out of the mix that is required to make the drink.  When this occurred last week, I turned to him and asked, "What would you like instead?"  He looked at me like there were worms crawling out of my head, even though I know he likes many other drinks there, like lemonade, iced tea and this yummy berry concoction.  So I said, "thi…

7th Grade Girl's Honors Homeschool Curriculum 2014-2015

I decided to post my 7th grade daughter's curriculum before Jackson's, because, frankly, it was much easier to put together!  She will be following the public school calendar and the Virginia state SOLs pretty closely, so I was able to create a comprehensive program for her in about a weeks time.  Jackson's program has taken me all summer to think through, and I am still not even close to finished...ugh!! I know many of you homeschool at least one other neuro-typical child, so I thought a quick blog about Caroline might be helpful, and also make you feel less guilty about not having all your ducks in a row for your autistic child's upcoming school year.  
As an FYI, Caroline is 12 and going into 7th grade.  While in public school, she was enrolled in the gifted program (called AAP or Advanced Academic Program here in Fairfax County).  We homeschooled her in 5th grade just for a one year experience, (she was jealous of her brother), but we found that when she went back …

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Homeschool

Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.  It is for the determined, the committed, and the passionate.  But before jumping in with two feet, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few honest questions.  Discussing and sharing ideas and expectations with your family is a critical part to the homeschooling journey, as this is not a solo mission!  I answered these 10 questions myself to give you a frame of reference.  And the beautiful part of being a homeschooler is that all of our answers will and should look totally different.  The goal isn't to fit into a "autism homeschooler mold", but to find your sweet spot in a wide open world of possibilities...because that is what homeschooling offers at it's core - possibilities.

1.  Why do I want/need to homeschool? 

Tremendous anxiety in public middle school caused behavioral problems, inability to learn, and stress at home.

2.  Strengths and weakness of your child

S: Disciplined with schedule, hardworking, charming, funny,…

Broken Things, Not Broken People

I just wanted to post a quick blog about a big lesson I learned toady, one that I have struggled with for years with Jackson.  Earlier today he threw a remote control at our only TV and permanently damaged the screen.  He came up and asked me to "help fix the Tivo please" in a very pleasant tone.  I said, "Sure, buddy" and when I got downstairs, I saw the damage.  I knelt in front of the broken TV and bent my head tears.

As I cried over yet another costly repair resulting from his anger and/or lack of understanding of how to take care of things, he began to rub my back and kiss my head.  He simply said, "You made a mistake and are sorry for the fix it."

I felt like, for the first time, I could put his feelings of remorse in front of my own of frustration or self-pity.  I learned today that people are more important than things, and I'm ashamed to say that it has taken me a long time to get to this point.

Few people outside of autism par…

Rethinking Homeschooling as a Boy Becomes a Man

Eight grade is a transitional year for many students, Jackson included. So as I entered our 3rd year of homeschooling, I decided to shift my homeschooling focus from my lesson preparation to Jackson's new found wants and needs as a young man.  The majority of homeschooling lesson planning resources that I have encountered seek to ensure that I, as the teacher, am fully equipped with all the materials and tools that I need to present the best content, coupled with the most appropriate educational technique to meet the needs of my child.  And while this has worked wonderfully for Jackson's 6th and 7th grade years, I was feeling a longing for a simpler and more student focused approach.  I felt a lot of stress regarding my readiness and teaching aptitude - meaning that way too much of his success depended on my success as a teacher.  Not a good formula for an effective and peaceful school year!

So as the summer began to wind down, instead of ramping up as the teacher for the sc…

My Most Honest Confession

Their faces say it all. What starts as judgemental stares quickly change to desperate concern as they watch Jackson go from angry and frustrated to full blown wild animal. The flash point is so intense that it scares people and while they move away, I have to charge in to try and rescue him from himself. It is heart breaking to see him suffer and in that moment onlookers can finally see his pain as I do.  I pull him close as he bites me, pulls my hair and scratches my face because he needs love to recover and heal and while it hurts me, it hurts him more to feel so out of control not knowing why his mind fails him when he needs it so desperately. My anger at autism quickly moves to anger at God as I struggle to understand why He doesn't charge in to help Jackson.