Sunday, November 20, 2011
Team Teaching Autism with Caroline
One of the unexpected benefits of homeschooling Jackson has been the educational collaboration I've been able to do with Caroline. She has taken a keen interest not only in what I am teaching Jackson, but in how his actual academic progress is coming along. This has spilled over into non-school related situations as well. While opening her birthday presents on Saturday, she asked Jackson to read all of her cards and encouraged him to cut all the ribbons. This was a sweet moment for Paul and I as parents of both these remarkable children.
Caroline is an unusual child in many ways, but it is her heart that makes her the most unique 10 year old I have ever met. She is extremely selfless and more intuitive than any adult I know. She is very aware of Jackson's strengths and weaknesses and knows how and when to challenge him or support him as the situation dictates. Likewise, Jackson responds to her amazingly well. He trusts her and looks to her for encouragement and reinforcement if he is confused or frustrated.
Recently, I was showing her Jackson's latest math work and explaining that I was having trouble explaining the concept of subtraction regrouping to him, and she suggested a different approach. I tried it the next day, and sure enough, Jackson got it right away. Similarly, I was struggling to find a good science unit to do with him, and she encouraged me to do the Solar System, since that it what she is doing in school and thought it would be cool for them to learn about it together. So now, everyday after school, she comes home to look through his science lesson and talks to him about it.
This interest in his development is nothing new, but there is definitely a new fascination with his school work. Even though he is in 6th grade, most of his academics are at the 4th grade level, so they are learning a lot of the same things. His spelling lists look similar to hers and his math is identical. Caroline has no shortage of self-confidence and she knows she is a bright child, so seeing Jackson doing the same level of work, gives her a new perspective into what he is capable of learning. It is neat to see her so proud of him.
One of the things I have come to realize in the last few weeks is that homeschooling is not a one-woman job. I am not Jackson's teacher. I am just one of many educators that he comes into contact with on any given day. I see myself as more of a guide or facilitator. I arrange interactions with countless people that I believe have something to offer Jackson. I introduce him to situations that he can gain understanding from. I stand back and let him lead me to the people, places and things that he is interested in exploring. He is a highly curious and engaging young man that people are drawn to and forever changed because of their interaction with him.
Caroline is one of these people. She is a better person because of her relationship with Jackson, and she knows it. She is thankful for him and that attitude shines through her everyday. She is a founding member of a special needs sibling support group at her school, and the school psychologist and social worker tell me every week how her participation in that group is vital because she has so much wisdom to offer the other members.
I am beyond blessed to have her as a partner in this homeschooling adventure. Here is a sweet message that she wrote on the wall in Jackson's room last week (we gave her permission ahead of time):
And after I finished writing this blog, I let her read it before I posted it and she said, "you make me sound perfect". To which I quickly responded, "notice how I only talked about your response to me homeschooling Jackson, not about how clean your room is or how well you listen when asked to help around the house or take a shower."...To which she said, "touche, mama."
Follow me on Twitter too: https://twitter.com/#!/hometeachautism