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Friday, June 14, 2013

Our One Year Homeschooling Experiment Take-Away


Now that our time as a true homeschool family is coming to a close, I have had more time to reflect on the ups and downs, victories and failures, and lessons learned.  With Caroline going back into public middle school this fall, our homeschool will once again, be just Jackson and me.  And while I love and miss our special one-on-one dynamic, there will be a huge hole in our hearts without her here, because the biggest take away I got from this year, regarding both my kids, is that quantity of time always trumps quality of time with children, especially adolescents.

A great analogy for this truth is the dreaded power outage.  I spent the past two days fretting over losing power during the latest derecho warnings in the D.C. area.  We lose power at the drop of a hat in our neighborhood, as it is filled with large, old trees and overhead power lines.  But as I reflect on the times we have lost power for extended periods (blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, Oh My!), there is always that sweet point where having no power frees everyone's mind and schedule to just sit and enjoy each other and slow down to reconnect.  That is what this year of homeschooling felt like to me...a prolonged sweet spot to reconnect with both Jackson and Caroline, and for them to reconnect with each other.

In this day and age, there is article after article about the need for quality time with your children.  Go on a "date" with your kids so they will feel special.  Carve out 20 minutes once a week to really discuss their feelings over an ice cream sundae.  Make their favorite meal to draw them out of their bedroom for some one-on-one time.  And while all of these are great ideas, that I have done in the past, and are sure to achieve some level of connection, what I discovered was that the most meaningful relational moments occur after spending 2 hours lounging on the couch reading or in the daily routine of running errands together.  These are the unsung moments where connection seems to organically sprout.  A comment about a sports star coming out as homosexual, naturally leads to a causal, but meaningful hour long dialog about gay marriage.  An eye roll over a friend's overly dramatic Instagram post while eating lunch together on the couch, spurs an afternoon spent discussing the parameters and pitfalls of social media in the 21st century, as well as how to manage our own emotions when we feel out of control.

For Jackson, these elongated moments of connection have occurred in a similarly authentic fashion. Before he was homeschooled, he could not bath or dress himself.  He relied on me for every daily need.  His development was hindered by his lack of independence and freedom.  His communication skills were limited to addressing his immediate needs only.  But after 2 years of quantity over quality of time together, our connection has transformed from caregiver/receiver to mother/son...which, to those of us in the autism community, we realize is a significant emotional milestone to be recognized and celebrated.

After spending a year getting to know Jackson and Caroline on a much deeper and more personal level,  I can honestly say that I really like them both.  Caroline is witty and charming, thoughtful and tender-hearted, fearless and ambitious, obedient and trustworthy.  Jackson is entertaining and endearing, hardworking and disciplined, strong and brave, affectionate and loving.  And while it was by no means all sunshine and roses, I hope and pray it was enough to lay a solid foundation for the inevitable rocky teenage years in our future. These special bonds were not created during the big splashy moments of childhood, but in the tedium and trenches of daily life that was spent together, arm in arm, during a year with "no power" other than each other, our books and our coffee shops!



4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I could really relate to what you where saying about celebrating the shift from caregiver/receiver to mother/son. Although I did not homeschool my son (still thinking about it), this past year, which was Joshua's first in middle school, we definitely saw a transformation. Much was expected of him this school year and he definitely rose to the task but is was NOT without challenges and some near-miss breakdowns(LOL)for me.

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  2. Hello Allison, We are just now at the point of considering home based education after a year of trying to get help for our traumatised 14 year old Autistic, Moderately Intellectually impaired, daughter. I felt so hopeful when I read that your son has made such huge progress with his self-help skills, and communication. I too have to help our daughter shower, dress, toilet, etc... I also resonate with a desire to 'slow down' and reconnect with all my children, to "be" and not just rush through the 'required' to do list, just to get out the door and get to school. The thought of being able to allow her to let her learn to brush her teeth, or get dressed, and take as long as it takes, and not have that pressure to get out the door, and to be able to celebrate each of the steps as she achieves them in that one task... it feels liberating. Thank you for blogging. Alison (Australia)

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  3. Hi. I just came across this great blog. Will it be too troublesome if I request for email contact with you? I have a still considered non verbal 6 year old daughter with autism. Professionals regard her in low functioning. We don't have good therapy services here n I find it very hard n stressful in teaching her... if I take a break... she will be back to square one... depressing. I invite you to my blog theirgrowingupyears.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Do you have a Facebook account? We can private message on there:

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Homeschooling-Autism/179479588818961?ref=hl

      Ali

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