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 school year, I slipped on an attitude of a student and spent that time learning as much about Jackson as I could.  And what I discovered was that my little boy had turned into a man before my very eyes, and I needed to stop treating him like a child and respect the wants and needs of this young man. He needed more say in his daily educational experience.  He needed to feel more in charge of his body and mind.  In short, he needed more freedom, like all teenagers need as they begin the transition into adulthood.

We decided that his anxiety had become too overwhelming and was beginning to consume his daily life.  So we added a mild blood pressure medicine (Intuniv) that has helped tremendously with his angry outbursts and over reaction to stressful and confusing situations.  We also felt that as he stormed full steam into adolescents, he needed to spend more one-on-one time with his father.  So we added 30 minutes of weight lifting to his schedule - EVERY morning at 6:30, the 2 of them watch SportsCenter and lift free weights in our manly, but unfinished, gym space in the basement.  The combination of these 2 things alone, has been remarkable.  But his school-life had to also be adjusted to fall in line with his new wants and needs as a young, proud and confident man. 

So instead of a rigid daily schedule that stressed consistency and continuity of topics and activities, I decided to give him more autonomy over his courses.  We stuck with a loose outline of the day, but gave him a lot of options within that structure that looks something like this:

6:30-7:00  Weight Lifting with Dad
7:00          Make Coffee
7:30          Make Breakfast
8:00          Treadmill
8:20          Shower
9:00          Book on CD & Devotional
9:30          Starbucks & Shopping

10:30-12  Activities
12-1         Lunch
1-3           Activities

After we get back from our daily coffee run and shopping, which includes everything from the grocery store to the cleaners to Target, we begin going through the 5-7 activities that he chose that morning.  After following this schedule for a few months now, I have discovered that he has definite preferences. This has been very eye opening, and has helped me learn more about what he perceives his strength and weakness are. He loves:

1.  Cooking
2.  Baking
3.  Piano
4.  Science
5.  Puzzles
6.  Cards
7.  Social Studies
8.  Photography
9.  Chores
10. PE/Yoga

He is a cool mix of left and right brained strengths.  He is not "an autistic savant" in any one area (like every other TV special on autism likes to glamorize), but a nice, healthy mix of creativity and analytics. He grown in both physical and mental strength, as he can settle his body and mind much more effectively than ever before.  And while I would not go so far as to say he has mastered the art of self control (as I have not even achieved that feat yet), he has come a long way since the school year began.  I attribute his progress to our shift in perspective from how we want to parent/educate him, to how he needs to be parented/educated, as a new and growing young man, who one day might just surprise us all and be an independent and impactful man that this world could learn so much from.  

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  1. Thank you very much for sharing! Our son is just turning 6 next month, but I'm trying to be thinking about and learning about things proactively, anticipating what may be to come for him. I love the way you look at things.

    1. Thanks Holly! I try to be an open book, because I feel like trying to put on a false front of "I am totally handling all this like a pro" is just ridiculoous. For every success, there is a failure that paved the way:)

  2. Just found your blog this morning, and am really thankful for you insights into homeschooling a child with autism. My son in 4 and doing well in the public school's PRE-K system… but I'm constantly researching options for kindergarten to be sure we have him in the best place. Have you found that your son has progressed less socially due to not being around other kids his age during the day? I worry about that- my son does have 2 siblings, but they are 3+ yrs younger than he is. We live in a very small town and I wonder if I could find enough ways for him to connect with kids his own age…

    1. I have found that Jackson's social progress has greatly improved since we began homeschooling, and I attribute that to the type of socialization we due (vs. the type you find in a traditional school setting). Our socialization is 100% authentic and organic to what you find in a community. His adult life will not be spent behind a desk in an office building or at a table in a research lab, but out and among people who are working hard to get things done in the "real world"...think farming verses lawyer. He needs to learn how to socially interact with adults who are in a mutually beneficial environment - which is why he loves his yoga teacher, who includes him into the practice - a gentle give and take socailly, but struggles with his Sunday school teacher who requires a more ridgid dictatation of their time together. Now the $64 million question is, "Should I spend my time helping him learn to function within the later social structure better b/c that is "the real world?" or "Should I evaluate his social strengths and weakness and help him find a place socailly within the structure that better suits him?" Each family will make the decision that is best for them, and for us, we find that Jackson functions best where their is a tremendous amount of mutual respect for the love and joy he brings to the world.

  3. I loved this blog. I've read it twice. I has given me the motivation to keep trying and moving forward with my ASD boys (Home school-8th grade, and 18 and 20 yr olds and transitioning again) Thanks.

    1. Thanks! I find a lot of encouragement in other people's journeys as well!! And it is harder to find others with teenagers on our path, so glad to have a friend in the trenches:)

  4. Just discovered your blog thru hiphomeschoolingmoms and the colored transparencies! Great tip! I'll be trying that with my 7th grader this weekend. I read the rest because we just pulled our 8 yr old from 2nd grade public school. We are on the brink of an eating tube and trying different things to get him to eat so school is the least of our concerns at the moment. Keep writing!!! Please!!! Especially the workbooks, curriculum and programs you have found useful! And the ones you didn't like. What didn't work for your big guy might be what works for mine or someone else's kiddo! Thanks again for your positive blogging and I look forward to your twitter time...I don't do Facebook....too much time.

    1. Ahhh...blogging more often is my constant resolution!! My sweet husband got me a keyboard for the iPad, so hopefully that will help! Both my kiddos have taken over the other computers, and most days I too tired to fight them for screen time:) I have lots of success and failures regarding materials and curriculum, so I will add that to my list of posts to do!

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