Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

Homeschooling Autism: What It Has Taught Me

MSNN is happy to introduce our friend, Jessica Eastman. Jessica is a homeschooling mom to three rambunctious boys, one of whom has autism.  She lives with her husband, the lazy dog, and her sons in Washington state.

Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Managing to get some quiet time by myself at the bookstore, I picked up an “I Can Read!” book for my autistic son.  We homeschool him, and he is technically in “first” grade, so we are working with him on reading skills this year.  This was a “Little Bear” book and I think I was probably more excited about it than my son would be.  The nice lady at the register exclaimed, “Oh! Little Bear! I love Little Bear!”  I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one still wishing I was six years old and reading Little Bear books in the closet with my bag of Fruit Loops and princess flashlight.

Yeah, and then, I opened my big mouth. “Me too! And we homeschool, so this is perfect!”  Well, it had been done. Now we wait and see what venomous reaction came spewing forth from the lady with the control over how much my card got charged.  See, cashiers seem to be particularly opinionated about homeschooling and homeschoolers and also what my kids are wearing and how dirty their faces are.  You would think I would have learned the first twenty times of incurring their wrath not to invite criticism. But alas, here we were.

However, the unexpected happened. She breathed out a sigh and said, “I am really considering it….but….I’m not a good teacher.”  She then proceeded to list all 42 of her reasons for daring to consider homeschooling.  This is something almost everyone goes through when contemplating homeschooling.  We have this compulsive need to convince ourselves, and the rest of the world, why it would be the right decision.  It never really gets us anywhere, because we end up trying to argue with a cashier about why our kids aren’t going to suffer because they haven’t been taught to sit for circle time.  So I cut her off.  I said, “Hey, I’m not a good teacher either. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that you aren’t teaching a classroom full of kids, you are teaching YOUR kid.  It’s completely different.  There are a lot of resources out there, and people willing to share their experiences with you.”  She didn’t look convinced, but hopefully she doesn’t give up on the idea simply because she thinks she isn’t “teacher” material.

Here’s my disclaimer: I have been homeschooling my child since February of this year. That’s a whopping 8 months if you count the summer where we mostly took “field trips” with visiting family and I spent the afternoons panicking about picking a curriculum.  I’m not an expert on homeschooling AT ALL.  I’m not an expert on homeschooling a child with special needs, either.  I’m a newbie.  But here’s what I HAVE learned, in spite of my questionable learning curve.

  1. I’m not a teacher.  I’m a mother, teaching her special needs child.  I know him inside and out, and I know EXACTLY what he needs to succeed. There is no comparing the two.
  2. Public school can be a great resource for many families.  Throw in special needs and all the wonderful therapists and therapeutic equipment available in the school, and that’s even better.  Preschool through the school district was one of the best things that ever happened to my son and to our family.
  3. Homeschooling is hard work.  It’s magnified when you have a child with special needs.
  4. Homeschooling my child with autism is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever taken on. It’s right up there with birthing my other hellions and finishing that super sized margarita I got in Vegas.
  5. There’s not a “right way” to homeschool.  There is not a wrong way, either.  No, seriously.
  6. Perhaps the best aspect about deciding to homeschool is that we get to decide exactly which curriculum we use.   This means that on days my son is stimming more and less able to concentrate, we use the “easy” stuff. Or we watch The Magic School Bus on Netflix.  That totally counts.  On the days he is able to sit for a little longer, we get FAR more book work done.
  7. Book learning is not the only meaningful type of learning.  If I am able to work with my son on his social skills and he is able to make eye contact and ask for what he would like to eat when we go to the local diner for breakfast, THAT is learning. If he actually eats the food and doesn’t hide under the table, a celebration is in order.
  8. My house is a disaster and should probably be taped off as a biohazard.
  9. My son is socialized. Yes, really. Sometimes we have to turn down adventures with friends just so we can get some schoolwork done. The homeschooling community is very active.

What about you, dear readers? Do you homeschool? Do you public school? Have you considered homeschooling?

We’d love to hear your experiences with homeschooling. Any tips or techniques that you wish you knew when you were a “noob?” Put them down below and we’ll make sure they get shared.

11 comments on “Homeschooling Autism: What It Has Taught Me

  1. annarosemeeds
    October 22, 2013

    My wonderful mother homeschooled all of us children. Although each of us had special needs (aspergers, ADHD, dyslexia, depression, etc.), she did an amazing job. Sure, she is not a teacher but she was a great mother who learned how to teach us well.

    Thank you for all of the care and difficult work you do to raise and teach your son. Believe me, it means so much!

  2. Jessica Eastman
    October 22, 2013

    Wow, Annarosemeeds, big love to your mom. What a fantastic and selfless woman.

  3. Kathy Chandler
    October 22, 2013

    Love you Jessica!! Great Blog!! 🙂

  4. Jessica Eastman
    October 22, 2013

    Love you Kath. Thanks for the shout out. xoxo

  5. Allyson Lassen
    October 22, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this, Jessica! I’ve thought about homeschooling my 9 yr old SPD son, but I suffer from chronic back pain, which leads to a chronic lack of patience when he’s bouncing off the walls. What curriculum do you use? I’d really like to look into it.

    • Jessica Eastman
      October 22, 2013

      Hi Allyson, I am cautious to recommend any curriculum specifically because everyone has such different needs and there are so many options. So take my information with a grain of salt. 🙂 We use a little of everything rather than a boxed set, that way I can mix and match based on his varying needs. We use a lot of the BrainQuest products, including grade/age appropriate workbooks. We also use the following:
      For Reading: All About Reading as well as “The McGuffey Readers”
      For Math: A mix of montessori from this store (http://www.brilliantmindsmontessoristore.com) as well as workbooks from the “Classic Curriculum” arithmetic books.
      For History: History Odyssey Level 1
      For Science: Nancy Larson Science
      For Handwriting: A mixture of “Handwriting Without Tears” workbooks and my own worksheets I make at worksheetworks.com
      For Art: Atelier

      We do not yet have a spelling curriculum as we are focusing heavily on reading and handwriting first, as these are the greater need at this time. We don’t do every subject every day. I make a weekly plan and aim for having a certain amount done from each area by the end of the week. This means on bad days we don’t have as much pressure to get as much done. On good days, we cruise through most of it fairly easily.

      I hope this helps. As always, check your state laws regarding the rules for homeschoolers in your area. You can find this information at (http://www.hslda.org)

  6. Kim Wilson
    October 22, 2013

    This is an awesome article. I really love it and the fact that it sheds light on what you are doing and why. Personally, I “think” I would have liked to try homeschooling, but it never worked out to be a possibility. I’ve met people who homeschool and, like teachers, parents, etc., there are some that do it with passion and enthusiasm and some who don’t. I greatly admire those who do it with passion and enthusiasm and even though you might need an extra tall coffee every now and then (or a supersize Margarita), it’s obvious you are one of those and that you are doing it successfully. I am proud. 🙂

  7. Tiffany Hodel
    October 22, 2013

    Jessica, this is great!!! I’ve considered home schooling, I’ve always thought I’m not a teacher. This is an awesome article!! I want to learn more.

    • Jessica Eastman
      October 22, 2013

      Hi Tiffany, let me know if you would ever like to discuss homeschooling! I am open to answering any and all questions.

  8. Everyday Power
    October 23, 2013

    instead of ‘you write well, great post’

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