Wow! Re-reading that old intro, which I am leaving up as part of our backstory, I am astounded by how much has changed and how far we have come. It has been nine years now. That journey that I thought was ‘homeschooling’ took us down a different path – self-directed learning. If I had known where we would end up back then, I’m not sure that old me would have had the confidence to break so totally with convention. But I am so glad that we did.
So, what’s happened?
@PanKwake was ‘diagnosed’ as an autistic person. She outgrew those seizures. I meet Prince Charming and he swooped us away from that tiny, dingy London flat on the Great Western Railway. He brought us to beautiful, sunny Swansea, Wales and bought us our @HomeCrazzyHome castle.
With his loving support, both @PanKwake and I settled into a new life. We discovered a local home education community. We went to events, we had parties with them. But we knew we were different. It was not just the autism. Shockingly, almost half our group had one or more little humans on the autistic spectrum. No, what set us apart was our ‘laid back’ style. Little of what we did resembled what most people think of as ‘education.’ Nonetheless, learning was happening. And that was what was important.
Then I discovered Dr. Peter Gray, though I don’t remember how. Suddenly, I had a name for what we did. And equally as important to me, a justification of our unusual learning style. I relaxed. And @PanKwake thrived.
Things changed, too. @PanKwake became better at communicating her sensory challenges, and having discovered my own autism, I became less considered with doing what everyone else said was the ‘right’ thing. We began to go to fewer group activities, but that meant my role as parent/’teacher’ became more about ensuring @PanKwake had opportunities for positive socialization, usually in our @HomeCrazzyHome.
We no longer felt the ‘need’ to engage with doctors and ‘experts.’ Self-directed learning was not just for @PanKwake but for me as well. If I wanted or needed to understand @PanKwake’s challenges, then I found sources and tools and taught myself. For instance, @PanKwake is severely dyslexic. Once upon a time, I would have pushed for ‘experts’ to diagnose her, even though the emotional costs of their involvement was traumatic for both of us. Now, I took an online course on the subject. Though this course was intended for classroom teachers, to help them identify those students who were struggling and refer them for diagnosis and further assistance, it was just what I needed to understand her challenges.
There is so much more to talk about, but I suppose that will come in the weeks and months ahead. For now, I’ll leave you with five years of pictures that must be worth a million words.
But the most important ones that I have for you are…
Self-directed learning can be the key to unlocking your neurodivergent little human’s potential and creating a happier home for them and you…and ultimately a better, more productive and inclusive world for all.
Welcome to our blog about homeschooling. I am Terri and this is my daughter @PanKwake (not her real name, of course). We have just begun our homeschool journey (Oct 2011). My adult children were homeschooled for five years because my ex-husband and I held strong religious convictions at that time. I might have abandoned the religion, but I continued to believe strongly in the value of homeschooling. It just was not in the immediate plans.
But @PanKwake suffers from epilepsy since the age of two. While she did very well in her nursery school, she really struggled last year in Reception at primary school. By the end of the day, she was so exhausted that when I picked her up she often had a temper tantrum (none of us act very nice when we are tired). After the time change in the spring, this got even worse. The school would call us to come pick her up because she was falling asleep in class.
Equally as difficult to manage is the fact that one characteristic of children with epilepsy is that they are hyper-excitable. @PanKwake is a wonderful child, but it is like trying to tame the wind. Last year, we had an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and were referred to a community group that helps family in crisis. I kept trying to get the school to understand that five year olds have little impulse control to begin with, but because of her epilepsy @PanKwake sometimes has none.
In August of this year, we had @PanKwake’s 3rd EEG (Electroencephalogram…fancy word for mapping the brainwaves). It caught an almost nine minute long focal (meaning it only affects one part of the brain) seizure. After two years of telling the doctors that she continued to have seizures in her sleep, they finally had evidence.
It all made sense then. @PanKwake could not perform her best in traditional school because she was too tired. Even if she was sleeping the recommended twelve hours for a child her age, the seizures meant that it was not quality sleep. So her little brain bounced between total and utter exhaustion and over-the-top hyperactive.
Over the summer, @PanKwake had been attending her old nursery while I worked. I noticed that she was better behaved and more manageable on the days that she took a nap. But even on the days, she just rested it was better than after a long day at school.
Unfortunately, schools are not set up to accommodate naps…or effectively communicate the value of the individual in situations where misbehavior is a result of something beyond the child’s control. So her father and I made the logical decision…bring her home and I would teach her.
The advantages were clear:
- She could take a nap every day.
- I could manage her behavior one-on-one better than a teacher could with twenty-plus other children.
- I could modify our schedule to take advantage of the ups and downs in her mood.
We are using this blog as a way to track our progress and to offer support to other families, who may be on this path or considering it for their special needs children. We invite you to join us on our journey…to learn everything there is to know.