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Oct 14 2013

Nine things I love about homeschooling my 2e son…and four things I despise

GHF blog hop homeschooling a 2e kidI’ve had a love-hate relationship with homeschooling since the moment we pulled A from school. Hell, even before we pulled him. It’s a mental tug-o-war, a high-speed cha-cha, played out daily in my head. I love you I hate you get out never leave. At least the I love you never leave list seems to be winning.

  1. No more homework battles. This alone makes homeschooling worthwhile for our twice-exceptional son. After a full day holding his shit together in the classroom he just didn’t have anything left for homework. The speed at which traditional school moves (new class with a new teacher and new expectations every 40 minutes), plus the sensory overload (23-30 kids packed into a classroom with buzzing lights), plus always feeling like he wasn’t good enough (couldn’t write fast enough, needed more time to think deeply and make connections, the class repeating repeating repeating lessons he’d already learned)…was it any wonder he’d come home completely spent? Homework that should have taken no more than 30 minutes was taking nearly four hours, simply because he had nothing left to give. Wasn’t worth it, to him or to me.
  2. I’m no longer fighting the school’s battles for them. See above about homework. But I also got really tired of telling A, “Sweetie, put that away. You don’t have time to learn about that because you have homework sitting here.” That was anything from programming to exoplanets. Now I just weave interests into the curriculum. It doesn’t have to be a long-term study, either. A couple weeks ago he had the opportunity to visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nuclear Science program through Boy Scouts. There was pre-event homework. He whipped through that (98% dudes–impressed the grad students) and dove a little deeper into the life of Marie Curie. We got behind a few days in geography, but in a school setting that would have chucked the whole house of cards into the bin.
  3. It’s the ultimate in block scheduling. A works best having large chunks of time in which to work. He sat and read the entire semester’s worth of mythology in a couple days. O-kay then. I’ll assign a couple units of math, he’ll do a full chapter. He needs more time to think and dive deep. I need to remember this.
  4. My son has true peers for the first time. Granted, he only sees them once a week during co-op (and this breaks my heart more than he realizes), but with Skype and Google Hangouts and online games he’s able to talk with them. He’s building relationships, and as I sometimes think he flirts with Aspergers, that is so good to see. And these are good, good kids.
  5. Anything and everything is a lesson. We listen to science and tech podcasts in the car. More often than not a topic leads to deeper investigation.
  6. Pacing is all his. I try, oh how I try, to schedule out the year/month/week/day. As time goes on it’s less and less a plan and more and more a suggestion. My Type A no likey. So I do the planning but he picks the pace. Last year he did a semester of computer science mathematics and still managed to complete 6th grade math in four months. This year? Math is moving more slowly, but he’s whipping through mythology, logic, and genetics.
  7. Pants optional. I’ll raise a fuss if we’re going somewhere, or if I think pj bottoms are making his brain lazy and sluggish, but we have no dress code.
  8. I have the time and space to scaffold the crappy exceptionality the executive function skills that need help. They are very very slowly getting marginally better. Dear god I wish they’d get better faster; I’m sick to death of constantly building scaffolding.
  9. Our relationship is so much better now. He is more affectionate, I’m no longer bitter about the education system much. Now that we’re working together instead of as adversaries, we like each other more. Given how much we butt heads on a daily basis, this is a good thing.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. There’s still plenty I just flat-out despise about homeschooling.

  1. I rarely get a break. Even when we’re done for our school day, J comes home with homework and I’m off to the races again. On top of that, I’m teaching two afternoons a week and on top of that, I’m starting to see an educational repeat with J and homework/unfinished schoolwork coming home. It’s some unpleasant deja vu. Tom does a lot with the boys, but when they have a question or something to share, they come to me, even if I’m up to my ears in something and Tom is just standing there picking his nose.
  2. Constant @#$^&#$$%^* vigilance. I have to be ON all the time. I have to be at 100% every minute of the day in every area of my life or it all goes south. I have to be on top of A all day or he’s more likely than not to stare into space while picking his cuticles. I have to be on top of emails or they pile up in a threatening and overwhelming manner. I have to be on top of groceries or suddenly there is not a thing in the house to eat. And I have to stay on top of the housecleaning or the hairballs starting jousting with the spiders and the cheering from both sides is distracting.
  3. The soul sucking anxiety that I am screwing this up. Because I have to pick my battles, and even pick the battles of the battles I’m going to pick (it’s a multi-step vetting process of gathering up all possible battles, intense triage, weighing of soul vs battle vs time vs Return of Battle Investment vs preferred/actual outcome), I’m convinced worried that important parts of his education are slipping through the cracks because I’m not up to the battle. Things like how to craft an essay, or how to manage a project from conception to completion, or how to properly research a topic. Jesus,  for a kid known as The Tech Whisperer, just getting him to 1) read his emails, 2) delete the unnecessary crap, and 3) answer those requiring a coherent reply is like pulling teeth from a pissed off duck. Yes, I’m fully aware ducks don’t have teeth, it’s just that both are an exercise in futility with the great possibility of personal injury. Teaching him to craft a persuasive essay scares the crap out of me…then keeps me awake at night, stewing in tasty tasty stress hormones, because I don’t have the brass ovaries to force the issue.
  4. I have given up all hope of having a career. Jobs I’ll have, but a career with a steady income and benefits and a 401k is less a possibility with every passing year. In a society with almost no safety net, this terrifies the crap out of me.

Two years ago it all went downhill for A and school. Fall 2011 was three of the darkest months of my life, and I pray we never have days like those again. If you had told me then that I’d be (more or less) happily homeschooling The Most Complex Child on the Planet ™ I’m not sure I would have believed you. But I’m here now, and I don’t regret homeschooling him a bit.

Just don’t ask me about his brother. I’m not ready…yet.

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Want to know more about homeschooling a twice-exceptional kid? Follow October’s GHF blog hop and read bloggers’ thoughts on the topic from around the world.

GHF Blog Hop October

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  1. Attorney At Large

    This. Oh, this. I think about these things every. damned. day. It is so nice to know I’m not alone.

    I pulled my daughter out of woo-woo-Waldorf kindergarten (what was I thinking?!) in March of this year and taught her at home. I said I’d never, ever homeschool. Ever. I feel like my grip on sanity is tenuous as it is, but–

    Holy crap. The kid soaked up information like a sponge. It was absolutely amazing…

    …until school started (at a charter that claims to value arts, civics, and science). I’ve come to realize that her elementary school is six hours of PE and socialization. She’s not allowed to work ahead in math (never mind that it’s Singapore), she’s not given individualized attention for reading, and the teacher has very little classroom control.

    So while I get those six hours to write (minus volunteering at school and time in the car, because I have to drive in traffic both ways), at the end of the day I have a kid who is so completely depleted from dealing with the noise and chaos and ambiguous expectations of school that I have to wait for her to pull it together…just so I can teach her higher math and work on her with reading and make her practice piano, and somehow we have to eat and bathe and get ready for bed.

    My husband has today off, so he went with me to drop her off and saw the panic in her “what am I supposed to do?” (as the teacher changed the routine and seating chart AGAIN over the weekend, because that’s exactly what first/second graders need, right? Change? ARG!). He’s on board with me homeschooling her, but socially she’s fine, she’s physically active much more than she’d be even if I had her in gymnastics…and do I really want to admit I’ll never have a “real” career for eleven more years? I’ll be 51.

    So I do this exact cost/benefit analysis every day in the car after I drop her off. On the good days, I don’t cry. On the bad days, I wear sunglasses.

    It is nice to know I’m not alone. To someone who likes clear answers, it’s terrifying.

    1. Jen

      Right there with ya. I couldn’t pull him until the moment I did. That said, I really think a lot of problems would have been completely avoided if I’d pulled him years before; he’d certainly been asking for homeschooling. I have 9-10 more years of hands-on day to day with the boys (which freaks me out when I think I’ve been writing this blog for almost 8 and holy crap where has the time gone), and boy, wish I knew I’d have something resembling a career then.
      But I’ll tell ya…my marathon sobbing sessions are a lot fewer now than when A was in school. I still have them, they’re just fewer/shorter/less violent.

  2. Robin R

    I’m 3 weeks into homeschooling my 9-year-old. I’m so happy to be out of homework battle zones, but I’m also completely petrified that that I’m going to not teach him well enough and this super-smart boy is going to grow up to be a fast food employee. And it will be all. my. fault.

    1. Jen

      Oh yeah, I feel the same way too many days. 🙁 And then I have to remember that there’s no guarantee that staying in school would have been any better for him, and could have done more harm. Truly a crapshoot.

  3. BeckyG

    My I-have-to-make-a-choice-about-school clock is ticking down. I am mostly leaning towards homeschooling, but “flirts with Aspergers” is an apt description of my son too and I worry about friendships if he’s home with me. We’re going to be in a remote place, so I don’t even want to think about finding real life peers. Thanks for sharing the good and the bad.

    1. Jen

      Good luck, Becky. It’s a challenging decision, that’s for sure.

  4. Pamela Price (@redwhiteandgrew)

    Don’t tell the others, but I’ve been known to lock myself in the bathroom with Pinterest just to escape on “those days.” No comments, however, on whether or not I wear pants.

    1. Jen

      Yup. Me too. But I usually wear pants, no promises on a bra. 😉

  5. Inga M. Cotton

    Nodding. Burned out after day at school. No time to pursue special interests. Check. Check.

    Very relevant post for us; bookmarking to read again later. We have been homeschooling for about a month so far, and still have some learning to do.

    1. Jen

      We’ve been homeschooling for 20 months now, and still learn something new everyday. And I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion that it’s not going to get a whole lot easier; don’t know if that’s comforting or not. LOL

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