Sunday, March 20, 2011

Homeschooling and the Autism Spectrum

Growing up, the hardest part of the Erudite Aspie's life was school. Not academically, she always did fine there, but as she's mentioned, the social aspect of it was torture for her--and, as her Mum, for me as well.

For the first three years of her education, I homeschooled her. I loved it, and she thrived, but she and her sister decided that they wanted to go to public school. I let them, but knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn't. It's not that the school was bad, it wasn't. They had terrific teachers who were dedicated and caring and all that you want a teacher to be, but Erudite Aspie's fellow students, not so much. No matter how much she wanted to fit in, she didn't, couldn't.

Homeschooling wasn't as easy then as it is now with the internet, but it was doable, and it sure would have saved her a lot of heartache. I realize that you can't totally erase heartache from your kids' lives, but don't do it on purpose, right?

With all this in mind I was very interested in this recent post on Ree Drummond's outstanding site The Pioneer Woman. PW isn't solely about homeschooling or about Autism, but she is homeschooling her four children and has several guest posters who are also teaching their kids at home, always worth reading. Last month one of her guests asked a question for a correspondent, Mary: Should we take our high-functioning autistic son out of public school and homeschool him? The debate was spirited and hugely supportive, and today she posts Mary's decision: yes, we should.

I think so, too, Mary, and God bless you for doing so. I truly believe that your son, like my daughter, will thrive at home, and can learn the social skills he'll need for adulthood in a more supportive environment than a public school (or any school, for that matter). For kids on the Spectrum, being forced into social situations is not the way to learn those necessary skills, in fact, if anything it's more likely to turn them away from social situations entirely. Autistic kids need to learn those skills by rote because they don't get them instinctively, and forcing them to deal without that training is not only ineffective, but counterproductive--and hurtful.

As a public school teacher--high school science--I heartily support home schooling, whether your kid is on the Spectrum or not. I hope my future grandchildren are homeschooled, and if their parents can't do it, I'd be happy to take a few hours out of my retirement days for some quality time with my kids' kids. No better contribution to their futures, sez I.

Hindsight is always 20-20, and while I do wish I had known then what I know now, I'm grateful that my daughter turned out pretty well despite our ignorance. Do I wish I could have saved her all that frustration? Sure, but as we often say to each other, Now we know. Everyone has painful times growing up, most of us come through adolescence unscathed nevertheless. But for those of you who are still in the position to make that schooling choice, especially if your child is on the Spectrum, I recommend you give it due consideration. I doubt you'll regret it.


  1. The thought of having my mother home-school my children has never occurred to me before but I like it... there is nothing they could learn in a school that they couldn't learn from her-and learn it better. They wouldn't just get instruction they'd get so much more, they'd learn to think and to problem solve so much more than any math word problem.

    They'd also be in an environment where I would know what they are being taught about politics and religion and morality. I was never home-schooled and I feel it's important that children get that required socialization required but that is also easily done with team sports. Which I also did as a child.

    Home schooling requires a lot of dedication to the parent who stays home to educate and raise their children and with the proper outside socialization, I am all for it.

  2. It's always easier to just give your kid's education over to the school and wash your hands of it--that way you don't have the blame if they don't do well, I guess. But as dedicated as I am as a teacher--and as most teachers I know are--I still have 35+ students in one class. Your home-schooled child has all your attention.

  3. Homeschooling is also a a much more viable option than it used to be thanks to the vast resources online...

  4. That's the truth, and there's the program that uses the district's ADA to pay for all the materials. That would have been so wonderful for you!

  5. Glad to see a public school teacher supportive of homeschooling. I homeschooled my 4 sons, and I found that most public school teachers (and librarians!) were not supportive of my efforts. I say, though, that the "proof is in the pudding." My four homeschooled sons are successful and creative young men. I only hope that they realized enough value from our homeschooling to seriously consider that option for their own children, someday.