The last year my son was in high school, he was bullied mercilessly, which caused significant behavior issues with him. Autism is cruel enough--being bullied because of the autism is unacceptable.
After many tries to remedy the situation through IEP, teacher, and administration meetings, I finally pulled the "homebound" student card and taught Sam at home with academic resources from the school. He still graduated--and walked--with his class, but we were thrust into the world of homeschooling quite by accident.
My other son, Jacob, was still a student at the school, a year behind Sam. It was odd, at first, Jacob getting up and rushing out the door to meet the bus in the morning, leaving Sam at home with me. But, like many parents of children with autism and other special needs, I found out quickly what worked and what didn't. The thing about it was this: I was homeschooling one child while the other went to public school.
In that particular season, it was what we needed to do to meet the needs of both boys. It would not have been fair to Jacob, who was active in band, to pull him from public school because his brother had significant issues. Public school met Jacob's needs; it did not meet Sam's.
Throwing out the IEP
The IEP--Individualized Education Plan--was made to provide specialized public education to my son, who has learning disabilities. At home, though, he was getting one-on-one, highly individualized education. I found that a lot of his IEP was based in the behavioral issues and problems he would have with teachers and peers; about 60% of it was dedicated to academics.
I found that Sam was really, incredibly, mind-numbingly bored with "menu math" -- addition, subtraction, and a wee bit of multiplication based around restaurant menus, food prices, and grocery store circulars. He wanted something different. He wanted codes to break and exploration, so I introduced him to algebra. No more "Mary orders a pancake for $1.49 and an orange juice for 59 cents. How much change would she get if she paid with a $5?" -- no, he not only relished 2x=6 but he was thrilled by the adventure of what that x meant.
The truth is, every child can benefit from individualized education. If you are homeschooling one child and not the others, I would encourage you to do one of two things: be as proactive with your publically-schooled children, in their schools, with homework, with extra-curricular activities, as you are with your homeschooler, or homeschool all your kids. Public school now is not like public school 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. There's less education and more indoctrination. Just be aware, parents.
Homeschool and Homework
The biggest issues occurred we had when homeschooling one and not the others were when Jacob disembarked the bus at 3:45. Sam can be quite chatty when he's excited and nothing would get him more excited than his brother arriving home. Jacob had homework to do and his tenor sax to practice. Sam was technically finished with school long before Jacob (more on that in a second), so there was the problem of getting Sam to be quiet while Jacob worked on his homework.
I learned to keep reading or another subject back, and required Sam to read or do math facts --something! -- while Jacob was busy doing his homework. It brought in a semblance of normalcy to the new routine. The beauty of homeschool is it's not 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. It can be any time, so it can be when other kids are studying, too, to minimize distruptions.
Keeping to a tight schedule was fundamentally the most important thing with homeschooling Sam. Autism doesn't take kindly to a hither-and-yon schedule. I would have the same subjects in order, the same way, every single day. Spelling, math, a break. History, lunch. Science, a long break. Jacob would come home, and Sam would do his reading. I found that Sam got more done, retained more information, and was done before the afternoon bus pulled up, on most days. He was happier and was learning--without being bullied.
Some days, we had to pick Jacob up from school, and on those days, Sam went in with me, saw familiar people, talked with the assistant principal. He still participated in graduation preparations. We balanced his educational needs with Jacob's, and his desire to do neuro-typical things like graduation. We made it work.
Parents, you need to do what works for your family, and ultimately, it's your call whether or not to homeschool, to have your kids in public school, or private. The most important thing is to be present, and active, in your child's education.
(c) 2019 Terrie Bentley McKee All Rights Reserved
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Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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