I jumped into homeschooling with no guidelines, no experience and very little confidence. I held onto three beliefs.
1. I never, ever underestimated Josh. I knew he was smart and motivated and ambitious. Seldom have I been around a child so eager to learn and so willing to work. The problem for teachers and people who weren’t around him on a daily basis was the fact that he was non-verbal and lacking fine motor skills. Josh had a brain trapped in an unwilling body.
2. I knew that keeping him home would strengthen him physically. I could take the time needed to feed him and if he needed to eat more often I could work that into the schedule too. His poor sleeping habits meant he needed longer hours in bed. When I would settle him into his bed to sleep it took him a long time to relax and unwind which meant he needed to sleep in later than he could if going to public school.
3. Even though I lacked the training to be a teacher I am inventive and creative and stubborn. I’m not hampered by thinking there is only one way to do something correctly. I don’t care how we did things as long as we got them done. And I communicated with and understood Josh like nobody else. I pushed him harder than anybody else would have.
It frustrated me to be given no guidelines. I’m appalled (and hope the situation has changed) that I wasn’t given a list of required learning.
I’m sure the people I dealt with wondered what I expected. My child was severely disabled. They didn’t believe me when I explained his brain was normal. All they saw was a young boy in a wheelchair who couldn’t speak or walk or use his hands in a functional manner. They didn’t look at the bright, sparkling eyes full of humor, wisdom, and ambition.
I stopped in at an educational bookstore trying to find items that would help me teach Josh. I bought a big globe for geography. Scissors that didn’t need fine motor skills to use. I found lots of workbooks in any subject I could think of. Then I struck gold.
I found out there are books titled What Every First Grader Should Know, What Every Second Grader Should Know etc. Since I didn’t know where Josh was academically even though he had been rushed through three years of grade school and two years of Jr. High I started with the first book in the series.
I found out Josh loves Geography. He understands maps and travel and distance. It makes sense to him. On the other hand, I’m not sure if he gets History. He doesn’t seem to grasp the idea of events that happened before he was born. It may simply be that I’m a poor teacher but I never did get a sense that he understood the concept of history.
He liked Math. I’m the one who hated teaching numbers. As time went on I grew increasingly insecure. I have learned to respect teachers because I don’t know how they do it. For a teacher to walk into a classroom with not one student but twenty or more and teach them every day is absolutely mind boggling to me.
I couldn’t seem to get all the subjects taught. I felt like I was juggling and not doing it very well. I was always dropping something. I never did figure out how to structure his day so we got it all done. I didn’t know how to document our progress. I gave him tests and I kept all his papers but I know I didn’t do a very good job.
What I did accomplish was important. He regained his health. He gained weight. He was happier not having to travel almost one hundred miles a day. I made sure he got out of the house for socializing. He joined a teen group that met once a month and he started going to Leketek which turned out to be one of his favorite things to do. I’ll talk about Leketek at a later date. It deserves its own blog.
Josh was flourishing, physically and mentally, but I was floundering. My personal life was gone. Once again I had to give up the idea of college. My goals in life didn’t require a college degree but I wanted one. I had to give up that dream and it hurt.
But I remembered my list of goals. Held onto that list like it was a lifeline and I began to learn how to balance Josh’s needs and my own. In my search for independence, mine this time, I discovered something that literally changed Josh’s life.