Saturday, January 4, 2014


I always wanted to be a teacher.  I can remember summers filled with my playing school with my sisters, complete with an entire roll filled with pretend students. I made up assignments, gave lectures, took attendance, had recess duty--I had a very vivid imagination.

The intended career path I chose to follow, therefore, was an obvious no-brainer. Learning the theories & methods of education only made me more excited to become a teacher. And when I did, I was able to shape my own head knowledge into experience.

I believed in the public education system, even with its flaws. If something needs fixing, you fix it. Complaining about it is a waste of time. And homeschool...well, homeschool was for the far-out thinkers who thought they knew better than trained professionals.

Recently, we made the choice to begin homeschooling Kiddo. It was one that came with much thought, prayer, & deliberation. As a former educator, I have to say that had someone told me when I became a parent that I would even consider homeschool as an option for my child, I would have laughed. Laughed hard. Laughed right out loud.

Becoming a parent changes one's views of the world in many regards. And for a long while, I was still a major public school advocate concerning my own child. But bit by bit, I began to have a more open mind about the differences in parenting.  It may not be MY choice, but homeschool was a good choice for you, if that's what you decided to do. (And there precious few things--if any--that I could say are "best" for someone else's child. Having my own child taught me that. Only I can say what is best for her--well, me and her father and God.)

In the beginning, we chose public school. Hayden's disability gave her access to programs that were invaluable to her pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade years. Moving to a state so fashion-forward, if you will, in regards to autism support, definitely helped.  And all the while my views of public education began to shift and became very personalized. Theories became far less important. My daughter's success in learning and love of learning is what is paramount. Training up this child is a responsibility yielded to myself and her father by our Creator.

And public ed, has, in many regards, entrenched itself into a one-size-fits-all approach. Further, it has, unwittingly, pigeon-holed learning into something that is to be done within the confines of a particular building, five days a week. And while our experiences with public school have been largely positive--Hayden has a firm foundation on which we plan to build--making the choice to learn outside of the "system" is just our obvious next step.

Social skills are the first concern on most everyone's lips when we tell them of our plans. And I'll be the first to admit that as a public educator, I touted the importance of social skills learned while at school. But it is Hayden's challenges with social skills that make up a part of our choice. We are told that we learn social skills best by watching others, interacting with them and adapting accordingly, based on a growing ability to read and understand social cues. But for a child with autism, this kind of learning process is unrealistic and unfair.

Rather, an approach that involves small groups with pre-formed relationships will serve Hayden much better. Having a social skills "coach" that guides her during conversations and playtime opportunities will provide the learning and adaptation that she would not necessarily pick up on otherwise. Prompting her to respond during conversation, interceding during game play when she complains and struggles with losing, reminding her how to stay present while playing with friends, prompting her when her conversation choices or approaches are inappropriate--these are things that I can provide to her and that she needs assistance in learning. It is not appropriate to assume that she will "just get it."  Working with small groups of friends she already has will also provide a safe zone, of sorts, because those children are much more likely to show understanding, patience, and compassion...that and their parents will be right there to train them on how to interact with a person with a disability in loving and largely "normal" ways.

As wonderful as her teachers have all been--and they've been wonderful--this kind of intentional and constant training is not possible in the public education sphere.  Children learn much on the playground. And while adults are present to oversee children, keeping them from harm, they cannot be privy to each conversation, each comment, each interaction. Nor can they take on the task of such specific and constant training in each and every social circle.

Finally, let me reiterate that this is OUR choice. I cannot stand in judgment of others regarding their choice on how to educate their children. We parents are all just trying to figure out the best way to raise our children. We know our kids best and know what works the best for each one. The thoughts and perspectives I have on the public ed system are not meant to be guidelines by which I expect you to live your life. And while I take issue with the current state of our public education system, I am aware that many I know and love still utilize this system and have found success in it. That is a good thing. And I won't knock it.

Supporting one another doesn't have to mean that we would choose to do the same. I am exhorted to, with all humility, and gentleness, with patience, bear with others in love. I am to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  If I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, then I am in error and without love to bludgeon you with my opinions and choices in an effort to force you to change.

This is an exciting time of change for our family. We appreciate the support many of you have shown. And we appreciate the restraint of those of you who disagree but choose to bear with us in love instead.

And so, let the madness continue...