Living an Interruptible Life

100_1681.JPGThe first time I ever thought about the idea of an interruptible life was when a woman I barely knew, a dentist from our Sunday school class in a new state, gave up her free evening to come to my house and rock my sick babies. My triplet daughters were just five months old, sick for the first time, and my husband was in the middle of major exams in pharmacy school. I had three infants crying and vomiting and staining their clothes with diarrhea, desperate to be comforted, but I couldn’t comfort them all, care for them all, and continue cleaning up the frequent messes alone. I’d already tried to do that for more than two days and I was exhausted. The acquaintance from church had once told me to feel free to call her if I ever needed anything, and my poor babies’ tears finally convinced me to do so. I threw out my pride and asked if she would please come over to just sit in the rocking chair and cuddle my sick little ones. She immediately said yes, and before long my miserable girls were all being held and comforted. Two soon fell asleep and were laid down, and she continued to rock the third baby (whose misery was compounded by colic) while I scrubbed carpet and threw a load of laundry in the washer and prepared bottles for the next round.

I sat on the step leading into our living room then and just breathed deeply as I watched her, this woman who was giving up precious free time with her own daughter so she could bless me. Suddenly Leviticus 23:22 came to mind: “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'” This kind woman, mostly a stranger to me, had chosen to leave the edges of her time available to give away freely, and I was gleaning great blessings because of it.

I have never forgotten that night. For several years, in pharmacy school out of state with three, then four babies to provide for, there was little left at the corners of our family’s “fields.” Little time, money, energy. And yet I longed to offer what I could, and what I had to offer was my home. A new acquaintance, married to an alcoholic and mother of four small children, could come to our house for a slight reprieve to drink tea while her children played with mine. A friend going through great personal hardships could come over to cuddle babies (sweet smelling babies are good for the soul, and we had plenty to go around). A stay-at-home mother who needed to go to a doctor’s appointment knew she could bring her children to my house to be cared for while she was gone. All of these were small bits of offerings, but they were all I had to give, so I gave them freely and cheerfully.

Our children grew and we began to homeschool, and I discovered, to my great delight, that this flexible lifestyle allows us to continue to live an interruptible life, open to the many opportunities God sends us to bless others. We can adjust our plans easily to allow us to focus on the people around us. When we aren’t tied down to a strict schedule, we are free to open our home to those who need a place to rest, free to pack up and visit those who are sick or struggling, free to be available mentally, emotionally, and physically when God clearly sets people in front of us who need Him.

Educating our children at home may offer us the gift of freedom, but it’s all too easy to enslave ourselves to other pursuits, losing those precious “edges” so that once again we’re left with nothing to give. Sports, music, dance, theater, co-ops and tutorials- there are so many good things that we can be tempted to pursue, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves reaping all the way to the very “corners of our fields,” viewing anyone who intrudes upon those pursuits as an interruption to our lives. I find myself evaluating and prioritizing the extras in my family’s life often, trying to make sure that they are not robbing us of being able to give to others.

No doubt you’ve heard it said that “Children are not an interruption to our work; they are our most important work.” I’m thrilled to also teach my children that people in need are not an interruption to our lives; they are the reason that God blesses us with His spiritual gifts.

Our days include reading and writing and math and art and music and field trips and loads of other fun things, but I hope that none of it ever overshadows the pouring out of love onto the people God brings to us who so desperately need Him. Our life is His, and so whoever He chooses to bring into it could never truly be an interruption. Some days can be hard, but I’m grateful that homeschooling allows us this great freedom to love others with not only the edges, but the entirety of our days.

– Katie

Sweet Summer Days – All Year Long

IMG_1765My family moved at the beginning of the summer. We didn’t go far, but we traded a tiny house on a postage stamp lot for a larger one on an acre and a half outside of the city. We love it here. But the house and land had been sadly neglected for quite some time, so my husband and I spent a large part of the summer sweating in the sunshine, cutting down and burning what was dead and overgrown to allow the beauty to shine through. And right there beside us every step of the way were our four little children, hauling branches to the burn pile, pulling weeds, raking leaves, and more. We worked hard together, all of us fully invested in uncovering the loveliness of nature that surrounds us. Through it all, my children were learning a myriad of fascinating facts like how to identify a bob white by its call, how to tell the difference between poisonous vines and harmless Virginia creeper, how to tend a fire outside, and how to tell which way a creek flows even when its bed is dry as a bone.

One day near the end of July, I paused in my efforts to wipe my brow and watch my husband and little ones for a moment. I couldn’t help seeing the similarities between our summer break and the summer breaks of long ago, when children worked hard with their farmer parents to keep the family’s livelihood afloat. Laboring side by side with us, our daughters and son were also learning to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and the perseverance needed to see a tough task through to its end. I was proud of their eagerness to help and hoped it would continue.

Homeschooling allows this side-by-side learning to continue unhindered once school days begin again. Families aren’t suddenly separated from one another, with parents and children each going their own way only to meet back up when they’re all mentally tired and worn out from a long day. They can continue working together, focusing on academics as well as the life skills that are so important for children to learn from their youth. They’re in the thick of daily life with their parents, working right there next to them and learning about hard work, perseverance, and respect from their most valuable teachers: Mom and Dad. In our family, Dad goes to work each day, but we can call him on occasion if we need to, send him pictures of what we’re doing, and even meet him for lunch sometimes. We aren’t cut off from him, and certainly the children aren’t cut off from me or from each other!

Recently, I was part of a conversation with several other homeschooling mamas discussing how to determine our priorities for our children’s educations. What do we want to emphasize during different stages of our families’ lives and how does that affect the way we teach them? Do we feel defeated when things like nursing the baby or reading picture books to the toddler “get in the way” of our academic goals, or do we appreciate the blessing in being able to teach our children how to prefer others above themselves, how to choose to be unselfish and thoughtful and helpful? Homeschooling allows us the wonderful freedom to pursue both academics and family life. We don’t have to put our family on hold in order to enjoy learning.

There is beauty and great value in family togetherness that is more than worth the effort and sacrifices necessary to make it happen. That’s just one of the reasons why we homeschool, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

– Katie

Year Round Homeschooling

“Schoooooool’s out for summer!” …. Well kind of, but not really. For my family, we are what you consider year-round schoolers. I’ve had a lot of people ask about what our summer schedule is like, so I want to take a minute to share. First, I want to talk a little bit about why we do “summer school.” My oldest is a creature of habit. This could possibly be explained by his ASD diagnosis, but here lately I just like to think that’s how he’s wired in general and forget the little details. When we first started school it was like pulling teeth getting him to cooperate and do “table time.” With some compromise on both of our parts, we finally hit our stride in about October. Then December hit. We made it through our first semester!! I turned in our grades to our umbrella school and happily closed our books. We enjoyed a few blissful weeks of free play and play dates. The 2nd week of January it was time to get back to work and it was like starting at square one! I decided from then on, we would school year-round. Now that isn’t to say I don’t make summers special. We celebrated the “end of 1st grade” with our co-op group, and my son knows it’s summer and our schedule is different, but we still have “school time” and here’s what it looks like…

Summer 2018 Plans

-The 3 “R’s”
All summer we will start our day with morning work, which consists of Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic. For reading we continue our All About Reading (currently on level 2), writing is our PALS (Primary Arts of Language) curriculum, and math is Rightstart (hoping to finish level A before the end of the summer, PRAISE THE LORD!! ) I like to continue these because my son is technically behind his peers in some of these subjects, so the extra practice helps us catch up some. Also, these aren’t his favorite, so continuing them through the summer helps us not have that starting and stopping drama.

-Sports
We spend a LOT of time in the summer outside, and as a result we are practicing a lot of sports/physical education. We are wrapping up coach pitch baseball season, right in the middle of basketball clinic, and about to test for our green belt in Taekwondo. That doesn’t even include all the swimming! Lightening up on our science and social studies during the summer gives us the time to focus on these super important skills.

-Enrichment
One thing I wanted to work on most this summer was my son/s diet. He is the pickiest of picky eaters, and quite dramatic on top of that, so meal times can be quite the experience. So this summer we are cooking through a kid’s cookbook! We are using the Usborne Start to Cook. He makes a shopping list each week, reads the recipes, and makes them 100% on his own. Through cooking we are tackling several subjects in addition to getting him a little more comfortable around food!

On top of all this, he also has 20 minutes of independent reading time, piano practice, and a list of daily chores  that have to take place before he can have any screen time.

With all that being said, we still have lots of down time built in. What is usually 4 hours of structured learning in the school year is cut down to probably 1.5 hours in the summer, depending on how long our recipe takes.  It/s amazing how something as simple as opening books for an hour a day throughout the summer helps with our transitions. Now when my son is older and can understand better the concept of school breaks we might build in some more breaks, but for now we will keep on going!

Happy Summer, Everyone!!!

– Valerie

Finding My Tribe – Perspectives of a First Generation Homeschooler

15941230_10103909128861605_3809756327423390882_nI was traditionally educated my whole life. I went through public school, to college, and on to law school with success. Homeschooling was not something I was even aware of until 5th grade, when the local homeschooled kids came in to do state testing with us. Homeschooling was not originally a consideration for my family for many reasons.

When my boys came along, I initially didn’t even think about school, but with my oldest having special needs, my focus was quickly shifted that direction. By age two, I was in discussions with our local school system about what I planned to do with him and his education, because in our state, kids with special needs are allowed to enter the school system at age three to get the extra help and services they might need.

Homeschooling had crossed my mind, but wasn’t something I had fully taken hold of, and in fact, I didn’t fully accept that I was going to homeschool my kids until just months before I actually started to do so. Homeschooling scared me. I knew nothing to very little about it. I wasn’t sure I could do enough or be enough for my kids. I struggled so much with self-doubt that I talked myself out of homeschooling at least a dozen times. I thought of a million reasons why I shouldn’t homeschool.

Then came a voice of reason, a God-send, if you will. I met a lady at my church whose kids befriended mine, and low and behold, she homeschooled. She herself was also homeschooled. I looked up to her as a homeschool guru (and she is!) and took the opportunity of our newfound friendship to inundate her with my questions. For probably a year I would throw my questions at her, my self-doubts, and my lack of experience, and for a year, she had an answer for every question I asked.

When I finally bit the bullet so to speak and made the decision to homeschool, there was an instant feeling of relief… and panic. All my self-doubt was still there, yet maybe quieter. Just making the decision itself was a huge step, but figuring out what my next move would be was just as intimidating.

Enter Honeybee Christian Co-op. My homeschool guru friend had invited to me check out her co-op, and by all the bragging she did, I figured I had to at least take a look. The fact that it was special needs inclusive made me a bit giddy, to be honest.

I came to some initial interest meetings, met some of the moms, and realized that I had stumbled upon something special.  Really though, I think it was less stumbling and more a directed path. Our school year began and within weeks I began to see my children growing socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. I could also see myself growing. That voice of self-doubt began to shrink more and more. On days that I was down or stressed, I would reach out to other co-op mamas and they threw encouragement and support at me like confetti.

Within the first few months, I knew I had found my tribe. The kids were all so sweet and kind to my special needs oldest son. Early in the school year, I witnessed them trying to figure out who was going to help him to class one day. They all wanted to help! The moms were all amazing teachers, as well. My boys were getting amazing, quality lessons on top of time to socialize and make friends. Not only were the moms all amazing teachers, they are all amazing friends. I can’t even remember how many times in the last year that they have reminded me that I am enough for my kids. Our monthly “Mom’s Night Out” is always something I look forward to because, while the guacamole is great, the people I share it with are even better! Finding our tribe really was the best possible thing that happened to our family this school year.

We recently wrapped up our very first year of homeschooling and I must say, it was a huge success. Even more so than I expected. Homeschooling a child with significant disabilities and challenges seemed daunting, but knowing that I had the moms at Honeybee Christian Co-op standing behind me was the key that unlocked our door to success.  We could not have done it without the support and love that was showered on us through our co-op. Feeling encouraged, supported, and uplifted gave us momentum on the good days. Having someone to fall back on made the hard days bearable.

Coming from a public school experience and bringing my kids into a homeschool experience has been a huge shift for me. It has pushed me past my comfort zone in all the best ways. So, to any moms out there who are ready to begin homeschooling, my biggest piece of advice for you is this: Find your tribe. It will make all the difference!

– Lacey

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To the Reluctant Second Generation Homeschooler

“Respond, don’t react.”

“Respond, Katie, don’t react.”

If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times. It seems like my mother spent half of my childhood reminding me to be mindful of my choices instead of reacting unwisely and impulsively. Now that I’m a mother myself I often find the same caution on my own lips. More than that, I hear Mom’s voice in my head. And I’ve discovered that the same advice applies to homeschooling too.

It’s like any other aspect of parenting; so much of what we choose to do is based at least in part on our own experiences growing up. Again I hear Mom’s mantra, “Respond, don’t react.” Suppose a mother remembers feeling suffocated by her parents’ restrictions when she was a child. In reaction to that frustrating memory, she declares her child will never be told “no.” That’s not a well-considered response. It’s not searching out which boundaries are actually good for her child, but considering only how far away she can get from the overly zealous boundaries she experienced herself.

Unfortunately, I know a number of adults who were homeschooled at some point during their childhood, disliked the experience for various reasons, and have determined that because they didn’t appreciate some aspects of their own home education, they will not even consider homeschooling their children. None of these friends were abused or neglected in any way. Some of them didn’t like their curriculum; others detested the busywork that took up so much time. I’ve heard people complain about the homeschool groups they were a part of, and I’ve heard people say they always wished they had the opportunity to be part of a homeschool group. Some felt their studies were too rigorous; others wished their parents would have pushed them harder. I’m going to be honest here: not everyone’s homeschooling experience is rainbows and sunshine. But I also know that children don’t always see everything clearly, and that holding fast to mistaken childish opinions after reaching adulthood rarely leads us to good decisions. It’s just another way to react impulsively instead of responding appropriately.

“Respond, don’t react.” This well-worn saying goes for second generation homeschoolers too. Our education choices should never be simply a knee-jerk reaction to our own memories. But we can- and should!- carefully consider our background as we determine what is best for our families. Experience can be a wonderful teacher if you’re willing to learn from it responsibly instead of just tossing it aside. You’re the adult now with the freedom to make your own decisions concerning your children’s education. That video teaching program you hated so much it seems to darken every homeschooling memory you have? Guess what, you don’t have to use that with your children! The same goes with the schedule your mother liked but you didn’t, the poetry group you just couldn’t get interested in, the math curriculum that made math harder than it needed to be. Every single aspect of homeschooling can be altered to fit your family.

There’s a wealth of resources and groups that just weren’t around when we were kids. There’s also a wealth of experienced homeschoolers to learn from. Even if you want to forget everything you did as a homeschooler, you don’t have to start from scratch.  Truthfully, our kids’ experiences will be completely different from our own whether we try to make them the same or not. But remember that’s a good thing. You get to decide what works best for you as the parent as well as what works best for your kids.

 My husband and I are friends with a couple who did their best to avoid homeschooling for several years due only to the fact that the previously homeschooled father was holding on to some bitterness over his own experience as a child. Finally, though, the family was put in a position where their only feasible choice was homeschooling, and even then they began very reluctantly. But by the end of the first year they were hooked. That was a number of years ago now and they’re still homeschooling. And due in large part to their influence, some of their friends began homeschooling too. It turns out that home education is more customizable than our friends initially believed. I hope you realize that can be the case for your family too.

Maybe you didn’t love homeschooling when you were a kid. Maybe your bad memories have made you determined to never homeschool your own kids. But as you consider next year’s educational choices for your children, take a deep breath and relax. Put homeschooling back on the list of possibilities and make the choice to respond carefully and wisely to your experiences instead of reacting out of fear or frustration or bitterness. You’ll be better equipped to make a well-informed decision. And you’ll make my mom so proud.

– Katie

 

Homeschooling by the Homeschooled

     Thirty years ago, families who chose to homeschool in the U.S. were few and far between. Just as the homeschooling movement has grown, though, so have those children whose parents taught them at home before it was popular. They’re adults now, having families of their own, and many of them are making the choice to homeschool their children too. We have a few of these second generation homeschoolers in our co-op, and two of them have written a short series on how being homeschooled as children has affected the ways they homeschool their own kids now.


    My husband and I were watching a movie last week and the word detention was13450087_10153806979263823_5650168592609421699_n mentioned in reference to high school. I looked over at him and asked, “What exactly is detention? Is it just staying late after school or does it include extra jobs or homework?” He had no idea either… we just both knew it was some kind of punishment. We’re both in our 30’s and I have a double major from college, so there is really only one answer for our ignorance – we were both homeschooled.

     My husband and I were both homeschooled from birth through high school. In my case, my father was even homeschooled from third grade through high school. So my background is a little different from that of most of my generation. I joke that homeschooling is the reason why I know the voices (and songs) of Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, and the Statler Brothers – they are from my grandparent’s generation. My father grew up listening to them at home on records, I grew up with them on tapes, and my kids can hear them from YouTube. 😉 Here are some of the things I appreciate about homeschooling first hand (and try to pass on to my kids) because I was homeschooled myself.

Homeschooling Takes Away Some of the Peer Pressures

     To me, this music passed down through generations is a symbol of something I love about homeschooling. When you homeschool your children, they learn their values and culture and morals from you first, instead of predominantly from their peers. I never had to deal with sexting, constant peer pressure, or underage drinking as a teenager, and I don’t think I missed out on anything!  I can still hold conversations with my peers; in fact, I can hold conversations with people of any age.  As a 10 year old, I would argue with adults on why my homeschool education was still a good education – and they’d stop arguing pretty quickly. One of my best friends when I was ages 6-14 was a man in his older 80’s who I would sit with every Sunday morning after church. He taught me about flowers and poetry and told me what it was like to see horse-drawn fire engines in the old days. What better way to learn history!

     Now, don’t get me wrong, I still had many friends my own age growing up (and still do) and I valued getting together with friends as much as I could. The years that my family was a part of a co-op (where homeschoolers come together to teach different classes once a week) were my favorite ones by far, and I do feel that my teen years were sadly lacking in a social life. However, I have never blamed that on homeschooling. I had many other homeschooled friends who did youth group, weekly co-ops, and other things with their friends on a regular basis. This generation makes a teen social life even easier to set up so I don’t think my kids will lack in that as they get older, either. In homeschooling my children, I just help their first introduction to life, morals, and culture be through me instead of from peer pressure.

Homeschooling is Student-Focused

     My education as a homeschooler was unlike any other – unlike my siblings’, unlike my peers’, and probably not exactly like any other child’s education in this generation either. Even as my parents’ first child, my parents learned quickly that a benefit to homeschooling was to teach each child according to his own abilities and interests. I never took Algebra II in high school; it was beyond my understanding and we didn’t have a good tutor at the time. So instead I studied Chemistry and Geometry after Algebra I in high school and my liberal arts college started me a class lower in math than a typical business major starts with. I caught up when I needed to and learned to love math from my college teachers. I’ve known many students from public school with this same problem – only they had still taken Algebra II in high school but couldn’t understand it, so they got a pass from their teachers. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide in my head as fast as or faster than most people I know, and I’m not sure that I even use Algebra II in my life at all!

     I have a strong background in mythology, poetry, and literature because I love it! My Mom would turn on classical composers’ biographies and music during lunch, and took us to the National Gallery of Art dozens of times to see her favorite Impressionist Artists. I was reading by kindergarten and writing poems for fun by first grade. I have written and published poems and business articles, and helped publish two business books, and my focus on reading and writing while growing up has helped me in this.

     My mother’s style of homeschooling was to create her curriculum from different companies and mesh them together for each child. Certain curriculums she used for all five of her kids, and others, like math, she would change up, trying to find the right one for each child. I copy her in this way a lot. I use Sing, Spell, Read, and Write for kindergarten and first grade language arts. I use Math-U-See for math, Apologia for science, Story of the World for history, various things for Bible, various things for Spanish, and throw in a lot of random music, art, and hymn appreciation. My first child, S, loves engineering, so we’ve studied things like “How Things Work” and mechanics with him. My second child, N, loves art, so I got her a new art curriculum for next year and I’m constantly getting out craft stuff for her to use. My youngest, P, is in pre-k and loves puzzles, so I’ve been doing more puzzles with him for learning his numbers and letters. Homeschooling individually for my child is just second nature to me because it is how I was raised.

Homeschooling Isn’t A Huge Unknown 

    Ispeak I imagine that most homeschooling parents are wondering if they can do it, if their kid can succeed, find a job, and make their own place in the world with “just” a homeschool education. I remember my mother talking this over with her friends, so I know the fear is real. I also remember the first year of high school when my mom was in a frenzy to make sure I got all my credits in – so I completed over 1/3rd of them in 9th grade. 😉 I remember the visible relief in my mother’s face when I graduated high school and my mom knew she could do it – and had. I don’t feel that same fear in myself though. Yes, of course, I wonder if I’m raising my kids right – doesn’t every mom? But whether homeschooling makes that possible is absolutely no question in my mind. I know enough homeschoolers from my generation that I have seen succeed beautifully in so many different ways because of homeschooling, not in spite of it.

     My background of being homeschooled myself has given me many tools for my own children to help them grow their values, explore their interests, and thrive in their lives. My hope is that homeschooling continues to be the right choice for our family, and that this generation we are raising can build even higher on the shoulders of our own.

– Charity


I hope you enjoyed Charity’s perspective! Check back next week for the second half of this short series! Found here.

Part 3: Why We Homeschool

You remember that time when I said I would write a 3 part series on why we homeschool? When I posted the first two parts and then 2 months later sat down and realized I never wrote the 3rd part… oops! Life is busy and crazy, and you have my apologies…

So after reading the last two posts you know a little more about my son and our specific situation. Now a little bit about me… I am not one of those women who felt called to homeschool the second she found out she was expecting. In fact, even now at age 31 I’m still not sure what I am “called” to do (please say I’m not alone there). I grew up wanting to be a teacher, but by the time college rolled around, the bureaucracy surrounding teaching wasn’t appealing to me.  I loved the idea of Catholic school. I had always wanted to attend one growing up, and wanted  to be able to provide that opportunity for my children. So our plan was catholic school. Then we realized JP was a little different. We met with our local Catholic school, and I’m not going to say they weren’t welcoming. They were willing to meet with us, but at the same time the school didn’t cater to special needs very well. He would have been one of the only students in his grade who had learning differences, and I didn’t like how that would present itself. So we met with the our local public school we were zoned with for an IEP meeting. It was after that meeting that the idea of homeschooling became more concrete. At age 3 I was not ready to start sending my son to school 5 days a week. I love my children and I love spending time with them. Maybe I could figure out how to teach them? I love working with kids and had experience teaching in daycares and Sunday school settings. So we decided to give it a try.

The preschool homeschooling was so much fun! Lots of hands on exploring, sensory bins and fun books. Last year (K) was a little bumpy. Finding our groove took a while, and more often than not there were tears involved on someone’s part. It probably didn’t help that I gave birth in August and had some postpartum issues. This year started rough, but after a couple of months we have found our sweet spot!

So why do we homeschool? We homeschool because the Lord has enabled me to do so. We homeschool so I can raise them in the Word. We homeschool because I love my children, and I love that I get to spend time with them. We homeschool because it enables me to cater their education to their specific needs, not to the need of the average 6-year-old in the United States. We homeschool so I can help them learn how to navigate their feelings and social relationships. We homeschool so I can have  limitless teachable moments. I could go on, but those are the essentials.

So does this mean we will homeschool forever. No clue. As I said earlier, I’m not entirely sure the path the Lord has chosen for me, but I’m enjoying it during this season.  Each year we will reassess everyone’s needs and make sure we are still on the path we feel called to. Until then we homeschool.

– Valerie

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

 

Flashback pt 2, and where we are now

Ok! So we talked about my son’s beginnings in the last post. Here I am going to copy and paste the follow up I wrote to that entry many years ago. At the bottom I’m going to go over JP’s development as it stands today at 6 (and a 1/2) years.

“Why don’t we dive right into it today and my apologies for this one getting a bit lengthy…. As I mentioned before, today we will talk about some of the little red flags that came up with us for JP. Now, for all you parents of little ones out there, this list is not meant to worry you when you notice that your child does some of these things sometimes. It might be something to bring up with your pediatrician though if you are losing sleep over it. 🙂

Looking back, I guess the first thing I noticed different about JP was his speech delay. I comforted myself with the fact that everyone told me little boys talked later than girls and it just wasn’t a big deal. At around 20 months though, it really started to worry me. We picked up JP from Mother’s Day Out one afternoon and he was crying and a few of his classmates came up to me and said, “JP crying.” I remember getting back in the car and saying to my husband those kids just spoke a sentence, and thinking how JP had a vocabulary of about 15-20 words and that was pushing it. On top of that he didn’t seem to be understanding me even when I spoke in very simple sentences, so trying to correct behaviors was virtually impossible.

Some other little things that I started to notice around 18 months… He vary rarely responded to his name. We had his hearing checked and it was fine. We also noticed a lack of eye contact. He seemed to always be interested in something else. If we did get him to look at us it was only for a couple of seconds. When he got really excited sometimes he would flap his hands a little bit. He became very picky about touching things, especially food. He didn’t want to walk in the grass barefoot, or like to be touched except by myself or my husband and even then he was a bit standoffish. He was a little bit repetitive, wanted to to do things over and over and over and over.  His tantrums were intense.. Now I know he’s 2, every 2 year old throws fits. JP’s however would sometimes come out of nowhere and could last between 20-40 mins. Intense screaming, thrashing, and hitting all normal.

Now with all that being said, something you should know about me is that I am a bit of a worrier. Anyone who has known me for longer than about a day could tell you that. So naturally once I noticed one of these little things, I googled and read books and realized that they could all possibly point to something bigger. I told myself just to pray about it and not worry over it, and bring up my concerns to his pediatrician at his next appointment. I hoped he would outgrow some of the behaviors, that this was just his version of being a toddler. When JP turned 2 his pediatrician recommended we have him evaluated by TEIS (our local early intervention system) to see if he qualified for any services through them.

At this point in our life (pre-TEIS and pre-therapy) with JP I was at a loss. I felt like the world’s worst mother. I thought I was failing at something that I felt all my life I had had a calling for. I withdrew. We quit going to play dates because I couldn’t contain my child’s sometimes erratic behavior. We quit eating out in public because the stares from strangers were just too much. I did almost 100% of shopping online. I often found myself in tears (sometimes in public) because I was just so overwhelmed and had no clue what to do…. I don’t tell you this for pity. We are past this point now, and while I do find myself overwhelmed at times, its normal. What mom isn’t occasionally overwhelmed? I tell you this in case you are a mom feeling this way. You are not alone. Or maybe you have a friend with a special needs child. Let them know you are there! It will mean the world to them. I am so lucky to have friends who have stuck with me through all this craziness. You know who you are :)”

 

Ok so that was the original blog post. I thought about adding in a couple of videos, but that just felt too personal, feel free to message if you want to see some of the behavior mentioned above.

JP is now 6 (and a half) and thriving! After 4 years of various therapies I can say early intervention was totally worth it for us. At one point we had therapy every day of the week, and some days multiple appointments in one day. Most people we meet would never know he had a diagnosis unless they are professionals in the developmental field. He is still different, but everyone is different. His main issues now are sensory related, stemming from sensory processing disorder. I also feel like he has some other learning differences with auditory processing, but that isn’t currently diagnosed. He is 1st grade aged, but at about a Kindergarten level in some subjects. We currently attend occupational therapy once a week with an amazing therapist. We graduated from speech this past summer, and will reevaluate that after he turns 7. (This momma needs a break from multiple therapies a week.) We could probably benefit from ABA therapy to help fix some behaviors he has at home (managing emotions, social skills, feeding), but it isn’t currently in the budget. All of this however has played a role in why and how we homeschool, which I will get in to on the next post.

*side note- We have been so very blessed with our son’s development. When you get a diagnosis, its a scary thing. We were told at his evaluation that they weren’t sure if he would ever talk in complete sentences, be able to fit in in a traditional classroom, or live independently. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and there are many families who start at a very similar place to where we did, but have a child that develops in different ways and may remain minimally or non verbal, and not gain independence. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t pray for these families and all special needs families, and I hope you’ll join me.

– Valerie

Click here for Part 1 and Part 3.

Flashback post. An introduction to why we homeschool

I have been wanting to post about my son for a while, but I wasn’t really sure where to begin. This morning a friend reminded me about a blog post I wrote forever ago (at least it feels like forever) about my sons development and I realized that could be the perfect introduction. The sweet little almost 3 year old mentioned in the article is now 6. We will get more in to his current development in the 3rd part of this series when I write my originally intended blog post, “Why we Homeschool”….Without further ado, here is a flashback post from Feb 2014 😱.

 

“I’ve decided to start this blog as a way to help family and friends have a little glimpse into our journey with our son, who was recently diagnosed with Autism. In addition to that, I hope it could possibly help other parents in our position as well. I am going to try to keep it pretty real here. Our life is wonderful, but it is at times quite messy. I’ve gotten used to that fact, hopefully you readers can too! 🙂

I’ve had a bit of a tough time decided where to start here, but I’m thinking we will go with a very brief overview of JP (thats what we will call my sweet boy) and all his awesomeness!!

imageI had a normal pregnancy, was induced because I had a bit of high blood pressure towards the end, delivered via c-section a perfectly healthy baby boy! JP was such an easy baby. Slept like a champ starting at 6 weeks. Nursed great. Ate solids great. Was always generally VERY happy! See…. cutest. baby. ever..

imageAs he grew into a toddler his goofy personality began to show. He walked a little late, but we did hold him quite a bit. He never really got into things or made huge messes and was always pretty cautious. Watching him grow has been such a blessing! This picture was taken at a year old. See… just adorable!!!

JP is now 2 (nearly 3, but I’m in denial about that). He is 100% little boy. Full of energy and life. He absolutely LOVES super heroes, trains, and all things Toy Story. He loves music, and being the center of our attention! Getting down to the nitty gritty, he has a significant language development delay (currently testing at the 13-16 month age range), a bit of echolalia , some pretty intense behavioral issues, a very slight fine motor delay, and significant food aversions. Nothing we can’t handle.
See… just perfect!!image

 

 

I give you this information because when I started thinking about JP and Autism, I began to question everything. Was it because I was induced? Was it the c-section? Should I have been curious about his lack of curiosity? I nursed and fed him a homemade almost all organic diet, where did I go wrong that he now rejects 90% of food? Was it the ever hot topic of vaccinations? What had I done wrong? After many sleepless nights of worrying, I can answer confidently nothing happened to my baby. He is just how God intended him to be and is absolutely perfect. 🙂

Going to try to keep these brief, so coming next week… When did we notice there was something super special about JP and what did we do? Until then, many blessings to you and yours! <3″

 

 

Random reflection almost 4 years later, man I put a positive spin on a super trying time. So much for keeping it real back then. 😅

 

-Valerie

Click here for Part 2 and Part 3.