I think my wife and I have had it. Our son, Aaron, will be 14 by the end of the month. He was diagnosed as autistic at age 3. He is high-functioning, and I would say that, compared to his "typical" peers he is roughly average in mental abilities, maybe smarter. Like any kid, he struggles with some things, and excels at others. After 10 years of therapies, dietary adjustments and medications, I think that he is about as "cured" as he will ever be. Meaning... hey, he is quirky, and people will just have to learn to deal with that, as he will have to learn to adjust to others. He also has a physical growth delay that the doctors just haven't been able to come up with a satisfactory explanation for. He is at least 6" shorter than the average boy his age, and in fact still has many of his baby teeth. His latest growth rates indicate he may be catching up, but who knows? He is an only child, and has no cousins.
He is in 8th grade, and will pass it. He is in public school, and has a full-time aide who is there to keep him focused and find ways to help him (or the school) adapt when he has trouble "accessing the curriculum" as the teachers phrase it. There are behavioral problems here and there, where he will refuse to work, or insult his aide. At night, we (all three of us) are ruled by his homework requirements. At this point, he really hates school, and consequently, learning in general. Hates reading, hates math, etc. I believe the public school system has crushed it out of him, which angers me terribly. I am angry at the schools, and angry at myself for allowing them to do this to him. My wife is fortunately starting to believe I may be right.
I am very interested in unschooling, but I am worried that his desire to learn won't just recover all by itself. I have fears that if I just take him out of public school and allow him to find his own path that he will just play Sonic the Hedgehog/Pokemon video games all day, which is his tendency.I want him to be free and re-discover learning on his own if possible, but not if it means he will end up as a couch potato. I am researching homeschooling, online learning and unschooling currently. I wonder if the best solution might be a strategic combination of all three.
I would love any advice or comments from those who may have had similar experiences with a son or daughter, and maybe come out on the other side. Actually, any helpful advice at all is welcomed! Thank you.
Note: I originally posted this in Learning at Home & Beyond accidentally, but intended to post here.
Just a quick reply
You have no idea where this journey will end but if you have lost faith in schooling and it is hurting him then make the leap as a family and take a breather. Don't make any decisions about how to proceed; let the dust settle and then see what paths become visible.
Hi Mike, first a big hug to you for what you are going through. I actually had no idea my kids were on the spectrum when we decided to unschool (they've actually never been to school) but I can only imagine now what it would have done to them. I would encourage you very strongly to give it a try.
But I hear where you are coming from. My son is also HFA (he is 7) and he loves video games, computers, etc. Fortunately he has a sister at home who likes to play imaginative games and he often gets recruited into those. So he isn't in front of screens all day. But he does spend a lot of time with them.
Without getting into a debate about screen time, self-regulation, etc. I will just make one point, which is that screen time is how my son unwinds. It is a safe place to "rest" himself, both physically and emotionally. Going out in the world takes a lot out of him (he has mild sensory issues, too, that contribute to this) and home is a safe place where he can truly relax, chill out, and re-energize. It's important for him, and I try to always keep that in mind. If screen time is also how your son unwinds he may need a lot of it at first.
The best thing you can do to prevent the feeling that your kid is spending all their time on the computer is to organize some outings and events, weekly classes, etc. Now I don't know how this works with a 14 year old (my oldest is only 9) so you may have to modify some of my suggestions, but the gist of it is that we try to build a few outings into our week to get him out and about and exposed to other things. For example, right now we go swimming at the local rec centre on Monday afternoons with other home learners in our community (the pool is nice and quiet that time of day!). On Wednesdays he takes riding lessons at the local Therapeutic Riding Centre. On Thursdays we go out on a field trip somewhere, could be a playground, the Bug Zoo, skating, whatever. The idea is to build into their lives outings that require them to do something else that they enjoy. And of course if you can make friends in the homeschooling community for him even better. My kids definitely get to choose what outings we go on, what classes they take, etc. I find out what's going on and let them know about it and they choose. If you ask around your local homeschool community you may find some wonderful things going on: robotics clubs, archery classes, teen clubs, etc.
The bottom line is YES you can do this and NO your son won't be a couch potato for the rest of his life. YES it will be an adjustment and we're all here to answer questions or offer support. There are several families in our unschooling community with kids on the spectrum and all agree it works very well for them!
Homeschooling, Homesteading Mama to DD ('02) and DS ('04)
In addition to the wise words Piglet68 and orangefoot have shared, I wanted to suggest that you think about things your family enjoys doing together on weekends and summer / winter breaks and plan on doing some of those things together during part of your time off (using the phrase "time-off" thinking it might make the "leap" less scary and ease the transition to whatever mode you opt for next).
I did not have any similar experiences but 8th grade was still one of the worst years of my life. Along with 7th grade. Had never heard of homeschooling or unschooling back then though ...
Hope it works out well for you!
no longer or or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?