If there has been ONE invaluable thing I've learned since becoming a mother, it is to listen to my gut. It never leads me wrong.
Several months (actually, years ago) home schooling my children started creeping up in my mind. It really appealed to me. But, having kids so close in age, I worried that it'd be too hard or that I wouldn't be able to do it. I have my bachelor degree in Elementary Education, so I didn't doubt my ability to teach, I just worried about the stress of having my very high needs child home all day long. In the same breath, I felt guilty for wanting a break from him! I felt guilty wanting to ship him off every day.
We found a good charter school here that is Montessori based, so I decided to enroll him in it for kindergarten. He's been attending full day (8:30-2:45) since September. While I enjoyed the philosophy of the school, it just wasn't working for my little Max. Most days were more than a battle getting him out the door and when he would come home, he'd unleash and have meltdowns galore. He was super well behaved (for the most part) at school but was really struggling socially. I worried about him feeling left out because of his food allergies. When you can't eat ANYTHING anyone else is eating, it's got to start weighing on you. As a child, he doesn't understand it like I do. Because of the social struggles that having autism brings and then in addition to that, the food allergies, I just started worrying about him a lot.
In October I talked to his teacher and she reassured me that he was doing well, so I pushed it out of my mind that I should home school. But it kept nagging at me. November and December were rough months for him and he began to have more problems at school. He was evaluated by the school psychologist (with my permission) and found to have developmental delay and high functioning autism. He was just really struggling and then blowing up at home because of all of the anxiety. I decided in December that we'd start home school in January instead of returning to school after Christmas break. But then, I realized I needed to get his IEP updated and current so that we wouldn't lose out on that legal protection. I sent him back to school in January with the hope that things would be better. I had a great meeting with his teachers and team and we put a plan together that would help him. After three weeks, things were not getting better and in fact, seemed worse than before.
Call me crazy but after a very difficult few months and home schooling being very heavily on the forefront on my mind, I decided to pull Max out of school and begin! I sent his teacher an email on Thursday saying that Friday would be his last day and today, we started home school!! Never mind that baby #4 is due to arrive in two months time! I feel peaceful that it will all work out. So, I'm trusting that peaceful feeling.
I bought curriculum from the blog Confessions of a Homeschooler and spent the weekend preparing for our first week. Max is an extremely bright little boy, but he does need a lot of extra help with writing, cutting, and basically anything fine motor related. Maude just turned four and hasn't had any "formal" learning, so while she's picked up some things along the way, she's just a beginning preschooler. I decided to use the preschool Letter of the Week curriculum since I'm teaching both of them. They are on slightly different skill levels but I think it will be good for both of them. It will be good learning for Maude and great review for Max. I also bought the Kindergarten curriculum so that I could use it to supplement Max's learning. For example, he's ready for higher math skills (he's a math genius! seriously!) and beginning reading, whereas Maude is still working on recognizing her letters. The ease of printing out the curriculum and having it all put together for me was just what I needed. Even though we are starting mid-year, we are still beginning with the letter "A."
I felt so much joy this morning teaching these precious little souls. Olive, who is 2, sat at the table with us and colored (she loves markers) for the entire hour we did our work. I'm planning to have a very light home school routine which I think will work out perfectly for our family at this time. We are doing school work for one hour in the morning, then after that reading for 15 minutes together and 15 minutes individually. The rest of the day is play time and yes, screen time (we love PBS kids!), while Mommy takes a much needed nap.
My kids loved the undivided attention I was able to give them this morning, and I loved it too! It is very easy for me to live most of the day in my head. Being an introvert and being a mother is not the easiest thing for me. I am overwhelmed by the constant noise and tend to check out a lot...which is not always the best thing for my sweet kids. My goal this year was to be present and I am appreciating how home school will help me (or force me, lol) to accomplish this goal.
I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if I'll home school next year. But I felt so strongly that this is what my sweet little boy needs at this time, so even though it may "add" to my "stress" or make life "harder" (what are those negative phrases even about? children are my joy - and yes they challenge me - but that is what I signed up for when I made the choice to become a mother), it will be worth it. I knew it so profoundly this morning as we sat around the table working together. It felt so, so right. And we all felt so, so happy.
Following my gut is not always easy, but I never regret it.
(and now, when I have a very stressful home school day, I can come back and read this post, hehe!)