Autism and Education: A Reality Check – Part 4

Today I want to begin to open some eyes…to set the record straight and begin to debunk all those myths out there about home education.

1) No…you do NOT need to be a teacher to educate your child. In fact, you do not even need to have graduated high school (American) or sat A-levels (UK). But how can you teach your child if you don’t know it yourself? Do you think teachers know EVERYTHING? No, they know how to look it up and in this Internet world in which we live everything and I do mean everything right down to Einstein and medical journals can be found online…free or for very little money. And to go one step further, a recent study found that home educated children of ‘drop-out’ parents actually did better than their peers in traditional schools… (http://www.fraserinstitute.org/publicationdisplay.aspx?id=12418&terms=Home+schooling+improves+academic+performance+and+reduces+impact+of+socio-economic+factors)

Dat means even dum Murican red-necks likes me can edu-me-cate our young’uns better dan schools can.

2) What about exams? How will she ever get into a good college? How will be find a decent job? As I said yesterday in America homeschooling is seen as better than public school (both the American and the Brit kind here folks). Of course, in the UK things are a bit more of a struggle. But there are ways that our homeschooled kids can sit GCSEs and other exams. And there are always other routes into colleges and universities, otherwise my American educated older children could not have managed. You can take a year-long foundations course, like my eldest did to get into Goldsmiths. Or like my daughter you can take online courses at the NVQ or A-Levels. I will say be careful though as not all online degrees are accepted, do your research before you pay for anything. And besides…college is not the only way into work. Increasingly the old-fashioned apprenticeships are coming back into vogue. Volunteering can open doors too. Where there is a will, there will be a way.

Just some of the many resources we offer PanKwake to facilitate learning...
Just some of the many resources we offer PanKwake to facilitate learning…

3) Isn’t that expensive? Every situation and each family is different. BUT do not think for a moment that any education is free. There are always costs…uniforms, notebooks, backpacks, pens, paper and something else every day it seems. As I said earlier, most of us walk around with the most important home education tool in our hand or at home…a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop. In this modern world those have everything you need to know…and then some. And no…you do not need a special ‘school’ room or even a desk.

4) Doesn’t it take up your whole day?  That depends on what you mean. If you mean, how can you work or do other things if your child is home every day instead of being gone from 8 until 3 roughly, then you have a valid point. Although families do manage, it is hard to maintain a two-income family or for a single parent to work and home educate. But if you are asking, isn’t it hard to teach for seven hours or so a day, then your argument is misplaced. With one on one instruction, far fewer hours are required to attain the same goals. And besides think about all the real world learning…a trip to the store equals math if you get your child to calculate how much you are spending (not talking PanKwake here…but homeschool in general). Here is something else to think about too…how much time are you spending working with child on homework? Sometimes it is almost as much as you would if you taught him yourself.

5) What about socialization? Oh, I love this one! Do you really buy the myth that homeschooled children are locked in a dark room and fed nothing but bread and water once a day through a slot in the door…and only if they gave you the right answers on their worksheets? This lie is based upon less than a dozen child abuse cases worldwide where homeschooling was used as a smoke screen to keep the child from being seen. That is tragic…but to be fair more children go to school every day with bruises that schools, doctors and other professionals fail to report. And we should handle both situations the same…by addressing the issue of child abuse, not by being suspicious of homeschoolers while those schools face no punitive sanctions for failing to report abuse. The honest to goodness truth is that home educated children get as much or more socialization as those in schools…and that at least in PanKwake’s case it is much higher quality as I facilitate her interactions and ensure that it is bully-free…something that the school refused to do. Most home education parents are even more conscious of this facet of education than teachers are. They go out of their way to provide their children with opportunities to socialize…scouts, home education groups, sports, the park, field trips…and loads more.

6) What about her special needs? Back to that Internet thing again…and ebooks and scientific/medical journals online. These days there is not anything you cannot educate yourself about. Even before her autism diagnosis I was already noticing PanKwake’s sensory issues and coming up with inventive ways to manage them. And while we do utilize experts like speech therapists, it is usually to monitor what I am already doing and offer pointers to me…which is actually how services are being delivered in schools these days by the therapists working with the classroom teacher to help her teach the child…only that rarely works well with so many students to look after…whereas I have one so it is brilliant. But even then do you know what the best resource I have, the expert that I turn to again and again? My gut. The gut that told me when she was two that she was autistic. The gut that told me she was having seizures in her sleep even when I could not get the doctors to believe me…until they caught a nine-minute one on an EEG.

And that gut tells me every day that home education is the best decision we have ever made for PanKwake. That what we are doing for her now is the solid foundation upon which to build a bright future. That we can do this…better than the ‘experts.’ Because when it comes to PanKwake, we are the most experienced and knowledgeable experts there are.

Tomorrow join me as we take a closer look at what unschooling is and why it works so well for children like PanKwake on the autistic spectrum…especially those with control and anxiety issues.

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