The AoA kids have been homeschooling for a full year now. I have probably learned just as much as they have. The journey has been challenging, and for reasons I didn’t anticipate. To start, the AoA kids had become walking bundles of nerves, and really benefitted from some time to breath and discover their interests. They both had gaps in their skill banks. I knew that Little AoA had difficulty with math, but I didn’t know exactly how far behind she was in grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. When I started her homeschooling, I went with grade level curriculum. It became clear that she needed something different. She now works in books at four different grade levels. Her learning plan is completely individualized to meet her where she is and grow from there. She has time to pursue her interests, which at this time, includes memorizing Dolly Parton’s older songs and practicing her banjo.
The life skills she now has time to learn and practice, has moved her from being very immature and dependent, to very strong and independent!
Teenage son has been more challenging to work with. He is intellectually gifted, but has such intense anxiety that he was diagnosed with selective mutism. We started with me giving him some independence in doing his work. He was stuck…frozen, as if he just couldn’t piece anything together. I spent many months working side by side with him. We watched instructional videos, read together, and answered questions together. It felt like it took forever before he took the initiative to try to work independently. He had many gaps in math, which I never knew because he was always in advanced classes making good grades. We had to back up in math and rebuild his confidence.
Teenage son now works independently. He truly likes and prefers to do his own research on topics, rather than from a nice organized curriculum. This is the opposite of Little AoA. He and I set completion goals for the year, and mapped out the total number of lessons or standards that needed to be covered in order to meet state guidelines. He knows how many he needs to do each week in order to meet his goal. I send him the specific topics to research each week, so he is not overwhelmed by the big picture. He typically binges when he works, doing a ton of work at one time. He is much calmer now, and seems to be finding his way…
I admit, I actually felt like a failure when the AoA kids weren’t fitting our public school mold. I fought and fought to make them fit. I have always worked in the special education field, and exhausted every resource available. I was told repeatedly that what my child needed could not be provided because of lack of personnel. Teenage son spent a lot of time in isolation rooms, not for violent actions, but for anxiety and freezing when it was time to do activities that he was not emotionally equipped to do.
It has taken time for me to accept the kids for who they are and who they are becoming, rather than to worry about who they are not. This has completely changed my paradigm. I work with kids who don’t fit the school mold completely, and their families. I have become even more passionate about sharing this message with families.