My story starts the way many personal epiphanies do: with a life-changing event. In my case, it was a diagnosis. Two years ago when I took my then-six-year-old son to a developmental pediatrician(dev-ped) for an evaluation, we came away with a label for what my parents had until then considered to be garden-variety childhood quirkiness: Communication Disorder.
The diagnosis didn’t come as a shock to me for many reasons. One, the “red flags” had been evident long before I set the appointment for the evaluation. My son had echolalic speech, reversed his pronouns, exhibited motor delays, had sensory issues, showed limited eye contact, was socially awkward, and uncannily fixated on sharks and all things Cars (the movie). Two, I had a background in Special Education, having dropped out of graduate school before I could start working on my thesis. While that does not make me an expert, it did give me a level-headed perspective on the situation, thus sparing me from undue fear, panic and anxiety. Three, my son had already overcome many of his special challenges by the time I took him for evaluation. His speech had almost caught up with that of his peers, and he was tolerating more sensory experiences and showing genuine interest in interacting with other people. To address his limited eye contact and difficulties in using language in social situations, the dev-ped prescribed speech therapy once a week.
I spent the next couple of months trying to get my son a slot in one of five therapy centers the dev-ped had recommended. Three of them had put a temporary hold on accepting new patients on account of a fully-booked schedule and shortage of qualified speech therapists. The other two had agreed to put him on a waiting list, which, I’d been warned, could take a year if we were lucky. It was then that I sat down and took stock of the circumstances. I was a stay-at-home mom and knew some teaching strategies that could help my son. Perhaps I could try some DIY therapy on him. After all, it was I who taught him how to read at four, sang and danced to nursery rhymes to get him to engage with me, and set up social situations with his cousins and playmates in order to show him how to interact with other people. Essentially I have been his teacher and therapist ever since he was born. So I proceeded as I always had, tutoring him in his academics, reading stories with him at bedtime, and allowing plenty of time for unstructured play.
My son did pretty well in school, although he had difficulties with Filipino and Araling Panlipunan, which persist to this day. His handwriting is chicken scratch but legible. He made a couple of friends in school, who sometimes come over to play with him. Our relatives are our neighbors, and together, our clan occupies half of a street block. My son actively hangs out with cousins and neighbors. On the surface, he comes across as a pretty typical boy. The work is far from over, though. My son still has verbal stims. His speech is punctuated by lines from his favorite movies, although his scripting is mostly contextually appropriate. He has trouble reading social cues and body language. Some of the kids in school made fun of his unusual prosody, and, kids being kids, would delight in pushing the buttons of my rather short-tempered son.
What has remained constant through the years is how much he looks up to me. He accepts whatever I say as truth etched in stone. He dutifully does as I say, no matter how unpleasant it is to him, but will draw the line at eating his vegetables. There are some things I can’t win, so I choose my battles. Speaking of “battles,” we have entered into a new one of sorts. I prefer to call it an adventure. I’m talking about our Great Homeschooling Experiment, which we started in the 2015-2016 school year. It is true what thousands of homeschooling families say: homeschooling is a leap of faith, an act of boldness, a journey down the road less traveled but with a community of strangers to help you along the way.
Our homeschooling is chugging along smoothly, despite the occasional kinks, and when you’re homeschooling you will soon find out that not everyday is a picnic under a rainbow-bright summer sky. If you’re considering homeschooling your child, know that you are not alone. Even though you may falter at times, take comfort in the fact that you, as a parent, you are your child’s best teacher and are in control of the situation. You know your child better than anybody else does, and he/she responds to you in a way that no school teacher can replicate. Isn’t it time you leveraged these advantages to your child’s benefit? It is my hope that the resources and strategies I share on this blog will be of some use to fellow parents who wish to be more proactively involved in their child’s education.