Say it isn't so! Have we really succumbed to that dreaded method of homeschooling known as...oh, I just can't bring myself to say it, but you know what I mean!
God really has a sense humor. As I grow older that is becoming more and more apparent to me. When we first began homeschooling John Allen, I researched and researched homeschool curriculum and styles. I was determined to think outside of the box. I did not want some cookie cutter curriculum but wanted things that would enrich him but also taught to his strengths. Thanks to some wonderful teachers that he had in the public school from grades k-3, he loved to read, so that was what I looked for first - curriculum that was based on reading good, wholesome books. I remember that we chose Sonlight history, and Learning Language Arts through Literature as our main curriculum, then supplemented with Apologia science and Applied math. I also wanted him to learn a language beginning at a young age so we added Latina Christiana to the mix. We did wonderfully! There were a few bumps, but basically our homeschooling started off with a bang. I thought we had it made. This was what we would do with all of our kids.
Ha ha! That's what I thought! God had another plan. He gave us two wonderful children named Joshua and Jacob. One being on the autism spectrum and the other being developmentally delayed. Unfortunately...or maybe fortunately...all of my previous thoughts on homeschooling were thrown out the window.
Let's talk about Joshua first. Joshua has a form of high functioning autism known as Aspergers Syndrome. Kids that have Aspergers may have some learning delays, but their main disability is that they are socially disabled. Just as someone who has a mental disability may be delayed academically, someone with aspergers is socially hindered. Joshua, for example, does not always know how to socially act around others. He has problems reading body language and he doesn't understand idioms and nuances. He is very literal. "Aspies" are also sometimes known as "little geniuses" because they often become hooked on a particular thing and want to know everything they can about that topic. When Joshua was younger he loved Thomas the Train. Everything had to be Thomas. He memorized every character, had all of the movies and books, and collected the toys. Soon his interests became trains in general and then helicopters. To this day, he can look at a helicopter and I.D. what type it is. Other interests have been bowling, football and WWE wrestling. You may think that the WWE wrestling phase was one that we would rather forget, but it was actually a blessing because it led to the interests he has had for the past three of four years - geography and languages.
Joshua excels at geography. He knows every flag from even the remotest countries of the world. He discusses the religions, politics, locations, history, and landmarks of places around the world. He has become interested in Russia especially and is even beginning to learn the Russian language.
Jacob, although different than Joshua in many ways, is also the same in many ways. Even though the specialist said that Jacob was "someplace" on the autism spectrum, being developmentally delayed and very sensory seem to be his major challenges. His schedule of learning was totally different than a typical child. From potty training to learning his ABC's, things have been different. Some things are ahead of schedule and some things are behind schedule.
Then, this past year, we began going to the library again after having to take some time off due to Joshua's medication allergy scare. We asked Jacob what kind of books he was interested in and he began naming off all of these animals. So, we carted several books about deer, goats, and antelopes home. Then, after reading those books, he expanded to other animals. He devoured the books and we were amazed at what he was learning.
We realized that both of them had something in common. They both learned better, no, they excelled, when something that they were interested in was involved.
A couple of years ago Sarah was lamenting to a friend of ours about Joshua's math learning difficulties. He suggested incorporating the things in which Joshua was interested into his math lesson. So she started teaching using math word problems.
"If Peyton Manning threw a pass for 6 yards then, on the next play, ran for 5 yards, how many total yards did his team gain?"
Again, he excelled.
Could we be on to something? Should we really scrap the traditional curriculum that John Allen loved? Is this really a good way to teach a child? Is it even a way to teach? We have struggled with that for a couple of years.
Then, a blogging (and personal) friend of mine blogged about how she has taught her son for years. I know her son. He is incredibly intelligent. I had no idea that she was an...okay, I've got to say it...gulp...unschooler. I had always read disparaging things about unschooling, but what she was describing was wonderful. And, many of the things she talked about was exactly what we were trying.
Oh no! Could we actually be..."Gasp"...UNSCHOOLERS?!?
I decided to do a little research my self and tomorrow we'll talk about what unschooling is and I'll, hopefully, answer that incredulous question.
Click here to get to Oh No! Could We Actually Be...*Gasp*...Unschoolers?!? (Part Two)