Today, I’d like to introduce you to Heather FitzGerald, a homeschooling mom and author of The Tethered World, a brand-new book with a homeschooled heroine. Heather has experienced the disappointment and unexpected joys of those times when the reality of homeschooling doesn’t look like it did in your mind. Here’s Heather:
My disillusioned homeschooling journey began when I read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Oh, the hours of exploring and creative learning that would take place when we embraced the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, sigh. Our life would be worthy of a reality TV show!
Yeah right. Unfortunately, my ideal, and my reality, didn’t exactly replicate. Besides the fact that I need structure to get anything accomplished, I also was blessed with a tiny bundle of boy who grew into a complex puzzle of autism.
Into the junk drawer went all of my best laid plans for, well, life in general. With one son and three daughters, I shifted into survival mode. And that meant cutting myself some slack. All of the hands-on, learning together dreams were delegated to needing my girls to work independently while I did endless hours of therapy with their brother. I won’t lie . . . it was a difficult run for many years.
And, every summer, I remained just enough of an optimist to think that the following year might look a little more like I’d hoped. (That’s me, digging around the back of the junk drawer for those lofty ideals) Alas, I learned that I needed to stop trying to make a cherry limeade out of the lemons in my life. Furthermore, I had to learn to love lemons. (By lemons I’m referring to the disappointment of my ideals being dashed, not my kids, LOL). I’m a little slow—or maybe a little stubborn—about accepting things as they are without trying to change them.
Each of you is somewhere different on your homeschooling journey. I thought I might be the voice of been-there-done-that and let you know that these homeschooling adventures don’t always play out the way we hope.
And that’s okay!
Let me fast forward to high school: I was still trying to live up to false ideals. Ridiculous as it seems, (particularly as I write this), I held on to a few scraps of my plan. One of those being: I’d homeschool until graduation.
It hit me one day that the young man my son had become needed some other males in his life before Dad came home from work. He spent eight hours a day with four females, and most of his friends were maturing faster and didn’t stay connected. I started to toy with the idea of using some of the special services at the public high school.
A friend asked why I wouldn’t consider enrolling him full time. Why? Because that’s not part of the plan! After praying about it, I knew I needed to be willing to investigate this option (academically my son had not progressed in several years, despite all I did at home), and trust God with how it played out.
After making some phone calls—and being treated with respect from the counselor in the special education department—I loosened my grip and began to warm to a new plan. Though I believe what we chose to do wouldn’t be right for everyone, I know it was right for us. (And looking back, I would not have explored it any sooner. God knew when to prompt in that direction).
Much to my delight, my son had five male teachers his first year. He looked forward to going to school and having friends that he could relate to. What a surprise to hear the teachers and counselors commend us for a job well done at home and offer praise for our son’s character and manners.
Fast forward to the present. My son is 21 years old and will begin his final year of school (he ages out). Interestingly, he didn’t step foot on campus last year, and won’t this coming year. Through his school district, he now has a job! Even in the summer they are taking him to a work environment created for unique individuals like himself. He gets to do a variety of worthwhile tasks and earns a paycheck that he’s eager to cash. It’s a job he should be able to keep even after this final year of school. (Click here to read an in depth account of our journey through autism and school).
Has your homeschool journey looked like you hoped at the outset? If so, I’m rather suspicious of you (okay, maybe a little envious at your success . . . kudos!).
If it hasn’t always turned out the way you hoped, don’t lose heart! Stay flexible. Don’t compare yourself with others, and keep your sense of humor. Learn to realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your kids’.
Know that changing your plans doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It only means you’re adapting to what life throws your way and it’ll be an awesome testimony to your kids when they watch you handle it with prayer and grace.
Homeschooling won’t disappoint if your goal is adventure!
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Heather FitzGerald has morphed from homeschooling mom to writer over the past several years. Her new book The Tethered World will introduce you to your first homeschooled heroine, who also has an autistic brother with a special role to play in the “family business.” Read the first chapter here!