I was asked to blog about what home schooling looks like for us – a military family with special needs children. For starters, we are able to plug into different therapies that are recommended and suggested for my boys because of their needs. One particular type of therapy is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The recommended ABA therapy is 40 hours per week. Don’t worry about reading that again because it wasn’t a typo…LOL! A full-time job is 40 hours per week, but we are able to complete those 40 hours because we home school. Can you imagine what a 40 hour week ABA therapy workload looks like for a public schooled child? I can’t imagine. However, this therapy time is not focused entirely on the therapists; this time is mostly centered on Mom and Dad working with the children as well. It’s time spent learning different approaches to parent and teach a special needs child. Because we home school, we’re able to manage our boys’ therapy time the way we want, a way that works for our schedule.
Appointments such as medical, dental, therapy, music lessons, etc., come quite easily because we home school. Often times, the secretaries or representatives of the respective places assume my children are public schooled and tell me that no appointments or vacancies are open during after school hours. However, because we home school, we’re able to work around the schedules and usually get my children in within a week, if not the next day, and get the services they need in a timely manner.
We home school year round so that we can work around therapies and work around Dad’s military schedule. I cannot tell you what a blessing it during my husband’s deployment to plan our day around when Daddy could Skype or get on Messenger. Home schooling allowed the boys SO much more time seeing Daddy on webcam and talking with him than they ever could have if we sent them to public school. My husband wasn’t fortunate enough to be located in an area where he could get online around our schedules. So we had to make the most of it and home schooling allowed that to happen. Looking back now, I don’t think he was ever able to chat with us during our evenings, which would have been the time the boys would have been home from school.
Home schooling has also allowed my boys to become more social and active in the community. My boys are heavily engaged in activities such as AWANA, Cub Scouts, piano, sports such as baseball, soccer and swimming, and they are very active in church. My boys have been involved in community projects such as clean ups, placing flags on grave stones of our fallen heroes, and conservation efforts. Bookworm has also given up much of his time volunteering for military families for different projects.
A typical day for us varies. We try to have a routine, but I honestly am pretty relaxed about that type of thing. Sometimes the best learning comes from something unexpected.
Mondays are the days that our ABA therapist comes in and works with me on the program for the boys. That takes up a significant amount of my day with 2 kiddos, but I home school around it. Otherwise, they are too tired from therapy and I will skip the lesson and make it up another day. They are still learning with their therapist but it is just a bit different. Some of the things she works with the boys are behavior skills and social skills. When Bookworm began ABA he was five years old and had a Self Injurious Behavior (SIB). He would bang his head very loud to go to sleep at night, but he never did it during the day. Thankfully, because of the good Lord and ABA, he no longer has that problem. He has made significant progress in the last few years and so has my Turtle.
On Tuesday mornings my boys attend a home school class. They have a wonderful teacher and she works with them on Bible time, PE and many other skills. In the afternoon I work with the boys.
On Wednesdays the boys have piano and AWANA in addition to their regular school.
Thursdays are field trip days with the home school group! We do school work in the mornings and then in the afternoons we go have fun!
Fridays are regular school days and Cub Scouts.
So how do we do our school? I am pretty relaxed as a teacher. Bookworm is an avid reader and learns a lot through reading, but he also does really well with hands on. I try to make it fun to keep the boys interested and I try to change it up. I know that routine is one thing “aspie” kids thrive on, but my kids are very high functioning and, honestly, I have tried to vary things with them so that they do not get stuck in such a rut that they cannot have change. They actually do well with it, especially if I talk them through it. I generally do not do more than 2 hours of school per day. My boys are still young, too. Bookworm is 8, but honestly I do not need more time than that most days. Sure there are days that it will take longer or we get off on a rabbit trail of research and keep going, but all in all my boys are pretty good about just getting it done. So what do we do the rest of the day? It gives my boys time to explore interests they have. If my oldest wants to learn computer programming, he has time. If my middle son wants to take time to learn all about turtles we have time to do that. Home schooling is a fantastic way for kids to be kids. My boys also have plenty of time to serve others when the chance arises. For instance, my oldest has laid wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. He has made up bunks for single Soldiers so they have nice rooms for redeployment back to the states from overseas and much more. It gives us plenty of time to dive into the Bible and really develop a love for learning about our Lord and Savior, but also to really sit and go over the verses so that our kids are not just learning words. They learn how to apply those words to their life. Just because my kids have some challenges, I am raising them up to be adults, to someday be men of God, husbands, and fathers. I want them to have a strong hunger for the Lord and to know He is their best friend.
Home schooling allows me the chance to not miss the little moments, like when my middle son, who had speech delay, started speaking clearly. It allowed me to see my oldest just the other day overcome the fear of heights and climb a rock wall all the way to the top and press the buzzer. It has allowed me to be their cheerleader from the smallest things to the largest. It has given me the chance so that even if my husband was not there physically due to his work, for us to video accomplishments and send them to him. On the occasional days when my oldest has a really rough day is unable to do any type of schooling, or my middle one will honestly be worn out as he tires easily sometimes, I have no hesitation in calling it a day. I know that the next day is brand new, another chance and if tomorrow doesn’t come I know we will be in Heaven and won’t have to worry about school anyway!
Laura Prater is married to her soul mate and best friend, who happens to be Active Duty in the US Army. They have 3 very active boys and a dog named Buddy. Bookworm is 8, Turtle is 5, and Nemo is 3. You can find Laura blogging at www.raisingsoldiers4christ.com
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