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Slacker? Genius? Smartass?

Back in the days of OH I COULD NEVER EVER HOMESCHOOL (haaaaaaaa!), my aversion to this idea was multi-pronged. Basically I was convinced that:
A) I am not patient enough to be my child’s main teacher.
B) Curriculum planning is probably hell on earth.
C) Spending all day, every day, with my child would strain our relationship.
D) Working and homeschooling are incompatible, even though I work from home.
E) There is not enough Excedrin in the world for this.

Spoiler: I was wrong. I mean, Excedrin comes in really, really big bottles (especially at Costco!), plus there are ways to deal with all of those other concerns. For example, we use virtual school classes, which means that my “curriculum planning” consists of going through the course catalog to pick classes, rather than actually writing syllabi. Also, when I need to get work done I just ignore Monkey for a while. Easy!

[As for patience, well, I still think I'm probably not patient enough, not really. But I'm a lot more patient than I was a few years back, which is just as good for me as it is for him. And when all else fails, there's that whole ignoring thing. Which I am totally joking about! Except not really.] (more…)

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Points for honesty

The adjustment to the new school year has been… well… a little rocky. It’s been a month, so you’d think things would be evening out about now. Of course, if you actually knew my children, you’d realize that one month is about enough time for all unaddressed issues to come to a glorious, face-melting head of WOE and GNASHING OF TEETH, and that’s pretty much exactly how it went.

[Related: I have never wanted a long weekend to end as badly as I did this past weekend. Instead of feasting on charred meat, we spent our extra day wondering if we could, perhaps, just move away when the kids weren't paying attention. But apparently that's "bad parenting" or something.]

Anyway! We are ALL ABOUT the now-dreaded phrase “skills building” here at Casa Mir. It is SKILLS BUILDING to work on consuming your dinner as if silverware is not a foreign concept. It is SKILLS BUILDING to be instructed in the fine art of putting dirty clothing IN the hamper instead of NEXT TO the hamper (I have never understood that). And it is most definitely SKILLS BUILDING to learn how to make checklists for yourself if you have the attention span of a fruit fly and are constantly in trouble for forgetting to do things. (more…)

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Here, have all the Band-Aids

I’m sure this will come as a complete shock to anyone who’s been reading here for longer than a day or two, but Monkey has a small group of friends with whom he gathers every few weeks to play Dungeons & Dragons. This band of merry nerdlings is made up of the nicest kids imaginable with even kinder parents, and we especially appreciate having this group now that some of us are no longer at Hippie School. With Monkey truly homeschooling most of the time this year, every get-out-and-be-social opportunity is even more important for him more than ever before. And he just really loves D&D and these other boys with his whole nerdy heart.

So yesterday was a D&D day, and we dropped an excited, bouncy Monkey off at the hosting friend’s house, and then as I was back here at home riding herd on a certain other child who had a crap-ton of indecipherable homework, I thought, “Well, this is unpleasant. I’m glad this is the worst thing that’s going to happen today.” (When will I learn, Internet? WHEN? I should just go get on LinkedIn right now and change my job title to “Tempting Fate.”) (more…)

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Back in the saddle again

I’ll be headed into our first special education meeting of the season later this week, and it should be a real doozy. Chickadee’s guidance counselor has been changed, since last year, and she has a new diagnosis, and we want some additional testing, and… well, you know I always make cookies, but I think I’d better be certain to make REALLY GOOD COOKIES for this one.

I pull no punches when it comes to dealing with the school. Five minutes after meeting the new guidance counselor, I was saying, “Look, I’m going to be a pain in your ass. I know this and I’m telling you. I’m here to advocate for my child, and if we need something, I will be here until she gets it. On the other hand, I think you’ll find I’m pretty realistic about who she is and what she needs and what the school should be providing, and when everyone here does their job, I will be here saying thank you. Plus I make good cookies.” She looked a little scared. We’ll see how it goes.

Transitioning to the high school years when you have a kid with an IEP or 504 Plan is a whole new ball of wax, man. I’ve got a few quick tips on navigating special education with an older child up at Alpha Mom today, just in case you, too, recently realized how little time is left before college to teach your special snowflake how to be her own best advocate. (Hold me.)

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You don’t know until you do it

I had a nice chat with one of Monkey’s virtual teachers this year (uh, she is not virtual, she’s a real person—a real teacher—but she works with the Virtual School, I mean) wherein I said something in passing about how this is our third year of homeschooling, and she uttered the dreaded phrase:

“Oh, I just DON’T KNOW HOW PEOPLE DO IT. I could NEVER homeschool my kids!”

I have an arsenal of standard responses to such statements: that I didn’t think I could until I did, that one of my kids is still in public school, that we utilize a lot of resources like Virtual School, and—my personal favorite, as it really gets to the heart of the matter—that I never planned to, but with Monkey’s particular set of needs being incompatible with a conventional middle school classroom, I simply didn’t have a choice.

But the truth is that a huge part of the reason I hate that phrase is because I probably said it to homeschoolers, myself, a hundred times before we found ourselves homeschooling. The implication is admiration, but the subtext is disbelief that anyone could survive it. (more…)

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It’s just like that song

There’s so many things I wanted to tell you about our camping trip, but somehow I got stuck on a title. What could possibly convey the depth of emotion in just a few words? How could I make it clear what these few days meant to us?

Somehow Paradise by the Dashboard Light got stuck in my head, and then I started thinking that “Pigs and Cards by Mosquito Bites” might work, but then you’d have to know that I was thinking of the song, and also that it’s a very different kind of paradise, and… yeah, it got kind of complicated. Just trust me that IN MY MIND that all made perfect sense.

In the meantime, I just went over to Alpha Mom and wrote about the little joys in hanging out with our special needs tribe, because it was really fantastic. (Also: really, really loud. Boys! So many boys.) Come on over and take a look.

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“All kids do that”

I went through a long (longer than I will admit) period of time when the phrase “all kids do that” made me furious. Irrationally, completely, insanely full of RAGE. It seems to be used, most often, for someone to dismiss a special need or parenting concern with a not-so-subtle overtone of “you’re overreacting.” To be fair, I think many purveyors of this dreaded phrase are trying to be… comforting? Supportive? It isn’t always meant as “calm down, crazypants.” Sometimes it’s meant as a kind of solidarity or empathy, a sort of “I feel you,” albeit one that rings hollow because they don’t, not really.

As I’ve grown older, as my kids’ needs have changed, and as I’ve come to hate people less (ha), I’m realizing that “all kids do that” comes from a place that means well, more often than not. Lots of times it’s true that “all kids do that,” and it’s just that the degree/severity/frequency is the part that’s different and/or troubling. There’s nothing to be gained by believing that my special snowflakes somehow out-special someone else’s. Any common ground is worth having.

That said, you show me an organized teenager and I might have a bridge you’d be interested in buying. Yeah, my kids are probably more disorganized than most, but today at Alpha Mom I’m talking tips for teens who need organizational support, and I think they can be used for just about everyone. After all… all kids do that. (See what I did there…?)

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Now we need a new motto

Monkey is home again! You may not know this, but I really, really like that kid. He’s swell. He’s also funny and extremely good-looking (in my completely unbiased opinion, of course). And I have a real weakness for humans who used to live inside my body.

That said, our family motto when it comes to playing games has long been, “It’s not a game until someone’s crying.” And… well, let’s not mince words: It’s usually Monkey. True, he’s the youngest, and yes, when you’re Mr. Rules it can be hard to accept that there’s an element of chance (or a rule you don’t like), but it’s made me into someone who gives a little involuntary shudder when someone suggests we should play a game.

Until now, that is. Monkey is home, and this week on Alpha Mom I’m sharing about an unexpected Scrabble surprise from him. (Have I mentioned how much I like that kid? SO MUCH.)

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The beeping; good lord, the beeping

Something kind of exciting happened here this week, and I wrote about it over at Alpha Mom.

I’ll give you a hint: My teenagers are no longer speaking to each other in person using their mouthparts. Our electronic overlords have taken over! And in a weird way, I guess I’m okay with that. Mostly.

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School’s out for summer (or maybe forever)

So in the midst of everything else, we thought it would be a supergreat and totally not at all crazy idea to change Monkey’s schooling YET AGAIN. Because what Aspies love more than anything else is CHANGE! Yes. Except no. And lord knows things have just been SO BORING ’round here.

(The alternate version of this story is that Hippie School—lovingly dubbed thus two years ago when it was still mostly a joke—is undergoing some changes and growing pains, and after careful consideration, we feel the program which has so nurtured him for the past two years is just not going to meet his needs anymore, moving forward. I like the first version better, though.)

Today was Monkey’s last day, and so we swung by the store on the way home to buy some Pokemon cards to ease the sting. Next year we’ll continue homeschooling, and then… well, we have a lot of decisions to make about what he’ll be doing for high school. We’ll see.

In the meantime, if you are one of those I-could-never-homeschool types, I feel you. My latest post over at Alpha Mom is all about how I never could’ve, either, but then I did, and it’s been kind of awesome.

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