If your child or teen with Asperger's is miserable at school, despite all your efforts to work with teachers and administrators and create special programs to meet his needs, you may want to consider home schooling. In addition to the benefits it can provide through one-on-one tutoring and self-paced learning, it also offers scheduling flexibility that allows your child to take advantage of camps or schools offering programs away from home, any time of year.
Home schooling provides more than a million children nationwide with an alternative to either public or private schools. The reasons parents choose to home school range from children's special needs that are not met at school, to religious values, to remote living situations that make transportation to and from school difficult. Whatever the reasons, more and more parents are finding that home schooling works, as long as parents and children alike put in the time and effort necessary.
Home-schooling families come from a wide demographic range, including parents from different ethnic backgrounds, single parents, parents with diverse ideological or religious beliefs, higher income and very low income families. The critical issue for each family revolves around how much family members are willing to prioritize education, and how they implement a schedule that supports the home schooling children adequately, giving each child plenty of time to do schoolwork with an adult available for help and direction. If both parents work long hours away from home, scheduling home schooling may be too difficult. On the other hand, double-income parents may be able to pay for tutors for the hours they are not available. Home schooling is a mixed blessing for most families, yet the benefits can far outweigh the burdens; if a child has suffered bullying at school, or inadequate academic options, it can be a life-saver.
Methods for home schooling range from using prepared curricula similar to that of the public school system, to classical education materials based on the trivium, to the un-schooling methods promoted by John Holt and others that use few or no curriculum materials and focus on hands-on learning projects that the children initiate themselves. Most families use an eclectic blend of the different methods and materials available, creating a configuration of subjects, topics, methods, and materials that fit their particular needs. This article provides an introduction to researching and thinking about home schooling for your family, and deals with the special issues involved in home schooling a child or teen with Asperger's.
Before Making a Commitment to Home school: Questions to Consider
Before spending a great deal of time researching home schooling through the library or internet, it is critical to ask yourself and your family members some key questions about whether home schooling, in any form, can work for your family. Consider the following questions yourself, and then ask other family members how they would answer them.
The unique qualities of children and teenagers with Asperger's may suit them especially well for Home schooling, with some planning for socialization. Because these children often have "passions", they tend to be particularly good at independent study in those areas. Once they can translate other areas of learning to affiliated subjects of interest to them, you may find that their focus and intensity makes them very good students indeed. They in turn may delight in the chance to pursue subjects in depth, work at their own rate, and go as quickly as they like in areas where they excel.
Their natural guilelessness and lack of deception makes them easier to supervise; they will not have hidden answer keys or skip subjects without you knowing about it. If you discover that they are not able to understand the subtleties of characters in their literature texts, you may have to spend more time explaining human nature and exploring ways for them to decipher people's motives, but you will have all the time you need to do it because you can alter the home school schedule to fit the needs of your child.
Socializing in school may have been miserable for your child with Asperger's; many children and teens with Asperger's are bullied and teased mercilessly for their differences. Socializing through Home schooling may provide a wonderful antidote. Your child or teen can seek out individuals and groups who share an interest with him or her, and gradually develop the small group of intimate, kind-hearted friends that he or she really needs. As a parent, you will have to facilitate the kinds of meetings and attendance at groups that will foster social development. Without your encouragement, and persistence, the child or teen with Asperger's may just give up, or may become very absorbed in independent activities. By insisting on several group activities or social times with friends each week, and providing transportation (and food when helpful), you will ensure that your child finds friendly companions that give him or her much more happiness. Good places to start include the local scout chapter or 4-H club, YMCA classes, local chess club or stamp and coin collecting clubs. And do not neglect outdoor activities; hiking groups, stables providing horseback riding lessons, kayaking clubs, and bike clubs all provide activity as well as friendship.
Home schooling has become so popular that it is considered almost mainstream, and in the course of experimentation and exploration in so many families, it has become clear that it is often an excellent alternative to formal public or private schooling. At the same time, it has become obvious that there are as many ways to home school as there are families. The only real question is whether it is right for your family, and your child or teen with Asperger's.
Bauer, Susan Wise, and Jessie Wise. 2004. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Dobson, Linda. 2002. The Home schooling Book of Answers. Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing.
Dobson, Linda. 2002. The Ultimate Book of Home schooling Ideas. Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing.
Holt, John. 1981. Teach Your Own. New York: Dell Publishing Co.
Rupp, Rebecca. 1998. The Complete Homelearning Sourcebook. New York: Three Rivers Press.