Real Moms Share: Amy Richardson Shares about “Homeschooling”
Amy Richardson contributed to this issue’s “Real Moms Share” section of the magazine. We asked her to give us an insight into herself, as well as into her life caring for twins; one child with Autism. We asked her a series of questions; some serious and some “just for fun”. See what she said….
PARENTING SPECIAL NEEDS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and family.
AMY RICHARDSON: I am a busy wife and mom raising 11 year old twin boys in the home I grew up in. Although some days feel like a balancing act, meeting the needs of both boys, I am blessed beyond measure to be able to be involved in their activities. I am passionate about Autism Awareness and love to be able to help other families when I can. More than anything, I love spending time with my family.
PSN: What made you decide to homeschool?
AR: First, let me say, that I never dreamed I would homeschool my children. It wasn’t even on the radar for me, but when you have a child with special needs, everything you knew before goes out the window. Jack attended the preschool program for children with disabilities (PPCD) in our district for two years and then attended a private school for a year. After that, we really could not find a school that we felt met his needs. The public school system offers some good programs, but none of them seemed right for Jack. Most of the private schools we looked into did not have the ability to work with a child with Autism or were simply too expensive. After a lot of searching, and even more prayer, we decided that homeschool would be the best fit for Jack. It also allows Jack to continue doing ABA Therapy in our home. Five years later, I know, without a doubt, that it has been the best thing for him and for me!
PSN: What curriculum or guide do you use?
AR: When we started, we used Abeka. At the time, it was the perfect curriculum for Jack. The last two years though, we have used a mixture of different materials, many from Mardel. We also use an online program, IXL, for his Math.
PSN: How do you add in social/extracurricular activities in your child’s life?
AR: Jack stays very active outside of homeschool. He attends our church, Pantego Bible Church and has lots of friends there. He plays baseball for the Miracle League in Arlington. Jack has attended a Science class the last two years with several other families that homeschool. He also goes to two different camps each summer. Last year, he even took a dance class for children with special needs. For a child with Autism, Jack is a pretty social kid!
PSN: How do you physically/mentally do it?
AR: I won’t lie, it is not easy every day! Prayer is the key for me! Without my faith, I know I could not do this. I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing support system. My husband is great, very encouraging and supportive. My sister and her family help a lot too. Plus, the encouragement of my friends keeps me going. I also try and get to bed early during the school year and workout when I can.
PSN: What are your biggest obstacles/challenges with homeschooling?
AR: I think the biggest challenge for me has been always second-guessing myself. Am I teaching him enough? Is homeschooling the right thing for him, etc? What I realized last year was that the bottom line is, he is safe, he is loved and he is learning. Not just learning, but thriving! I have to remind myself that I am teaching him more than some children with special needs in the public school are learning. Also, homeschooling Jack has given me a relationship with him that is priceless!
Another challenge I face is to not worry about things around the house when it is time for school – the dishes, laundry and cleaning can wait.
PSN: Please share any lessons/tips you’ve learned from homeschooling your special needs child?
AR: The biggest thing I have learned from Jack is that each child is unique. You have to really figure out what works best for your child with special needs and how they learn and focus on that. Jack is a very visual learner, so I have to teach him visually so he will understand. I have also realized with Jack that there are some things that he is not ready to learn yet and that is ok. One day he will be ready and he will learn it then. Another tip would be to find something they love and spend time teaching that. For example, Jack loves the Presidents!! We study a new President every week. He loves this and knows much more than most 11 year olds know about the Presidents. This year we will do a unit on the Presidential Election. Another thing that has worked great for us is focusing on one set of subjects on days M/W/F and then different ones on days T/TH.
The best resource I have found while homeschooling have really been other parents. It helps so much having other parents that homeschool to talk to, even if they don’t have a child with special needs.
Photos Courtesy Amy Richardson