Homeschooling Hurdles

Search engines amaze me. We can type in anything and in mere seconds, dozens, even hundreds and thousands, of listings pop up in some configuration of what we typed. We could spend days reading all of them. And so, when someone finds this web site by typing “teen homeschooled and doesn’t want to learn” into a search engine (as my blog tracking software indicated a few days ago), it amazes me.

The reason it amazes me is because, even though I have not yet written about it, that is what I have been experiencing recently with Nigel. It’s not that he doesn’t want to learn anything, it’s just that he only wants to learn what he wants to learn. He loves science, especially earth science and weather, but he is also interested in biology, chemistry, and even introductory physics. His favorite subject, of course, is history. His concept of the ideal learning approach is to sit on the couch and read National Geographics all day or, better yet, watch a DVD about whatever historical topic he’s studying. “That’s how I learn things,” he says. He feels that there’s no need for him to write an essay about it because it’s all in his head. And on some level, I’m sure it is all there. But I’ve got to prepare him for high school. I’ve got to teach him to write an organized essay, site sources, etc. For the time being, I’ll say that he’s resistant and leave it at that.

He is also highly resistant to learning math. Nigel, in an un-stereotypically autistic way, hates math. Numbers are good for historical dates, calendars, times of movie listings, how much a Lego set costs, phone numbers and addresses, but other than that he has no use for them. Why learn multiplication tables when we have calculators? “Long division is for losers,” he loves to say. “I’m going to destroy it.”

He says he’s going to “destroy education,” too. And Charlemagne, since Nigel thinks that’s who “invented” it. He’s going to go back in time and assassinate Charlemagne because he apparently had something to do with promoting education.  This plan came about when I pointed out today that he is required by law to be educated. “You can be educated at Blank Middle School or here at home. Which do you prefer?” “Neither. I’ll destroy education,” he says, and purposefully presses down too hard on his pencil so the lead breaks.

It isn’t supposed to go this way, I tell myself. He should appreciate that I’m homeschooling him so he doesn’t have to go to the school he hates. Doesn’t he realize all the sacrifices I’ve made as a single parent to be able to homeschool him? Of course not, and I can’t expect him to. He’s a kid, an autistic kid at that. But there’s only so much I can take. Only so much talk of “destroying” things, non-tangible things that can’t be destroyed anyway. “That doesn’t make sense,” I tell him when I am at my wit’s end, unable to try to reason with him any longer.

And so, to the person who Googled “teen homeschooled and doesn’t want to learn,” I say the following:  

You’re in good company. Despair not. Take it one day at a time. I don’t know if your teen is autistic or not, but mine is and that’s how I manage things. That’s the only way I’ve ever been able to manage it – one day at a time. That’s the only advice I’m able to offer. Some days they’ll listen and some days they won’t. Some days they get it, and some days they throw their math books across the room. And yeah, some days we want to throw the math book across the room too. Some days we want to yell, “This isn’t fun for me, either!” But we just keep at it. Yes, it is hard. What I call the “hurdle days” are especially hard. But it’s also worth it. Even though I’m making this up as I go along, I know that it’s worth it.

4 thoughts on “Homeschooling Hurdles

  1. Jeffrey Deutsch

    Good morning Tanya,

    I’m an Aspie and I love numbers and mathematics (not just arithmetic) myself.

    I know that not all autists or Aspies are that way. For example, the Aspie son of a Weight Watchers leader I know is highly artistic but hates math (like his mother but unlike his father and as far as I know both parents are NTs).

    A good friend of mine who’s an Aspie loves math and is actually afraid to continue pursuing it since she might go back to obsessing over it to the exclusion of everything else. She’s quite cultured and graduated from one of the country’s best known arts high schools.

    Myself, I couldn’t put together anything like art to save my life. On the other hand, I’m attracted to bright color patterns, which may or may not be an Aspie trait as such but probably grows out of my AS.

    I also love history. Indeed, Soviet/Russian history has been one of my most important interests since high school.

    In any case, do push him on the writing. I pride myself highly on my writing skills, and I know how important they are for getting along in our society. Indeed, autists and Aspies generally need to be very good writers since our conversational skills often leave much to be desired.

    Keep up the good work, Tanya!

    Jeff Deutsch

  2. Dorothy Beckmann

    Homeschooling is becoming more and more popular as many families are taking the education of their children into their own hands. While homeschooling can be very rewarding for both the parents and the child, there are many hurdles they will have to overcome to be successful. Fortunately, for homeschoolers in Central Kentucky, there are a number of support groups for homeschoolers.

  3. Kori Kitts

    My 14 yo autie has been a reluctant learner for his entire life. At first I pushed and pushed up against a brick wall. Now, I know that if I wait until he’s ready to show me a skill, it’s better for all. We use more of an unschooling approach. After he’s comfortable with the subject matter, he’ll choose to show it, but only when he’s ready.

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