Homeschooling is hard enough.
Homeschooling a tween with disabilities is harder.
The hardest thing about homeschooling a disabled tween?
Teaching them why they need to learn things at all.
For all of my daughter’s life, school has been a struggle. Since she was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism in Kindergarten and then more so after the Intellectual Disability diagnosis in fourth grade, things are getting harder each year, not easier as I would have expected.
After all this time, my daughter still doesn’t understand why she needs to learn.
When I was growing up, I was always anxious about school.
I got okay grades, but not great grades, and that stressed me out. The stress didn’t cause me to work harder, though, it just made me more suspicious about what I was doing, what I was putting myself through for the sake of these grades that were supposedly so important.
Then, I remember, in eighth grade I had a little breakdown to my mom, crying about how scared I was to go to high school because the work was going to be even harder, and if I was having trouble now, how was I ever going to catch up and do well there?
See, school isn’t always that much fun even for typical kids, is it?
But I got through it because I knew there was a purpose behind it, a reason for all the madness.
I understood that there was this path that I was supposed to be on:
That if I got good grades in high school I would be able to get into a good college, which would then lead to a good job so I could sustain a good life.
Of course, I didn’t follow that path, but even when I was twelve I knew that was the path that I was supposed to take.
My daughter Elise doesn’t know that path.
I don’t talk to Elise about this path, because I know it’s not the path she is on.
I don’t think she will ever go to college, and at this point I am just working on getting through the next two years of junior high before (hopefully) getting her into a special needs high school in a nearby town.
Some people may stop reading here and think that I’m not setting standards high enough for her, that I am not challenging her enough.
Maybe they’re right.
Maybe raising a kid shouldn’t be like all other things in life: setting the standards low so as not to get disappointed.
But this is different.
My daughter is almost thirteen and we are struggling through fourth grade math for the second year in a row.
She has plateaued here, in this state of eight going on forever.
Not thirteen going on thirty.
Eight going on forever.
That is Intellectual Disability.
That is how our path is currently going.
Sometimes, homeschooling goes really well.
I have a schedule of things for her to do every day, because she needs to know what is happening at all times, and hates not having a schedule for the school day. Once established, things are rooted in stone.
Sometimes she gets everything done in a few hours, making it so I can convince her to do the next day’s work so she only has school three days a week instead of four.
Sometimes I have to remind her that I’m not doing this to punish her.
“Why are you doing this to me? Why are you making me do this?”
So that you can learn, baby girl.
So that you can know things on your own and not always have to ask.
So that you can do things for yourself and not have them all done for you.
So that your mind expands with new ideas, so that your mind can start making ideas of its own.
So that you can grow, and grow, and grow.
Even when she was still in public school, Elise would still ask why she went to school every day.
I was never willing to do what was done to me — lay that path out for her that everyone gets led down.
I was never willing to say:
“Because you need to get into a good college.”
For one thing, I never got into a good college, and when I did go, I didn’t finish.
For another, I was told when she was nine that it was time to start thinking about her options after high school — and her teachers weren’t talking about college — they were talking about group homes.
We are on a different path.
Every day I wonder whether today is going to be a day when she just gets her work done and we move on, or whether we have to talk again about why we’re doing this, and that no, I’m not mad at her because I am making her learn history.
I’m not sure where this path is leading, it’s a windy freaking road, but I know I’m not going to lead her deeper in the woods just to see whether she can get herself out.
Can you relate? I’d love to hear your thoughts, but remember: