Rhythm and Order

Photo: What homeschooling looks like in our house. Lily finished White's The Once and Future King today  and we had an extended conversation involving all three kids and me on the code of chivalry, ethical behavior, tragedy, and conflict, Magneto & the X-men.

We have been exclusively homeschooling the girls for a full year now--we work through the summer, as well, given that we all have a need for rhythm and order, as well as a love of learning that takes no breaks.

Much like I did with the boy, we learn while cuddled on the couch, sitting on the floor, or lying in bed watching documentaries or reading in splendid relaxation--whatever works for them. 

It's been a good year for them. They have pursued their interests at their pace, worked together, and shared with Bobby, who's been there to assist with material needs. They've been a team, sometimes a team that works well, sometimes a team that's loud with disagreements. It's not been perfect, but they've been happy, they've learned a lot, and they've gained in independence.

We are learning a rhythm and order in our lives together, lives that are admittedly more entwined than many families may be. We share many of the same interests, though, and in many situations regarding those special interests we are all on even footing.


They are more comfortable in their skins, more confident, and far more capable of handling change and new things than they were a year ago. They are better at compromising, as well. It may be a noisy compromise, but it happens and that's what matters most.

It can be all too easy in looking back over a year in the life of the family to focus only on the pleasant bits, and it would be remiss of me to not admit to a number of challenges and hurdles in the need to brag or prove that I was right to homeschool the girls.

It's had many challenges--sometimes literal thinking makes it hard for a change in the schedule or in the books used. Rosie struggles with this--unable to easily substitute subjects not done on the same day because of some hiccup in the schedule. She is extremely sensitive to conflict, so finding novels that are safe enough for her to read without setting her into full on meltdown has been a tremendous and not always successful challenge. History is a difficult subject for her for the same reasons.

Neither girl likes to write, so we've had to work hard at overcoming this challenge--they'll talk your ears off on any of the stuff they've learned but are incredibly reluctant to write.

They abhor worksheets because of their experience at school, so math problems have to be done through apps, and finding the right level of challenge for them has been harder than I would have preferred. Word problems are a serious difficulty for them, in part because of the way their minds work and in part because who really likes bullshit word problems?

These are blips, though, and the truth of the last year has been one of watching the girls exceed their brother's skill set except for in cooking. This is something every one of us is acutely aware of. It's been a year of questions--the girls went from never asking to continually asking, and many of them relate to Bobby. Why Bobby forgets everything...why Bobby disappears...why he argues about everything...why he talks through everything...

Finding a balance between respecting Bobby's autonomy while offering him the opportunities to advance his skills while remembering the degree of his differences feels more and more like a tightrope walk. I don't mind falling off as long as I've erred in his favor. I don't want to ask more of him than he's capable of and I don't want to deny him the right to exercise control over his own life. Explaining that to him and to his sisters, while trying to keep it all straight in my own head has been the hardest thing I've had to do the last year. 

There are no clear paths, nobody really to model our journey on--it's uncharted territory because it is uncharted. It's his life and it's being steered not just by him but by me, his father, and to a large degree, as we work to create a rhythm and order for the kids that will last them their lifetimes, his sisters. We're all in this together and we are working hard to make all three of our children competent in managing their lives. It's not an easy task when so much does not come from social learning. Everything has to be explicitly taught in concrete terms and clear, reasonable explanations are required. We want them to be critical thinkers, skeptical of people whose promises come too easily. We want them to be there for each other, to function as a triad, so part of what we are doing is working to fade out our assistance, to become equal partners with them as they grow rather than autocrats who hand down orders from on high.

I'm making a very long term bet here, and I won't have any way of knowing if it pays off because the real test of their functionality will come after I am gone.

Maybe we'll all succeed beyond our wildest dreams and we'll find out much sooner if they choose to live independently and separately with families of their own.

So part of our work on establishing rhythm and order involves programming dischord and chaos--unexpected change and how to react rather than freeze.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm covering all the bases, but that's the whole thing with unexpected change--there's no way to know for sure. Since there's not, a lot of attention is being paid to teaching them to be true to themselves. If we can just do that, I have faith that the rest will all fall in line.


Stephanie said...

The only path to order that I've found is to embrace the chaos that comes of a life lived with autism. It's a concept that is difficult to explain to most people, but I'm confident you understand.

Our children are different and our journeys are different and the timing is different. But I understand what you're trying to accomplish and I understand the tightrope you walk.

Our best isn't perfect, but we are the best parents our children could have because we make it so.

melbo said...

The kids will benefit immensely from having parents who are so switched on and attuned to their needs. I can't help but think that they will flourish and go out to change things not just with what they know but with who they are.

I'm so glad this homeschooling gig is working out for you all. It definitely sounds like the right choice for your family.

K Wombles said...

Thank you both. :)