Sunday, November 8, 2009

Family Matters and a Request for Prayer


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Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter have seen my requests for prayer lately.  You know that something is in the wind.  And it would seem that now is the time to update everyone on what's going on.

As most of you know, our two older sons are on the Autism spectrum.  The oldest is in 8th grade, and the other (who also has bipolar disorder) is in 6th.  That means they're in middle school.

As one person so aptly put it years ago, middle school is the armpit of life.  And you can multiply the "stink factor" by 200% when you throw in socially-ostracizing special needs.

My boys go to a good school, and I don't mean to imply otherwise.  But it seems that something has to change.  And to my utter amazement, the Lord has been laying something on my husband's and my heart.


I had originally pictured myself as a homeschooling Mom, back before I knew we had special needs to deal with.  Once I knew that, I ruled it out completely.  And so far public schooling has worked out well.  We happen to live in an area that has fabulous autism programs with passionate teachers, and we thank God for them all.

But like I said, middle school is tough.  Social ostracism, reading material that is often disturbing, and other factors combine to add tremendous levels of stress to one son's life.  Another son seems to be incapable of coping with the schedule, and has been sleeping like a rock through all of his early classes almost every day for weeks on end.  He checks out perfectly healthy, and we've tried adjusting medications, but nothing works.  He's missing tons of school, because the school can't flex with its schedule, and it seems that he can't, either.  To top of our list of problems, the boys have learned to play the system to their advantage, leaving things at school which should have gone home, failing to communicate vital information between parents and teachers, etc. 

Homeschooling sounds like a very logical solution to these problems.

I found "Switched on Schoolhouse" (SOS) through the wonderful homeschooling supply company "Timberdoodle," and it looks like it should be a good fit for our family.  It is computer-based, which is one of its biggest advantages.  My boys work well with computers, and are motivated by the little games and so forth that reinforce the learning.  I'm terrible with paperwork, and SOS will take care of most of that for me.  It also does the lesson planning based on our needs, and has what appears to be a stellar curriculum.  In addition, it's a Christian curriculum, so I will have far fewer concerns about the type of reading material the children are being exposed to.  And they're actually going to be studying the Bible as part of their coursework, which is wonderful!

It sounds perfect, but…

John and I swing back and forth between feeling really enthusiastic about this and feeling, frankly, scared!  Just dealing with homework often turns into a nightmarish ordeal with the boys, especially one in particular (who shall remain nameless to protect the loved).  I often feel emotionally abused after dealing with them.  My children are wonderful human beings, but they find their own anger to be  overwhelming and uncontrollable.  So it expresses itself to me in screams and sobs, fists pummeling the air in my direction, verbal cruelty, and other rage-filled actions.  And all of this can be the result of simply being told to sit down and work.

Can I bear homeschooling?

My hope is that the computerized format will help a great deal, since the boys relate to computers so well.  And the go-at-your-own pace lessons should also help.  But things could still get pretty ugly sometimes.  We just don't know if it's going to work for us or not.

So for a little while we're going to be testing this out.  Thanks to Timberdoodle's incredibly generous return policy, we have up to 60 days to return it if it doesn't work out for us.  We will spend considerably less time than that to make our decision, however, because until we're sure, we won't be withdrawing the boys from school.  So that means they're going to be testing out the homeschool curriculum AND going to school for a while. 

Gasp!  Extra work!  Not a double-load, by any means, but at least enough experimentation after school hours and on weekends so that we'll get a fair idea of how it will work out.  I should mention that both boys are very excited about homeschooling in general, but when it comes to the extra work during the trial period, things aren't quite that rosy.  Son #1 seems okay with the idea, but son #2 is less than enthused.

We're planning to go to a local Homeschool Group meeting Monday night, and hope to make helpful connections there.

I don't know how this will affect my blogging.  That will depend largely on how well the boys work independently.

Anyway, we need prayer.  Prayer for wisdom and clear guidance concerning the direction of our children's schooling, for patience as we try out our new roles, for a calming of our fears, for God's very best for our family.  I know I can count on you guys to lift us up.  And I'd love it if you'd drop a note sometimes to let us know you're praying!

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Vonnie said...

Dear Lord, give Betsy and her husband and boys wisdom concerning this. May they have peace about which way You want them to go. May this draw them closer to You and closer to each other. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Betsy, I've taught both homeschool and at a Christian school. I don't have any autistic children of my own, but I taught one in the school. There are pros and cons for each, but I know the pressures of a classroom are higher than being home. A mother can let up on a hard day and push harder when the child is excited about something. I strongly suggest that you meet regularly with a homeschool group, to encourage you and give your boys some friends they can play sports with or do other activities with.

I'll be praying. Keep us updated.

Patty Wysong said...

Oh Betsy! Praying for you!

We homeschool and it's not because I'm a teacher or because I love it. I'm not and I don't. We really feel we're supposed to homeschool so it's obedience...

I've heard great things about SOS! Praying that works well for you!

If being involved in a homeschool group and its activities doesn't work for you, don't sweat it! We've tried the two groups around us and it just didn't work because it pulled me off track, interrupted our schedule, and even discouraged me because I don't do all the cool things they were doing--unit studies and such. Groups are great if they work for you, but it's more important to find what works for you and your boys--no matter how unconventional it may be.

Many hugs and prayers!

Sherri Ward said...

I will pray, Betsy. I know this is a tough one. We took our youngest out of school the end of 7th grade and I homeschooled him through the 8th grade. He had ADD, and it was actually a great year for both of us. I will pray for success for your whole family, in Jesus' name.

Dee Yoder said...

Praying for you, Betsy. I homeschool my Asperger's syndrome son. I sent him to Christian school through 3rd grade, but he was shutting down emotionally from the time pressures and schedules. With one child, it was a fairly easy decision for me. If I were in your shoes, it would be difficult for me, too, to decide. One of the most important things for us was that I always gave my son the choice to go back to the contained classroom, if he wanted to. With the anger your sons are already showing at times toward you, I pray they will be receptive to homeschool and rules about how they can behave toward you. On the other hand, relieving the pressure of trying to fit in may help them curb their anger. I've used SOS for Ohio History and my son enjoyed it, but he did sometimes get bored with it. For us, homeschooling him has been wonderful--I can fit his needs easily into his personality and the day's work. I'll be praying for you all as you give this a try! And remember: nothing is set in stone--try different things if one thing doesn't work! And you may be entitled to some home help from your local school district.

AOP said...

Hello my name is Kristi Gesink and I work for the Homeschooling Company Alpha Omega Publications. I noticed after reading through your blog that you mention looking into using our Switched on Schoolhouse curriculum to teach your children at home. We would like to say a big thank you for mentioning our company on your blog and we would appreciate it very much if you would post a link from your blog to our site at, that way friends and readers could simply click on the link and find out more information about your great curriculum choice!

If you have any questions about our curriculum please email me at

Thanks again and may God bless your day!
Kristi Gesink

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