How Our Family Came to the Decision to Homeschool Our Children

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If someone told me 15 years ago, how my life would be today, I'm not quite sure how I would have responded.  Perhaps run the other way, cry, be angry... Or just maybe, I would have said okay, and spent as much time as possible studying and learning all I could, in hopes that it would prepare me for what I do now every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  But then I wonder, if I had known, would I be able to find the joy in my journey?  Would I consider my children to be the blessings they are?  Would I be able to recognize so many aspects of my life that my Father in Heaven was a part of, preparing me naturally?  It's then that I realize I'm at peace knowing my ways of preparing, are definitely not those God would have chosen.  His ways are always best.

I am a happily married, full time stay-at-home mom, and homeschool teacher to four special needs children.  My first two children, Dinomite, age 9, and Bulldozer, age 8, are biological children.  Both were diagnosed with autism, Dinomite at age 3 and Bulldozer at age 2.  They are verbal, but severe enough to fit into the full blown Autism criteria, and not that of Asperger's.  Dinomite also has ADHD and an anxiety disorder. Bulldozer has ADHD as well.  He also has a lack of safety awareness, lack of motor planning, etc. Both have very different obsessions, sensory issues, and autism symptoms.  Bulldozer is on medication to help keep him safe and able to function, due to the severity of the issues that were arising.  Someone once exclaimed,

"Once you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism." That proves to be very true with Dinomite and Bulldozer.

Dinomite is my animal lover.  He has always been obsessed with some type of animal.  For the longest time it was dinosaurs, then he started studying prehistoric creatures and sea monsters.  Eventually he moved on to amphibians and reptiles, preferring snakes.  (I never thought I'd miss sea monsters until he started liking snakes.)  Now he's branched out to birds and so many other species.  When he was little, his other obsession was vehicles, preferably emergency vehicles.  This obsession led to the introduction of LEGO, from which their appears to be no end.  Star Wars and superheroes of any kind also entertain Dinomite.
Dinomite has a few food allergies, but nothing that we worry about on a regular basis due to his struggles with food.  I've never known a child so content with eating the same thing day in and day out.  Some type of food therapy will most likely be in his future.

Bulldozer loves weather and astronomy.  He appears to have very visual obsessions, those of the past including water, waves, and whales.  His little kid obsession was vehicles, preferably construction vehicles.  Through his brother, Bulldozer was introduced to LEGO and Star Wars.  Unless there's a storm brewing, he talks of nothing else but Star Wars.
Bulldozer was born with over 35 allergies to foods, some very severe and life threatening. At 18 months it was discovered that he has a life threatening allergy to adhesives (band aids, stickers, tape, glue, etc.).  Miraculously Elmer's School Glue does not contain the component that causes a reaction.  We know it's not the latex, but another ingredient in adhesives that causes him to go into Anaphylaxis.  As Bulldozer has grown older, he has grown out of some allergies including dairy and eggs, while other allergies have become more severe, and more added to the list.  He has developed severe environmental allergies that seriously inhibit his ability to function during the Spring, Summer, and Fall.  We call him our "Bubble Boy."

After Bulldozer's birth, I remember the distinct impression that we were to prepare ourselves to homeschool our children.  Both my husband and I laughed at the notion, being very against homeschooling at the time.  Yet, I remember also saying that if I ever had special needs children, I would not send them to public schools.

It was actually Dinomite's meltdowns and screaming fits, that lasted over an hour, when returning home from a private special needs preschool, that pushed us to experiment with the notion of home schooling.  We wanted to see if his behaviors would improve. Sure enough, in three days, he was a new child, a very happy one.

When Bulldozer was about six months, we felt the impression that another child was waiting to come to our family, a baby girl.  I had been advised not to have more children, due to my own health concerns.  It was at that time that we looked into adoption.  (This was before the boys' autism was diagnosed.)  After researching all of our options, we decided to adopt through the foster care system.  This decision changed our lives, as we became foster parents for four years, 2 1/2 of which my husband was home full time with me, taking in over 20 children, more than half being infants.  Two of these infants are now our adopted daughters, Princess, age 7, and Sunshine, age 4.

Princess was a very difficult baby.  Her needs were not medically based.  She was easier than Bulldozer, but we recognized that something wasn't quite right. Princess came to us at 6 months having been abused in every way.  And by every way, I mean EVERY way.  One month after learning of the boys' diagnoses of Autism, we learned that Princess has Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Since then, she has also developed an anxiety disorder.  I will always remember the developmental pediatrician looking at me wide eyed, as she learned the adoption wasn't 100% complete.

"Are you SURE you want to do this? This will be the hardest thing you've ever had to do."

With tears in my eyes, I said I was sure.  After all, when you look at Princess and you look at me, there is no doubt in my mind she was meant to be my daughter.  Sure enough, the developmental pediatrician was right, raising a child with RAD,  PTSD, and an anxiety disorder has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, or probably ever will due.  I am her target.
Still there are those moments that make it all worth it.  When we have them, I'm sure to capture the Kodak moments.  Princess is brilliant, having been tested at age 3 to have an IQ of 131.  She is beautiful.  Her imagination is endless.  My Little Pony and Disney Princesses, along with dress up seem to be her things right now, although her interests are never limited to just a few.  She LOVES to read anything she can get her hands on.  When she grows up, she wants to be a doctor.

I felt impressed to have her join our learning time at about 2 1/2 years old.  It turns out to be our most positive interactions of the day.  That's not to say we don't have our bad days, because some are truly horrible, but I love being her teacher.  It was explained to us by therapists and doctors, if we homeschooled the boys and sent her to school, she would think we were abandoning her.  When her IQ score came back, we knew sending her to school would result in significant behavioral issues, as she would be bored out of her mind.  As we visited with her developmental pediatrician during another appointment, it was explained that she would need to be in the most restrictive class setting available because of her behaviors and issues, if she were to go to public school. This is with medication already to help her anxieties and self endangering behaviors.  Each time I hear more information about what public school would mean for her, it confirms my choice to keep her home, despite how difficult it is sometimes.  We have found the Montessori Method to be very beneficial to her, as she's able to choose her own work, and the battles for control are less.  Most often she chooses the same work Dinomite is doing.

Sunshine was the last infant to enter our home.  She came at 6 months of age also, having been separated from her birth parents at birth, but enduring other hardships in a foster home previous to ours.  Her adoption process was very quick.  Sunshine was born with a very mild case of Cranial Facial Microsomia, so mild that for all intents and purposes one can't tell, with the exception of her right eye, jaw line and teeth.  As preparations for her adoptions moved forward she appeared to be doing extremely well, with only small delays.  However, shortly after the adoption, it become very apparent that something was wrong.  At the age of 29 months our Sunshine was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (not a mild case), Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a sleeping disorder, and the beginnings of ADHD.  Just this year she was also given the official mood disorder diagnosis.

At the age of 2 1/2 Sunshine was tested for food allergies.  Sleep medication was not helping her.  I kept feeling like we were missing something.  Sure enough she tested positive for fourteen foods/groups.  When we eliminated these foods from her diet, Sunshine slept all night for the first time ever. This has continued ever since, except for when she's experiencing PTSD or manic episodes etc.
We've closed our doors to foster children, knowing our four will take all the energy and effort we have to raise and teach full time.  Sunshine's behaviors are the most difficult of the four.  Thankfully, I am not her "target."

My life is dedicated to teaching my children, not only academics but life skills, so that they may one day be independent and successful on their own, if at all possible.  I have found, for me,  this much easier to do on my own, than to work with the public school system.

In summary, I guess home schooling chose us, rather than we chose it.  Both my husband and I went to public schools.  We enjoyed our education.  However, that type of education is not one that will work for our children.  I only hope I can succeed in providing them with the best education they can acquire, providing them with a safe and uplifting environment, without distractions and set backs they are unable to cope with, due to their disabilities.

This is our story.  It's A LOT of work.  It's a HUGE time commitment.  However, I love it.  I love to watch the kids faces as they see new activities on our shelves.  I love to watch them succeed. When I'm struggling either because of their behaviors or my own short comings, I find the best medicine is spending more time with them without distractions.  This is when I see them at their best!

For more homeschooling resources visit the posts below!

25 comments:

  1. you are not only an amazing mom .wife and teacher but an amazing friend ,,I cherish our friendship and wish we lived very close to each other ,id pay you to homeschool my little guy .. you have the best ideas, and I know you put so much time into what you are doing , <3

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  2. Wow - thank you for sharing. This is so inspiring!

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  3. What a powerful story. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story -- you are the only one who knows the needs of your children and it is so wonderful that you know that and can be committed to homeschooling before any of your children had bad experiences in another school. All the best to you and yours. -Amy @ Wildflower Ramblings

    ps -- hav you checked out Sharla at The chaos and the clutter -- she has biological and adopted children and you may love her blog!

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    1. Thank you for the blog/site recommendations. I've checked out all of the ones I was unfamiliar with that you mentioned. You are right in that I would love The Chaos and the Clutter! :) Hope to see you stop back soon!

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  5. My hat's off to you for homeschooling precious special needs kids! It takes a brave mom to recognize that the "path of least resistance" is rarely what's best for our children. How blessed your kids are to have a mommy so committed to them and to their education!

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  6. I am in total awe. Your children are so lucky to have you (and you them, I'm sure!)

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  7. Wow, Ranae, I was reading your beautiful, honest story with tears on my eyes! Thank you so much for pouring out your heart! What an inspiration! Such precious bundle of children! Will keep you and your family in prayers! The amount of work you are doing is hard to imagine, but I believe it will pay of in a major way! xxxx Anastasia from Montessori Nature

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  8. I found your site after you commented on one of my posts at Dabbling Momma and I have to say I'm glad I stopped by. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for people, like you, who open their hearts and homes to foster children. I was adopted when I was an infant so this is where my soft spot comes from. Your children are blessed to have you as their Mommy. Glad I found your site xo

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  9. wow you do have your hands full. Your family sound like an amazing bunch, can't wait to go and read a bit more of your blog and find out more. Thanks for linking up to the sunday Parenting Party, I'm sharing your post on our pinterest board.

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  10. Thanks for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing all the material that you create. May God give you the strength and joy to carry on each day.

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  11. You are an angel, i wish you all the energy to keep up with your loved ones

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  12. You are one wonderful human being, those 4 stars are so fortunate to have you as a guiding light :)
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog xx

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  13. I'm amazed how organized and clear thinking you are . Thank you for sharing . I , also know what you mean with " the target is me " . Blessings to your family .

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  14. Yes, thank you for sharing your story! We have five biological children and one adopted and it is inspiring to hear we're not alone. Blessings to you and your beautiful family.

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  15. What an incredible family. We just started this HS journey this year. I can relate to some of your decisions for HS. I have 4 kids, three with special needs who are adopted. It became clear that the school couldn't meet the needs of one of my children even in a special ed class and I predict this child would have had to eventually move to an even more restrictive env't. I just couldn't see that helping in the long run especially since he is so bright. It has been really hard but it gives me hope when I see other mothers with similar challenges choose to HS.

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  16. You have an amazing family and I am sure are an amazing mom!

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  17. Great post. Thanks so much. You are featured on Good Tips Tuesday today. Thanks for linking up!
    http://abirdandabean.com/2014/07/good-tips-tuesday-30.html

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  18. Wow, reading this has made everything I am going through seem like child's play (not even a year ago I rescued myself and my baby from our abusive home, a decision that has left me further isolated and penniless). God has given you amazing strength -- may you praise Him above all things! I did want to mention, since you have given them nicknames to protect their identities, two of your children are referred to by their given names in this post (I believe Bulldozer & Sunshine), so you may want to go through and edit this post to remove that! Many blessings to you!

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    1. Thank you so much for pointing out that their given names were in the post. I changed them. And in regards to your trials... We are given what we can handle. If nothing else, I've learned that no one's trials are bigger or less than another's, just different. I could not imagine having to experience what you have, just as you couldn't imagine a life like mine. Nothing you've endured is like child's play to me.

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  19. Oh my heart aches for the struggles your little ones and you are going through. I am glad that God placed them in such a loving household. My prayers are with all of you.

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  20. Thank you for sharing and may God increase your joy and blessings tenfold. I'm sure you know, but I will reaffirm that even if it takes years and seems to fall apart at times, nothing you do will count for nothing - it ALL has value and you will see the ''fruit." Montessori is amazing (I wish I'd known about it when my kids were little). I have a son with Aspergers who was seriously bullied at intermediate while I was not as on to it as I could have been, due to struggling with a severe back injury and in a year that I was trying to adjust, find work and deal with the fallout of having my had husband walk out - 4 kids, 7 1/2, 10, 12, 14 1/2 - all considered gifted' and my son just in the process of diagnosis for Aspergers (to which they added ADHD and Social Anxiety Disorder). He also ended up receiving a diagnosis for Defiance Disorder which fortunately did not stick (I think he was just trying to deal with his family falling apart and the moving houses etc.). I thonk Montessori would have made all the difference for him (Have you read Jacob Barnett;s story in "The Spark"by his mum Kristin? I\m not suggesting my son is this profoundly gifted but I know I got in the way of his exploration when he was little - he too was fascinated bu anything that moved, water, engines, fire etc to the point of being unsafe at times. He loved lego and k-nex but that has been replaced with minecraft, gamemaker and computer games. Ten years later we have made great progress but he has a long way to go as he found school way too boring and disengaged. I ended up in full-time work as a teacher (I had just trained) and I struggled to meet his needs and look after my family/
    I have only discovered Montessori in the last few years. I have now done papers and taught two years in a Montessori unit attached to a mainstream school (seniors). I am back in mainstream at the moment but hope to get back to Montessori soon.

    Anyway, I almost want to pack my bags and come help with the school day (Not that I am suggesting you need it!) and your beautiful family because my heart goes out to you all and I think you are an amazing lady and I could learn a lot from you!

    In New Zealand we have a Maori phrase that is a cool song - kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui - ko te Atua tou tatau piringa, tou tatau kaha which means... be strong, be brave (bold - having courage), be steadfast and sure (true, having solid faith) - for God is your shelter and he is your strength! Found it on youtube for you - albeit a YWAM international version, here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2ERmJEYxNI
    May he provide for all of your needs, abundantly! You inspire people like me. Arohanui - much love (actually means big (nui) love (aroha)).

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  21. I am truly speechless! May God continue to bless you and your husband with mountains of strength and patience as you continue on your journey of raising and teaching your wonderful children!!

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  22. I came across your site as I am looking to start tot school with my young daughter. Your story is a very powerful one for me because my son has autism and ADHD. His autism is more on the severe side. He is 4, and almost non-verbal at this point in terms of communication. He can echo a great deal of things when asked and can give you a few words when prompted, but doesn't generate hardly any speech on his own. Potty training is incredibly difficult. He has lots of motor planning issues, so even teaching him to eat on his own is hard and slowgoing. I feel so discouraged a lot of the time and worry so much about the future. You sound so strong and I hope to have that kind of strength.
    My son has a really really hard time sleeping through the night. I had never considered food allergies before. Maybe we should go see an allergist..
    I will also be interested in looking at all your tot school posts knowing now that you are doing these activities with an ASD child. It's got me thinking that I should include my son in this tot school I am doing. He goes to ABA for most of his days but maybe I can offer him something of educational value too.

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  23. Your story is amazing...inspiring and heartwarming, Renae. Your children are very fortunate and we are all so lucky that you write about your life and your family. This post brought back memories of our homeschooling years in the "80s and early 90's and they are fond memories for sure. My fondest homeschool memory is of my son, who was 10 at the time, spontaneously reading to me from Mark Twain! His teachers had been telling us for years that he wasn't reading...but what he said during our first DAYS of Homeschooling is that he just didn't like to read aloud to strangers. Homeschooling is something to treasure and I always love hearing about families like yours.

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