Friday, December 19, 2008

Classical or Charlotte Mason?

Some of my main goals include raising my boys to be adults:
  • who will embrace Truth as revealed in the person of Jesus and trust Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.
  • who are relevant, engaging culture and their peers for the purpose of wining others to Christ.
  • who have the ability to intelligently defend their faith, both in speaking and writing, but do so with great respect.
  • who are well educated, entrenched in the classics, so they may pursue future endeavors they may feel God calling them to without hindrances from any educational lacking.
  • who are emotionally healthy, prepared for meaningful and fulfilling relationships with spouse, family and friends.
  • who are physically fit yet understand that "for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." - 1 Timothy 4:8
And this is not an exhaustive list. When I was teaching public school I always told my parents on "Meet the Teacher Night" that I wanted their children to excel not only in the "Three R's" but to grow as people during their nine months with me - to be be more emotionally and socially mature. The reality though is that with 20-24 children in my class and six to ten subjects to cover daily, there just wasn't enough time to devote to this noble endeavor. Truly I was stepping outside my job description anyway which was to solely educate their minds.

In contrast, one of the great benefits and blessing of homeschooling is that we are responsible for and able to educate the whole child: mind, body and spirit. When we started our journey to homeschool one of the first books I read was The Well Trained Mind. TWTM resonated so much with many of the things I had in mind for my children and provided the education I wish I had. We eagerly started on our journey using Susan Wise-Bauer's book as our road map.

Yet, I had begun feeling in recent months that while I was happy with much of the education I was providing for Thatcher there were holes - very big holes. We are so busy for so much of the day that while I am challenging his mind the focus on body and spirit is sorely lacking. I know this is not the case in many families pursuing a classical education, but it definitely is for us. The severity of Thatcher's ADHD means that lessons that take a typical child 20 minutes take us two or three times that much time. There is little time each day for anything other than academics.

I began to think about and research our options. I remembered several things I had always read about Charlotte Mason's educational theories, many of which are very intriguing for me. Short lessons, educating the whole child, nature studies and her focus on character development and habit training were things that stuck in my mind - and honestly just about all I knew about a CM education.

I have decided to seriously study up on Miss Mason's theories to decide if we need to change our trajectory in regards to educating my children. I love TWTM but is there a better way to meet our educational (mind) goals without sacrificing meeting the other goals I have for my children, especially now with our formal diagnosis of Asperger's?

I have started reading Volume One of Miss Mason's work in modern English from Ambleside Online. It's free! In the small amount I've already read, I have clearly seen that while TWTM is in line with my head CM aligns more with my heart. I will post my thoughts as I work my way through the series.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Asperger's Resource

I am a researcher by nature. As a mom, I have purchased and read countless books by different authors who all have their own take on how to raise children. Once we decided to homeschool the first thing I did was start learning all I could - books, websites, message boards and anything else I could get in my hands. Our realization of Thatch's ADHD was no different, more books added to our bookshelf and more bookmarks on my computer.

And now Asperger's has entered our life...

When I asked what the one book was that all moms starting on this journey needed to read first, I got this answer time and again: The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Tony Attwood.

I thought I would share here just in case you ever have a child with Asperger's cross your path - friend, family member, a child in church or any other way.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A New Path

A year ago, in December of 2007, we received a referral from our pediatrician to have Thatcher evaluated by a Developmental Pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital here in Houston. We sent in the paperwork and waited...and waited...and waited. After eleven months the day of our appointment arrived this past Tuesday.

We have always known he had severe ADHD and lots of what his therapists called "Spectrum Disorder tendencies." Spectum Disorder is the umbrella under which a few things fall: Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger's and Autism are a few of the more common.

He has always had unnatural fixations on things starting with lights and then his hands when he was less than a year old. As he got older his fixations changed from keys to automatic doors and then to cars. As a two year old he could tell you the name of every single car on the road. "Mom, that's a Ford F150. Oh, there's a Lincoln Navigator and a GMC Yukon XL." Lot of kids have interests but it is the level to which they dominate a child's life that make them stand out for some kids. Thatch talked about cars from the moment he woke up until the time he fell asleep at night.

Thatcher also received speech therapy from the age of eighteen months to three because he only used language to label things, never to get his needs met or communicate wants. He never once said, "I'm hungry (or thirsty or hot or angry or sad...). In speech therapy terms it is called pragmatic use of language - using language for different purposes. He would simply tell you what something was whether it be a giraffe, chair, car, house or whatever. His vocabulary was full of nouns but no verbs!

His non-verbal skills were almost non-existent when he was younger. We could not get him to use sign language no matter how much we tried. He also never pointed nor would he take you to show you what he wanted. It was like he wasn't even aware he had needs/wants. He would just go along with whatever toys/food I set in front of him. This was true up until the age of four! Very different from his brothers who expressed desires from twelve months on.

He was also very delayed in other areas, always meeting all developmental milestones but months to years later than his peers. He had low muscle tone, refused to self-feed until the age of 18 months (even with a dietician working with him weekly) and would refuse all foods unless they were brown and crunchy. I could go on and on but I am sure I've bored you stiff by now.

All these were pieces to a puzzle but we just didn't have the big picture to put them all together yet. Our hope was that this appointment might do this for us. We would have a yes or a no in regard to whether or not his "quirks" (and we all have them!) were enough to label him with something on the autism spectrum. I went into the appointment really hoping the doctor would say something along the line of, "Yep, lots of spectrum disorder stuff but not enough to warrant a label. He'll outgrow most of this with time." That's not what we got.

Instead we heard, "Your son has Asperger's Syndrome." I even pushed back a little saying that this diagnosis can be somewhat subjective and my concerns about this being over-diagnosed as it is the "hot" label right now. She replied that we could take Thatcher to ten doctors and she was confident that all ten would have the same diagnosis. After all I've learned in the past five days, I now agree. Honestly, I have known for some time in my heart the reality that this diagnosis was coming, but it's still incredibly hard to hear.

So where do we go from here? If you asked me on Tuesday I would have said that I was filled with a strange mixture of relief (that I am not a horrible mother who couldn't control or fix her son) and great sadness, too. It was weird, to say the least, to have such contrasting emotions exist simultaneously. Today I would have to say that the dominant emotion is thankfulness. I am thankful that now at least we know what path we are on so that we may learn how to best help/support/teach our precious son. I wish I had been doing more all along to educate myself these past few years when we had suspicions but am ready for what lay ahead. Ask me tomorrow and you may get a different answer though. This is quite an emotional roller coaster for sure.

Here's to a new journey, a new path and helping our son be all that God created him to be.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here is the Christmas card we are sending out this year (with a few modifications for anonymity's sake!). In the past we had friends who were professionals do all this for us...this year we did it by ourselves - or to be more fair, dh did it all by himself as he spent the better part of yesterday retouching photos, designing our card and ordering! Thank you dh!!!

May your days be merry and bright...
from Smooth Stones Academy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Look what flew over my house yesterday!

One of the perks of living less than five miles NASA's Johnson Space Center is that sometimes you get the chance to experience some really neat things! I got a call from dh yesterday around 12:30 in the afternoon; he told us to hurry into the backyard. Not three minutes later look what we saw.....

NASA was transporting Endeavour from its last landing spot in the California desert back to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It stopped here at JSC and before finishing the flight to KSC they flew the shuttle throughout the area to give everyone a good look. On one of its circles it flew directly over my backyard! It was extra-special considering that the shuttle program ends in 2010. There won't be many opportunities to see anything like this again!