I am the middle-aged mum of two teenagers who have been homeschooled for most of their lives.
My son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when he was 7 years old, and one year later my daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (at age 10). We began homeschooling long before I was aware that they were on the spectrum, but their diagnoses and my growing understanding of what that entailed only served to reinforce in my mind that we had made the right choice for them.
Our style of homeschooling during the early years is best described as unschooling. We used no curriculum; the kids followed their interests, and I supported them by providing a rich learning environment and access to resources. Since kindergarten, my kids have been enrolled in a private government-funded online homeschool program that provides us with money for homeschooling activities and supplies, and with parental support in the form of a personal learning consultant. The program’s child-led learning philosophy is extremely supportive of unschooling, so it has been a great fit for us. They helped us get assessments for the kids and now we are in the special education department, which provides extra funding to cover therapies and other autism-related programs.
In 2014, my son began attending a therapeutic learning centre for kids with autism, and the following year he was joined by his sister (our homeschool program pays for this out of their special education funding). They attended 3 – 4 days per week, and the work included academic learning as well as physical activities, social learning, and other therapies. As a result, I wasn’t doing much in the way of homeschooling anymore.
The kids were doing really well, but then this past fall some new changes were made and I was not happy with the way the program was being administered. So I moved them to a similar program run by one of their former teachers. My son is still there and doing really well, but over the Christmas holidays my daughter decided she wanted to try attending a “real” school. That transition has been wonderful, scary, and quite challenging as she struggles with anxiety issues, but she is determined to succeed and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
As for me, I grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver and have lived in big cities for most of my life. Our family moved around a lot until 2010, when we purchased 4 acres of quiet wooded bliss in the beautiful Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. For the first 6.5 years we lived in a tiny, dilapidated mobile home while we planned and saved so we could build a proper house on the property. The house was designed by me and built by a fantastic crew in 2016, and we moved in at the end of October.
I am a former research scientist who left the world of academia to stay home and raise my children. I truly love being a mother and caring for our beautiful new home. My other interests include quilting, knitting, reading, running/cycling/hiking, and geocaching. I am a retired La Leche League leader, and I still do volunteer work in my community. I have sat on a number of Boards for local non-profit societies; my current position is with our local neighbourhood association, which is in the midst of negotiating with the municipality on some issues affecting our residents.
I have been blogging about my life and my family since 2006. The blog title, FreeLearners, refers not just to our educational philosophy, but to our overall approach to life and learning. Our commitment to “crafting a life” – deliberately creating the lifestyle we wish to live – is best reflected by our unconventional approach to educating our kids and the unconventional career paths chosen by myself and my partner, which place a high priority on time spent together as a family. I run a small, part-time consulting business and I occasionally teach university science courses. My husband is an electrical engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit who left the rat race years ago to focus on the world of startups. He is currently the founder and CEO of a small software company in the advertising technology sector.
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