They say a journey starts with a single step. In reality I think our journey into homeschooling, or rather 'Expedition', started with an anxious stumble, a scream, a big breath and an instant headache!
The first year is split between the JOY of no school, the huge wonderful changes in your child and yourself as well as the new experiences you both have ... and stress. Yep I admit it - I was stressed.
At the start you try to attach yourself to the type of group that seems to suit how you envisage your homeschooling journey should be. You join Facebook groups and forums where everyone is lovely but are interested in what type of homeschooler you are and what category you fit into and what you should be doing. You mention your 'tribe' and you become boxed in by it. You get subconsciously judged for it and you can get very defensive of it. It's like the playgroup circles all over again but this time your child has a bigger say in who you connect with and why.
I found it exhausting and my first year of homeschooling my son was stressful rather than just exciting. Granted it is a much different kind of stress to that of mainstream school and for a while you think you are stress free and relaxed, only to realise you just downsized the stress - but it was still there, bubbling under the surface. Instead of taking time finding my feet and working out what I liked and what my son liked, I was drowning in a sea full of new homeschooling terms and working out what lifeboat to swim to! Do you stay in your Distance Ed boat doing what you are told, or stick a leg in the Charlotte Mason boat and what about the unschooling boat on the other side? It was confusing. It was also full of pressure. Being one of the first in my group of friends to homeschool I was constantly asked for help, information, guidance and feedback. I was happy to help, I know I would have a loved a good friend to help me out when we started, but it was a little like being under scrutiny all the time. Don't get me wrong, I loved homeschooling and I still do. My son loved it (which let's face it is the main thing!). I was proud of what we both achieved and happy to show photos and report on what work we had done and awards he won. I celebrated all the joy we had. I just felt very much like I had people to please all the time and that brings a lot of stress to your life, even if you don't realise it at the time.
We did a lot that first year. We were with a Distance Ed school which at the time ran workshops and events. We went on excursions and joined social groups and tried sports and languages and everything in between. The second year brought with it the expectation of being able to keep it all up and do more! I pushed play dates and not only was that hard for my ASD son, but for a mother who also struggled socially, despite me being loud and to seemingly have my shit together, I was never sure of myself. And while my son was so much happier than he was at school, there was something not right with this as well. So many people told us that we'd have to be extra vigilant to 'socialise' my son because he is an only child. But we experienced more than one Bully in our homeschool socialising and more than one parent who allowed it to happen. It all got a bit too much for us and my son shut down again, so did I. It's a community that while vast in distance, is very much a small country town, close knit, everyone knows everyone type of community. When you are treated badly by a few, you find you can't go to anything without being confronted by the 'few'. It was hard.
I find with ASD, in my house anyway, we have what I call a two year cycle. Starts with problems, you change things, you work on them, things go great, you get too cocky and do too much and then it all turns sour. The problems (although different ones) are back and it's time to re evaluate. Well it was problem time again for us. We started two years prior with a suicidal child, changed to homeschooling, worked on it and things seemed to be going well, I obviously pushed too much socially and he crashed. I spent many nights that second year awake in tears. Mother guilt. The usual. The 'I failed' mantra kicks in. And you keep it all to yourself.
I started our third year very differently. Not only had my confidence grown on the curriculum side of things over the previous 2 years and I was able to basically tell the Distance Ed teacher what I was going to do and didn't ask permission, I also ignored all those who pushed any kind of expectation on us. I had quit nearly every homeschool group and forum I had belonged to and even some I helped run through our 2nd year. I had left social groups. I no longer pushed socialising onto my son. We had a sheltered year and while many will criticise me for it, it was the best thing I could have done. My son did the one social/sporting activity he liked - once per week, for 1 hour, that was it. We were still very busy with therapy appointments every day for declining health issues my son has. We were still with Distance Ed, but I stopped most interactions with them as it wasn't what my son wanted nor fitted in with the hospital and therapy. I made decisions for us. I took my time. I spent 6 months writing my application for HEU. I let my son finish the year with Distance Ed because for him and his OCD, that's what was needed. I didn't rush.
We made it. January 2015 I posted off our HEU application and started on my terms this time. I picked my own combination of curriculum and I think I have probably got a bit from about 10 types of homeschooling I've come across. So what do I tell people if they ask me what kind of homeschooler I am? A bloody good one, that's what kind! Aren't we all?
I have hopes, goals, plans (well planners at least, dozens of them, I'm OCD, of course I have planners LOL) and I have fears, doubts and hurdles (ok not hurdles, this fat lady doesn't jump hurdles, stumbling blocks may be a better analogy). I feel like we've been on a huge journey already. A guided tour using Distance Ed, social media and peer pressure. Now it's time to ditch the tour bus and go off road on our own self guided Expedition!
** Ok Ok 'off road' may not be a great analogy either ... I don't like to rough it/4x4/camp, so ahhhh lets say our own self guided, self booked hotel, Expedition. Just to be completely honest LOL. I'm no Princess, I'm a battle worn Warrior Mum - but end of the day I still prefer a castle to a tent! And so does my Warrior Kid xoxo