“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”–Albert Einstein
I’m Andrea, the mom of four kids, 24,19,16 and 14. The first two are girls, public-schooled and in college or graduated. The second two are boys, homeschooled , and the 16-year-old has autism and learning difficulties. I write the blog For Random Learning Comes.
I found this quote in a blog on Chaos Theory in a website on fractals, but it pretty much describes homeschool as we experience it. : “Chaos is the science of surprises.”
I was sitting in my car, having a quiet moment for the first time in 24 hours, as I waited for my son to finish art therapy. That was when I came across Simple Homeschool’s invitation to post my “day in the life.” This is not exactly a typical day, but it does prove the notion that all things tend toward disorder.
6 am: Wake up. Get dressed. Leave instructions for son (14) to keep an eye on son(16) and feed him occasionally, and text if any problems occur during the day. Tell daughter (19) to get up because I have an autism conference today at her university. I ask her to wake up her brother (16), and make sure he showers, since without any such intervention, he will gladly sleep till 3 pm. And then stay up all night. And I like my sleep.
7 am: Leave house with daughter(19) to take her to the university where I am attending an autism conference. Arrange by text with older daughter (24) to pick up her sister later and deliver her to work, since I will still be at the conference.
8 am: Drop off daughter (19). Go to conference location, walk to door with my cane (no nearby spaces, of course, and due to a hip issue, I am hobbling these days.) Wonder, while hobbling, if I should ask the doctor for a “handicapped” parking tag. Feel ashamed for using that word. But when you’re talking about parking spaces, the name seems to have stuck.
9 am: Seated at a table full of therapists. Spoke to one other parent at check-in. Conference room full. From tone of questions throughout the day, it is a mix of teachers, therapists, other medical professionals, professors/ grad students doing research on autism, and a few parents.
9 am-12pm: Lectures by college professors on :
- Weakness in the skill of looking at an object and then, with your gaze, directing others to look at the object too (initiating joint attention) in kids with autism spectrum disorder, and the lifelong repercussions of this weakness (That’s why he won’t ask for help!) Peter S. Mundy, PhD.
- Stress in people with autism, and monitoring devices being developed to alert caregivers that the child is agitated before any signs of agitation are visible. Favorite quote: “Parents tell me their kids go from zero to sixty in no time flat. This software shows that kids with autism are already at forty.” Theresa Hamlin PhD.
12 pm: Stop for lunch. Check my phone.
- Message from my husband letting me know he broke down on the highway and the tow truck is coming to get him. He’ll stop by home for lunch then take the bus this afternoon to work. I need to pick him up at 7.
- Message from my daughter (19) telling me she actually reached a live person at the university’s housing department, and was able to resolve a tech issue. The software would not allow her to sign up for upperclassman dorms, because it showed her as a freshman, rather than the junior that she is. Let me know she signed up for housing in the nick of time. Payment is due in two days, but, of course, she didn’t mention it to me until yesterday.
1 pm: More lectures:
- Autism as a Learning Disability. About the impact of autism, especially weakness in initiating joint attention, on reading and other learning tasks. Peter S Mundy PhD, above.
- Initiative to enhance the health of those with moderate to severe autism and other disabilities at a residential school in New York. Focusing on healthy eating, exercise, regular sleep, emotional regulation etc. HealthE6, Theresa Hamlin PhD above.
- Canadian Pathways Study of kids diagnosed with ASD though life and what it tells us about the link , if any, between autism severity (on the A-DOS) and the levels of adaptive skills (on the Vineland). Peter Szatmari. MD, MSc. FRCPS. The main point seemed to be that autism does not have a single path or “trajectory.” So a child’s degree of weakness in social, communication or life skills does not necessarily have any relationship to the severity of his autism symptoms. Autism is heterogeneous, a mixed bag. Which means, on the upside, that good outcomes may be possible despite poor scores.
- Panel question and answer. Peter Szatmari, MD above. Peter S. Mundy PhD, above. Theresa Hamlin, PhD, above. Many parent questions, on treatments, behavior, IEP issues. Several professional questions, some of which went far deeper in the weeds of statistics than I could pretend to follow. I asked one question myself earlier in the conference and immediately felt foolish. I think this experience is pretty typical for parents in such environments. My favorite quote (more or less): “Parents come to me saying the school has told them that their child is having a behavior problem and they(the parent) must do something about it. As if it were the parent’s problem alone. Actually, it is the school’s problem. My advice is to go to the school saying “How are we going to solve our problem.” ” Peter Szatmari MD, above.
5 pm: Hobble back to the car. Drive back in rush hour traffic.
6 pm: Finally near home. Go to grocery, pick up spring rolls and pizza and salad for dinner,
6:30 pm: Drive to bus stop to pick up husband.
7:20 pm: Home, warm up spring rolls and pizza. Check how everyone is.
7:45-8:30: Eat dinner, watch news and funny shows.
8:45: Husband says good night. Goes to iron clothes and shower before bed.
9:00: Daughter (24) returns home to scrounge dinner off us after pottery class. Discuss the merits of porcelain vs. regular clay and what her fellow art school students are making now, as well as her gardening jobs.
10:00: Daughter leaves for home. Tell boys to turn off electronics, go to bed. Son (14) makes bed for son(16). Son(14) puts milk, half and half and block of ice in cooler. This is to prevent my older son’s midnight refrigerator raids of multiple glasses of milk, that will,on occasion, result in a pile of vomit on the floor somewhere. Not tonight though. Tell older son (16) to turn off tablet. Again. And again. Finally, stand in front of chair where he sits, trying not to be too menacing, counting to one hundred in my head. At about 50, he gives up the tablet.
10:30: Sleep fitfully. Occasional sounds of pacing, cupboard and refrigerator doors opening and closing. Usual passive aggressive fight for the covers.
12:00: Daughter(19) returns from night out with friends with a bang of the metal storm door.
1:10: Wake up to noises in the kitchen. Glasses clinking . Ritual of a sugary drink before bed, one I have tried to interrupt many times before, but, as the professor earlier said during her lecture, “You cannot win with these guys!” Theresa Hamlin PhD, above. You pick your battles.
6 am: Wake up. Dress. Coffee!
Again, not a typical day. Most days involve more academics and one on one with the boys. But definitely chaotic, with a tendency toward increased disorder. And full of surprises!