I know everyone says kids, especially those on the spectrum, need structure. And I don’t necessarily disagree. Our day does have a shape to it–a sort of post-modern shape a fair amount of the time but yes, a shape none the less.
We begin the day in bed. Fluffy goes to sleep on his own about half the time. The other half, he needs to cuddle with one of us while a cd fills the room with scientifically proven sleep-enhancing sounds and the magical Star Gazer fills the room with a dazzling (and soporific) laser night sky. During the night we step through one, sometimes two, rounds of musical beds and by morning, Fluffy and I are usually in one bed, sawing zzzzzzz’s like cartoon characters at 8 am while Dave (the industrious one) has been up in his home office for hours.
At our first wakeful sounds, Dave comes running, wearing his early morning uniform: baggy whitish-gray boxers and a periwinkle blue bathrobe. He crawls under the covers and we all begin to call for Beegu:
“BEEGU! GOOZIE GIRL!! GOO GOO HEAD!!!! COME HERE GIRLIEGIRLIEGIRLIEGIRLIE!!!”
at the top of our lungs. Her collar tinkles from the tv room as she stumbles to her feet, trots down the hall and leaps up to garner much-coveted scratching and ear tugging, etc. etc.,
After morning playtime with Dave, a bite to eat, and some rigorous barrel-climbing and rope-swinging in his playroom, Fluffy and I have about an hour of ‘lesson time.’ It’s the only formal instruction we do: math, writing, piano, and a daily puzzle.
Math: we’re about halfway through the Life of Fred Fractions (ordered from Polka Dot Publishing) book I found through the great site, Living Math. I highly recommend this series. The math is embedded in a silly story about a 5 1/2 year old professor of math at Kittens University. The lessons are super short which means no prep time for me, the teacher, and no angst-ridden math drills for Fluffy, the student.
Writing: Fluffy has two more upper case cursive letters to learn and then he’ll have the entire alphabet in cursive under his belt, upper and lower case! I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: we abandoned printing and took up cursive a year ago; the mechanics of cursive proved to be much, much easier to master.
Piano: We still use Simply Music which I adore. Fluffy’s been playing for about a year and a half and though coaxing him over to the ivories for practice time can be tricky, once he gets going, he’s happy to be there.
Fluffy loves riddles and puzzles. I’ve introduced daily challenges from these two books: Are They Thinking?, and Super Smart. We’ve read through the Stories to Solve series a couple of times–Stories to Solve, More Stories to Solve, and Still More Stories to Solve (Dave and Fluffy also like Two-minute Mysteries) which we heartily recommend. We’re now reading The Cow of No Color, Riddle Stories and Justice Tales from around the World. Some of the stories don’t have a right answer so it’s been an interesting way to open up discussions about points of views, ie, different ways of looking at one event.
Evan the magnificent sitter comes three times a week for extended playtime. Lately, they’ve been playing a game that combines Risk and Go. Do you know about Go?
The rest of the time, Fluffy plays with 4, 4, T (his adorable new Chinese Dwarf hamster) or reads, enjoys his thrice a week computer time, dives into the deep end of the pool to retrieve rings at the Y. We bake, take walk, visit museums, swing by a playground or park. Once a week, Fluffy has a Dungeons and Dragons class at a nearby homeschool program and I’d say he ends up having a spontaneous playdate with the kids across the street at least once or twice a month. That’s huge.
Weekends begin with Friday night movie night which we’ve occasionally screened with our neighbors. Saturday is a four-hour, (yes, I said four-hour!) role-playing game called Dark Ages. It’s the one class where Fluffy gets dropped off, an exotic and advanced event I used to hear other parents did without batting an eye. It’s the only time during the week that Fluffy takes an interest in what he’s wearing. He must wear his black t-shirt, black pants, and his long black star wars cape from last year’s Halloween costume–black confers immunity from enemy fire as he dashes in and out of caves, castles, and forests (okay, and the computer stations set up through-out the room) wielding his sword and shield with about 8 other kids.
I recently pulled the plug on Fluffy’s Sunday computer time in order to establish a true Family Adventure Day, something that started while we were at PACE. It a day when we, the parents, intentionally work on being in charge, guiding the day without a set schedule or discussions ahead of time, to preview, practice, etc., I was surprisingly nervous to put this in motion, especially the ‘no computer time’ part. Internally, I cowered. I knew Fluffy would HATE the idea, would shake his fist at the heavens, ruing the injustice of this change. I was scared of the fallout, as if Fluffy was my boss or my dad and I was terrified to tell him I wrecked the family car. By the time I did it, I believed in it enough that the resistance, intense at first, didn’t last. We’ve had three computer-free Family Adventure Days so far. Fluffy has greeted each one like an oppressed ‘tween, (“UGH! What horrible FAMILY thing are you forcing me to do TODAY!”) but by the end of the day, he’s admitted to having at least some fun.
Mostly, we hang around the house, all of us, all day long. Sometimes we yell and gesticulate wildly in the air. There’s a lot of singing. And talking. We crack each other up. We get on each other’s nerves.
Dave pulls his pants up to his armpits or hangs his growing belly over his belt and dances like a bafoon. Fluffy races about doing his battle stories. I fret about dying while I putter around the house, cooking or sorting or playing or reading or cavorting. I sit in front of my altar each morning where I write a daily gratitude list; I sing African spirituals in the Ku’umba Community Choir; I plunk on these keys; I fantasize about the new Children’s Learning Cooperative.
I’m not sure what we do is even called homechooling. I think it’s just called living.
And every day, a part of me feels like an outlaw, like we’re all getting away with something.