Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Natural Learning Initiative

The Homeschool Year in Review

Time to explore at length the way things work...

This school year started out with some trepidation.  Fourth grade
is a big step from the lower elementary grades.  There are so many skills taught at this level.  Many students feel overwhelmed, as they sense the increased pressure and transition to self-responsibility.  Thankfully, we don't find ourselves under this type of stress because
we are creating our own learning environment.

Appreciating things others may not even notice...

This year the main focus was on getting lil' guy's health back on track.  Plagued with allergies, asthma and sensory difficulties since he's been very young, we have been working on resolving these issues to give him a better quality of life.

The other priority was to work intensely on social skills. 
Having the freedom of homeschooling allows for so many opportunities to practice these skills.  Every time we encounter someone new, we concentrate on how best to communicate what we are thinking and feeling in the most appropriate way.  Not an easy task when you consider that kids with Asperger's have very little in the way of social skills.  Each and every encounter is another opportunity to practice what doesn't come naturally.

Being able to learn in a way that suits him best,
with his own self-made curriculum.

The flexibility with natural learning this year has allowed us to really focus on areas that needed strict attention.  I think it's fair to say that great strides have been made.  Lil' guy can now have friends over and take turns playing what they each like to do.  He is initiating more social conversational skills such as asking a friend what they think about any given subject.  His vocabulary has been extensive for quite some time, but the challenge lies in using his communication skills effectively.  These social pragmatics are the mainstay of every interaction.  He has also made a concerted effort to improve in the area of manners, and he will tell you that he wants to "always be polite". 

Caring for loved ones,
even if they aren't human...

One major accomplishment is his ability to now use the phone to call friends and family.  Until this year, he would balk at having to talk to someone on the phone, even someone for whom he cares deeply.  My take on it is that it was difficult for him to talk to someone without being able to see their face.  Kids on the spectrum need lots of visual support, so this unwillingness made real sense to me.  Over time, he has now gotten comfortable picking up the phone and dialing a friend to invite over.  He even remembers to end the call with a proper "bye".

Discovery at his own pace,
in his own comfort zone.

These milestones may not seem much to anyone outside of our family, but we know how significant they are.  Academics will only get him so far.  Typical of Aspies, he is extremely bright, so learning comes easily to him.  He retains every thing he's ever read and can recite word-for-word book pages and video clips.  His incredible memory allows him to "see" the page in front of him as he describes it.  What a gift!
Our studies are more along the realm of social interactions and maintaining healthy and reciprocal relationships. 
These skills can only be taught in the school of life. 

Fire Safety is a current obsession interest.

Before I became a momma to a child with Asperger's, I never really thought too much about the importance of social skills.  It's something that I thought came naturally to everyone, although now that I know more about it, I can say it's something I myself have struggled with throughout my life.  I feel so grateful that lil' guy can be at home to learn these vital life lessons.  They will carry him through his life
and make it so much better. 

Homeschooling has been one of the biggest blessings
of our lives.

Lots of time with family...

For more information about Asperger's,
you can go here.

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