Alex is 13 years old now and has been working through the Collaborative Learning Stage, as I describe the rhythm of our unschooling cycles, since around 11.5 years old. This is never an easy stage as the children transition from a more relaxed, interest-based environment (seeking their passion) to learning more about goal setting and self-discipline (purpose). With Alex living with autism, it made the transition just a bit bumpier.
I’m so excited to announce that . . . Alex has arrived! Woohoo! We started off like I always do with my children at this stage . . . one or two subjects and working side by side with them. Together, we find resources that work for him. Actually, Abbey was the person who first did this with Alex back when he was somewhere between 11 and 11.5, and they worked together like this for maybe 6 months.
I believe a break occurred, and then I started working with him one-on-one, shifting things around to encourage transitioning into independence. It was always hit and miss at doing the formality, so it was maybe done twice a week, and lasted an hour or two. At a certain point, I didn’t think my current thinking would transfer to independence, so I started looking.
I went to a GIFTS-NC conference last year and picked up what looked like a good idea, if I could modify it to what would work for us. It was what I would call a “better” TEACCH box system. I thought and thought how I could modify it and came up with a good plan. Alex tried it starting just before 13, but he felt it was too overwhelming for him. He started calling “homeschooling time” the “H” word . . . LOL!
So, we took another break and he shared with me what he needed. He said he still needed someone to be with him as he did things. At the same time, Abbey, Alex’s big sister, was able to begin formally working with him through procured state services one-on-one in our home for four hours a day. He was excited as we shared with him what he would be able to do: things like creating his own stories with support, learning computer skills to further his car and other interests, earning money through chores, expanding his understanding through readings and vocabulary work, etc. All of this would be done by creatively interweaving his interests as the process toward worthy products.
Well, about two months into that, I started adjusting the box system and having his older brother sit with him (who wanted to earn some money, too). It didn’t work, adjust, it didn’t work, adjust, it did work! There still seemed to be resistance, though. Then, one day, about three weeks ago, it all started to come together. All the social and emotional and behavioral conversations that were happening with his sister in their “therapy hours” was transferring over into his formal work.
Alex actually started to come and REQUEST his homeschooling. He collaborated with me about adjusting it once again to work exactly the way that is right for him, how often, and when, and the boy is doing it all independently (as he dropped wanting Eric to help him). He does four activities each day, he learned to keep focused (something he had a hard time with) through using a timer, but dropped that after only a week or two, and he learned that he didn’t have to panic if he didn’t understand something, nor did he need someone right next to him to avoid the panic, but all he needed to do is come ask for help. It takes him about an hour to complete.
So, he’s approaching 13.5 years old and are right about on target for what I say typically happens in this timeframe. It just takes that long to transition, find what works for everyone, and then success. I am already anticipating the next stage of Gift Focus Stage as we are gearing up to match him with apprentices in mechanics. We’ve been trying to put it together and it has been slow going, but I see it happening by 14, so . . .
It’s always so exciting!
Here’s some pictures of Alex doing his homeschooling. He prefers the side porch, and you see his big brother still likes to come along and “spar” with him, literally and figuratively (they love to verbally spar good-humoredly with each other):