I don't think I often mention my middle child very often on my blog. I don't purposely intend to leave her out, but with her being "typically developing" I don't often feel that our experiences are very applicable to a blog about home education with special needs/autistic children.
I have always laughingly said that Riley is "typically developing, but anything but typical" or maybe that she suffers from "middle child syndrome". But lately, in the last year or so, something else seems to have been going on. I do know that it's partially related to puberty - she just turned 12 and puberty has hit us full on. But there has consistently been a sense that something is different. I have learned not to ignore that voice, but in my attempts to research, I've always come up short.
I thought for awhile that she had a raging case of ADHD. Or perhaps that she has a shadow of the Autism Spectrum. Both of these could be true, but recently a friend mentioned a book that she thought would help: Strong Willed Child, or Dreamer? I purchased it for my Kindle and I have been slowly working my way through the book. It has been eye-opening, to say the least.
I think it's fairly safe to say that Riley is a dreamer (As an aside, the evaluator who tested Austin gave me a survey to fill out based upon this book and identified Austin as a "diplomat", which so totally fits. I believe that I would be labeled as a "driver" LOL). I have not only highlighted passages throughout the book that seem to describe her to a T, but I find myself reading them out loud to my DH (We are both struggling mightily with Riley).
I have to admit that I read the book wanting ANSWERS. Just like I seem to do for everything. I'd like a "10 Easy Steps to _______" (and you can fill in the blank with "Homeschooling Austin and Making Sure He Gets Into College", or "Getting Riley to Stop Arguing All the Time", and even, "Being a Good Christian". Unfortunately, I'm learning the hard way that there are no true lists like that for anything worthwhile in this life. ) The author even warns that Doers will be wanting to jump in and fix their Dreamer, but that cannot be your goal. I'm sure that caution was meant for me!
There are many things I could comment on but what prompted me to blog this evening - after I had shut down my computer for the night - was Chapter 9, which deals with Dreamers in school. I nearly skipped this chapter believing that it wasn't applicable to our situation. But I'm glad I didn't. Dreamers are described as being global learners, learning best from whole to parts, not responding well to linear, input-output modes of education. When I read this I had to push back the feelings of frustration bordering on failure - I'm such a linear, input-output thinker. Am I doomed to never understand my daughter? Am I doomed to never provide the type of education she needs to remain engaged? Have I mentioned that she is the only one in our family who will not get Spring Break this week because she failed to complete her work? She still has math to finish.
My hopes rose a little bit when the author describes that, while Dreamers don't typically do well in our American education system, they usually do well in a British-Classical Education model of reading classic and modern books and developing their own ideas on the subject matter. "Hmmm," I thought, "That's what we've been doing the last few years.... perhaps we are on the right path."
Then a few turns of the page... er, clicks of the button on my Kindle... later and I see the subject heading of Home School for Dreamers. It is a small section, to be sure, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this paragraph, "In her book For the Children's Sake, Susan Schaffer Macauley outlines her philosophy of education based on the work of educator Charlotte Mason. Read this book and/or others on home schooling before undertaking this option. You need to have a clear philosophy of education before you embark into teaching. Although home schooling is not appropriate for every child or every family, it is an option that allows for the individualized approach a Dreamer needs. If you try home schooling, make sure that you are teaching in the way he can really hear."
I was absolutely floored to see Charlotte Mason recommended in this mainstream book! I myself had never heard of Charlotte Mason until I started home schooling. She was not discussed in any of my education courses in college! Despite being 4 years into following Charlotte Mason's approach to education, I am still such a baby. But I see the most fruit in the one child who has been wholly educated in this way - Reece. I'll have to save that for another post this coming week, but the strengths of a CM education were very evident in watching her compose her birthday thank you notes.
I do not believe in coincidences, so I will take the mention of CM in this book to be a confirmation that continuing with CM methods and reading this book for help in understanding Riley is this the correct path to be following, even though it is challenging for me personally. Remembering as well that I first learned about CM through learning more about our RDI therapy, there is no way that one thread flows through everything in our lives by mere happenstance.
Even though the struggles with autism, and epilepsy, and preteen dreamers has left me confused and exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed, it is evident that God is guiding our steps towards the way He wants us to raise and educate our children. I can only hope and pray that I am able to adjust, adapt, and implement these methods before they are all grown up! :)