Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our homeschooling story, & some great books.

When Zoe was four years old she went to preschool. I don't remember the exact hours, but I know it started early in the morning and got out at least a couple hours after lunch. After school and on weekends Zoe watched TV. Constantly. When I tried to get her to do other things, like you know, play, she would cry or get "bored" or simply not know what to do with herself. Zoe was overstimulated. Only I didn't know it yet. So I perpetuated it.

Being overstimulated also affected Zoe's attitude. When she wasn't being entertained (by school or TV) she was fussy, cranky, and full of sass. To be honest with you, we didn't really like each other. She was constantly flip with me, and I was more than happy to avoid her by using the TV, AKA, they babysitter.

Then we took a family vacation the summer before Zoe began kindergarten. For a week we played at the beach, went for walks, and ate together as a family. Something strange started to happen to Zoe as the week progressed. She became sweeter and less overstimulated. She was calm. We got along. We didn't fight. We didn't have things to do, places to be, TV to watch.

I had a revelation. What if school and TV were wrong for her? What if Zoe could be nice like this all the time? I so badly wanted to have a good relationship with her. I had always fantasized about homeschooling when she was just a tiny baby. Only when problems arose had I dropped the idea. Maybe it was time to go back to it. At least to try.

And that's how we began homeschooling.

Now, I'm not saying we never watch TV anymore. We watch a little. But cutting drastically back on the habit was crucial for us.

It took a full year without school and TV before Zoe learned how to play. We spent most of that year reading together and being outside (and we still spend most of our time that way). I read to her with my finger, and she naturally followed my finger with her eyes, thus learning to read by sight. Well, she didn't learn to read in one year, but after two years of reading together that way she was reading on her own. There's even a book about it that I read back then. It's called, Teach a Child to Read With Children's Books.

From the time I began homeschooling her, Zoe was also very interested in writing. She wanted to write years before she could read. The Charlotte Mason homeschooling philosophy calls this "copywork." And Zoe was really into it. She still is.

Simply by being around her older sister, Ashley has experienced our joys in homeschooling too. The low stress environment. The ability to learn about what interests you most. Field trips. Being outside. Both girls spend most of the day reading (Zoe actually reading, and Ashley looking at books). Ashley often wants to do whatever Zoe is doing. And they both use for educational games for an hour or so a day.

One of their favorite times of day is definitely Andy's bedtime reading. They have been obsessed with Burgess books (I think they've read three or four now). Also Andy has been reading them this book, Colonial Living.

This book isn't about war. It's all about daily living in the colonial time.

The illustrations are great.

Zoe was crazy for the hair designs :-)

Here's a list of some of some of the Burgess books too, in case you're wondering:

The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver

Old Granny Fox

Old Man Coyote

The Burgess Bird Book for Children

♥, Kelly


  1. This is very inspiring, Kelly.

    I've been struggling so much with my Pele Rose (who has neurological issues, seizures, etc). She is very smart and high functioning, but struggles in some areas and is EXTREMELY high intensity, sassy, sometimes aggressive and I admit that I've used TV for escapism from her. It's been very hard.

    I've resolved to do less TV, which I've done, but it's still too much. I want to start teaching her but she refuses to do anything I tell her to do. I'm doing biomedical stuff with her (GF/CF/Soy-free, etc) and also a host of supplements with her DAN doctor, but this journey is painful and SLOW and we still have significant sleep and other issues with her.

    I feel like each day is an uphill struggle and I hate feeling upset or resentful toward her. I do want to help her. I just wish the puzzle wasn't so confusing. I hope this time next year I can say that we made even more progress with her. Assuming I haven't completely burnt out by then.

    You're methods and attitude are really an inspiration. I love that you've published books, created artwork and done all these things while dealing with these struggles. I did a hand-painted jewelry business (I'm an artist, too) but I found myself completely overwhelmed when the seizures and everything started.

    Sorry for the long comment. I guess this made me realize that things need to change more. I need to figure out more methods and ways to make life more bearable!


  2. Hi Hannah,

    Bless your heart! You are an amazing mom, and I've totally been there. A few years ago I could not have done any of the things I've been able to do lately!!! It will get better for you and your daughter. I believe it :-) Make sure you do an OAT (organic acid test) with your DAN, and a porphyrin test too. Those were the two biggest pieces of the puzzle for Ashley! And we're *still* working—getting more mercury, aluminum, lead, etc, out every time.

    Lots of love, Kelly

  3. Hi Kelly,

    I'm so glad that I was able to meet you today! What an amazing coincidence. Even with Pele's meltdown at the end, I was so glad to be able to speak to you. I hope to see you again sometime in the future.

    Your children are lucky to have you as their mom. I thank you for your encouragement!I need someone to believe things will get better, because that hope falters at times.

    Also, I'll look into those suggestions you had about treatment. I want to ask Pele's doc about them. Thanks again and I hope you have a great rest of the week.

    Big hugs and thanks,

    p.s. typo on my earlier comment. That should be 'your' and not 'you're'. :D I make lots of typos these days. ;)

  4. Hannah, It was so great meeting you! We should plan to meet again some time! :-) XOXO

  5. thanks for posting this. I took this idea to heart and cut way back on TV with my two boys and take them to the park instead after school. They are both becoming so much more social and calmer. No wonder there was less autism and ADHD decades ago. Kids went outside and played instead of watching TV, and they ate so much healthier.i am convinced this is one of the many ways we can help our kids with autism towards recovery.