He picked out the game. The same one he had chosen over and over for weeks. A tray. Sixteen numbered squares on the tray, with colours on the bottom. Books. Open the page, place the tray on top, answer the questions. Close the tray. Flip it over. Check the pattern.
The book said for ages 8-11. He was 2. “Let’s go to the park,” I suggested. “No,” he answered, “I want to do my game. And he did. Over and over, until I pulled him away to spend time at playgroup, or the children’s museum. The library, the park. And he enjoyed those, too, but he loved the game.
Puzzles. Educational computer games. Teach Me… language tapes. The Sign Songs video. These were how he wanted to spend his time, and I had to pull him away to do kid things.
He wasn’t three before he screamed at me for not teaching him how to read yet. I bought him a phonics game. But I was in school, and we were away from home 12 hours a day. He got tired of waiting, and taught himself at four. In a week he went from beginner reader to Robert Munsch and Dr. Seuss. He would read them upside down and backwards – in order the read to the children in my daycare. A week later, he was into novels.
He loved to learn.
Woken up in the morning to the sound of tears. He was on the computer doing a math game made for second graders, but he was four. “Try an easier game,” I told him. “No,” he cried, “I have to do this one.” And he would. Eventually he would get it.
He was homeschooled through Kindergarten. Only we mostly read, played his games, and did crafts and activities to go along with the Little House on the Prairie books I was reading him. We maybe spent 45 minutes a day on “school,” and for the rest, I ran a daycare. He played. At the end of the year, he tested at a fourth grade level for all but math, where he was halfway through second grade. He didn’t like math.
Yet after all that, when it came to first grade, I decided he needed formal education. I allowed myself to be talked into it because, “it will make it easier for him to get into college.” Records. He was still homeschooled, but now he had a teacher, who set out his work for each day. And he cried. Day after day, the work became a battleground.
We rarely battled over anything but his schoolwork. He really wasn’t a difficult child to raise, despite his Aspergers. So every year I tried to talk him into going to school – but there was no way. “I am not going!” he told me from the age of six. “I will be so bad, they will kick me out.” So every year I continued homeschooling him. I wanted to, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not motivate him. This from a child who had to be dragged away from educational material to play.
He never did go back to school after the two weeks he spent in Kindergarten, “it’s so boring,” he told me – as they were learning to read colour words (orange spelled in orange, red spelled in red…) The school told me we had to choose, so he came back home.
Somehow we managed to get through grade 9 this way, with constant daily battles over the work. But he never learned to motivate himself, and all I tried stopped working. So this boy, who spent all of his early years three grade levels ahead, didn’t graduate with his year. Didn’t graduate the next. And quit school with only five courses left to complete.
We tried to work around him. On his own time, he was learning German for fun. So we built a course around this. Once he had to do it, he quit. When his power supply in his computer stopped working, he rebuilt his computer from the ground up – but he wouldn’t do the course.
He is very bright. He has tested on the 99th percentile for intelligence. But he cannot be made to do anything.
So I gave up.
And after one semester free from obligation, he has taken up German again. He is back to his interests, and is learning a lot. He remembers very little of what was taught to him in school, but remembers minute details of all he learns on his own.
If only I had listened to him, and unschooled him – as I had thought would work best all along. He would have learned all they needed him to, and much more. Instead, I feel we wasted thirteen years in a battleground. And to the system, all they will see is that he ‘failed’ to complete highschool.
What makes their records such a strong indicator anyway?