2021 Homeschool Week 1 | January 4

Welcome to our 2021 Homeschool!

Without other obligations or distractions, we really leapt back in and created a full week of exploration, learning, and fun. If this is your first post to read through, know that not every week looks like this. We let our weeks flow and embrace what comes, with some intentions and direction in mind on my part, beforehand. Honestly, the only reason I try to have an idea of where I’ll lead us in advance is so that I’m prepared if my executive functioning revolts, as usual. Did I mention we’re a neurodiverse household? I’m autistic with ADHD, and the kiddo has ADHD as well as dyslexia and dyscalculia. 

Because of our neurotypes, we don’t follow standard curriculum the typical way or force ourselves to fit into learning methods that weren’t created with us in mind. Instead, we adapt, we explore, we feel things out, and we continue to pursue information with creativity, intention, and balance. I’ll explain what that means to me, and you’ll see examples of it weekly, woven throughout our experiences.

It’s significant for me to have our life, including our homeschooling and all other endeavors, flow smoothly, not being interrupted by arbitrary “should do’s”. I’ve woken up to enough alarms, forced myself to do enough work, pushed myself past my basic needs, and reached burn out enough times in my life. If I don’t absolutely have to, why would I do that anymore? Why would I choose it intentionally? And if I wouldn’t, then what would I choose instead? What do I actually need? 

And that’s what inspires our daily homeschool and life, with our goals and lifestyle intertwined. We meet our needs, seek our goals, learn to trust our intuition while creating a strong inner guidance system, and we reevaluate and make sure it all makes sense anytime we feel a need for a new balance. 

As I’ve mentioned before, we thrive in a loose structure that’s open instead of restrictive. It allows our needs to be met while giving us the freedom to be who and how we are and for that to look the same or different any days in a row. We don’t feel the same every day, and we don’t adhere to arbitrary rules about when meals should be served or when classes or materials have to be completed. While we don’t have strict bedtimes, we consider factors that may matter to us like daylight, pet needs, and interaction with other family members; and we set intentions around supporting those. 

Knowing that I prefer to ease into my day, gaining clarity or pursuing a personal goal in silence, I’m less likely to melt into the couch until 3am trying to recuperate from a chaotic day. I know my future needs will be supported, so I’m able to relax a bit, go to bed, and start the next day feeling comfortable and ready instead of like I have to cope all over again. I used to live that way too regularly. 

This is that loose structure for me, knowing that I’ve created a system that has all of my needs considered but isn’t restrictive of their variation or unpredictable external demands. This allowance gives me both the grace and freedom I need while supporting me in my challenges. Instead of punishment, there’s room to breathe. Instead of shame, there’s built in space for self-care. If I’m accountable for my life and time, why would I have it any other way?

If you’re neurotypical, wondering why the heck I’m so worried about having my needs met and being comfortable instead of just getting it together and being a grown up, well, I’m autistic and my needs are different than yours. 

If you relate to this strongly, whether you’ve found ways to help yourself overcome your own challenges or still feel like you’re drowning in it, or possibly pulled between what you want and what you think you’re supposed to need…

You’ve got this. 

You’re not alone. 

If I have to figure this out for myself, why then keep it to myself?

I’ve realized I don’t have to be alone either.

We’re in this together, and I’m here to support and encourage you. 

Let’s get into our week. Remember, this was a full week and not necessarily our norm. We had plenty of time to focus and pursue goals without outside distractions or other obligations. We accomplished a lot, which is not how I measure success anymore, and is more a statement of showing awareness that it’s not what I expect from us or others to maintain. 

We started the week off focused and digging into information together. We read magazines, pulled up videos on interests expressed over the last couple weeks, and I offered some new ideas for physical activity and incorporating in fun that there hadn’t yet been extra time for.

I considered our learning goals, which I laid out in this post last year when we chose them together. 

Later in the week, when I hadn’t yet made myself readily available, Myles started some of his goals on his own. He immediately started his day with taking care of his pets and then practicing typing and working through a math section on Khan Academy. I can check his progress and results to see how he’s doing, and he can work through it at his own pace. After those, he found a Cosmic Kids Yoga video and started that on his own as well. 

I try to keep a running mental list of things we will enjoy so I have suggestions to move us forward intentionally but without over-planning. Balance, supported by both preparation and allowing. He’s started to become aware of the same. That in itself is so valuable, learning to live intentionally from a young age and not just by rules or resistance to them. 

We had agreed that writing skills were significant, even though Myles doesn’t always show an interest in practicing. I do my best to keep it as interesting as possible, and I’ve found writing prompts he can print and work on at his own pace. Lately, this includes opinion writing, and he will take the worksheet to his room and use Siri to help spell words – some for confidence and some for words he doesn’t know how to spell yet. I don’t stress over which words he currently knows how to spell. He learns as he wants to know something, and I don’t feel a need to further interfere. 

I make suggestions and offer guidance when it comes to trying new things that he may feel averse to just because he doesn’t have the confidence in his skills yet. I do encourage him not to instantly discredit trying something new, but I also try to be aware of not imposing my desire for him to want to do something on him as well. 

This week, I suggested writing thank you letters to family. Any time we get the chance to use our skills in real life situations versus simulated ones, it’s preferred. He grumbled about why does he have to do that anyway, and I responded that he didn’t have to but it would be kind and it would be a good way to practice writing. Once he started, he got excited about it and drew a picture as well. He was really proud of himself and happy with his effort until I asked him to write a second card. I think it’s significant to be aware that kids budget their energy too, and sometimes it really feels like too much because they gave it all on the first attempt, in this case, creatively. 

Funny I mentioned last week that we unintentionally stopped reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5* because we just picked it up again this week. We didn’t make it too much further, but I love that we’re able to listen to a bit here and there as it fits in. We finished Book 10 of Death Note Complete Box Set: Volumes 1-13 with Premium* and we’re down to the last two books in the story.  

One morning, I asked Myles to occupy himself for a bit, so he chose a few books to look through or read on his own: Star Wars ® Journey to Star Wars the Force Awakens Look and Find ®*, Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook: The Need-to-Know Stats and Facts on Over 700 Pokémon*, If You Give a Dog a Donut* I adore his selection here.

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

We read magazines together as well, usually looking through Highlights for Children* and National Geographic Kids* in moments we’re looking for something new to explore or have a few moments to dig into something. Sometimes we read over things like weird facts or Guinness World Records and other times we may read a story or two. Occasionally, we find information that brings up a broader discussion, which happened last week when we read about a Native American tribe and wanted to expand our understanding.  

I had intended to look up information pertaining to the Blackfeet Nation and Blood Tribe but ended up finding an hour and a half long video on Native Americans that caught my  attention. Myles was also interested, and though it started slow, he got hooked and wanted to complete it. I didn’t give it my focus, but Myles was interested enough to ask me to find parts two and three for the future. 

Later in the week, I looked up more videos on the table of elements as I had searched for last week. We had watched the Most Deadly Elements on Earth, and didn’t look any further at the time. So this week, we watched The Genesis of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table; Solving the Puzzle of the Periodic Table; and Crash Course Chemistry’s The Periodic Table.

We also moved onto the section covering mixtures in our Science: A Visual Encyclopedia* and I saved some videos to provide a good explanation of that too. I plan to show those next week before moving on to the next section. I try to provide a mix of reading, talking, and a visual representation to tie it all together.

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

I love when those pieces flow together unintentionally and support what I aim to create better than in the past when I used to try to control every detail. 

This week, our Atlas Crate came in, and we started to slowly explore the parts. It came with a cute story to introduce us to the characters who would take us along on their travels, a globe to assemble and place each country’s sticker on, and an adventure book to assemble and add the included country cards to each month. Because we get them once a month, we’re taking our time with the material. Myles started assembling the globe, and as we put each sticker on, we read the included Atlas Card to talk about the continent and what it included. The first sticker in the book was for Greenland, then moving to North and South Americas. 

The next day, we were reading our Highlights magazine, when the story we came across featured Greenland at a time it was too cold for families and food sources to thrive. Myles held his globe as we talked about it, and he was able to see the country on the flat map with included information in Highlights. Greenland was the only continent that didn’t have its own Atlas Card included so I had intended to find some more information to share to fill in that gap, but we stumbled right into it on our own. This is the magic of allowing. Had we not found it, we could have just as easily sought it out ourselves, but either way I didn’t stress and deplete all my energy over forcing pieces together a certain way. 

We also placed the Europe and Asia sticker on the globe and read the facts from their Atlas Cards. Next week we will finish up with the remaining continents and then assemble the book to hold our cards. I’m very pleased with this crate, what it offers, and how we get to interact with the provided information. I’m already looking forward to our next one. 

We received Kiwi Crates for over a year, and I let quite a few of them pile up, despite how wonderful they were. We were doing a lot of projects around the house, and more pieces being out and unpredictable time and energy needs led to them being put on a shelf for later. Real life, right? The positive side of this is that we have plenty of Kiwi Crates to keep enjoying now as well, even though I’ve switched our subscription over to the Atlas Crate. If you’re interested in signing up for any of their crates, you’re welcome to use our referral link, which gives us each $10 in credit (thank you!)

Last week, Myles finished his Kiwi Crate on puppet engineering, as I showed in our weekly post. We had put together a box theater last year in an online theater class we took with Varsity Tutors**, so we skipped the directions to create one out of our Kiwi Crate box. Myles performed an excellent puppet show, and kept us laughing with his performance. 

Coincidentally, for the first time in months, I checked out which classes Varsity Tutors was currently offering and signed Myles up for the ones that seemed interesting, of course giving him the choice to attend or not. Fables and Tall Tales was available this week, and Myles decided he would check it out. He had taken a section of the same class previously with another instructor and usually enjoyed the stories, though sometimes sitting still through a class becomes a challenge. Really though, we’re at home, and he can find stimmy ways to pay attention to a class and meet his own needs. I rarely attend a Zoom meeting sitting still. Why would I expect him to? 

During the first class period, he colored in a simple color by number page, and other times he will have lunch during class. We got out our kinetic sand this week, and Myles spent quite a while playing with it one day. With a little forethought, he could play with something like this during class as well. I may even suggest it today when class continues!

This is similar, but isn’t the exact kit we bought years ago: Kinetic Sand, Sandisfying Set with 2lbs of Sand and 10 Tools, for Kids Aged 3 and up*

**Varsity Tutors offers paid small group classes as well as the large group classes we’ve previously taken. If you use our referral link, we each get three hours of credit. So far, we’ve only participated in the free classes provided, and I’ve shared information on those as we’ve taken them.

Recently, we sparked an interest in karate and decided to look for lessons on YouTube. It’s great to have a physical activity we can do inside this time of year. The weather did clear up a few days and Myles was able to spend some time running around the yard, and we also took a couple of walks around the neighborhood. 

He also found his first egg from his new chicks and our older chickens started laying eggs again….right outside our back door, how thoughtful!

We enjoyed learning some basic karate kicks and punches while also stretching and getting our heart rates elevated. We had mentioned picking up yoga and karate, and found that many of the yoga positions I’ve practiced for years are incorporated in warming up for karate as well. This didn’t deter us from also practicing yoga during the week. In fact, Myles remembered how much he loved Cosmic Kids Yoga and started it several times on his own. 

It feels really good to move again, and sometimes I forget to pursue physical movement. I refuse to do it out of guilt or pressure to incorporate a healthy goal – if it’s healthy, it’s that way emotionally, mentally, and physically. So I embrace the opportunity for awareness that movement can be so helpful, and I’m excited my team is ready to pursue something with interest and not guilt. 

And can you really start taking karate lessons without then having a week of Karate Kid movie nights? Maybe, but why would you? We haven’t started the new Cobra Kai show yet, so this feels like good prep work. 😉

I made a point to intentionally embrace fun this week as well. Sometimes life gets depressing and keeping it rolling while taking all of the needed breaks and doing your best to just stay neutral is all you can manage. If you’ve been reading, I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear me say I was experiencing depression and burnout more than I was letting myself realize. I’m grateful I was able to navigate it so well this time until I got through it. 

I’m sure that relief also has something to do with how much we suddenly accomplished this week and how energetic I was in pursuit of it. Neurodiverse individuals are disproportionately likely to struggle with their mental health, and I want to be open and authentic with all aspects. 

This is why I allow a flow, have loose expectations to guide but not overwhelm, and allow time to do what we need, whether that’s pursuing more interests and filling our time with hyper-focused fun or just sitting back and recuperating when needed. It all flows the best way it can to support our needs as we go. And we get everything we need out of each phase of life. 

Balance isn’t something we achieve once and then hold our breath to maintain. We can learn to be aware of our needs, honor our desires, and support ourselves in pursuit and maintenance of all parts that encompass us. 

We can learn how to breathe life into ourselves instead of draining it while desperately seeking to be refilled, and we can teach our kids how to fill themselves up as well. 

Homeschooling for neurodiversity means I can teach my child academically and also how to navigate life for himself and find balance in each moment and the overall picture so that he doesn’t face as many of the same struggles.

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