Why Eclectic Homeschooling Works for My Son with Autism

Why Eclectic Homeschooling Works for My Child with Autism

I have often longed to be able to attach myself to a certain curriculum supplier.  To me, it just sounds more decisive to be able to say something like, “We use Sonlight” than to say, “Oh, we use a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Whatever strikes our fancy.”  Alas, picking one set curriculum is just not how I roll.

Today, I thought I would look at the reasons that being an eclectic homeschooler works for not just my children, in general, but for a child with Autism.  (My son with Autism will be 13 years old next month and will be starting 7th grade next school year.)

Why Eclectic Homeschooling Works for My Son with Autism

1. We don’t feel the pull to use a particular curriculum company.  I am usually jealous of the idea that some people use a curriculum where they don’t have to plan as much as I do.  They get their guidebooks and follow along, adding and subtracting as needed.  However, from the couple of times when I have followed a plan like that (or just tested it out), I realized that it works best for us if I come up with our own whack-a-doo schedule, rather than feeling tied to a set one.

2. I make the schedule.  Not that people with a set style can’t make their own schedule, but I also am not attached to a certain curriculum brand with a structured guidebook.  While I know you still don’t have to do everything in those guidebooks, I always feel like a cheater if I don’t.  I can make our schedule to best fit Noah’s needs.

3.  We can switch (many times, if needed) what program we’re using in a subject. Noah really loves history and science.  These are also the subjects that we have switched up the most since we’ve been homeschooling.  Being eclectic has allowed me to try different programs until we found what was just right for us.

Noah really loved Story of the World, which we started part of the way through last school year.  He was quick to tell me (and tell me many times) how much he liked it and wanted to keep using it.  (I think he was afraid I would change it again!)

4. Ability to emphasize some subjects.  I can decide to spend more time on subjects of great interest in order to encourage a love of learning.  While this is doable with a set curriculum guide, it can be difficult to keep moving through the guide when more time is spent in one area.

5. Ability to minimize some subjects.  We don’t skip any subjects, but there are definitely some that we don’t put as much emphasis on as others.  While Noah doesn’t care for art, we still do it more than he would want because of his siblings.  However, if he was an only child, I would feel comfortable touching on it only a bit each school year and then stopping it totally after sixth grade or so.

Factoid: Though I now have an Etsy shop for my art (as well as go to craft shows and the like), after sixth grade, I never again took an art class in public school.  (I did, however, have to take a semester of teaching art as an elementary education major in college.)

6. Students can help make the curriculum.  I can ask the kids what they think of certain elements of our curriculum, and if I think it’s appropriate, I can add, replace, or take away based on their requests.

Does that mean that if they say they don’t like a subject that I’ll get rid of it?

No, of course not.  But, if they all dislike a certain subject, it makes me look at the resource we’ve picked for it and re-evaluate.

7.  Things are not too rigid.  While it seems like it would be a benefit to have a rigid schedule with a child with Autism, it’s not for us.  What a lot of kids with Autism want is a predictable schedule, not necessarily rigid (though some need that).

For Noah, he wants to know what to expect, which is why I do assignment sheets (though I’m switching to assignment books for next school year for all of the kids).  He also seems to like us to have some flexibility.

8. We can skip activities that might be stressful, without feeling like we are missing part of a curriculum.  If I come across an activity that would be overwhelming in its sensory aspects, I just know that it would not necessarily be something to add to our plans.  If I was using a set curriculum, it is possible that that activity would be a building block to other activities and difficult to skip.

9. It’s typically less expensive.  We’re on a limited budget.  Spending less on our curriculum (even though we spend more than many other eclectic homeschoolers I know) means that we have money for lessons that we might not have if we had to sink $800+ into one level of a set curriculum through a company.

I think it’s great for the kids to be able to take classes and lessons.  In Noah’s case, this means piano lessons.  (Where his very unique mind doesn’t allow him to remember the names of any of the notes, but instead, he just sees the notes and knows which keys to play.)

Other families might need extra money for therapies for children with Autism.  For us, we opted to stop therapies last year.  He had been receiving multiple therapies weekly from the age of two.  After 10 years, everyone agreed that he had likely made all the progress he would make and it was okay for us to take a break from therapies.

10. His Mom just likes it better like that.  And, aren’t kids happier when their teacher Mom is happier?  Or, at least that’s the case at our house!

***Hey – can I get you guys to do a quick, 1 minute (or less) favor for me?  My blog is nominated on the Circle of Moms Top 25 Best Homeschooling Moms.  I would love it if I could stay in the Top 25, but it’s going to take votes.  The best part, though, is that you don’t have to register to vote or anything like that.  Just pop over to vote for Many Little Blessings on Circle of Moms, click the like/thumbs up button and you’re done.  (Well, except you actually can vote once every 24 hours, if you’re so inclined.)   Thanks so much!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Not only is this post this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, but it’s also part of iHomeschool Network’s 10 in 10 (a ten week series).


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  1. says

    Lots to think about here. My mom used a curriculum for most of our homeschooling (grades 1-12), but we switched math programs somewhere in our middle grades as I wasn’t learning long division. In high school, she tried several other math programs for my brother, who also struggled, before enrolling him in a course at our local high school (where he connected with a great teacher and was able to finish). So I can see the positive parts of both sides. I’ve already started asking my friends what curriculum or lessons they like… need to start taking notes, as Sunshine is four this year so we’re only about a year away from Kindergarten. :)

  2. Kate N. says

    Great post! Could you please tell me more about the assignment books you plan to use for the next school year? We have a child with Asberger’s and we have used assignment sheets…I’d like to use a book, but am not sure I would enjoy handwriting the entire school year out for him.


  3. says

    Angie, I think we need to chat! I also have a son, turning 12 in August, who is developmentally delayed and just recently received a PDD-NOS diagnosis, so yes, on the Autism spectrum. He had therapies from birth to age 10.5 and was discharged from therapies then (first break we ever had!!) because the Karate class he takes had helped him to make so much more PT/OT progress and he’d gotten about as far as they could take him with speech/language. It felt like getting a golden ticket! :D My Top 10 post is related to this, too.

  4. says

    Your last statement number 10 – is so important. If Mom is not enjoying it, the children will know…. I do not have a child with autism, but sat here shaking my head with each comment you made!

  5. says

    I like how you point out it’s usually less expensive. I AGREE! I’m so glad your son has you and you are wise enough to customize his education for him. That’s a blessing.

  6. Shelly @homeschooling Without Labels says

    Good Morning Angie,
    I love your post today! We have a kiddo on the autism spectrum as well. I can relate to each of your ten reasons from our own personal experience. My son’s anxiety over learning and trying new things is greatly reduced when we can meet his needs right where he is at. The public school he attended before we started homeschooling knew their hands were tied to be able to do this. My other two kids also like being involved in helping choose curriculum as well. I love the uniqueness that homeschooling offers our unique kids.
    Thanks for encouraging those of us eclectic homeschoolers.

  7. Michy lovingourjourney says

    A pleasure to vote for you…this is my favorite link up of the week!!! :) Michy

  8. Tara @ MHA says

    What awesome words! My MIL homeschools all of her children and she uses eclectic curriculum too. I have found that it makes things a lot easier in her larger than average home. I enjoy what they are doing in Math, since I am their teacher, and know that they are able to get their other stuff done and enjoy it too.

    I totally plan to share this with her.

  9. Beth says

    My oldest son is hearing impaired and recently diagnosed with atypical autism. He is very smart and probably looks more Aspie- does really get social clues, etc. He would have wasted away in a traditional classroom setting. Can you imagine not hearing AND not getting non-verbal clues?He has graduated from high school and is planning to attend a very good college half way across the country, where he was welcomed with open arms and will receive appropriate accommodations. And Merit Scholarships. Happy, Proud, Scared- yes. But all I can do is be ready to let my little bird fly and help pick up the pieces if necessary. My third child, now 15, has some Aspie issues too, though they are almost opposite of son #1. Where one is strong, the other is not so strong. He, also, is brilliant. So we have this little weird homeschool family, where only the middle son is “normal.” (Can I just say, with pride, that he has over 20 college credits complete and is carrying a 4.0.)
    I called myself an eclectic homeschooler- I used the best (for my kids and budget) that I could find. Sometimes it was free- and I made the kids grind it out because I simply couldn’t afford something different. Sometimes I was able to piece together really quality finds. Sometimes I timed it too late or too early- and had to introduce new concepts in different seasons.
    When I felt overwhelmed, we took field trips. In the spring, we set up tables outside to do our math. And at certain points we just laid it aside and made cookies. I wanted to create memories- but not the kind that ruined their souls. If I ruined my relationships with my kids because of math or spelling, I would have considered that a failure.
    Perhaps it’s because I have special needs kids, or perhaps it is because I realized that people continue to learn after they leave home, I just had to let go more and more and let each discover how to accomplish the work without me working each step with them. And the more I let go, the more I was able to give to their hearts and help navigate the emotions. I think it makes me a special needs mom- not typical, but still learning what it takes to give my kids what they need.

  10. says

    I linked up real quick on my way out the door, and forgot to add the graphic and link to your blog in my post. I am at an orthodontist appointment and will go back in and link to you as soon as I get home. So sorry!

  11. says

    WOW!! This is what homeschooling is all about. Love your homeschool already!! Thank you for sharing and for hosting.I have been having so much fun reading blogs from this linky .

  12. says

    One of our sons has Aspergers and I could relate to much of this. We use a very eclectic method too and I love the flexibility that offer us and you’re right…I find it is less expensive that way too. My son also needs somewhat of a schedule, but if it’s too rigid, it doesn’t work at all for him/me because then he comes to expect that and is set off by the slightest change. And I definitely agree with your #10!

  13. Danielle says

    I really appreciated your post! Even though I don’t have a child with Autism, I have a child the same age as your son that struggles greatly with sensory issues. So I could truly relate with your words.
    I just did a post about the things we do to help our children with their sensory issues. I hope it can help another family that struggles with knowing how they can help their child.
    Keep up the wonderful work on your blog. I am loving it!
    By the way, Thank you so much for your insite about the kindle vs Nook. I’m almost ready to make a final decision :)

  14. says

    I’m very late to this party, but I still wanted to get my list posted! Does it count that I *started* it last Monday? ;0)

    I relate to your reasons for eclectic and autism. My 4 year old is on the spectrum, so we’re really just getting started with it all. However, I’ve been taking an eclectic approach with my oldest (10) for the past 2 years so I feel like it has all been in preparation for the future! I had to loosen up in my plans a little in order to be “ready” to handle the issues that autism brings. God always has a plan much better than mine!


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