Saturday, January 14, 2017

Goals for Our 2017 Year

Homeschool Goals:

President John F. Kennedy said, "The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth." Personally, I can't think of a better overall goal for our homeschool journey. I homeschool my son, who has diagnoses of Aspergers or high-functioning Autism and ADHD, because I want him to learn all of the skills and knowledge he will need to thrive in this world. I also want him to learn the truths about his nation, the world he lives in, his Christian faith, and a Christian worldview.

Our Homeschool Goals for 2017:
1. Self Motivation
2. Independent Study
3. Positive Attitude
4. Career Exploration

Although my son is 15 and currently studying most material at a 9th grade level, his diagnoses of Aspergers and ADHD provide for some unique challenges in our homeschool journey. If he could have his way, he would forgo lessons all together and play video games all day. To his dismay, that isn't reality nor is it permissible in our household. I know, mean mom, right? (Said tongue in cheek.) Therefore, being motivated to start his lessons, and some days any task, without constant prompting can be a struggle. Knowing that I can't be there to hold his hand forever, I am determined to help him learn how to become self-motivated.

The second goal, independent study, goes hand-in-hand with self-motivation. While getting started is part of the struggle, staying on task is the other. With a diagnosis of ADHD, there was a time when we couldn't even have two pencils on the desk because they would have a conversation with one another and be a distraction.

The third goal, a positive attitude, is always a struggle when your child doesn't see the need for education. Unfortunately, most people with a diagnosis of Aspergers have a high IQ. Because of this, my son feels he knows everything already. I keep reminding him that we continue to learn throughout our entire lifetimes and even his great grandmother, who is in her nineties is still learning. I'll admit that the sometimes daily struggle to get him to have a positive attitude about learning can become weary.

Now that we have entered the high school years, I feel that it is essential to start exposing him to career exploration. One way we will be doing this is through a class on SchoolhouseTeachers that looks at talents, personality traits, and suggests interviewing and shadowing those in various careers of interest.

Life Skill Goals:

Those individuals, no matter where they range in level of function, who have a diagnosis of Autism struggle with life skills. Most children will learn these skills by interacting with those around them and by imitating the adults in their lives. Children on the Autism Spectrum become hyper-focused on things that they live: Star Wars, baseball team statistics, Pokémon characters, etc. They can tell you everything and anything about their favorite topic. When it comes to "living life," they need help learning how to do those things.

Our Life Skill Goals for 2017:
1. Personal Hygiene
2. Coping Skills
3. Self-Regulating Behavior
4. Finances
5. Time Management
6. Meal Preparation

Our first goal is personal hygiene. Teenage boys can struggle with this task. Compound that with a diagnosis of Autism and you can be facing a battle. Children with a diagnosis of Autism often don't see the need for personal hygiene. They don't perceive their appearance the way society would nor do they see any importance of taking time away from preferred activities to engage in personal hygiene practices.

Goals two and three go hand-in-hand. Children on the Autism Spectrum can experience "meltdowns" when they become frustrated or overstimulated by the sensory triggers in their environment (loud sounds, noxious smells, bright lights, etc.). To avoid meltdowns, children are taught coping mechanisms: deep breathing, time-outs, engaging in calming activities, talking to a trusted adult, listening to music that will in turn help them regulate their behavior. The goal is for them to self-regulate their behavior and stay calm rather than to act out.

Finances are a difficult challenge. We have worked on counting money for years. Now that my son is in high school, we are working on helping him learn how to budget money. He needs to learn that while we may want to buy new  games we need to make certain we have enough money for food first. Children with a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum tend to perseverate on what they want. That tunneled focus can make it difficult to take all other factors into account.

Time management is another challenge area for children with Autism. Again, that perseveration on things they desire or things that are important will take their focus off of everything else. I have lost count of how many times my son has said, "Just one more minute, Mom, while I save my game." Meanwhile, he is still engrossed in the game twenty minutes later because just saving it turned into completing the next challenge and it snowballs from there.

Our final goal is meal preparation. Learning how to prepare simple meals and cooking safety are essential life skills. My prayer is that one day my son will be independent. For this to become a reality, I have to help him build up a toolbox filled with the essential skills he needs to be successful, competent, and confident.

What to Do When Life and Your Goals Don't Cooperate:

Let's be realistic. Life doesn't always go according to plan. In actuality, life often throws us numerous curves, twists, and turns. It is usually on these twists and turns that we learn and grow the most, which is why it is essential that we not give up but rather persevere.

The Apostle Paul encourages us through his example in Philippians 3:14, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

Famous scientist, Louis Pasteur, said it this way, "Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity."

Former tennis pro, Mary Pierce, stated, "Sometimes, things aren't clear right away. That's where you need to be patient and persevere and see where things lead."

James 1:2-4 reminds us to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (NIV)

Final Words of Wisdom:

Author C. S. Lewis said it best, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." As we continue on life's journey, we grow, we re-evaluate, and sometimes, we have to change our directions. No matter our age, status, or education level we are always learning, maturing, and transforming. To do that, we need to be brave and embrace the opportunities God provides us. We need to be bold and step out of our comfort zones. We need to be beautiful because our light will shine truth and scatter the darkness. We need to be ourselves because God created us for just such a time as this. He gave us the talents, skills, and abilities we need to handle the tasks He brings before us.

This post is part of the Homeschool Review Crew link-up. You can read about more goals for 2017 on their site.

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