Point of view: home educator

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Do it yourself. Rachel Hawkins is home-educating her autistic daughter.

I have only been home educating my eleven-year-old daughter Isabelle since September, as she needed support and an environment that mainstream schools in our local area could not cater for and there were no spaces in the two special needs schools. I home-educated her older sister, who is now at college and doing well in an environment that better suits her needs, with smaller classes.

I try to keep things relatable. This means Isabelle learning life skills, in a way that interests her. For example, Maths for her revolves mainly around learning about money, simple subtraction and addition, basic dividing and measuring. I make a lot of my own resources as I can then make them interesting and suitable for her needs. She loves Paw Patrol, so I printed off the dogs, wrote a sum on each one, and wrote the answers on bones I printed off, so Isabelle could match them up.

She enjoys games and quizzes, so a lot of her learning happens in those ways. We don’t focus on what she can’t do but work with what she can and what she enjoys doing. The whole point of home educating is so you can make it your own and not have to stick to the rigidity of the National Curriculum and in environments that suit your child so don’t try to recreate the classroom at home, unless that is what suits your child. I used to be an Learning Support Assistant, and I was a Teaching Assistant in a special needs school. I used to make resources and activities at home in my own time so I could support the children with things relatable to them.

Home educating allows me to provide tasks and activities that are just for Isabelle’s level and understanding, and I can incorporate her interests. It’s one of the advantages of home educating. Kinaesthetic activities work well which are hands-on activities such as writing their letters in sand or pairs and matching games. Anything that involves movement and handling resources and materials. Isabelle has always found writing difficult, so I use a lot of pictures and cutting and sticking learning activities so she can learn without the pressure and struggle of writing. Otherwise, I would be met with challenging behaviour and a reluctance to take part in the activity.

Isabelle also needs to learn about personal, social and emotional skills as well as keeping herself safe outdoors and indoors so this can involve going out into town and to the park so she can experience day-to-day tasks and we do a lot of imaginative play such as shops, hairdressers and doctors, so she can learn how to engage properly when in these places in future and better understand different services and the world around her.

If I try to just give Isabelle a workbook or sheet she will not engage and only lasts for short 10-15 minute bursts when she does engage in learning. We tend to do active activities such as games and if there are more written responses needed then we will cut and stick answers or talk about them. A lot of the activities I do are a mixture of my own that I have drawn or created on Word or things I have found via Twinkl or just generally online which I then change to suit Isabelle’s needs and abilities.We have tried attending local home ed meet ups via Facebook but now these do not suit Isabelle’s needs and she needs more time to build confidence around those she feels comfortable with, such as family. Isabelle is only eleven but maturity wise more like an eight-year-old so I know that some skills may come later and as home educating is an ongoing process, we can adjust what we do in our days as her needs change, or she starts to have more interests that she wants to pursue.

Rachel Hawkins
Author: Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins
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Rachel Hawkins is a full-time parent home educating her eleven-year-old autistic daughter.

Website: https://shorturl.at/ltY18
Instagram: @mum_autism_andme

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