Our son Luke is 8 years old today. He’s pretty happy with his new Lego sets, but the truth is, I’m the one enjoying the presents! His party was a huge success, he’s happy, he’s calm, he’s loving and kind to others—what more could a mother ask for?

Birthdays, by their very nature, compel us to reminisce over years past. I remember the joy he brought as our firstborn and how much fun it was enjoying him as a baby. Then I remember the toddler years, when it gradually became clear that he was not exactly like other children. Luke was diagnosed at age 2 with a severe speech delay (tested to the equivalent language development of a 6-9 month old baby) and then at age 3 with PDD (pervasive development disorder, which is a fancy way of saying that he falls somewhere along the spectrum of autism).

At that point, we began the long process of weighing and balancing. Treating autism is a daunting task, and every expert has his or her share of opinions. My husband and I were committed to my staying home full-time with Luke, his brother (20 months younger), and the little sister on the way. But considering his diagnosis, we agreed to send him to preschool, feeling he needed that interaction. Though encouraged and even sometimes pushed to seek full-time placements, including 40-hour-a-week programs, we refused. He spent a few mornings a week in a typical preschool setting where various therapists and experts came in to work with him on language, social, and sensory issues. Over the years, he made good progress and even worked up to five mornings a week, but we stuck to our commitment that he would come home by lunchtime each day and that no therapy would take place in the afternoon hours. Some would say that we took a great risk, but my instincts, that “gut nature” the Lord gives mothers, told me that, first and foremost, he needed to be a child. A few hours each morning was plenty

This worked fairly well for a few years, but then came kindergarten. By this point, Luke’s formal diagnosis was Asperger’s syndrome (considered by some to be a high-functioning form of autism, while others consider it to be a separate entity). I truly agonized over Luke’s kindergarten placement. It had always been our intention to send the children to Christian school and that I would teach there once the youngest had reached kindergarten age. But that vision was stripped away as we discovered that the Christian schools were not open to a child with exceptional needs such as Luke’s. So, with great trepidation, we gave the public schools a try. I researched every placement option in our district and we prayed fervently that the Lord would guide us to what was best for Luke.

You can imagine our dismay when it proved to be disastrous. Only two months into kindergarten, I kept Luke home from school and refused to send him back until they provided what the law refers to as a “free and appropriate” (emphasis on appropriate) educational placement according to the stipulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. His current classroom setting was self-contained and nowhere near appropriate for him—a point with which the placement team had no choice but to concur. The other option was mainstreaming, but they offered him no in-class support, and I refused to set him up for another failure. After visiting the teacher, I argued that their philosophy of kindergarten made no sense for the most typical child, much less one with exceptional needs! We seemed to be running out of options.

It was not as though I’d never heard of homeschooling. I’d just never considered it for our family. I did not feel that I was like the homeschool mothers I’d known (whatever that means). I also felt that, given Luke’s delays (mainly socializing, communicating, and basically fitting into this world he was not exactly “wired for”), homeschooling would isolate him even more. However, our experience has proved that not to be true.