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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bye-bye bra! Hello pig tails! -#NaBloPoMo, #GBE2: Education

I have a confession to make.

I'm owning up to a close-minded, ill-conceived notion I had about homeschoolers in my early years: I was positive that they were all women who shunned bras, made their own clothes and wore their hair in long, braided pig tails.

I pictured naturalists who made their own soap, who didn't wear deodorant and who maybe had a goat and some chickens out in their back yard.




I was a basically a kid when this notion came to mind, and I have no idea where I conceived it. Now a middle aged mother, I can look in the mirror and firmly call myself a homeschooler.

I'm pretty sure that my younger self would hear this and say: Like, gag me!

Next year, I plan to homeschool our younger son. Again.

In years past, I have taken to this role accidentally as we've found him to be the proverbial square peg in the round hole that was his school placement, not an uncommon place for kids with high functioning autism.

Two years ago, his Montessori school eventually became frustrated by the level of individual help he required. Then undiagnosed, he was absorbing their frustration, and I saw him deflating before our eyes.

I felt sick to my stomach at the realization that his school simply could not handle him, and they were tired of trying.

Wanting more for our son, we pulled him. We didn't think twice. We took control of the reigns, and we brought him home for his education. It was hard. It was a lot of work, and it was rewarding.



When the warm summer air turned crisp with the following fall, we had an IEP in place for him, and we opted to send him to the local public school in order to benefit from the supports it had to offer.

Yet, mainstreaming children with high functioning autism can be a tricky task. Because their deficits are often harder to detect, it can take longer to identify what issues are impeding education. Because these kids often look more capable that the stereotypical idea of what autism is, expectations can be set too high.

By winter, our son suffered from social and academic anxiety. He buckled under the pressure of school, became selectively mute at and began hiding under tables.

The sickness in my stomach returned when I sadly saw that our son was unable to handle his new academic environment.

Once again, I found myself to be an accidental homeschooler. This coming fall, there will be no more accidents. Because our school district does not currently have another placement suitable for him, we'll educate him here, bringing in his services from his IEP as he can tolerate.

I meet more parents every month who are in situations similar to ours. I don't know if that is good or not.

Is it good that parents are standing up for their children and taking an active role in the quality and direction of their education? Yes. Yes if the quality of education offered at home is sufficient. I would hope that it is.

But, what does it say about our school systems? What does it say about teaching to tests and to curriculum made for the masses (And to a point I understand why this happens). Further, for families like mine, what does it say when schools just don't meet the needs of our kids?

I don't know.

What I do know is that I have one child who benefits greatly from his public school and one child who is unable to learn in the environment public school has to offer. I'm a parent. When I see a gap in something related to my child, I strive to fill it.

It's just what we do.

This fall, I am embracing homeschooling and excited about it! If any child was made for this model of learning, it is our younger son. I can only hope that I survive his constant chatter each and every day. Day in and day out. Five days a week, four weeks a month...oh boy...perhaps some earplugs should be included on the list of school supplies...

Hats off to dedicated homeschoolers who have walked before me and to those teachers out there who strive to bring the best to their classrooms every day.
**************************
NaBloPoMo: If nothing else comes of this July Challenge, I will have at least learned to say this word three times fast.

This entry was also written in response to a word prompt issued by The Group Blogging Experience 2 (GBE2).

26 comments:

  1. You already know all of my opinions. I will help you in any way that I can.

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    1. Anxiety will make bringing anyone in tricky, although I want the help. I think we may need to think of a transition plan and pick a subject....all alternative leaning. NO workbook pages....but you don't do that stuff anyway. Creativity will be our norm this coming school year! Thanks, Andi!

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  2. You talk of IEP a lot and I have no clue what that is...so that is my question. What is IEP?

    You know how much I admire your willingness (?) to jump up and fight for your boys and do all that can be done to make things work for them. Educating people who should already know, but don't, what your boys need and how to get it done. What you may not know is that is NOT the norm. Many parents of special needs children, and this is sad and true, just send them off to school whether it is a good thing or not. Whether it is harming their child or not. Whether their child is benefiting at all or falling much further behind, off to school they go because the parents are just done with it all and for those 8 or 7 hours, they are free.
    I know a special ed teacher with a classroom of 18 and 3 assistants. Some days she gets more help. She tries very hard to be whatever her kids need and sometimes, she can't figure them out. Sometimes she calls their parents to get help or advice or anything and she gets nothing. They will tell her, keep him/her from hurting him/herself and anyone else. Make sure they are changed as needed and send them home at 4. Okay, not quite that blunt, but close.
    You are the exception and I know from your friends postings you have friends who are also exceptions, but please know that what you do is not only imperative to their development, but also unique to the very special parents like you, who actually care if their autistic child develops and learns.
    Just wanted to share that with you.

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  3. Thank you for sharing.

    And, it is way past 8:30 p.m. ....oh my...

    I can relate to parent fatigue. Intimately. I see where it originates. I can't and won't judge nt other special needs parent. Yet I thank you for your perspective. I think perhaps I live in a unique area...with a unique population of children with autism.....and a more unique population of proactive parents of children with autism. Parents who see a need and create a solution rather than sitting back and bemouning the problem. I appreciate the people around me for the perspective they have given me.

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    1. And, Jo, and IEP--Individualized Education Program--is a document which serves as a contract with your school district and outlines a students abilities and needs and what services he will be receiving in an academic year.

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  4. I would not want to tackle home schooling a special needs child or any child for that matter. Best of luck to you. Seems like your IEP should force the school to make a suitable program for him. Public Law 94 142 - Free appropriate education for all students. You have rights and it sounds like the school is breaching them. Do you have a lawyer??

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Joyce. And, yes, of course you are correct. The district must procide for him. It is their obligation. When there is no placement, they can look out of district or we can insist that they create a classroom for him. We've been through this process with our older son. We've also needed a lawyer with our older son.

      Currently, our son is school phobic. There is no way he is stepping foot into a school. He also has issues with traditional school work such as workbook pages due to his last placement We have work to do this year with him, and home is the most stable place to do it.

      We will have his services pushed in per his IEP as he can tolerate.

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  5. I have always been a little terrified to home school my kids. I was always afraid I couldn't give them all they needed. Kudos to you for bravely going forward and doing it!! I applaud you!

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It IS daunting! Fortunately, there are many great tools out there---also many not-so-great tools. I'm finding that it takes a lot of research. A lot of planning. Our area actually has a pretty strong homeschooling network. Kids get together on a regular basis, and our area science center offers weekly classes for homeschool kids. There are weekly PE opportunities at various places for physical and social activities. It's not uncommon to parents in the autism community here as well. So, I feel as though I'm in a good spot to do it. I just have to make sure I PLAN!

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  6. Until I read the comments I also had no idea what an IEP is. Homeschooling doesn't sound like something I'd want to do in 100,000 years, so I admire your excellent attitude. :-)

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    1. I'll be sure to be more clear about IEPs in the future. Thanks. As for the thought of homeschooling, I'm positive I was in your camp for most of my life. Parenting the type of kids that I do, with the specific needs and also living in the community where it isn't uncommon to homeschool has changed my view. I worry about my energy level, but I also know that this is what he needs.

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  7. I home schooled my son in the 3rd grade. It was a rewarding year, and made me glad there were options available that did not include immersion in a society whose culture was based on savage behavior as an acceptable means.

    I commend you for giving it a whirl again this upcoming year Amy, it can be exhausting when you are not only the teacher, but dealing with special needs 24/7. Remember to be kind to you too!

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you completely that it is nice to know that there ARE options. I understand that this is not for everyone. Perhaps some can't even comprehend why or how we can do this. That's why I wrote about it.

      Interesting to know that you homeschooled as well!! I'm open to tips!

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  8. The terms free and appropriate education dies not include the phrase best education .. And that is how school districts get away with not providing what children really need. They are reluctant to go to outside placements because the cost burden is on their shoulders when they admit they can't provide an appropriate placement.

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    1. I actually had someone on the panel say to us during the meeting, "Well, we don't have to provide the BEST education for your child..."

      Telling, isn't it? I completely agree with you, Hillary.

      IF our younger son were open to school, which he isn't, there is no district placement for him. They'd have to create one or move him out. Then the whole appropriateness discussion starts all over. We are miles from that scenario, though.

      Interestingly, our older son has no trouble getting out of district placements since he is considered so severe in his disability that he pulls down the numbers/success rate for the district. Money is always an important factor.

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  9. Once again I find myself in awe of you. I am so glad you have a good homeschooling group to draw on as well as having a mix of special needs students within it. I know a little of IEP's and yes, the school does have the legal obligation, but when the situation is like you say with your son - that he is school phobic - no amount of work on the schools part can overcome that. It may change in the future, but for now I commend you for the choices you are making for his sake. Don't forget to schedule time for yourself away from his schooling - you will definitely need the break and the experience will be better for both of you because of it.

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    1. Amy, this really is the bottom line.

      We've had "appropriate" placement battles with our older son many times. Now, those are tricky.

      However, truly, we aren't even to that point here because the district can't provide properly for a child who is this phobic. Home can with push in services.

      I am told that he can overcome this. We will work toward that this coming year.

      Thanks for your continued support!

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  10. Its a very challenging, and often thankless role for a parent to take on. My best wishes to you

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    1. It's true, isn't it? That's a shame. It is an awesome responsibility and takes a lot of planning to execute properly. I wish it were recognized that way.

      Thanks so much!

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  11. My hat is off to you! I think home schooling is a wonderful thing. My youngest wishes I would home school him from now on. He just likes being near me, I think. It sounds like you have a network of moms for support. That's great. Best of luck to you, Amy!

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    1. It definitely wears on your sanity. For that reason, public school is very appealing. :) However, at this juncture, that really is not an option for our younger son and his mental health. Home is. I CAN do it. So, why not jump in? I definitely will advocate for all the help I can get under his IEP as he can tolerate, but even that will be a struggle.

      School phobia is an interesting beast.

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