As the excitement of “back to school” wears off I hear many parents question the best plan for their children’s education. Kids in schools are coming home in tears because of a bully or frustrated at night with their homework. Parents are feeling overwhelmed with busy schedules and balancing home, school and extra-curriculars. Homeschool families are stressed and already sick of each other Ok – not all homeschool families – and not all school families are having a problem either – but many are. The best plan for your children’s education is a tough decision and a heated debate.
I support any decision you feel is the best fit for your family’s needs, but many don’t and the debate gets even more heated if your kids have needs that warrant a “label.” Although my kids are “high functioning” many have questioned our ability to attend to their needs – even though I have a lot of experience and education and am competent in doing so! To those with concerns I point out that while in the “school system” we saw regression instead of progress … and although they were surviving we knew they could thrive in the “right” environment. I’m not saying home is the perfect answer for everyone – but for us it’s the “right” one for now. For one thing they aren’t being interrupted in midst a lesson to be pulled out for therapy anymore. I blame some of the regression problems on simply the pull-out services. I understand that’s how they can “best meet the individual needs” of each kiddo, but at the same time you’re making them feel like they need individual attention, when they need to feel like “everyone else.” They may like the attention but they don’t want to feel different, they want to belong.
About belonging – I’m often asked how they “make friends” if homeschooled. Well, we still have friends from our old schools that we get together with, we are involved with sports, art, music … church … co-ops … we are not lacking in the social arena. Besides at school they were NOT socializing – this was a part of the “issue” … we also had issues with bullying. This doesn’t mean we now keep them in a bubble. Nope – we teach them skills for dealing w/ bullies (which we have seen them use). They are able to build their social skills in atmospheres they are comfortable in and programs they are excited to be a part of. Honestly, they have been able to make friends and develop a sense of belonging easier than they did when in school. This is possibly because parents are active in finding playmates with similar interests and encouraging positive interactions – that are supervised – unlike what we experienced during recess … No, not all playdates that are 100% controlled / supervised – but sometimes it’s what your kid needs to feel confident making friends.
Making friends can be extra challenging to the kid who has a speech delay. Speech delays can be errors in articulation making it hard to talk to peers OR it could be a language barrier where one doesn’t always understand the communication rules. It makes it a challenge, but it doesn’t stop friendships from forming. In fact I’ve seen more patience with such needs from the family atmosphere homeschool groups create than what we dealt with in the busy classroom atmosphere. I’m not saying all classrooms lead to impatience and social blocks – some schools work well for such kids, but some kids won’t work well in any school. There are many factors to consider when looking at what’s the “right” placement for your student. There are many services that you can obtain at different placements. If the pull-out service is a problem you can obtain services outside of the school. If you’re homeschooling, but still need speech or other services, you can obtain them through the school. You don’t have to – you can use outside programs, but you are entitled to services in your district. Some schools work great with homeschool families. Some schools work great with the student’s needs – but a therapist might have a personal issue with homeschooling… Most of our therapists have been very helpful and understanding of our situation. Especially after past schools backed us with support. But one provider felt the need to share her opinion with our son and he never really connected with her … We could make him continue working with her. It’s free and closer to home. But we want him to connect and thrive so we found another option. (Children’s Therapy Corner)
Some school providers will comment on the expense of servicing that child, remind them you pay taxes for that reason. Others will look for loop-holes in the system or debate their level of need, you can ask for a second opinion / eval through the ISD. Your child is entitled to public school services even if they don’t attend. Depending on the area you live you may need to “register” as a non-public school or fill out forms – but they are entitled. One route to get such services is through some of the online school options. Some offer face2face services including a resource room teacher. There are many options for special needs students – even if you homeschool – and sometimes more options because of the flexible scheduling. You can have appointments (even in home) scheduled for a certain part of every day or a day a week you devote to such programs. I’d like to say we have our schedule written in stone, but it changes and I think that’s a good thing – as it’s teaching them to deal with changes and transitions. Days we are home I try and keep structure and routine predictable.
A school day schedule for us might look like: Wake up 8ish, eat breakfast (while going over calendar and schedule), do dishes, do laundry, get dressed, make bed, play with toys (while mom sets up lessons). 10sh we do seasonal themed activities (art, music, etc…) then reading / writing activities til’ lunch. After lunch we play outside (or in our gym if yucky weather). 1ish is math then our “extra” – which could be science, history … Later in the afternoon we might have therapy or a team sport or a field trip… Sometimes field trips or co-op activities take up the day and that’s ok. We’ll find time to catch up. We school year round so there is no “catch up” at “back to school” season. We are excited about back to school season as it means “advancing to the next level” or “morphing” or “evolving” or whatever my boys decide the new term is – but basically we are always advancing and progressing. We learn each day even if it’s a slow progression, even if it’s without a book. School has become life for us – a way of learning and teaching others. Teaching each other has really been a way to empower our kids, letting them know that although they might struggle in some areas they excel in others and that’s how they are like everyone – how they aren’t “different.” Everyone has a “label” of something. You can use a label to excuse behaviors and put a ceiling on ones abilities. My kids know they are “able” because we don’t focus on a “label”. We focus on the needs that acquired that label so we can get services to “advance to the next level.” Everyone has things they need to work on. My kids know what things they are working on and what they can help others with.
Last time I said I’d ramble about the “special ed system” and the process of getting that label, but I don’t want your eyes to fall out reading much more… still, before I close I want to say that we’re ok with how the process worked for us. As I explained before we knew there were flags from early on – hence “Early On” and ECP (special ed preschool) services. I’m not happy how the childhood delay label can stay til a kid is 8 and isn’t getting specific programs to meet their needs ~ but the school not labeling can keep kids from being “put in a box.” I’ve seen kids overlooked because their needs weren’t meant and therefore they regressed (this includes my own kids). I’ve seen other kids not progressing because providers think that label means they are unable to achieve a certain status (again, this includes my own kids). Read my past blogs about specifics on that ~ cuz’ I have seen (and helped) kids achieve far beyond what one “professional” decided was their limit…
As I’ve answered before – yes my kids are “on the spectrum” but please know – no two kids are the same – and this includes brothers – and this includes kids on the spectrum. The spectrum is a term so misunderstood and overused. It also varies depending upon the medical world and educational world – as do many other labels and this often makes it hard to get services at the school which is another benefit of homeschooling. We are able to get providers who specialize in their specific needs and some providers even come to our home and other providers make group options available, so another tally marked for those social concerns. Point is just because a kid is homeschooled doesn’t mean they aren’t getting their needs met – they may be getting more of their needs met and thriving instead of simply surviving… but again, if the school system works for you and your kids needs – great – and know that if you need additional services outside of the school (or while you homeschool) – Mi Families has many referrals as well as in-house programs – just shoot me an email if you’d like more info on such services Christi@MiFamilies.com.
LASTLY, Thanks for reading this ridiculously long message, hope it gave you some insight and hope you subscribe above if you haven’t already Also, leave a message below with any thoughts or questions you might have and check back soon for our next article on curriculum reviews for both special needs as well as “normal” student subjects.