Why We Started Homeschooling, Part Two

A few weeks ago, I shared the emotional reason why we began homeschooling. Now, I would like to share the logical reasons.

Once I worked through the emotions of our situation, I started doing my research to see what would be best for Beth. Should I fight for change at our public school, or should I homeschool?

Our district is all-inclusive, which means it does not have any self-contained classrooms past preschool. This was something I was thrilled about when Beth first started school in 2012, but now saw as a negative, given our situation. Beth thrived in the self-contained classroom; but appeared to have had more bad than good experiences in the blended one. From kindergarten and on, she would be in a “pod classroom,” which would have 8-11 students with IEPs blended with 10-15 neurotypical  students. The students with IEPs would be given 30 minutes a day with a Special Education teacher for “extra help,” but would spend the other 4.5 hours with one teacher and one aide in the pod.

Having taught 4yr pre-k, and substituted in kindergarten, I could not see this ratio working for any of the kids. Being neurotypical, and without an IEP, does not mean those children will not need additional help. How could two adults possibly fulfill the needs of 18-27 students, and still provide a positive educational environment?

With that question in mind, I started examining the benchmarks and kindergarten readiness skills on different sites. I realized that Beth barely had 50% of the skills suggested to start kindergarten. Although, her IEP was in place because she learned at a different rate, than her typical peers, I also realized that her achievement of IEP goals had been overstated. Perhaps they could get her to “perform” one-on-one, but overall she did not possess the skills to utilize in the classroom (or other non-school) setting.

I brought my findings to her therapists (who have been with us since Beth was 2.5yrs old), and asked them for an honest opinion on  her chances of success in a pod classroom. The answer was unanimous, she would fall further behind, and would not be able to reach her God given potential, given the structure of the pod classroom. They also felt that this would only add to her anxiety, self-esteem, and confidence issues.

Henry and I discussed our options at length. Although he had several reservations, he supported my desire to attempt homeschooling.  We also debated whether to allow Anne to remain in public school, or withdraw her too. In the end we decided that if the school was not a safe, positive environment for Beth, then it was not for Anne either. Our girls deserved more respect, and a better chance of success in reaching their God given potential, than our public school could provide.

I am beyond grateful for the ugliness that stemmed from our request for help, because it opened my eyes and heart to the reality of our girls’ situation. We had put too much trust in the public school staff, and given them more power than they deserved, but that is a post for another time.

 

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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Test Day

Today was our first test day at Serenity Spectrum School. We are 4 months into our school year, and I thought it was a good time to gauge where the girls are. Since we will be schooling year-round, three assessments per school year seems reasonable to me. What do you think?

I used the Pre-K Assessment forms, for Alphabet and Math, which are generously provided for free by Prekinders.com. I also used the Color Chart and Shapes Mini-Book printables; which are generously provided for free by PreschoolMom.com.

Beth was able to identify all her numbers from 0 to 10 correctly. She was also able to count objects (play rings) up to number 20, with only skipping number 13. Beth really liked counting the rings and putting them in her favorite red bowl, so we did that a few times. 🙂 She was able to identify all the colors on the chart correctly. She also knew all the shapes on the printout.

The assessment was going extremely well until I brought out the Alphabet sheet; at that point she started to shut down. It was almost as if she was having a panic attack, and just could not think straight. I tried several approaches, with no avail; I even had her taking trips to the trampoline, spinning and crazy shaking (Team UmiZoomies) between attempts. In the end, she identified 16 upper case and 12 lower case letters accurately. While, I do not believe this to be an accurate representation of her knowledge, I did learn something very important. I learned that whatever approach they were using in public school was stressful and possibly traumatic for her. I learned that this sheet was too similar to the public school’s version, and would never give me an accurate measure of her knowledge. I learned that I must find another way to assess her abilities, which will allow her to relax and truly show all that is in her beautiful brain.

Anne was able to identify half of her numbers from 0 to 10 correctly. She was also able to count the rings up to number 13.  She knew all her colors, but did have some trouble with yellow. She correctly identified all but 2 of the shapes on the printout. She did awesome with the Alphabet sheet! She accurately identified 17 upper case and 14 lower case letters. The only trouble we had were with “M” and “N” due to her speech issues, but we worked through it just fine.

I am extremely happy with our first assessment. I can see where the girls have grown in many areas. I was also able to identify areas that need extra attention. I was blessed with a little more insight, as  to how stressful public school was for Beth. Witnessing her extreme reaction to the ABC printout, taught me a valuable lesson, and provided an opportunity to help her work through some of that angst. Today, I feel as though I became a better teacher and mom. As usual, my girls make the BEST teachers, I just have to remember to always follow their lead. 🙂

 

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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Serenity Spectrum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Why We Started Homeschooling

After our Healing Touch session, it occurred to me that I never really shared the reason why we homeschool. One thing I have learned in Al-Anon is that sharing your story, helps you to heal the wounds from it. Since our homeschool story is quite lengthy, I will share it in parts. This is the emotional part of Why our journey began.

Beth was being bullied by three typical boys, in her blended class, at our public school. At first we did not know the extent of the bullying. Thankfully, when we asked the school for assistance in helping her identify the correct emotions, and understand the difference between a friend and a bully (for lack of a better word), the response was unbelievable. The Director of Special Education cut off all our communication with the staff, and became VERY defensive. Her extreme overreaction, and attempt at “handling” us, was a HUGE red flag that there was much more to the story.

The director told us our daughter did not need to know what a bully was, because it could not happen at this age. She told us our daughter created issues where there were none; her examples only proved that she knew nothing about Autism and the literal thinker. She told us when we spent hours trying to console Beth during her meltdowns, we were telling her, that her issue was more important than it was. I could go on for pages, but I will spare you all the other inappropriate things this “professional” had to say, except this last one. Her ultimate solution to the problem was to teach Beth not to cry, so that the children with less control (aka the bullies) would not be as compelled to target her.

As I explained to the Director in our last communication, before we withdrew the girls, her solution did nothing to help our daughter, and only served to foster more bullies. To not reprimand the bullies, and teach them to behave with respect and kindness is wrong. To teach a victim to not cry, and just accept that they are less than their peers, is WRONG. Her way of “helping” special needs students, which is sadly the same almost everywhere in the USA, is one of the reasons so many of our children are abused and tortured every day at school.

Having taught preschool myself, I know this is the age that can set the tone for a child’s future. I was disappointed and outraged by the way this situation was handled. I was also horrified by how Anne was starting to behave, after only being in that school for a few months. She was becoming disrespectful and cruel. I knew exactly what was happening to Beth at school, because I was seeing it happen at home.

We knew our daughters deserved better, as a result we withdrew our children from the public school district, and began making plans to homeschool. The socialization the school had to offer, was nothing our children needed.

You may have caught the word thankfully above. It may be hard to believe, but we are thankful for this ugliness, because it led us to something wonderful. Also, please know that if it were not for Al-Anon, this story would be very different, and not in a good way.

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

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Serenity Spectrum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

He flapped

This is a wonderful post, and something everyone should read.

I REFUSE to stop Beth from flapping! Some people are bothered by it, and want me to teach her to act in a more “normal” fashion. NEVER! Flapping is her Happy, and I would never tell her that she does Happy wrong.

I pray that Beth never feels alone or broken, because she is neither. Anne loves to be just like her big sister, and although she is considered neurotypical (if there is such a thing), she can flap almost as well as Beth. I beam with pride every time they show their Happy, because it is a beautiful thing. 🙂

autismthoughts

So far I am the only one in my family and extended family that has been diagnosed with autism. We sometimes speculate if a couple other family members have autism, but nothing has ever come of that. So basically… I’m all alone when it comes to trying to figure out what autism means and how to deal with it. I know my parents tried to learn about autism when I was younger so they could help me out more, but learning about it when you have autism is completely different than learning about it when you don’t.

When you learn about autism and don’t have it, you’re seeking understanding and perspective. When you’re learning about autism and do have it, you’re seeking to understand yourself, but you’re also seeking for validation. The quest to learn about autism isn’t just for understanding- it’s to figure out if you really are as alone as…

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First Day

Today was our first day of homeschool. We spent two hours on school time before having lunch. Anne is now napping and Beth is having speech therapy.

In our two hours we did:

Meditation ( http://mommymystic.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/chakra-meditation-for-kids-or-adults-who-want-to-feel-like-a-kid/)

Schedule, Time, Calendar, Letters,  and Numbers

Morning Prayer

Bible Study

Bob-book AB

Exercise (1mile Walk-Away-The-Pounds with Leslie Sansone)

Letter A (http://allinonehomeschool.com/grades/getting-ready-1/)

Yoga, Twilight the Unicorn of Dreams (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8snGkhBF7njTT4a7uqDiUB1qPBI4ZOBL)

After lunch, Anne went down for her nap; I told Beth she could paint on my laptop for 10 minutes, but then she had to potty before her SLT arrived. I showed her on our clock when it would be ten minutes, and she actually reminded me when her time was up. She said: “Mom it is 10, I need to potty.” She got an extra sticker for that. 😉

The day went well, but there were parts that were difficult for Anne. She had a hard time staying with activities and following directions, but in time she will adjust, and it will become easier. Beth did everything with more ease, and is very serious about her school time, but in time I hope she will relax a bit. I did okay, but did lose my cool a few times, which made me feel bad. I will get better at being teacher and mom, I just have to remember to be patient and allow for each of their learning styles. Eventually I think our school will be a wonderful combination of both girls’ learning styles, energy levels and personalities.

Speech has ended, and my munchkin is awake, so my time on here is done at the moment. This afternoon we are hoping to venture out to the library, and enjoy some fresh air on their beautiful lawn; praying my back cooperates with our plans.

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

 

 

A few pictures of our school space:

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Clothing Optional

Our house has been a “clothing optional” house (diaper and underwear are required) since our children were old enough to take their clothes off  This is something that has always bothered Henry, but he is slowly coming to accept that it is what it is. Beth’s OT told us long ago that she needs somewhere to be completely comfortable (sensory-wise especially) and home should be that place.

There are some who may think “naked-time” is an Autism thing, but it is not; I know many people with neurotypical children who also partake in “naked-time.” Although, I do know that while some do it out of comfort, many times my kids do it out need. This became evident, when I realized that my husband has to strip down to his boxers as soon as he gets in the house, because he is simply too warm; just like I have to take off my shoes/socks as soon as I get home because my feet are boiling. We ALL have sensory needs, and embracing them does make for a better day (most times).

Fun fact… I shared a room with my extremely prudish grandmother most of my younger life, and was taught to always keep my body covered. It is a good thing she doesn’t come over, because she would have a conniption at how often my girls are just in underwear/diapers. This weekend when my silly girls demanded I be “naked-baby” like them and daddy, all I could do was laugh as I heard gram’s appalled voice in my head. We closed all the blinds and eventually they convinced me to strip down to my bra and underwear, and I have to admit, it felt kind of nice; however, after 20 minutes I had my pajamas back on. Baby Steps. 🙂

Monday the storms in our area broke our air-conditioner; so yesterday was an extremely hot and sticky day in our apartment. It was a very good reminder of why “clothing optional” is the rule in our home. Beth’s system cannot handle heat, and she was miserable to the point that everything, even things she would normally enjoy, bothered her. She had an extremely “off” day due to not being able to regulate the temperature in her body. Even though we hid in our bedroom most of the day, with the small a/c unit, it was not enough because every time we ventured elsewhere in the house she was overwhelmed with heat again.

The girls slept in our room with daddy, so they could be cool and comfy; as I was laying in Beth’s bed, reflecting on our day as I always do. I had to add “naked-time” to my list of blessings, not only for the day, but for our new homeschool journey. Both girls are much happier in their underwear/diapers, and this year they will be able to enjoy a “clothing optional” school, which in my book is pretty cool. 😉 Imagine the possibilities for what the mind can achieve, when the body is completely comfortable…

Have a blessed day everyone, and don’t forget to smile. ♥

 

 

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Serenity Spectrum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.