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

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2015 New Year

I was coming on tonight to write about my hopes and aspirations going into the New Year. Before I opened WordPress, I read a post by Diary of A Mom, on her Facebook page.  These words caught my attention, and filled my heart with a multitude of emotions:

“If you’re autistic, it’s not abuse.

If you’re autistic, it’s not neglect.

If you’re autistic, it’s not a crime for people to hurt you.”

– Lydia Brown on the recently dropped charges in the case of two autistic young men locked in a basement in unimaginable conditions for years.

http://www.autistichoya.com/…/black-lives-still-matter.html…

On a day when so many of us are declaring our resolutions, this is mine –

To do everything in my power to make Lydia’s words no longer true.

I will raise my voice, and, more importantly, amplify the voices of those who might not otherwise be heard, to say this –

Disability does not – cannot – continue to be an excuse (legal or otherwise) for our society’s wholesale dismissal of the universal right to the recognition and respect of human dignity. Not in an absolute sense and not by degree. Because there is no mystical line where severity of condition, be it the challenges of autism or otherwise, cancels out humanity. Ever.

So while losing ten (okay, twenty) pounds, getting more exercise, and getting outdoors more are all great resolutions, this one is at the top of my list.

Who’s in?

Please note: The comments are now unmoderated. Please, please remain respectful of one another and, above all, the victims of abuse in Lydia’s post. Also, there seems to be some confusion about the quote above. Lydia, who is a tireless autistic advocate for disability rights, does not believe that what she wrote *should* be the truth. She is stating, in the context of these horrific stories of abuse of autistic people, the reality of our society and our legal system as they stand.

 

I read Lydia’s blog post, Black Lives Still Matter, from the link in Diary’s Facebook status, through tears. The horrific things done to these Autistic children were too much for my heart to bear; all the sadness and outrage spilled out through my eyes. Beth has many amazing friends of different nationalities, and I could not imagine these atrocities happening to one of the children I have come to love.

Lydia’s words (describing how WRONG the system portrays things);

“If you’re autistic, it’s not abuse.

If you’re autistic, it’s not neglect.

If you’re autistic, it’s not a crime for people to hurt you.”

struck a painful chord with me, because sadly she is as right about how the world sees our children, as she is about how it NEEDS TO CHANGE.

THIS is exactly why we had to take our children out of public school, because they made it VERY clear that Beth’s feelings and safety were not important. So, I am in! I will stand with Autistic Hoya, Diary Of A Mom, and hopefully countless others to say:

Autistic Lives Matter!

Black Lives Matter!

ALL LIVES MATTER!

Will you stand with us? Will you make the world a safer place for Autistic individuals, people of color and all who are different? Will you be the change we so desperately NEED to see in the world for these individuals to receive the Respect, Kindness and Dignity these deserve? Different NOT Less! ❤

 

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.

 

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.