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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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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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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Faith

Hello everyone, I cannot believe it has been 2.5 months since I wrote a post. Our family has been busy, and it is amazing how quickly time passes, when technology is taking a back seat. So what brought me to the computer today?

The simple answer: Faith.

A talk with a good friend plunged me into deep thought today. I realized that even someone who knows me so well, often does not understand my faith. Although, my friend does not always understand, she is typically supportive, but it got me thinking: How do you explain Faith?

Since finding Al-Anon and building a strong relationship with my Higher Power (whom I call God), my faith has evolved. Over the years, this evolution perplexes my loved ones, and often leaves me feeling a bit lonely. I know God is always with me, but sometimes it would be nice to have a friend or family member truly understand my views.

I was blessed to find a MOMs group, which the girls and I attend every Tuesday at a local church. Most of these women “get it” and it is a comfort to me. Although, they have had a healthy relationship with God most of their lives, so sometimes I am left feeling behind in their inspiring trains of thought.

Today, I was reminded of a post I wrote last summer, after hearing Alex Kendrick speak on the radio, on my old blog. Ironically that post was also titled Faith. Here is the image that accompanied the post:

Faith Believes, Faith Prays, Faith Acts, Doubt Does Nothing

Faith Believes. Doubt Does Not. Faith Prays. Doubt Does Not. Faith Acts. Doubt Does Not. — Alex Kendrick

You may be wondering, what the point of this post is. I am not sure there is one, perhaps I just needed to see my thoughts in black and white.

Bottom line: Do not let Doubt encroach on your Faith. When a loved one does not understand your perception or actions, it can cause you to doubt yourself, but do not let it. Your faith is simply that, YOUR FAITH, and it will lead you to extraordinary places if you walk in it every day. You do not have to understand, (or agree with) someone to love and respect them. Simply treat everyone as you would like to be treated, and be the change you want to see in the world.

 

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#ILoveYouChallenge

A mother in one of my homeschool groups shared the post below, by this morning and it got me thinking.

http://www.thebettermom.com/2014/09/17/secret-grateful-mom-threesecondchallenge/

When the girls went to public school, I cherished the alone time,and waited until it was time for the bus, time for nap, time for bed, etc…   I had gotten swept up in the “I Deserve” whirlwind, and was “Waiting Away” my children to have as much alone time as possible. I thought I longed for that alone time to be a better mom. I was wrong!

Now that we are homeschooling, I find that I am no longer “Waiting Away Our Children’s Existence.” My children are a blessing, and even on our bad days, we learn so much from each other. Although, I never saw myself as homeschool mom, I am so thankful that God showed me it was the right path for us. I cherish the time we have together, and after five years, I am finally feeling like I am the mom they deserve. I can only pray that they feel the love and respect I have for them, in all that we do.

Read the article above, and if it speaks to you the way it spoke to me, take the challenge:

Take THREE seconds just to breathe in, and then out, before responding–before sighing in exasperation or responding with an edge to your voice–whisper “I love you.”

 

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

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We Just Want To Play

This afternoon, our school day started to spiral downward at an alarming rate. I had the girls sit at the table with their heads down, while I took a few deep breaths in the kitchen. Instead of yelling, and assuming they were just being bad, I decided to find out the cause of their behavior. After our break, I asked them why they were fighting instead of doing their yoga. Beth answered: “Because we want to play.”

Well, how can you argue with that? We had finished everything on our schedule except for Art, Games and Chores; therefore I told them to go play. I set the timer, and said when that went off it would be time for school again. They were playing so well together, I extended the timer three times before we started on our art projects.

Yet again my girls reminded me that we don’t need to adhere to such a strict schedule. After all, the whole point of homeschooling is to allow them to learn on their terms. Part of the equation for success is respecting them, their opinions and their needs/wishes. When I force a schedule down their throat we are all cranky, and don’t really accomplish anything. When we slow down and do activities in their time, we have a happy and productive day. So what if my two hours of planned activities takes eight hours to finish? That is eight hours without the TV on, with us mostly playing and learning the best way (together having fun).

On a side-note, we signed up for ABCmouse today. They both loved making their avatars, choosing pets for their classroom, and earning tickets for each activity. Beth is slightly more proficient in using the mouse, but overall, they both need a lot of work on computer skills. This will help them with computer skills and turn taking; it will also be a great supplement to our curriculum. They will each get ten minutes to work, then switch with their sister, for two turns. Once they can work independently on the site, I will do an activity with the one not on the computer; which should avoid fighting over the laptop, and give more one-on-one-time to each girl. If they complete all their school-work and chores, they can earn an extra turn at the end of the day, so they can play with Daddy. Now, I just have t figure out how to stop them from spending all their tickets in the store. 😉

We are only starting our third week of homeschool, but I have to say it is one of the best decisions we ever made.

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

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Socialization

It has only been six weeks since we made the decision to homeschool; however, I am already tired of the questions about Socialization. Truth be told, we are more social now, that we are not attending public school, because we have the flexibility to attend events that were never an option due to school hours.

Last night, Beth attended a “pajama story time” with Henry, which would not have been an option if she had to get up at 6:30am for school. This morning we went to a dance party, and will be starting a regular story time next week that will meet until Thanksgiving. These are just the activities at the library; we also have our classes (dance, swim and young athletes) with the Special Needs Recreation Association starting soon. Not to mention the Home-school Co-op we are joining.

All of the above activities are meant for the girls to interact with children in their age range; however, that is just a small part of socialization. We also go shopping, visit the library staff, walk to the post office, and are starting to take trips to places where we can spend time with older people.

One thing I see lacking in many children today is respect for their elders, which makes me sad. Each generation that came before us, has a unique perspective on life, that should be cherished.  I was an only child, who spent a lot of time with my elders. I used to think I missed out on childhood, but I realize now that I learned invaluable lessons about life and all its intricacies, from the older people I was blessed to hang out with.

Today, while shopping with my mother-in-law, we were complimented on how polite the girls were. Although they are young, they can carry on a conversation with employees at stores, restaurants, etc… They are also getting quite good at saying “excuse me” and “thank you” when they pass someone in the store. When we pay our bill, they say “thank you” and usually remember to say “have a nice day” without being reminded.

Perhaps, I will just print out cards that say:

Please do not worry about our socialization.  We teach them to be kind, compassionate, respectful members of society; simply by taking them out in public and acting the way we would like to be treated. We lead by example, and are proud of our children’s social skills with people of all ages.

 

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

 

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