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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What A Week

Last week Anne had her first experience with vomiting. She is almost four years old, and this was the first time she had vomited. Needles to say, she was terrified! She awoke late Tuesday, early Wednesday, with a very bad belly that was expelling all it had.

She was fine most of the day Wednesday, but would not eat more than a handful of cereal. As soon as evening hit, she was back to vomiting. Thursday she slept on/off all day, and was lethargic at best. Friday, she was no better, so we went to see our pediatrician. Since she had not been running a fever, and was drinking small amounts, she was not dehydrated; however, he gave her until Saturday to stop vomiting (no matter how sporadically) and start eating, or go to the hospital.

Friday night she only vomited 3 times, and I was filled with hope that we were over the worst of it. Saturday morning came, she was barely responsive and vomited twice. Off to the Emergency Room we went.

The staff at the ER complimented our efforts at home, and said it eliminated a lot of the preliminaries, and allowed them to jump right into treatment. This being Anne’s first hospital visit she was understandably frightened, and MAD at us. The only thing she would say was: “I want to go home.” Given that during this illness she had stopped speaking, even her angry words were music to my ears.  Unfortunately, the efforts in the ER were not enough for her to come home, and she was admitted.

We spent four days at the hospital, where she endured many procedures and tests. At the end of the four days, she was feeling MUCH better and was able to come home; however they never did discover the cause. Our official diagnosis was Viral Gastroenteritis, which (for us) basically meant complications from a stomach virus and dehydration.

It was one of the longest weeks I have experienced in recent years, but the four days at the hospital were made easier by their AMAZING staff. In a world where we often only hear the bad things, I have to say that the staff at Hope Children’s Hospital is EXCEPTIONAL.  ❤ They did everything in the power, to help Anne get better, while trying to make her happy as well. Their Child Life Specialists were great with Anne, and were sometimes the only ones to get a smile. They went above and beyond to make sure I was comfortable, and assist in managing my stress. Our night nurse even washed my clothes, when I ended up covered in urine for the second time that day.

Although, we never want our children to need a hospital, I am thankful that we have such a wonderful one to go to when it is necessary.

Anne is home now, and we are all getting back to our version of “normal.” I am overjoyed to have both my girls under one roof again, even if they started bickering after the first hour. 😉 The typical Sister Dynamic is in full swing, but it wonderful to hear, after a week of us being apart.

 

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

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Six Years, How Did That Happen?

Today, our eldest child turned SIX. How did that happen? I swear we just brought her home from the hospital yesterday. 🙂

Although, her actual birthday party is not for a few weeks, we did have a very eventful, and wonderful, day. We started the day out just the four of us. Henry made us all Mickey Mouse pancakes, after she opened her presents. Anne had a small gift to open too, because we always do something for the sibling as well.

Then we spent 2.5hours at one of her favorite places, Chuck-E-Cheese. When our time was up, we had 625 tickets. The girls each got a slinky and a silly straw, which left 125 tickets. We were going to add money to that, so she could pick out a bear for her birthday. The young man behind the counter, gave her the bear, wished her a Happy Birthday and refused to take our money. ❤ There are still kind and generous people in the world, and it always fills my heart with a happy, when we encounter them.

Once home, we had lunch, then the grandparents descended upon us. The girls always enjoy having both sets of grandparents here, because there is no waiting for attention. We enjoyed a nice afternoon together, and the girls both received great presents. We sang Happy Birthday, and God’s Blessings, before Beth and Anne blew out all the candles in one try. Beth’s favorite part came next, she got to serve people their cupcakes. She is definitely the hostess with the mostess. 😉

God gave us more than a miracle the day Beth was born, he gave us the embodiment of love and hope.  Beth is is an extraordinary child! She teaches us something new, almost daily. We are grateful that He blessed us with an Autistic child, so that we could embrace the truly important things in life. Our girl is going to change the world; between her brilliant mind, unique perspective and huge heart, there is nothing she cannot achieve.  The energy she sends out into the world is nothing short of pure love and light. We are so proud, and thankful, to have been chosen as her parents; being able to help her navigate her path in life is a tremendous honor. ❤

 

ss hearts

Image courtesy of JGutke Photography

 **Begin Edit**

Oh my goodness, I don’t know how I could have forgotten one of THE most important parts of the day! Beth just reminded me, as she was telling me how much she loves her bestie, Mr. O. They have been friends for 3years, ever since she started public school when she was 3. He is a fellow Autistic, and an amazing boy. His mother called today, because he wanted to wish Beth a Happy Birthday. When he got on the phone, he sang her Happy Birthday, and it MADE her day!!! ❤ She has declared several times that Mr. O is her prince and that they will be married one day. 🙂

 **End Edit**

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

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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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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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Let It Go

It is hard to believe that we are in the middle of the week already. This week seems like a blur of good , bad and a LOT of in between. As a Stay-At-Home-Mom, I am used to my children fighting. Although, as an only child, I must admit that most of it completely baffles me.

Yesterday was a rough day for us, and finally in the afternoon I had to give up and say we will try again tomorrow. I talked to a few homeschool friends about it, and they knew exactly what was wrong; I keep thinking of homeschool like public-school. I have this preconceived notion from my teaching days, and am trying to make that happen here. In order for us to be successful, I have to Let It Go.

Let It Go

While I felt as though I was pretty relaxed about our school days, I realized that I have a long way to go before I am where I thought I was.  We are homeschooling to help the girls learn in the best way for them.  In order for that to happen, I need to stop trying to control everything, and let them lead the way. Yes, we will need to cover certain subjects, but there are countless ways to learn things.

Going forward, I have to stick to my plan of having an outline for the day, but letting the girls lead the way from point A to point B. They make awesome teachers, and I must remember that. Tomorrow is a new day, and the possibilities are endless.

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

 

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Fourth Day

On our last day of the first week, my children reminded me, that any given moment the day can take a turn, for better or worse.

The morning was rough, but we finally made it out of the house around noon, to shop for Daddy’s birthday. After an unsuccessful trip to Target, Anne asked for a Donald’s visit to slide. I hoped that some play-time at the golden arches would make the next store visit a little more enjoyable. I was wrong!

Anne climbed to the top (something she has done countless times before), where she had a meltdown because she was scared. I asked Beth to help her, and she climbed up there, only to have Anne refuse her help. This caused Beth to meltdown as well, because she cannot handle the crying, but would not leave her sister. I was patient, I was patient, and then I was a jerk. 😦 Eventually she came down (with Beth’s help) and sobbed in my arms. She was tired, and sad that I couldn’t come up and get her. I was angry at myself for being too big to climb up and get her, as she cried for me to do just that. It was a painful reminder, of how far I still have to go on my healthy journey. I was also embarrassed for being a jerk, when my kid was struggling. As I work my program, I have less self-hatred, but when it does rear it’s ugly head, it makes me act like a jerk, and I hate myself even more.

Needless to say after the McDonald’s disaster, we came straight home, and no more shopping was done. While Anne napped, Beth watched a Veggie Tales movie to relax. Then we did our meditation, played some Monkey Wordschool on her kindle, and did laundry.

When Anne got up from her nap, we officially started our school day. First up was art, which today was making daddy’s cards. Following art, we had story-time, then exercised. Since we needed some fun, instead of walking our mile with Leslie, today we danced to TobyMac, while playing follow the leader. After 20 minutes of dancing back-n-forth through the apartment doing all kinds of crazy moves, we were ready to sit down and do some worksheets.

The girls did really well with their worksheets, and did one coloring sheet for our bible study, before finishing with a yoga adventure.  Our school time ended at almost 8pm. It was late, but the girls were in a great mood and ended the day on a good note.

It was not our best day, but it also wasn’t our worst. I apologized to my children for my poor behavior, and they gave me the love I needed (and couldn’t give myself today). One Day At A Time, I become the person God intended me to be; thankfully I have Al-Anon and my two amazing kids to help me find my way.

 

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

 

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