Last night, I went out with the moms from the home schooling coop. I had so much fun. It was silly and serious, insightful, resourceful and we stayed way too late. It confirmed for me, though, how different each one of us, and our families are. You can't assume the reasons for why people home school. They are almost limitless. Since I've had so many people ask me why I decided to home school, I thought I'd write a post. Lord knows I need to write something or close shop.
Contrary to the title, I thought I'd start by telling you the reasons that were NOT a factor in my decision:
- It is NOT because I'm a Christian. In fact, my religion has almost nothing to do with it. I do not believe the Biblical mandate to care for my child includes keeping them at home and doing everything myself. No. I don't grow the food we eat, I don't weave the cloth for clothes and I personally don't have to stand over a text book.
- It is NOT because I want to make him into my brand of Christian. Except that of course, I do. What parent doesn't want their children to think like they do? to have their philosophy that has been honed for 30-40 years? But it's not because I want to shield him from other religions.
- It is NOT because I am the only one who knows what's best for my child. Sometimes the perspective of an outsider gives needed insight.
- It's NOT because there's a conspiracy to brainwash my child.
- It's NOT because I think the world will end in 2015 and I want him home when that happens.
The bottom line for why I'm homeschooling my son is that I RAN OUT OF OPTIONS.
Crazy as that sounds in the US of A, I really felt there was nothing out there quite right for him. I was willing to do anything, everything to get him to the right place, educationally speaking.
Initially, my public school was just too big for my little guy. Later, they lied to me about him. Deliberately hid his learning disability in the testing summary. I used to be a huge proponent of the public school system. Now I'm for Vouchers.
You may or may not know that our son has Asperger's Syndrome (please don't say he has Autism.) Along with that turf comes Sensory Integration Disorder, Tourettes and a Language deficit. There are plenty of schools for Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia and Dyslexia. Or Autism. Children who can't make it in a "regular" school setting. But not for my very high-functioning, happy but weird Aspie.
I even looked at a private school for special kids an hour away at $36K a pop. Never mind how we'd have paid the $36K. Yes, they served special kids, but not Asperger kids.
Out of options. In this country. (shakes head.)
So, what drove me to this craziness of home schooling? Because it is kinda crazy. What pushed me over the edge was a) Bully Alpha Boy, and the school's inability to properly handle the situation. And there were other reason:
c) Asperger's and Sensory Overload
d) Developing His Gifts
a) The Bully Alpha Boy:
In 2nd grade, a new boy entered my son's small class. An Alpha. Chris was a big, athletic, dynamic boy. From the very first day, Chris told my son in recess that he couldn't play. All the other boys, boys tending to be the pack herding type, went along. See, the priority of boys (and men, I'm afraid to say) is playing the game, not caring about the heart of one goofy boy. I talked to one boy's mom once about all this. She was satisfied that her son wasn't one that was actually taunting my son, but just went along with it. I wanted to bring up the quote about people who watch and allow evil to be done, but I held my tongue. Proud of me? No, I'm not sure either.
And the girls? Well, they're busy creating their own social order. They became aware of gender differences and would not play with him. Or any other boy. These are important, formative times for children.
On the first day of 3rd grade, Chris told J he couldn't play. The other boys went along.
On the first day of 4th grade, Chris told J he couldn't play. The other boys went along.
But that year, a new boy entered the class and the dynamic seemed to change and Chris no longer targeted my son. He targeted the new boy.
And you're wondering, "Why didn't you do anything about it?" I did. I tried. I went with their suggestions. But after 2-1/2 years, of going it their way, I was at the end of my rope.
Wait. It gets better.
This new boy said to my son...they're both 10 years old, remember. TEN, okay? He said to my precious son, "I'm going home to my room, lock the door, read until I'm bored, then kill myself." Completes it all by making a hanging motion with his neck and hand. TEN. I had long emails and talks with his mom. Tears. She was sorry and all, and they talked to their son, but, in the end, does not feel there is a problem. When I alerted the school, the Superintendent emailed me stating basically that it's not uncommon for children to express wishes to die and in fact his son did too at that age and oh he's fine dontcha know.
Yeah, you need those to have a school. I get that. Contrary to popular notion, children are NOT silly, and they do NOT have a sense of humor. Conformity is the rule of the day, here, not fun and joy and creativity. There's one non conformist in the class. But it's a girl. She's definitely a contender for "wife." In 15 years. My son's not perfect, but he is fun, sees joy in everything and so creative I have to tell him to stop.
Listen, I'm not the "world is a terrible place full of conformists" kind of person. I'm pretty conventional myself. But my son's energy, enthusiasm and creativity? I'm not having a bunch of sourpuss 10-year olds squash that out of my son.
I know I can't protect him forever. But I went into home schooling saying to him, "Let's take a break." Let's spend a year not being taunted, stared at, made fun of, ostracized, ignored. Let's spend one year where Arianna doesn't scream in your face, "SHUT UP!" Let's spend one year when you aren't called a liar when you say you can't help your tics. Let's take a break from Dylan having DAILY meltdowns. Let's take a break from classmates saying, "Ewww!" about your lunch, while they're chomping on Fluffwiches.
c) Sensory Overload
Having Asperger's means that everyone knows another language that he doesn't know. If you've been around bilinguals, you'll understand. You understand them while they're speaking English, but when they break out into Spanish, you're lost, right? Same thing for my son. Except that it's every day. He gets most of the sentences, except if it has an unknown figure of speech, or sarcasm, or a subtle facial expression. He heard the words, but he doesn't get the rest of what makes up communication. It's a foreign language that he'll never be fluent in.
My son has a sensory imbalance. He sees/hears/feels too much of some things, while he sees/hears/feels too little of others. He bumps into you, steps on your toes and doesn't realize. But he can hear every car horn, vacuum, siren and squeak for literally miles around. Hard to concentrate that way. And he is neurologically unable to block it out.
Seven hours of a) b) and c) is too much for even this energetic boy.
d) Development of His Gifts
By 4:30 PM, my son was wrung out and done. DONE, I tell you. I'm not sure he could spell his name by then. I knew school wouldn't get easier, but harder. More homework. More independent thinking and analysis. I wasn't even sure he'd make it at this rate, forget music, art or soccer.
His strength is in music and art. Once a week of each, squeezed between this holiday and that holiday and the teacher being out sick and jockeying with the other kids in the supply cabinet wasn't going to give him what I wanted. It's not the school; it's the US.
This kid has perfect pitch. He hums a note and says, "Hey mom, that was an A." Not typical kid conversation. He loves sounding out any song on the keyboard. Or piano. Or trombone. Or guitar. He "Yeehawed!" the first time he heard Beethovan's 8th Symphony and often hear him blasting Handel's Messiah. He imitates Dinosaur Train, and he imitates Dave Matthews.
So when this kid is completely wiped out by 4:30, how will he get homework done, AND go to his piano lesson? Nope. Can't be done.
Where I am Superintendent, Principal, teacher, bus drive and lunch lady.