It's been a long time since I've put anything new up here. For the past year I've taken to more of the quick style blogging in facebook land. It's just so easy. Everyone is there. You put up a line or two and maybe a photo and you're done. Not a lot of thought goes into it - as evident in many of my silly status updates. As fun and simple as that that is, I've had it in my mind that I want to come back to this space. It seems more 'old school' or 'traditional' to actually put up a whole blog post, but life is changing (yet again) and I'm feeling the need to share more in depth. Not just to share with whoever might be reading this - and really it may be nobody since this blog seems to be abandoned. But to record this time and be able to reflect back on it. Today is the first day of school. Again. I say again because it feels like I've been doing this longer than I've not been doing it.
Today I will take the last of Russell's 'first day of school photos'. He'll be a senior. This starts the first of many 'lasts' to come in the next 10 months.
Autumn is entering 8th grade. The last grade of middle school. Middle school is so short here! Two years and then wham! you're in high school. At the end of October she'll finally be 13. I saw finally because it seems like she's been 13 for a really long time and yet she is only 12.
William, oh William. Here lies the biggest change. Today most of the neighborhood kids will be walking past our house towards the pretty, functional, and typical neighborhood school. The big yellow school buses will drive down the street behind our house carrying hundreds of happy, excited kids to a new school year. Their parents will be happy knowing they are sending them off to learn and make new friends. For the most part they won't question their safety, ability to learn, or if they will be ok. They will have normal parent anxieties which will be eased by their ability to reason and know that overall they don't need to worry - their kids will be just fine. And that will be confirmed when the kids come home and joyfully tell about their new teacher, the kids they are sitting next to, what they did on the playground, and can Suzy please please please come over after school tomorrow because we just met and want to play together.
I know the above scenario because I've done it with Russell and Autumn over and over again. William's first day of typical public school goes like this. Get him up and ready and hope that he doesn't become to anxious over the new transition between summer and school. Try and explain to him that he'll have a new teacher and new kids in his class. Walk him around the corner to school and try to figure where he's supposed to be. Does he have an aide to help him transition? Probably not. Do I toss him to the playground like all the other hundreds of kids and hope that he lines up like everyone else? What does his IEP say? Is someone supposed to be helping him right now? Are we supposed to go to the resource room and talk to someone? Ok, let's go over there. Peek in the room and they are busy with a child in a wheelchair and one who's already melting down. They seem to have their hands a bit full. So we go back out to the playground and line up in the class line. See the teacher come out and greet everyone - which would be about 35 kids in this 1 of 3 4th grade classrooms. Quickly introduce myself to the teacher and she tries to get all the new excited kids and few parents into the class. Do I go with? Do I just send him in there and hope that he follows along?
Ok, you get the point. I don't have to go through the whole day. In fact, let's just skip to the end of the day when Will finally gets home. I can't get a word out of him on how the day went. There's no note from the teacher and I haven't a clue. He's taken off his shoes and hurried up the stairs to play and not to be seen or heard from for the rest of the afternoon. He's done. And I have no idea what happened during those 6 hours. I just know that he's emotionally and physically exhausted and needs to check out.
Last year was a mess. It started off by not being placed with the teacher I was told he would be placed with. We tried to make the best of it, but that teacher suddenly left shortly after school started. They brought in a new sub and she of course was not familiar with Will. She ended up sending him to the office during a time of needing help and he got so ticked off that he took it upon himself to just up and leave the school and walk home. In the middle of the school day. Thank God I was home. That was just one instance of many things including crawling out of the class, threatening to hit his teacher, refusing to do work, and melting down every afternoon which ultimately resulted in me insisting on cutting him back to a half day at school. Why? Because he's an out of control child seeking attention? No, this is not him. All those actions were the result of him not being able to regulate himself and having sufficient help. I don't really blame the school. The current system is just not set up to really help kids like Will. The bottom line is something has to change if I want him to succeed. There would have to be major changes at school. That would require a lot of fighting on my part and basically demanding more money and time be put into my child. I have the right to do that. I'm choosing not to. I only have so much energy, patience, and time. I'm choosing to quietly (somewhat) back out and go a different path.
I've always admired homeschoolers. Always been in awe of their dedication, patience, and willingness to take on what most of us so easily source out. It's so ingrained in our society that all children NEED to go to the same public school as everyone else. That anything beyond that won't fulfill their needs and they will turn into uneducated social outcasts. More and more I'm finding that not to be the case. Alternatives to traditional public school seem to be springing up all over the place. Even within the homeschooling world there are tons of different ways to do it. Everything from classical homeschooling to unschooling. My experience all these years has been to send my kids off to school. Help them organize their paperwork, sign notices, and occasionally help with homework. I have no experience in designing their curriculum or how to organize their day. So I knew I couldn't go straight to a classical homeschool environment for Will. I need help. I need direction and so does he.
Last spring I discovered a new virtual charter school that was opening up specifically geared towards children with different learning needs. We met with person heading it up and felt that it would be a great fit for Will. Another Choice Virtual Academy is not a bricks and mortar school. There is a building that houses their offices and computer lab. I think the kids will be free to go there to work on their assignments if they choose to, take tests, and I believe their clubs will meet there. All school work is done online on laptop computers that each child was issued. He has a teacher and a special ed teacher that will be monitoring his assignments, grades, and activities. He is required to do 30 minutes of PE a day. This is a public charter school. His IEP will be followed and he will get speech therapy along with whatever else is written into his IEP.
Of course, I need to address the 'social' issue. That is usually the first question - 'what about all the socializing he will miss out on by not attending a regular public school?' What about it? The past seven years of public school socializing have had their ups and downs. Yes, he's learned from them - some. Will does not socialize like other kids. He's lost on the playground. He doesn't initiate friendships in class and if he does attempt it, it comes out awkward and often inappropriate. Large groups of same age kids is not the more beneficial atmosphere for him. I am looking forward to finding him some small groups of kids of all ages and development so that he can find his niche.
I'm not sure how his day will look right now. We are still trying to figure it all out. I'm trying not to stress too much. Just taking it day by day and learning as much as I can to help him. There will be many changes and adjustments through this year. We are excited for it, although, a bit nervous. But any new adventure requires a bit of nerves, right?