Day 12 was the first day of school. Not for me, of course, but for my growing-up-too-fast kids. I knew this day was going to be tough on several levels, but the most important was getting my kid with social anxiety through it. Oy Vey. It wasn’t pretty, that first morning. Awake by 5:30, bus pick up before 7, a school where the social language isn’t a language they’re fluent in, along with the transition to “traditional school” and all that that comes with. Transition Is Hard. It’s been our motto for years, but this year we’re really wearing that motto out. I’m thinking of changing it to Eff This Ish, I don’t even care that it’s not kid friendly.
To dumb down our first day of school morning: R didn’t make the bus. And G had to ride the bus alone, on her first day. And I had to watch a kid suffer through a panic attack. And TGILW had to deal with all of us AND the traffic to drive R to school.
I learned that 2 minutes is the amount of hang time the bus gives us to get onto the bus. I also learned 2 minutes is not enough hang time to talk someone through anxiety. Nor is it enough time to properly deal with a situation. Transition is hard. Anxiety is hard. Change is hard. Life is hard.
I’m not going to delve into the goings on with R and her anxiety, it’s not my story to tell and also it’s not the end of the world. She’s acclimating, albeit a bit slower; but life isn’t going to stop because of it. She’s a trooper, and she has come so far already.I am incredibly proud of her.
But I will let this lead me into why I homeschooled for two years. And yes, anxiety was one of the major reasons.
Funny sidenote: I was hosting a meet up for our region. A woman I didn’t know struck up a conversation about some issues her kids were having and how hard it was for her to find a local therapist (psychologist). I chimed in that I had the number of a therapist that we loved, and I guess that opened up the invitation for a barrage of questions. Did I mention I didn’t know this lady? People, don’t talk about your kids/husbands/dogs/gardners “issues” as if that person isn’t a person; As If that person doesn’t have a right to their own stories or issues, there own success and failure. It drives me bonkers when (especially) parents don’t treat their kids as human people. But, I digress… when the woman pressed the issue of what kind of therapy I needed, I finally caved and told her that I had a child with anxiety. Her immediate response to me was -and I shit you not: “She just needs a good Christian role model to spend some one on one time with her, maybe invite her to play volleyball with a church group, or to teach her a skill”.
Anxiety – one of the reasons we homeschooled. I have heard the comment from so many people that homeschooled kids are “awkward”, or “socially immature” or “weird”. I find that not be be the case 98% of the time. I think that 2% has more to do with how a child is raised than it does with homeschooling in general. And sometimes, kids are homeschooled BECAUSE they are awkward, socially immature, weird. Or because they have anxiety.
Educational Gaps- We move around a bit. State requirements are different. Many public school systems teach a test. If you spent most of your school years in Washington State, and take a state test in Virginia, you might fail the history portion of your test, which occurred 3 months into the school year. If your state has to pass the English portion of a state test, you might not learn your multiplication facts in third grade, but be expected to have mastered those facts and to be moving on to division and fractions in 4th grade.
Teaching:Overworked/Overcrowded and Underpaid , and some real stinkers. – Look, I am no teacher. I have immense respect for what those who chose teaching as a profession do. I think teachers should be paid like athletes and athletes as teachers. 32 kids in a classroom?? I do not think I can do a better job. Teacher friends – you mean the world to the children to help. You will leave a lasting impression on so many, and they will take that knowledge and experience into their future. It’s amazing, YOU are amazing. What you do for so many, with so little. But sometimes, there is that one. You all know exactly who I mean. We had a really bad ONE, and it changed my perspective on things. If you no longer LOVE what you do, don’t do it anymore.
The integration of Special Needs children – Now hear me out. I know I will catch shit for this. but I have a story here. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue. When I was a PTA vice, I spent quite a bit of time at the school and days that I found myself without fires to put out, I volunteered in a classroom. Sometimes I made copies, or organized folders. Sometimes I helped the teacher with an unruly kid. One of these times, I was able to encourage a kid who refused to read or participate positively in a book assignment to read the whole book (to include catching up) all within a few weeks. The first few days were tough, but I kept coming back and sitting with him twice a week.On the days I wasn’t in class, but in school, I would ask him about the book if I saw him in the hall or cafeteria. He read the book, participated in discussion and got a good grade on the testing. He was so proud. And I’m not going to lie, I was proud too! And then I met his mother. She came up to me one day in the hall. I thought she was going to introduce herself and tell me how pleased she was with her kids small improvement. Nope. She tore me a new one. Why was I sitting with her kid during class!?( ummm, because he was super disruptive and a little violent; throwing your book isn’t OK). I was NOT qualified to teach her kid (he knew how to read, I wasn’t teaching him anything. I was basically babysitting a kid who needed more attention than the teacher could provide). I had zero special needs training (true, but I wasn’t 100% positive that all the “special”on this kids IEP was a true representation of what he wasn’t capable of AND he had zero violent outburst the weeks I was helping, even when I wasn’t in the classroom ). Because of my lack of certifications, etc, she refused to have him do the at home project. OK, what? This kid might have needed meds and to see a specialist, but what he also needed was a parent who encouraged him, spent time with him, made HIM (not his issues) a priority. She requested that I no longer have contact with him. This meant that I could only volunteer in the classroom when he wasn’t there (like when we went to see his specialists). This also meant that I couldn’t spend the whole day with MY kid anymore. For three more years, this kid waved at me in the halls, and chatted me up when he got popcorn, He even asked once why I didn’t help out in the classroom anymore. When my husband would ask me why i spend so much time (and money) in a super stressful volunteer position (THE PTA!!!), I would say ” I do it for the kids that don’t get a hug. The kids that don’t have a parent that shows up”.
What does this have to do with integration of Special Needs kids? Not all scenarios will make for successful integration. I think that so many children do very well in most cases. Both the child with and the children without gain so much. But, sometimes the child needs more than what the school can give, and sometimes those situation can be dangerous for the child and those around him. Sometimes the child doesn’t need more from the school and a parent who doesn’t want to deal with it makes it an impossible situation for everyone. Like the kid who bullied my child, but was allowed to do it because of her special needs. When a child is acting out in a manner that is violent (hitting, yanking hair,) that child is not thriving. We ALL want what is best for our children. Hopefully, we all want what is best for everyone’s children.
School Shootings – I don’t even have to explain myself.
The Chance To Reconnect – it’s true. Our lives were so busy. Either we were getting through life while TGILW was deployed or we were moving or we were gearing up for either. I was feeling disconnected from my kids. I wanted to slow time, get to know them better. I was noticing these real life teachable moments that we didn’t have time for because of homework/catching up/etc. I was noticing the self esteem changes. The stress. Life was becoming really complicated. We needed a timeout.
The two years I spent with my kids at home was HARD. But it was good for all of us.
And on day 14 when everyone got on the bus, and I was closing the front door, I absolutely threw my fist in the air and said “freedom!!” to no one in particular. On day 15, I missed them both.