This picture has been five months in the making.
Yes, that is Teddy getting off a school bus Wednesday after a day at public school. Fulton was supposed to start the same day, but GI issues mean he’ll be starting school today. He still doesn’t have a bus (nobody wants to take responsibility for that oversight) so I’ll be driving him and his new nurse (!!) to a public, special education school. (And I’ll try to update this post later with a drop off pic.)
But let’s back up a bit so you can understand how our family went from being a 100% homeschool family to a homeschool, public school, special education school family.
As I mentioned in my curriculum post at the beginning of the school year, Fulton was struggling. I’d selected a new reading/ phonics program and adopted Montessori math materials and thankfully, Fulton started to make noticeable progress. However, it came at a great cost. Lessons that were designed to take 15 minutes were taking him 45 to 60 minutes at least. In addition, I was trying to squeeze in lessons with Teddy and corrections with Byron and Edie. But Fulton’s lessons left me drained. It took all my willpower to patiently work with him one on one without stabbing Montessori bead strands into my eyes. Despite doing minimal work, Teddy started to pass Fulton. And as we started to complete Fulton’s CCD work, a realization hit me. Our parish’s third grade CCD teacher requires a lot of reading and writing. It’s a huge step up from the second grade program, but my older three kids all completed the work independently with very little oversight on my part (despite their variety of learning styles and abilities). But when it came to Fulton, not only could he not read the book, he couldn’t even comprehend what I would read aloud to him from the text. Even after reading the chapter two or more times, he couldn’t answer the questions at the end. He couldn’t even restate the answers in his own words when I read and explained them to him. I had to admit that Fulton’s delays were greater than anything I’d tackled in my homeschool and I considered that he might need, at the very least, professional evaluation.
Combined with the two plus hours I was spending each morning getting the boys ready, plus all the time spent meeting their ongoing needs throughout the day, Fulton’s school lessons were sucking everything out of me. Some people were kind enough to comment on my earlier post about some therapies I could try with Fulton to help with his reading difficulties, however, I honestly couldn’t imagine adding one more thing to my day. It was the combination of so many things (Teddy’s physical needs, Fulton’s physical needs, Fulton’s arduous education needs, Teddy’s education needs, the needs of my other three children) that led me to declare to Tony that once we were done hosting the orphans I was calling the school district and trying to enroll the boys. Fulton, because I knew they would evaluate him and hopefully help identify why learning is so hard for him, and Teddy because, frankly, I need a break and I think he’ll learn very quickly at school where his education isn’t shoved into the margins of everything else.
It comes down to I need help and this is the help I’m choosing to accept right now. I’m sure there is some supermom out there who could homeschool her five children while caring for two of whom are severely physically disabled, including one with learning disabilities, but that is not me right now. Homeschooling for me has always meant choosing what is best for my children and our family, and for this summer and next year, putting Fulton and Teddy in school is what’s best. I don’t feel bad about my decision, or guilty, or like I’m a failure. I believe homeschooling is the ideal education, but it wasn’t working for us, so I’m trying something else. This decision was not made in the spur of the moment, or on a whim. I knew at any point in the enrollment and evaluation process I could pull out and things would be okay. I could, if necessary, resume homeschooling and consider more costly alternatives for help. I didn’t have to force the boys into school if I wasn’t 100 percent satisfied. Knowing things would be okay no matter what, gave me peace with my decision to at least start down this path.
Certainly I have my concerns, namely, what will happen when the boys get exposed to all these new germs?? I’m hoping they stay healthy, but come peak cold and flu season, we’ll have to see how they hold up. Home bound instruction is an option, and since Fulton now qualifies for a nurse at school, we might actually get a nurse back in the home on the days he can’t go, or on the days the school is off during the year. At Teddy’s elementary, they haven’t had a child in a wheelchair in recent memory. It’s just as new for the staff as it is for me. So far, everyone has been very welcome and accommodating. We’re discussing how to adapt fire drills, field trips, and playground time to make sure Teddy’s needs are met. Frankly, it’s good for the school and the district to learn how to accommodate children like Teddy. And hopefully we’re going to help make it easier for the next child in a wheelchair who enrolls.
Fulton’s school is designed for kids with special needs, however I want to make sure he is academically challenged. The local district presented the results of his evaluations to me like they were a life sentence, but I know with attention and the right curriculum, Fulton will excel. His gifts can’t easily be measured by any standardized assessment test. I accept the results because they got him a placement in this great school, not because I value a professional opinion over what I see with my own two eyes.
Since that first call to the district in early February (when I was asked “Do you really think we can meet their needs here?!”) enrolling the boys in school has been a part-time job. You can’t just stick your two homeschooled and medically fragile kids in public school. The district has 90 days to conduct a battery of test. And then you have a meeting. And if they need Individualized Education Plans, you need more meetings. And then they realize they forgot some evaluation and you schedule a few more of those. And you fill out approximately 23,023,957,203,958 pieces of paperwork and make a similar amount of phone calls. It’s tiring, often frustrating, and it was hard to lay my family out before our local district and hope we would not be judged harshly as homeschoolers. (Thankfully, those fears were unfounded.)
After all was said and done, Teddy was placed in our local elementary school. Because of his October birthday, and our district’s cut off date, he’ll start first grade in the fall. And I’m fine with that. Fulton, due to his medical needs and the severity of his learning disabilities, is going to go to a special education school 40 minutes from our house. We were given the option of three schools (which we had to tour, more fun!) and despite being the furthest from our house, Fulton, Tony, and I really love where he’s going. Both boys qualified for the extended school year program and since all the evaluations and meetings took so long, they couldn’t start before then anyway. Classes run for a shorter day through July with August off. The new school year will start the day after Labor Day.
Whether you have preschoolers or teenagers, when people learn you’re a homeschooler they always want to know: will you homeschool them all the way through high school??? Like deciding to keep your kid home from kindergarten obligates you to teach them Calculus 11 years later. I always say we take it year by year. 2017-18 will be no different. I will focus my efforts on the education of Addie, Byron, and Edie, which, honestly, I’m really looking forward to. Fulton and Teddy’s needs have taken so much of my time for several years now, it will be nice to engage with my older kids knowing my younger two are in good hands. And next year, we’ll reevaluate. Just because they’re in school this year doesn’t mean they’re now locked in to driving across the stage at the local high school for their diplomas.
For the last five months I’ve read fewer books, written sloppier posts, ignored my blog’s social media presence, slacked on housework, not replied to emails, stopped working on my book, and generally focused on reaching this point; the first day of school. I’m so glad to be done working to get here, and so excited to see what the future holds.
Thank you for bearing with this not at all Quick Takes. Link up your post below and remember to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!