Taking the Scenic Route

Saturday September 8, 2007

8th September 2007

Saturday September 8, 2007

posted in Uncategorized |

This is staying protected until after the IEP meeting.

I realized today that I have been stuffing a lot of feelings, red flags and instincts about the whole school thing down.  After long and continuing discussions with Zach, and some long questioning of Zane, we are seriously thinking of pulling him from school. 

The reasons are long and complicated, but it comes down to this:  There is no way they can meet his needs and he will actually learn anything there.  There is a huge probability that it will turn him off from ever going to school and totally kill his love of learning. 

He is already showing signs of depression.  He is weepy, starting to meltdown and tantrum easier, and says he hates school.  When your child doesn’t talk much, but communicates clearly that he hates school, it is time to listen.  I knew that there were problems.  The newness and excitement have worn off and he is already starting to cope by refusing to participate (although I have been able to get him to comply, it was becoming increasingly difficult and I have had to resort to bargaining with him for even simple things, something I loathe doing).   When he does participate, he is already starting to give wrong answers, followed by an “uh oh” and giggling.  I can tolerate and appreciate what is happening, a teacher would not.

The work is so very, very below his level it isn’t even funny.  It isn’t even remotely at his level.  What little learning that is done could be accomplished in about 20 minutes at home and the rest of the time is largely organizational.  There is no talking, to the point that the kids have to learn sign language so they don’t “interrupt” the class.  Kids get in trouble if they don’t sit cross-legged with their hands in their lap and not wiggling.  They are told not to sing “too loud”.  When they stand on the rug, they are not allowed to touch each other.  They are made to wait until all the class is quiet, hands either behind their backs (if standing) or folded in front of them (sitting) and all looking at the teacher before she will begin any kind of instruction, and she stops if anybody relaxes from that.  It is more than should be required of typical kids.  I would have done miserably in her classroom.  Instead of reading, they spend endless time coloring things, and sometimes she wants them to color carefully, and sometimes she says to do a quick job…it is confusing even for the typical kids. 

Rug time is too much for him.  Even if he was sitting on my lap, snuggled with me, with me doing joint compressions and giving constant feedback he wasn’t coping well.  He is a pretty compliant kid, but was starting to cry at having to sit for so long, and I know that if I wasn’t there he would never have been able to cope at all.  It was asking far too much, especially when there is nothing that interests him being said. 

The most challenging assignment so far was to draw a picture that describes how many beads were in a jar.  Not “write the number” or “count them”, but to draw it.  (the “right” answer was to draw six circles.)  Then she shared everybody’s answer with the rest of the class.  They are working on recognizing letters.  They are reading excruciatingly boring books at a very slow pace.  They are doing things to demonstrate the A-B pattern over and over and over again.  He is told to draw a certain way, and the drawings are all critiqued in front of the class.  There are worksheets that have things to color, and then cut out, and then glue.  It is the same theme, repeated several times a day, and it is so boring. 

When they move from class to class, they have to line up, face forward, in ABC order, be quiet, put hands behind their back, and walk quietly without touching anything or saying anything.  If they do, the line stops.  If there is another class that hits an area first, the line stops as they wait for the other class to pass.  They wait in hallways for the next class to let them in. They wait, they wait, they wait some more.  They are never allowed to talk.  If they do anything wrong, they are given either time on the bench at recess, lunch detention, or time out in the classroom, depending on the offense.  Detention, for kindergartners.  wuh. 

Lunch time is a horror.  Besides the food being horrible, everything is prepackaged, laid on a styrofoam tray, with a package with a cocktail straw, little cardboard napkin, and a spork.  (the flimbsy spork is hard for me to use, almost impossible for him)  Uncrustables (pb&j, formed in a circle that you find in the freezer section…something I have always made fun of but have eaten at every lunch there because it is the only even remotely palatable thing), grey-colored “rib” sandwiches in a package, pizza pockets in a package, corn dogs, fruit cocktail (that takes a lot of convincing that it is actually fruit to get him to try it), and then things like goldfish crackers, teddy grahms, waffle cookies, potato chips, all in their own little packages.  You are handed a throw away tray with a stack of packages on it that you throw away at the end of the meal.  The worst part is that if I send his lunch with him, he is required to stand in a different line and wait for his class (little to no guidance) and then after the meal he has to be able to go all the way across the playground to put his lunch box in a barrel, and then go back to the playground without direct supervision.  It is too much for him to manage. Oh, and they are only give about 10-15 minutes to get all the packages open and scarf down the food.  Most days I am ripping into my little milk carton as they call our line to get up and dump our trays, and I am eating as fast as I can.  Zane has had to stay in the room a few times just to finish his pb&j, and that is with me prodding him to eat faster. 

The only times I see him perk up are in PE class and music class.  He says he likes those classes.  I am going to try and arrange for him to participate in those two classes, get him speech and occupational therapy, possibly bring him for recess, but dump everything else and homeschool (or e-school, which is offered in this district) everything else. 

Instead of requiring communication, which is what he needs, he is told to be quiet.  Instead of the socialization he needs, the kids are reprimanded for socializing.   If he goes to a room where he is encouraged to do those things, he will be with peers who also aren’t able to socialize or communicate well either.  He won’t have any typical peer models. 

At home, we can teach him what he needs to know.  We can suck it up and find a community for him, there is a good homeschooling community here, and if we get really serious about it, we can find a church that would be a good fit.  It might not be Mennonite, but we can find something that is close enough, that has a solid community where he can make lasting, consistent friends that won’t change every year.  We won’t have to watch him be so tired for the therapist that they are spending valuable learning time trying to get him to “wake up” so he can participate.  We can schedule therapies at a pace he can manage, and get memberships to the children’s science museum (which we love), and try and find a way to pay for a Y membership and participate in the classes for homeschoolers there.  (abundant)  

This is a community that is really set up for homeschooling, but I was scared that I would never be able to meet his needs as well as a school with trained professionals could.  I was wrong.  I would have to be the laziest parent on earth to do any worse.  If I can have the self discipline to deal with potty training for 5 years, even with a weak stomach, I can handle this.  There was so much more that we were doing than we realized.  It is so engrained in how we interact with our kids that it probably won’t even be that much of a transition.  I know I can’t be perfect at it, but now I also know the schools aren’t either. 

I also came away from the time at the school with a deep respect for the people who work there.  “Underfunded schools” was little more than a political phrase.  I’ve seen the impact first hand.  I have seen good people in incredibly challenging jobs doing the absolute best they can with what they have.  I don’t know if I could do it.  The needs are so diverse and so great I can’t imagine the strength it would take to go back, day after day, year after year, and face it.  I have been so insulated because the therapy places I go to are filled with parents committed to their kids, committed to them emotionally and educationally and I feel so inadequate next to them.  I am starting to see that maybe I am strong too, maybe I can do this.  I hope so, because Zane needs me to.

Oh, and as a side note, Zora is NOT going to that school.  Come hell or high water, she will go to one of the private schools here in town.  There are several good ones.  I might even be putting her into one this fall for a few hours because she desperately needs more social interaction than I can ever give her and I am going to need some quiet, “nobody clinging to me” time to homeschool Zane.  She is, without question, the polar opposite of Zane in her social requirements.  lol.


This entry was posted on Saturday, September 8th, 2007 at 1:51 AM and is filed under Uncategorized. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 12 responses to “Saturday September 8, 2007”

  1. 1 On September 8th, 2007, lovelymama24 said:

    I really think  that Zane could benufut from your one on one schooling at home, and that the classroom may be too distracting for him.  Of course, I only know from what I have read on your blog.

    Trust your instincts mama.

  2. 2 On September 8th, 2007, LynnE73 said:

    It has sounded to me all along that you have been doing it all along. Kindergartners quiet and in lines?! HOLY moly. Sounds like a nightmare for even a typical kid. Trust those Mama instincts!

  3. 3 On September 8th, 2007, SouloG said:

    I completely understand why you would want to pull Zane out of public school. Public school is a tough environment even for non-autistic kids, and Zane’s school is clearly not able to meet his needs. It’s been my perception that at least 50% of what goes on in public school is more about warehousing kids whose parents work than it is about learning. Kudos to you for following your instincts. I’ll be praying for you guys.

  4. 4 On September 8th, 2007, ilovebakedgoods said:

    Sounds like a crappy school, if you ask me. If that’s your only option for school, I’d definitely pull him out to homeschool. You could always look into their first grade classes to see what it’d be like for him next year, maybe play it by year?

  5. 5 On September 8th, 2007, feebeeglee said:

    I expect you know what I think.

    I’m glad you got here now, in September, instead of months from now.

    Bede needs me, ttys

  6. 6 On September 8th, 2007, ShackintheMountains said:

    You know I know how you feel.  Of course I think homeschooling is a great option.  You can do it.  The anticipation was so much scarier than the reality, cross my heart and hope to die.  Don’t wait too long like I did.  You have been Zane’s best teacher all along, nothing magical happened when he turned 5 to change that.  From reading your blog it sounds like you have a wealth of community resources available to you outside of school.  Homeschooling does not mean you provide everything.  Homeschooling means finding the resources to help you and your child, and using them, is solely up to you.  You’ve been doing that extremely well for years already. 

    Follow your heart.  Don’t hesitate to message me if you need any support. 

  7. 7 On September 8th, 2007, feebeeglee said:

    Well I was coming back to be less cryptic – only to ditto everything Shack said!

  8. 8 On September 9th, 2007, auntcathys5 said:

    Congrats on making the decision that is best for your family.  You will always be your child’s first and best teacher.

  9. 9 On September 9th, 2007, midnightowl said:

    The good thing about the past few weeks’ experiences is that now you KNOW. You don’t have to wonder what Zane might be missing out on or what you might be lacking. Stay confident in your instincts. And even the most structured home school experience I’ve heard of has not sounded as exhausting as your days in kindergarten! You are going to love it, and I’ll bet Zane will too.

  10. 10 On September 12th, 2007, emikojen said:

    wow, that’s an incredible post – so descrictive. best of luck to you & Zane!

  11. 11 On September 13th, 2007, LindaC61 said:

    Trust your instincts. I was scared to death when I first started homeschooling my now 7th and 10th graders and now I am looking forward to when my autistic 9 year old finishes elementary school and I can homeschool him from 7th to 12th grade. The only reason he is still in public school is because he is in a nurturing and caring environment and the same teacher will be with him until the end of 6th grade.

  12. 12 On September 13th, 2007, gentlemom said:

    I think you are an amazing mother and I know you could help Zane keep his love of learning by schooling (or unschooling) him at home. ((HUGS))

  • Zane's age

  • Zane is 21 years, 11 months, and 10 days old
  • Zora's age

  • Zora is 17 years, 11 months, and 14 days old
  • Random Quote

  • Homeschool parent’s primer:

    Anyone who is more attentive to their child than I am is a “hover mother”.

    Anyone who is less attentive is selfish and neglectful.

    Anyone who imposes more rules on kids than we do is rigid and power tripping.

    Anyone who imposes less is spoiling the kids and being a doormat.

    Any homeschoolers who use more structure and curriculum than we do are control freaks.

    Any who use less are irresponsible.

    Any kid older than mine is “old enough to know better”.

    Until mine is that age, then “he’s just too little to know better”.
    — Kelly, from SM, a message board

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