Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Home School!

Well I did it!  After over 9 years of battling with local school administrations (they changed frequently)  I decided to home school Sam, Sarah and Selah.   We had seriously considered it this past August but we thought with the move & our oldest leaving for college that it was just too much change.  Then I thought about doing it starting in January but I had the whole breast cancer scare & surgery to deal with so I put it off till I knew whether I would have to have any follow up treatments. 

You may not realize but the three little ones were already on "hospital homebound" which meant that the teachers/therapists came to our home.  They didn't attend a school.

I fought so hard for so long to get the kind of services I felt Sam and then later the girls needed.  I've written on this blog some of the issues I've had over the years.  We've had some great teachers & a few crazy ones, enough crazies that I would never ever allow them to go to school, along with their medical/emotional needs!  When you have children who are non verbal, it's hard to trust people, especially if you'd had issues in your own home with teachers over the years.  I've dealt with crazy administrations, one lady who would talk to me in a certain accent.  Believe me she was not from the country she pretended to be from!  She had failed at her job and was given a position to work with special needs kids rather than being fired as she should have been. I've had ample reason to pull the kid(s) out in the past but I continued fighting on. 

Currently we were very satisfied with our teachers, however both girls' IEPs were out of compliance because they had had two therapist quit.  And the administration talked me out of Orientation & Mobility so they wouldn't be out of compliance in that area.  But it was ok overall.  I just didn't feel their needs were being met.

What convinced me to do this, was several things.  We needed order in our home.  Our kids usually do really good on a strict schedule and that was hard to maintain when teachers were absent or had other meetings that they had to go to.  We had very few weeks when all of their teachers were able to follow their schedule (not always their fault).  My goal is to potty train Sam or at least try and I could not do that around people's schedules who may or may not come.  Then throw in the holidays, teacher work days etc.....it gets too crazy.

Also over Christmas break Sam did so good, but the day his teachers came back, he started biting himself on his arms.   Sam is very well behaved normally and in all kinds of social settings but we weren't seeing that with school.  When a child is upset, you listen to what they are saying- especially if they are non verbal.  He would be upset all day long & often into that night.  That is just not right.  Sam has always had a hard time expressing frustration and trying to get attention, we've gone through some times when he would throw toys down the hall.  One time I took every hard toy out of the house for months until he learned not to throw.  He likes to squeal loudly, sometimes it's a happy sound but lately it was not a happy sound.  Now I'm not saying to let a child- any child dictate things but parents also must take into account everything when dealing with their kids.

But the biggest thing to me was that their goals were not always realistic or helpful.  I would bring this up at every IEP meeting explaining that they needed to learn life skills such as eating on their own, getting in and out of a car, potty training, etc.....   There had been some more practical changes this past year (thanks to the teachers!) but for the most part I wasn't seeing any progress that transitioned to REAL life.  The teachers were not able to write goals like that due to their guidelines. 

Obviously we work with them constantly anyhow.  We do the same things over & over for years, and sometimes we see progress.  For example, we really wanted help with teaching Sam to get in & out of the van.  I asked for it many times a few years ago ( he had Orientation & Mobility as well as Physical Therapy at the time. )  Only once did someone work with him and they were basically ticked off the whole time.  So we continued to work with him and now he can do it by himself.  I was concerned because I was afraid we'd hurt our backs or drop him trying to get him in! 

I've seen that most of what our kids do, they learn from us.

With our little ones, we realize that they do not have the ability to read, or color or do a lot of things that will be building blocks towards more regular education.  That does not bother me to say it.  I know where my kids IQ's are and I realize that there is only so much "regular things" that they will successfully accomplish.  In other words, I'm not expecting them to have the same life as my other boys.  That in no way diminishes  them or their need to learn life skills that will help them (and their caregivers) function better.  I'm  just very realistic in my outlook. Sam and Sarah are unique in that they have lower IQs and are visually impaired but yet are mobile. 

I'm sure I'll get messages & comments that will say "if only you believe- they can do anything"  Well that's just not true.  If a person does not have the ability to do a certain task like reading a book, they can be in class 24/7 and they will never be able to do it.  BUT there are many things they can learn to do, it might take a longer time, for example Sam was about 3 when he started walking, he had the ability he just needed more time.  Sarah, well we nor anyone we've taken her to, really knows if she'll walk given her age and where she is right now.  (When I say WALK I mean walk well enough she could go from place A to place B out side the home with little assistance)  She will walk somewhat if we hold her hands or with a walker & she has started taking a step towards us if you drop your hands and tell her to "come"  But in some cases the ability to do certain things is just not there no matter how much therapy or instruction is given.   It's important to always try things, give a child every chance and opportunity but be realistic & don't push a child beyond his/her ability.  Challenge them-YES but don't frustrate them. 

I feel with homeschooling them myself I'm able to focus on THEM and work with them from the time they get up, till they go to bed. Before I would rush getting them ready in the morning so everything was done before the teachers came & then sometimes the teacher couldn't come or would be late.....  In doing that, I missed out on life skill learning!  One of my goals is for Sarah to learn to help us dress her.  She tries and she'll throw one arm one way and get her hand caught in the sleeve.....it's challenging to dress her.  In the mornings I need time to work with her on that. 

We are keeping our private therapist for the girls and I'm looking into therapy for Sam as well as feeding therapy for Sarah (who only eats pureed foods)  These are things that are needful but that we weren't really getting with the school system. 

Last night I was thinking I have homeschooled Steve & Shad at different times.  When we first began to pastor at our church, we lived in another town and Steve went to a Christian school in still another town!  It was an intense time for us!  I homeschooled him from January- June using his old school's curriculum.  Then in August he started 5th grade here.  Then when the accident happened I homeschooled Shad and Steve while we were in NY   That was Shad's 2nd grade year and Steve's 11th grade year.  We ordered their school curriculum so it was not too hard for me.   Steve ended up being homeschooled his senior year because of where he was in the curriculum, he only needed a few more books to graduate so it was cheaper than him going back to the school once we were home.  Plus he finished up in January of his senior year.  Steve & Shad have always gone to Christian school, not because we are snobs or rich but because we like them being taught by teachers who have a Christian world view. Our school is very open to families, even those who have no faith, & I like that.  And by the way, most of the kids there are there on McKay & Step Up For Students scholarships.  We have a school choice program in Florida that is awesome!

So for now my "curriculum" will be Life Skills along with their regular private therapies.  I applied for a grant http://www.specialneedskidsathome.com/   for a Personal Learning Scholarship Account
if we receive that, I can use it to buy various things like curriculum, therapy, adaptive learning devices etc.  We have many things/toys that teachers use with them - I have quite the collection and they are things we've work with all the time.   The goal is to help them be as self sufficient  as possible. 

I'm looking forward to this.  I believe this will be a good thing for them.



5 comments:

  1. We provide PE for homeschooled students and have a few children who participate that qualified for a PLSA through step up for students Florida :)

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  2. I think homeschooling is actually a great idea in your situation. I agree that IEP goals can be ridiculous and unrealistic and kids with special needs are rarely taught the life skills that they actually need and will use in their real lives. As a former one-on-one in a both inclusion classrooms and a multiply handicapped classroom I have learned a few things. 1. Inclusion isn't really including these children. They are still separated and segregated and often treated cruelly by their peers. I wish more parents had your realistic outlook. I am by no means saying it is acceptable but it is very common. 2. Abuse of severely disabled- particularly- non-verbal children happens more than people think. It has got to be a very scary thing entrusting strangers with a vulnerable child who cannot even tell you if something was done to them. I saw it in the classroom I worked in personally. I reported the abuse and was told to keep it quiet and not take it any further. Um no. I reported it immediately, the child's parents were informed and they removed her from the school. The teacher who had abused her and the principal who told me to keep my mouth shut are still there! I on the other hand lost my job. I know you were expecting some negative feedback but I think you are absolutely doing the best thing for your children!

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  3. Thank you for your kind comments. I as expecting hate mail but it's been the opposite. Thank you for standing up for that child even tho it cost you your job. We've had issues with 2 teachers in our home so I fig if there are problems in front of me- what could happen if I'm not there????

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  4. Dear Yvonne, I have read you blog for some time and enjoy reading it very much. I respect your dedication a lot. Although I do not have experience with IEP goals, or having teachers at home, I think your plan is very healthy and sensible. I wish and pray for you to have a lot of energy and patience to keep working with your kids and hopefully reach their goals, to the extent of their possibilities.

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