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Challenge: Reflecting on a Year of Pandemic Parenting

“I never wanted to home school my kids”

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Let me take a moment to honor all the parents who did not want to home school their child but had no choice. Whether your child has special needs or not, you deserve recognition and applause for the severity of the task you chose to take on. For all the moments you are overwhelmed, feel disrespected and misunderstood. You are not alone. You are a phenomenal parent, and your child will be all the better for it.

I never wanted to home school my kids, but the public school system left me no choice. My son and daughter have a combined 15 years as public school students and in that time there where highs and lows. The problem with the lows included, severe emotional scarring, withdrawal from family, declining grades, an absence of the basics such as 1+1 or the ability to spell simple words like “dog.” Despite being told at bogus IEP meetings that they were making progress they could barely answer these questions. This is after 5 or 6 years of education. It was alarming and it made me angry.

So, what the hell where they doing with my kids for all this time? Well, I think a better question would be what where they NOT doing for them. That list is miles and miles long.

While one school my son attended was a little more cutting edge, my son did not have the option of moving up to a different class each year, he had the same teacher for three years. He got comfortable and started to lose information, specifically in math.

My experience with the other schools was that they were non innovators, who lacked creativity and where swimming in their ignorance.

I learned that while they made room for self-contained classrooms, they did not make enough space for each disability to have their own classroom. In other words, they lump multiple disabilities together.

Instead of catering to one particular disability or at the most two, a teacher is responsible for supporting multiple special needs.

This means that my daughter who is severely sensitive to noise including shouting, is in a class with a kid who does nothing but yell. The teacher yells to gain back control. In return my daughter’s grades suffer because she is only focused on the noise and covering her ears. She has also become excessively nervous at home which prompts us to try different medications with the help of her pediatrician. This coupled with the “shouting student” makes her irritable at school and defiant with her teachers.

I learned that my kid’s teachers where not provided a curriculum. They were using books dated back to the 1970’s and relying on each other to come up with lesson plans. The teachers who vetted and proposed a curriculum that would meet their student’s needs were put on pause.

I learned that not every teacher has to have completed their higher education. They can be in the process of getting a degree and still be hired.

The public school system is not interested in creating an environment conducive to the ones who are different from the others. The powers that be are not open to funding for special equipment or programs that are centered around the spectrum mind.

They were very interested in doing the bare minimum. They were highly interested in pushing for compliance from these students. In other words: “learn how to be like your neuro typical peers. You are not special. You may be a genius in one specific area but that is of no value to us. We have no interest in working to draw out the brilliance that has been hidden in you because the world has been such an assault on your senses. We are not excited about integrating an attitude of Autism acceptance and awareness throughout our school so that when our students leave here and become adult’s they take that kind of forward thinking out into the world.”

No matter how many meetings we had with the “big wigs” expressing our concerns and offering up solution’s; nothing ever changed.

Right now I am neck deep in what I really don’t have time for. Banging my head against the wall because I’m trying so hard not to force them to conform to what I’m teaching but I want to teach them in a manner that encourages them to come out of their shells and show me what they know.

Over the course of nine months, I have watched a super, super uptight little girl look like she’s floating on clouds. After feeling like we lost her we got our happy girl back! That silly, dramatic, animated, smart mouthed girl that faded away for years is finally bouncing around again. Laughing and sleeping through the night. While she still struggles with social anxieties, it’s nowhere near what it was. Once while at a mall it was so bad she refused to walk and my husband had to carry her.

My son can answer the basics without hesitation. He’s not nervous to engage with us about what he’s learned. At one point when he was in public school if we asked him what he learned in reading or math that day, the boy would breakdown crying. I mean he looked horrified at the thought of having to tell us what he learned. Now I can’t get him to shut up.

My angst with the school system is that they do not see our children as gifts as we do. They are only interested in changing or ignoring them.

They are missing a massive opportunity not only with their students with special needs but with their regular education students as well.

There are so many smart and effective ways to bring the two worlds together. They could literally start the groundwork for the next generation in terms of how they see people with Autism and people who are different.

When you are implementing the need to see your peers who think differently from you as equals, they will also apply that same standard when it comes to those who look differently from them. Those two worlds’ go hand and hand. It’s almost as if they are deliberately cultivating division. But that’s another article.

The goal for parents and educators alike should be to give children who have come into this world with challenges the ability to be wildly successful. Instead, educators and even some parents have stopped short at the word “disability.” Labeling someone disabled does not label them “stupid.” It should only serve as a purpose to make teachers\principals aware that with this particular student you need to stop, listen and observe until you’ve gained enough information to better serve that child. If this makes you uncomfortable you should find another line of work.

Patience, Love & Creativity

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