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Yes...this is ALL about me, and mine. Marvellously self indulgent, feel free to tell me how splendid I am, leave comments, nice ones please, I have little kids and teenagers who can do the rude stuff. I am a grandma, to the glorious Joshua, I'm allowed to look frazzled and weary, I earned it. The older I get, the more I see that hanging on and being patient is worth it! They ( whoever 'they' are) are so right when they say you never know what is around the corner, it isn't always an articulated truck! It is vital to make the time for making memories, friends are the greatest treasure, I love mine. I am rich!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Who knew?

So, we have started the home schooling journey we never knew we wanted to take.
I think this whole thing was H's idea, I don't recall him ever saying " I think we should home school" I know I never said it, I just know that one day, we had said it and written to the school to tell them that Elijah would not be returning to school and here we are. Oh. My. Goodness.
I'm not sure how H and I work, I know we don't have cosy chats or long brow beating sessions of decision making. I often think we have little in common but actually, more and more we seem to think the same things and make it all happen without either of us ever saying " This is how it will be"
Is that a good thing? I think it must be because it works for us ( that's a relief)
So, here we are. H, me and a little dog called Eli. Or a big dog, sometimes a Gorilla.
We find ourselves saying ( more often than we would like) "Dogs are not allowed in here" before entering a shop, or church or stately mansion. He has been a Labrador / retriever for a week, then a great dane. He crawls on all fours everywhere, he pants and sniffs ( not bums, we are thankful for small mercies) he digs and would love to eat his food from a bowl on the floor. When we saw him cocking his leg over the toilet ( at least it wasn't against a lamp post!) I started to think things had gone a bit far. H wasn't on the same page and actually let him buy a dog bed at a car boot sale with his pocket money. He desperately wanted to sleep in it but that was where I put my foot down!
I am bored with the whole dog thing now, I am biting my tongue though because hey, it's imaginative and we don't see that too often in this house. I cringe every time he does something good and I say " Good BOY!" I am afraid I will pat him on the head or throw him a morsel of food from my plate without thinking!
Anyhoo, homeschooling.
I was, until Tuesday, very apprehensive about keeping Elijah at home. I was so afraid we were doing him a disservice. I was worried that this wasn't the right thing to do.
On Monday, we started to teach him. Last year, in school, Eli was unrecognisable, our bouncy, loud, eccentric boy was withdrawn, puzzled, confused. He would sit and suck his thumb ALL day at school, he was running after kids that were mean to him because he thought they were his friends. He wasn't speaking to any teachers and he wasn't learning anything.
In the 6 weeks school holidays Eli came back, he was bouncy and happy, he stopped throwing things and yelling he began to play ( and be a DOG!) He stopped being sad.
Just that one thing, a 7 year old who stopped being sad...that one thing is enough to make me see that this is the right thing.
On Tuesday we had a visit from someone, I'm not even sure who she is, I thought she was from a homeschooling / education department, I know that she had to come because she had been informed that we had withdrawn Eli from school and she said it wasn't a worrying visit it was just to chat and see what we had planned ( plans? PLANS? We have PLANS?) and ask what we saw were Eli's strengths and weaknesses.
Within minutes of her arriving at the house ( Eli, this is Ms Nosey Parker, she has come to see Eli the boy, not the dog, can you sit up and talk like a real boy please? "WOOF!") it was evident that she wasn't here to support us in anyway.
I heard H's angry tongue click noise that he makes when he is trying to control a rage. I listened as she told us how OUR children especially need to be at school because they need to socialise, they need to learn that other people have opinions and they have to learn ( more than other children apparently) how to get on with other people and work as a team.
I pointed out that our children are different to other children, they pick up the WRONG things easily, they will do whatever other kids tell them to do because they think THAT is what makes them popular. She told us over and over again how, if we take them all out of school, when they are 16 they won't get a job, they won't know who to live in the real world or function. I told her that we have older children, we KNOW what works for our children, we have made good choices and we will make the decisions for these younger children based on what WE know is good for them.
You only have to walk through the town at 4.30 pm to see what these senior school kids are not learning at school. The girls look as though they have come from a nightclub or street corner, the boys and girls are loud, rude, uncouth. They throw litter, they swear, the have no manners that are evident.
H asked her if she thought every child that attends a state school will leave, at 16 with all of life's most valuable lessons AND walk into a great job. No answer.
I asked her if she thought we were doing this for fun? I told her that we have adult children as well as the little ones and we knew what they needed just as we know what these boys need.
We have the advantage of seeing where we went wrong with the big kids and are determined not to make those same mistakes.
There is little to no discipline in schools these days, the teachers are not allowed to do anything but talk. It is clear that most of their time is spent trying to contain the unruly kids and keep things under control, little time is left to teach.
I have seen how kids change when they start senior school, it seems they have to become hard faced and disrespectful just to keep from getting bullied. I am not going to send my sons into that environment.
Children with aspergers are perfect targets for bullying. They do not read social signals, they don't understand when someone is teasing, they are naive and will keep trying to be friends with people who are not friendly. I have seen Eli run after kids after they have told him to go away, I watched as he shrugged his shoulders, smiled and ran right after them sure in his mind that they really wanted him to play. I don't know if Eli has any kind of autism, I do know he is delightful and touching and I want him to stay that way.
It is not a schools job to teach my children how to be polite, kind, respectful, well mannered. It is not a schools job to guide my sons into adulthood, helping them to learn the skills needed to function and prosper in this world.
It is a schools job to teach my children academics, to help them learn to read, write, study, to explain mathematics, science, history. Unfortunately, because all the powers of discipline have been taken away from teachers, they don't get to teach the things they should be teaching.
I am afraid that we may not be able to teach him everything he could learn in a good school with enough attention from a patient and able teacher. I am not afraid that we have taken him away from such an environment.
My children are not rowdy, they are not hyperactive, they are not disruptive or unruly, they do not cause problems for teachers or other children. They can sit in a classroom without making a sound, for hours and hours. They do not want to be noticed.
A classroom with 30 children and one teacher and an untrained assistant, with children who do have ADHD, or ADD, children who love to be the center of attention, who shout and disrupt, who are apt to hit out or damage property. Who do you think is going to get the attention first? Of course my quiet children who would rather be forgotten than noticed will be left to sit and suck their thumb or draw pictures of cars, they will be allowed to sit and watch what is going on because 2 adults with 30+ children physically cannot do anything else.
I am not venting at the teachers, I understand why things are the way they are. What I am doing is standing up for my children. Elijah especially because he was already suffering, he had fallen so far behind that it wasn't even an option to leave him where he was.
I am thrilled at the difference in him already. H and I, as we do, have fallen, without speaking about it, into a routine that ensures Eli is busy, engaged and learning from the moment the older boys are at school until they come home.
When H takes Seth and Isaac to school, Eli and I read and then we talk about what we have read, we discuss the story, he reads and I explain and then I read to him and watch his eyes grow wide as he enjoys the story. He then draws a picture of his favourite part of the story.
When H gets home he takes over and Eli and H do some Math work and penmanship.
At 11 Eli and I go out together, either shopping ( where he works out what we need, how many potatoes, how many bread rolls etc) we went to have lunch in the restaurant where Jordan is a chef and he was allowed into the kitchen to make his own pizza. Today we went to a mansion and he tool pictures, he had a clip board with questions on that he had to answer, he had to ask workers for the answers to some of the questions. He drew pictures.
I am amazed at how pretty much everything can be used as a learning tool.
He has been to the allotment with H and they learn about how plants grow and what they need to grow well.
AT 2pm H takes over again and they do some more writing and work.
We have a diary and a picture diary, we are taking pictures of places we go and are going to make a scrap book to record what he is learning.
On Monday he said "This is the very best day of my whole life" I am aware that for his whole life, because he is so affable and laid back, he has trotted behind, we have done exactly what his teachers did because he is so easy to care for. I feel sick to think of the damage that could have been done to this little boy just by doing nothing. I am so glad we saw what was happening and are doing what we know needs to be done to help him be the very best he can be.
I am sure that we will pray a lot in the effort to teach Eli, I think, if we decide to teach Seth and Isaac when they leave primary school, we will pray more than we have ever prayed before. It is a huge undertaking to do this, it is not a decision we have taken lightly. We are not young parents and it is exhausting to do this but we are parents, we had these children and it is our responsibility to make sure they have what they need, that they are safe, happy, secure and in the best possible position to grow and become well adjusted and happy adults with all the skills they need to live and grow in the world.
May the Lord help us and enable us to do what we feel is right for our children.

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Blogger Christina said...

Hi Helen, I have been reading your blog for ages. I used to be on babyzone. I wanted to let you know that homeschooling is a great option and yes it's a lot of work, but it's worth it. we homeschooled for a year then unfortunately our circumstances changed and we had to send our kids to school.

I'll be praying for you and H during this time... As well as the boys and Sophie


12:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admire you & H for doing this. I have a great-nephew with aspergers; I just wish his parents were willing to work with & devote the time that you & H do with Eli, Seth & Isaac. You are to be commended, and I think your children are lucky & fortunate to have you & H for parents.


1:48 am  
Blogger Sara said...

I love you and I love what you are doing for your sweet boy and the gift that you are giving him. Learn, he will... and I would imagine that you and H will as well.


2:08 am  
Blogger Tired Mom of Six said...

I commend what you are doing for Eli and I think you are totally right in doing it. It is our job as parents to be our kids' voices and do the things that are right for them despite others thinking that they know best.

4:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen, you are very brave to decide to homeschool Eli. I hope that you all can learn & grow from this opportunity. The schools here are happy to label your children, until they met my daughter, as she didn't quite seem to fit the mould.

Best of luck to you & Eli!

Shauna (murgatr) from BZ

dd 11/22/98
dd 6/27/02

9:01 pm  
Blogger TN said...

I think you and H are very wise to do what you are doing. I wish my daughter and her husband were as wise. Both of my grandsons are special needs children. They are 24 and 15 years of age. Both have always been in public special education classes. The oldest one graduated from high school and cannot read. The youngest one is in the 8th grade and is on medication for depression. (Abilify) He has just been diagnosed with Frazile X Syndrome. (Google this if you want to read about it)He is in his own little world and is so UNHAPPY. I don't mean to make this so long, so I will say....I think they would have been a lot better off at home with special attention from their parents. My daughter (their Mom) teaches the third grade. She has never had the time to help them with anything. I worry about what will happen to them in the future. They need to learn to do things for themselves and where is a better place than home to learn that? I admire you very much for what you are doing. I'm sure Elijah will grow up to be a fine man and able to make it on his own. I wish I could say the same for my grandchildren.

8:28 pm  

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