Homeschooling for the faint of heart
Sometime between Valentine's Day and the following Friday, I decided to home school Everett. Now eight-and-a-half and having just passed his third-year special education re-evaluation (still qualifies under the eye-rolling educational diagnosis of "severe emotional disturbance"), I had been thinking (along with the teachers and administrators) all the way into January that things were getting better. Never the sort of kid to have enough good days in a row for successful extracurricular involvement, I'd signed him up for LEGO club, which he participated in through to the end commendably. We'd agreed to do "Battle of the Books," and I was the team parent, and had read the books with him. The assembly where he and his team would compete for a chance at regional tournament was coming up on the 18th.
What's more, he was generally getting along with his teacher, though he'd been through four that year; one permanent teacher who took a job elsewhere; one long-term substitute; one new permanent teacher; then the last one, the day after new-permanent-teacher took over. We all decided it would be best to move him to the older class (the only third-grader in the behavioral classrooms at Bridger, he had been the oldest in K-3 and was more appropriately served, we thought, as the youngest in 3-5). At first, things went great.
Until they didn't. One bad day turned into a week-long bus suspension (shortly after we'd gotten the paperwork done for both boys to take the bus) and then suddenly, he and a friend were suspended. On Valentine's Day, we had a re-entry meeting and, after handing out his dragon valentines, it became obvious that he wasn't emotionally ready to re-enter. Not on Wednesday, either. We missed the Battle of the Books assembly -- the one we'd been reading for since October. On Friday, the counsellor came by and I told her how I felt about this right now: that home schooling might be a better option. About the same time, Rebecca invited me to Get the Scoop on Schooling, "an Evening of Information, Inspiration, and Clarity about Educational Options for Our Children" (Monday February 28 at The Warehouse, 6:30 p.m.). I responded "yes" immediately.
After years of considering this option, and many times typing or saying to someone in the heat of emotion, "I'm THIS close to homeschooling!", the balance had tipped. I felt it was inevitable and that continuing in public school had no possible good ending.
I only had two of those Mondays, not even enough to get a rhythm of productivity before they were supplanted, once by Truman's sickness and the second time by Everett's inability-to-reenter. Their loss is felt dearly. I need, more than ever as Everett and I have struggled to work back from this new emotional nadir, clean and clear time to myself that is not the few hours ripped from after-bedtime.
But the alternative is not good. Everett is convinced he can never get along at his school. (And his "never," which I'm usually able to unwind after 24 or, at the worst, 48 hours, is for now unyielding.) I think that he has had too many different teacher-bridges to a calm typical elementary student burned -- he's not one usually able to reforge a relationship with an adult once it's been destroyed, at least, not easily. He holds grudges. Four in five months is a lot. The only true public option beyond this behavioral classroom is back to Pioneer School, an option that means isolation with other kids who suffer from, mostly, worse difficulties than Everett; an option I've sworn to myself I won't accept again. Even if I had the resources for a private school, I hardly think transitioning him into one of those would be any easier.
So, we're homeschooling. For now, this looks like this: lots of limit-setting around what sort of behaviors I'll accept. Occasional trips to the library. Long rainy afternoons where I read a good book until my throat aches. Some reading and exploration around topics that interest him (we've been discovering how volcanoes work and I've been explaining the real meaning of "epic," his current favorite exclamatory). But mostly, we're working on emotional stability. It's still a long way off.
I, the very faintest of heart when it comes to home schooling, have entered into it with trembling and trepidation. I know there are lots of resources and online help and communities and special classes for home schooled kids, but for now, I'm just surviving.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations, but fair warning: I'm not likely to be printing out worksheets or signing up for community support groups this week. Sometimes getting through the day without too many explosive episodes or swear words is the only goal I can shoot for.
Here's hoping that, when it's gotten better and then worse, it still gets better.