Sunday, August 11, 2013

When You Have a Diagnosis

 Last week I talked about homeschooling with kids who struggle academically and may be 1 or more grade levels behind. I will probably say more about that in the future, but today I want to talk about another concern that can greatly affect our homeschooling and that is when one of your children in diagnosed with something.

It might be something physical. Perhaps a child has a physical handicap. Maybe it's medical. Maybe it's emotional. It could be any number of things.

Cerebral Palsy
Tourette Syndrome (our personal diagnosis)

The list could go on and on and on and on. In fact, when you stop to think about it, it's kind of a wonder there are any "normal" children out there! If you are the parent of a child with a diagnosis of one kind or another (even if you are the one who did the diagnosing), it makes you more aware of how everyone has some kind of struggle.

And yet, we don't always see that. We might see another homeschooling family and be around them for 1/2 an hour and somehow in our mind we convince ourselves that they don't struggle. That their kids are smart and healthy and wow how easy they must have it!

But let's talk about how the rest of us live. (And I hope you are starting to realize that "the rest of us" is nearly ALL of us!)

If your child were in public school, you would have a team of people involved in your child's education. The school counselor, the principal, the special education teachers, a diagnostician, the OT, the classroom teachers, etc. There would be ARD meetings and 504 meetings and IEPs and all kinds of paperwork and legalities.

Education is so much more than academics. Little Bit learning to sew last year. 
On really trying days maybe a team of folks sounds good to you! On other days you feel blessed to have your problems be YOUR problems--with you and your spouse in control. I am of the opinion that public school resources are there to help. If you need them--use them! If it's an interference, don't! I don't think you should feel badly either way.

There was a time in our country when children who struggled probably weren't diagnosed at all. My dad tells a story about a family they knew and "the older boy wasn't right." Have you ever heard that expression? He probably had some sort of mental or learning problem. I asked my dad and he said, "You know, we never thought about it. We just knew he needed help and he wasn't like the rest of us." Yep. That's all they needed to know back then. The parents and family and even neighbors just helped the child however was needed. No doctors or psychologists involved. To a certain extent I still think homeschooling families can help their children however is needed. (Of course, if medical intervention is required that's another thing.)
That's my Dad sitting on the porch with his siblings and neighbors. 

It just means that your homeschool will not look like anyone else's. (And it probably never did to begin with.) I know we talk a big game about "who cares about grade levels" and all that jazz but the truth is those things are firmly entrenched in our way of thinking. I tried really hard the other day to think how educating my children would be if I never knew a thing about public school. My first thought was, "well, there wouldn't be grade levels and I wouldn't start and stop each year. We would just keep learning until they were 18 and graduated!" Then it hit me: Wait! They wouldn't stop at 18 and we wouldn't even know what "graduating" was! Boy are we stuck on public school traditions!

If you are the parent of a child who has a diagnosis of one kind or another, you just need to keep on teaching your child. We may say things like "she's in 4th grade" or "2 more weeks and our school year is over" but really and truly we just need to KEEP ON TEACHING and they need to KEEP ON LEARNING. They will make progress. They will learn. It just may not have anything to do with a school calendar or benchmarks or the scope and sequence or any of our other pre-conceived notions. Oh how freeing would it be to be able to shuck all that from our mind and just do what our child needs?


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dealing With Stuff

Welcome back to my series about how homeschool isn't always pretty!

I was fairly confident going in to homeschooling that I could do the teaching part. I had taught for years in public schools. Second grade didn't seem like that big of deal. It was the teaching while doing housework and taking care of a 3 year old and paying the bills and running errands and fixing meals that seemed hard. (I was right.)

For years I worked under the assumption that everyone else was being terribly successful in their homeschool endeavors and I was the only one having struggles. I'm not sure why this is. I certainly heard my fellow homeschool moms talk about their struggles at park days and play days. I heard them, but it's really hard to imagine other moms at home actually homeschooling. Since we are all in our individual homes, we don't get to see each other in action, so to speak. All we know is what we read on blogs (complete with cropped pictures!) and what we imagine in our heads.

The first struggle we had was with math. Sweetheart had gone to private school using ABeka curriculum in 1st grade. When we began our homeschool journey, I stuck with ABeka that first year. We were used to it. It was solid. It was Christian-based. At first that was fine. Throughout that first year I learned about other curriculum I wanted to try and dabbled in unit studies and lapbooks. The next year, third grade, I was ready to branch out. But since the ABeka arithmetic book was still working, I stuck with that.

Well, about 1/2 way through 3rd grade, we were both in tears during math time. Sweetheart hadn't really gained a very solid foundation in her 3 years of prior schooling. ABeka moved FAST. And we were drowning. We threw away the book, ordered a new curriculum, which started off marvelous, and it was easy enough to blame all of these struggles on 2 things:
1. her former school experiences
2. the curriculum

So I wasn't too shaken up.

Fast forward to this last school year (7th grade). Guess what? We are STILL struggling in math! It has become obvious over the years that we can't just lay blame and shrug it off. I've had to come to grips with the facts. In my mind they were:

1. She's not too good at math
2. I must really stink at teaching math

And then you hear about so-and-so's Kindergarten student who is working through a 3rd grade curriculum and CRIES when his mom says "no more math today." I NEVER wake up to children who are happily doing math worksheets before breakfast just because they want to. What's wrong with us?

The thing is: in public school everyone is kept in the same place. The smart kids might get to go to G/T classes and do extra projects and the slower kids might go for remedial tutoring, but really, you aren't allowed to stay back or move on outside of your grade level very often.

However in homeschooling, there are no limits like that. We ignore grade levels if we want to. And I think that's great as long as you're talking about my 3rd grader doing 4th grade work or above. But it's not so pretty or comforting to think about my 7th grader doing 6th grade work or below. That's nothing to brag about. And I was all "better late than early" in my happy Snow White voice for awhile there. Then it hit me that if we didn't get to moving, she wouldn't actually finish high school on time.

And I was pretty sure that no one else's kids were really grade levels behind. Oh sure, they might struggle, but surely they aren't years behind where they should be! Why are we always so sure it's only us?

So my first point on Homeschooling for the Rest of Us is this:

not everyone's kids are on grade level

And if yours aren't, you are not alone. Now you know.

(I'll talk more about what we are doing in math later!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homeschool For the Rest of Us

I don't know about you, but my kids are not going to be earning their college degrees while still in high school.

They aren't reading 5 grade levels above where they should be.

They aren't going to make the news for their outstanding standardized test scores.

I know because I got their test scores back already.

That's why today I am starting a blog series called:

Do you like that picture of Little Bit mid-meltdown during her test? And Sweetheart trying to complete her math assignment with Baby Bee on her lap? This is real life, folks.

A friend of mine found a blog last week that nearly made her have heart palpitations. The woman did seem just about perfect. Her children were ultra-successful, happy, accomplished, and doggonit they got more done in one day that we get done in a week AND cooked their own sauces that we couldn't even pronounce. It's enough to make you want to scream.

And I had already planned this series, but that solidified it. My friend shouldn't feel that way.

And then, another friend posted a link to this post. And that cemented it. (That link has some bad words in it. I couldn't link to it on FB because I'm, you know, the preacher's wife. But by golly it's the truth even if I would have said it a different way.)

Folks, I'm not cropping our homeschool here. I'm going to tell you the down and dirty, nitty gritty truth about homeschooling kids who struggle in school.

I know more of you relate to that than a perfectly successful, highly motivated, owns-their-own business while working on college courses and volunteering daily at the animal shelter while learning photography on the side and scoring perfectly on the SAT student anyway.

Hope you'll join me.