Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Decision: Public vs. Home

The decision to homeschool Dawson and Brynne is a rather easy one. The decision to have Kyndal continue attending public school is a rather easy one. The decision about whether to leave Eli in public school or bring him home is a very difficult one.

A brief history: Eli had Interuterine Growth Retardation in the womb. The doctors considered taking him at about 34 weeks because his growth rate was so low. I was measuring several centimeters smaller than I should have been at that point. Because he measured above the 10% mark at that point, they decided to leave him in. I delivered at a little over 38 weeks, but at full term he was only 5 1/2 pounds. During delivery his heart rate dropped off the chart twice. That's when an emergency c-section was performed.

Eli was different right from the start. He was an extra good baby .. almost too good. It was at about a year old that we started to see some "things". Actually it had started earlier than that, but we didn't realize it until later. He had an extreme fascination with lights. He started to show some delays in his development. He would sit and stare at the t.v. forever, especially commercials. He was a happy little guy, but early on showed some quirkiness. When he was a little older he started obsessively lining things up, and just seemed to be in his own little world most of the time. He walked late, did most things late, and then it really became apparent with his speech. It just didn't progress.

At 2 1/2 we got him involved in our state program so that he could receive speech therapy at home. When he turned 3 he started attending a developmentally delayed preschool (an absolute God-send!) He attended there for 3 semesters and then had progressed so well that they mainstreamed him into the regular public school pre-k program. It was so good for him because it pushed him to do things he wouldn't ordinarily do.

Last year he was in the regular kindergarten classroom and this year he has been in the regular 1st grade classroom. He is extremely bright, but still has some issues with speech, structure, over-stimulation, etc. He receives speech and occupational therapy and takes all tests with a special resources teacher so that he can concentrate and do things at his own pace. He gets very stressed under pressure.

With homeschooling Brynne, and seeing the potential of homeschooling, I have been feeling a real tug at my heart to bring Eli home. We have plans to bring him home after the 5th grade, because we live in a big school district and the middle schools are just too much for a "normal" kid let alone one with some special needs. We feel that the school he is in right now is the best public school environment there is. He is probably the most loved kid in the whole school by all of the teachers and staff, and that really isn't an exaggeration. I think many people would be devastated if we took him out of school.

This past weekend Rick and I discussed the pros and cons of homeschooling him versus having him stay in public school, and we all but decided that we would bring him home next year. He would love homeschooling. He would love what we are learning. I feel like we are missing out on so much of him and he is missing out on so much of us. Since he is on an IEP, he would still be eligible for speech therapy even if he was homeschooled. He and Brynne are best friends and love to spend their time together and we are involved in a great Coop that would give him more social interaction than he would probably want.

When I asked him if he wanted to be homeschooled, he said, "No." He said, "I like going to school. It is fun!"

We still thought we would go ahead and take the steps necessary to bring him home.

And then I went to his IEP yesterday and I came home with major second thoughts.

You know how when you spend everyday with your child, you don't see the changes to their physical appearance like someone who only sees them every few months or so? With being with Eli every day, I don't think we had really seen the progress he has made. But when the therapists and teachers started charting his progress to me from this year, I was astounded.

As happens with every meeting with the school, everyone was in tears by the end of the meeting because of their love for him. All of the teachers and therapists are so overwhelmingly proud of the progress he has made.

I have had such fear and reservations about his ability to handle the 2nd grade work that will be required next year. But I was assured that he would be able to handle it, and if he has problems I was presented with the plans to make sure he stays on track. They have even chosen his teacher for next year based on her style of teaching, her classroom structure and his strengths and weaknesses.

The school seems to be right on top of his needs for next year. In fact, the occupational therapist knocked his time down to just one hour per month, but put in a stipulation to increase that time once the 2nd graders start preliminary cursive handwriting at the end of  next year to make sure he gets a good start.

This morning he went to school a little late because he was coughing in his sleep and I was worried he might be coming down with something. But he woke up saying he felt fine. He said, "I want to go to school! We are learning about bird watching!"

He loves school. He loves the kids at school. He loves the teachers at school. There are parts of school that he doesn't like (reading and writing). But everything else makes him so happy.

I want him home. But I think he wants to be in school. And I know all of the teachers and therapists want him there, too. I miss him so much during the day, but what if I couldn't help him with all the things he needs like his therapists can?

As much as I want him home, I think he probably needs to stay put for the time being.

It hurts my heart. But when you see the joy in that childs face, it makes it all worth it.

2 comments:

  1. Oh Nicole...what a battle. It actually sounds like you have two really great options! I read somewhere that we as parents are "God's plan A for our kids." I have no doubt that you could do it right for Eli because God gives us what we need. But I realize you must consider Eli's wishes as well. I will pray that you have wisdom and peace.

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  2. {hugs} I LOVE how I can feel the love for your children in each post you write!

    I can tell your heart is in the right place and you are leaving all doors open. I think that's the key. Whatever you decide, leave the option open to change mid-year (or mid-week) if needed. Your feelings may change, and Eli's feelings may change. Take it day-by-day, week-by-week.

    You are very blessed to have such a great public school support system. I have no doubt this little guy is set up for success, regardless of what you decide. It sounds to me that God has placed many good people in Eli's life ... and He's preparing him for something fantastic!

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We all know that in this crazy world of homeschooling, we need all the (adult) support we can get. Please leave a comment if you so wish!