I had a couple of other posts in the works, but they are getting bumped. Because this is what we are going through right now. Even as I type this, hubby is discussing the pros and cons of this very issue with his long-suffering brother.
We are going to home school our daughter. Starting now.
There is more motivation than actual plans for this, but it’s time. In fact, it’s past time. One might wonder why we are doing this at the end of May, why we are not letting her stick out the last three weeks of school.
A quick bit of background. She’s just finishing Grade 9, the first year of high school here. From the beginning of middle school she displayed avoidance and agitation behaviors. She was moved from an “adapted” IEP (she would learn the same curriculum with the help of an special education assistant at her side) to a “modified” IEP (she would no longer be expected to keep up with her peers).
We fought all the harder for her. We’ve met supportive staff and brick walls. We’ve had blows and we’ve had successes, and every battle, every meeting and every phone call, was hard.
Over the years “the system” put less and less into her education. The modified program meant the staff could choose to abandon academics if the alternative was confronting her or her behaviors. Frequent staff turnover meant no one really knew her, or had seen what she could do. By high school, all her courses were electives. Foods, woodworking (Shayla + power tools = yikes!), drama, art, and gym were the only classes she had on her schedule in September.
I kept her in the system because school is for learning, and she deserved to feel pride in accomplishment. I expected her to move forward academically. Knowing her progress would be slower than her peers broke my heart, but I consoled myself by imagining she would grow into the very best she could be.
I naively believed the school would respect my dreams and goals for my child, and teach her the core subjects during the periods she was not in an elective. But they did not. Instead, they let her play on the computer.
No math. No English. No second language class. Academically, she reversed, forgetting stuff she had already learned. It has recently come to my attention why. No one at that school believed she was worth the effort it took to navigate the behaviors, to insist she at least try something hard. No one believed she was smart enough to learn, so no one bothered to teach.
If it were merely this, if all our worries could be calmed with a more productive day, we would work with the school to keep her there. But it is not merely this. We are tired of arguing that our daughter is capable, that she is smart enough to learn anything, given extra time and practice, and in an environment in which she can work. We are frustrated from learning about behaviors she never tries at home. We are dumbfounded when the school dumps the blame in our laps as if her outbursts were the result of poor parenting, and we were insulted that instead of adjusting to accommodate her challenges while feeding her strengths, she was given a room with a door, a desk, and a cot, and left to her own devices. We were speechless when every piece of parental insight into our daughter was dismissed, and she was labeled amongst the staff as a behavior problem. And we are done with watching our child fall deeper and deeper into the cracks of the system.
This is not the first time we have considered this road. We’ve been telling schools for years we are going to go this route if her education did not meet our expectations. We’ve heard promises and plans for a better environment, more support, and positive outcomes. And everyone – including Shayla – falls back into bad habits. So this is just the first time we’ve stood up and said, “That’s it! You couldn’t do it. Now it’s our turn.”
I get the impression they believe we will fail her. To them, taking her out of their care is dooming her to a life of isolation. They are the trained teachers and staff, the ones with degrees and diplomas. We are the undereducated parents, self-employed and frazzled, over-protective and inexperienced. How can we succeed when their best efforts were not enough?
Because she and her brother are our world. Not a job. Not a student. Not a case, or a file, or a list of behaviors. She is ours. We will do right by her because we love her. She matters. And she deserves to spend her days with people who remember she is more than an autism diagnosis. She is somebody’s daughter.