I've noticed that there are more than a few of us ....

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by timer lady, Dec 4, 2010.

  1. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    that now have our difficult children attending school from home. I know there are various & sundry reasons. However, I have to ask those of you that are in the same boat as I am what was behind your decision.

    I have to say kt being home schooled (online by a charter high school) was not my first ... heck it wasn't my last choice. I felt the SD forced me into this situation by not providing a safe & appropriate learning environment for ktbug.

    Saying that, this time around I didn't have it in me to take on the SD once again (our SD usually shudders when they see me coming). Was it sheer exhaustion or frustration with your SD that led you to this decision?

    ktbug needs to be out in the community, using her social & independent living skills. She needs contact with the outside world which kt's staff & I are working on. How are you keeping up with social skills with your difficult children? What outside activities, etc are keeping them in the loop?

    Just curious.
  2. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    We've been only at the homebound instruction since Thurdsay, but I can say that what drove me to it was difficult child 1's steady decline academically and psychologically because of his IBS. The school suggested it after my plea for help. It's short-term for us, at least that's my plan today, and I'm hoping he can get caught up and turn his grades around in the next 6 weeks of instruction that we have left. He's technically not allowed to participate in anything on campus as long as he's under this program, so he doesn't get to go to LAX practice for the socialization. Right now he hasn't really felt up to going out much, although he's already asking about planning a snowboarding trip over winter break. We'll see how things go health-wise, and when we get into mid-January we'll decided the next step after we have a chance to assess his progress between now and then.
  3. Jena

    Jena New Member

    you know we did. i just asked this same question a few days ago, marg home schoo's also. i'm sure she'll know or have ideas. i'd love to know how to incorporate that social piece into a home schooled scenario.

    and i gotta ask what is a sd?? :)
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Jena, I assume SD means School District.

    For us, the choice was something I had been pushing for, for some years. But our SD was actively blocking it. In our case in NSW, Australia, we have the choice to home-school, or in special cases we have Distance Education. I knew about Distance Ed although it is not talked about much; the Dept of Ed can't afford it becoming too well-used because it IS expensive for the government, since it is labour-intensive but government subsidised.

    I think your rules for home schooling are similar to ours - any parent can choose to home school their child, no reasons needed. But for us, if you choose to home-school, you have to be able to prove that your child is getting an education equivalent at least to what they would get in school. You can't pull your kid out of school and say, "We're home-schooing form now on," then have your kid working out in the fields or down the coal mines, with no access to an education. Home schooling parents have to submit a program and outcomes to Dept of Ed.

    But Distance Education - it is a school with teachers, with a principal, with students. But the students do their work remotely, either on paper or via email (or similar). It's also not available on demand, you have to qualify. In order to qualify for Distance Education, the student needs one or more of the following:

    history of bullying

    school phobia

    school avoidance

    physical illness

    physical distance (ie "School of the Air" which is a specialist Distance Ed school for kids living in the outback)

    inability to attend a mainstream school due to other timetabling issues. This last category is for the vocational students. These are the potential elite sportspersons, the dancers, the singers, the circus kids. Some of these are private fee-payers - unlike kids like difficult child 3 who meet the above criteria and therefore qualify for state enrolment, anyone can choose to pay the full fee and enrol anyway, usually attached to a dance school or sports academy. They pay thousands in fees, while we might pay $100 a year.

    So to all intents and purposes, difficult child 3 is home-schooled. But I don't have to provide the schoolwork. He has teachers he can email or telephone. He even has a SpEd teacher!

    We've been doing this since he was in 6th grade. We had a fight on our hands with SD to allow the Distance Enrolment, even though he met all the criteria. The SD argued that difficult child 3, being autistic, had to stay in mainstream in order to have social interaction, especially vital in autism. They ignored the fact that any social contact in mainstream was negative and damaging. No contact is better than bad contact.

    As I said, I'd been fighting for this for years. It was joining this site that gave me the background, the added resources and the confidence to win this battle. One site which helped me a great deal, especially with answering all the "But what about his social interactions?" arguments (and there were a lot of them, constantly, all seeming to try to undermine our choice) was the website of James Williams. The content of this website changes a lot, but what I read back then were the writings of a teenager with autism (or Asperger's) who was pointing out, from his own point of view, that social interaction at school is not what it is cracked up to be and really doesn't do that much towards equipping our kids to learn the social skills they will use later in life as adults.

    And this is what we in fact did find - when first difficult child 1, then difficult child 3, started Distance Education, their social interaction IMPROVED. difficult child 1's case - he was in his final years of high school. In fact, he was due to complete his high schooling within a few months (only we knew if he stayed where he was, he was going to fail everything). difficult child 1 would spend all day at school then come home with a mountain of work to do - all the work he had not been able to complete in class. And he had to then do this work in the evening, with medications worn off and his ability to concentrate out the window. He spent his weekends trying to catch up on schoolwork as well. So there he was, a mainstream student, with no friends, no social visits, little decent social interaction. Even at school, his friends were the weird kids, the nut jobs. The had cases that all the 'normal' kids avoided. So at school, difficult child 1 did not have normal social interaction anyway.

    Then we pulled him out and started Distance Education. Because he was over 16, we did not have the same battle. But we found that difficult child 1's schoolwork wads all done at home, in an environment we could control and with fewer distractions. He worked much more effectively, and this mean all his schoolwork got done during school hours.When the other kids were getting home form school. difficult child 1 had finished his work and was free to go visit friends. He had a reputation around town as being good for computer games, so there were a few kids who would drop in on their walk home from school, to invite themselves to our place for a game, or invite difficult child 1 there. He had MORE social interaction as a correspondence student, than when he was in mainstream! Plus he was doing better with his schoolwork!

    Fast-forward to difficult child 3 and the problems we were having with him. At school in mainstream, he would spent free time (lunch and recess) walking around the playground. Round and around. Walking along the white line that marked the edge of the basketball court. He had no friends who would play with him regularly, he was a loner. I had organised one afternoon a week (later, lunchtimes) to teach chess to the kids at the school. There were tournaments one day a week and difficult child 3 was generally on the team. Or along with us anyway. These kids were all socially 'normal' and difficult child 3 increasingly was not. It was ongoing battles getting worse and worse, to teach difficult child 3 to not hit back, to not get defensive, to learn to walk away. There are rules in society and when we went out in public in general, difficult child 3 was pretty good at those rules. But school was different, a battleground for him. At school he was a captive who had to endure unpleasant social situations often handled badly by the adults involved. I was not there to try to teach, supervise and control the interactions.

    So when we pulled him out, a lot of flak was thrown our way about "He needs social interaction; how will you meet his needs if he's learning at home?" Frankly, by then I had had enough of mainstream and said, "I don't know; but it's got to be better for him than what he's had."

    What I found - I need to go out now and then, to see doctors. To do shopping. To attend meetings. Correspondence also means "the kid is portable". The very first thing we did, the first week of correspondence, was take a holiday in Tasmania. difficult child 3 had a book he had to read, he had Maths worksheets to work through, he had a travel journal to write. So we would spend about two hours each morning, beginning at breakfast time, working on his Maths. When he had done enough, we would load up the car with difficult child 3's laptop, the digital camera and the family, and go out for the day. difficult child 3 took photos and also made notes on the laptop about where we were, what we were seeing and what the significance of it was. Example - we were driving through the Huon Valley. "What is the main crop of the Huon Valley?"
    difficult child 3: "I don't know."
    Us: "Look out the window. Better still - let's stop the car. Get out. Go stand under that tree. Look at the orchard. What is growing on that tree?"
    difficult child 3: "Apples."
    Or we would stop at a roadside stall and buy apples. There is nothing like having a bite of an apple that tastes better than any apple you've ever eaten, to really help you understand why Tasmania is called the Apple Isle.

    difficult child 3 has often come shopping with me. When he does, I often send him to get this or that from the aisles. A good Maths lesson that also helps him in life can be, "We need baked beans. Go find the most economical brand and size of baked beans." He interacts with the shopkeepers, he interacts with other customers. I would often find difficult child 3 waiting outside a store for me, engaged in animated conversation with a grandmotherly type.

    At school, socially it is an artificial environment. It's all kids, not well supervised to ensure sufficiently appropriate behaviour at all times, and the adults there often are seen by kids as adversarial. It is stressful for a lot of kids, and the social skills learned, that social situation, is not one that we as adults ever have to deal with again.

    Outside school during the school day, a child is exposed to a more normal range of humanity, as people carry on with their lives and doing what they do to perform their function. It's not society in waiting, it's not society as we try to learn to practice it, it is society as it is lived. Humanity. This is what we have to learn to live with and there is no time like the present to begin to learn it. But a child who is under your parental control in this, is a child who is more able to leave if he is not coping. How often do we say here, "If my child throws a tantrum at the mall, we leave."? As our difficult children get practice living life and being part of normal household function, they also learn to walk away when they need to, because they CAN. Unlike school.

    If you feel your child needs more social interaction than they are currently getting, you can provide this. But do not think necessarily it has to involve other children. Yes, your child needs time to be a kid too. But sometimes much younger kids are the way to go, especially if your child is socially immature. Or older ones who are more mature and able to mentor a younger difficult child more effectively than peers who may choose to bully. But make sure whatever it is, you stay connected in order to assist your child to leave if he/she feels it's all too much.

    Here is a list of what we have done, to provide more social interaction for our boys:

    1) We enrolled him in an extracurricular class or group. Sports, drama. Chess club. Other kids the same age also involved, lots of chance to interact socially with peers. What I found - other kids are also learning how to behave and also get it wrong. When your difficult child sees other kids get it wrong, your child learns the wrong way to behave. Often your child may not handle the experience well especially if in return they add to the inappropriate behaviour. This is not always as successful as you would think. To reduce the problems, I always stayed nearby to be on call and to step in if I needed.

    2) Shopping. I've already discussed this, in this thread and others.

    3) Travel, holidays. We go to new places, we do different things, we study an area, we eat different foods, we get the child to write a report of some form and to take photos. We meet new people, we talk to them, we ask them about themselves and about the area. It is all good social interaction. We take tours to places, around places and ask questions. We learn about different cultures. It has been very useful indeed to teach cultural diversity to the difficult children as well as to teach tolerance. Not just racial tolerance, but tolerance of anything challenging (such as change, or something new).

    4) Special one-off "excursions" with other home-school friends. We've done this a few times - A friend home-schooled her boys for a few years because she wanted to. She's a laid-back hippy who I think thought her boys would learn by osmosis. I knew difficult child 3 liked the hands-on approach especially to the environment, and we live in a perfect place for such a lesson, so I invited my friend and her boys (younger than difficult child 3) to come on an all-day local excursion. I did a bit of research first and made notes for her boys (also notes for me, to remind me!). It took me all of half an hour the night before - easy. We then began at the local mangrove swamp and just walked around it. Her boys asked questions. difficult child 3 answered what he could (consolidating his knowledge as well as getting him to instruct younger kids). I answered the rest. When WE felt the kids had learned as much as they could, we got in the car and drove to the next stop - rainforest. Along the way we drove through several other different forest types and talked about it as we drove. If the boys asked, we stopped to look at something more closely. We explored the rainforest and the stream (upper reaches of our river that floods us in occasionally!). The boys especially noted the contrast between the mangroves and the rainforest. From there we drove further south to the sandstone cliffs above Wollongong. We discussed erosion, especially the way sandstone erodes and falls away in vertical blocks. We showed the kids the new bridge that had to be built offshore, because the old road was dangerous from falling rocks. We stopped for lunch at the beach, then kept going. We finished up on a rock platform, looking at the various sea creatures that live there and the way water erodes the rock. There were fossils in the nearby cliff, and coal. We drove past several coal mines and further south we could see the steelworks. it was one huge all-day lesson and the boys were al helping one another learn by experiencing it. It was an opportunity we (the parents) made, and we all had a wonderful day.

    Easy to do. If you think about it, how many places of interest are there, within an hour's drive of where you live? How many of them have you actually been to? When you go on holidays, do you go looking at all the sights in the holiday area? Then why do we not do it in our home range?

    Whenever we leave the sanctuary of home, we meet other people. This provides valuable social opportunities, but brief and controllable. Even negative experiences can be turned to advantage - difficult child 3 has seen some bad behaviour from adults we encounter, but he then sees how we handle it, and thereby learns the best way himself to cope in that situation.

    A very simple example - I used to go to a weekly writing group. My son used to come along too and would sit in the corner with his worksheets and work. When we finished our writing class, we would all go to a nearby cafe for lunch. difficult child would come too (originally difficult child 1, then difficult child 3 in his turn) and order something he as prepared to eat. He had to display good table eating manners as well as good dinner-table social manners (ie not talking about anything grotty or squishy). He had to learn to listen to the ebb and flow of conversation and if he wanted to say something, he had to learn how to insert himself into the conversation. This is a surprisingly difficult skill for a lot of difficult children, and the weekly cafe was good practice and good exposure.

    If your child is doing better studying at home, this is not surprising. A lot of kids do better. But there are new skills they need to acquire, to make this work. Self-discipline. Self-focus (when it comes to learning to identify your own weak areas, and deliberately zoom in on them to fix them). Along the way, social interaction still happens. You can increase the amount quite easily if you feel it's needed.

    One of the most socially astute young people I know, is SIL2. And he was home-schooled. Yet he is able to insert himself into any group of people holding a conversation, and apparently feel at ease. He is especially good with troubled teens who otherwise can be rude or belligerent. He is studying to be a youth worker and I think will be brilliant.

    There are a lot of scary propaganda stories about the perils of "social starvation" which is seen as almost inevitable for home-schoold kids, to the point where we as the parents are made to feel as if we are neglectful and abusive parents for having chosen this route. However, have no fear - it's all scaremongering and misinformation by people who are merely mouthing the party line, generally put about by SDs who do not like to let student numbers dangerously drop.

    Here is the website for James Williams. http://www.jamesmw.com/
    I found his writing so helpful for us, and so empowering, that I wrote to him and thanked him. I haven't read his work for a while, there appears to be a lot of new stuff there which I need to catch up on. But I think an autistic young man who is sufficiently socially skilled to be able to go out and address public conferences, is a very good ad for home schooling, and also clear demonstration that concerns about social starvation are greatly over-rated!

  5. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I am homeschooling because my daughter has medical problems and is unable to go to school. She was enrolled at a private school, so I didn't try to get homebound services from the public school. I am only doing this because I don't feel we have a choice, but I can see how it could be a wonderful option for lots of kids.

    In our area, we have several homeschooling groups that have activities and classes for kids. The first year my daughter was home, she went to a writing and sewing class one day each week. A lot of the kids there spent the whole day there even if they only had 2 classes and socialized or studied in between classes. It looks to me like there are enough group activities or classes through these groups that a kid could go somewhere almost every day and be with other homeschooled kids.

    Even if you are doing an online curriculum, you could look into these homeschooling groups in your area and see what fun classes or groups might be offered.
  6. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Marg, have you tried reading Travis Breeding's book? It came out recently, I haven't had a chance to get a copy yet, but he's an Aspie that went without a diagnosis for a long time. He has his own site and he's on FB, too. Was hoping to go to one of his book signings that's next week, but don't think I'll make it.
  7. ML

    ML Guest

    Interesting thread that I will refer back to as a backup plan should MS prove to be too much.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks for the book link, HaoZi. I haven't come across him. Interestingly, I was talking at church yesterday to an adult Aspie friend (very recently diagnosed, but we suspected it for years). He gets serial special interests, tends to keep them and add to the collection. For example, even though he is not German (I think he studied it at school) he developed an interest in a dialect of German called Platt-Deutsch (I think that's how it's spelled). He searched the world to find books written in this dialect and then would tell us all about the intricacies of this language. In detail. He studied as much of this language as he could, and read the books he found in that language (including a copy of Harry Potter!). We quite enjoy talking to him because we understand this level of obsession; plus he keeps all this detailed information on every subject, in that head. He's a great mate to have on board in a trivia contest! Just hand him the pen... the borderline Aspie in the rest of us dovetails neatly. I think this is why Aspies seek out other Aspies as buddies. As difficult child 1 put it about his Aspie best friend, "I obsess to him about birds, he obsesses to me about reptiles, neither of us listens to the other and we got on great!"

  9. keepongoing

    keepongoing Guest

    I am not homeschooling (yet) but I think it might well be in the future. I have taken special education classes at the university preparing to get myself up to teaching. At this point I feel that I would know how to do it. But I don't really want to. It would be hard on us financially and I want to be his mom not his teacher. However now that he is in middle school social stuff get's garder and academically he could do better if not all his energy would go into having to be a squre peg in a round school. For social stuff I guess I would do daiy living skills like shopping, taking busses, using laundromat, using libary.. as well as stuff in his interest area like a chess group, or swimming.
    Off topic-Interesting about the platt deutsch. I have family members in Germany who speak 'platt' exclusively at home and I understand it though I am not a fluent speaker. I used to stream some platt deutsch radio shows, hope your friend knows about that. Fun. ( http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/plattradio.html )
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks for the link, Keepongoing.

    As for needing to be your child's teacher - I found if I present the work to the child in a form they find palatable (and computer-based learning is good, there are a number of websites you can access as well as computer software, and you don't have to spend thousands, either - nothing over two figures) the child learns to teach himself.

    It doesn't matter if you don't know the answers, if you know how to find out. And when you teach the child how to find out, you equip them for a lifetime of independent learning.

  11. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Linda I did one year of homeschooling with one of my easy child's. There are several homeschool enrichment groups in our area, plus a website and online email group that helped me connect with what was available in our area. We have a big homeschool population in my area so there were many opportunities available: long and short term classes, field trips, outings to arts events, parties and picnics, etc. My easy child also took band in the school plus danced at a private dance studio.

    I know there's also a teen group that gets together for social outings on a monthly basis, as well as bigger events such as prom and graduation. Most of the homeschooling teens I know develop peer relationships out of that group as well as through their churches.
  12. Marg's Man

    Marg's Man Member

    I work (and Marg used to) work at a major University.

    One of the MOST important things students (in school, college or University) can learn is HOW to learn.

    It matters nothing if you don't know the answer; keep looking until you find the answer.

    If you do find the answer and don't understand it; treat this as new question and look for understanding of the answer. Keep looking until you do understand.

    If you can teach yourself and then your child this; then all knowledge is open to you.

    There is very little that is beyond the human imagination.

    Marg's Man
  13. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Thank you for all the replies & wisdom shared here. I will be looking into some of the groups your mentioned SRL.

    I don't miss the daily drama kt would bring home from day treatment/school. I do miss those 6 hours of respite. I'll get past that if kt continues to thrive in the mainstream classes & graduates from high school.