Next month I will have been homeschooling PanKwake for four years. Enough time to finally take a moment and look back on all those ‘ideals’ I thought we would achieve…what has worked…and what has not…
About a month after taking PanKwake out of school, we ran into the SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) from her school. The woman represents ALL that is wrong with the educational system. She was truly one of the nicest, most conscious people you would ever met. And totally, completely useless to us. She was so overworked that her only focus was upon my daughter’s medical condition of epilepsy, ignoring MAJOR signs of her autism, not moving forward with the evaluations we felt that PanKwake needed while playing the blame game of…it’s just the separation. As a result, yet AGAIN, another opportunity was lost for early intervention. And we were FORCED to remove our child from that school when they could not manage her medical or behavioral needs (bullying that left her emotionally scarred).
But what I remember about that day was her comment…how she felt that this was the best choice for PanKwake. She went on and on about how I would be able to teach her to her learning style…take her to museums, parks, zoos…give her things they could not. She was both incredibly right…and completely wrong.
The ensuing four years have been a roller coaster of successes and failures…
- From the beginning, we were misled by the local council’s home education service. Bullied to the point that we ultimately refused any engagement whatsoever.
- After two years, I finally pushed through the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) process to receive the autism diagnosis that had been missed by the pediatrician that had seen her for four years, two different SENCos and an inexperienced first year teacher, who could not control her classroom and missed the fact that most of my daughter’s work was being done by her best friend. But that too came at a cost…PanKwake found the evaluation process so traumatic that she is left with an appointment phobia that makes getting even her most basic medical care seen to.
- Following that diagnosis and loads of well-meaning but misguided advice from friends and other homeschoolers, we began the process to get a personal budget that would allow us to access more resources such as respite care. It would be a whole other blog just to enumerate how much of a disaster that one was…luckily I have already written it on my other autism site (PanKwake).
On the other hand…my daughter has made so much progress, especially in terms of the social and communication issues that are the hallmark of autism and Asperger’s. And that is a direct result of our decision to homeschool her.
- We have learned that a highly structured, workbook based education worked no better for her than school did. We have abandoned all that in favor of an unschooling strategy that focuses upon child development and readiness.
- Those trips that the SENCo mentioned…well, we are just now beginning to be able to enjoy those as a result of our almost constant work on accommodation strategies for her sensory issues.
- But most importantly, we have our happy, confidant little girl back. The same child that asked me every single day after school if she was ugly/dumb/stupid from the bullying…now can advocate for herself when she encounters bullies in the parks. She can calmly explain that she is special needs. And if that don’t work, she knows to seek adult intervention. Then to defend herself (yes, sometimes that is the only way).
So would I do it all again? Yes, you bet I would. As hard as this has been, she is worth it. Conversely, would I put her back in school? If there was a school capable of accommodating her complex educational and behavioral issues, who would GUARANTEE us a bully-free environment in writing, and focused upon the individual child and not a set curriculum…sure. But I have not found one yet…and we did look.