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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pour Your Heat Out-Before Homeschool

It's my favorite day of the week.
I'm joining Shell at Things I can't Say for Pour Heart Out.
If you haven't checked this meme out before do it today!
This morning I'm pouring my heart out homeschool style!

My oldest son is going into 6th grade in just a few weeks. Yikes! I can't believe I have a middle schooler! He's such a great kid. He's getting so big, and time is really flying with him. I was watching him yesterday and began thinking how much he's gone through in the past years. He's so much happier than he used to be. I love his smile. His demeanor is more calm (he is still an 11 year old boy), but I can tell he has a peace on the inside he didn't have 2 years ago. His confidence level is up, and I'm so thankful I have my son back!

I really want to share our homeschool story with you. I also want to give you the background behind our decision to homeschool our kids. I feel like it's long(sorry), so I'm going to break it up into two posts. Sort of a before and after...


Last year was our first year homeschooling. My oldest son has always been a challenge in the classroom. From 1st grade to 4th grade teachers just did not know what to do with him. Each year his frustrations about learning in the classroom setting revealed themselves through different behavioral problems. My oldest is extremely intelligent. Sometimes shockingly so. Believe me, I'm not one of those moms who drones on and on about how smart her kids are, I'm really not. But, the fact is he is very smart, and that intelligence in turn causes somewhat of a disability for him.

In 1st grade his struggles began. He used to act out emotionally. Sometimes kicking his desk, going and sitting in the back of the classroom and putting his head down on his knees. He had trouble working in groups. And our first concerned teacher called us in for a conference. She was so nice, and loved our son. She was more intrigued by him then frustrated. She always gave him extra work to do, and made sure his desk was filled with extra library books. When he was done with his regular work (which was always extremely fast), she kept him busy in positive ways. However, he struggled with emotional breakdowns, sitting still, he hummed a lot. He would make repetitive noise. Sort of comforting himself, but distracting others.

After a year of conference after conference we made a visit with a psychologist. He did some tests with S, and told us he was on a 6th grade level(in 1st grade). He told us he has some ADHD characteristics, and it can be attributed to boredom. He suggested we try to find a gifted learning program for him, so we did.

Unfortunately our public school system doesn't offer special programs in every school, so we would have to pull him from his current school and enroll him in new one down the road to participate in the program. After much prayer and consideration, we decided it was best to try it. So we moved schools.

We did not know who his teacher was going to be until the first week of school, because the school had not hired one yet for this position. It was a new program, and after school started we found out that this particular gifted program was experimental. It was a "blended classroom" with students ranging in age from K-2 grade, and the teacher was a first year teacher in her late 60's! By the time open house came around (almost 8 weeks into school) we realized this teacher was not going to get it together. After 8 weeks of school she still had most of her classroom in boxes. Nothing was structured, and she had this take on teaching that was sort of ridiculous. Her attitude toward teaching was, "Well, they're gifted, so we can be free and love each other, and if they want to do spelling they can, but if they don't want to, then that's ok". WHAT?! CRAZY!

All this did was further push S into a hole. Here he was in program that was supposed to make school better for him, and all it did was increase all of his problems. He needed structure, and this lady and this "program" were not going to offer it. We had some other problems with the administration and such, but I am trying to keep this as short as I can. So needless to say, we moved back to his old school.

Now it's 2nd grade, more new teachers that don't understand my son, more conferences, more visits with psychologists, more, more, more of the same. Meanwhile, my son's confidence level was shattered. He had even more trouble in school. It was like he had been labeled, and anything he did was a problem. He would forget his belongings, he was unorganized, and couldn't sit still, and was extremely frustrated when he couldn't answer a problem on a test. They began teaching standardized testing skills this year, and the concept of skipping a question and going back to it later was something he could not understand. As smart as he is, it's as though there's always a barrier there. The smallest things confused and frustrated him and meltdowns would happen easily. I think this was his hardest year.

We were told when we came back that this class was handpicked to be a perfect fit for him, and it wasn't. The teacher he had didn't understand him, and didn't want to. She was often angry with him, and I could tell that she was in our conferences. She ended up retiring at the end of this school year. Another poor fit!

He would get in trouble for the most ridiculous things. Can I just tell you one?

One day the class was learning about polar bears. She mentioned they had fur, my son raised his hand and told her they don't actually have fur. He tried to tell her that their fur is actually tiny tubes that look like fur to keep them warm(this is actually true). He got sent to his desk, and reprimanded in front of the class for being a disruption. She called me to complain of this "outburst". she said it was a distraction, and he always is. I asked why she couldn't just say something like, "That's interesting S, why don't you tell me more about that after our lesson", and then move on. I get it! He's distracting. But you're the teacher, and he's just a kid! A sweet boy who used to enjoy learning until he was sent to school!

3rd and 4th grade was more of the same. We did have some great teachers, but at this point he was so broken and his confidence level was so low. His breakdowns still occurred. They were few and far between, but when they did happen they were alarming! In 3rd grade he'd gotten in trouble for interrupting, and lost his clip(which basically meant the teacher was going to have to talk to me after school). He was so upset that he had a breakdown so bad he locked himself in the class bathroom. This was scary. 4th grade was more...we were constantly being told he needs medication for ADHD.

I have always been a sceptic of medication. Don't get me wrong, I know there are many children who benefit from medication. I have a nephew who has ADHD, and the medication he takes helps him excel in school, and he is like a different kid(in a good way) when he takes it. But, I also know there are many children medicated that don't need it. Children that are misunderstood, and parents teachers don't know what else to do with them. So they medicate them.

My son makes straight A's. He never get less than 100% on every stinkin' test he takes. He can sit through a test and not make a peep, and he does all of his work. Yes, he can be challenging. He asks a million questions that have nothing to do with the lessons, he gets off track easily, he struggles with social skills, and he forgets his lunchbox But, he's not a bad kid. He's loving and kind, and all he wants in the world is to please these teachers. I was so sick of people telling him he was a problem!

So here I was one of those moms...telling teachers and myself that he's bored, he's extremely smart and needs more stimulation. And we were stuck in a school system that didn't offer anything for him. No teacher in the public school system has time to deal with an above average child. Although he may need some more enrichment to challenge him, or a change in the learning style, no one can waste their time on him because they have 30 kids in a classroom, and the children that are falling behind need every bit of attention the teacher can offer. They don't have time or programs for a child like my son.

After another year of problems we even tried ADHD medication. It had been years of struggles and I didn't want to keep something from him that could help him. What if the medicine helped? So we tried it. We found out very soon this was so not the answer! It didn't help anything. In fact it made everything worse. He became depressed, anxious, and short tempered. He lost a ton of weight, and I lost my son. His eyes were empty.

That was the summer before 5th grade. We decided he wasn't going back. We would homeschool.

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At July 28, 2010 at 10:44 AM , Blogger Shell said...

How incredibly frustrating! I worry about my oldest starting school this year bc he's different like that.

Schools often don't worry about above average kids. When I was teaching 5th grade, I had a few students who already knew all the math, so I taught them 6th grade math instead. Was told by my principal to stop bc they wouldn't be tested on that on the state standardized tests. So frustrating.

At July 28, 2010 at 11:12 AM , Blogger blueviolet said...

It sounds like you put a lot of thought into it and really gave the school a chance hoping it would work out. I don't blame you a bit for homeschooling, and he'll thrive now!

At July 28, 2010 at 11:27 AM , Blogger Jessica said...

That's a lot of emotions you got flowing through my heart just now!

I'm so sorry that your son had to experience that for so many years.

I had similar (girl versions) problems as a kid with poor behavior stemming from boredom in school.

I've read a lot about young boys and how nothing about our public school system is set up to cater to their needs. They are not girls. They do not behave like girls. They do not learn like girls. (Not that I think public school is where little girls should be either).

I also read studies on the development of boys eyes and brains and how "long hours" of book learning is not beneficial for them before age 8-9. It basically said let your boys be little boys until 8-9 (still teach them to read, write, etc. but give them more time out of doors and using their physical energy) then from age 8/9 to 11/12 the will easily catch up and often exceed the scores of boys that have been in school since age 5.

I know my son would have had the exact same story as yours had I sent him to public school. I am so thankful for the freedom to choose home schooling.

It's wonderful that home schooling has made such positive changes for your fella! Looking forward to hearing part 2.

At July 28, 2010 at 2:39 PM , Blogger Karen Mortensen said...

Wow. Sorry you had to go through all of that. The school system is only good for a certain type of kid. They seem to have problems with kids on either end. Especially the top end. We are told to really work on the ones at the bottom end. It is very frustrating at times.

At July 28, 2010 at 11:26 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

Yikes...that is so frustrating about public schools. I was that kid sometimes because I went to small schools and they have to teach to "the lowest common denominator" according to my mom who's been a teacher her whole life. I think you made the right decision and I'm glad you finally found a fit. That's what bothers me about schools, if you don't fit in their mold then you must be the problem!!! I could get on a soapbox here but I won't, we'll just sum it up with, you made the right decision! :)

At July 29, 2010 at 9:45 AM , Blogger Susan said...

I am a kindergarten teacher. Like the first comment said, we aren't allowed to do a lot of things because of the principal's decisions. We do not have free reign to teach how we need to teach. At my school, there is NO help with discipline from the office. Special education kids are now mainstreamed into the classroom and that can be a big problem. Don't get me wrong...I am not against mainstreaming. However, kids that are "emotionally disturbed" fit in that group and when you put them in a class with 20 other students, guess who's going to get 99% of the attention? I think there are a lot of good teachers out there, but we are OVERWHELMED by external forces.

I wish more than anything that I could home school my own children. I see every day what public school is like.

At July 30, 2010 at 11:11 AM , Blogger Sara said...

I just read this, and I think you are amazing for taking all the steps you did so your son could be well educated. So many teachers and parents would have written him off.
My sister in law has chosen to homeschool thing year, and I am going to help. It has created much drama with her parents but she believes in it, and I believe in her, as well as this decision for my future kids. It was nice to get a homeschooling story that wasn't completely out there, and showed it as the best interest of the child. I think I am going to send her your link, for some extra encouragement :)Thank you!!!

At July 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM , Blogger Maggie S said...

Long time home schoolers. Sunday School teachers when they were 2 said, "Don't worry, soon they'll be in school and you can get them on the meds."

At July 31, 2010 at 1:23 AM , Blogger Tiffany said...

Wow! First off, I found your blog through Shell's BFF post and I am so glad I did. Your PYHO post speaks millions to me. I feel like that I have some of the same issues with my daughter who is going into the second grade this year. She did well in Kindergarten but 1st grade was a struggle. She is VERY smart and I too do not like to brag about how intelligent my children are. She does well on her tests but has a hard time staying focused in class. The teacher for 1st grade was not a great teacher and I have been struggling through the summer trying to get the School Board to test her for the gifted program. She was well above on her reading, writing and comprehension skills in class. But thanks to a lazy teacher the test paperwork was not turned in until 2 weeks before school ended. I hope that this year is better and we get a better teacher that can keep my daughter's attention. Home schooling has been in the back of my mind for awhile and I can't wait to read part 2.
Sorry that was so long winded.

At July 31, 2010 at 4:42 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

I forgot to say also that I am a product of homeschooling, the last 3 years of high school anyway. Didn't hurt me a bit either, I got to do all the things my friends did except go to prom because my boyfriend wouldn't go & I didn't want to go without a date! I haven't had any trouble going to college either! :)

At July 31, 2010 at 5:56 PM , Anonymous Heather said...

I admire you for homeschooling! I don't have the time or patience for that, at all LOL Good luck this school year!

Heather (visiting from the LBS Tea Party)

At August 1, 2010 at 8:06 AM , Blogger Mumsy said...

I'm too sorry that your son had to go through so much frustration during his first few years of schooling. Some teachers are just there for the job, and not doing it from their hearts..

I came to visit your from Shell's blog..

At August 2, 2010 at 2:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?


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