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Education: Difficult Choices

Posted Nov 06 2012 10:06am

Education: Difficult Choices

November 6, 2012 By Michelle VanderHeide, BSW

It began last fall when I sat in a conference with my older daughter’s teachers and was told “she has a hard time focusing in school, and is at the help desk all the time.” I heard other words like “testing for ADD” and “the other kids already get these concepts” (which were expectations for the end of the school year). I left hurt and angry for several different reasons, but began to understand many of the frustrations that families come to me with every year. I then proceeded on to my younger daughter’s classroom where I heard that “she doesn’t seem to get the concept the first time, math is hard for her.” I was shocked; in the evenings she plowed through her math homework in minutes–it was easy for her. If I wasn’t already knocked down by my older daughter’s report, the second put me over the edge. I held on to the fact that this was a substitute teacher, and surely I’d hear a different story with the second conference. The idea of home schooling crossed my mind; but I work, and I couldn’t take my kids away from their friends, still I knew they were more capable than what was being reported to me by the school. I mentioned home schooling to my girls, and they immediately fought the idea. “NO WAY!” What was I going to do? How could I get them the support they needed?

I was bound and determined to make school easier for my girls. I worked hard all year trying to fit in the things that I knew they needed therapeutically in addition to the schoolwork that was sent home. In addition, extra curricular activities were important; but I felt they were putting our family over the edge. I couldn’t give my kids everything I knew they needed. Guilt continued to flood over me, knowing I couldn’t do it all. I was burning out. At the second conference I heard similar things, and was shocked to hear that my daughter who easily grasped math at home “struggled” to understand the concepts at school. It became very evident to me from a multitude of different reports that she was struggling with auditory processing problems given her multitude of ear infections. She wasn’t grasping the concepts at school because the natural noises of the classroom were flooding out the important information coming from the teacher. She was working so much harder than she needed to. What was I going to do?

Along came spring, and my older daughter came to the conclusion on her own that she wanted to be home schooled next year. She loved school; but as an easily over stimulated child, trying to keep up with the demands of a classroom was too much for her. My mind was made up. I knew what needed to happen, and I was going to do whatever it took to give my girls what I knew they needed–a quiet learning environment that taught them at their current level while challenging them, without pushing them over the edge. I wanted to see my girls thrive.

We are two month into home schooling now. I found the perfect balance: on the days I work the girls are with a private teacher who is trained to incorporate the therapy they need into their school day. The girls are thriving, extra curricular activities are easily incorporated into their day, friends are invited over often, and homework–there is none! I can’t say it’s perfect. There are days the kids miss their school friends, they fight more at times, and I have to play two roles in their life; but I don’t look back and regret this decision one bit. We are actually building the base for success in a traditional classroom setting; but can I send them back? I don’t know. It was a difficult decision to home school; but we feel a lot of peace about it, and continue to take things one day at a time.

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