I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Out With the Old and In With the New (Homeschooling!)

I have started and restarted this post a million times. I started it being serious and I started it being funny and then I'd erase it each time because I didn't want to offend anyone... because the truth of the matter is this - when you talk about your educational decisions for your kids, some people are going to get offended. And I hate offending people or causing controversy or any sort of discomfort whatsoever. But here it is... we've decided to pull out Nandi and Eli from public school, and next week, we will start homeschooling them.

I'm going to be the first to admit that I'm a bit of an educational snob. I am extremely pro education. I love to read and I love to research and I love to think that my kids will go off and get advanced degrees and discover how to clone people and make robotic machines that will do all the laundry and fold it and put it away so I will never have to do it ever again.

I have high , if somewhat slightly unrealistic, hopes for my kids.

It never occurred to me that I would have kids with learning issues or emotional issues or health issues. I always assumed, from a very young age that any children I had would excel in school, join the debate team, graduate in the top 10% of their class, get a Bachelor's degree, join the Peace Corps, come back and do a one year Rhodes Scholarship to England and get their Master's degree, start a career and get a PhD at night while working on their career.

No, I'm not joking. Why do you ask?

I used to look down on homeschoolers. Not actual homeschoolers... you know, the ones who actually home school. But the ones whose moms made sure their daughters learned to cook and, oh my word, sew, because why on earth would you need to learn to do something like that when that's precisely why God invented tailors and old ladies? Why would you want to learn how to quilt when you can buy brand new duvets at Bed, Bath, and Beyond? And is learning how to make ten different types of breakfast casseroles really going to advance your career? Unless you run a restaurant?

There are moms out there whose sole goal for their daughters is to learn how to bake, budget, and raise a baby.  That's their goal. No college, no career. Just get married and raise a family and run a household.

There are moms out there whose sole goal for their sons is for them to grow up, get married, and get a job at the local water company or electric company or local plant.  No college. No world travel. Just get married and raise a family and provide for the household.

And, you know, I'm really ashamed to admit this, but I kind of looked down on that. Not the people themselves, but those goals. I've always said that I want more for my kids. I want more for my daughter. I want her to go to college and see the world and be anything she wants to be.

And then I had a daughter who has attachment problems. And learning issues. And who is so jealous of her little brother, who gets to stay home with me everyday, that at least 4 times a week, her jealously spirals into rage and anguish and she will stand in the middle of the living room floor screaming at the top of her lungs, and ripping off her clothes, and clawing at her chest, and pulling at her hair. And she doesn't know how to regulate. And she doesn't know how to calm down. Because in her mind.... her mind... I love him more and I will leave her one day and I will abandon her one day and she is not worthy.

That's when we started to question.... how can you possibly work on attachment if your child is away from you for 8 hours a day? And how can you work on attachment if that child is so consumed with feelings of jealousy and unworthiness that she sabotages every hour that she is home?

At what point does a child's emotional welfare trump a child's education??

We could send Nandi to school and she could learn to divide fractions and write essays and eventually graduate from high school, but is it worth it if she doesn't know how to establish and maintain relationships? If her feelings of worthlessness are so strong that she turns to the first boy that says she's pretty? If she tries to fit in by hanging out with the wrong crowd? By trying to get our attention, because in her mind any attention is better than no attention, by skipping school and failing?

I know it sounds crazy because she's only 8, but parents who've been in our situation know that these aren't crazy thoughts. These are realities for our children. We see things every day that would shock you. These are strong possibilities if true attachment is not made.

Nandi is so insecure that I can't even begin to explain it. She has no friends. Zero. None. And that's not an exaggeration. She does not know how to make friends, how to act around friends, or how to keep friends. She has an auditory processing disorder and a speech delay that makes communication very difficult. She's in second grade and has a reading level of 12. Despite being in  2 hours of pull out classes and tutoring... daily..she is failing reading. And then she comes home and takes it out on us.

At the same time, as much as she tries to push us away, I think she'd spend every minute of every day in my lap if she could.  She wants to be by me, lean on me, or sit on me every minute of the day. After two years of successfully sleeping in her own room, she has moved her mattress next to my side of the bed and sleeps there every single night. Sometimes she wakes up screaming that "The worries are on me! The worries are getting me! Get them off, Mommy. Help me!"  And my heart breaks and I wonder what her first three years were like and I know that she needs to be with me now.

And I think about those moms whose who are at home teaching their girls how to bake. I think about how they're teaching their daughters how to be good wives and mothers and I think that maybe I was a little too quick to judge. And I think that maybe they had the right idea all along. Because isn't togetherness and security and family really what it's all about?

Don't get me wrong. I'm going to teach Nandi how to do math and how to read. She'll learn all about science, and because I'm a history buff, she'll probably learn more history than she ever wanted to know. We'll do a proper curriculum and take tests at the end of each school year. But I also plan to teach her how to cook. And teach her how to do laundry and teach her how to look after a house.  Because my goals for her have changed. Because her history and her personality have necessitated this change. Because baking and budgeting and doing chores together means that we'll be spending time together and I think that's the one thing she wants and the one thing we need more than anything.

I hope she'll go to college someday. And I hope she'll join the Peace Corps someday. And I'm still holding out that maybe she'll invent that robot that will ensure I never have to do laundry again. But, above all, I hope she'll be able to find love someday. And keep that love. And have friends. Real, true friends. And I hope she'll be successful no matter what she chooses to do. And know that we love her and that she's worthy no matter what she chooses to do.

And I know it'll be hard. And to be honest, I'm scared to death. I'm actually more scared about homeschooling Eli than I am about Nandi. And about ignoring Noah. And about the huge big mess Naveen will create while we're doing our school work. The whole thing terrifies me. But I think it's the one thing that my kids need right now. And we don't have a lot of money. And we don't have a fancy house. And we don't have much of anything, really. But we have time. Lots of time.  So that's what 2013 is going to be about this year. Time and family and attachment and togetherness and love.

And possibly teaching my kids to learn to love math and science so they can invent that robot one day that will ensure I never have to do laundry ever again.


Dia por Dia said...

Good for you! I totally get where you are in this and offer my support (for what it is worth). C. & I are both so pro-school and spent most of our careers as teachers, counselors, administrators and college professors training teachers. We never thought we would homeschool, yet here we are. We also never thought school would some days for our daughter (who is so very smart) consists of doing as many household chores as possible just so she could be with me. I too still have those lofty goals for her but for now, spending time with me and working on her jealousy of the other kids, is what matters most. Let me know if I can be helpful. Best, Dia

Amanda said...

I love it and totally get it. I'm here if you need to vent. Cause trust me I get that too. Its not how bad I just want to send them off on the yellow bus (cause really I don't), its that I would like 3 minutes alone without a little boy telling me what to do.

USMCwife06 @ Shot's Spot said...

Good for you! You are brave to do and write about what many of us mother's of special needs children have thought about or considered. I will be watching and rooting and taking notes. ;)

Blessed said...

So glad you are listening to your heart, and your kids.

Can't wait to hear about the adventure this year!

And I will pray it all goes well. : )

Peter and Nancy said...

I love your thoughtful, creative problem-solving. (Not to mention courageous and loving, too!) It sounds like you're making a really terrific decision, and one that will involve sacrifices and the unknown . . . Which sounds like love at it's best and bravest.

Kelly said...

I totally understand those reasons to homeschool (and I teach school). I would love to provide the same thing for Abby through middle school but need to work. So, I tend to hover and reteach after school, and make sure she doesn't hide in the back of the house watching tv on the sly. Now, print out your posting and put it on the fridge, for the day that nothing goes right and you're feeling guilty and remind yourself how this benefits them all.

Miche said...

YOU can DO It! :) It sounds like you are making the perfect choice for your family, and that is all that matters.

Jessica said...

I love your honesty and bravery!! I'll be cheering for you and praying that robotics becomes a huge passion for your children :-)

Jamey... said...

Our current plan does not involve public kindergarten for our little lady this fall. I desperately want it to, but I just can't convince myself it's in her best interest.

Julie & Patrick said...

I believe they call this seeing the forest for the trees...and some spend a lifetime trying to see it. Good for you.


Anonymous said...

As a teacher I applaud you. :-)

No Greater Love said...

Oh, you crack me up. You know I'll be supporting you, even if it is from afar. You'll do GREAT. :o) And then there will be days it's not so great. But, you know you made this decision out of love....and that is really all that matters in the end.

docpadma said...

omg, so it has finally happened. I do believe that you and the entire family will do great. but there are going to be bad days and it will take some time to get into the swing of things. you gotta give yourself some grace and not punish yourself if your house does not look like Erica from confessions etc
Personally for me list making helped a lot and chore charting helped. the kids need to know how to entertain themselves when you are unable to give them attention.. that is a big thing.

good luck and please post some weekly titbits of home schooling on facebook etc. I also have personal blog where I type all that i did for school and then plan the next day. fly lady has been very helpful. i am no longer in pyjamas all day without a bra on, I dress and put on make up and wear indoor shoes and just that helps in feel like I will have a full and satisfying day. I am using my timer on the oven and my phone a lot and that helps with responsibilities.

I think it will be so much fun and love

Seraphinalina said...

In the end, time is what they need, not stuff or houses. Just love and time. It all makes sense to me.

And baking or sewing can be a lesson in fractions and precision. A lot of those life skills can have math or history lessons rolled into them.

heather said...

I totally get you on this post. I get it in all its complexity: the snobbery, the reality, the deficiencies, the attachment, the ambitions. As someone who is angsting about the nanny we just hired so I can go back to work, this post is a nice reminder of seeing the forest for the trees as one of your readers put it. I tend to contemplate the trees one by one. I have no doubt you'll do great - and I think your aspirations for Nandi will actually inform your curriculum! How cool is that.

Brad and Renae said...

I totally understand. I too expect my kids to accomplish the world. I love your post and honesty about the realization of doing what is needed at the moment. We've had a bit of this on a much smaller scale with Lauren - throwing all kinds of therapy, braces for her feet, and hearing tubes in the ears ... at this point I've stopped therapy and now just want to work on getting her to securely sleep in her own bed. God is at work in all these decisions and it sounds like he's right there with you too :) You will be great at home schooling. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my word! I so could have written this exact same post 9 yrs ago! I, too, couldn't believe ppl would sit home and attempt to school their kids. Who did they think they were? They know more than the so-called experts? Then, we adopted a sibling group of 3. With the whole alphabet soup of diagnoses. Public school was a nightmare, but yet summers were calm and fun and relaxing...and get this, because I love to learn too, they still kept learning! After 3 yrs of the nightmare, we homeschooled our 3 children with attachment issues and 2 with special needs. They changed. They even looked different. I won't say it's been all roses. But yes, I no longer look down on those who home-school. I am a home-educator. Pls hear my heart when I encourage you to know, home-schooling is NOT school at home! It is a lifestyle. Never stop learning, never stop teaching. Each child has things they are great at...celebrate those things. Each child learns differently...let them do it the way they learn best. Each child has things they struggle with...continue to work on them, but being gentle and understanding they may never reach an age-appropriate goal in that area. Oh friend, I so encourage you on your journey and look forward to following along as you all find your path. Many blessings and happy learning and bonding to you all.

B.A. said...

Leslie, this is such a beautiful and honest post. Hope everything is going wonderful for your family. I, too, used to be an educational snob (the mere idea of me being "just a nurse" and not having an MD, PhD, or JD behind my name is shocking enough to me and my family!) Now, we all see that love, relationships, and following God's calling are what makes this life so wonderful.

Amy said...

Although I've been stalking you for years, I rarely comment. I haven't been here in a few months, and just came and read this post. I am blown away by you, once again. I've been recently considering sending my child with attachment issues to school, just to give myself a break during the day. Your post helped me gain some much needed perspective.
You're amazing. And funny. And beautiful. Thank you.