I’m going to fast forward and write about what’s happening in Sol’s life at present. This Monday, when most expatriate kids will be going back to school after the summer break, Sol starts homeschooling.
I never saw myself as one of those mums who would even consider homeschooling! I love that my kids can be with their peers Mondays – Fridays most of the day, learning and growing with experts – School Teachers. I have a huge respect for school teachers. I love my kids but I would never consider a career in teaching or entertaining kids. I need more compliance in my life. Teaching group fitness classes is right up my lane as people generally listen and follow along, get results and we all walk away happy!.
Let me just set one thing straight – I am not going to be Sol’s homeschool teacher. I have engaged an “expert” for that role too! In fact, I have met two fantastic humans who are invested in Sol’s success and are on board with our goals of having Sol LOVE learning, stay creative and adjust the “system” to meet his needs. Ms. Aquila and Ms. Rachel have all the youthful energy to keep up with Sol as well as being qualified teachers in Special Needs and have worked with kids that required a more specialised focus. I had eight recommendations I could contact to find a fit for Sol and I spent the last 3 months discussing/emailing/meeting with these incredible people before I decided on Aquila and Rachel. In the end, the decision was with Sol. They came over for a “playdate” and the love triangle was sealed.
Finding a homeschool curriculum had it’s challenges – only because there are SO many to choose from. I did not know that 3% of the world’s kids in western countries are homeschooled and this is growing. The reasons for an increase in parents looking at homeschooling is due to the following:
- when the school curriculum doesn’t meet the beliefs of the family
- bullying and unsafe schools (this is so crazy!)
- kids with special education needs
- elite athletes, movie/TV stars, entertainers
- world travellers
The past two years, Sol has attended the most amazing preschool. He was in Nursery and Reception Years and we were able to set up an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) with the School Principal, his homeroom teacher and the Learning Support Specialist – all at his preschool! Every person was 100% invested in Sol’s success and enjoyment and I can say, Sol loved preschool. He made a ton of friends and he did accomplish some pretty big goals. His homeroom teachers are gifted people. Whilst they were not specialists in dealing with dyspraxia (and we didn’t even have a diagnosis back then), they accommodated and adjusted to feedback we were able to give over time. Things such as Sol’s inability to sit still on the mat was due to his sensory processing challenges – so they let him walk around, or lie down or hold on to something and he was never scolded.
They helped him develop appropriate socialisation skills in the classroom and through his preschool, we found that Sol loved the stage and drama. He was always deeply intrigued by the productions and shows the kids were exposed to. And recital day was always a joy for us – Sol loved being on stage – singing, acting and dancing. He’s never had stage fright and has the BEST smile. After one recital, a kind parent said ” Sol is so good, he should do speech and drama”. He was three years old at the time? And had significant speech issues, so I had a wee chuckle about that compliment.
For a really fun video and understanding on sensory processing challenges, check this out! I have a friend in Australia to thank for sending me this video after reading my blogs – thanks Gayle! Warning! You may end up spotting some of these factors in your own kids – LOL.
As we prepared to have Sol move across to the Main Campus for Year One, we were able to visit the school, meet the teachers and discuss with the Learning Support at the Main Campus how Sol might “fit in”, “adjust” or “adapt” to school life in a much bigger, busier environment. I have many friends who have children attending this school and it is without a doubt, an amazing school. I have friends that are teachers at this school and they are passionate about teaching there. And I truly believe that all the International Schools in Kuala Lumpur, or Asia for that matter, are world class facilities…..for neurotypical kids. The International schools are quickly realising they do not have the resources, skills and facilities to cater for the 10% of kids (yes, that’s 2 kids in a class of 20) who have differences in learning styles or learning challenges. They are only challenges because they don’t learn the “system”. The schools are preaching “inclusiveness” but are applying a “band aid” by having parents with SEN children employ a PLA (Personal Learning Assistant) to follow their child around the classroom and the school. International School Fees are a house deposit, EVERY YEAR, and then the extra employment costs of a PLA. GO FIGURE THAT OUT! And I can assure you that kids with SEN are already spending hours after school with OT’s, PT’s, Speech sessions and extra tuition, all paid for by the parents.
Having Sol sit with a class of 20 kids and realise he is not able to follow what the teacher is asking or complete the tasks required would quickly erode his self esteem. If I gave a rating of Sol’s self esteem today, it would be 12/10. This kid thinks he has superpowers, is amazing, can do anything, play with anyone, try’s everything, and is relentless in his pursuit of what he wants. THIS, I cannot allow to change. I need people around him that never lose sight of that and a learning environment that engages Sol 100% of the time, where he has the time he needs to focus, learn and succeed. Instead of employing a PLA, I’ve employed a homeschool tutor who will spend 12 teaching hours just with Sol and a flexible homeschool curriculum that will support him through the years.
In the end, I chose the Bridgeway Academy as it allows the flexibility to adapt the curriculum for a child with Special Education Needs. Bridgeway is an American curriculum and Sol is in Kindergarten this year. This is equivalent to Year One in the British system – funny that it’s called a “system” because that’s exactly how I view it now. A system of checking boxes, getting into boxes, staying inside the box, call it what you will. In Sol’s Kindergarten year, there are some “benchmarks” and we can go as slow or fast as Sol likes. We can also adapt the learnings to whatever Sol is interested in and apply other resources into the lessons too. Today, we will go to see the Moscow Circus and when Sol starts homeschool this week, a lot of his learnings will be around his experience at the circus. With any American curriculum, there are going to be elements of “nationalism” and so instead of celebrating the Forth of July, we will celebrate Waitangi Day! Instead of learning about Thanksgiving, we will incorporate some of Sol’s Maori heritage.
Sol has homeschool Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, 8.30am – 12.00pm. In the afternoons and on Tuesdays and Thursdays he has OT, PT, Speech, Visual Therapy and group sessions at a private learning facility – all of which deserve their own posts in the future. Sol is still taking swimming lessons and recently joined capoiera and loves it.
Am I anxious? Absolutely! I am definitely stepping outside my comfort zone on this decision to homeschool Sol. I listened to my gut instinct that was screaming that a mainstream environment in Sol’s formative learning years could cause long term damage to his self esteem and potentially set his learning back! I listened to heart breaking stories of other families who had tried the “promise of inclusion” at one of the swanky well funded International Schools only to have their child fall into themselves and beg not to go to school. I can and have learnt from those who have attempted the minefield before me. I refuse to have Sol think for ONE second that he is “stupid or dumb” because I also know, that is not the case. And I refuse to risk having ONE person in his life that doesn’t see or believe in his potential. Some may question my decision or worry for Sol’s lack of contact with his peers but I believe, as his mum, that he will gain more from this opportunity and any of the “missing” pieces we can figure out. Actually, most of the time I don’t even need to figure it out as my support group are always available to feedback, motivate, and provide new and exciting information.
So wish us luck! And I’ll continue to blog about Sol’s learning experience along with more posts on his superpower – dyspraxia.
Imagination is more important than knowledge – Einstein
(Above – Sol’s classroom)