I’ve just come home from a massage. Yes – the last time I came home from a massage to write my blog post “Forth Time Lucky” – that was full on – wine, tears and typing. So best be ready.
Sol has been homeschooled for 6 weeks now. I’m going to list the positives and the negatives to date:
- Sol struggled to hold a pencil or pen properly to write. Granted he is just 5 years old but without consistent OT intervention, I wasn’t sure how this would improve in a school setting. At home, Sol has a slanted writing board where he can clip on paper. He has a seat with a non-slip cushion and a foot roller that allows him to regulate his sensory processing and this means he can comfortably FOCUS on trying to write with the correct pencil grip. He would probably NOT have this in a group classroom at school.
- There are no distractions. Sol’s dyspraxia means that with lots of noise and movement, he is very easily distracted. He is not able to focus on multiple requests. He needs one request at a time. With NO distraction, Sol can execute what is asked of him. A recent social experiment – Sol and I were in a busy cafe and a good friend came up to say HI and ask Sol how he was doing. Despite the fact that Sol knows this person very well, he was not able to answer. Thirty minutes later, the cafe had cleared out somewhat and our friend came back to speak with Sol again, and then Sol commenced to communicate without distraction.
- No distractions mean that Sol is picking up speed on areas that he was behind in when he was in a classroom setting. My concerns were that he was behind on reading and writing and in SIX WEEKS, I do not have those concerns anymore. Can I just say that this realisation is worth the anxiety of starting Sol in homeschooling. Sol is starting to read and understand sounds and language, as well as transfer this across to writing words and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
- Sol can take “sensory breaks” as and when he needs it. There is overwhelming research and support to show that young children cannot be expected to sit still for longer than 15 mins. Sol can easily do 15 mins or more at home but we make it part of his learning to take a break on the trampoline or some playtime outside and “recap” his lesson while he is moving. Just think about that a second – how many people do you know that use exercise or movement to help them work through an issue, problem or idea? I know I do it!
- Sol is surrounded by teachers and specialists with his best interests in mind. We are able to curate a curriculum that puts Sol’s strengths and interests first. This means that he will not be learning anything that bores the shit out of him and things that he may not have been interested in before are now made interesting to him and in a way that he can understand and learn.
- While I was initially hesitant that Sol would not be having school “everyday” like a neurotypical kid, this has turned out to be a blessing. Sol has 12 hours of lessons – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. This leaves Tuesdays and Thursdays to focus on his Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Swimming, Playdates and other activities. Sol also has Visual Therapy twice a week and this is quite intense (separate post coming). So in a nutshell, Sol’s FULL education is well balanced and we don’t have to try and fit in all his specialised sessions after school hours when he would be way too tired to get much out of them.
- Sol is consistently praised and encouraged for his efforts. His self esteem and his willingness to learn remain as high as they ever were. On the days he doesn’t have Ms Rachel, he is often in his classroom, sitting at his desk, doing his “homework” as he likes to call it.
- We use technology to compliment his learning. We have apps and programs that allow Sol to interact in a less formal way with lessons and keep him abreast of learning with technology. It is very likely that Sol will require a laptop if he re-enters the school system. At his age in a classroom setting, this would be unlikely. Once the schools catch up and realise that differently wired kids respond well to learning through technology, then we may consider going back. Sol will always struggle to write and it will take him longer and that is a part of his challenge – why make him suffer for it if he can get all his ideas down on a laptop from the get-go?
- While I work full-time, I have a certain amount of flexibility in my hours and destinations – I can pop in and see Sol at home! We might have lunch together or a mid-afternoon cuddle.
- Sol doesn’t need a haircut now. If he was still at school, I think we’d need to keep his gorgeous curls contained. As he’s at home, we are going to let our little dude grow his amazing hair. Skater boy! Here we come.
There are probably a few more positives and as these present themselves, I can update in another blog.
I’m going to address the biggest one last as this is where my TRUE message for today lies.
- Hang on, give me a second to think of one.
- Got it! Nope, the one I was thinking about was that we didn’t get access to a school library anymore but then I remembered that my daughter is at an International School and as a parent, I can take books out of the library and so we do! In fact, Sol and I went there together and we can take out 10 books at a time. Sorted.
- If I expand on the book-thing a little, I loved the association the schools have with the Scholastic Book Club order. And luckily my BFF can help me out with ordering books too.
- Do I have access to materials for art, craft etc. HELL YES! Check this out! TWINKLS
So, our biggest “perceived” negative and the one I can see concerns MOST parents that ask me about Sol’s homeschooling experience is the “lack of socialisation”. Let me frame how this could have also been our biggest concern. While Sol was at pre-school, he had a ton of friends and an insane playdate schedule. Sol was loved by teachers and kids alike. He is a kind, funny, sweet kid and this draws people to him, particularly those that take the time to get to know him. Sol adores his buddies.
As the socialisation of kids Sol’s age continues in the school environment, I’ve noticed that Sol is not sure how to relate to the “style” of play of his friends. Words like “dumb, stupid, bad guy and you can’t play with us” are some of the things I have heard recently directed at Sol. I went to an average school where bullying was common and “kids were kids”. I even had a bully who targeted me and to this day, I remember the feelings of anxiety of walking home after school thinking that my bully was going to attack me verbally and sometimes physically. We were taught to believe that we should just handle it and it would eventually go away and if it didn’t, then you arranged a “face off” with your bully and just fought it out. Which sounds horrifying when I think about either of my kids having to physically protect them selves from some asshole.
I have friends with kids at school who are being bullied or have been bullied. And this includes isolation. While schools have implemented “anti-bullying” days and processes by which a kid can gain support if they feel they are targeted, it’s the “words” that are hurting our kids the most. In every class there is an “alpha male or female” who owns the power to grow or slay their classmates with a few choice words. And I don’t mean “choice” like us Kiwis use the word “choice” (meaning awesome, amazing). The alphas are the ones you want to be friends with because then, like the caveman days, you’ll be protected and you’ll ultimately survive. And school is like that. If you are alpha, popular, funny, good looking and smart in a neurotypical way, then you will survive and thrive the school system.
How does this pervasive caveman mentality continue year-on-year in our schools? When did I become “that mum” who advocates for the “underdog”? Do I want for my child to be subjected to that type of behaviour? HELL NO! Does this make me an over-protective parent. Well, probably, but let’s just dive a little into “what is over-protective”?
Knowing that my child has a learning challenge and will struggle in a noisy, busy environment and this will make him “stand out” as different and not “good-different” but set him up for ridicule and isolation – I choose to shelter him a little longer until he has his “witty, appropriate responses” to the ignorants that try to dim his light.
I believe that my choices for Sol will positively impact his world and the world at large. This kid is going to change lives because he will continue to be kind, sweet, empathetic, open minded and not isolated. The state of the world today indicates that we need more people like Sol. The greatest gift I can give Sol is to understand his gifts, his challenges, how his brain works and to not shy away from his uniqueness. I don’t need him to know as a 5-year old that he doesn’t “fit in” or that there is “something wrong”. I want for him to grow with confidence in who he is, own it, share it and not be judged in a negative way for it – just like every single parent I know.