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View Full Version : Agh! Is homeschooling really the best decision?



Penguin
09-05-2011, 01:52 PM
I'm a little hesitant to post this, because it feels like a list of complaints about my son.

But, I'm really questioning if I should do this. I want to homeschool. I have wanted to since he was a baby. I have many issues with the school system and I love the *idea* of watching my child learning every day and being part of it. My oldest son has issues, though. He is undiagnosed, but we suspect Asperger's or some sort of high-functioning spectrum disorder. We're also fairly sure he has Sensory Processing Disorder. And he drives me NUTS. (I probably also have some of both those issues myself, and he pushes my buttons like no-one else.) We're also sure he's gifted although he can't be tested by our school district until this fall, in 2nd grade.

While I am afraid he wouldn't "fit in" in the public school, and he would be bored by his age-appropriate classes, I am beginning to fear that he will suffer in a different way at home because of the way I treat him. I get so frustrated, and I have trouble acting like I respect him at all. Most adults who don't live with him really enjoy him, much more than I do.

We've been stacking wood the last few mornings. The 4yo and the 2yo have been helping. Very slowly, compared to DH and I, but they're actually doing the job we're doing -- moving wood. 7yo spends a whole lot of time talking about how he's going to help, how everyone should be organized, trying to set up a system, but not actually doing anything except getting in the way and slowing us down. This morning, he was sitting on a pile of logs in the back of the pickup, and pushing them off the top to roll down the pile, to where the little ones were walking about and picking up logs to pass to us. DH asked him not to do that, it was dangerous because it could hit the littles feet and legs and hurt them. We turned around and he was doing it again. Three times. We told him to get out of the truck. He started screaming and crying and saying we were mean. And didn't get out of the truck. We had to ask him several times to do that, too. And it led to a full-on fit.

We have done classes the last two years, sometimes almost full-time, through our school district's Parent Partnership Program, and he enjoyed those classes, and liked his teacher (I didn't, though, which is why we're not doing much there anymore), and he *listened* to her. She always said he was great at doing what he was asked and being her helper.

It would be so much easier for me and for the little guys if I could just send him off to school every day. I haven't felt that it would be the best choice for him. But I'm beginning to wonder if homeschooling is actually the best choice either.

Sigh.

I can never do a good job of explaining how *hard* things are with him around. Everything. It runs through my head but I can't get it out in words. But life is hard.

We live in a small school district, we have one school for each level. Our elementary school is a decent place, the principal is nice and has a special ed background. She's met him (we were checking it out back in the spring as an option to consider for this fall, but chose to try full-time homeschooling instead) and I think she gets him and how he's different, and understands that the teacher choice would be important.

We're due to start our homeschool year tomorrow. And the public schools go back tomorrow. And I'm getting cold feet.

Batgirl
09-05-2011, 02:09 PM
Islandrose, I completely sympathize.

It is incredibly difficult to convey how hard it is to live with a person with the personality characteristics you describe....unless it is to someone in the same boat. My opinion is that you should get him evaluated and see what the result is. If it is Aspergers, SPD, etc., you'll then have access to a whole slew of info over how to manage issues like this, which could reduce your stress. He might also qualify for therapy with a diagnosis.....which would give you a bit of a break. He might also qualify for an IEP in certain areas....you never know....and you could use the school for certain things. (It would also give the school a much better idea of how to help you.) For example, Batman qualifies for instruction in math and reading comprehension right now and I send him to ps for those things because we both love the resource room teacher. (He goes to the resource room and learns with 1 or 2 other kids.) He also attends speech therapy and a social group at the school We do not do general ed.

Normal parenting techniques often do not work with kids on the spectrum and they can be exhausting to work with. I thought about sending my oldest back to ps as well, for the same reasons you describe, but decided against it. As difficult as it can be, I also feel that home is better.

One thing I tried that seems (so far) to be working miracles this year is Sue Thompson's workbox system. Both boys love it. It was easy to implement, and makes expectations very structured and visual. Our day has become much more streamlined because they understand exactly what my expectations are and what they need to get done. You can also carry the system over into other areas--which may reduce the amount of arguing you are getting.

Good luck!

Penguin
09-05-2011, 02:57 PM
Thanks, Batgirl. I don't really know how to go about getting him evaluated, honestly. We met with the school district's Director of Special Ed last year (and here's the problem with our small district: he was a school administrator who had been handed this job as one of three hats to wear last year, and he had no experience in Special Ed; one of his other jobs was Director of our PPP, the school at which B took classes, and he saw B in class and didn't think he had enough of an issue to impact his learning and therefore the school district couldn't do anything to help. He recommended an anthroposophical counsellor he liked (his kids go to Waldorf). Not something we wanted to do.) and didn't get any help. I have tried to bring the topic up with our pediatrician, but he's not the best listener and figured he'd be fine once he started school. I haven't wanted to be too specific in my complaints in front of my son. We only have one pediatrician in our community.

We did try an alternative type of therapy over the last year, called the HANDLE Institute, and although we were not very good at implementing it consistently, it sort of kind of helped but not dramatically. We have let it slide over the last month, though, and things have become a lot worse. I do intend to start his program again, at this point it's just activities to do and no more appointments.

All the administrator positions got shifted around again this year in the school district, and I *think* the Special Ed director has more experience with it than last year's, so we may try meeting with him at some point. One of the attractions, honestly, about sending him to school is that the Elem. School principal has a lot of background in Special Ed and might actually be very helpful in getting us pointed in the right direction. It was clear, even during our short meeting, that she could see some of what was different about him.

The school district does gifted testing every fall and we can sign him up for that quite easily, regardless of our school choice, and we plan to. I feel like having *something* proven different about him will help us. Up til now, it's always just our thoughts and our explanations about why he's hard, and I'm not good at illustrating that well.

dbmamaz
09-05-2011, 03:04 PM
First of all, all my kids went to school. I don't think there is anything wrong w sending a kid to school as long as they are handling it ok. My kids were Really glad to be homeschoolng by the time we made that decision

My only thought about the log stacking situation is that it sound like the parameters were not spelled out very clearly. I ind things go much more smoothly if we can get that straight ahead of time. For example, you could explain what is happening before you go. You can give your son several acceptable options . . .you can help us stack, you can play nicely w your siblings, or you can play quietly by yourself. Explain that there is a job that needs to get done, and you would be happy if he helped, but if he doesn't feel like he can help, he has to stay out of the way and not cause trouble

Then, you have to explain the consequences. If you can't follow the rules or make it hard for other people to do their job, you will have to take a time out alone in the front of the truck, or you lose some privilege, or something. Often these kids need to really see what's in it for them, and need to be given a clear picture of it before hand. It sunds like he didn't really understand why he needed to stop, or didn't have enough motivation, so then you get frustrated and he responds to that w a tantrum.

My kids are really challenging to the point where I spent years not wanting to leave the house. I use electronics to pacify them and for easy currency for motivation and punishment. It's reAlly hard for me to create structure, but the more firm structure there is in our lives, the easier it is for us all.

Just my experience/opinion

Batgirl
09-05-2011, 03:07 PM
Can you make a day trip up to Seattle on the ferry? There are lots of resources up here. I can pm you some links if you like, including some to psychologists who specialize in autism spectrum evaluations with older kids, including the more subtle stuff.

Penguin
09-05-2011, 03:29 PM
First of all, all my kids went to school. I don't think there is anything wrong w sending a kid to school as long as they are handling it ok. My kids were Really glad to be homeschoolng by the time we made that decision

My only thought about the log stacking situation is that it sound like the parameters were not spelled out very clearly. I ind things go much more smoothly if we can get that straight ahead of time. For example, you could explain what is happening before you go. You can give your son several acceptable options . . .you can help us stack, you can play nicely w your siblings, or you can play quietly by yourself. Explain that there is a job that needs to get done, and you would be happy if he helped, but if he doesn't feel like he can help, he has to stay out of the way and not cause trouble

Then, you have to explain the consequences. If you can't follow the rules or make it hard for other people to do their job, you will have to take a time out alone in the front of the truck, or you lose some privilege, or something. Often these kids need to really see what's in it for them, and need to be given a clear picture of it before hand. It sunds like he didn't really understand why he needed to stop, or didn't have enough motivation, so then you get frustrated and he responds to that w a tantrum.

My kids are really challenging to the point where I spent years not wanting to leave the house. I use electronics to pacify them and for easy currency for motivation and punishment. It's reAlly hard for me to create structure, but the more firm structure there is in our lives, the easier it is for us all.

Just my experience/opinion

Cara, thanks for your thoughts. He knows the situation when we have work to get done, we even have a rhyme -- "he can help, or play, but he can't get in the way". Today we talked about you don't have to help but you can't hinder, which led to the 4yo wanting to know what hinder meant. The consequences are also well spelled out -- he has to be away from us. He can go read, play, swing, whatever. Consequences greater than this are hard to accomplish -- there is no privilege I have been able to remove that he hasn't been able to declare unimportant. No matter how much he loves something, if I threaten to take it away, he decides he doesn't care anymore.

He knows these things, but he just wasn't able to listen and process. He acknowledged our words, so I know he heard us, but I don't think the words got to his brain.

Penguin
09-05-2011, 03:32 PM
Can you make a day trip up to Seattle on the ferry? There are lots of resources up here. I can pm you some links if you like, including some to psychologists who specialize in autism spectrum evaluations with older kids, including the more subtle stuff.

Yes please!! We can definitely get to Seattle, it's only about an hour or so. I'd appreciate that, I've had a hard time figuring out where to start.

Penguin
09-05-2011, 03:34 PM
Oh, also, Batgirl, I was looking for info on the Workbox system and can't find much other than a book to buy. Is there a link you'd recommend for an intro to that too? Thanks so much!

Accidental Homeschooler
09-05-2011, 04:03 PM
It sounds like you are getting some great advice and I just want to add, echoing Cara, if ps had been a place where my kids did well that is where they would be. You are not failing your son, in my opinion, by sending him to school if it can be a good place for him. And your are saying pretty clearly that you are not happy for him or yourself (or you two younger children) with how things are going at home right now. We worked with a psychologist who was incredibly helpful to me as a parent in just being able to take an emotional step back and figure out how to parent my dd. One example, which is similar to your son, is how to tell her to stop doing something. Sometimes I really think my voice, by the time it registers in her brain, is sort of like a fly buzzing. For me just knowing that I can only say it once and if she does not respond I have to walk over to her, touch and get down to her level, and tell her again when I have her complete attention. I have to be emotionally neutral. I think I should have been able to figure this out for myself but I didn't. I am not saying that this is what you should do, just that I needed someone outside to help me figure out what to do that would work for my little puzzle of a child. So please get some help and don't think you have to go it alone.

lakshmi
09-05-2011, 04:31 PM
Sounds familiar. We've been dealing with a similar situation. We've actually seen a clinical psychologist and she did not diagnose the behavior as any spectrum. Also dealing with 2.5 years of spinal taps with methotrexate and a butt load of steroids. Her advice would likely follow what Batgirl said was traditional parenting advice. It was good,and it is working. It was not easy though. And like Cara, the more structure and consistency seemed to help as well.

AddlepatedMonkeyMama
09-05-2011, 05:24 PM
IMy oldest son has issues, though. He is undiagnosed, but we suspect Asperger's or some sort of high-functioning spectrum disorder. We're also fairly sure he has Sensory Processing Disorder. And he drives me NUTS. (I probably also have some of both those issues myself, and he pushes my buttons like no-one else.) We're also sure he's gifted although he can't be tested by our school district until this fall, in 2nd grade.

This is my son, too. Exactly. Also not diagnosed...yet.


While I am afraid he wouldn't "fit in" in the public school, and he would be bored by his age-appropriate classes, I am beginning to fear that he will suffer in a different way at home because of the way I treat him. I get so frustrated, and I have trouble acting like I respect him at all. Most adults who don't live with him really enjoy him, much more than I do.

We tried kindergarten and it was an Epic Fail. Not every day was bad, but enough were, so that we knew we couldn't send him back. He's the most exasperating kid sometimes, and the teachers just didn't know how to cope with him and certainly didn't have the time or training to deal with his issues. I lose my cool sometimes and I feel bad about it, but I've really come to understand him better by having him at home--what triggers the negative behavior and how we can deal with it more effectively. And my son can get academic work that challenges and interests him all the time, not just a 45-minute per week gifted pullout class like he might get at school (though I think the program has been cut in elementary schools here).

As for sending your son to school, you'll only know if you try. If he's never been to school before, you really can't know how he'll react to being in that environment for six hours a day. My son's problems seemed like trivial quirks before he was stuck in a room with 21 other kids and had to stay quiet and still for most of the time. I know another kid whose parents were sure that they would be hearing from the school by the end of the first week of kindergarten. He's doing great and his teacher sings his praises.


DH asked him not to do that, it was dangerous because it could hit the littles feet and legs and hurt them. We turned around and he was doing it again. Three times. We told him to get out of the truck. He started screaming and crying and saying we were mean. And didn't get out of the truck. We had to ask him several times to do that, too. And it led to a full-on fit.

Warnings and requests go in one ear and out the other, no matter how many times we say it. Raising our voices causes a fit. The only thing we found that works is to calmly lead him to a quiet place for a timeout. No lectures, just a very simple statement of why he's getting the time out ("We told you to stop and you didn't" or "The rule is no hitting" etc.).


I can never do a good job of explaining how *hard* things are with him around. Everything. It runs through my head but I can't get it out in words. But life is hard.

As the others here said, we know! One of the reasons I love this forum is that I've found people with kids like my son and it is a great comfort to me to know I'm not the only one struggling.

Please make sure to get some time to yourself to "recharge" your emotional batteries. My husband is really good about taking our son on fun outings on weekends (they went to Chinatown in Boston today) so I can get a break.

farrarwilliams
09-05-2011, 05:34 PM
Oh, also, Batgirl, I was looking for info on the Workbox system and can't find much other than a book to buy. Is there a link you'd recommend for an intro to that too? Thanks so much!

Julie of Creekside Learning (who is here sometimes) had a nice intro to the way they do workboxes - including a video.
http://creeksidelearning.com/workboxes/

I think having a system and a strong routine and set of expectations is key for a kid with special needs. Workboxes might be one way to do that.

I don't have a ton of advice. Just HUGS. I think you may be right that homeschooling may be harder in the short term. However, from what you describe, I doubt that the school system is the best place for your ds and I think if I were in your place, I would try to have hope that the efforts you put in now will pay off eventually in the long run. Give it time to build those relationships, figure out the best way and be patient with yourself as well as with your ds. I know it's tough.

Batgirl
09-05-2011, 06:06 PM
Oh, also, Batgirl, I was looking for info on the Workbox system and can't find much other than a book to buy. Is there a link you'd recommend for an intro to that too? Thanks so much!

Some other links are:

http://www.workboxsystem.com/viewvideoonworkboxsystem.html This one is to Sue Thompson's site. There is a video that shows how the system works.

http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2009/11/workbox-system.html This is a blog entry about how one family uses the system.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/workboxes/?yguid=357249621 This is a yahoo group devoted to using workboxes.

For what it's worth, imo the book was completely worth the money, even though you can learn how to set it up by reading online.

Penguin
09-05-2011, 06:51 PM
Thanks, guys. I didn't really expect to have a case of day-before jitters, but perhaps that's partly what this is. One thing I am pretty sure of -- I'd hate to start him in ps in the middle of the year because that seems like it would only magnify any issues. So if he doesn't start tomorrow, I feel like we're "stuck" for the year.

I did find some other websites that describe the workbox idea, and it looks really interesting! I think that giving the "authority" to the boxes might really help. Now can I pull it off by tomorrow??? ;-)

I am being called away to eat cake, be back later.

WallFlower
09-05-2011, 08:03 PM
I think the day-before jitters are normal. I know I had them, even though my son was begging to homeschool (and hating the school he was at).

In any case, I would encourage you to look at the positive side. You have two really great options! You can try homeschooling, and if it doesn't work you have a great option at a school that sounds like it might work well for your son. I know that makes the decision more difficult, but on the positive side it means that you have options. :)

Penguin
09-06-2011, 01:55 AM
WOW! I'm organized. :-)

THANK YOU, Batgirl, for mentioning Workboxes. I had seen them mentioned here and there but never really examined what they were. And thank you, Batgirl and Farrar, for the links. I did some reading, and have set us up with hanging file folders in a mostly empty file cabinet drawer right under where I was keeping some school stuff in a disorganized basket. I am interspersing his HANDLE activities to try to get those back into our day as well.

AddlepatedMonkeyMama, we have sort of tried school -- the Parent Partnership Program we've done is run by the school district, held in a school building, with a certified teacher. It's run like a community college though -- you pick and choose the classes from what's on the schedule. It worked way better than I expected, he actually liked it and was doing well. However, we had major issues with the main teacher for his age group, in lots of ways, and I refuse to have him in her classes any more. It's hard to explain to him, too, because he liked her. So school very well could work. Unfortunately, his reaction to the suggestion of public school is very negative, so it would be a battle to try it.

I need to remember the "calmly lead him to a quiet place" part. That's a good approach.



I don't have a ton of advice. Just HUGS. I think you may be right that homeschooling may be harder in the short term. However, from what you describe, I doubt that the school system is the best place for your ds and I think if I were in your place, I would try to have hope that the efforts you put in now will pay off eventually in the long run. Give it time to build those relationships, figure out the best way and be patient with yourself as well as with your ds. I know it's tough.

Farrar, thanks for this, too. This is what I need to remember.

Penguin
09-06-2011, 01:57 AM
I think the day-before jitters are normal. I know I had them, even though my son was begging to homeschool (and hating the school he was at).

In any case, I would encourage you to look at the positive side. You have two really great options! You can try homeschooling, and if it doesn't work you have a great option at a school that sounds like it might work well for your son. I know that makes the decision more difficult, but on the positive side it means that you have options. :)

That's a great attitude too! Options are good. And I felt really positive when we visited the elementary school, because I felt after that I wasn't choosing "against school," I was actively choosing "for homeschooling." It is good to be reminded of that again. Thanks!

5amigos
09-06-2011, 03:27 AM
just wanted to send big hugs. i could just feel your frustration in that wood stacking scenario...i feel like i *know* that emotion and the intense struggle it is to hold it together. i have had so many moments where i really thought i could ship my son to my mother's to live. :)
my son is now 9, and was diagnosed with autism at age 2. he was in very, very intense therapy and by age 6 was doing really well and started kindergarten. (i NEVER in my wildest of dreams thought i would ever homeschool!) he went to kindy, it went "okay" I suppose... then he did first grade and it went alright too. then we moved and he did second grade and that went okay, but not great, and a lot of problems crept up. thats when we decided to hs him and his brother (they are 2 of triplets). anyway, i feel like the experience he has had in school has been very valuable to him and has paved the way for ME to hs him. i know many who are "anti ps" wouldn't agree with me, but i really feel like for my son, the structure of a classroom and being managed by other adults was really helpful for him and it taught him how to control himself in that environment. now i feel like he has a tad more self control and it makes having him home somewhat bearable. :)
i won't lie, some days i raise my voice at him and really get frustrated, but i also know that in a day or two, we will have a great day and that makes up for the crummy days. but you just never, ever know with him what you are going to get!

i second the opinion of getting him evaluated--NOT by the school--but by a licensed developmental psychologist or someone who is trained to evaluate where the diagnosis lies. knowledge is power, and if you know more specifically what you are dealing with, you will know much better how to approach it and focus on ideas that may really work for him.

I don't think that if you miss the first day of school you are stuck with hs. maybe you could go through the first few days and see how it goes at home, and then make a decision.

i'm really feeling for you, because i know you are faced with a lot of really tough decisions. it's definitely not a clear cut issue when you have a child with unique needs.

dbmamaz
09-06-2011, 10:34 AM
Haha my oldest was like that, where anything I threatened to take away, ahe would immediately give up. Luckily, she was a basically easy going child. My middle WANTED to please, but had no self control. Usually cuddles helped him calm down, but only until about grade school age. The youngest won't do ANYTHING without threats of punishment . . . he needs external motivation to "behave".

Good luck with your challenging boy!