Monday, February 17, 2014
Homeschooling and my relationship with my neighborhood school
All of my children have been homeschooled and have never been enrolled in a public school k-12 class. My children did attend a parent participation preschool through the continuing education program, but technically I was the student. However, I still have had many contacts with the public school over the years.
We’ve had many foster children enrolled in public schools. I still drop off and pick up two of our former foster boys at school from time to time to help at their parents.
Our son has also received speech therapy at my neighborhood school from the age of 3 to nearly 7 years old. We would still be receiving speech therapy at the school, but the district found a way to get out it on a technicality, something to do with the fact that we homeschool by registering that we are a private school. This change in policy was motivated by the recent budget/staffing cuts. The staff at my neighborhood school would love to continue to provide services if the school district would allowed it.
Recently, I requested a full evaluation for my son from my neighborhood school. The school district is obligated to provide this service even if the child is not enrolled at the school. I found the information in the evaluation very useful and appreciated hearing their recommendations. In some ways, it was easier for the staff than a typical IEP (independent education plan) meeting. They could make recommendations but they were not obligated to provide services since he is not enrolled at the school. Since I was only looking for recommendations, they were able to speak freely. If I had been interested in enrolling our son in school, the meeting would have been less relaxed since then the school would have been burdened with the legal requirements of their suggestions for the IEP.
The bureaucratic red tape was still pretty amazing. The special education teacher wanted to indicate that our son qualified for special education service even if he would NOT be receiving services since he is not enrolled at the school. The school psychologist insisted he didn’t qualify because a child has to fail first before special education services can be offered regardless of how obvious the child’s needs.
I found it interesting how surprised the special education teacher and the school psychologist were by son's demeanor. Our son has a significant speech impediment which was characterized in their evaluation as moderately severe. However, he has no behavior problem or social anxiety. The report said that he "came to the testing situation willingly and appeared at ease....answered questions when asked and initiated conversation....." The school psychologist was impressed by how animated he was when he talked and how "adult" his facial expressions seemed.
I explained that he had three teenage sisters that spend a great deal of time with him. Also, he has never been teased about his speech and there is a teenage boy with Tourettes who attends our homeschool co-op. Struggling or being different is just normal in his world. They were impressed but still seemed to think that it would be harder for him when he hit the "real' world. After the meeting was over, it occurred to me what I should have said. Both the special education teacher and the school psychologists were foreign born and spoke with an accent. One of them had a very heavy accent. I wish I had asked her when was the last time someone teased her about how she speaks. I doubt it has happened recently.
I sat in on an IEP meeting for one of our former foster children. The child did not qualify for services under the district rules even though he badly needed accommodations. A certain staff member talked openly about how she could thwart the district rules by claiming to provide a different service under a different regulation when the intent was to provide the services that had originally been denied.
I admit that sometimes my interactions with the school have been a little awkward. I may come across as condescending since there are so many aspects of public schooling that are so broken. Sometimes, the school staff and parents seem overly defensive to me. I realize that parents and staff alike are trying to make the best of it but I keep wondering why so many people are content to put up with it. Other times, the roles are reversed and I feel a little defensive when dealing with school staff. I have gotten that tone of voice that suggests that homeschooling is equivalent to child neglect.
Still, I have really like the school staff that I have worked with over the years. I especially love the secretaries at my neighborhood school and how they treat me son. I have noticed many school staff going the extra mile to do what they can in spite of district policies.
I don’t know how to “fix” public education. I respect the people who try (as long as they don’t raise my taxes to pay for it.)