Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What's Important In The End

I homeschool.

I've alluded to this in previous posts. However, I've also alluded to the fact that Michaela is NOT homeschooled. She goes to the county special needs school (which is integrated). She most likely will be the only child I do not homeschool.

I've wanted to homeschool my kids for a very long time. My Mother-in-law homeschooled her kids (including Chris), and my Mom homeschooled my brother. I, on the other hand, have never been taught at home, but I've always seen the benefits to it. And in my mind, the benefits have always outweighed the defecits. Chris and I decided that we wanted (and I do mean WE) to homeschool before we were even married.

I was pretty disappointed when I realized that there was no way I was going to get anything across to Michaela effectively by schooling her at home. I know, I know, there are plenty of people that have done it. And I agree that it can be done. But, hey, I know my limits. I'm not going to frustrate myself (and her) by being a die-hard with this. It was a hard decision, and I agonized over it, but what had to be done, had to be done. She had to be schooled, and I just couldn't do it and maintain my sanity.

Don't misunderstand me. I do not feel as though my children are an aggravation to me. I do not WANT them to "go away". I do not enjoy the fact that she's away from me for most of her day. I do not look forward to her going back to school after a vacation.....ok, not entirely (but anyone could use a break from Chatty Cathy).

And it also bothered me that Alabama schools are NOT top of the list in this country. I'm not sure what the current statistics are, but last I knew, Mississippi was bottom of the barrel, and Alabama was second in line (feel free to correct me here, if you know). Didn't make me feel too good sending her there. Yet, when it really came down to it, I realized that in many ways it didn't matter. What I needed was a place where she would be loved and taken care of. Learning was secondary in my mind. It still is.

And today just reiterated and solidified my feelings on this matter.

We had her annual IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting. Her teacher, her Speech Pathologist, and the Assistant Principal (who's in charge of all things special needs) were there. In some ways, I always look forward to these little meetings. In other ways, I get very irritated with what our government puts these teachers through in order to meet state requirements.

Actually, it all revolves around the "No Child Left Behind Act".

Love George Bush. Hate this Act.

It puts so much pressure on teachers to meet impossible and outrageous goals for special needs kids. I mean, let's think about it:

Should a child who's disablilities keep them from walking or talking or dressing themselves, NEED to do algebra? Certainly not. So why are teachers focusing on such ridiculous goals for their special needs classes? Because of the No Child Left Behind Act. They're compelled to. Where they should be helping that specific child with maybe, holding a spoon, or making a gesture to say they want to eat, these teachers have to somehow, someway get them to understand concepts that are useless for that child.

Yet, I just love Michaela's teachers. They are some of the most wonderful people I know. And I don't care that Alabama is low on the academic totem pole, they love my child. And even in the face of useless goals and mind boggling paperwork to satisfy the government, they still will take the time to put that all aside and just enjoy her company. To engage her in meaningful conversation. To notice that she's not eating so much these days. To show her how to use the bathroom (not a pleasant task AT ALL), or how to hold that spoon.

Perhaps Michaela will never be able to count to 20. I doubt she will ever know the names of all the planets. Or even be able to read a sentence or write her name. But does that really matter? What kind of person do I want THIS child to be?

I want her to know that she's loved. I want her to enjoy people. I want her to make a picture and enjoy knowing that she did that. Even if I can't figure out what it is. I would also like for her to be able to continue to feed herself. Maybe use the bathroom. To enjoy a book read to her. All very minor things, yet they're the things that are most important for her, in her life. She will never be a rocket scientist. She quite possibly will never even be a cashier at Walmart. But if she can be a joy to people, if she can be a bright smile in someone's dreary day, would I complain?


So, if I had to do it all over again; if I had to put another special needs child in public school, I would do it in a heartbeat. Even if her teachers couldn't pass some country wide test (although I'm sure they could, but perhaps not ALL Alabama teachers would be able to), why would that matter to me, when Michaela needs compassion, understanding, and patience? You can't teach that to a person. It's simply a bonus that her teachers can also teach difficult to teach students, at least in my mind. I sure couldn't do it.....

And as for "No Child Left Behind".....I think that Act needs to be "left behind". At least for special needs kids. There's very little place for it in that setting. And it keeps Michaela's teachers from doing what they do best:

Being with my child, and helping her be the best SHE can be. Focusing on what's important in the long run.

What more could I ask for?


baSfsoGp said...

"But if she can be a joy to people, if she can be a bright smile in someone's dreary day..."

She certainly did that tonight in altar call when she sang out so strongly. It was a great blessing to all of us around.

Rachel said...

As a future educator (hopefully!), I agree. :)