People have been asking why we are homeschooling our littlest girl. At the end of the day there was a big difference in the quality of teaching between last year and this year and she was being babysat each day. Every day the email would come in with what they did – morning circle then a literacy or numeracy activity (numeracy only twice a week) then morning tea and play outside then music/drama/art/pe/etc then lunch then play outside then come inside and pack up their bags and go home.
She was leaving home at 7.30 and coming home at 4 with just 1 session of what I would call school work. When maths was mentioned my sweet girl was often given a worksheet to do while students with greater needs worked with a teacher. If your child can’t count to 5 or past 5 how is a worksheet going to help them learn. Then I would get an email saying they did addition and subtraction. Um, if she can’t recognise numbers to 5 or remember what comes after 3 or 4 then how is that going to help. When I went back over the emails I noticed that the boys in the class never got a worksheet just the 2 girls. And my girl never did maths in a small group with a teacher or aide. Either in the whole group or just a worksheet. How is this acceptable? How was she going to learn to count from a worksheet on her own. There were only 8 or 9 students in the class on any given day and a teacher and aide.
Every day I was getting more and more upset (and mad!) and about to burst. How could we have had such a wonderful year last year with a devoted teacher who answered emails and gave each student so much attention and this year I was in a totally different situation. Never an email response and then when a broken folder was given to her for her reader for the year I thought I was going to scream. I had just sent in $80 for resources and $25 for readers and was given a broken folder without a press stud for her communication folder. It’s hard enough for her to open and close a press stud. I know it sounds petty, a broken folder. But to me if someone has taken the time to write her name and communication folder on it then I think you would notice that it was broken. And it’s not going to last the year. Still I’m not getting responses to my emails except on the one occasion that I chased it up. I didn’t expect to pull her out in the 3rd week and not return to school. We didn’t say goodbye to our favourite teachers or staff or her friends. She needed to come out straight away and I wasn’t sending her back for another day in that classroom. We donated the almost new school uniforms to the uniform shop, returned our library books and reader and left.
I wanted to take her out after the first week but I had to convince someone that I could do this with a new baby and that we would be ok. And you know what? We’re better than ok. Every day she is doing literacy and numeracy and we are learning! We don’t have other children’s behaviour in the classroom to worry about and she’s not just given a worksheet and left on her own to do it. I sit there with her and work with her. Just the two of us. I find fun activities in her curriculum or on the internet and we cut and paste and learn together. Her big sister and sometimes her little brothers next to her too. Twice a week she is doing a preschool program 1 on 1 – in one hour they pack in gross motor, fine motor, days of the week and weather, letters, numbers, puzzle, songs, a story and questions and a craft. More than she ever did in a day of school. And every time we are out or in the kitchen we are counting and doing things. At 7.30am she’s still in her pjs enjoying toast and watching sesame street with her siblings instead of getting into transport for the day. Today it was raining so our homeschool meet up got moved to lollipops playland. We did all of our learning work in the morning and after lunch went off to burn off some energy at lollipops playland. Tomorrow she will have 1 hour of speech and then do her work and we finish the day with art and then cheerleading.
It was after her assessment which revealed just how much work we needed to do and how she would benefit from 1 on 1 and that confirmed we needed to do this. That same day I sent the email that had been sitting in my drafts and she didn’t go back to school. However it has come at a huge financial cost. Tuition is twice the cost of school fees and the special school are now asking for half the years fees for just 3 weeks of school. I tried to leave on such a positive note not bringing up the issues we had faced and knowing we had a better option at home.
So that’s the honest answer.
All we want is the best for our children and when they don’t have a voice or have the support to be included in regular schools then we are the voice and we are the person who has to make things happen. We are the ones who have sat in on every assessment, therapy session and at the end of the day are the ones who will spend the rest of our lives loving and living with them. And that is our reality. The teachers won’t live with them or need to help them for the rest of their lives we will so no one wants better outcomes than we do. And so it’s up to us to get it right. **off my soapbox now**
On this particular afternoon we were recreating Monet artworks! This week we’ve also cut out a skeleton, stuck him together and started colouring him and labelling his parts for science. We’ve looked at the map of australia and put down where everyone we know lives and coloured it in with a different colour for each state and we’ve been focusing on identifying the numbers 1-3 and the letters a, b, c. We are still at a preschool level and have problems with remembering things but she is loving learning and making progress. And happy. All that I hoped for.