Saturday, August 22, 2015

I'm Sending My Children To School (And I Don't Want To)

My 6-year-old and my 3-year-old are headed to school this fall.  This is a surprise to me, because I have been planning for their entire lives to school them at home.  I have a variety of reasons, as do all parents who choose to homeschool.  Firstly, they are both autistic, and it can be quite difficult to work with them.  Secondly, they are extremely active, and not designed to sit still.  Thirdly, no matter how wonderful their teachers would be, they would not receive the same level of care and attention that they get from me at home.  No one knows them like I do, not even their dad.  I know (usually) what sets them off, what calms them down, and how to deal with tricky situations.  I am home with just them, so any emotional crisis can be given my full attention immediately.  Teachers, while excellent, simply don't have that flexibility.

Henry, the 3-year-old, is mostly non-verbal.  We started having him tested by the school district back in June.  The testers recommended that we put him in a preschool to improve his verbal and social skills.  We reluctantly agreed, and he's due to start in just a few weeks.  I am terrified.  Henry does not deal well with change, particularly changes where he won't see Mommy.  I am waffling between sending him off to preschool against his will, or keeping him home and cuddling him.

As for Rowan, the 6-year-old, we've been leaning toward Connections Academy, an online free public school.  Friends of ours have gone through it and said it's wonderful.  This is the route we thought we would go until five days ago.  But here's the thing--Rowan wants to actually go to school.  A physical school building with physical classmates and a teacher.

A physical public school is out of the question.  Rowan alternates between extreme childishness and extreme adult-like speech.  He is extraordinarily sweet, but if he is handled wrong, he will go into an emotional shutdown.  Public school would eat him alive.  That left us with just private school as a physical option, and we were sure we couldn't afford private school.

Still, we arranged a meeting at a small local private school to weigh our options.  We met with the administrator and the woman who would be his teacher, should he enroll.  And--oh dear!--it sounded absolutely ideal.  Rowan would be in a mixed first and second grade classroom.  Only eight other students were enrolled for that classroom.  Wednesdays are special activity days, with activities ranging from gardening to cooking.  Rowan's potential teacher took him to her classroom for placement testing, since he did not attend kindergarten.  She came back and said that in writing, spelling, and math he scored as a solid first grade.  His reading is at a third grade level.  He loves her and the school already.

So how could we say no?  We believe this will be a thoroughly positive experience for Rowan.  He mostly associates with adults.  He needs and craves social interaction with other children, but in small groups.  Large groups are terrifying for him.  In every way we can imagine, this school sounds perfect.

We're having to make some lifestyle changes, of course.  We've shut off our cable service.  We've consolidated our cell phone plans.  Even that might not be enough.  With both Rowan and Henry gone, at least for the mornings, I might have to get a job.  I'm sure we'll be feeling the pinch of tuition soon.

I don't want to send him.  I don't want to send either of my boys to school.  I have always planned to keep them home with me and teach them myself.  I have been preparing for it for years.  I don't know what I'll do without them here.  I may yet keep Henry home, although I'll probably give him at least a week in the preschool to see how he adjusts.  For Rowan, though, it's time for him to stretch his wings and try them out in a new environment.  So far he's handling it better than I am.