I love homeschooling. The options to do what we want, the flexibility with learning disabilities, and the organic learning that happens just in our daily lives. But if I’m being honest, I’m not too happy that we’re homeschooling.
I’m not happy that we have no choice: that the Engineer cannot function in a traditional school. America’s public schools are built on a platform of “free education for all,” and yet, our part of the “all” isn’t being met. We’re having to step into a job that we are not equipped for, that we’re not funded for, and that we weren’t prepared for.
The Engineer is 2e: twice exceptional. That means he doesn’t fit in any of the traditional educational boxes: mainstream classroom, special education, or GATE (gifted and talented education.) His learning disabilities are a challenge in any of these settings, while his asynchronous, advanced learning means he doesn’t fit in a special needs classroom either. It’s a no-win situation.
I didn’t set out to homeschool. It might be the best fit for our family right now, but I wish that we had been able to make that choice ourselves. To decide this is what we want to do, and here’s why. That choice was taken from us the moment we couldn’t get the Engineer an IEP before he started kindergarten. At that moment, we realized that we could send him to public school anyway and let him struggle, fail, and stress out for months until the system caught up with him, or we could nip it all in the bud and opt out. To say no: we will not do that to our child.
I don’t like feeling trapped.
Sure, there are other school options out there. Gifted schools, private schools, specialty schools who may have been able to work with him. But, in general, most private schools are not well-equipped to deal with special needs. Gifted schools probably wouldn’t take a kindergartener with no test scores, only trusting in our word that he was gifted. So no options. No true options but homeschool.
It probably sounds like I’m wailing “it’s not fair!” because we are privileged to be in this position. We are blessed to be able to make the sacrifices and have a parent stay home and teach our kids. Many kids stuck in the school system would love to be in our position – and that’s a problem that our society and educational system needs to address.
No child should be stuck in the school system and feel hopeless, not getting the education that they need. I read about parents taking the school district to court just so that the district will actually provide the services promised in the child’s IEP. The IEP that the school agreed to! I read about programs being cut so that the school district can afford the one-on-one aides needed for special education. And I read about children, locked into safe rooms for hours at a time because the school simply cannot handle them.
I read all of this and my heart breaks. We are failing our children.
It seems odd that a homeschooler is advocating for school reform, but it’s really not that weird. After all, the Engineer would be riding that shiny bus every day if the system was set up to handle him. I don’t hate the school system. I don’t hate teachers, the educational system, the whole bit. I hate that it’s not working for a large chunk of our population. It’s time for change.
I have no idea what needs to be changed. I know that the funding issue is a constant problem, but that throwing more money at the system won’t fix it. So here’s a novel idea: why not ask the experts?
Teachers struggle with the system just as much as the kids. They have to teach to the test, meet ever-changing requirements, and try to function in teacher:child ratios that daycares aren’t even legally allowed to have. So ask the teachers. Ask the educational system experts. Ask the school systems around the world that actually work, and see how they do things.
Tell the policy wonks to butt out and leave it to the experts. Let the policy wonks figure out how to fund it – because they’ve done an abysmal job of actually running it so far.
Our kids need help. They need it now – not 10 years down the road with another band-aid fix that focuses on test scores.
And while they’re figuring it out, maybe it’s time to let parents have some choice in the matter. Let them keep their property taxes to pay for homeschooling instead of paying property taxes AND homeschooling costs at the same time. Let’s simplify school funding and spread it across the entire state instead of rich neighborhoods having nice schools and lower-income neighborhood schools struggling so hard. Let’s combine compassion with common sense – let’s roll up our sleeves and get working.
Let’s do this, America. For the kids.