OH MY OH MY OH MY! Anyone who has been following my blog knows that a huge part of my life is twenty-eight years worth of advocating for my foster and adoptive kids within the public school system.
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I could tell story after story about how hard it is to get individual learning programs for children who learn in different ways and/or have stumbling blocks to learning, especially because of trauma. There are wonderful educators who have loved my children dearly over the years, but the systems that are in place are not very flexible.
I have come to embrace certain attitudes and beliefs about education in general. I could have hours-long conversations with anybody about any single one of these thoughts about education, but here are a few of my points.
*** EVERYBODY can learn. Languages, economic situation, family dynamics, even those living with severe intellectual issues — all have a learning curve. But not everyone needs to learn what some educational system tells them they ‘should’ learn.
*** Public educational systems are a mess. There are many amazing teachers who do their best, but there are very few opportunities for them to really flex their incredibleness. My favorite educators tweak the system and the lessons “under the table” to teach my kids the way they need to be taught.
*** ALL of my kids have had special education services and I have had to fight for appropriate accommodations and modifications for every single one, over and over again. Special education administrators, at least in a large school system, create an atmosphere of fitting the kids into a variety of programs (boxes) they have created for certain “types” of kids, then push back and even bully parents who don’t agree with the box their child has been put into. If I did not have my thorough knowledge of educational laws to pull out of my toolbox when their boxes are not appropriate, my kids would never have gotten as far as they have.
*** My kids enter school full of anxiety. They have been abused and neglected and hurt in a variety of ways and they do not like the “not knowing things/out of control” feeling that school brings. By definition, schools teach things that the student does not know. But my kids spent years getting in trouble for not knowing or not doing things the right way. The daily atmosphere of not knowing is hard for them.
*** I LOVED
*** My current approach with every single kid is to make sure that they learn how to learn. I don’t really pay attention to what they are learning as far as core content goes. I care that they can learn what they need for their passions. The rest will follow as they need and want it and it won’t be a traumatizing experience.
Those are just a few of my random thoughts. I am currently struggling with programs for 3 of my kids and am very close to homeschooling two of them. They are not learning and nothing is going to change if they stay in their current settings. The problem is that I don’t think the school district has what three of my children need and the fight that it would take to make district pay for appropriate programming while my students stay put would be very, very hard for me and prolong their issues. I may call this year a bust and get them learning again at home and excited about what they can learn here at home, then look at our options next spring for the following year.
In the end….. probably the best thing that has come out of my constant advocacy for these kids in the educational setting is that my children have seen (and do see) me fight for what is important and my grown kids bring it up often… the fact that I worked SO hard to get them what they needed and the trust that built in knowing that I had their backs and I was willing to use my voice AND that they can use their voices, too. What they told me about what was going on mattered and using their voices, even as youngsters, brought about changes for them.
Learning is important… crucial to life. But schools are all total enigmas… every single one of them!
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