Sunday, August 21, 2005

School Yard Fights for Grown Ups

Our educational journey with our children has been quite an experience. We dreamed of all routine schooling opportunities for our children. My husband is brilliant; college educated, and has his degree. I am stubborn, average, college educated, and have my degree. These traits would serve our children well. We had all the hopeful, anxious feelings of most young families. The elementary school was right across the street after all. We didn’t anticipate that we would be trying to educate our children ourselves at home.

Report card evaluations came and went and found the teacher and school officials already labeling my little son. ADHD was introduced to us. They couldn’t sit with him to show him on his level. They did have 22 other children to teach.

We started homeschooling “Punky”, after his kindergarten year. We found he loved to do math, anything with his hands, listening to stories, learn to read. He’s an inquisitive, busy boy who knew no fear. My little “Sami”, (daughter) of course was right in the middle of the lego’s and mud beside him. He is a great teacher to her and us.

By the beginning of his 3rd grade year at home we wondered about his impulsiveness when safety concerns began to surface. He would climb up a tree and then jump (7 ft) to the ground. There were many other situations he found himself in that had us worried. We took him to his pediatrician who did evaluations. After all was done he thought we could try Ritalin and see if it helped him. It did help him to slow his thinking a bit. He was able to read better, stay with his peers in activities, and sit still enough to do his paper work. He still struggled with writing. This year he was almost refusing to write stories, fill out worksheets.

We wondered if he might have some learning disability that we didn’t know about. My father and brothers have learning struggles so for me this was a real possibility. In the fall of his 3rd grade year I enrolled him in the school and then requested that he be tested to determine if he had a learning disability, and what it was.

This evaluation showed that he had struggles in written expression and math. His scores of all the testing, (Woodcock-Johnson - Revised),etc were 2 points under the districts threshold and so he didn’t qualify for any extra help. We then continued teaching at home for a year more.

In Jan. 2003 we paid for and independent educational evaluation, (WCJ-3). We did it this way because we felt the schools had a stake in grading the test high, so as to prevent extra monies being spent on my son. Can you tell I am becoming paranoid and pessimistic?

We presented the findings to the school for re-evaluation. Guess what, now he qualified. We worked out an IEP, and they supposedly made classroom adjustments for him.

That spring we paid for another educational evaluation to done by an ADHD expert, Dr. Sam Goldstein. He told us Punky has a very high IQ and that we shouldn’t settle for poor effort from the school with excuse that he can’t handle the content. We need to find ways he can maximize his learning opportunities in the classroom. He recommended a classroom teaching style that would work to his strengths. Wow, now we were really getting some keys to help him. I was excited. They told me the teacher he would be assigned to for his 5th grade year was a veteran and very patient person.

We scheduled a meeting to give the program to the teacher and explain it to them. They agreed. I thought all was going well until about Thanksgiving. Something (I can’t remember now) made me wonder about Punky’s classroom experience so I planned a visit in his class.

I sat in the back of the classroom for several days and watched their routine. Surprisingly the teacher had not made the necessary modification for him. She had not implemented the program that was agreed to at the beginning of the year, and there were other classroom needs I saw that needed addressing. I took notes and showed her how he might struggle in certain situations.

Well the long and short of it is that for the last 2 ½ years that we have been trying to work with the school district we have made no progress, time has passed by, and so has he. With these past experiences we have little trust in the schools to try to help him so that “No Child Gets Left Behind”. Oh did you know the state of UTAH has rejected this measure of the school accountability and vetoed Private School Tuition vouchers. Hummm, I makes me wonder. Sounds like a secret combination to me, I don’t think Utah wants me talking.

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