I'm thrilled to report that home schooling Annie is going GREAT! We are both still alive and well :) Seriously though, I'm actually quite shocked to say that things are going so well. I've had homeschooling on my heart for years but I don't trust my heart, I'm a total control freak and I was really doubting that this whole home schooling thing was just something else I could control. While that may be true to some degree, it is also very true that Annie's school setting was incredibly unhealthy (a recap here). So, the homeschooling bit won out and I'm so happy that it did.
Annie and I are enjoying a much more relaxed atmosphere and the entire family is enjoying a much happier, calmer household. I can't tell you how liberating it is to not have to research, gather professionals, and meet to battle the school for Annie's basic human needs (which was happening almost weekly). To not have to beg someone or spend the money on an advocate or lawyer to get someone to help Annie go to the bathroom, eat with her peers or .... "gasp"..... spend some time in a gen ed classroom - is not only an enormous chunk of anxiety lifted off of our shoulders but also a very large cost savings for us.
The BEST news - Annie is flourishing! Our family has seen a much happier Annie and screaming fits are at an all time low. Everyone around her has seen a difference, her "buddy" for bible school has noticed a huge change in her social activity and a much better engagement of her surroundings and art projects that wasn't really there before. I attribute a lot of this to her now being surrounded by people who believe in her, people who believe she is an intelligent little 6 1/2 year old girl trapped inside a body that doesn't work.
Recently I have come across 2 awesome things that describe Annie to a T. The first is the picture above and the second is a quote from an article that I recently read about Maisy, a little girl battling rett syndrome: "Information is taken in normally, researchers say, but it can’t come out". Information is taken in normally - normally, did you read that? Normally! That was always the point I was tying to make with people in education. All of her teachers, therapists, social workers, even her advocates wanted to get it through to me that Annie doesn't learn like typical children learn and that is simply NOT the case. This amazing child is taking everything in, she has been learning everything the typical way that any other kid does for her entire life. The challenging part is to get it OUT but it IS going IN! No special teacher, special curriculum needed - solid proof for full-inclusion that was denied to us year after year. My heart aches - not for Annie, she is in a better place, she had a family that believed in her and had the resources to home school her - my heart aches for the kids who are being told they "can't" over and over and over. The kids that are told they have no business being with other kids their age because they have nothing to contribute. The children who are denied augmentative communication systems because the school feels that it will be wasted on them. My heart aches for these kids. I imagine they stay strong for a few years and then they start to give up. If there wasn't a cognitive disorder to begin with on will certainly be created in these very intelligent children that have bodies that don't work. What a shame, what a waste, what narrow minded people we can be.
I'm not only pointing the finger at people in our district, but also at myself. I believe in Annie 100% but she has never been formally taught many things so when I started home schooling her we started at a pretty basic preschool/kindergarten level. We started using a wonderful program that we found online called "Ready2Read" By Annie Moffat. I saw this online and instantly thought - this is GREAT! Colorful, easy to adapt - perfect to teach Annie how to read.
It took us a few weeks in September to actually get down to business, we were busy getting James and Grace settled and then just enjoying some calm time and trying to figure out a schedule - when would be best to learn (turns out Annie likes to relax and nap all morning, come 11am she is good to go). But once we got going it was clear that Annie already knew what I was teaching her. I worked very slowly, the 1 week lesson I stretched into 2 weeks and I went over and over words believing that insesant repetition would be the key to Annie learning. Until one day Annie was irritated, looked at her computer and told me "easy" "slow". I realized then that I was just like the public school I pulled her from. I was using my own doubting and quizing over and over to make sure that Annie knew what I was teaching when all the while she was telling me to move on. Sooo, that's what we've done, we have moved on.
Annie has gotten through 3 lessons in the Ready2Read curriculum and has continued to be restless, so the other day I pulled out a random stack of sight word flash cards, we hadn't worked on these before but she was asking for something more challenging - to my surprise Annie got 10 out of 10 right! Clearly she knew these words. I moved on to addition (we have worked so hard on literacy that I didn't give a second thought to other subjects so we hadn't gone through these either) turns out Annie knows how to add! Smart girl! Smarter than I gave her credit for.
Well, lesson learned! From now on I will be stepping it up with our bright little student. Despite the illnesses that have plagued Annie already this season, our next move is to see if Annie is, in fact, already able to read - and why wouldn't she? James started reading when he was just 3 years old, who's to say Annie didn't follow suit? I will keep you all posted to see how she does! And of course I will be writing more about what curriculums we are choosing and how we are able to test Annie on all that she knows and is capable of learning.
The smartest of minds could be hidden in a child without a voice stuck in a wheelchair. If we don't help get that information out we will be missing out on something extraordinary.