Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why I took my son out of School to Homeschool Again (And why I support BOTH homeschooling AND Public School)



Even before my son was born, I knew I was in for an experience.  He would kick all day and night, and while I was pregnant with him I wasn't sure he ever slept.  And sure enough, his birth confirmed our suspicions.  He inhaled some meconium, turned blue twice, and wouldn't cry.  When they finally got him to cry about 6 hours later, he didn't stop for a good six months.

No, seriously.  Anytime he was awake he was crying.

When that ended, he was often upset.  Loud noises upset him.  Strange people upset him. Crowded places upset him.

You know how they tell you to vacuum all the time around the baby so they get used to it?  Not my son.  No joke, I used my noisy blender EVERY DAY with him in my arms, and for two years he cried every time.  

Public washrooms? The noises were terrifying for him.  And when he finally got past the stage where he wouldn't cry anymore, he would cover his ears the minute we walked in one, anticipating the flush of a toilet or the noise from the hand dryers.

Around the age of two was the year we carried him out kicking and screaming EVERY Sunday after church.  I'm not even sure why.  Too many people?  Too close to nap time?  

And over the years we've had people say things.  I was told he had a rebellious spirit at the age of one because he touched everything.  I had people look at his tantrums and point out to me that he cried over everything.  I've had people laugh when he would cry as they talked to him.  I've been told he was "playing me" as a screaming three month old.

I knew he was struggling.  For many years I didn't have a name for it, but I knew it went beyond the typical normal tantrums.  We had taken him to occupational therapy and to a pediatrician for help. They labeled him ADHD.  I didn't feel like that was an accurate diagnosis for him. At his age we all agreed no medication was the right choice.  But I still felt we were missing something.

Because of this, it came naturally that we would homeschool him.  And we did for two years (and his sister for four.) But my health was struggling, so I decided this year I would put him in school.  

But in the end, that just made things worse.  For most of the 6 months he was in school he would cry as I dropped him off.  He had the sweetest teacher, and excelled at work, but his anxiety was at an all time high.

And there it was.  I finally realized exactly what he struggled with.  

Anxiety and hypersensitivity.

And then I realized that I struggled with that too.  And not just as an adult, but my whole life.  I started to look back on my childhood and understand different things that occurred, different things I felt, and why I spent much of my life with stomachaches and headaches.

Even knowing this, I tried to push through with school for my son. I didn't want him to let the anxiety win. But after six months it was apparent that it was getting worse.  As he struggled, I watched my daughter thrive in school.  Their experiences were so different!

The truth about anxiety? It doesn't just "go away".  You can't just do the same thing over and over and expect that one day you won't feel anxious.  Anxiety sufferers need to learn coping mechanisms, and way to manage their anxiety in those situations.  I believe that comes with feeling secure, with age, and with experience.  

I started to pinpoint some of the reasons he was anxious.  I discovered the noise level at school, being surrounded by a LOT of other kids, and being away from family were all factors.  While these situations are not entirely avoidable in life, I felt that my son needed smaller, baby steps into conquering his anxieties and learning to cope.  After all, he was just a six year old little boy. 
Me with the boy.  No anxiety when he is out in nature!

While I know there are many who will disagree with me, I felt that I was trying to "teach him to swim by throwing him into the deep end."  It just wasn't sitting well with me.  After awhile he wasn't the only one with anxiety.  I had anxiety too at how he would react when I dropped him off and walked away from him while he cried.  It never got easier, if anything, it got harder for both of us.

What I discovered is that you can send your child to one of the best schools in the area, he can have what you believe is the best teacher in the school, along with some of the best families you know, but it doesn't mean he will thrive.  I know this because my son had an amazing teacher, a great school, and wonderful classmates.  But he still struggled.  Why?  Because each child is unique and different.  The "one size fits all" education doesn't necessarily work for everyone.  And it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with my child.  Or yours.  It means that a different approach may work better for him.

I am excited to watch my son feel more at ease soon.  And as I teach him at home, my daughter who is thriving at school will continue to go.  My choice is the right choice for my family.  Every family has to decide what is best for them and their children.  I am for homeschooling.  I am for public school. I am for private school and Catholic school and Christian school. I see benefits to all.   But more importantly, what I see in most  cases is parents and teachers who have huge hearts for the children they teach, whether it be at home or school.  We are all aiming for the same thing - to raise well-rounded, happy, and educated children, so instead of declaring one is better than the other, can't we just decide we are all aiming for the same outcome?  It's time to support and encourage one another in our decisions to educate and raise our children, and not try and prove that one way is better for everyone.  It's time to walk alongside our friends and loved ones and raise each other up as we work hard to make the best choices for our little ones.



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