Today is my kiddos last day of school. We are saying see ya later to 2nd, 5th, 7th and 9th grade. Yes, I have the trifecta of kids in elementary, middle and high school and next year one of my monsters will be “homeschooled”. Homeschooling is not a decision we took lightly. There are so many factors to consider before deciding to homeschool, the largest being is this in the best interest of my child.
In our case we live in a smaller county in North Carolina and I have a child with special needs. My second son has Autism and since he was 3 year old he has gone to school. In fact he even started out in the country where we currently live. Back then though I was new to the world of Autism. I didn’t have anyone helping me figure things out, in fact Autism was often considered a gray area. I have learned a lot since my son’s diagnosis 10 years ago. I have learned to advocate for my child. Simply if I did not do it, who would?
I can be thankful for being a military family because it has allowed me to see how other school districts in different states work with special needs children. My son went from what I now call a glorified daycare program here in North Carolina to an intensive pre-k in New Jersey. He went from receiving only Speech therapy to Speech, OT and PT multiple times a week. They used ABA in the classroom, Had tons of aides and my son even had his own one on one in kindergarten. My son flourished during his 3 years in New Jersey. His Early Intervention Services there went above and beyond.
From there we moved to Texas. Our transition was tough. It took almost his entire 2nd grade year to update his IEP to a Texas one. I won’t lie, I was pretty frustrated during the process but it pushed me to further research IEP’s and state and federal laws. I ended up becoming pretty good with IEP 101. Once in 3rd grade though his school system had started a program for high functioning kids and by the time we left after he graduated 5th grade we were sad to go. My son was flourishing and doing extremely well in school.
As if transitioning to middle school wasn’t enough the Army sent my husband back to North Carolina in 2013. We researched schools and narrowed down the area we looked for houses. It was harder to find a house than we thought but eventually found our perfect house. We were also back in the school district my older two started school in. Easy peasy right? Wrong. Very, sadly wrong.
We tried, we gave it a good honest try but things just did not work out. I had already planned on 6th grade being a possibly bumpy year but had hoped for better things in seventh grade. What I found were teachers and administrators who were unknowledgeable about Autism and the fact that there is not a one size fits all formula that covers all children with Autism. I dealt with teachers who did not follow my son’s IEP and BIP. My son was even suspended after he had a meltdown caused by a teacher and his failure to follow my son’s BIP. That teacher has yet to say anything to me about that incident and didn’t even go to my son’s IEP/BIP mandatory meeting that was held because of the suspension. That speaks volumes to me. This entire incident was the straw that broke the camels back. This is what brought us to the world of homeschool.
We now had the fact that teachers and administration all agreed that my son would benefit from an one on one aide. Something I had previously requested and was told that there was no funding for. Yes, they really said that. So they were going to work on getting my son a one on one aide. This was back in March and he never received a one on one aide and we never met again to discuss getting my son one outside of one phone call.
The one phone call came from the principal. She was excitedly telling me about this great new program that the Army offers called ABA. Since my son was a military child he could get a one on one tutor with that program. All I could do was shake my head and then explain to the principal who is a military spouse herself what the program actually was an ECHO benefit and what ABA therapy is and how it wasn’t anything new. I also told her I was not going to be using my child’s medical benefits that he may need outside of school for something the school should be providing especially since they agree he needed it. Back to the drawing board she went and the topic was never discussed again.
When the final straw was broken my husband and I decided to homeschool our son. We had both looked into the possibility but it had always been just that. An option lingering in the back of our heads if things did not improve. We knew there was an online public school and as if it were fate it was the last week to sign up for the lottery. I signed my son up just so we had that option and to our surprise my son was selected. I rushed and did all the necessary paperwork to enroll my son. We had our plan. The program, NC Virtual Academy, had the same requirements as any other state public school. Our son had a regular school calendar, he would have to log attendance, school days were 6 hours, there would be structure built in, he would have a teacher and I would only be his learning coach, he would keep his IEP oh and he will do this all at home on the computer. A place where he never had the behavior problems or any of the other issues he had at his middle school. It sounded like a win-win for him.
I waited somewhat optimistically for an update about that one on one aide but it never came. I finally told his special education teacher the other day that he would not be back the next year and he would be attending the virtual academy. The next day at his award ceremony she agreed it would be good for him and understood we need to do what is in his best interest. She also reached out and offered to her help if we need it. She was in tears. You see once you learn my son’s “quirks” he is one of those kids you fall in love with.
Today I disenrolled him from school. It was easier than I thought it would be. They had me prove he was enrolled in the NC Virtual Academy which made me wonder what do parents who traditionally homeschool do? As I was leaving his special education teacher saw me and gave me a good bye hug. I told her I would still be around. I had a 6th grader that would be there next year. Yes, I’m trusting them with my youngest son, well for now.We will see how 6th grade goes. My oldest did ok so i’m trying to stay optimistic. The fault in the school is the lack of support for special needs students.
My reassuring moment was when I was leaving I walked past the principals. Typically someone says something about my son, or has a story, something. There is almost always a something. I was thinking maybe they would say something about that one on one aide but no. So I told the principal of the school my son would not be back and received a rather unconcerned reaction, I was kind of surprised. This was the same principal who called me a couple months prior that was working to get my son that one on one aide. Wow, I didn’t think this was going to be that easy but ok, thanks for making this easy. I knew in that instant I had made the right decision for my child.
So here we go onto our newest adventure, homeschooling. It’s an adventure I never really thought we would take on but I guess, never say never! Here’s to 8th grade and a smooth transition to the homeschooling world!