Tricia at Unringing the Bell posted this week about how to choose between public, private, or homeschooling for our T21 children. I commented that in many communities, special needs children are not welcome in private schools because they are not required by state laws to provide adequate facilities and services for them. Therefore, the majority do not have paraprofessionals or special eduction teachers and therapists. There is one private school in my community and I have been told by a mother of a 7 yr old with Down syndrome that it would not accept her child. In my community, that leaves us the choice of public vs home schooling.
Homeschooling has never been an option that I felt compelled to try. Not because I don't believe that my children can learn and excel in that environment, but rather that I feel they would benefit more by learning from a variety of teachers and their peers. I realize that the education system varies greatly from place to place and that funding for the programs I'd like my kids to experience may not be available. Therefore I plan to continue and broaden their education beyond the school day.
I grew up attending schools on a military base for all but a few years. Many might knock that eduction, but I feel it gave me a very rich variety. I was in an ethnically and financially diverse peer group, yet we all had the military family experience in common. We knew the hardships of being the new kid every three years. We knew what it was like to lose your best friend when their family got transferred. We learned so much about over cultures and traditions, very few had never lived outside of the US. I started learning French in the 3rd grade and studied it for 5 years. Art was always a part of my education. Geography has meaning to a child that travels outside of the city limits.
My sons are just beginning their formal education. This is the first year they are in preschool and next year Aidan will attend all-day kindergarten at the magnet school 3 blocks from our house. Both boys have grown and blossomed in their new school. They are attending the Early Education Center Preschool, the classes are 50% Special Needs Children and 50% Peer Role Models. I have been so impressed with how Sean has adapted to this environment. He is a full head shorter than his peers, yet they do not treat him like a baby. His teachers give him the same tasks and responsibilities as the other children, yet assist him in completing the task as needed.
What I love the most, is that Sean has developed his first friendship with a peer. We have moved and changed our living arrangements so much in his 3 yr life that he has not had the opportunity to spend time with other kids his age before now. He enjoys playing with his brother, cousins and the 5 & 7 yr old girls down the street, but this is his first chance to get to know kids his age.
I had no clue that he had made a friendship already until I took him to school one morning a couple of weeks ago. When I walked in his classroom, another mom was dropping off her daughter and Miss R (Sean's teacher) said, "Amelia has been waiting for Sean to arrive! She wants her mom to meet Sean."
I said, "Oh, hello!" to this sweet faced little girl with long light brown hair swept back with a pink bow. She grabbed her mom's hand and said "Mommy! This is Sean! He is my friend!" Her mom smiled at us and said hello as I tried to hang up Sean's jacket and backpack. Amelia said, "Come on, Sean, let's play!" Sean eagerly accepted her hand and said "Bye-Bye!" to me.
The feeding therapist recently sent home a DVD of her sessions with Sean. She works with him while he sits at the snack table with the other kids. In one clip, Sean has Amelia at his side. Miss R is trying to encourage Sean to put teddy grams in a bowl of applesauce, or to bring a utensil with applesauce to his lips. Amelia gets out of her chair and stands face to face with Sean. She opens her mouth, saying nothing. Miss R says "What is it, Amelia? What do you need?" Amelia opens & closes her mouth again, looking at Sean & he is copying her every move. Miss R says, "Oh! You are showing Sean that you have a teddy bear in there!" Amelia swallows and smiles, "Yes! See, Sean, put it in!" and she pops another bear in her mouth. Sean opens & closes his mouth. Amelia directs "Now you put one in your mouth Sean!" He smiles, laughs, shakes his head and says "no!"
It may not of worked that time, but it is certainly reaching him! I get notes home every few days that say "Sean licked a Teddy Gram! Sean licked a Cheese Cracker!"
This morning I took Sean to school and he has been rather fussy since yesterday. Amelia and another girl were walking on the textured therapy squares together. Sean saw her and wanted to join her, so we sat to take off his shoes and SMOs. He got mad at me for slowing him down with that when he was ready to play.
Yes... public school is the right place for us.