School- Choice & Fit -beginning thoughts

I spoke with a friend I hadn't seen in a while and discovered both of us have boys the same age who have struggled in school despite being very bright boys.  They wrestle with writing, struggle to make meaningful connections with other kids at school, and are active with attention and organizational difficulties.  Both of us moms have wrestled with school choices, we have considered homeschooling but that is as far as that has gone.  We live within 20 minutes or so of each other, and our kids attend schools about 10 minutes apart, yet in different districts.  Our experiences in getting our children neccessary help have been in some ways polar opposite, yet we still share some basic frustrations.

When I began this blog, I was frustrated with the amount of effort it took to get my son help within our home town elementary school. Trying to reconcile my experience with my teaching life and concern for the education of our countries children.   I was exasperated that I was constantly being stonewalled or politely ignored till I finally realized they would not do anything till I put every request or correspondence in writing, and made it clear at meetings that I was familiar with the laws.  This was not how I wanted interactions with my children's school to go.  I started off by asking for help and trying to provide what information I had that would be useful to the teachers working with my son.  I ended by insisting that my son be moved to a different school.

After talking with my friend, it is a relief to realize that she did not have to struggle to get the help her son needed at school.  Thank goodness that doesn't happen to everyone.  In her words, "They wanted to help."  There was no asking for help and being all but ignored till she "asked" in writing.  Hmm. . .his school of choice is just 10 or so minutes from the one where my family struggled.   For parents like us, school choice is good.  We are happy that we have the option to seek other options for our kids.  But we also have both experienced frustrations at meetings when we have felt like all eyes are on us looking for answers.  I know, from my experience, a feeling like you might have if you hire a plumber to fix a rusted hole in a pipe, he arrives, looks at the hole, sticks some duct tape on, and then looks at you and says, "What's next?"  Well how the heck should I know.  Find a new plumber I guess.

How many times have people said to me or I to them, "That school just isn't a good fit." or "That teacher is not a good fit."  Finding a good school choice or fit for kids like ours is not like googling "performing arts school" or some other specialty school, especially if we are not able to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one.  If we are lucky enough to find a school that is cooperative, they still may not have the knowledge to provide real help.  If the school "fits" it is still possible to run acrossed a teacher who is not a good fit.  Maybe the school and teachers are great, but the children in your child's class don't share his same interests, they don't click.  Homeschooling is another option, but puts another kind of stress on families.  Time, money, patience stretch only so far, no matter how good the intentions of the parent who didn't ever think she would consider homeschooling.  What would be the perfect fit?  What would be the perfect school for kids who struggle with lagging skills and fly with others?  I will leave that to a future post, because I am tempted to say simply, "Exemplary Teaching."  but something like educating our complex, puzzling, wild, and wonderful children couldn't be that simple, could it?  For now, goodnight.


Lori said...

I am soooo blessed to have an excellent school, with a team that bends over backwards to help us at every juncture.

When we first went for speech therapy, we did not have a "good fit" with our therapist. This mismatch caused me months of agony and self doubt.

The wonderful staff we now have has taught me the right way to do things. You have my deepest sympathy as you struggle with your district.

I admire that you know the law. In our state, if a school cannot meet your child's needs, they must find a place that does. I hope that you have this option open for you.

My very bright son would languish and act out with out proper enrichment and OT therapy. Every day--I emphasize this--every day his kindergarten teacher makes up worksheets for him because he is at higher math/reading level. With the challenge of harder work, he is more focused.

Twice exceptional children need special care. I hope you can work something out.


Amy Boyden said...

We moved my son this year to a place where he is getting the pieces (OT and enrichment) you mention and wonderful results but our home town school is still in charge of the actual IEP which doesn't really cover all it should. I will be curious to see how the next meeting goes, now that he has been in the new place for several months. I do sometimes wish we had started out in a place where they would have taught us what would help, the right things to do.