Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Homeschool for Bryan Again?

Since Sunday, Dawn Ann has been fighting a cold. She was downright miserable on Sunday and Monday. Yesterday she was feeling much better. (Its a good thing, because we are planning on spending some time in the St. George, and Page, Arizona areas for a 4-day Memorial Day weekend.

We have had some serious concerns about the progress Bryan has been making in school. We received a student progress report at the end of last week, and found that many of Bryan's assignments were missing. We have two problems there. One, that Bryan was hiding the fact that his assignments were missing, and two, that even though we send daily communication back and forth from his teacher, that none of these missing assignments were mentioned until we received the computerized report. The teacher is supposed to let us know if any of Bryan's assignments were not complete for a given day -- so that we would know that there is homework to be done, and so that we could help him get it completed.

We would ask Bryan if his assignments were complete, and he would say that he got everything done in class. With the student progress report, we quickly became aware of both problems. We sat down and had a long talk with Bryan on Sunday. At first he continued to maintain that he had turned everything in. We knew, of course, that this was not true. Eventually Bryan admitted the truth behind his facade. We then proceeded to have a long talk about honesty, and how, in-fact, we were more disappointed in the dishonesty than in the missing assignments. Missing assignments can be dealt with, but a person's character and integrity are far more important.

Bryan's teacher does not get off the hook either. Dawn Ann visited with the principal to express her concerns about not being informed about the missing assignments, as had been previously agreed to. Bryan's teacher is pretty much a Laze Faire sort of guy. He's nice enough, but he doesn't really take it upon himself to help Bryan stay on track. We really should have been informed long ago (at least 2 months ago) about the trend if missing assignments. Also, the weekly planner sheet that both the teacher and parent sign (as part of Bryan's IEP - Individual Education Plan) indicated that there was not outstanding homework to be completed.

As a result of all this, we are seriously considering the homeschool option for Bryan again. Dawn Ann is currently looking at a curriculum from The Calvert School, in Baltimore, Maryland. They have a placement test to help you target the student's level (or where to begin) in the program. They are an accredited institution, with a proven track record (100 years in the business). It is a bit pricey: It will cost about $800.00 for the curriculum. We haven't made a final decision yet, but its a good possibility.

Part of what makes us feel so anxious, is the lack of control in Bryan's education. By the time the schools jump through the hoops of No Child Left Behind, and other federal legislation geared at providing education services for those with learning disabilities, not to mention state laws, and school district guidelines, the education plan can get pretty convoluted. Even when all the hoops have been jumped through, and a plan is agreed upon, there is often times little follow-up, and follow-through on the part of those who are to be providing the educational services. We have found that the specialists seem to do pretty well: The resource teachers, school psychologists, Occupational Therapists, etc. Where the letdown generally occurs is with the classroom teacher. Even with having an aide for part of the school day, the teacher is either totally overwhelmed with other responsibilities, or is sometimes simply disinterested or too lazy to follow the IEP (Individual Education Plan). In the 3 school years that Bryan has had an IEP, we have yet to see the classroom teacher really do their part as the plan states. Unfortunately, the regular classroom is where the bulk of the plan is to take place. Hence, our frustration when we have been assured that this is a good plan, and that it will work -- and find that it is essentially ignored by the classroom teachers.

Homeschooling gives us the option to make sure that things happen. It gives us ultimate control in Bryan's education. It also means that we take upon ourselves the responsibility as well. We would most likely lose the services of the school district specialists as well. Aside from Dawn Ann's health problems in 2003, the main reason we have stayed with the public schools since Dawn Ann has recovered her health has been to take advantage of these specialists. After 2 1/2 years of trying, it just hasn't worked out as we had hoped.

The public schools, outside of time spent with the specialists, are unable to give Bryan the kind of individualized attention he needs. They often do not take his special needs into consideration (although they are required by law to make accommodations). He invariably gets lost in the busy shuffle of the classroom. At one time earlier this year, Bryan was actually hiding underneath his desk on the floor of the classroom to avoid the noise and confusion of the classroom that was overwhelming him.

It may well be that homeschooling is the way to go. We will be making this a matter of fasting and prayer.

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