Thursday, 7 August 2014

Are we in school this year?...

Really? Has it really been 1 year between posts???

Well hello world. Many times I've been meaning to write, many times I've been pondering about my relationship with the world, and my role in it, and the place in the world that this little blog has. Maybe I should just take the lot offline. My mind is always flooded with so many thoughts, ideas, opinions. Sometimes there's just too much you want to say, you just don't say anything at all. So I'm not going to fill you up now with all the ins and outs of the past year.

This is the nutshell.

Last year I had a child losing herself at school. At school she was making friends yet understanding people less and less each day, already developing "clique" attitudes that I really didn't like, you know, you work hard for 5 years to raise this wonderfully thoughtful little human being, and then a couple of months at school start wrecking it all. She started picking up so many bad habits and attitudes we didn't like, this is a kid who adapts very well to new environments to fit in. I know it happens to many kids, but just because it does, it doesn't mean I'm going to be happy with it, when I know there's an alternative.
She was trying her hardest to keep up and fit in, following rules, trying to understand what the teacher really meant, trying to understand so many people, trying to understand her role in a big group, and all the time, trying her hardest not to show her multiple idiosyncrasies, not wanting to be seen as "different". So at school she mostly did lots of "bottling up", and not a lot of progressing. We're talking about a child who struggles to understand oral instructions (particularly if there are other sensorial distractions), a child who never coped terribly well with background noises (such as 15 other kids in class chatting...), a child who doesn't like touching certain things (which clearly wasn't very easy in a Steiner based school where there's lots of craft and manual activities...), a child who could already read at 4 and a half.
At home she'd unleash the beast: she was angry, nasty, violent. She couldn't switch off, she stopped sleeping through the night, waking up with memories of the day, just from too much stimulation (social interactions with others are for her extremely stimulating). She started losing weight. She started losing her spark.
So in May, Dan said "if you want to homeschool her, go ahead". Finally he'd turned around. He saw that we were losing our child, and that what we were doing before school was working way better than school.
So I had a chat to the principal in June last year, about this little girl not coping and being very stressed, and whether we could "tweak" the system or if we should just pull her out. The principal looked at me, and said "from what I've observed, and I see lots of kids, her way of coping with stress is not consistent with that of a normal 5 year old". So we decided to give this school thing a good go (Sosi wanted to stay in school because she made a best friend there) before pulling the plug, and went down the assessment path. Because for her to stay in school and get a more tailored approach, or get a teacher's aide to help her, or get anything, the school needs a label or they don't get funding.
Sosi started seeing a developmental psychologist, and after a while we get a diagnosis. One I wasn't quite expecting. Really, I thought she had a Sensory Processing Disorder, or maybe even be a bit Aspie, because really, there's a lot of social inadequacy on my side of the family, and this kids has loads of quirks.
Sosi was labelled as "Highly gifted with an anxiety disorder". Well, I'll be. The psychologist's opinion was that her quirks might be her way of coping with the stress of observing too much, thinking too much, never switching off. And some of the quirks might actually be her way of coping with boredom.
Plus, I might add, having anxiety and depression in her gene pool doesn't help...

I knew what had to be done. The school doesn't get funding for gifted children. I'd have to send extra work for her from home to do. Which I know she wouldn't do because she didn't want to look different, or doing different things, in front of her classmates. And that would just cover the academic side. Then there's still the stress management issue...

So on the 28th August, I registered her for homeschooling, and we slowly started weaning her off school by sending her part-time, as agreed with the school. Do remember she had made a couple of wonderful friends, and she really wasn't ready to be pulled out abruptly, she didn't want to.

Bit by bit, I started getting my kid back. I remember picking her up on the last day of school, in December, and crying I said "it's finally over". By that stage, she had accustomed herself to the idea of being home to do her own thing, and probably also seeing how the rest of the family was happy at the homeschooling idea, she appeared to be happy too.

By the time February 2014 arrived, we were again set in this "particular" lifestyle, but we still wondered whether it was the right thing to do, there was still a lingering doubt, just because the school's program was so inspiring, and the woman who was going to be Sosi's teacher this year was just absolutely wonderful and lovely.
So I had a chat to N, who would've been her teacher this year. I wanted her to know that if we did fully opt out of school, it was not because of her, she was one of the reasons we had that lingering doubt!
I wanted a professional's opinion, I wanted to know whether we should attempt some sort of very loose part-time arrangement with the school, whether we should just take a few months off and return to school at a later term, I wanted to get rid of any lingering doubt I had. Because you always have doubts until you make that one final leap.
We had a lovely meeting, very open and honest and insightful, and after talking about my child, and what we do at "home" (I use it loosely because we learn loads out of the home), and what my child learns for herself, N looks at me and says "By what you're telling, I really think you are providing wonderful opportunities for S and that you should homeschool her this year".

And with that final blessing, and a very light heart, we said goodbye to a system we just didn't fit in, goodbye to mainstream, goodbye to being considered normal ;)

It's been a busy, busy year, adjusting to a new way of doing things, adjusting to our own way, we also had 2 overseas trips... we have tough days like all, but geez do the good days grossly outweigh the bad ones, so much different to last year!

Some kids totally thrive in the school system. Mine wasn't. Mine was slowly dying inside.

This our life now. We are homeschooling. We are happy.

Maybe in the end, I will keep writing....


  1. Sara I have been a teacher for over 20 years and I can say to you, 'Well done!' I really liked the way you gave school a go just to be sure and then did it all gradually. Your little girl is very lucky to have a mum like you who knew that her spirit needed nurturing in a gentle way.Your chose the right thing for your child and one day she will thank you for it.

    1. Sincere apologies for the very tardy reply Kim, where does the time go?? I never seem to have time for blogging anymore.
      Thank you so much for the very kind words Kim, I really appreciate your comments :)