Homeschooling Little Bear Now

Hey, I haven’t written a personal post here in forever. Or at least, it feels like forever to me. I’m sure this year has been as crazy and hectic for you all as it has been for me.

It’s been a little over three years now since my youngest son, Little Bear, finally got his IEP at the public school. Last spring he was given a special placement into a therapeutic school designed to serve and educate solely special needs children. I put in my letter of intent to homeschool him on November 19th of this year.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I’m still kind of freaking out. I’m still upset that things haven’t worked out. When Little Bear got his IEP, he had already been held back a year and was barely at mid-level Kindergarten reading skill at 8 years old. He’s now 11 years old and is only at mid-level First grade reading skill.

The gap is widening ever larger and when I brought this up at his IEP meeting this year, the team’s response was they can only work on a skill for so long before they have to move on and cover the gaps. How do you cover the gaps like this?

We’ve been doing remote learning ever since Covid-19 hit. Otherwise I may not have ever seen for myself the problems my son was having first hand. All I had ever been told was that he kept refusing to engage in the most aggressive ways or just sleep in school. His sleep cycle has always been messed up, but I was able to get him to engage during remote learning.

But… they were expecting him to do fill in the blank diagraming sentences – which is fourth grade level material – and couldn’t understand why he was blowing up? I was watching him struggle to use a calculator. I always knew his concept of time was messed up, but now I was seeing he didn’t even have his multiplication tables memorized. And here they were expecting him to work on fractions. And again, they didn’t understand or assumed the protest behavior was willful defiance. Again, how do you cover the gaps if your basics are so poor that you can’t use a calculator properly?

What the fuck were they doing with my kid before remote learning? Oh wait… calling me to bring him home after lunch for behaviors. No instruction was happening at all. So he gets to this new school and they just dropped him into 4th grade material. At this rate, he would never be given the opportunity to catch up on the basic skills he needs.

So I’m homeschooling him now. I can’t possibly do any worse than them at this point.

Yeah, the regional special ed director called and tried to talk me out of it as soon as she was notified of my letter. She had to make sure I understood my son would be losing his spot at that school and if I ever wanted him back in there it meant putting him back on the waiting list. Yes, I was aware of that. But she knew I was considering homeschooling him before she placed him there. The only thing I hesitated on, and the only thing I still worry about, is teaching him how to read.

Once she realized that homeschooling will provide me with the flexibility to work around his very weird sleep cycle that has been on record for YEARS, she backed off. Even she agreed that public school can’t do that and that in public school if he sleeps through the day, it’s a day of instruction lost whereas with homeschool I can make up for it at night, or on the weekends, or on a holiday. He needs to learn that the work, whatever it is, will be waiting for him because that’s how real life is. He’s not going to be able to sleep it away, which is what we’ve been inadvertently teaching him, sadly.

So she told me that his IEP will be kept on file here with the school district until he’s 26 years old. This means a couple of things. It means his IEP is available for review in any state programs he needs. It also means that in the event I decided to send him back to public school, it would be reopened and reassessed. He doesn’t lose his IEP just because I chose to homeschool him.

His tri-annual assessments are now to be handled by the medical staff and his case manager instead of the public school while I homeschool him. He just had one so he’s good until 2023. Legally, his homeschool portfolio doesn’t require an IEP, but I can still build a Student Education Plan to customize his curriculum based off his assessments. In fact, I think it would be in my best interests that I did given the nature of his needs. When we talked about this, the director said she was confident that I have the experience at this point to write a good one for him.

She also mentioned the two most common teaching methods for dyslexia since I told her that I got Little Bear on the waiting list for a clinical screening. One is the Wilson Reading System and the other is the Orton-Gillingham Approach. I’ve already looked into them and I agree with her, that based on his sensory stuff that the Orton-Gillingham may be the right one to go with for him since it uses a multi-sensory teaching method. I’ve found some resources and products already, but unfortunately due to Christmas coming up I need to wait until after I get my gift shopping done.

I’ve decided that I’m going to take a partially student led approach with him. So I feel that his language arts and math need to be dialed back to first grade levels for now to build up those core, basic skills. I honestly don’t know where his math skills actually are, but I think that’s a safe place to start to get a feel for where he’s at. I know he can’t read an analog clock and he doesn’t have his multiplication tables mastered, so that’s what we’ll be focused on. This he doesn’t get a say in. We are working on those basic skills until they’re mastered. Science, Social Studies, Health, and Art, are required subjects in Maine each year, along with Library Skills and PE, but I have no qualms in letting him choose the topics of study. By letting him choose, I can easily pull in the required Library Skills.

The plan is to move forward at his pace, using review only to practice the skills he’s struggling with. I’m equally pleased and daunted by his request to work on a book project. His first Science topic is to learn about composting (which I honestly wish had come up in the summer when we could have done a hands on project with it right here on the farm). He’s letting me pick Social Studies, so I chose learning how to read maps since I know we can pull in a Minecraft project or two into that. And for Health, I’m choosing nutrition since he’s expressed an interest in learning how to cook. He loves to draw so I’m hoping to find ways to use that in the other subjects as much as I can as well as let him have free reign with it for Art.

Ideally, I would like to see us have a schedule of some kind, but his sleep schedule is so messed up right now. For example, he was up all night last night and didn’t pass out until 10am and even now he’s still asleep. Two days before that, he was awake during the day.

If I do come up with a schedule, it will most likely end up being some kind of visual routine checklist without fixed times attached to it.

And yes, I plan to do the portfolio assessment method for him just like I had with Scholar Owl when I homeschooled him.

If any of you are interested in hearing about the stuff I’m trying to do with him as I sort this all out and experiment to find what works for him, feel free to let me know. I’ll be more than happy to share the process.

If you enjoyed this post, or have some thoughts about it, please let me know!

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