Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deciding to Homeschool part 4 "The Public School Years" 3rd Grade

3rd Grade...Or Was It High School In Disguise!?!   I'm still not sure...

Sidenote:  I was previously referring to my dear son as 4-LOM (at his request), but it just doesn't flow off the keyboard very well. From now on I will call him my Padawan. If you're not a Star Wars fan you may not understand.. :)

Once again, summer came. We were able to take 2 family vacations that summer instead of our usual one. One to our usually spot at the beach and another one camping in the mountains. It was an awesome summer and much needed break from school. Padawan added a couple of new foods to his very select diet, and matured emotionally in leaps and bounds..or so it seemed. Something about vacation does that to him.

Well, the dreaded school time came around again. With my previous experience of teaming up with the teachers in hopes of staying one step ahead of Padawan, I had mentally made quite a list of things to discuss with his new teacher at Orientation. My husband and I talked to her about him, and I let her know that I checked my email often throughout the day in case anything came up and that I was certain we would be in touch regularly. She probably thought we were overreacting.

As usual, the first few weeks of school went along fine. I'm sure Padawan was observing his new teacher and taking his own mental notes during this time. Dealing with him is like playing a mental game of chess, and he has already thought 2 or 3 moves ahead of his opponent.

Padawan quickly got bored with all the review and repetitiveness of math. This was causing him to do things like tapping on his desk, making noises, and getting up and wandering around the room during lessons. So, began the emails...

I insisted that we had to team up. I let her know that if she could send daily behavior reports, I could back her up at home with limiting his privileges etc. I realized that he was not her only student, and I certainly didn't want special treatment. But I was trying to help her out. I don't think she took me serious. Days would go by and I would hear nothing about his behavior, then I would get an email dumping all the things he had been doing for weeks.

She also had a day that she just loved. It was called Wednesday Writing! Instead of the usual math homework the other 3 night of the week, Wednesday was SPECIAL! Padawan had to write on a topic of HER chosing..complete with a type of outline that she called a 4-square. YAY ME!!!! (In case you're just joining the saga- my son HATES/refuses to write, has horrible handwriting- and now that I know better... I'm pretty sure he has dysgraphia.)

Now our usual battles over homework have become nearly impossible. Threat of imment doom could not get Padawan to write, or if it did, he would always write the opposite of whatever she assigned.

As if that wasn't enough writing, she also had them working on a 5 paragraph essay every week from 4-square to rough draft, then edited copy, then final copy. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

I emailed her my concerns about the amount of writing that she was assigning. I explained to her that I didn't have to write anything like that until High School. She assured me it was the state standard, and that she never said that the Wednesday homework had to be 5 paragraphs.

I thought to myself, "Geez Louise! These kids just learned to write sentences and paragraphs in the last couple of years, what are they thinking?.."

Once again, Padawan's best friend got the easy teacher. I asked his Mom if they were doing anything like that in writing and she said no, they were just writing sentences with their spelling words most of the time.

I was beginning to think someone out there has it in for me. I was a good student. I was a good daughter. I was good at being good. I was the one everyone at school hated because the teacher used me as an example of the perfect student, and here I am dealing with all of this. It was all foreign to me. I was certain by now that I was paying for my husband's raising.

Well, one day the teacher assigns the topic "Why I Am Proud of Myself". Enter chance for Padawan to strike! He totally took this as the time to really get his teacher's goat. Guess what he wrote.... YEP! Why he was not proud of himself!
Guess what happened next.......

YEP! The counselor was called in without my prior knowledge. I was irate! She went behind my back, knowing that he had written the opposite of her topic every time he wrote. She said she had no choice, because you never know..yada, yada, yada. There went my respect for her too.

Well, Padawan's grades were all over the place this year, depending on whether or not he decided to do his work. He saw no point in doing work that he already knew how to do, and he was afraid to do work that he felt was too hard. And he certainly wasn't going to ask for any help.

Suddenly 1 week before the end of the grading period, I am informed that Padawan has not turned in 3...count them..THREE 5-paragraph essays, a vocabulary dictionary for geometry, and a project on Sea Turtles. They were all due the following Monday because the grading period could not be extended.

Let me tell you, it was not a good thing to be around here that week. I came up with a plan. I tried and tried to get him to work on this a little at a time. I think we got the book and the poster done by Saturday- I use the word "we" loosely here. Then it all came down to the help me, I don't want you to help me, help me battle all day Sunday. He managed to get the papers written through tears. He completed two himself and I typed the final draft of the last one for him. The entire time I am thinking ungodly thoughts toward his teacher who dropped this bomb on me, and cursing myself for being one of those parents that gets too involved in their child's  schoolwork. But this little bomb was not ALL his fault!

At some point during the school year  Padawan started doing these weird twitching things with his shoulders and waving his fingers in front of his eyes almost constantly some days. My mom was thinking that he had Torrette's Syndrome or something, but Padawan assured me that he started doing it and it became a habit. He told me that he saw that it annoyed me so he kept doing it and now he couldn't stop. He also started washing his hands so frequently that he developed a rash. I see now that it was due to all the stress.

His teacher was also so OVER his behavior by the middle of the year that she was not able to hide her resentment of Padawan. He picked up on that and was less eager to please her than he ever was with anyone.

Padawan had also gotten in trouble in Music class. The music teacher had not really liked him since Kindergarten, because he would not participate in all the FUN group activities.  He wouldn't speak up for himself when something bothered him- he would just shut down and appear defiant. By now I had been trying to teach him to either speak up for himself (respectfully) or take his punishment. I didn't know what else to do. So Padawan had to copy the entire music dictionary during recess. Well, he took his time and it took him the rest of the school year. But this did not bother him as much as it did me. He probably liked the alone time. (So much for socialization, if you aren't allowed to have free time with the other kids.)

His teacher sounded so concerned that she couldn't find anything that worked with him consistently and that she was afraid she wasn't getting through to him. I assured her that whether or not Padawan was doing his work, that I knew he was taking it all in and he was learning, and that was all I cared about. I even told her that I would homeschool him just to get him out of their hair but I didn't see how I would get as much work out of him as they did.

Around this time my grand-neice was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. My best friend was also having trouble with one of her teenage sons. I told her about Asperger's Syndrome, and we researched it. A lot of what I read fit her son and my son too! I wondered if this could be what is going on with Padawan.

We mentioned this to his Pediatrician. He said if we had concerns, and that if the main problem was at school, then it was best to go through the school to get help. He was so positive sounding! He told us that the school system had Psychiatrists and Pyschologists that were eager to help and it was all free.(And lions, and tigers, and bears OH MY!)- sorry I had to say that...

(Fast forward to 5th grade and we find out just how WRONG he was).

So here I am thinking this is GREAT! There is help! I talked to his teacher about what I have noticed, and that I suspected that Padawan may be somewhere on the Autism Spectrum- she tells me in scripted-sounding-teacher-legalize that if we have concerns we need to see his doctor. I told her what he had already shared with us and she passed it along to the Assistant Principle. They scheduled the school Psychologist to come out and observe him. And she did, and that was that. I did eventually get a copy of the report.

This school year the Standards were really being stressed- I had not heard them mentioned at all during the previous years. The teachers by now had been so programmed to focus on teaching to these standards. It was becoming annoying that with every assignment and activity she would mention to the kids that "this is a state standard...you will have to know this to go to the next grade".
She even mentioned to them what sections they specifically had to pass to be promoted. Social Studies was not one of them. Some information should not be passed onto the kids.

(The teachers from K on up had also been stressing throughout the school year how difficult the next grade was going to be compared to the one they were in. - None of this was helping my cause at all! I was trying to focus om and get Padawan through the year at hand! Who needed the stress of things to come added on top of it?!? Certainly not me!)
Padawan soaked up all of this about the standardized test, and when time came to take the test, he answered all the questions - except for the section on Social Studies. He answered the first question, decided that his teacher did not teach him the answer to the second one and quit the test.



A week before and the rest of the year after the test was over there was suddenly no more homework and all the fun activities began and so the end of  the school year was here at last, and I was contemplating my next move...

To be continued.....



Part 1- Accidental Homeschoolers

Part 2 - PreK and K 
Part 3


Part 5
Part 6- 4th Grade

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