I’ve mentioned before that giftedness comes with a bunch of “ists” you never counted on: psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, allergists, etc. Truth is if your child was attending all these appointments AND attending public school, he’d miss a lot. This isn’t just true about gifted kids, it’s also true about learning disabled ids. Sometime the appointments come through the school district and I honestly do know someone who took their child out of private school and put him in public school because of the option for speech therapy. I understand that. You do what you can as a parent. For us, managing Pumpkin’s disabilities meant handling it ourselves. It’s expensive, time consuming, and hard on Pumpkin, and it would be impossible to keep all the balls in the air if I were limited by a public school schedule.
Occupational therapy was especially taxing. I can remember contacting my friends at GHF after the first session, because we got outside the door and Pumpkin had the mother of all meltdowns. He’d had fun in there, and not realized, of course, how much that therapy was going to overstimulate those areas that needed work. I definitely wasn’t prepared for it. That appointment was very early. If I’d planned to take him back to a public school after, it would not have been possible.
A lot of my homeschooling friends unschool. We tried that. It turned out to not be enough structure for Pumpkin, and he doesn’t always make the best choices for himself. Left to his own devices, Pumpkin would spend all day on the computer or computer games. He loves to learn from television, but all forms of screen time have to be carefully monitored for him. He gets terribly overstimulated by it.
I can imagine the same would have happened in public school. So often schools turn to the screen to help manage the large number of kids. I can remember going from class to class in high school ending up watching something on the televisions each class had: something about whatever war we were studying in history, a dull video on animals in science (you wouldn’t think that would be possible, but they always found the dullest), then the movie verson of “Hamlet” for English. I can remember one day when I remarked about how I’d done nothing at school but watch t.v. By the time Pumpkin hits high school, the screen time issues may not be so pronounced, but it’s hard to know right now. Screen time has to be kept to an hour and he must get a drink of water before and after and he must have quiet time before and after. Otherwise, he can become a little monster, growling and saying things he doesn’t mean. It’s terrible for all of us, but worst for him because he doesn’t really like to hurt people and he especially doesn’t like to hurt his baby brother. When I try to imagine those meltdowns in a classroom full of kids and where the teacher may not be interested in the cause of this behavior so much as how the other kids react to it — well it’s not a pretty picture.
Homeschool can be a much more relaxed atmosphere. If he’s tired we can start school a little later. Allowing him sleep seems much more important. We can have as much or as little structure as he needs. We can adjust for how we handle things: add a snack break because that helps him, give him regroup time when he’s had a struggle, and fit in the myriad of appointments without having any absence or missed information.
What’s more, I can structure what he’s learning to fit his therapy too. If I notice he’s climbing on everything, I can alter p.e. to be climbing. I can change science to an activity that means he climbs a ladder to drop a super ball. I can make maths be a logic activity that requires him to measure something where the stool is necessary.
I know there are parents that manage disabilities in a public school setting, but from were I’m standing, it seems nearly impossible to do it as completely as I can from homeschool. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, I sometimes feel exhausted or drained. Yes, my child can be a handful. Even so, I feel lucky because I have this opportunity.