The camp I'm most familiar with are the hippie types. These tend to be "unschoolers" and I have to say I often find them remarkably sanctimonious. Their way is the best, and you're stupid if you don't know it. Any questions about Distance Learning will be met with, at best, not so subtle commentary about how unschooling is better. At worst, outright derision.
In a homelearning email group I'm currently stalking, with regard to an article about unschooling, one person said this:
I found it interesting that one of Ricci's kids was allowed to CHOOSE to goSeriously?! And these people wonder why no one takes them seriously. Smoking and heroin is so totally the same as going to school.
to school. At 7.
In conversations like that, I often wonder if their kids are allowed to
choose to smoke, or try heroin. Why not? It's their choice.
And it's all sorts of hypocritical too. I mean, one of the reasons they tout for unschooling is that the child doesn't lose autonomy. But this mother says that the child shouldn't be given the right to choose school. How's that autonomy working for you?
I've decided to do distance learning with Crackle next year. There are a few advantages to this and very few disadvantages. On the advantages side, we have
1) I can keep him safe. The schools pretty much told me they wouldn't. They said that kids eat in the classroom, that's all there is to it. Crackle's celiac disease is so severe that if other kids eat in the classroom, play with a toy and then he plays with the same toy, he gets sick. Because he puts everything in his mouth. Everything. He licks counters at grocery stores and then I have to give him charcoal to absorb the gluten residue.
Also, with regard to safety, they are being all reluctant to give him a full time assistant. Crackle is a hummingbird. On meth. He doesn't stop. He doesn't listen. He can't even respond to his name. In a playground, I have to keep my eyes on him at every second to make sure he doesn't just leave. Or strip naked. Or pee down the slide. Or shit in the sandbox. Or push someone out of the way because he doesn't know that will hurt them, he just wants them out of his way. In a classroom? He'd be into all the cupboards, other kids' desks, all the toys. And then he'd just leave. But he's sneaky. He'd wait until the teacher wasn't looking and then go quietly. I've seen him do it. When I keep telling him "no, you can't play with the barbecue" he waits until I go to the bathroom, then he closes the door so I won't hear, and then he goes and plays with the barbecue. (I've got it very child-proofed, but even so. Maybe today will be the day he gets past the proofing). The school board: "Oh, we'll have to get him an assistant for recesses and lunch". Huh? So I explained the issues, and the looked at me like I was stupid and just a very bad mother indeed, and then went to observe him with his Behaviour Interventionist (I know... stupidest title ever). Of course, he was nice and good then - and he would be with new people around. He likes new people. So they asked her, "How long can he be left to his own devices in a classroom?" Our completely awesome BI said, "Something he likes? 4 minutes or so. Something he hates? 3 seconds. Max." Hahahaha. Their reaction was apparently skepticism. That was enough for me to say, "Nope. Not doing it." They'd lose him for sure. And there are a lot of woods around here.
2) Money allocation. Because we're doing distance ed with an accredited school, they can apply for the disability money that would otherwise go to his school. Then they can let me use the vast majority of it however I see fit, as long as it is going toward his educational goals. So, I set up an IEP with their special ed teacher and then I use the money to hire someone to deliver the program using the ABA principles he's become used to. A pure homeschool situation would not give us that money. And we cannot afford an ABA program on our own. In fact, this won't cover it even close. I may be putting up a paypal link to ask for help paying for his program. :(
3) It's ministry accountable. It's not me fumbling around hoping I'm doing the right thing. :)
On the disadvantages side:
1) No break from him. I know that sounds awful. But you don't live with my kids. I love them to pieces. But Crackle requires me to be on guard at all times. I mean, I keep a constant ear out for him well beyond what is normal. Every little sound sends me running. The dog dish clinks? RUN. The toilet flushes? RUN. A chair moves? RUN. I was kind of looking forward to a sanity break.
2) He likes being in new places and being around new people. He'd really like school. At least, he would if they could keep him from being bullied. Which I can't see. His vocal stim is really hard to take. So I'm going to try to get him some swimming lessons. He's also in a social group on Wed mornings, and we'll just have to take some more of those types of programs.
So it's pretty clear that I'm doing what's right for my kid, I think. I think that DL is great. I think that unschooling can be great, but definitely won't work for all kids (ever meet a kid who isn't curious about anything? I have one. Snap is uninterested in everything. She has never ever had an ounce of curiosity. It's painful). What worries me about it is that it doesn't guarantee a child will get a decent education, and I think all children have that right. I'm not sure how to go about changing that. Fortunately, no one elected me God this week.
Students' education is only as good as their teachers are. I haven't forgotten that people teach themselves either. :) God knows I did!