When we moved to the south three years ago, there were definitely a few fears I had to face. I was up for the challenge and excited about what lay ahead, but being the northern girl I am, there were little thoughts nestled in the back of my mind about what I was getting myself….and my child into.
First came the big fears. My son, CJ, had a hard time being accepted by his peers….and by adults, for that matter…..when we lived outside of Albany, NY. Would he have trouble with this southern move? My husband and I are progressive thinkers in the matters of life, love and faith. How would WE be accepted into this more conservative society? It didn’t take long for those thoughts to be quieted. Within months, CJ had found a couple of true friends and my husband and I had become a part of a wonderful circle of very accepting people.
Then came the silly fears. Georgia has big bugs….and snakes….and tornadoes. I have to say, I have not seen one snake near our home since we lived here (I did see one in the lake down the road, but it was far enough away that it didn’t even phase me). There has only been one bad tornado….and it was about fifty miles away. The bug thing I am still working on. Two and a half years since we moved into our house and I still have not ventured into the attic for fear of an encounter with a brown recluse spider. In three years I have learned to face my fears of the unknown (well, most of them anyway)…..and this week I triumphed over another one….home schooling my son.
Since elementary school CJ has struggled with being in a classroom. His anxiety has gotten so overwhelming that he can become physically ill….nausea, vomiting, chest pains. He was afraid to let teachers know that he understood the work because he didn’t want to be called on. If a teacher reprimanded him in front of the class, he carried it with him every day. His struggles with his learning disabilities and sensory processing disorder has hindered the learning process….especially when he has come across teachers that don’t understand working with challenges. This has all been a part of living with bipolar disorder. This has all been part of our lives since the first grade. This has all been a part of our lives until we decided enough was enough.
In June, my company was forced to do some layoffs…..me being one of them. I seized the opportunity to change some of my life goals by starting my own company. I did so with the assumption that my son would be attending the private school we enrolled him in last winter. Little did I know, on his first day of school that would all change.
We knew going in, that this was a Christian school, but I specifically asked what views they held upon enrollment. I was told that the curriculum didn’t hold any specific point of view and that they had students from all faiths attending. They held up to that for winter and spring semesters. Not so much this year. On his first day, CJ was told he was a sinner by his history teacher because he believes in evolution and that the world is millions of years old. He also got in trouble after that history teacher said God wrote the bible and my logical thinker son said…”Um, no. The followers of God wrote the bible…..that’s why each book is named after them.”. Later in the day he encountered his new biology teacher who literally struck fear into one of his classmates as she reached across the desk to hit him with a yard stick.
As soon as CJ got in the car at the end of the day, he told me what happened and said, “I am never going to be able to speak in that class because I am sure I will be hit eventually”. Looking through my son’s notes that day, the only thing on a page from that class said DO NOT SPEAK….underlined five times. Needless to say, he was a nervous mess. That night, he woke up from a severe panic attack, sweating, crying and shaking. It took him a while to calm down and get back to sleep…….and then he woke up the next day the same way. The next time I dropped CJ of at school, I remember thinking “School should never have to be a place you are afraid of.”.
By Wednesday of that week I had a long conversation with my husband. What if I tried to home school him? I know we had attempted on-line schooling before, but what if I created a curriculum that spoke to him? So, I embarked on a new adventure….trying to build the right curriculum for my kiddo. Something that would teach him life skills as well as academic ones. Something that would engage his interests while educating him. Something that would make him want to learn more.
CJ and I had a long conversation about it and I set forth the rules we would have and the schedule we would follow. We determined to keep the same school schedule he had at the private school, four days a week of class and Fridays would be set aside for any catch up work or course work to help him understand something he is struggling with. He would also be expected to pick some type of community program to volunteer with.
This week we started. As before, I had fears going in. I began with quite a bit of nausea, myself…especially because I didn’t have a whole lot of time to figure out which curriculum program we were going to use….so I created what I call a Frankenstein program….. little pieces of different programs and some of my own. I wanted to start by September, so we began with five subjects instead of the six I planned. I am still working on the curriculum for history and will add that in the next couple of weeks. This year, our subjects are Oceanography, Popular Literature(focus on comic books and manga), Sign Language, Accounting/Economics and Life Skills (my answer to Home Ec). Each day I allow CJ to pick which subject he wants to start with. Our classes are a mixture of reading, lecturing and hands on work so I can see how he learns the best. He has not made one complaint. He has completed every task I have set before him. He even woke me up early on Friday asking me why I let him sleep too late because he wanted to start school.
After the first couple of days, I heard CJ on a telephone call to his grandmother. He made a comment that struck me. He said “I understand what I am learning because when I ask a question mama takes time to explain instead of just reading the same thing a second time like all my other teachers have done. I mean, if I didn’t understand it when you read it the first time, how is reading the same thing a second time going to make it any better?”. Because he and I are one on one, I have the time to explain things in detail to him and to answer all of the questions he may have, which is something his teachers never had time to do. I think this will be the key to our success.
So, we are only one week in….but it has been an amazing week. I wonder if it’s about time I faced another fear and venture into the attic….maybe I’ll leave the light on for a while first, just in case.