I have been agonizing over whether to post this blog post. It’s a question we *thankfully* haven’t had to answer too much out and about as ‘C’ (DS5) is just young enough to not look like he needs to be in school. But it’s a question that comes up every time he is asked, ‘So what school are you going to next year?’
And just how much do you answer? There’s a wealth of difficult decisions over the last 3 years that led to homeschool. Just how much does a random stranger, or brief acquaintance WANT or NEED to know?
So I thought I might just write this out so that it is clear in my mind – in a logical, step-by-step kind of way.
The Journey To Homeschool
C started preschool a year early. This was not easy to arrange – mainly due to the dearth of places for 3 year old kinders in our area, but also because he was a month too young for the cut-off date. So, in order to get our reading, writing and counting almost-three-year-old into kinder, we took him through a batch of testing. This was through the local Uni, at a discount rate, using the WPPSI. As we knew nothing of this stuff at the time, we didn’t worry that he was sick at the time of testing, or that he didn’t want to be there and had to be bribed with the promise of chocolate cake to answer the questions (!). Not good with a kid who quickly figured out that if he didn’t answer the questions, he’d get out sooner.
Even so, the test results came back that he was at least EG, probably PG.
So C went to a wonderful combined 3-4 kinder. It was the right decision, and once settled in, he had a great time. But all good things…
The next year was not as good. They changed kinder teachers. The older experienced teacher left on maternity leave, and was replaced by a younger teacher. The 4 year olds whom C had made friends with left to go to school. And a new batch of younger kids joined the combined class.
That’s when the behaviour troubles started. C was acting out. He did not want to be there. We had shown (and given them copies) of his assessment by the psychologists. They had made all the right noises at the time. But repeated comments by the actual class teachers showed that the knowledge of his abilities (and how to challenge and interest) C had not been passed on – or was being ignored.
Eventually, with the arrival of J (our beautiful little girl), and all the changes that came along with it, we decided it was best to pull C out of kinder, and enrolled him in Karate instead. It was another wonderful decision. He got to interact with kids his age, or older, 4 days a week, got exercise, and learned how to follow instructions. And that’s how we stumbled onto doing homeschool kinder.
But we were still determined to find a school for the following year. This would involve going through reams of paper work to ‘accelerate’ C into Prep, as again, he missed the cutoff by one month.
So started, what proved to be, the fruitless task of finding a school that was able to cater to his needs. We talked to the local school, the private schools, the few distant special-ed schools that catered for gifted students. All except for the special-ed school made the right noises. But we’d heard those before. The special-ed school actively discouraged us from ‘accelerating’ C into Prep. (Despite the fact that he was, at this time, reading chapter books and maps with ease, and doing at least 2nd grade maths – and we had the evidence!)
But when we dug deeper to find out what accommodations the schools were willing to discuss…it grew rather silent. No school would even talk about grade acceleration. Only one school – our local public, was willing to discuss in-class acceleration – as long as C was willing to do the work by himself with no help or support from the staff. Even the pull out programs for the gifted didn’t start until grade 2. And these would be only 1/2 hour once a week. C would go mad stuck with having to ‘learn’ his alphabet and numbers – when he was doing basic algebra at home…
So we decided – we could supervise C at home for his Prep year, just to give it a go. Then we could re-look at school the next year, maybe. Maybe part-time school?
So, inbetween looking after a newborn, and planning a curriculum for our fish out of water, we started to look at what we needed to get a school to let us do part-time school for C. And we slowly came to the conclusion that to have a school treat his needs seriously and make accommodations, we would need some pretty hard evidence. So it was back to testing with our now 5 year old (as a test done when he was 2 was not considered valid anymore).
The Psychologist Blows Us Out of the Water
So using the wonderful forums for the gifted, particularly eg-pg gifted support group, we found one of the best educational psychologists in Australia – Fiona Smith from Gifted Minds. She recommended the SB-V with Extended norms.
She came to us and tested C. Now, we kindof expected the results we got – but…
C tested *above* the 99.99 percentile. Which makes him an outlier on the outliers. No wonder we had trouble with the schools…And then there were the other things – like: we thought C was at about grade 5 level maths – but the assessment showed he was somewhere mid-high school, ditto for reading and comprehension…that socially he was 8 years old, and she had trouble believing he’d just turned 5… the clincher came with the report: C “will need far more
stimulation than is usually given in the school environment. Continued
homeschooling is strongly recommended”.
Which kindof floored us. Finding a school that was able to cater for our little boy, even part-time, was looking rather remote.
So here we are. That is why we homeschool. Not because there is anything wrong with schools, or us. But simply because a school, no matter how flexible, will have trouble catering for the 0.01% of kids like C. Not something that is easy to compress into a single-sentence sound-bite. But for now, we’ll be answering with ‘It’s the best option for us.’ And it is. For the moment.