Preparing for High School: Update

high schoolI had heard a lot of things about special ed in our high school, the different tracks, what they can take, where they can go with the different diplomas… I wanted to meet with people who could tell me definitively. And I got some answers.

In essence, we will have to choose a track by this spring, which will determine whether or not The Boy ever goes to a four-year college. That’s a tough decision for any parent of a fourteen year old, I think. And I think if they made general ed parents do this, there might be a bit of “education reform” down here.

There is an “occupational” track, designed for kids who are cognitively impaired, and have IQs in the 50s-70s. They are taught in special ed classrooms (segregated from the rest of the gen ed population), and the coursework focuses on work experience, heavily. If we choose this path, he cannot use his diploma to ever go to a four-year college. He may also not be able to take band, depending on when the core classes are scheduled.

Then there is the “future ready” track which is the general ed curriculum. They have a special ed teacher available to be in some of the 9th and 10th grade core classrooms. There is an elective study hall that special ed kids can take to get homework help. And that’s it.

We could start him in the “future ready” and move him to the “occupational,” but we couldn’t do the opposite. It almost feels like they set them up for failure in the gen ed track with little support, and then when they fail, funnel all of the special ed kids into the “occupational” track.

Everyday, special ed kids are denied taking electives in schools across this country, simply because of their disability. But because most parents don’t care about electives, and don’t fight for their kid’s right to equal access to the curriculum, nothing is done. But this is a smaller issue.

This setup, this all-or-nothing choice we have to make… this is something else entirely. I have a friend whose son is more academically age-appropriate than mine, and he is in the “future ready” track at this high school. His teachers don’t know how to modify his assignments, and he has to stay after everyday to get help from his teachers, on top of the “study hall” he gives up an elective for, so that he can have a special ed teacher help him do his homework. Is this really all they can do? Is this really all there is?

Yep, this southern state sure has opened my eyes to the reasons people homeschool.

UPDATE: I just shared an email exchange with The Boy’s former program teacher who said that the part about never, ever being able to go to a four-year college was absolutely untrue. Good news. But makes me wonder what other information the “transition coordinator” screwed up…


Thoughts on Homeschooling from a Former Public School Teacher

There has been a recent trend, especially for those on the spectrum, to consider homeschooling and online schooling as an alternative to public school.  For the very reason that teachers make mistakes and don’t leave their personal lives at home is why real-live teachers will never and should never be replaced by online classes.  One of the lasting lessons that teaching for almost 20 years taught me was that relationships were everything.  If the teacher and student can build a relationship, the chances for successful learning (by both parties) grows exponentially.  And this is especially true in the case of students with special needs.

However, homeschooling is a different story.

I was against homeschooling for most of my career.  I saw the effects of inconsistent homeschooling on a daily basis.  Mom would get upset at the school for something, pull her kid out, “homeschool” for awhile until she got tired of it, and return him back to public school, months behind, and a behavior problem to boot because he’d been away from rules and routine for so long.  My ex-sister-in-law was a classic example of a mother who “homeschooled” – Her 12 kids “taught” each other with the end result being two boys nearing the age of 20, starting to work as carpenters with their father, and neither of whom knew the correct answer to 8×7…


English: .. Dansk: Naturhistorisk Privatunderv...

I have changed my tune pretty quickly.  Over the past few years, I have encountered people who have the intelligence and organization to handle it, as well as compelling reasons to homeschool.  I was still stuck on the “socialization” issue – how would kids who homeschooled have any social skills if they only interacted with their siblings and parents all day long?  But, I have found that Necessity really is the Mother of Invention, and due to the very real needs of kids with autism and other disorders that aren’t being met by the public schools, some very sophisticated networks exist in our region for those who homeschool.  Co-ops have been formed so that homeschooled kids can get that socialization, participate in field trips, and even have co-curricular activities like band.

And when public schools are increasingly heading toward a business mentality, and one-size-fits-all curriculum, I think this trend will only increase.  I never would have even considered it for my own son, but I look at my skills, and what passes for education here, and let’s just say I am keeping my options open.