Thursday, October 30, 2014

Racism, Friendships and More

I feel this needs to be addressed since so many commenters have brought it up. I am in no way at all racist or prejudice. I don't think many know this, but I was born into a mixed race family and was often asked if I was adopted because I looked so different than other members of my family.

I live in a good area. Our school boundary crosses into a very bad part of town. It's a part of town full of notorious gangs and gang violence that occurs on a daily basis. In between, there are very low-income project areas, interspersed with apartments and lower end housing. This doesn't mean that the people living in these areas any better or worse than my girls and I, it means that their challenges, language, economic situation, beliefs, education, and so much more are different - in some cases, so different that making friends would be very difficult. Yes, they'd be school acquaintances, but I'm talking about the kind of friends where you have play dates after school, the parents get together, etc... On my part, it's not about skin color, religious preferences, what brand of clothing you wear, but about the things that draw us toward another person that develops friendships that last - things in common and being welcome in their neighborhoods and homes. I would not be welcome in some of these neighborhoods because I look Caucasian and it would be dangerous for me to go to some of these neighborhoods because of that. In the past, I'd never have believed that, but after seeing how much blood My Firefighter has to hose down from public places in these areas, and listening to the local news and being told to my face by people all over town, I'd be stupid not to know that it's true.

The middle school has a security staff, is totally fenced in with wrought iron, has lines of the walkways that the students have to follow and they say all this is necessary to keep the students safe. I was not even allowed out of the administration building during passing - the reason, to keep me safe, according to the staff. When my new neighbor inquired at this school about enrolling his son, the first question the office administrator asked was if he's white. When my neighbor said yes, the school encouraged him to find a private school, which they did. The reason, he'd be at risk. Physical risk. He'd be bullied at best, murdered at worst. I am NOT kidding or exaggerating. Is this the kind of school you'd choose for your child? Especially if they wanted to put her into classes with children who are ALL functioning at a SIGNIFICANTLY lower level? I'm not talking academic level here because my daughter would probably be the lowest in some academic areas. On the day I observed the class, not one single student could take their folder out of their desk without help! I am not exaggerating, it took the entire class 5 minutes just to take one single folder out of their desks and they all needed help and one boy had to leave the class because he was so disruptive! When the teacher saw the work my daughter did independently that morning at home, she said that not one single student in her class could have done that. NOT ONE. She came to our next IEP meeting and told the team that my daughter's functioning level was way beyond her class and it would not be a good fit, yet the team doesn't have any other place for my daughter that meets her academic needs.

Switching to socialization, here are some things I've found online specifically about making friends:

"A good friend will show a genuine interest in what's going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel about things. A good friend will accept you for who you are and listen to you attentively without judging you or trying to change the subject. A good friend will act in a trustworthy and loyal way, and will feel comfortable sharing things about themselves with you."

"One doesn't necessarily have to have a lot in common, but there can be a common interest."

"Best friends have been known to have lots of things in common--many times it is these commonalities that cause us to become friends in the first place!" This is what I've experienced in my own life. It's our commonalities that draw us to certain people.

I have two best friends, one is married with a family and the other is single. I met them both around age 18-20. My married friend is white. My single friend is black. I have religion and core beliefs in common with my married friend, we share many of the same hobbies and interests, a similar background, but due to her responsibilities to her family, she has very little time to hang out. She had more time earlier on when she had just one or two kids, but it dwindled the bigger her family got. Now that her kids are older (the youngest three match mine in age), I see more of her again - despite moving three hours away from her! My single friend can't sew a stitch, doesn't like crafts, belongs to a different faith, is not a native English speaker, isn't physically active and I am, but she and I have so many other things in common. We greatly value family and believe in taking care of our elders, we have a strong sense of responsibility and we were both on our own at an early age, we love to cook and experiment with new recipes, I learned how to help her with her hair, she learned from me how to be strong and do medical stuff when her dad needed home medical care. Because she and I were single, we spent a lot of time hanging out. That did change when she got a boyfriend and I got my kids.

I am going to share something another mom wrote on her blog: "One part of this journey that is (very) hard is that everyone has an opinion or judges the way we do things.

Just this week her teacher flat out told me that she doesn’t agree with one of the decisions I made concerning Josie and the cafeteria line.

Well, you know what??

I’m her mom. So what I decide goes.

And then at Josie’s IEP meeting this week we were going over Josie’s goals and such (these meetings are so painful) and Mrs. Kline wanted to have Josie go to the “regular” 5th grade art class. The whole “inclusion” idea.

Now imagine me sitting at a table with 3 therapists, a psychologist, Josie’s teacher and the SN coordinator from our home district….so lots of “experts” around little old Mom who doesn’t “know anything.”

Well. I kindly but boldly stated that I did not agree with this decision. Josie already struggles with not being able to do what the other able-bodied kids are doing already. She already puts so much pressure on herself and then for her to be pulled out of the class that she LOVES and can SHINE in to a class of “typical” 5th graders…that just wouldn't be helpful or good for Josie.

And you know what the “experts” said??

“Oh, wow, we didn’t think of it that way.”

“ That is a great point, I can see how it wouldn’t be healthy for her.”

“We agree with you, we will keep her in her lifeskill class fulltime.”

Why, thank you for agreeing with the woman who isn’t an “expert,” who doesn’t have the “degree” but just has some Mama instincts and some common sense to go along with it.

Still not everybody agrees with the decisions we make or the way we do things.

(And trust me, they let me know!)

But I know that I know that we make decisions and do things a certain way for the health of our WHOLE family unit. And also what is best for Josie."

Now how do you think my daughter will perceive herself if put into a classroom as the highest functioning child? Will she feel superior? Will she become impatient having to wait and wait and wait for the class to perform the simplest task? Will she be compassionate? Will she begin to dumb herself down and emulate them in order to fit in and be accepted? We all know that this is what experience and studies have shown time and time again.

How will my other daughter feel if thrust into a class room of children who are ALL so far above her that she won't have a clue what is going on and can't follow due to her disabilities, not to mention functioning and educational level?

I was very lucky today. The school psychologist that I first talked to last May is now at the school that provides early intervention so she covers Apple. Last year, she was at the elementary school that is trying to put Jie Jie into 5th grade. This school psychologist came into my home this morning to start Apple's evaluation since she's turning 3 soon and will qualify for special education services through the public school system. She was kind enough to look at the reports I was given at the IEP meeting for Jie Jie and watch her read, converse with her, look at a sample of this morning's school work, and observe me conversing with Jie Jie and was able to talk to her, herself. She told me that a placement into 5th grade is completely inappropriate based on Jie Jie's scores, that her processing disorder is very apparent in simple conversation and is clearly impeding her and will impede her ability to function in a regular classroom. She said a lot more, too, and told me that I can and should fight their recommendation and not to accept it and that it will be DETRIMENTAL to my child, as will placement of my other child in the proposed classes at the middle school. She is the second school psychologist to say this about my middle schooler, but I already know that for myself.

What I still want to put out there for homeschooling families is what YOU do for your children's socialization.


Lynnea Hameloth said...

I wouldn't worry about the socialization part.(I realize that is easier said than done!) But it just will come. Being a family unit and supporting one another is what the girls need right now.

I always thought my boys "needed" socialized. So we joined a co-op when they were young.
And I wore myself out. Having to plan classes for it and doing all the required homework. And the friends they made were actually bad influences.

So we dropped it and it was the best decision ever.

My boys are best friends, they wouldn't probably say that but they are.

And their brother will be with them for a lifetime. Friends come and go.

My boys can have a "normal" conversation with many different age groups.

My girls have each other and they get along so well. They have some friends at church too.

As long as YOU, as a mom, can keep your sanity and it is a healthy situation for everyone (that the girls all get along) then I would homeschool them. You honestly will do the best job.
And then next year, if it is too much, hopefully you can send them to the private school if you need a break. But it sounds like the public school is an unsafe environment. :( Which is so sad for ALL the children that go there. That shouldn't it is reality.

Josie's limitation are such that there isn't really a question on where she should be placed. But I feel for the parents whose kiddos are right on that line...unfortunately they fall through the cracks. :(

Is there any money in the budget to hire a tutor for a subject or two to relieve you some??
Do you know about Time4learning? I like it for Lena.
Hang in there....and just do what is RIGHT for YOUR family. <3

K said...

I've been looking at Time4Learning. We have IXL math and language and CTCmath and Razkids, which have all been great. I recently also subscribed to a few magazines for the girls, one is about animals, so as we look at the world map and see where the animals live, we can tie it into geography.

I'm feeling very good about my planned curriculum and what you said about socialization is something I've been pondering.

Everyone who tested the girls was blown away by how comfortable they are conversing, how charming and polite they were, and how curious and appropriate their questions were. They said many time that they don't see kids like this any more. This isn't something they came with, it's something I've taught them. I figure if they can communicate well and hold their own in any social situation, the rest will come, especially as their language progresses and their experience.

Thank you for your informative comment and understanding that our public middle school environment just isn't safe.

Anne Krause said...

I am a homeschool mother of six, three bio and three adopted. My oldest daughter, 23, got a full scholarship to the University of Alabama at Huntsville and is thriving. My second daughter, 21, just got married this summer and is in nursing school. My almost 20 year old son is stationed in Germany with the Army. They are all excelling and I attribute it mostly to homeschooling. Our 15 year old son from South Korea was homeschooled through eighth grade - we live in a small town and being the "middle" child of the pack seemed to be floundering as the older children moved on. We have put him in public high school. He is not challenged at all, but is surviving because of his good foundation. Our youngest two from China, ages 6 and 7, are incredibly smart, but immature. Of course I am homeschooling them at their level and they are doing great. For those two we have Wednesday night church activities and have joined a homeschool group this year that meets once a week. It's okay.... But with our older children we did so many things as a family instead of splitting everyone up. They have great memories of those days. I am not a huge fan of transporting kids all over kingdom come - and I live in a rural area - just for certain activities. Remember, homeschoolers need to be HOME!!!! I think the normal interactions you have with society as well as a few structured activities will serve your girls well. If it's working, don't change it!
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
Anne in AZ

Sara said...

I do recall, years ago when my oldest was starting school, a very respected commentator from Focus on the Family-a religious radio broadcast - giving his opinion of the best education for kids of faith: 1) Homeschooling; 2) Christian School; 3) Public school. As a single mom of 4, working full time, I opted for choice 2. He added that you will always probably second guess yourself - i.e, Should I of chosen ....

I've learned to make well thought through decisions and do the best I can. My 4 kids (all from China) are doing great. For my two that were adopted older, I am leaning toward community college focused on their interests - one wants to work with children, i.e, preschool teacher and one is still undecided- but interested in firefighting or being a chef. I will do everything I can to make it happen for them and it appears that you will too.

Anonymous said...

All four of my daughters were internationally adopted. The older two who are now teens attended separate small Catholic schools beginning in pre-K. (One has autism and attended a special Catholic school devoted to kids with learning differences) Although they were schooled outside of our home, most of their socialization occurred as a family. We did many activities together, spent our free time together, etc. The girls have many wonderful memories of all of the fun times they've had. As teens they reminisce a lot about this. They did attend occasional birthday parties or play dates, but they were not joiners by nature and never really pushed to join clubs and organized youth activities.

Now in upper high school (both at Catholic high schools), both very well adjusted, happy young ladies. They each have a handful of good friends and enjoy social activities of their choosing, both still choosing occasional sports or clubs that interest them. They are confident and mature.

I would not worry too much about socialization. Kids pick up an amazing amount even when they spend most of their time out with family. They observe and absorb more than you think. They will still become their own persons, and will benefit from the time of closeness together as a family unit. They need it. They missed out on years of the foundation and security you are now providing for them.

My younger two daughters have Down Syndrome and attend public school in a special classroom. They do attend some "specials" like gym and art with typically developing peers. Luckily for them, they never met a person who was not a friend! They are happy anywhere, and truly do not see the differences between themselves and the other higher functioning kids. They think they are doing everything everybody else is doing. They came home at 10 and 11 years old and are now 13.5 and 14.5 They are the size of 8 year olds, and emotionally at about a 4 year old level. They are extremely limited in academic potential, but that will never even occur to them. I am very lucky to know that they are truly content and happy as long as they are with people who are kind to them and enjoy being with them. And so far that is exactly what they have experienced.

Good luck to you as you navigate all of these decisions. It's not easy being a single parent (I am one too). It's easy to second guess everything you do. But I have learned to relax and be content with knowing that I am providing my children a very safe and supportive environment filled with love, encouragement, and many opportunities for growth. I never compare them to other children, because those other children did not walk in the same shoes early in life. I don't care what every other child is doing. I care about the joy in life and maturing growth that my kids are experiencing. And they are learning and growing just fine. And yours will too!

And for what it's worth I've read (and thoroughly enjoy) your blog for a long time. I completely "get" what you are saying and would never in a million years label you as prejudiced or racist.

Jennie said...

Your blogs are always thoughtful - and I've not for an iota, thought you are a bigot. You have a mama's intuition and are your girls' best advocates. I volunteered briefly as an English/Math tutor at a local public elementary school and fully understand the educational challenges that you wrote about in your previous blog.

You are a wonderful Mom!

Kath said...

Your description of your current reality with public education serves as a reminder that public education varies greatly neighborhood by neighborhood, district by district, county by county, state by state. One families experience can no longer be compared to another's. One nation with a million different educational experiments!!!

It takes courage and perseverance in my experience as a parent for more than 30 years to continually evaluate and find the right fit for your children. It is a continually evolving process in my opinion. Stay the course! Do the best you can with what you have or can afford and it will be okay! Kids need opportunities to experience the world around them, for some that means opening their eyes to education not found in a classroom or from textbooks.

Having just moved to a new community, I struggle with my choice for my two just a few years shy of middle school. For some time, I have felt some deep unrest about middle school bullying, sexual messages aimed at young girls and all the rest that goes along with the reality of our middle schools. Now my unrest has been once again challenged as we live within 5 miles of the latest school shooting, Marysville, WA, and the outcome of four dead teens and the senselessness that it unleashes until it happens again and we ask why, but nothing changes. Again my point being "schools differ, no two are the same, and in the blink of the eye they change and everyone is impacted!"

Stay the course!

Almond Tea said...

First, K is not a racist, people! (for cryin' out loud).

Second, have your girls expressed any interest in anything particular? It's hard because when kids are little you expose them to tons of things and then they start to tell you what they want to do. Dance, soccer, music lessons, gymnastics etc and then they focus as they get older. They didn't get that exposure, although for Jie Jie it's not too late.

For most homeschooling families, I know, by the time they kids get to high school, they are attending classes at the high school for at least part of the time. Most parents can't teach or don't have access to science equipment for chemistry etc. It also makes it easier for them to participate in band, or sports.

Can Sissy ride the school bus to school, take 2-3 "lighter" classes so she can make friends" and then come home and finish the rest of her studies? I get what you are saying about the socialization piece and don't want to dismiss your concerns. You can't keep the girls in a bubble forever and hope that when they magically are able to assimilate. You may need to push them beyond their comfort zone (as well as your own).

K said...

Sissy is the one I'm least worried about!

Lindsey Z. said...

Hi Miss K!
I've followed your blog for a over a year now, but never commented before...I was praying hard for sweet Apple back during her surgeries though!
I'm a high schooled homeschooled girl from Texas. The socializing part is what I get questioned about a LOT! And then what grade I'm in. (and then that blank look that follows when I say 11th & 12th grade. ;) )
One of the many things I do is American Heritage Girls. I don't own if there's a troop in your area, but it's a Christ-centered Scouting organization for girls ages 5-18.

Have a wonderfully Blessed week!
~Lindsey Z.

K said...

Thank you for telling me about your experience as a homeschooled teen and for the link. I'm going to check it out right now!