Saturday, March 2, 2013

The School Question

Dan was driving to an early meeting on Long Island the other day, which meant when I dropped Anna off at school, Ethan needed to come along. He enjoys these 7-minute trips, primarily because he usually gets to throw shoes and a coat on over his PJs at 8am and go on a "pajama ride."

I've mentioned before that Anna attends a Christian school (that is attached to the Methodist church that founded it). As Anna bounded up the steps and we were driving away, I saw Ethan noting the school logo near the front door; seeing the cross.

"Why does Anna's school have a church with it?" he asked as we neared home.

"I've told you before, Ethe -- Anna goes to a Christian school. That means they can learn about God there."

"I wish we could learn about God at my school," he said, not so much sad as jealous-sounding.

For a moment my heart was full of so much I wanted to say and things I wished and that realization once again that are times when explaining the way life is may be difficult for Ethan and for us, as he learns more and more about his and our world.

I had an "interesting" schooling that included four public schools and four Christian schools. Dan attended public schools exclusively. I have friends who homeschool or send their kids to Christian or public schools for varying reasons. I am absolutely convinced: this is a personal decision, that there are no absolute right or wrong decisions in this area, and that the right answer for any given family or any specific child in a family could be different and vary from year to year.

When Anna was little, I pushed more than Dan to have her put in Christian school but to keep our options open. So far, we've been pleased with the decision. When you add a special needs child to the mix, things get more complicated. I still don't completely understand the laws, but my basic understanding is this:
- We could put Ethan in Christian school (this is probably the first year I've been able to say he might be able to handle a typical classroom environment without extra supports, with their classes being so small). However...
- We'd have to fight to get him the extra services he needs, like speech and OT
- We'd win the fight but have to have the services provided on the school's terms, meaning, when it worked for their schedule, i.e., in the middle of the school day
- We'd be unable to provide any outside services for him right now due to our lack of good insurance coverage, and most importantly
- At this critical time for him to develop foundations for learning, he'd be taught by people with no or very limited special education/autism background.

And so today he attends public preschool, and he loves it. The thing is -- right now, we love the school situation as well.

Is it ideal? Are there things I wish they would do differently? Of course. I could say the same for Anna's school. But both Dan and I have a peace that Ethan is where he needs to be right now.

There are so many people I am glad we've met, that I know we were supposed to meet.

Ethan's growing in leaps and bounds. Recently his teacher shared an assessment that stacks up how he's doing compared to typical peers the exact same age. In all but three of 50 categories (related to social skills and communication, no big surprise) he scored within age range. In three other categories (related to pre-reading and math skills) he scored ahead of age range.

We're giving him the tools he needs right now. And honestly, I'm thankful because I'm not sure how we would afford to send both of them to a private school at the moment. As for home schooling, including Anna? I have found my kids perform much better academically when they are being taught by other people. If our homework battles are any indication, home schooling would be a nightmare. But I will never say never. Just as we always expect of our kids on the spectrum, remaining open to flexibility and change is key.

"Maybe I can go to Anna's school sometime?" Ethan asked.

"Maybe someday, Ethan," I told him. And I meant it, because who knows? I don't want to slam doors shut and lock them. I just know right now that door is not open.

"Yeah, maybe when I'm in third grade," he answered and bobbed off to the house, the issue apparently resolved.

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