Editor’s note: This post was published with permission from my kids.
In 18 days, my kids will officially be done with school.
Yes, we are counting down the days.
One of my kids is supposed to do extended school year (ESY), which is common for some students who receive special education services so they can keep working on skills and IEP goals. At this point, we are not sure we want to prolong the “distance learning” experience.
But before I continue, I want to make a few things clear:
1. My family does not reflect every family that has children with disabilities, or children who receive special education services, it reflects only us.
2. The choices we have made are not choices for everyone — please respect our choices.
3. Early on, our district provided a distance learning individualized education plan (DLIEP).
4. Our district provides an iPad for all students.
5. Our school does not do zoom class meetings. All classes are pre-recorded and teachers have “zoom open hours,” which are optional.
6. Our district is not doing grades the traditional way. My kids are in middle school, so I do not know how this would be different if my kids were in high school where grades weigh differently.
7. I don’t have a full-time job that I have to balance with my children’s school responsibilities. I don’t know how parents working from home are doing it. I have two kids who require one-on-one support, so I spend the morning with one and the afternoon with another.
This distance learning is not easy. At least not for us. I don’t like it.
Surprisingly, my kids have adjusted much better than I have.
The first few weeks were… not good, so we made some changes and I am happy with what we have going on.
I had a “short fuse” when we started this process. All her classes are mainstream classes. What takes most kids 20 minutes to do can take us about an hour-and-a-half to two hours. I was constantly running low on patience. How unfair to her! What she needed most was support.
So we dropped out of several classes. Well, she did.
Yes, any class not considered a “core” class is done, done, done. Spanish, choir, physical education, and study skills. Done. If it is not part of the core curriculum for middle school, we are not bothering with it. Those classes became extra work we had no energy for at the end of the day.
In those first weeks, we tried keeping up with all the work from her four core classes and we were drowning. So we talked to her case manager and asked her teachers to adjust work. While most kids have one assignment a day per class. My kid gets one or two per class a week. That means she has eight assignments at the most for the entire week. That is one assignment a day or two maximum, and she is working about four hours a day to get her work done.
She has a one-on-one zoom meeting with each teacher to go through her assignments.
All her teachers post their lessons via videos (for all students), so she is able to watch the lessons and then connect with her teachers and go through her assignments, expectations, and clarify whatever she didn’t understand.
This is perhaps the best plan she has ever had. She has more support from teachers now than she ever did before.
It is still challenging, but it feels doable.
The special education teacher put together a well organized schedule and sent in worksheets. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we do a math worksheet and a spelling app. Tuesdays and Thursdays we read books assigned to her on an app, and she works on a math app. We journal every other day. For physical education she just needs to move.
She zooms with her special education teacher three times a week and works on math or reading. She absolutely loves seeing her teacher and working with her. Her favorite is to work on reading, so she will now be reading to her aides two times a week. Her choice.
She also has a history teacher who should be teaching all mainstream teachers how to adapt curriculum so it is accessible to all students. He sends us a modified assignment, when we complete it and turn it in, he sends another. In between assignments he emails her just to check in. We have no pressure to “get it done,” but rather we move at our own pace. Some weeks we could do one assignment almost every day, and some weeks mom can only do the bare minimum.
This kid loves doing school from home and has asked for this to be her norm.
Her special education teacher is phenomenal, and the mornings when we zoom and I say, “I don’t think I can do this today.” Her response has always been, “That’s fine, you do what you have to do.” Because we have days like that! Several days like that, actually.
I don’t consider this doing the bare minimum, it is what we can do. And what we can do is working for us. We have also gotten the chance to work on lifeskills, making our own lunches, doing laundry, doing chores around the house.
I refuse to guilt myself into feeling we should be doing more. This plan we have right now is as much as we can do without our time together becoming unpleasant. I don’t want to fight my kids to do work, and I want to be an encourager, not an enforcer. So far, this is working.
Two days ago, as I worked with one of my kids on reading skills, I lost my patience. She cried. I felt terrible. I apologized. She needs praise and affirmation. We can do this. We were done for the day after that.
I don’t know if my kids will be returning to school come September. One of my kids is immunocompromised so we are in no rush to get back to “normal” life.
For now, we are looking forward to the summer break.
My kids will be watching a lot of TV. I’m okay with that. We will also be spending time outdoors in our own backyard.
Let’s connect on Facebook.