Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Now What?


Ah, Jacob. Is it possible to see your child's future in his three month old face? I swear, I knew I would be right where I am today while pacing ruts in my floor with my screaming infant. I always joked that I felt sorry for his words come back to haunt me.

Jacob is and always has been a hard child. I never realized how much until I was blessed with an easy child. This doesn't make me love him any less, in fact, I probably err on the side of caution and lavish more love on the harder child because it makes him and me feel better in the midst of the many issues we go through.

As an infant he was a colicky preemie. My visions of motherhood bliss quickly flew right out the window and I cried right along with him each day as I was frustrated and frazzled and sure he was going to drop dead at any moment, because holy hell, something had to be wrong with him to cry that much. As he got older, he got better, but he was always so busy and loud and just totally into things....normal for a boy, in my opinion. When he was two I enrolled him in a mother's day out program where he spent two mornings a week for three months. He was a fantastic talker at that point and started telling me each afternoon how he spent the entire time in "the office". After inquiring about this, I found out the teachers refused to work with him and the director deemed him "high functioning autistic". A woman with a GED and no college credit was telling me this. Apparently there was a clause in their enrollment papers that stated they did not have to teach autistic kids. I hit the roof when I showed up on his last day and found a woman from the local college there to observe him, but vindicated when she sided with me and found him to be nothing more than highly energetic. After that fiasco, Jacob developed a fear of women, then eventually a fear of men and then even other children. When it got to the point where we could not stroll through the Walmart without him attempting to throw punches at everyone who passed, we sought help. The woman spent fifteen minutes with him and said he had aggressive anxiety and gave us a list of ways we could help him with that and we did. Over time, we saw a big improvement in his behavior and he can now, most of the time, control his anxious tendencies and his aggression.

Fast forward three years and we have a big strapping kindergartener, smart as a whip, a long way from that wailing banshee of baby days. I am wandering through with my head in the clouds thinking things are a-ok and happy that my kid is doing so well when I get a note from the teacher requesting a meeting with red ink. Uh oh, this can't be good. So two, maybe three weeks ago I meet with her and am told that Jacob is really too immature for school at this point. Although, I wasn't really surprised to hear her say that, it was still a slap in the face. You never want to hear negative things about your child, no matter how true they may be.

Now.........last spring when kindergarten was looming, I brought this up to my loving, yet dense in these matters, husband. I, myself, after witnessing the emotional beatings he took from the more mature kids at preschool and just observing his actions, for oh, five years, felt that where Jacob was five and academically capable of entering school, he was still more like a four year old in his social and behavioral interactions. Husband scoffed and said I was an overprotective mother not ready for my son to leave the nest. I have a degree in early childhood education with an emphasis in kindergarten and a masters degree in special education with emphasis in behavior disorders yet, I am labeled nervous mother by those closest to me unwilling to hear my case. So, against my better judgement I sent him off to school with my head stuck in the sand hoping that all would go well. Now, things aren't going badly, per se, but the teacher is getting increasingly frustrated with his inability to just sit down, organize himself, and work like a five year old. I have been there, man, I was the teacher for many years, I know where she is coming from so I hold her no ill will. She is working hard with Jacob and he is making some progress, albeit small. is my dilemma. Jacob attends private school so he can go only half a day. Our public schools are full day kindergarten and I was able to negotiate with the husband that hell would freeze over before Jacob would be able to sit in a classroom for eight and a half hours a day. So far, I like it, he likes it and academically the kid is doing first grade work and soaring through it. But being a private school, they do not have to promote kids to the next grade if they don't want to. Jacob's teacher has informed me that if Jacob does not mature immensely in the next few months that she would not recommend he go on to first grade. Okay, have dealt with this before on the other end, I get her point, BUT, she agrees Jacob is probably the smartest kid in the class and repeating kindergarten would just be a huge waste of time for him academically as by then he will probably be able to move on to second grade work. SOOOO.....these are my options:

1. I can keep him at the private school, he repeats half day kindergarten and just learns absolutely nothing new but will supposedly learn and mature behaviorally.
2. I can enroll him in an all day transitional first grade class at the private school where he would still be behind the regular first grade class and probably learning nothing new, but may be able to catch up emotionally with his peers since the kids in that class will be the same age.
3. I can take him out of the private school and enroll him in all day kindergarten at our public school where again he won't learn anything new but maybe he will be on track with his year younger peers there.
4. I may be able to get him into first grade at the public school where in the teacher's words, "they will eat him alive" and she still doesn't feel he will be ready to be in school all day.
5. I can homeschool for the next two years until he has matured enough to enter third grade with kids his own age

I, personally, want to try the homeschool approach but my husband and mother and school teacher friends are adamently against it. They believe since he has maturity issues he needs to learn how to interact in school and around others. I think I can cruise him through the next two grades academically easily in two, maybe one year, and we can assess his maturity level at the next year and go from there. No one agrees with me. I don't want him going to school for a whole extra year when he has the skills to even skip a grade. If everyone had listened to me to begin with I would have held him back a year, as the teacher said would have been best for him, we wouldn't even be worrying about this right now. What good are all those fancy degrees if no one believes you have the sense to use them anyway? It's always something......


OneHungMan said...

OneHung feels your pain in this matter. The Hungs just met with the new people that will be working with YoungHung on his hearing. The lady took him into a small, isolated room where there was a two-way mirror so the parents could watch the child's interaction with the lady.

Less than ten seconds in, the lady made her first mistake...she tried to close the door. YoungHung started pointing at the door and verbally gave the lady the business (thank God she couldn't understand what he was saying).

The meeting went downhill from there. As OneHung sat there watching in horror, he realized there is no way this almost three-year old will be ready for school in a couple of years.

Just remember, Sister, you're not the only one. Supposedly one of these says we'll look back at this and laugh.

Sadie said...

Bless your heart (and Jacob's).

I wish I could give you some advice. But me giving advice on this would be remarkably silly and useless.

I wish you luck. I'm sure you will make the right choice. Trust your instincts and do what you think is best, you won't regret it.

Plain Jane Mom said...

I firmly believe that you always have to go with your gut. If you feel good about your choices, they are probably the best ones for your family. Good luck with this really tricky decision!

ChupieandJ'smama said...

This really is a tough one, but it's only November. How do they know that he won't be mature enough to enter 1st grade in the fall. 6 months can make a huge difference in the developement of a child and you actually have 7-8 months until the next school year. I'm not in an educational background, but I am a mom so I understand. I don't know much about homeschooling, but our neighbors do it, and I think you really have to be vigilant with it. Both her boys are extrememly immature for their age and I worry about what/how she teaches them. But I've also seen some homeschool blogs on here, and the moms that are really into it, seem to really benefit their children. Did the homeschooling cause the kids to be immature or were they that way and that's why she homeschools? I don't know. I just know that the youngest is now 5 and behaves more like 3. You are the mommy and I always say to go with the mommy instincts. He's your child and no one knows him like you do. I think whatever decision you make will benefit him because you are doing it out of love. I just hate to see the teachers pigeon hole him get labeled now when he still has several months to catch up. I guess in all my long, rambling writing I'm saying go with your gut. You won't be sorry.

Lori said...

Wow, that's hard Andria. I hate that for you guys!

My initial thought was the homeschool idea before you even mentioned it. That way you have much more control over what and how he learns and you can watch and see how he is maturing. My's not like you don't have the experience to do it, and you DO know your son best. The only negatives I see are (1)the lack of socialization, but you can always plan outings and field trips to integrate that. (2) are you going to be able to manage that with the baby? It just seems like SO much for one person. I would be weary to take that on with such a huge change about to happen in your lives. I know that you can do it, but is it going to wear you out so that there isn't anything left?

Just a couple thoughts to throw out there. I also agree that you really need to follow your gut concerning your kids. Most of the time, us Momma's will be right! :)

(((hugs))) good luck making your decision!

Shane said...

I so wish I would have held Garrett (my oldest) back in kindergarten. We were moving out of state at the end of his K year and I didn't even know that was an option. He ended up getting held back in second grade at my urging. However, as you know he has 3 LD's. Now, he's right where he needs to be and being older than the other kids doesn't bother him. With Jacob I think I'd try option 2 if I were you. Sorry, but I do agree with your mom that he needs to be with other kids for socialization. Homeschooling wouldn't offer him that. I know what an incredibly tough decision you've got to make. Best wishes.

Michelle said...

I definately agree that holding him back to repeat K would be of no benefit to him if he's already pretty much doing 1st grade work. He'll only be bored in that class which would probably cause more behavior problems wouldn't it? If he's bored and already knows the stuff he won't want to sit still anymore than he does now.

Could the behaviour actually be caused by boredom now instead of immaturity? If he's already academically ahead of the class is it an emotional issue or boredom?

If it is emotional/immaturity it won't help holding him back another year to be the oldest in a classroom - he would benefit more from being w/kids his own age modeling better/acceptable behavior. And the school year only started a few months ago - isn't it possible he could be ready emotionally by next school year?

What about the option of getting him a 1-on-1 aide for the classroom? He could have an IEP written up with this specified in there - maybe he just needs someone to give him more personalized attention to keep him on track and settled down...someone to help him focus and stay on task - is that an option?

BethGo said...

I am going through the same thing with my son. He is a July birthday and while he is extremely bright, he is also one of the youngest in his class and we have found him to be emotionally immature in stressful situations.
You know, I was a June birthday and while I always excelled academically, I was socially inept all the way up until college. Sad but true.
They say that "overplaced" children usually do continue to do well academically but they focus so hard on that that their social skills suffer. I know that's what happened in my case.
When is Jacob's birthday? If he is on the younger side, I would definitely go along with repeating kindergarten. It gets tricky when they are older with a birthday in like January.
You already know this, I'm sure.
It sounds like you know that he's bright and that won't change with an extra year or as my friends call it, "The Gift of Time" :).
Can you tell how I'm leaning with my own kid from this post?
Anyway, good luck in your decision. Please know you are not the only in this position.

OneHungMan said...

After rereading your post, OneHung wants to comment further. Three things:

First, OHM agrees with Michelle in that it's a possibility that Jacob is simply bored. Although it's rare for a child to be so far above his/her classmates in intellect, there's still that 1-2% chance that he's special.

Second, Jacob is a male. Chances are he simply can think of many other things he'd rather be doing, and listening/behaving isn't a top priority for him.

Finally, after reading your blog for the better part of a year now, (hell, who knows, it might even be longer), OHM has concluded that you are a very intelligent person. Your posts are always well-thought out, your spelling correct and your punctuation right on the money. Plus, you had like a century of college. For most people, OHM wouldn't suggest following their gut instinct, but you are clearly far more intelligent than most, so go for it.

BethGo said...

You know, I also want to say that you should do what you think is right. I think we as mothers sometimes second guess ourselves. You have the knowledge and academic background AND you know your child. Trust yourself.

kelly jeanie said...

I agree with OneHung, especially the part about you being extremely intelligent and going with your gut instinct. I can't believe your family isn't putting more weight into what you want to do, considering your background.

Amie said...

Like one commenter mentioned, a lot might change before next Spring. Anyway, i'm sorry your not getting more support for what you -his own mother- feel is the thing to do.