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A thread for those of us who've had dealings with CPS and want to feel open and trusting (not...

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

I know there've been lots of threads (some started by me) on this topic -- but right now I'm really wanting to focus on moving forward and trusting people again, and feeling relatively confident that most people have a positive impression of my family and me and aren't looking at us as a dysfunctional group of misfits in need of intervention.


I'll start off by saying that my actual two encounters with CPS were not awful, and both ended well, without any kind of a case being opened. The first encounter was nearly four years ago, when my sister accused us of educational neglect (we homeschool and believe in child led learning), and the second encounter was nearly one year ago when we'd been raising freerange chickens, ducks, and turkeys, thinking we were in legal compliance according to the rules dh had read online, but discovered we weren't when Animal Control showed up and took them -- dh had reacted in anger which resulted in the police being called, and one of the officers had concerns because she looked through our open door and saw that our house was a mess, and our girls looked a mess, too, because they'd been out playing and digging in the dirt and hadn't had their hair brushed since the day before.


As I've already said, our actual dealings with CPS in both these cases were really short and sweet, the social workers were really nice, and I was left with the distinct impression that, at least in my state (Missouri), CPS has absulutely no interest in taking children away from their parents and really wants to keep families together if at all possible. But I have still felt some concern that, should there be more calls, we could end up having a case opened, which could result in some interference with our homeschooling freedoms (meaning, our freedom to continue with our current child-directed approach) and possibly with other aspects of our family life.


I really feel that our family life has already been affected by these two visits, benign as they seemed on the surface, because dd1 has been feeling, more and more, that we are not a normal family and she is not a normal kid. The other day, dh took both girls to the doctor for their yearly physicals, and the doctor ended up pulling him out into the hallway to express concerns that are girls were not "at grade level." Since the physical exam was done, and dh didn't want to make things worse by reacting in anger, he just took the girls and came home.


I spoke with the doctor later by phone, and, although our homeschooling was really none of her business, I explained that we believe in following our girls' interests and helping them learn the things they want to learn. I also added that since dd2 just turned 7 this past March, and children in Missouri aren't even required to be in school 'til the fall after they've turned 7, we considered that her formal homeschooling would begin this fall. I said that up until now, we've just been reading to her and helping her pursue her interests and learn the skills that she was interested in learning.


Now dh and I are kind of on tenterhooks about the possibility that we may be getting another CPS visit. I've already changed physicians, and I've also spoken with two friends who are willing to be references for us if it does happen (even if they don't open a case, they always want a reference). I feel like after about one week of not hearing anything, we can rest assured that no call was made -- but, as you can probably imagine, I'm starting to wonder if, everywhere we go, there are all these people thinking we need special help or something.


Both girls are very extraverted and need more contact with the outside world than they can get just by playing in the neighborhood and going to weekly homeschooling activities. So we joined a church about a year ago that we really love, and that also has some other homeshooling and unschooling families. And a couple of teachers have expressed concern at various times about our girls seeming to be behind other kids their ages in certain skills. Another unschooling mom there has said she had to deal with similar situations there when her children were younger -- but this concern seems to have tapered off now that her children are older and are obviously doing quite well in their lives.


Back to dd1, she is old enough and aware enough that she keeps taking all this stuff in and, in combination with simply being 12 and wanting to fit into society, it's just not helpful that she feels like some others are so concerned about us. It's not helpful to isolate her from society either, and she really wants to be out there interacting with others -- but sometimes I just feel kind of bombarded and paranoid by what sometimes feels like a nonstop barrage of "concern." Are there any others feeling this way?

Edited by mammal_mama - 7/27/12 at 11:46am
post #2 of 32
Thread Starter 

Also, how do I learn to stop feeling paranoid when paranoia sometimes feels like such a realistic assessment of the situation?

post #3 of 32

FWIW  - and I haven't been in your shoes - I think 'paranoia' is a realistic assessment of your situation.


To me being paranoid is ultimately making an incorrect assessment of a situation and assuming it is much worse than it is.  But in your case, you've had 2 clear, real-life, facts happen to you - CPS has been called.


IMO being vigilant is completely natural.  I don't have any answers for you except that you seem like you have a good handle on how to prepare for another call,and at the end of the day that's all you can do.  Unfortunately being outside the mainstream means developing a very thick skin.


Good luck mama.

post #4 of 32
To me, it sounds like your older dd is behind where most kids her age are, that she is aware of it, and she would like to be presented with the same information. To me, it sounds like she is asking in the best way she can to be taught. As an unschooler, it's your job to present her with the things she wants to learn.

A child being behind where their peers are can be a flag that something is going on - from vision problems to ld's. In the homeschooling community, parents are often encouraged to ignore these red flags, but doing so can mask special needs. Thats part of the reason why it is a concern to CPS.

How far off are your kids skills?
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 

I absolutly am not ignoring anything my dd says about this or any other topic. She would like to be reading more fluently and easily than she currently is. She does read, and has always enjoyed books and stories --she has a very complex vocabulary; however, up until recently, her desire to practice her reading skills has been more or less sporadic. She has been practicing amost daily now for a few months, and I can see that it's becoming much easier for her.


She does not have trouble seeing the words and has very good vision -- it's more a matter of reading frequently enough, and long enough, that she'll keep increasing her ability to read words on sight rather than having to sound out so many of them.


However, she still does not feel comfortable with reading aloud in group settings -- such as during Sunday School lessons. I spoke with the children's minister when we first started attending, and she said this is true of lots of children, and so they have a policy that children always have the freedom to decline to read aloud.


A few weeks ago, the Sunday School director (who is under the children's minister) came into the room after dd had declined to read something, and she took it upon herself to question dd in front of the whole class about how much time she was spending reading at home, and to tell dd she needed to spend more time. Needless to say, dd was very upset over this, and I was, too, when I learned about it later. I spoke with both the Sunday School minister and children's director, and the minister agreed with me that it was absolutley unacceptable for her to question dd like this; she also agreed with me that any concerns should be brought to parents and not taken up with children.


The SS director apologized and promised that it would never happen again -- but she also gave me a little spiel about how she was a schoolteacher for thirty years and she knows about these things. I've told dd that, in future, if anyone asks her a question that she doesn't feel comfortable answering, all she needs to say is, "Talk to my mom."


I also do not believe in withholding any information from my children, about anything they want to learn about. In line with my desire to provide them with access to information, is my desire to help them interact with the world in the ways that they want to. As a result, I've responded to both girls' desire for more and more interaction with the outside world, by getting involved with church and other activities, such as groups at the library.


This means we come into contact with some people who see children as "grade levels." Since I can't meet all their needs just by hanging out with other unschoolers, I do see the importance of helping them increase their skills in any areas where they feel they want to fit in. I will say that both girls love going to church and are developing some good friendships there. From what I've observed and heard from others, they play really well with other children and are definitely not being ostracized by their peers. The concerns about them not fitting in seem to be coming from one or two adults and not to be any reflection of the other kids' feelings about them.

post #6 of 32
I haven't had contact with cps but I don't think you are being paranoid. It sounds like you are understandably worried but recognize the importance of meeting your kids social needs and are pushing through the worry to do that. I don't know that anything except time can help a fear go away
There are private testing centers if that is something you want to spend money on to put your dd's mind at ease, but some of her worry is probably typical adolescent worry about fitting in and there seems to ale be something young kids worry about when it comes to fitting in no matter where they go to school.
post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tapioca View Post

Good luck mama.

Thanks so much! And thanks for your understanding and support, in spite of not having had this experience!

post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post

It sounds like you are understandably worried but recognize the importance of meeting your kids social needs and are pushing through the worry to do that.

That's exactly how I feel about the situation -- that I just have to keep pushing through. It's good to have a place like this to get support, because I don't really feel like it's such a good idea to talk to very many of the people we know in real life about these concerns. Since it is actually pretty rare for people to get even one CPS visit in their lifetime, let alone two, I think people feel a natural tendency to think, "Well, if two different people thought you weren't doing a good job raising your kids, you obviously must be doing something wrong."


So I feel like confiding in people at church could actually affect some people's perceptions of our children, and I really want people to just see them and get to know them for who they really are.

post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 

Yesterday, I was thinking more about the negative aspects of what we've been going through, and especially how I think it's affecting dd1's perspective on her own life as well as on us as a family.


But today, I've started seeing things in a much more positive light. She is putting so much thought into where she wants to be in life and where she feels her life or skills are lacking. And we are talking about it and coming up with more ideas about how she can get to the place where she wants to be.


On the one hand, I'd rather feel total freedom to just focus on what's right for my family and not have all these nagging worries about how we appear to other people. I realize it's normal to have some natural concern about the impression we make on others -- but for me it goes way beyond "What will the neighbors think?" 


A few years ago, I had actually got to the place of applying the "pass the bean dip" philosophy" to my own life, and to the place of feeling okay about the fact that, no matter what I said or did, most of my relatives seemed to see me as an inept parent. And this wasn't likely to change.


Rather than continuing to try to explain myself and engaging in long, circular discussions wherein nothing was ever resolved and they'd just find something else to criticize next time, I started abruptly changing the subject, and if that didn't work, I'd say something like "Look at the time! We have to go now," and we'd just go. At first it seemed like it was working, but then my sister called CPS and I realized that "passing the bean dip" doesn't work with people who are really determined to try to make people conform to their point of view. Cutting off contact was the only viable option.


So for me, combined with the natural human tendency to want others to like me and approve of me, there's this nagging worry over whether a person who disagrees with my parenting is the sort to just say, "Well, that isn't what I'd do," and then just shrug her shoulders and get on with living her own life -- which I think is really the majority of people -- or whether this person is the sort to try to force others to conform to her vision of "the way things ought to be" (which is, incidentally, also the title of a book by Rush Limbaugh, LOL).


Anyhow, I've been wishing I could quit feeling so concerned about "how things look" to others -- but I've realized that my wish just isn't realistic. I think many parents today have this concern in varying degrees. One of my friends just mentioned the other day that her son got really angry about something and ran screaming down the street, and she immediately started wondering "Who saw/heard that?" and worrying that someone would call CPS. And she's never even had a CPS visit or anything. It's sad because when your child's distraught about something you really just want to focus on what he needs, without regard for being in a public place, but, for some of us, there's this other part of our brain fretting over appearances.


I do hope I can help the fearful part of my brain get smaller and the courageous part get bigger, but I know it takes time. And I suppose that learning to do this in the midst of situations like this one will be a wonderful skill to have someday.

post #10 of 32

This is going to be a novel because I am going to tell you a lot about me so that you can understand why I have the opinions I have. You are not being paranoid. You are being justifiably worried. Your worry is meant to be a spur to action. Some things probably need to change in your life.


I'm paranoid. I have never had a CPS visit while I have been a parent. I had frequent brushes with CPS from the side of being a severely abused child who was never taken away. I'm very mixed on the non-interventionist approach. But I obsessively keep my house clean because I am terrified someone might call CPS on me. I have never hit my kids. I do yell more than I should but I never call them names or put them down. I just have a very loud voice. I learned how to project very well when I stage managed dance recitals of small children. I can project my voice loud enough to be heard over 50 squabbling little girls. I don't even have to try hard. So I think sound like I am "yelling" when I am not managing to sufficiently squash that projecting of emotion. I also have weird food habits because of worry about CPS. I worry about things rotting. I worry about dishes being in the sink for 24 hours. I feel paroxysms of guilt over piles of clean but not folded laundry. I'm really pretty ridiculous.


As a child I moved around a lot. I went to 25 schools before I dropped out when I was 16. I had a burning desire to get away from my family and I knew that traditional high school was not going to work for me. I was on my fifth high school. No really, it didn't work for me. I found an alternative program and I graduated on time. I went to community college and then a state school and got a BA in English Lit. I graduated before the people in my class from high school because I went time and a half. I went to graduate school in English lit for seven years but I left without a degree. I have a teaching credential. I subbed for a while in elementary schools.I taught one year in middle school and three years in high school. I left to be a stay at home. I will be home schooling them.


I will never refer to my approach to education as "unschooling" because I have a formally structured mind. There are things I want my children to know. I think of training my kids as being my job for the next fifteen years (they are four and two). I need to teach them how to be functional adults. That's all I have to do. I want them to have a lot of options in life. There are very specific things I want them to understand and be able to do by the time they are adults. I want them to be able to kiss me on the cheek and say, "I love you mom. I promise I'll call" and leave the day they are eighteen with a fairly full bank account and the ability to be an autonomous person. That's what I'm doing here. 


I'm not preparing them for kindergarten. Or first grade. Or second grade. Whatever. However I am aware that knowledge is cumulative. There are a great number of things that build over time and it's a lot easier if you are exposed gradually over time. I'm aware of the "standards" for each age group. I also consciously spend time every quarter going through what developmental steps they are roughly at. I want to be able to understand where they are and what things best suit their changing needs. I don't have a high enough opinion of myself to think that I can look at them and guess. :) I feel very ignorant and insecure. I feel terrified that I will fuck up and they won't turn out to be functional adults. I uhhh don't have a family history of those. And I have a bunch of insecurity around being a non-working woman in a society that values me not at all. Am I really demonstrating what a functional adult looks like? This keeps me up at night. Am I just teaching them to go find a man? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.


So it's all very complicated. I over-think things. It has been a specific survival trait for me. I was homeless and raped many times as a child. I do not have a good "normal" to revert to. I do not understand what being a child is like. I don't feel comfortable guessing what they need. Thus choosing to homeschool them is a really huge and daunting job for me even though I don't follow any curriculum. Eventually we will get to stuff like biology and higher level maths but it's going to take a long time. But we talk about maths all the time. I work understanding of numbers into idle conversations and play. We talk about biology and chemistry constantly. 


A lot of it is, I'm starting from a point where there are a lot of things I would like to be able to do. I would like to be able to cook and bake and provide food for my family. When I was a kid dinner was Maruchan Ramen. I ate it two meals a day (I got free lunch at school--I ate nachos) during the week and three meals a day on the weekends for many years. I feel very ashamed of my eating habits and palate. It's something I work on very hard. Learning to eat vegetables has been a slow and difficult journey for me. My kids love them and eat them naturally. I feel really embarrassed that I don't like them too. I mask my shame with learning how to garden and learning how to cook these vegetables in ways that I can eat them without actively grimacing. It's quite a journey. But I'm learning about gardening. And I'm doing it out loud because that's just how I think. My daughters are hanging out with me all the time as I talk about plant biology. My four year old can dissect flowers and tell you all the parts because I'm trying really hard to learn it. Blah blah blah.


My kids don't have any idea what they will need to know when they are adults. They just don't. They have no way to. I think it would be mean to expect them to just know what they have to know. I feel like it is my job to present them with as many options as possible. I have no idea what kind of people they will be. I really have no idea what kind of adults they will want to be. But I'm excited and I can't wait to find out. :) In the meantime I'm trying to teach them as much as I can about every single solitary thing in life. I talk a lot. I get hoarse. 


I don't get very long with this as my job. Only twenty years. Almost five years of them are gone. Oh gosh. I feel like they have so much to learn. We have to hurry! :)


All of this to say... if your kids are being told they are behind by people in their community that is something I would pay a lot of attention to. But I'm paranoid. I would freak out. Does that make freaking out a healthy reaction? Enh. :) Not really. What should you do? I don't know. Reading is a huge priority in our house. We spend a really lot of time reading. We do have screen time--the girls have an iPad with Netflix (a pre-screened queue) and a lot of educational videos. They watch a lot more than they should. It's my only down time


Ok. I need to end the novel. I am trying not to be snotty. I am really and truly paranoid. I have known psych issues and that colors the extent of my reaction. So don't take this personally at all. I freak out because I'm me. But I would take that pretty seriously. :-\ I have a hard time feeling like I have the right to "push" my kids and set limits. It's really hard. I don't feel like I am qualified to be the boss. It's really hard. So I read about each stage of development from a wide variety of different perspectives and I try to find what feels like the right approach for my kids. I adapt with them; what they need today is not what they will need tomorrow. Sometimes I guide with a heavy hand and sometimes I back off and let them just run. It's a balance. But I have to have an endgame in mind. I have stuff they need to be able to do in 'x' time. I'm aware of the standards.


It's kind of a balancing act because I don't believe in most traditional schooling models. Erf.

post #11 of 32

Besides things like keeping your children relatively clean and your house relatively organized, which might ease some of your tension, I have one thing I would say: records.


You say your daughter has been working on her reading lately.  Great.  So I would have a little chart or something like that, daily, or weekly, or whatever, and write down what she worked on that day/week.  Just loosely observe your kids and see what they're doing when (I'm sure you're already aware of them anyway) and for how long, and then you can kind of categorize them into subjects.  Write out some learning goals for each subject, maybe together with your kids.  Per semester, or per year, or per month, or however you want to do it.  Make a curriculum, but backwards.  You want to do child-led learning, right, so instead of making the curriculum FOR them, see what curriculum they're making for themselves.  Maybe start now, like say your school year starts Aug 1st, and so here's their learning records for this year.  If CPS comes to you for educational neglect, I think they'd be happy with that?  Maybe?


I'm envisioning something like this... I wrote one up half-heartedly when thinking back on our week in our home, with DD(4) and DS(5).  In fact we kind of had a slow, off week, as I'm exhausted and impatient and set the kids up with way more TV than I would have liked.  It looks somewhat more impressive when written down.


Week of July 31-Aug 1


Reading:  Read together Uncle Wiggily and Friends, Boxcar Children, and several poems about summer.  Discussed what we had read.

Writing:  Practiced making letters, talked about sight words.  Practiced drawing on paper from top to bottom, left to right.

Science:  Daily nature walks; discussed frog habitats; talked about how to tell if eggs went bad and what eggs were; talked about the qualities of mammals (actually we just had a conversation about why humans drink milk from cows, etc, how all mammals make milk, etc.)

Math:  Comparison of prices of same items at different grocery stores; practice with telling time and counting coins.  Manipulatives with pattern blocks, Linkin Logs, Lego's, etc.

Computing:  Learned how to turn computer on and off, and clicking.  (We don't really do computers yet.)

History:  Talked about food sources for previous generations; talked about how processed food is modern.  Talked about how life was like back in the times of Mary Poppins and what things are different today.

Geography:  Learned about various countries due to Olympics coverage.  Looked at maps of our state when we traveled to another city.  Talked about towns, cities, villages, etc.  Practiced reciting our address.

Physical Education/Health:  Focused on large motor skills by crawling in tunnels and lots of dancing.  Talked about different parts of hygiene.

Music: Listened to various classical music during the day.  Kids practiced making rhythms.  Talked about how music and mood.

Art:  Thought about perspective (things look bigger in pictures when they're closer to you).  Practiced watercolor painting on different types of paper.




Incidentally I am also paranoid of CPS.  I am a huge yeller.  I never used to be, but my son has sensory issues and will not listen unless I am yelling over  HIS yelling.  He HAS no indoor voice.  DD group up with him as a close sibling and is just as loud, and DH always has been loud.  So I had to learn to project, and as a result, well, there you have it.  To top it off DS used to scream night and day, no matter what, and we didn't have air conditioning so the windows would always be open.  So he'd be screaming, then I'd be screaming, and it was just... stressful.  We live right on top of our very proper neighbors and although I've tried to be friendly they're not very receptive.  I can imagine we're a blast to live around, heh.  Additionally both kids have gotten out before - we worked on it, but they're escape artists - and have gone to play in the yard etc or to say hi to neighbors without us being there.  (There are no fences.)  And DD has a closet full of clothes but insists on going bare or in her one or two favorite outfits that are quite ragged by now.  (Not when we're out, at least.)  And she takes her hair out two seconds after I put it up for her, so she has a messy mop of curls.  I am normally obsessive about how clean I keep my house and what food I stock, but now that I'm pregnant the house is a mess and we have way too many fast food wrappers around.  Ew.  I'm actually putting the kids in daycare starting next week, and then public school for a few months, so a) we're not all yelling all day and b) I have a chance to clean the house and c) I have "witnesses" that the kids are happy and cared for (i.e. their teachers, etc.).  It is stress...

post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 

rightkindofme, thank you so much for sharing your heart; I can tell that you are truly an awesome mom and your children are very lucky. It's situations like what you went through that remind me that there is a real and valid purpose for CPS.


One thing that's a challenge for me right now is that dd1 will periodically express a lot of unhappiness about her skill-level in a couple of areas, and I will sit down with her and we'll work out a plan for how to work on these skills. But then she loses interests and has other things she'd rather do -- and, up until lately, I haven't been pushing her, just reminding her, but then we just do the things she wants to do at that moment. But then, a few weeks later, she starts feeling upset again about not being where she wants to be in those areas.


So I've become more faithful about reminding her to work on these things -- and also about reminding her that even though she doesn't care about it at this moment, there will come a time later in the month (this actually seems to coincide with her monthly cycle and the days just before she gets her period), when she will start really thinking about these skills again and feeling discouraged if she doesn't see some progress. (However, I did just remember while writing this that she loves making charts to follow, and I think using a chart might feel more empowering to dd than getting the constant reminders). 


Math is one area where she wants to be more skilled -- but she really prefers teaching herself rather than receiving instruction from another person, and she's at the point where she seems to have gotten as far as she can go on her own.


And I noticed that, after a lady in the neighborhood craft group gifted her with some crochet hooks, she went online on her own, googled "how to crochet" and learned this skill by watching a video. She immediately started crocheting some really pretty flowers. Then at the next craft group, she showed her new friend what she'd learned, and her friend explained that she hadn't gotten the technique quite right and showed her what to do -- and in this case, she'd already figured out enough on her own that it was pretty easy for her to pick up the step she'd left off. So I think videos may also be the way to go with math, supplemented by whatever person-to-person help she wants and is receptive to.


Her interest in reading and writing is being helped along by the fact that she now has a couple of friends who want to send emails back and forth, and one of them can write some pretty long emails with some pretty long words, and she's naturally at the phase where she's wanting more and more of her communications to be private and not wanting to have our help with reading or writing any of these communications.


One thing she has periodically expressed the desire to build up is what I think of as rote knowledge. I see it as so awesome that she's such a good communicator and so good at critical thinking -- for example, since the loss of our chickens, she's really been pondering how contradictory it is that our city sees it as unsanitary for us to keep free-range chickens, but it's seen as perfectly okay for the agricultural industry to warehouse them like they do because chickens are not covered by animal cruelty laws -- as long as you raise them far enough away from human habitation, virtually anything goes. However, she is noticing that many adults and kids are a lot more impressed by someone who's able to do things like recite all the state capitols, than they are by a kid who's passionate about justice (of course, I'm sure many adults would be impressed if she wrote a thesis on this topic -- but, frankly, it will take some time for her to be able to do that, whereas she can memorize factoids really fast).


When she mentions wanting to know things like the state capitols by memory, I say that this is certainly something we can work on -- but after checking once or twice to see if she'd like to work on that particular thing "right now" and getting a negative response, I've tended to just let it go because, in my adult mind, I kind of see it as a waste of time to spend time memorizing information that I can access pretty quickly online if I want or need it. However, I'm starting to realize that her desire to be able to recite stuff to impress her peers, as well as any other adults who happen to be impressed by that, is an important key to building her self-esteem right now.


Also, since this is how a large portion of our population measures intelligence -- including the makers of that TV show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" -- and I don't see it as beneficial or even possible for us to move off the grid and start our own little unschooling community, I think it can be beneficial not only in terms of how she perceives her intelligence but how others perceive it. And how others perceive her is simply very important to dd right now.

post #13 of 32
Thread Starter 

Hi tiqa, I love your record-keeping style! I actually keep a log that is sort of similar!


However, since dd1 really is a planning kind of person, I am thinking about working with her to make up a chart of the things she wants to work on where she can mark off what she's done in those areas. Then I can save whatever charts she's completed and store them with my log for each year.

post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tiqa View Post

And she takes her hair out two seconds after I put it up for her, so she has a messy mop of curls. 

Dd1 has very curly hair, too -- however, thankfully, puberty has resulted in a blossoming of interest in personal appearance, so she totally cares for her own hair now, and does quite an awesome job of it.


Dd2's hair is long and only slightly wavy, but it tends to get messy because, like your dd, she generally doesn't like having it put up in ponytails or anything. So I usually give it a good brushing every morning and every night and accept that sometimes it's just going to look a little messy.

Edited by mammal_mama - 7/28/12 at 12:56pm
post #15 of 32

I think that would be a great idea.  And if you keep it all in one nice, neat little file, or binder, or something that you can easily pull out - maybe with a record of some of their work (like maybe photos of the crochet flowers you mentioned) or maybe your DD would even be able to do some sort of informal oral report or presentation on something that she feels strongly about, like the chickens thing...  Maybe you could use your camera or computer or whatever to film her doing a short speech on the topic to document that "social studies" aspect... You know?


The only other thing I could think of is to have some knowledge of what your state considers guidelines for grade learning and see how they compare.  Some states are really specific, others not so much.  If you even demonstrate personal knowledge of where they "should" (whatever...) be at, CPS ***IF INVOLVED*** will see that you're knowledgable and obviously not negligent.  There are kids "behind grade level" even in schools.  As long as they're working towards improvement, they should be fine.  And maybe your DD would be more comfortable seeing those rubrics visually too - see where she should focus her efforts?  Or feel comfortable with knowing that she's even ahead in some areas.  And of course point out what she's doing that other kids aren't...  I imagine that most kids her age don't know how to crochet. 


This series I think only goes to sixth grade (?) but is pretty good.  They stress that they're not the "only" things a child of their age levels should know, but they do include lots of things.  Maybe if you had a shelf full of books similar to that you could also show that to CPS.  Should they ever even get involved.  http://www.amazon.com/Sixth-Grader-Revised-Knowledge-Series/dp/0385337329/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343504926&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=what+your+seventh+grad+should+know


It's weird to have to make concessions on "what if" grounds, but there's no point about stressing about what if's when a few minutes/hours of prep work could save you serious hassle down the line.  Keep good records, have a few books on hand, and then you can worry less about CPS.  Just my take...  The stress of having my kids go to daycare for a bit will be way less than worrying about CPS - for my family.  (And daycare/schooling when you're wanting to homeschool is a lot more extreme than "mere" record keeping IMO!!)  I'm all for minimizing stress whether from paranoia or not whenever you can.

post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 

tiqa, I agree. I think that being able to demonstrate at least a general knowledge of what children at various ages should be doing (according to state standards) would actually be helpful when conversing with any concerned adult, such as the doctor we dealt with the other day.


I also agree that good recordkeeping is essential. In my particular state, though, I think that rather than pulling out records, which I'm not required to show unless summoned to court by the school board, I'd rather just casually show a couple of samples of their work and talk about what skills we're working on. From my understanding, CPS in my state has no legal authority to demand to see homeschooling records or to evaluate homeschooling methods, unless you offer them access to your records or to information about your methods -- but once you offer them, you basically give them free reign to tell you what you have to do.


Frankly, both the social workers who came to our house seemed pretty eager to just tick off all their boxes and move on. They were concerned about making sure that our girls' environment was safe and conducive to good health -- and after reading about rightkindofme's experience, I can understand why they were so quick to determine that there was no need to open a case with us, and to move on. I think they know that there are lots of children who genuinely need their services.


As you can see, I really have a pretty good feeling about CPS based on my two experiences -- but, at the same time, I don't feel any eagerness to add to those experiences. I feel like I've met two really nice social workers, and I think most of them really are nice -- but then you hear sometimes about the ones who take a dislike to someone and seem to be looking for ways to find fault and to justify opening a case.


And while the police officer who made the report on us last year certainly wasn't a social worker, she was supposedly a public servant who was trained to assume people were innocent until proven guilty -- and yet she accused me of lying when I said that the mud/dirt that my girls were covered with was just from that one day of playing and digging in the dirt. She insisted that her own children played in the dirt and got dirty -- but they never got that dirty, so she knew that what she was looking at had to be several days of caked-on dirt.


This simply wasn't true -- and I'm so glad that the social worker, who came so quickly that she saw the girls exactly as they'd looked when the police were there, was the sort who just laughed it off and said she thought the officer was just kind of overwhelmed by everything she was taking in all at once. I'm so glad the social worker didn't end up being a dirt-phobe like the police officer -- but I imagine that there are some sw's who are dirt-phobes.


It doesn't scare me enough to make me willing to interfere with my girls' childhoods, and I see playing in the dirt as a valuable learning experience for any child who wants to do it -- but it just makes me think about how the biases of people in power can affect their perceptions of someone's parenting skills.

post #17 of 32
We've home schooled legally in several states. I see you are in the Midwest. If you are in missouri, which has requirements for the number of hours of instruction, I found it quite simple to stay legal by using a teachers planning calendar and filling in what we and how long we did it, making sure that I accounted for the appropriate number of hous each week.

Having samples isn't what they want ( though I think saving samples is great).

While CPS doesn't have the legal right to demand to see records, they are the screening tool to figure out if you family needs more attention. I can't image why any parent who is providing their kids with an education and maintaining what ever records are required in their state wouldn't do just show the records to squelch the issue.

Also, if you are struggling to maintain order in you house, I recommend flylady.net.

My children now attend school, and that works better for them at this stage. I know that unschoolong works for some kids for at least part of their education, but I don't believe it works for all kids. I think we are better off looking at our children and figuring out what works for them than having an ideology and forcing our kids into that mold.

There is an unschooling board under education here where you can get responses thar are only supportive of unschooling.
post #18 of 32
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post

When she mentions wanting to know things like the state capitols by memory, I say that this is certainly something we can work on -- but after checking once or twice to see if she'd like to work on that particular thing "right now" and getting a negative response, I've tended to just let it go because, in my adult mind, I kind of see it as a waste of time to spend time memorizing information that I can access pretty quickly online if I want or need it. However, I'm starting to realize that her desire to be able to recite stuff to impress her peers, as well as any other adults who happen to be impressed by that, is an important key to building her self-esteem right now.


I know there are videos on youtube that rattle off the states and their capitals in various songs. She might be interested in that, and it might help her learn them fast and be entertained rather than having to quiz herself or use flashcards or something to memorize them.

post #19 of 32
My response is less to the CPS "paranoia" (I think it will just take time for that to wear off - two pretty good scares will do that to a person) and more to the issue of DD1 setting educational goals for herself and then lacking the determination and/or extended interest to follow through. I think another poster hit on it that she is asking in her way for you to help her balance her field of knowledge with her peers. It seems as though it is starting to reach a point at which there is some danger that it may also start to impact her self-esteem.

I think it's important to find ways for her to obtain the peer-level equilibrium that she is seeking. For instance, reading. You mentioned that she struggles with fluency and is often sounding words out rather than recognizing them on sight. At 12, I can see where this would be embarrassing in the sunday school situation you described. I can also see where the practicing (though she wishes to improve) could seem too much of a chore. I know about myself that I'd like to be in better shape. I also know that exercising to so much of a chore that I choose to invest my time in other pursuits. As a result, I am unsatisfied with my body image, but unwilling to force myself to change that. If I had a trainer, though, someone to hold me accountable to my own goals and desires, I expect I would be more successful.

This seems like a situation where you kind of have to reflect on how far you're willing to go to protect her self-government of her education versus at what point you're willing to step in with some directives to help her achieve her goals in the interest of protecting her self-esteem.

I think there are some intermediate steps that can be taken before that point though. Some ideas:

1) Reading below her level. Get tons of books that she can read EASILY. The faster and more easily she can go through a book, the more her overall fluency will increase. I lovelovelovelove children's lit, and am happy to chime in with some recommendations if I know what she is able to comfortably read now.

2) Make those books relevant. Perhaps she could read aloud to a younger sibling (or neighbor's child, etc). She doesn't have to know that this is aimed at her own improvement unless you want to include her in that process. She can view it as something she can do to be helpful to you or a mother's helper type situation. Sometimes I find that including my daughter in the process better facilitates the end goal, whereas other times I find that it produces resistance that wouldn't have been there if she was unaware that my end-goal was educational in nature, So, you just have to judge on a case by case basis, and you know your own DD better than we do.

3) Make reading aloud SAFE. There have been many programs involving children reading aloud to animals. The findings have been largely that children who are self-conscious about their reading ability don't feel those fears so acutely when reading to an animal. Our local library runs programs with therapy dogs (but really they are just the dogs of the librarian workers). The kids read aloud to the pets while sitting with them and petting them. Because animals are non-judgmental, the kids stop judging themselves as well. Perhaps your local library has such a program, but if not, I don't see why the same principle wouldn't be true with any pet that will sit calmly for a period of time. A neighbor's dog, a horse from a field nearby, etc.

4) Make non-oral reading INTERESTING. Change things up. Hand her a book (or a few, depending on level) and encourage her to go climb a tree and read. Surprise her out there with a glass of lemonade or something that makes her feel special. Go to the park together and lay out a picnic blanket (or hang a hammock if you have one). Each of you bring a book. At the end of each chapter she finishes, you can tell each other the most interesting thing that has happened in each of your books respectively. Allow her to clean out the back seat of the car (if it's like mine this will be necessary before she can proceed to the next part!) and then she can bring out pillows, a snack, a flashlight, and create a little club out there - her own little secret reading nook. That could also work in an empty closet if you are lucky enough to have one of those. Have an attic? Put a beanbag chair up there and give her special access if she's willing to bring books with her. Before long, the special feeling of all these extra bonus situations will attach themselves to reading and she'll be volunteering to do it more often.

5) Create opportunity. I'm not sure if you spend a lot of time in the car - I seem to despite efforts not to. Load a basket of books next to her seat, and limit other diversions (no toys or phones or electronics in the car). Boredom will lead to the books that are so handily right there. Pack a book for her when you're going somewhere where she'll have a boring wait: doctor's office, in line at the grocery store, etc).

6) Look to other media. Magazines can be great. Graphic novels. Poetry. Kindle or kindle app (some libraries have kindles that can be checked out). Audio books (I know you're already reading aloud to her, but the more the merrier, right? Plus she could check out the printed copy and read along as the audio narrates.) Do you have an ipad or tablet pc, by chance? There are tons of apps out there that are just fun games to play but that will build some of that core knowledge that she's seeking. Mine knows an insane amount of US geography because of the game Stack the States.

7) Writing. Writing increases reading fluency. Does she have a penpal? Could she create a child account at Amazon and do Kid Reviews when she has successfully finished a book? Does she have a diary to write her private thoughts? Or a journal to document happenings. You could pick a particular topic she likes and dedicate the journal to that: a science journal documenting experiments, a pet journal with notes on their daily or weekly activities, an adventure journal detailing the fun adventures and trips she's had or dreams of having.

8) Set goals TOGETHER. Match her goal. If she's going to keep a journal, you keep one too. Sometimes you can sit down together and write in them, or read aloud from them if so inclined. Other times, you can each do it independently. If she wants to get through a novel in a week's time, you make that your goal too. She'll see you reading your book and it will remind her that she has a goal too. Obviously, you can't do that on all of these things, but pick one, and join her.

9) Maximize your read aloud time. You mentioned you're reading aloud to her. If you're reading mostly picture books, trade off. You read one, then she reads one. Then up the ante, and decide to read a novel together. When you snuggle up, she reads the first paragraph of the novel, you read the rest. As her fluency increases, she picks up the first and last paragraph of each novel. Then, you have a desperate need to get the laundry folded, so she reads aloud from the novel just until you can get through the one basket you're working on, and then you pick up the reading from there. Slowly, invisibly push the envelope. If she pushes back, ease off. Also, while reading aloud to her, it's okay to make mistakes. We all do anyway. Usually as adults, we just brush past them because we got the general meaning of the sentence (incidentally because our fluency is so good that our brain has processed the meaning of the sentence faster than we were able to process the necessary speech), but instead, point out your mistake. Engage her. "Oops, look I said, '[incorrect text here]', but it actually says, '[correct text here]'. Or when you stumble over a word, slow down and sound it out aloud. She'll see that you are experiencing the same difficulties that she has and she will internalize that these are normal challenges of reading, and not something peculiar to her.

10) Lastly, consider whether some testing might be in order. if she has a genuine learning difficulty like disgraphia or dislexia those can be hard things for a reader to articulate and hard for a parent to pick up on. Some testing might shine a light on an obstacle that you guys could then target with the tools best suited to the challenge.

This was long, and is meant entirely in support. I am also a homeschooling mom who believes in child-led learning (and who, by coincidence, also has illicit backyard chickens), so I am not trying to push you toward directing her learning, but more toward facilitating in ways you may not have exhausted yet. Best of luck to you! It's got to be rough to not only not have your family supporting you, but to have them judging you to such a degree that they feel that you require government intervention! Hang in there. Be who you are, unapologetically, and with confidence.
post #20 of 32

mammal_mama - *sigh* CPS is v. unpredictable. I had a wonderful worker, my friend had just the opposite and hers turned into a HUGE nightmare. 


i totally agree with LindaOTM who talked about legalities of hs. I agree with her. they just dont want to see samples. they want to see records of what you are doing everyday. not once in a while thing. 


you feeling paranoid is i think absolutely correct. you have too many people around you who have opinions about your lifestyle. and NFL and AP has been reasons for taking children away. 


so the first thing i would work on is dd reading in front of the ss class. it is unfortunate that your hands are being forced, but you have to keep the potential CPS caller happy. and honestly i dont really see her as judging your family, but really showing a concern for your dd to be on par. and so she blames for you guys not doing a stellar job. or she is concerned your dd has an undiagnosed LD. now i am sure had ur dd been reading even hesitantly once in a while she wouldnt even have raised a red flag. and let me tell you esp. a teacher - reading skills REALLY irks them. 


is there someone else who can work with her. you will be seen as proactive in helping dd. unfortunately teenage years are also the years you will have to put your foot down about certain things - gently. this is a family situation and your dd needs to be aware of what she has to do to make sure your family stays protected. 


my dd is also aware certain things are frowned upon in society. so she never offered information about bfeeding or cosleeping, doctors and a few other things. because she IS in school and doing well CPS has not been called again coz the watchers are happy how things are. 


i think you are being 'watched' not because you have had 2 CPS experiences. but because of the people like the SS director around you. 


sad but true the more oddball off the grid you are, the more trouble just living that lifestyle brings. 

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