I am seriously thinking of school lately and before I throw the towel in I want to exhaust every avenue of support. My heart has always said to home educate and to unschool but the day to day reality...phew, exhausting. I'm a single mom working flexibly for myself 2 days a week and do use some childcare plus my son is at his dad's once or twice a week (who is anti home-ed which doesn't help), but I still find looking after my son totally emotionally draining. It's fine when we're at groups which we often are but often he wants to have an 'at home' day which I usually go with as it's of course one of the advantages of unschooling, that flexibility, but then when we're at home I find the one to one dynamic so intense. He is nearly 5 1/2 but he has emotional upsets several times an hour about various things - anything not being 'perfect', to the point where I sometimes wonder if he's on some sort of autistic spectrum (although he has no problem socialising). I've read books like 'Raising your spirited child' and they help to an extent but sometimes I just don't feel I have the skills, patience or energy to do this on my own (and people often comment how patient i am, but inside I am struggling). He has to have everything a certain way or he gets upset; he is bossy, demanding and controlling of my every move and behaviour. He is almost constantly needing emotional containment, calming down, of some kind, and to make matters harder he often directs his anger and frustration at me. I am also struggling to get everything I need done work wise (still building up/.establishing my business), personal care (exercise/food shop/housework etc) done in the 2 days a week I have childcare, and feel very exhausted most of the time. School gives me the serious heeby-jeeby's to think about though, so I feel torn. We've only been home ed'ing since the summer so part of me says to stick it out and give it longer, but it is also the time to apply for new schools now as places are filling up, so I'm wondering. I know this forum can't recommend/advise school, but just asking for some support/advice from those with similar temperamented children who've BTDT, or anyone who can relate really! thank you so much.
I was so looking forward to putting my challenging child in school and getting a break when he was younger, lol. But it made him so much more challenging! Everything ended up revolving around getting him in a good place to go to school (well rested and fed) and to recover from being at school (helping him deal emotionally and intellectually with arbitrary rules and injustice, being manipulated, etc). Turns out, sending him to school really compounded everything that was challenging about him. And much of his challenges are much easier now that he is older. 5 is still very very young. He isn't mature enough to decide homeschooling can't work because of his behavior. That's not to say that you don't need breaks from him, just that school might not be the best way. But then again, maybe it is. I don't know you or your child;-) It was just a very bad experience for mine and I sent him to a well reputed private school that talked a lot of talk about using positive language and having a nurturing environment.
Thanks for this...I had wondered this myself, if school might just compound things, especially as he is quite easily over stimulated and then needs a lot of support to calm down. Even just going to home ed groups can end up being very stimulating for him. I am feeling better since i posted - think just getting it out helped! I think we've just been through a very challenging time with moving house just under 3 weeks ago, to a new town as well as new house, and all the travelling to and from our old town for him to still be able to see his friends (and me mine) and to see his dad is taking its toll. I have made some headway with organising stuff for us to do with other home ed'ers (and schoolers) in our new town in the next week, and for the old town friends to visit which feels really positive. Sometimes I need to hit a rock bottom to go up again! I think, 4evermom, you're right: i need more breaks but I need to think a bit more laterally to find that support rather than going to school for it - I think it will be just exchanging one set of probs for another. I'd still welcome any advice on dealing better with challenges from anyone, thank you :)
I'm wondering if he can be helped by dietary changes. As a start, I'd drastically reduce sugar. See of his mood improves.
He has been high needs his entire life, it was just a bit easier to manage when he was a baby and toddler because breastfeeding and slingwearing helped a huge amount. I do think about diet periodically, thanks for the suggestion, and I rarely let him have sugar, but his dad and grandparents ply him with all the 'wrong foods' - crisps, sweets etc - and there is nothing i can do about it since they won't accept anything but a doctor's diagnosis as proof that dietary factors play a role. I guess all I can do is minimise things when he's with me which is most of the time.
Hi mama! Huge hugs to you. I have high maintenance kiddos too and its totally exhausting sometimes. But I agree with the PP that school compounded things enormously. School is very, very hard for kids like this. I did it for a long time because I didn't know there was another way! We are new to unschooling (8 months now!) but have been headed to this road for several years, mainly as a I questioned the effect school was having on my most sensitive son. As pp said, it is you that will have to deal with the daily fall-out of school related stresses. School is not a break for him, from the moment he enters till the moment he leaves he will be expected to absorb information and perform tasks. Modern Kindergarten is nothing like it once was....painting and playing with blocks and story time. Thats up to the preschools now. How do I know this? I was a Pre-K teacher in public schools for 4 years. I talked one on one with K teachers to find out how best to prepare students for Kindergarten. You would be astounded at what they expect of a 6 year old kid.
I totally get how burned-out you can get from dealing with a challenging kid 24/7. Finding support is important and so hard in our culture where we are all divided into our separate boxes . You mentioned that you sometimes suspect he may be on the spectrum...would it help you cope better with him if you knew? My high-need kids are on the spectrum, to various degrees. I raised them almost to teen years before I knew. Looking back, I can see how it might have helped me if I had known earlier, if nothing else than I would have just been able to cut myself some slack. I was always just so frustrated and exhausted and wondering why my kids didn't respond to my wonderful parenting the way they should, LOL. Well, now I know. It does help me to relate to them a little better now. I know a bit more about when to push and when to back off. I know the why's behind their behavior (at least sometimes!). But does it change how hard they are to deal with? Nope. They drive me freaking batty some days! But I know home is better for them. School is nightmare for most kids on the spectrum/ADHD/SPD/spirited/sensitive. Not only is it total sensory overload (have you ever been in a cafeteria at lunch time?!? Smelly food and yelly kids - not fun!) but the social pressures can be intense especially in the older grades. And TBH most of these kids tend to be really smart, which also makes traditional school hard. We are homeschooling almost entirely because in 5th grade my 11 year old had a nervous breakdown related to school. No bullies, no mean teachers, but he just could not deal one more moment with the pressure to fill his head with what he felt was inane garbage he'd never need. It was like he'd woken up in the matrix and he wanted OUT! He'd been telling me that since K if I had only listened. :( Anyway, that is our story...I hope I said something helpful to you.
Mom to DS(17) DS(15) DS(12) My gifted, quirky, wonderful teens!
Mama to Jack 11.08 and Liam 9.11 and due with boy #6!
Blissfully married to the love of my life since 8.8.8
pek64, I know...I wish there was something i could do but I've had to accept my powerlessness on this one ages ago. I said to his dad today that I'd done some research (I've been seeing a nutritionist) and that sugar can be a trigger, and additives like MSG, and he said, ok, no sweets and crisps today - then dropped DS off with a chocolate mousse that he'd bought him. This is the kind of thing that happens.
earthmama4, such good points ,thank you. And amazing kudos to you for doing it with 5 kids, wow, I can't even imagine! I think part of the issue is I'm a highly strung, sensitive person myself and need lots of down time to process stuff, time away from stimulation, and let's face it the home educating life is full of noise and friends and activity, it's non stop! So I'm faced with a tough quandary b/c I either put HIM into a situation where he may have to deal with more stimulation he's comfortable with, so that I can feel more manageable, or I keep enduring it but protect him from experiencing that. I know that if he went to school i would 'get it' when he comes home, but I would still only have to deal with difficult behaviour potentially for a few hours at the end of the day, as opposed to days on end. Having me time every day would make such a difference. I looked into housesharing recently with other single mama's recently so I could have more time to myself in the evenings which are often taken up with housework and life admin rather than self-nurturing activities. But it didn't pan out so we live alone still. As I said, I know i'm lucky that I get any breaks at all but as they are taken up with work mainly it doesn't feel terribly restful.
We did go to look at a school y.day. DS screamed for much of the time and didn't want to go into the classrooms to look at anything. I liked lots about the school - like there were smaller classes, lots of outdoor activities including forest school which we currently do, beautiful grounds and caring-seeming teachers - but still got that 'oh no' feeling actually going into the classrooms and seeing all the kids in their uniforms either making a lot of noise - noise that overwhelmed me in seconds - in the case of the younger kids, or sitting watching a whiteboard lesson...eek. Just not what I want for him.
Maybe a diagnosis would help as you say earthmama4, I don't know. I don't know how to go about getting one - I think if I saw the doc I'm worried he would just start asking about why he isn't at school. So many people seem to think school sorts social problems out, which obviously isn't true. I had a better couple of days with DS this week now today he was back to really difficult again after being at his dad. It always seems to set him back, the change of environment.
I think it might be a good idea to network with unschoolers in your region to see if you can find the name of a good unschooling-friendly therapist for your child. It really sounds like the troubles he is having regulating his emotions are outside the norm. And even if it's just a lag in a particular type or maturity combined with his personality, he and you would probably benefit from being guided through some specific strategies. And yes, maybe an evaluation/diagnosis of some sort might help, especially if you're considering school, and the therapist might be able to suggest an appropriate avenue to pursue that.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
Thanks for the advice... re the sugar thing, have reduced it as much as I can but as I say, his dad just ignores any dietary stuff and there's nothing I can do about it. Re a therapist, yes, I wanted to get him someone months ago and found someone who did sliding scale donations based charges (which is all we can afford - it was a charity) but his dad veto'ed it, saying he 'did not need therapy'... the only slot we could get was on a day he is with his dad so he just refused to take him or to let me take him. Anyway... I may pursue the diagnosis route but I am considering school still. I think some structure and routine could benefit him as he finds transitions so difficult, and I think I really need the support...the particular school I have in mind has a lot of like minded people who are pro home ed etc.