We hadn’t always planned to homeschool. In the early days of our marriage, when parenthood was a long way off, I recall thinking that it might be nice, but I wasn’t “called” to it in any way. Once G was born the thought of staying home to teach my child was set aside in favor of more pressing matters like health insurance and earning a good living.
As G entered his toddler years and his delays began to make themselves known, we enrolled him in early intervention. He aged out of their program, and the next step was to enroll him in a special needs preschool. At the end of that, he was offered a spot in a pilot program that our public school district was launching, for children on the Autism spectrum.
Believing as I did then, that G needed well-trained experts to help him advance, I accepted a spot for him in the program and dutifully brought him each day for a full school year.
There isn’t much that I regret about my journey with G so far, but enrolling him that program is one of my regrets. He was so unhappy, and it was naught but pure brainwashing on my part that blinded me from seeing it sooner. I dropped him off in tears and picked him up in tears for weeks and months on end. There was the occasional happy day, or positive report, but for the most part, it wasn’t a happy year. Still though, I showed up for a meeting near the end of the year so that we could make a plan for the next phase of G’s education.
At that meeting, an aide let slip a phrase I hadn’t heard before. She made mention of a “screaming room,” and when I asked for clarification, those in attendance quickly clammed up. It was through sheer stubbornness that I finally got a picture of the school year G had been having.
In this pilot program for Autistic students, it was evidently acceptable to enclose upset children in a tiny, windowless room when they become overwhelmed with the classroom proper. At first, they insisted that G was always accompanied by an adult, but after repeated questioning, they admitted that sometimes that adult was outside the closed door. They tried to excuse that fact by saying it was for the teachers’ protection. From what? My three and a half foot, thirty five pound son? In addition, I learned that physical restraint was an accepted part of their program, and that its use was neither sparing nor particularly scrutinized.
Driving home from that meeting, blinded by tears, pictures of G flashed through my mind. Scratches they claimed he’d given himself, even though he didn’t scratch himself around us. The split lip that was explained as having come from a playground collision with another student. Bruises, small and light, but still unexplained. Were they all as innocuous as we’d been believing, or was our boy being mistreated by those entrusted with his care? Our boy was effectively non-verbal. There was no way to know.
As D and I talked through that night, one thing became abundantly clear. G could not and would not be endangered. I became “called” to homeschooling in that instant. Our son was too precious, too valuable, for us to return him to such a horrible setting. We would teach him at home.
And so, we began.