Saturday, April 19, 2014

Home School. Doctor Recommended?




The past few months have been a bit stressful for us over here. The waiting to find answers was very hard for me. I am a researcher by nature, but when I can't research because I don't know what I am supposed to be looking for is a killer for me! Before I get into what questions and answers, you will need some background info. Anyone who knows K knows that there really isn't an easy way to describe him. He is very strong willed, persistent and impulsive. High energy, perceptive, compassionate, empathetic, fun, imaginative, logical, "spirited." He has very strong emotions and can quickly run the gamut from elated to devastated to absolute rage. Often when asking others close to us to describe K to others who don't know him we get "Well... K is K. There isn't really any other way to describe him. Just, K's K." Even with a background in child care I have often been at a loss as to what to do to help my son learn to manage his emotions and the strong reactions that often come with them. I have read A LOT of parenting books trying to find some way to "control" our son. After finally exhausting my toolkit of traditional methods and realizing none of them work with K I discovered the gentle parenting/ peaceful parenting/ positive parenting approach. At first the change from a punishment/ reward/ control based parenting mindset (eg. time outs, punitive consequences, removing privileges, reward charts, smiley and sad faces, etc...) to a more gentle approach seemed quite radical, but being as I was at a loss of what to do I figured it was worth a shot. So, over the past couple of years we have stopped rewarding and punishing our children's misbehaviours and have begun ensuring that we have a strong connection first and foremost, and relying on natural and logical consequences and problem solving with them to find mutually agreeable solutions to issues that arise. It has made a world of difference in our relationships, and I am finding that they are less likely to "misbehave" when I make sure we have spent some time connecting (by reading, playing a board game, cuddling, playing tag or hide and seek, etc...) each day. 

At the beginning of our transition to peaceful parenting K was in senior kindergarten at our local public school full days 5 days a week. K did well at school for the most part, got in trouble for running around the class, or playing too roughly on the playground occasionally, but did his work and cooperated with his classmates. However, the school day took it's toll on him and we were greeted with meltdowns (not temper tantrums. There is virtually no other way to describe these other than a meltdown) after school, EVERY DAY. Like, MAJOR MELTDOWNS. For example, he would sometimes cry and scream on the front step for up to 40 minutes before he even walked in the door. It was as if he had "held it together" all day at school and just could not do it any longer. Then, we would be treated to many more mini meltdowns throughout the evening (sometimes up to 30 a day!) I realized that this was probably not the best situation for his mental health, did a lot of research and suggested to The Daddy that maybe home schooling might be better for him. To my initial surprise (as home schooling isn't really the conventional thing to do) The Daddy was in total agreement. The following week I sent our un-enrollment letters and we began our home school journey. Almost immediately I noticed a decline in K's meltdowns, and now just over a year into it he can go days and even over a week without having a single meltdown. 

However, he is still having them though, so we decided it was time to ask for help so we can help K better manage his emotions before he gets into meltdown mode. After a visit to our family doctor we were referred to a Pediatric Specialist. K went in for a few different tests on 2 separate dates in late January and mid February (as he initially refused to begin the testing the first day and we ran out of time.) The Daddy and I had a follow up appointment with the Specialist yesterday. From the test results we have found out that K has high anxiety and most of his other behaviours most likely stem from this. He has been referred for behaviour therapy to help him work through his anxiety and will most likely begin this in the fall. He was also found to have some mild deficits in visual processing and memory function but has very strong language function as he scored at a 9 year old level at almost 7 years old and also an above average IQ. She did recommend retesting after his course of therapy is completed as he was quite resistant to complete some areas of the tests and this may have influenced the results. We have been given some exercises and activities to help K strengthen his deficient areas and will be working with him on those. While there, The Daddy and I spent over an hour with the doctor asking questions and getting feedback on everything from supplements to discipline to physical activity and, yes, schooling. The Daddy at one point asked if K would be better off in school. The doctor's definitive answer was "No! He would be very bored in a traditional classroom." So, for K, home school is actually Doctor recommended!

While traditional classrooms are a great place for some students it is not always the best place for every student. K just happens to be one, who coupled with his anxiety, benefits greater from being home and having a choice in what he wants to learn. He resists "being taught" anything and has always preferred figuring things out for himself with the most minimal amount of help (eg. refusing to hold anyone's hands when learning to walk, learning to ride a 2 wheeler on his own or teaching himself how to ski.) Even though some days are VERY hard for us I feel very blessed to have K. He has made me challenge my views on parenting and discipline and education (amongst others). It is because of him that we are on this path. One built of mutual respect, connection and unconditional love. I highly recommend it!

Cooking (Life Skills, Reading, Math, Science)