Sunday, October 23, 2016

The very hard decision to homeschool

Last weekend, we made the difficult decision to pull Max out of school and homeschool for this year. This won't be a post with a lot of information, as it is a difficult thing to explain and talk about but I will say that homeschooling isn't an easy decision. There are so many people out there that make it sound like the best thing ever--and the only good thing for your child--but I'm seeing that it's not that way for everyone, especially if it's a sudden transition from traditional schooling to homeschooling. Especially with autism.

Max has been regressing in a lot of areas that he had previously made progress on; we've noticed a steady decline since last year. It went on throughout the summer and intensified this fall. It went from emotional turmoil to severe tension headaches sending him to the nurse's office  nearly every day or sometimes we would just have to come get him. Stomach aches, listlessness, depression, talk of hopelessness. Of course, we did doctor visits and tried increasing anxiety medication. We even started bringing him to chiropractor to help him with his headaches (the chiropractor said his neck muscles were unbelievably tight.) Even his therapists were concerned with the dramatic change in Max; normally a happy and cheerful kid, who was always pale from lack of sleep, angry and worried.  It all stemmed from stress from school. It became apparent that the only way to lessen Max's stress would be to take him out of school completely. (There is more to this story but since this is a family blog that Max might read one day, I hesitate to say too much.)

Teachers and therapists, of course, thought I was making a huge mistake. They didn't make it easy, although,  I don't think they were trying to be difficult on purpose. They didn't know how difficult this decision was for me and didn't know how much I was fighting it. It takes a lot of sacrifice and rearranging your life to suddenly homeschool and the thought of taking on someone's education is scary. Dennis was not totally on board either at first, so that didn't make it any easier.

But it was one of those things where you feel like God is guiding the boat. He is steering you along despite rocky waters tossing you about. The more homeschooling came to mind, the more peace I felt about it--despite the fear and doubt that was always there. I just knew that homeschooling would be the way to get Max back on track again.

It was hard for his teachers, who worked so hard with us to make Max comfortable at school, to hear the "abrupt" decision to homeschool Max (it seemed abrupt to them, as I had only been thinking and praying about homeschooling but never mentioned it to them.) They threw a goodbye party on his last day, and made a big poster saying how much they would miss him. He had tossed the poster on the floor of his closet when he got home (in his defense, it was a hard day for him and I think he didn't want to think about it anymore) and we tacked it up to his wall. I told him that when people make things like cards and posters to say goodbye, we need to acknowledge it. We don't toss it on the floor.

There was a kid that had an especially hard time saying goodbye. This kid is also special needs with autism more severe than Max. The sudden goodbye was very hard for him and he was very angry about it. Of course, no one could explain the situation to him to make him understand. All he knew was his friend would suddenly be gone from his life. He screamed and cried and blocked the door, preventing Max from leaving. It was very traumatic for both him and Max.

So of course I feel terrible for making things so hard with pulling Max out; for his teachers feeling like the rug has been pulled out from beneath them with no warning, for the other students who don't understand that sometimes "life just happens" with no warning. For therapists that doubt and fear for Max's wellbeing and that homeschooling might make things worse.

Except for my mom, I have not heard one word of support from family and I won't lie, it's been really hard for me. I've had a lot of questions but absolutely no response from the answers I've given them.  It's been weird how people have been reacting.

But I'm reminded that this is about Max, not them. I can't waste my time and energy worrying about people and their feelings; they will have to just sit back and see that everything will be all right.

Because I am in the same boat with them; wondering if this is truly the right thing to do, wondering if I will somehow fail Max and his education, wondering if I'm going to make things worse. But I'm trusting the Captain, who's steering the boat and I'm sure that he will bring us back to calm waters again.

We just all have to trust Him.


It's only been a week, but I'm happy to say that already we are seeing the old Max that we know; his confidence has come back and he's sleeping well again.

If all goes well this year and Max make some good progress, we plan to have him come back for his final year at school (it only goes to the 8th grade) so he can graduate with his classmates.

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