The last two weeks, I have spent a significant amount of time communicating with Daniel’s school. There have been emails and phone conversations about low grades, missing assignments, mis-communication and lack of agreed upon communication. I have spent several hours of accumulated time sifting through Daniel’s backpack, binder and desk to make sure he isn’t forgetting or loosing work. I have enlisted his brother to stop by Daniel’s locker and check it for incomplete work as well as lunchboxes and hoodies.
I am not unfamiliar with homeschool. I was homeschooled. It was the mid 80’s and homeschool was viewed as something for weird, hippy families. However, it was a good education for me. My mother had trained to be a teacher. She found an excellent classically based curriculum through a respected day school in Maryland, Calvert Academy. Fellow participants in the homeschool program included children of National Geographic Correspondents on assignment. As a strong reader, I flourished, always tested in the top percentile on standardized tests and was in advanced classes when I finally entered public school in eighth grade. I have a lot of respect for mothers and fathers that do homeschool effectively. I can see that time could be saved if I was personally involved in Daniel’s daily school work.
I also understand my own strengths and limitations. I cannot homeschool my son.
It isn’t a lack of williness to do what is best for Daniel, it is a very clear understanding of my capabilities. While I am able to advocate effectively for him at school, I cannot teach him.
I do not have any teaching training. I do not have a natural bent toward teaching. I do not possess the kind of patience, calmness and ability to be objective that working through a school day with Daniel would require. We would spend a large part of the day arguing and aggravating each other. I am too emotional regarding Daniel. Most importantly, I have no experience working with the severe dyslexia and process issues that Daniel struggles with daily.
I think it is very important as a parent to understand my own strengths and limitations. There is not enough energy available to waste it trying to be capable in every arena. Instead, I choose to focus my energy on my strengths – organization, advocating, tracking and life skills.
I still struggle with feelings of condemnation and failure. I often have moments of doubt. Maybe I am not a good mother because I choose not attempt this avenue. However, I work every day to teach Daniel to honor himself by effectively using his strengths to achieve his goals. As I teach Daniel, I too am learning to honor myself in the same way.
There is enough condemnation from the outside world when parenting a child on the spectrum. With ourselves and each other, there has to be a measure of grace.