Every time something new goes on here with the construction, I feel bad that Jack is not here to see it. George too, but Jack is more into construction stuff than George.
That is no longer going to be an issue, as come Monday, Jack will not be going to the public school for Kindergarten. We have decided to try homeschooling him for various reasons, part of it being the hope that with one-on-one attention and more time with Mommy and Daddy we can address some issues related to his past.
After talking with someone who has more experience in the area of early childhood trauma, and asking if homeschooling was a completely unadvised option or if it could be a possibility, I was advised to be careful of homeschooling as “the emotional attachment right now between you and him is more important than his education.” They meant that we should not let being his ‘teacher’ come before being his ‘Mom’, that the stress of teaching should not get in the way of strengthening our attachment.
That evening I repeated to my husband what I was told, reminded him of how much better Jack was last Spring when it was me and him, and that we still had the stuff we used when we supplemented George and Jack’s schooling over the summer. We were pretty sure what we were going to do, but he said he really would like to ask someone else’s opinion or get some been-there-done-that advice.
All the homeschoolers I know near us have ‘typical’ kids, none with beginnings like our kids. So I turned to a group of foster parents I know and asked their advice. Everything I heard back was encouraging, especially on the part of getting the attachment and security down before focusing too much on academics.
One mom even said what were were thinking, “If that is what is needed during this season, then do it. Life may change and the next season may not need him to be home for school.”
That night we decided to take him out of school, where he was just not ready to be, and keep him home. At some point we may change our minds again, but we feel this is the place we need to be at right now.
This is the main thought my husband finally came to, and one I have been feeling for a while but was unable to put into words – if kids are not emotionally in the right place (or if they are continuing to experience triggers), learning will not happen to the best of their abilities; you will be fighting the current to get ahead.
This interview, done during the Attachment & Trauma Network’s Educating Traumatized Children Summit 2014 between Anna Paravano, MS, ATN Education Director and Christine Moers, Therapeutic Parenting Coach, says very much how we are feeling right now:
“… one of the things that I tried to help parents grasp that it took me a while to get and really absorb it was that children with a history of traumatic events, abuse, neglect, neurological struggles, mental health issues – there are some gaps, in particularly kids who have experienced early childhood trauma. There are gaps in their development. They either miss stages because of what was going on, or the things that did happen. They’ve got skills that are underdeveloped that a lot of other kids got. Those first couple of years of life and they need that first, period. And being therapeutic with them and creating a safe space for them to heal, we are re‐parenting them through those gaps…. And if I can help my kids get through and start to parent through those gaps and create this space over and over and over again, the academics are going to come.”
“In addition, many of these children have difficult times allowing themselves to trust and attach with their parent or care‐giver and end up needing more time, not less, with these key individuals to help them grow and heal. For these reasons and more, home schooling can provide the answer parents and care‐givers need for the educational piece for of the child’s life puzzle.”
But what about learning, it has to happen right?
“My goal as a teacher is to teach my children how to find information and I keep that as… And if they can grasp that, and we can connect and attach and practice love, they can always find their way through life and they always know who to call, “Mom, I think I would like to do this and I’m not sure where to start,” “Well hold on, let’s look up some resources.””
“And again because we should always be learning – adults can always learn, it’s always there and it has helped me to breathe and remember what is most important for my children now. And I encourage all parents regardless of their schooling situations to remember that too.”
So what about George? He seems to be doing fine in public school. It provides the structure and social setting he needs. A large part of this is due to how we have his day set up there. Advocating for your child’s educational needs happens no matter the setting of said education.
Talking about different needs in different season, George’s education from year to year has never looked the same. We started with him in Early Childhood (preschool) in the morning, followed by Head Start (preschool) in the afternoons. It was a long day, but he was immersed in structure and enrichment. There was also consistency and encouragement. All things he needed during a time of emotional upheaval.
As the year came to an end, we realized the following year would not need as much out-of-home support, so we pared down to just Early Childhood (preschool) and I got to spend more one-on-one time with him. (Jack was in preschool at this point.)
Then Kindergarten was getting ready to happen. We worked with his EC teachers to set up a routine that we hoped would enable him to succeed, or at least not get left behind. This involved having him attend Kindergarten for half the day, then return to the EC classroom for the other half. He would get the extra support in Kindergarten, but in a smaller setting with fewer distractions and at a slower pace. Thankfully several other friends of his did the same thing, so he never realized it may not have been the ‘normal’ way.
At the end of the Kindergarten year, there were still weak places in his learning. He had struggled and pretty much given up on the reading front. Over the summer we continued working on reading, but in a different fashion and not sitting and reading. He played games and had fun with words and letters. I am not sure if it clicked finally, or if it was the relaxed atmosphere, but he ended the summer about where he should have been at the beginning of it. Math, however, took a bit more time and desperation on my part before we figured it out for him.
If you remember, George also deals with apraxia, which affects his speech, and is now almost unnoticeable to those outside the family. It also seems to affect his learning style and the ability to retain information. After 2 years of Early Childhood and 1 year of Kindergarten/EC, we think we are starting to figure out the pattern and his style. This has helped a lot in 1st grade, though he still has to work harder and some things are just downright struggles.
We can also pretty much predict the causes of the few minor behavioral issues he may present. This helps in avoiding those issues and making his day easier. Thankfully, George has two things going for him that aide a lot in his success. 1. God made him a talker. Even when he could not get his words out or think of the right one, he was determined to make you understand. And before he even ‘found’ his words, he would jabber and jabber as if you could completely understand him. 2. He is a friendly kid, ready with a smile and to be your friend.
Again, do what works for the season you are in.
Okay, so back to homeschooling. I told George that he could also join in on some of the extras, like learning about the stars (nature study/science) and learning new songs, but that all the other stuff he was already learning at school so he did not need me to reteach him. He was thrilled with this arrangement and excited for the change. In reality, with his homework and how we do it, he already gets a lot of extra support from here at home and I did not want to make it more official than it already is.
Here are a few more things I found while looking online:
“Children are not “little adults,” and it becomes clear, once the process of development is understood, that they are more vulnerable than adults to trauma – whether such trauma occurs in the community or, unfortunately, even in the name of “treatment.”
“Trauma informed care also involves seeking to understand the connection between presenting symptoms and behaviors and the individual’s past trauma history. “
Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope With Trauma – “The purpose of this guide is to support adoptive and foster families by strengthening the abilities of pediatricians to: 1) identify traumatized children, 2) educate families about toxic stress and the possible biological, behavioral, and social manifestations of early childhood trauma, and 3) empower families to respond to their child’s behavior in a manner that acknowledges past trauma but promotes the learning of new, more adaptive reactions to stress.”
This PDF was relatively short but did have a few good, basic tables showing how certain stresses may manifest themselves in behavior and academic related ways. There were a few behaviors that I saw which I had never associated with stress, I thought they were just bad habits. So, while this pamphlet may not have been a thorough study on trauma and children, it was a quick look and a good first place to start for someone who is beginning their process or for pediatricians to begin talking with their patient.
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