islandparent Parenting Education Back @ School: No…

Back @ School: No…

Did you send your kids back to school? That’s the question we asked four Island Parent writers. Here are their answers and how they reached their decision on whether or not to send their kids back to school.

I decided in March not to send my son, Angus, back to school this fall. I beat the rush for the Distributed Learning programs and applied to a number of them. In May he was accepted into EBUS, out of SD91.

It took a lot of time for me to accept that I’d made the right decision. It was lucky I didn’t venture out of the house much in May, because everyone I ran into heard about how anxious I felt. Would this be detrimental to Angus—socially, emotionally, academically? And what about me and my own mental health? What had I done?!

Angus went to school at South Park, which changed last year from a choice school to a catchment school. We are not in the catchment, so even if we decide we’d like him to return in Grade 5 next year, the chances are there will be no space for him. And he made friends there. He loved his Education Assistant (EA). His classes were small and he’d received support.

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But our bubble contains Angus’s grandparents. Mike has asthma. Angus has a hard time social-distancing. He can tolerate a mask for about 10 minutes. He puts things in his mouth when he’s overwhelmed—his hands, objects he finds around him. He needs physical touch—either for comfort, or (at school) to ensure he is paying attention. Unexpected routines and changes are a huge source of anxiety for him. Bricks and mortar school simply didn’t feel like an option.

Also, I wanted Angus to have support if schools closed again. I picked EBUS as an alternative to traditional school because it’s one of 16 Distance Learning (DL) options in BC that will allow students with a designation, like Angus with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the ability to earmark some of their special needs funding. EBUS lets us allocate $10,000 to services we feel Angus needs—an EA who will work with him two afternoons each week at home, occupational therapy, curriculum resources.

From March to June, Angus had two 20-minutes Zooms and one backyard visit with his EA. This year, if schools close again, I know he’ll receive more support than that.

Before the pandemic, I had talked to the school about homeschooling Angus in the afternoons, but they convinced me it wasn’t the right choice for him. When we had to learn from home I realized it was probably what I should have been doing all along. Angus was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and had been prescribed anti-anxiety medication which we planned to start during spring break. While he was anxious at home, at school his anxiety was intense. He had daily meltdowns. We didn’t start the medication, but Angus’s anxiety has decreased considerably these last six months—and we’re in a pandemic!

I like teaching Angus, and he learns well at home. We continued all through the summer. I’m able to focus on the things he needs most assistance with, filling gaps to bring him up to grade level in subjects he finds difficult.

We started a multisensory phonics-based spelling program that has brought him from struggling to spell three-letter words to spelling multi-syllable words with confidence. He’s learned his multiplication tables. Because we can take our time, I rarely scribe for him and the legibility of his printing—which is hampered by his fine motor challenges—has improved considerably.

That said, he’s also learning how to type. I’m proud of his efforts and so is he. He experiences success, can take breaks when he needs to, and the only distraction is Charlie Brown the dog.

I know the option of homeschooling is not open to everyone. We’re lucky. I work from home, and my work is flexible—I am the festival director for the Victoria Festival of Authors, I write, and I edit freelance. I can take on less of the latter if I need to (which I definitely do) and since life during a pandemic doesn’t seem to correspond with flashes of creative brilliance, it’s really only festival work I need to balance with homeschooling.

Before Angus was born, I was an educational assistant. Therefore, I can convince myself—and more importantly my kid—that I know what I’m doing. And though Mike has returned to his job at Camosun College, our bubble is still relatively small—which is exactly how we want it.

Learning from home is definitely not the right choice for everyone, but it’s the best decision we could have made for our family.

Laura Trunkey
Laura Trunkey
Laura Trunkey is the mother of the amazing Angus and the author of the story collection Double Dutch. Contact her at [email protected].