Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Remember to count to ten...

OK, look, I know ESY is only four weeks long (which for kids that can't stand the 2 weeks off prior and the 5 weeks off post is actually a crime...but that's another post). I know that you can't expect a perfect fit or a lot of training from people who never meet with the IEP team or parents or even msk (again that's another post). I know that there are staffing and budget issues. But...

The one-on-one aide (or para-professional or whatever the current term is) is assigned to my child. Being with and guiding said child is their entire job. They are not an extra set of hands and feet to run errands for the classroom. It is not OK if they can't come to work on time. The IEP is not some sort of squishy guidelines that you can choose to follow if you want or if it's convenient.

OK. Now that I've vented it's time for the count to ten. Breathe... remember that this is short term and, following the lead of msk this placement is a positive thing. Breathe... only four days left. Calmer now... but if anyone tries to tell me how great special ed services are in Baltimore City, I think I might take their head off.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Good news/bad news

Good news: ESY seems to be OK
Bad news: ESY started two weeks after school is out and my kid can't stand a two week break.

We started ESY this week, and though I was very skeptical about it being appropriate I think my special kid (let's use msk since I don't feel comfortable with names on this blog) is joyful at being in a setting with academic challenges and kids with social and verbal skills that are higher and so draw out more social and verbal activities.

During our two week gap, after school and before ESY, we had placed msk in a camp for kids with autism that qualified as respite care under Maryland's Autism Waiver program. We didn't need a break, but msk needed a daily structure that is impossible for us to provide. It seemed like a setting with people with a lot of training in autism and where msk would be in the middle or high end of verbal/social/behavioral issues would be a relief after nine months of being the only autistic kid in an entire school. That turned out not to be the case. This ESY setting with no other autistic kids (though everyone does have an IEP, so I don't think you could call it an inclusion setting) brings great joy, while the respite camp was merely tolerated. Who would have guessed that worksheets and sitting at a desk would win hands down over crafts and swimming?

I've been noticing that at this level of social development, msk needs to be around happy social situations, but is not able (yet?) to be in the middle of these interactions. There's a need to see, hear and occasionally have peers verbally engage, while still being able to move away to "turn down the volume" on the interaction if it gets too intense.

Here's hoping that I haven't spoken too soon and that we keep msk happy and engaged for the rest of the summer, or at least until ESY ends.

More bad news: ESY ends five weeks before school starts, and if two weeks off in June is bad, 5 weeks off in July/Aug is even worse.
Positive spin: Adding structure to my break from work (by which I mean early and often exercise excursions) helps me lose weight and keeps me from being a self-absorbed slug.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Private and home school options

I've been a proponent of public school since about 7th grade. I remember the condescending comments from kids on the other side of the Gilman/Roland Park Public fence in the mid 70's. Then there were clueless questions from private school Girl Scout troop members about race. No n-words were used, but there were clearly bigoted attitudes abounding at Baltimore's more elite private schools (i.e. Gilman, RPCS, Bryn Mawr). At that point a swore I'd never send a kid to a private school, and honestly I've always been very proud of my Baltimore City Public School System education.

This article though makes me wonder a bit. In impoverished neighborhoods in India, private schools provide decent caring education for $1 - $2 / month per child. These are parents who want a good education for their children now and who aren't willing to wait for some monster bureaucracy to figure out how to create a functioning public education system. This isn't just a phenomenon in India - around the globe in developing nations, where there are public school systems lacking discipline, with complacent teachers and classes in which students sit and chat instead of learning (sound familiar?) these type of private schools flourish. And, the students do nearly twice as well as students in public schools.

I think we know that involved and caring parents who value education are a big part of successful educational outcomes. While the idea of using money as a way to make sure your kids don't have to go to school with those kids is abhorrent, what about making sure there is an atmosphere that values education by asking parents to financially support the school? In a way, isn't that what Baltimore's charter schools are doing? The kids a charter schools have parents who care enough about education to look into charter schools. They need to have a some thoughts about education so they can find a school who's philosophy they agree with. They need to sign on to helping out at the school (even if they don't actually put in the hours). In other words, they are required to value and support their child's education - very different from what traditional public schools often get from their parents.

And the same things can be said about homeschooling parents. Clearly they care about education and as they come up with curriculum and lesson plans they are vested in their child's education. Sure, this is not an option for many parents and also for many kids. My special one, for instance must have typical peers in his class for him to flourish. But there are parents and kids that can choose this path.

This all sounds good, but how do we make sure the bar that tries to ensure involved parents doesn't block out kids that we need to be educated. How do we help parents who want better for their kids, but don't know how to accomplish that? Certainly having momentum in the community can pull people along. Does the occasional scholarship to needy kids to Baltimore's private schools help the community, or is it only about the individual child? If it is about the individual child, certainly a parent should make educational choices based on what their kid needs, but should we (as in society) put resources into helping those few children or do we need to find a way to pull in more?

Hard questions, but I think they are helpful to ponder as I try to figure out my own kids different educational paths and I look at the paths that other parents choose.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I'm not sure it's dead, but something I cared for, InsideEd, is not what it once was when I felt passionately about it. In looking back I've seen the stages of me coming to terms:

Denial - the Sun will see how bad this is and hire Sara back.
Anger - the people who are now posting don't care about City Schools
Depression - that's it, I'm never commenting again, no decent conversations...sad
Bargaining - if I ask nicely maybe they'll at least put some decent post up
Acceptance - whatever, I'll look at the blog, but the odds of me thinking out, composing and posting some of my better writing there on a near constant basis? not going to happen

Perhaps the better analogy is overcoming an addiction. Regardless, I feel I'm ready to move on.