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Interesting Time to be Home Schooling

October 8, 2011

I feel a we bit guilty representing myself a home schooler these days because the first six weeks of school have been so full of outside activities and moving that we did not accomplish much. So a week ago I signed the girls up for an on-line curriculum they can complete at their own pace. In one week, Hope did two weeks’ worth of assignments, and Mercy, four. They’re having fun and it is still so new that they are not bored. It it not my idea of homeschooling! But it is better than nothing, and until November, when I’m beyond the Western History Association meeting and we’re settled in the new house, it will have to do.

The state historical society hired me as a consultant in part because I am a home schooler. Surprised? I was. MHS has always viewed school-aged children and their families as a major constituency and homeschooled kids have an increasing (and increasingly impressive) presence in history competitions.

This week I figured out why. I am consulting on the development of a website on the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 and  the home-schooled high schoolers I know are operating at what we’ve diagrammed as the “adult” level of historical inquiry. Of course kids are not equally intrigued by history, whether they are homeschooled or not. But it is no surprise that those who are, would perform at an advanced level; home schooling encourages curiosity and initiative. Add some lessons on how to find and use primary sources and a high schooler can conduct original research as well as a graduate student.

It has been an interesting project because everyone on my team is a teacher –all of them, except me, in private or public school settings. Their reception of the idea that I home school has been universally accepting. And in three cases this week, in private conversation people have confided that they wished they had (or in the past, had) the opportunity to home school their own kids. Home schooling, at least among the people I’ve encountered recently, is not viewed as a fringe activity, but rather as being able to afford (in terms of lost income) to send children to a very exclusive private school.

Then there’s the flip side of the coin: it terms of pursuing psychiatric management for Hope, home schooling has introduced hurdles we’d not have to overcome if we schooled traditionally.

Our first psychiatrist questioned the FASD part of Hope’s diagnosis (despite known exposure); he thought ADHD was her dominant issue. Our new psychiatrist is sold on FASD, but questions whether there is enough evidence to support the ADHD diagnosis.

Why? Hope’s home environment IS her school environment and technically the diagnostic criteria for ADHD includes symptoms in two or more environments. Community environments where my husband or I are present –like a store, or the library, or in the van –don’t count. Further,  Hope’s preschool teachers said they did not think she had ADHD and  her home school co-op teachers barely know her. (It is a combined K/First Grade class and 75% of her classmates are boys. With five-year old boys setting the norm, I’m pretty sure she’s not going to stand out.)

I was prepared, I thought. I gave the psychiatrist photos of Hope, on Adderall XR, engaged in activities that require concentration and attention to detail. And I described the contrast in Hope’s behavior when she’s not on medication (like right now). “So?” the psychiatrist said. “If you took Adderall, you’d have a great attention span, too. That doesn’t show anything. I’d still like to see attention-span evidence from a second environment.”

In other words: home school work doesn’t count, although the psychiatrist assured me she works with families who do “non-traditional schooling” with their kids. Nor do the observations of the therapist who did her FASD eval. and gave her the FASD-ADHD diagnosis.

From a diagnostic standpoint, our new psychiatrist’s plan makes sense. She wants to hold off starting up ADHD med trials again and instead try hitting  Hope’s sleep issues hard. Then when we can be sure that Hope’s “ADHD-like symptoms” are not the result of too little sleep, she’ll reconsider the possibility of ADHD.

It does make sense. Except if you’re her mom and you’re entering the second month with no medication having seen how it transformed our family life…

I like the new psychiatrist a lot and think we have a long future together.

But I’m thinking of calling up our local school district and begging for a late slot in a second environment.  Just kidding.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2011 10:46 am

    My oldest daughter didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD either. She was, for many years, on low-dose Adderall XR (10 mg). I didn’t start homeschooling her until the 8th grade. The school wanted to move her to a locked classroom. The kids in that class were those whose behavior was considered the worst. She would have been the only girl in the class. Her academic performance was much better on Adderall. You could see the difference particularly looking at her note taking and hand writing. She was better able to concentrate on what was being said in the room. And, you could read her writing.

    She left my home when she became an adult. She left my home with a prescription for Adderall and a thirteen year history of using stimulants. She traded them for cigarettes. She ended up arrested for a controlled substance, sales charge and plead guilty to a second degree felony. The charge is stayed, meaning it becomes a misdemeanor IF she successfully completes her probation. She still doesn’t agree that she was selling drugs. Selling means you get money. She is back in jail with her 4th probation violation. This one is not for using again. This time she raged at her half-way house and then walked out on a meeting with her PO.

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