Home Education seems the only option, but I'm nervous(9 Posts)
My DS is age 13 (Y9) and has HF autism. School is a totally miserable experience for him. He attends a small local secondary school and is tormented and bullied on a daily basis. In addition to this he simply finds school difficult to cope with. The school have been no help to us. He has an IEP and I have regular meetings with the pleasant but imo ineffective SENCO but nothing ever changes. The bullying continues, they never resolve any issues and strategies that are put in place to help my son seem to last a few days and then are forgotten about. A lot of the time they don't believe us or take concerns seriously. Speaking to the school is a frustrating and upsetting experience for me as I feel that they don't believe me or take any of DS's issues seriously. Out of school we used to receive help from a Specialist Developmental Nurse who we saw every 2 weeks and she helped us work through issues but due to NHS cuts her position was cut and we are basically on our own. DS has meltdowns at home caused by the stress of dealing with school, which are horrendous for him and also affect our 2 DD's. Things have come to a head and DS is now in the worst mental state that I have ever seen. I have kept him off school today and we have a GP appointment. In the past few days I have had something of an epiphany and decided that really in order to save him I can't let him go back to that school. I feel I have failed him leaving him there so long. There is a large, 'outstanding' secondary school further away from us and I have made tentative enquiries there about a place for him (DD already goes there, DS doesn't want to go there as he is terrified of the idea of school, DH thinks he should go there). Home education seems to me to be the only option but I am so daunted by it. Initially I feel that DS just needs time away from school to get better and I know I can help him with that but I have so many fears about Home Ed - GCSE's and isolating him and me basically messing his life up. I need advice please. Sorry for such a long post.
That sounds so hard, for all of you.
We had to home ed my DS for a year at short notice when he was 12-13. It was tough, but that was mostly because my DS is super-sociable and thrives on competition. It can work well, but it is quite hard on the parent, particularly if you're staying on a school-type GCSE track. That said, I think there are times when it can really help certain personalities or kids who just aren't coping at school, for whatever reason.
If you do it, my advice would be to focus only on his main subjects, so you're not trying to do too much (and if he has another subject - or activity - that he's into, definitely do that as well). If you can afford it, get some support from a tutor or two.
There are some great textbooks/workbooks out there, like CGP. I expect that, if you decide to go for it, you'll feel better once you've got a few of those and somewhere to kick off. I know I did. You might want to do subjects in blocks rather than mix them e.g. a Science module for a week, then a week on something English-related.
Feel free to PM me!
I would contact your local home education group to find out what they offer. More and more groups are arranging tutorials and exam centre access. Even if you don't make use knowing what is there and that you have others about can be very reassuring.
The social side is harder as they get older but we have a lot on for teens locally.
Try not to stress about the academic side, you don't need it in place to take him out as you said that time away without pressure will help. While he is recovering you can do your research into resources, exam access, observe how he learns best (eg there are excellent sites that offer video tutorials that many swear by but my son switches off to videos so while I have no doubt they work well for many they they don't for us.) It is scary.
Facebook is the best place to find groups national or local, join one's that suit, other HEers are very helpful ans supportive.
Have a look at some of the Internet schools and see if they would be suitable ie Interhigh / Briteschool , it's not overly expensive and it is quite interactive .
It seems to me that even if your son is going to go to the other school as your husband prefers, he'd still benefit from a break of a month or two out of school to get his stress levels down so he can go into school feeling relaxed, and be able to cope with the inevitable changes and tricky bits as he settles in. Would your husband agree to that?
You know you definitely don't want him to stay at his current school. So if I were you I'd pull him out ASAP. Then you have some time to decide whether he will carry on with HE or try the other school in due course once he has recovered from the current trauma. I think the whole family would find this decision (long-term HE or new school) easier to think through carefully when you have some breathing space, when you aren't in crisis state as you now are.
Short term home ed certainly can't mess your son's life up or isolate him, and you have the rest of this year before he needs to go to school if he's going to do GCSEs there.
Thank you all for your responses. I know I have a lot to think about with regards to GCSE's but for now I am just so relieved that there is an option other than school. I have never even considered HE prior to this and wish that I had thought about it 2 years ago, it would certainly have saved a lot of heartache for the whole family but particularly for DS. I know HE won't be perfect and we will have ups and downs but to know that DS will be safe is a huge relief. Saracen, DH isn't opposed to HE, I think he just feels that a different school could provide better support that the current one. I totally agree with you though that regardless of what we do, DS needs some time to recover. Change is a big deal for DS which is why he refused to move schools before this crisis. He felt that being unhappy in a school he knew would be easier than changing to a new school. So I have lots to think about, but my mind is made up about what I have to do on Monday. Thanks.
Good luck to you both. You'll be fine.
Ds2 left school at the end of Year 7. He didn't hate it, but it was affecting him in all sorts of ways and we had regular meltdowns and he had no friends (what price "socialisation"?) We had a wonderful time home educating - I met all sorts of new people who opened my eyes, my son made friends, spent a lot of time outdoors (socialising and playing sports) and grew in confidence. He is now back in a different school in Year 10 and still misses home ed, but has returned like a different person, very motivated and well behaved compared to a lot of the resident pupils!!! New school is much better fit for him, although on surface very similar to last school. Tbh I don't think it would have been the end of the world if he had done GSCEs at home after all, but we weren't quite brave enough to organise it, as he is dyslexic as well as ASD. We have two other kids in school throughout.
So sorry to hear you are going through this Besidethesea. I second the suggestion of an online school. I have a 24 year old with HFA, who wasn't diagnosed until after he left school. He had a truly miserable time over GCSEs and struggled more and more with the social demands of school (I now know this is often the most difficult time for children with HFA because of all the extra pressure around exams, etc. - hindsight is a wonderful thing!) I wasn't able to home educate him at the time and will always regret it. He had some awful experiences. If there had been online schools available as an option then, I think it would have made a massive difference to the adult he is now. (A really small, supportive class would have worked too.) He still struggles enormously with anxiety and bears the scars of his school experience. He's in his second year of a degree with the OU, so he's getting there slowly. But I suppose what I'm trying to say is, try to think in terms not only of the next few years but what will come after, and which education setting is going to give your son the best chance of coping well as an older teen/adult - if he's frightened, overwhelmed and constantly anxious in school then there is little real learning happening anyway, so why put him through it? (My son often says that he learned nothing in school - he did get a few GCSEs but I think he means that his whole focus at the time, and all he can remember now, was trying to cope with this stressful, noisy, overwhelming environment.)
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