Sunday, February 10, 2008

Freaking Out!

I didn't realize how smoothly our homeschool learning system was working...until Thursday.

When I got home from work, Z was freaking out. He was certain that he'd never be able to pass his Driver's Ed class. He was struggling with coming up with 4 questions, that weren't in the book's quiz, about the chapter he was reading. This required Z's brain to be in 3 places at once; reading the material, remembering the book's questions, and trying to find new questions about the chapter. Z's ADD kicked in, and he was totally frustrated.

We have spent the last 3 years of homeschooling getting Z to concentrate on ONE thing at a time. ADD requires this. He needs to home in on the single task at hand or his attention span flies out the window. This is a skill Z acquired in the past 6 months. It's a new skill that hasn't quite become 2nd nature to Z yet. Re-entering a classroom setting, where the class jumps all over in the material, does NOT work for Z. His brain NEEDS to complete an idea, before it jumps to the next. He can't return to the original idea and complete it later.

In addition, the teacher covers some of the chapters in class by having the kids read the chapters aloud. Z was appalled at how poorly a lot of the kids read. It was painful! While these kids are haltingly reading the material, Z's ADD brain focuses on their mistakes, not the content of the material.

I also have the feeling that Z is inhibiting his tics while in class. I realize that he has a natural desire to be like everybody else, and fears ridicule. BUT, inhibiting tics requires a lot of his attention. ADD doesn't give Z much attention to spare.

Z has always had a hard time picking out the important facts in his reading assignments. He needs to take in the assignment as a whole Only then can his brain process the information and arrive at a logical conclusion. This may be an OCD trait, rather than ADD, but it's still the only way he can function for now.

Z also has dysgraphia, a common TS/ADD trait. Handwriting is painfully slow for him. By the time a thought has traveled from his brain to his hand, another thought has popped into his overactive brain. At home, we have conquered this problem with keyboarding. Z's typing skills are amazing, and allow him to quickly get his thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia makes it almost impossible for Z to answer essay questions. Even single word answers are difficult for him. He has no problem with true/false or multiple choice questions. I don't foresee Z having ANY problem passing our state's written driver's exam, as the questions are all true/false and multiple choice. His Driver's Ed class is another story. The teacher uses ALL essay or written answer questions. Z got 8/10 correct on his last quiz. I think this is quite good for him. The teacher says this is a failing grade. WHAT?! Since when is 80% a failing grade?!

All of these minor problems, added together, tend to send Z into panic mode. When Z's stress level spikes, memory and attention span fly out the window! Z NEEDS to remain calm and focused, despite the distractions of a classroom setting.

Together, we have developed a plan. Z will work ahead of his class at home, where he can concentrate. His classroom instruction will only serve as a review of the material he has already learned. I told Z to remain calm and do his best on the quizzes. If he continues to score 80%, I WON'T let the teacher fail him. The law says that Z needs to complete 30 hours of classroom instruction and pass the state's written driver's exam in order to get his learner's permit. The law says NOTHING about passing classroom quizzes. Z is putting in his time and has learned the material in the book. If necessary, I will demand another quiz format for Z. I hope it doesn't come to this as Z says I tend to piss off teachers. It's not that I'm confrontational. It's that our teachers don't like to think outside the box, or admit that parents may know more about their kid's abilities than they do. It's a power trip thing, and I DON'T DO power trips!

Homeschooling has taught Z something that the other kids don't do...Z learns from his mistakes! When Z answers a question wrong on his quizzes, he goes back to the book and learns why he got the question wrong. He won't make the same mistake twice! Believe me, Z won't be getting behind the wheel until L and I are convinced that he understands the rules of the road and safe driving practices. WE are Z's final exam!

The one good thing that has come from this experience is Z's response: "This is the 2nd most important time that I've been soooo grateful to be homeschooled! Thanks for doing this for me Mom and Dad!"


At 2/10/2008 9:19 AM, Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

Gee, I can hardly wait until K takes Driver's Ed. :-( Is the Driver's Ed program that Z is taking part of the school? If so, is Z on a 504 plan? Even homeschooled kids can be on one, and it just states the modifications and accomodations that need to be provided in order for a student to access their education. This can also follow a student into college. You're already making accomodations, but a 504 makes it something that is legal and needs to be complied with, whether a teacher likes it or not. I'm not sure whether or not it would apply to driver's ed, but it's worth checking into. Z would qualify for such a plan simply because he has a medical diagnosis that impacts his learning. I don't think anyone could argue that. You probably know all of this, but it's something to think about as our kiddos are preparing for life after high school.

At 2/10/2008 10:00 AM, Blogger Sonja said...

I like the solution you found. Glad you're not one to roll over and play dead!

At 2/10/2008 11:10 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Notta, Driver's Ed is part of the Community Education program here. The school is partnered with, but not in charge of, the program.

We keep all our options open when it comes to the school. I'd like Z to be able to take some college courses through the high school/college program here. Unfortunately, he's obviously not ready to re-enter their learning environment....yet. We're still a work in progress. ;)
Thanks for the advice!

Z is also eligible for Social Security Disability. That option will only be used as a last resort!

Sonja, I'm WAY too stubborn to roll over and play dead, especially when it involves my kids!

At 2/10/2008 2:07 PM, Blogger Laura said...

It's good experience for Z to get used to the chaos of juggling many things. Especially in college - where while they will have tutors and services to help him, he's going to have to learn to deal with different teaching styles, multiple courses at the same time, etc etc. So it's a good idea to find a method for dealing with it that works so he's good to go in a couple years.

At 2/10/2008 2:36 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Laura, Z also has Executive Dysfunction, which makes organizing or multi-tasking almost impossible for him. His shrink said that this condition probably won't improve. We've been experimenting with ways to work around this problem, but progress is slow.

When and IF Z makes it to college, he'll probably never be able to handle a full class load. One or two classes/quarter will probably be his limit. Z knows that he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to. It just takes him longer than most people. All he needs is infinite patience. We're still working on that one. ;)

At 2/10/2008 8:24 PM, Blogger Bridget Jones said...

What sonja said. God bless you two for your work, and man those school admin types--may they roast slowly!

At 2/10/2008 8:59 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

This sounds a lot like my son. I demanded that all his tests be read to him and that he be given a quiet environment to do certain projects. I do miss homeschooling but he is happy for now.

At 2/11/2008 12:44 AM, Blogger SME said...

Cripes, they're getting picky in driver's ed...80% is failing?!

At 2/11/2008 1:59 AM, Blogger Cherie said...

80% is failing?? That's nuts.

Sounds like you guys are working it out in your usual patient, creative fashion. Z'll make it okay.

Here in Oregon the kids get their learner's permits anytime they want to after they turn 15 and driver's education is optional. Most people have their kids take it because they don't want to teach their kids to drive or teach them the rules and laws plus there's an insurance deduction if they complete a course with any passing grade.

Much different where you are. But alas, laws are laws and we must obey them - for the most part. ; )

How many weeks is Z's course?

At 2/11/2008 7:11 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Well, I hope he does make it to college (if he wants to -- that's not to say that he should want to). There are a lot of schools out there that cater to part-time enrollments. The catch there is that financial aid is severely limited if you attend part time. It kinda sucks.

(Though - hint... if you get a full time job at a college they usually give you all or partial tuition remission as a benefit...)

At 2/11/2008 4:41 PM, Blogger VV said...

So you tend to piss off teachers too, huh! Can you hear me laughing all the way over on the East Coast? Yep, definitely some common DNA here! Although, the last time I ripped a guidance counsellor a new one, I was my son's hero.

At 2/11/2008 9:12 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Thanks Bridg; you're the BEST!

Hammer, as long as your son is learning and happy, he's in the right place. Stick to your guns on those IEPs!

SME, I'm hoping that Z wasn't listening well and got that wrong. I can't believe they'd have that high of a curve.

Cherie, we're sticking to the letter of the law on this, even if we need to point out a loophole in that law. ;)

The class runs 3 hrs/night for 10 days. The 10 days will wind up stretching out over 3 weeks.

Laura, right now Z is looking at trade school, in some sort of computer industry. Three years from now, who knows what he'll decide.

We have a terrific jr. college here that encourages part-time students.

VV, yup, I heard a few guffaws coming from that direction!

When we pulled Z out of school, I left the supt. of schools and the head of special ed. feeling less than smug. Yeah, I was Z's hero that day. ;)

At 2/11/2008 9:46 PM, Blogger Jeannie said...

Hearing all of this makes me wonder even more about my oldest - who never did well in school until college - he was diagnosed borderline learning disabled but without the "official" designation, teachers always said he was lazy. Watching him attempt to write or print was painful. He too blossomed when he was able to keyboard instead - he types very fast and the dyslexia doesn't come up as much.

At 2/12/2008 10:43 AM, Blogger tweetey30 said...

Wow Z. Great job on taking this on. You are something and just remember you dont have to deal with these asses all the time like SME and I did. Just one step at a time with mom and dads help here and you will be fine. I am proud of you and MOM you are no ones ally you are the one protecting your SON FROM THE ENEMY.....Take care of him and we will see what a great man he turns out to be from the protection you have done. Some people tell me Kora isnt getting enough time with other kids. Well I try my best to get her to functions as much as possible. Most of her friends from last year dont even talk to her this year because she is home schooled. Oh well there loss. Anyway Go Z.....

At 2/12/2008 2:55 PM, Blogger Pam said...

I'm still stuck on 80% being a failing score... What?!

Good for you for figuring out (as you always do) how to make things work by working the program your own way. Thank God Z has you for parents!

Z's going to do just fine.

At 2/12/2008 7:17 PM, Blogger Squirl said...

Reading his thanks to you just gave me shivers. He's such a great kid. I'm glad that this isn't sending him off the deep end. I know I've said it before but, kudos to you and L. You've done a wonderful thing for your son.

At 2/12/2008 8:07 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Jeannie, cursive is especially difficult for Z. It's weird but none of his teachers EVER discussed this with us, but they never forced him to write in cursive; they just let him print. Wouldn't you think this would've been a red flag to a teacher?

Thanks Tweets! We all do the best we can. ;)

Pam, Z is the only teen I know who is grateful for his parents. I feel privileged having such a terrific, intelligent son!

Thanks Squirl!
A year ago, this would have sent Z off the deep end. He's matured so much in the past year!

At 2/12/2008 9:02 PM, Blogger Jay said...

A lot of teachers are just plain intimidated by home schoolers - but if it comes to that, then yes, you make sure that he can be tested in a way that's right for him.

I so relate to the homing in on other people's errors to the exclusion of everything else. That's me, too. Even published novels will have spelling and punctuation errors that take me right out of the story.

At 2/12/2008 11:22 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

While these kids are haltingly reading the material, Z's ADD brain focuses on their mistakes, not the content of the material.

I did this too as a kid.

Z's typing skills are amazing, and allow him to quickly get his thoughts on paper.

I hate writing. Computers have made the world so much easier for me. I think I must have the same thing Z has. If you're reading this Z, don't worry, nobody handwrites anything once you start working. Everything's typed.

Homeschooling has taught Z something that the other kids don't do...Z learns from his mistakes! When Z answers a question wrong on his quizzes, he goes back to the book and learns why he got the question wrong. He won't make the same mistake twice!

Ok, I'll admit. I'm like the other kids in this respect.

At 2/13/2008 12:19 AM, Blogger SME said...

I'm just the opposite with writing vs. typing - I think things through better when I'm writing them longhand, and my typing speed plateaued ages ago because high speed requires hand-eye coordination (or coordination, period) that I just don't have!

At 2/13/2008 6:26 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Jay, I never thought of that before. No need for intimidation here; we're just doing the best we can with a difficult situation.

ZS, "Ok, I'll admit. I'm like the other kids in this respect."

You're just another victim of the system. ;)
In Z's homeschool lessons we worry more about understanding an entire concept, rather than spewing out facts that are forgotten after the test.

SME, you're right. Thoughts just seem to flow out of your pen in a sedate symphony of thoughts.

At 2/14/2008 1:08 AM, Blogger Cherie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/14/2008 1:10 AM, Blogger Cherie said...

"Z is the only teen I know who is grateful for his parents."

Let me introduce you to two former teens who are so grateful that they gave Tom and me a two week trip to Alaska to thank us for raising them as we did and for home schooling them: namely Ben and Joe.

And, two current teens (well, one is 3 months shy of teen) who have the same attitude as Z and their above-mentioned brothers: namely Cassie and Caroline.

I declare an unofficial club with these five members, well, six. I'm sure SME agrees, too, as a former teen.

We are blessed, aren't we Tshs!!

At 2/14/2008 2:59 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Cherie, we certainly did something right, didn't we?
That is SO COOL what the boys did for you two!
SME is a card carrying member of that club NOW. When she was a teen she thought we were the meanest, dumbest, strictest, parents on the planet. Now she understands why we had rules.

Since Z became a teen, he has pretty much understood why we have the rules we do. He sees the behavior of other teens and wonders why their parents don't set limits. Z was difficult to raise as a small child, but his teen years have been a far. ;)

At 12/27/2008 6:11 PM, Blogger Rose Edward said...

I'm new to blogging but didn't have much luck finding the info I need other ways so here goes.
My homeschooled son is 12. His diagnoses are TS, Adhd, ODD, OCD, adjustment syndrome, anxiety, depression, type 1 diabetes and non-verbal learning disability. So far that hasn't lead to finding him what he needs regarding curriculum. Can anyone give us a lead for affordable appropriate curriculum?

At 3/11/2009 12:44 PM, Blogger askmom said...

My daughter has OCD, tourettes and depression. She has such extreme anxiety that she can't attend school without falling apart. In order to continue to "be enrolled" she has to attend one class every 10 days. They don't have an Independent Study Program, and have not developed a 504 plan to accomodate her, they don't have the time or staffing. They won't provide her an "proof of enrollment form" so that she can obtain her learner's permit from the DMV because she has not "attended" enough school by their standards, too many absences they said. I'm not sure what to do. I'm a single mom, no support from the outside world, who is having to stay home full time with a child who simply can't stay in school because of the OCD, and tourettes symptoms which traditional schools just don't seem to provide for. If she was able to sit in classes 7 hours a day, she couldn't learn, so that would just be wasted time, and then because she would be suppressing the OCD she would be exhausted and unable to learn when she returned home. Does anyone have a solution or advice in a positive direction? Also, this has been financially devastating, and I am unable to work now because she can't be alone for fears and anxiety. Does anyone know any resources, financial help for people in this position? I have searched and it seems that these illnesses are not considered to be "accepted illnesses" or a problem worth helping in the "normal" system of assistance. I'm at my wits end, literarly!


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