I think the decision to put your child in school, and in which school, is always challenging for parents. We all want to do what’s best for our children. We want them to learn, succeed, be safe and happy.
Sending your child off to school always requires a great deal of trust. Suddenly your baby is out in a world that is unknown. You are no longer the only one protecting and guiding them. School is the first giant step they take away from you.
Every parent feels a tinge of sadness and fear, mixed with the excitement of freedom, as they hug their child goodbye on the first day of school.
But when your child has special needs, that sadness and fear is magnified tenfold.
I started having anxiety about sending Sage to school when she was barely one. In Seattle we were told that if she didn’t enter the public school system at three she wouldn’t get therapy. When we moved to Arizona we learned that because Sage got into long term care she was eligible for therapy even if she didn’t go to school. My relief was tangible. At least some of the pressure was lifted, but not all of it.
I still knew that Sage would get more therapy if she was in school than out of school. She would get more mental stimulation in school than out of school. She would get more social interaction in school than out of school. I felt I had to put her in school in order to provide these good things for her.
But, that didn’t make me feel better about sending her off.
How could I really send my non-mobile and non-verbal daughter into the world at only three years old? She can’t come home and tell me what happened at school. She can’t come home and tell me about the kid that bullied her or the teacher that scolded her. She can’t defend herself. She can’t even move from point A to point B on her own.
She is highly susceptible to illness and anytime she gets sick it disrupts her feeds, which has often landed us in the hospital.
She is vulnerable. On so many levels.
Throughout the summer, as her third birthday drew close, my unrest and unease grew. “We are doing the right thing, we are doing what’s best for her,” I kept telling myself. But I couldn’t quite believe it.
I thought it was just fear and I don’t ever want my decisions to be determined by fear. But today, in the quiet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This feeling of unease is more than fear, that’s why I can’t shake it.
If it was just fear, then my self talk, reminding myself of all the reasons why school would be good for Sage, would help quiet my unease. But it hasn’t.
If it was just fear than facing my fear, sending her to school, having some of those fears become reality, would diminish the power of this uneasy feeling. But it didn’t.
As I drove Thaddeus to school I suddenly remembered, what I’m shocked I could have forgotten. The lesson I learned about intuition when I put Thaddeus in preschool.
The first school we put Thad in looked perfect on paper. It was a well known, well established, Montessori school in our area. The campus was beautiful, complete with a lovely garden the children helped tend. The owner of the school was a kind, structured, earth-loving grandmother figure. The teachers where knowledgable and highly trained. But I felt conflicted, torn, and uneasy the whole time he was there. I never felt peace about it. For six months I tried to rationalize away that intuitive feeling. For six months Thaddeus cried every single day that I dropped him off.
Then over Christmas break I finally listened to my heart, and to the voice of the Spirit that had been trying to get my attention. I pulled Thad out of that school and found another school for him. The new school was small, and much less shiny on the outside, but the teachers really cared about their students and Thaddeus did well there. He stopped crying when I took him to school. And I felt peace.
I realized today that the feeling I had with Thad at that first school is exactly the feeling I have about school for a Sage right now. I don’t want it to take six months before I listen to that feeling. I have too often ignored that still small voice and come to regret it. I want to respond more quickly now.
So, today I officially decided to take Sage out of school. Right away, I felt peace in regards to her schooling for the first time in months. I have to follow that peace.
Throughout the day I slowly came to realize ways that I could meet the needs of my daughter that school would have fulfilled.
I had a wonderful talk with a friend who’s starting a preschool co-op, which seems like it could help with my desire to give Sage more social stimulation. I talked with the pediatrician about a service in the area where the school district sends a teacher to the home of medically fragile kids for two hours a week to provide learning and mental stimulation. I got some necessary paperwork done so Sage can continue to receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy every week.
I worried that if I didn’t put my daughter in school she would be suffering and wouldn’t get what she needs. I don’t worry about that anymore.
Sage is thriving and she will continue to do so even outside of school.
Rejoicing in the journey,