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About the special needs children: I’ll be perfectly honest that this is one thing that is very unfair to place on a parent teacher in a homeschool co-op setting. Where is the child’s parent during this time? If the child is not behaving well or being disruptive, the child’s own parent should be expected to manage this, not the co-op teacher. Unless you are a trained teacher who ALSO has special needs training, this is an unfair burden to put on your shoulders. It is no wonder you are exhausted, frustrated and feeling demoralized. How many teachers in a public school setting know how to handle such a child? Hardly any! Children with these specialized needs are sent to SPECIAL classrooms, where they are tended to by a team of teachers with specialized masters degrees and extra resources at their disposal. These children have an individualized education plan (IEP). If these children are placed in a mainstream classroom, it is often with a constant aide accompanying them at all times. This parent seems to feel the public school system is not equipped to properly educate their child, but they expect you to somehow have magical skills to handle their special needs child? That isn’t very fair to you. Does your co-op claim to have child development experts that have the educational certifications and/or professional expertise to handle children with specialized needs? If not, then the parent is placing a very unfair burden on the co-op and its parent teachers.
I’m sorry if this seems cruel, but I don’t have the patience of a saint and I have limited energy to deal with a child who has special needs that are above and beyond the average child. If I did have such patience, I’d love to be in the field, but I don’t possess such patience. I put everything I’ve got into helping my own child and teaching a basic co-op class. I don’t have it in me to properly help such a child, no matter how much empathy I have for such a situation. I have no special kind of training to be able to properly assist a child like that. And this is vastly true for nearly every homeschool co-op across this country. There are very few teachers equipped to handle special needs children, let alone an average parent. It is not only unfair for me, who is untrained in such matters, but it’s grossly unfair to place a child with special needs into a group setting and expect everyone else around them to just “know” what should be done. It often takes a team of individuals to help such a child and if you have no training to properly help that child, it’s unfair to you, unfair to that child, and unfair to the other children in the environment who are losing out on learning opportunities while you deal with the special needs child. It’s also unfair to the parents who are paying extra for these special classes to have their child miss out on the experience they have paid for because you are having to manage the other child. I would expect a public school system who is supported by MY tax dollars to bend over backwards to help my special needs child because THAT IS THEIR JOB, but I would NEVER expect an average parent to know all the ways to work with my special needs child.
I can really sympathize with the parent of a special needs child, but to foist your child on others who are simply volunteers and have no specialized training at all to be able to properly meet your child’s needs, is to be honest, a selfish thing. It is stressful to the adults involved, stressful to the other children in the environment and I can’t imagine the special needs child is having a pleasant experience if the adults/children in the room are all angry at them and frustrated because they do not have any special skills, knowledge or training in working with the child’s unique needs.
Now, if you, the parent volunteer, decided, hey, I’d like this to be a very inclusive environment and I really want to try and work with this child. I’m willing to put in LOTS of extra time and effort to figuring out how to meet their needs in this particular environment and I’m willing to do so in a way that does not take away from the other paying families. I’m also willing to exercise a great deal of patience, understanding and persistence to meet this child’s unique needs. AND, the parent is willing to meet me jointly in this endeavor and is not simply dumping their child into my lap to become my problem, then I applaud your efforts. Most people are really not equipped to do this, though.
My experience at other co-ops is this. 1) If a child has special needs that are above and beyond a typical child, then the parent is expected to be alongside that child during class, to redirect and manage their behavior or to remove their child if they are being disruptive.
2) In addition, most co-ops have a set of behavioral guidelines that ALL children are expected to follow, regardless of special needs. You are under absolutely no obligation to bend over backwards to meet a child’s special needs (although you can choose do this, if you wish). You are not a tax-funded group. You are a private entity of VOLUNTEERS. This is only fair as you are not a trained professional who is adept at handling all sorts of special behavior issues. If ANY child does not meet minimum behavior guidelines, then there are usually some sort of tiered consequence system such as 1st offense – verbal warning to child, 2nd offense – child taken to parent for rest of class/day, 3rd offense – kicked out of co-op. This is just an example, and every co-op should have a set of these guidelines as unfortunately, today, there are many parents that seem to think everyone should be willing to tolerate their child’s obnoxious behaviors (and I’m talking about the typical children).
3) ONE co-op I have belonged to actually offered to devise a behavioral plan to TRY to work with the parent and child so they could stay at co-op, if at all possible. It didn’t mean the co-op was willing to put up with anything and the child could act however they wanted, but that several adults would work together to devise a behavioral plan that would help the child succeed in the co-op setting. Out of 5 different co-ops, this was the only one that did this, so it’s unusual.
You are not operating a public school, you are operating a volunteer group where all parents pool their resources together for the benefit of all children that want to be there and are willing to cooperate with their teachers and fellow students. If a student can not cooperate for whatever the reason, whether it be behavioral, developmental (such as special needs or in the case of a child being too young for the class or content) or attitude problems, then a cooperative setting may not be the place for that child. Until that child can meet the community expectations for certain attitude, developmental and behavioral standards, the parent should be prepared to remove the child until they are able to meet those standards. It is the only fair thing for everyone involved. It’s unfair to put a child into an environment where they are not developmentally ready. It’s unfair to put a child into an environment where the adults aren’t equipped to be able to meet their unique needs (would you, for example, expect your 6 year old to babysit a 2 year old? No! It would not only be unfair to the 6 yo, but unfair to put the 2yo in such danger of being in the care of someone that has no clue how to meet their needs). It’s an unfair decision all the way around IMO.
Sorry for my rant, but parents that don’t take full responsibility for their own children and expect everyone to bend over backwards for their child is a peeve of mine. Rant and anger aside, I’m going to COMPLETELY shift gears and look at this in a different way.
1st, I really, really feel for the parent who must deal with a child with extraordinary needs 24/7. When my children were toddlers, I’m ashamed to admit how desperate I was to get a break from my children. I was home 24/7, did not realize I wasn’t taking care of myself well and I had no breaks. My husband worked late hours and the only time I got to myself was when I went to bed, where I got my own sleep disrupted routinely in the middle of the night. I was near losing my mind, to be honest. I can’t even fathom the extra burden a parent with special needs deals with. My children were well-behaved and typically developing children and I was losing it, but to add the burden of special needs, I can’t even imagine. In a perfect world, I wish these parents had every resource at their disposal to help their special needs child. Sadly, I know that to not be true.
It is my guess that it is your own compassion towards the child and the family that has you feeling so demoralized that you aren’t able to help the child the way you think you should be able to. If you’ve been put into an unfair situation, the kind thing to do is forgive yourself.
I can only imagine the parent of a special needs child is desperate to have their child lead a life that is as “normal” as possible. In the perfect world, the whole community would be able to rally around this family and child and give them every possible support they need. Sadly, most of us are trying to survive in keeping our head above water in our own lives and don’t feel we can commit to such a thing.
If the parent of this child is not present in the classroom, it’s possible they have no idea what’s going on. It’s possible the child behaves well away from co-op, but only in the carefully constructed environment the parent usually provides and co-op setting is a departure from the normal routine and the child doesn’t know how to behave in this new environment.
It’s possible, you are not exercising good leadership in the classroom and have not spelled out expectations. You may assume, since you have taught your own children how to behave properly, that every parent has taught the exact same lessons. (And they may have and kids still forget or like to test boundaries). In my classes, I spend a lot of time spelling out what the expectations are, especially when there are younger children. I emphasize and repeat them as often as needed. For example, We walk in the classroom. I’ll ask, how do we act in the classroom? We walk. Should we run in the classroom? No. Should we stand on our chairs? No. We sit in our chairs. I ask questions where there is only one answer. Be explicit, assume nothing, while also being respectful of the children in your care. I also use the power of the peer group to reinforce the community expectations. But, a child who has special needs, might need special ways of communicating and do you know what those are?
Has the parent communicated any special instructions? It’s possible that the parent might be able to share some tips with you to help you better manage the situation.
It’s possible that you are not approaching this class right. BFSU is split into 3 parts that are developmentally appropriate for targeted age groups (K-2, 3-5, 6-8). You are trying to use BFSU 2 with younger children that may not be ready to receive, interpret or understand the content from BFSU 2 when BFSU 1 was designed with them in mind. AND if the younger children ALSO have special needs, then they might not even be ready for BFSU 1 without making some major modifications to accommodate their special needs. A child who does not understand or comprehend what is being taught is ripe for misbehaving, not paying attention or causing other distractions.
It’s possible that the parent has inflated belief in their child’s ability to behave well and assumes all will be ok. They are used to just accommodating their child’s unique needs because they deal with it 24/7 and think everyone else is able to (or should) do the same.
It’s possible the parent is so blinded by their belief in their child’s abilities/intelligence, that it never occurred to them that such a class might not be appropriate for their special needs child. I have a number of friends that honest to goodness think their child is a genius (I promise they are not). Parents want to see what is good in their child, but can be a bit biased to actual reality.
It’s possible that the parent is so stressed out and so desperate for a tiny break that they are just thankful to have their child in a “safe” environment and they get 2 hours of peace one day a week. It’s possible it never occurred to them the extra burden this would place on others or that it might not be an appropriate environment for their special needs child.
It’s possible that your community could really come together and provide an inclusive environment for every type of child, but it will take full on commitment by a majority in the co-op and may involve far more than expected. It’s possible that the rewards to such an endeavor would be well worth it! (It’s also OK to admit if you are not a good fit to tackle such an endeavor.)December 13, 2016 at 10:46 pm in reply to: Is there a kit that one can buy to purchase all these things #1150
Home Science Tools will put together kits for specific curriculum (Dr Nebel or staff would have to initiate the conversation with HST on how to do that), but there has to be enough people purchasing the kit on a regular basis or they will discontinue the kit. If people only buy bits and parts from the kit instead of the full kit, then there might not be enough for them to keep the kit in stock.