I got a call from my in-laws this morning asking me to take my kids out of school and homeschool them again because of this article. My in-laws said they knew I had the kids in school because of other issues, but they didn't want their grandchildren learning things contrary to the constitution. 30 minutes later I received an automated message from the junior high that a 9th grader had died unexpectedly last night. Later I learned it was suicide.
This is our battle: I have four sons with varying degrees of autism, ADHD, sensory integration disorder and brain injuries. Trying to homeschool one special needs child is hard, but trying to homeschool four was beyond my scope of ability. We had no structure, we had no peace, we had no cleanliness, and we had very few good, engaging lessons because there were too may literal and implied fires to put out. I needed help, and there is no one on this earth that was willing to come into my home 5 days a week and help me with that for the amount of time I needed help, that would still love my family unconditionally and still be my friend. I turned to the public schools at the bottom of our hill. The tests were run, the kids were behind in their skills (not just academically, but physically and mentally too), they enrolled them with the teachers that match my kids' personalities perfectly. My kids have 3-5 people working with them every day, teaching them skills that I was never going to honestly be able to do because 1. I did not have the education needed to help them with their disabilities and 2. I had many other responsibilities in my life to tend to that I did not have the time to give them the appropriate attention. I sensed my kids needed more people in their life to help them and I have been blessed with loving and helpful professionals that have done just that for my kids.
I send my kids out the car door every morning with "I love you! Have a good day. Make good choices!" I pray over them every morning and every night for their health and safety. We read scriptures before they go to school every morning and we have family discussions every night around the table. I have one son I still homeschool. I hug him every day, tell him thank you for being my right hand man when I have 40 other things going on. I have an almost 2 year old daughter, that if I didn't see her progression, happiness and enthusiasm, I would doubt my abilities as a mother. We live our life to the best of our abilities and strive to do better every day. When we stop doing that, we need to re-evaluate.
I found myself getting really upset with some groups. I am both a homeschooling and a public school parent. I have a foot in both worlds, which means I have an interest in both worlds. As with any one thing in this world, I run across fanatics. There are those that have homeschooled all their life and their kids have never attended public school who feel confident to preach the evils of public school. There are public school parents that have never homeschooled that feel anyone who homeschools is only producing socially retarded children. It is a lack of understanding on both sides, and with it comes fear mongering. I see this in politics, health, foods, children on medications, adoption, cleaning a house, even how you hold your baby or where the baby sleeps. I wish we could be more diplomatic in our dealings with one another.
Tonight, I have been forced to discuss suicide with my 14 year old son. I don't know what to expect or say, I don't know if he knew this other kid, or what has been told to him at school. I'm saddened for the family of this child because I know no parent would ever want this trial and my heart aches for them. The medications my son is on for him to be able to be a participating and capable child in society come with warnings of suicide. Every month we evaluate this with him, and thankfully, every month, he says no, he is fine. Did these parents get that answer? Did these parents suspect their child was suicidal? I asked this because yes, I want to compare my own situation and in a sense, yes, to make sure I don't have to experience this same tragedy. I do not judge this family in any way. I have feared the same situation myself.
Every day I get on Facebook and I read a number of gun control posts, public school is evil posts, foods are bad for us posts, places I would like to see, and occasionally the few funny posts about kids or pets or pictures. In the last two months I have three friends that have bared their souls on Facebook. I read every word. I'm not delighting in their trials, but I'm grateful they shared because I enjoyed learning that they were human too. They have had hard roads to walk, and I have walked some of those same roads as well. I learned from their stories. I wish I could read more life stories of my friends.
Too often in our world we get sucked into the newest TV show, the latest video game, the hottest new song, or we chat with friends by phone or text instead of in person. We are loosing our human connections, replacing them with online relationships or even fantasy characters controlled by humans. We are becoming apathetic. We are loosing our children because the people of the world are being consumed by media and technology, by the availability of all things evil and filthy, by over indulgence and looking for the next fun thing. Will reading my scriptures to my kids every morning, going to church every week and not allowing them watch TV help them not do drugs or get overweight or commit suicide or hit a kid at the playground? No. I will not be able to protect my children from every evil, unclean and horrible thing in the world. And I'm not supposed to. My job is to teach my children how to be kind, helpful, and polite. My job is to make decisions for them until they are of a responsible age that will be best for their welfare, which means I feed them healthy food, I teach them the qualities I hope they will emulate when they are older, I teach them that home is a place of love and comfort, peace and happiness, responsibility and hard work.
When I shut the front door, I shut out the world, right? Wrong. It seeps in over the internet, over the TV, the radio and in music. Do we live a sterile life, afraid of what's on the other side of the door, thinking that no contact with the world is the best option for our children? No, we cannot. We cannot fear every time something bad happens in the world. I have heard all my life that if you are prepared you shall not fear. Our job is to prepare our kids for the world, teach them how to handle these things that are around them day in and day out. Teach them to have a plan for every decision they may have to make, that their parents love them, that they need to be kind to their siblings, that a banana is better for you than bacon, despite how tasty it may be.
I'm not a perfect parent. I wish I had a book that told me how to deal with the myriad of emotions and situations that can happen in an adoption. Please someone tell me how to best discipline a kid with Autism and ADHD when they set your freezer on fire. I want to know how many outfits a child really needs so I can save my sanity and arms from having to wash 9 loads of laundry in a day. I want to know how I teach my kid that if he is ever feeling like killing himself, to please come to me and tell me so I can get him help, before we are in a stand off situation or before I have to come home an empty bedroom. I want to know how to safely wrap my kids in bubble wrap from birth to age 5 to prevent brain injuries. Please someone tell me how to have a conversation about sex with my child without giggling through the whole thing. I feel like a socially awkward parent.
I encourage you to really talk to your children, take an interest in them, play with them, search them out when you know they have had a bad day, advocate for them, hug them, teach them! Our children have free agency, to make their own choices. I know natural instinct is to make the decisions for them, but we need to learn to back up, hands off, let them make the decisions, and if they fail, we welcome them back with open arms, and cheer when they succeed. Remember to love the person, not the crime. Remember that all of my ramblings may not mean a hill of beans in all situations. Share more of your life with others. You never know when you may help someone or they might help you. Laugh at your mistakes and share your shoulder for a good cry. Trust your instincts, you, as their parent, really will know what is best for them. Go outside! Sleep on the trampoline with your kids. Find more positives than negatives.
Find more love than hate.