So I was at Tanna's today, out in the garden harvesting vegetables to put up for the winter. Ruby was out there with us and I had the most piercing thought enter my mind.
Which is better for my child, Kindergarten or being in the garden??
As a homeschooler who firmly believes in the school of life being the best education, my answer would be in the garden. I watched my little girl, barely 2 years old, helping bring in the harvest alongside us. She was learning life stuff. What each vegetable is, what color they are, where they come from. Carrots come from the ground, but tomatoes grow on vines. Eggplants are purple but zucchini are green. Squash comes in lots of varieties. Chickens like to eat yucky tomatoes. Here she was, being useful and learning and talking and helping - doing things that it took me 27 years to learn to do.
Then I felt the pang. Where was my other daughter? Not in the garden where she had been a couple of weeks ago, learning alongside us. She was in Kindergarten. Held captive by a system we don't believe in, yet willingly sacrificed her to. My mind drifted to an article in this month's The Old Schoolhouse magazine. It was written by a homeschool mom who had attended public school all her life. It was titled "I was raised by wolves". The wolves she referred to weren't just the teachers and the "system", but the students -the peers. The entire thing is set up to drive parents out of the picture. You no longer raise your child. THEY DO.
So here's Jade. She just started kindergarten. She can read at a 1st grade level or higher. She can do addition in her head. She can write sentences. She can count to 100 (at least). She draws 3-D pictures that put my stick people to shame. She gets overwhelmed easily. She gets angry when things are out of order. She gets frustrated when things don't go her way. She has trouble communicating with others. And yet, she makes friends. She shows affection. She prays every night. She memorizes Bible verses.
In some ways, she is way ahead of kindergarten. She was learning fractions tonight as I chopped zucchini. She picks up everything we do and say. She learns.
And yet we send her off. In our minds we justify it. She needs to be with her peers to learn social skills. She needs the routine. She needs the speech therapy. But, she can learn social skills with her siblings and with friends & cousins that we see often. We can build a routine for her. There are ways to get speech therapy now that she's on the children's waiver. The holes in our justifications get a little bigger all the time.
But there is still a conundrum. She likes school. Really, really enjoys it. She likes riding the bus and seeing her friends and having things be the same every day. And I need the time off. Let's be honest, parenting a special child is hard, hard work. But it is my work. And God has called me to it. He gave me this child and nowhere in the Scriptures does it rescind the command of Deuteronomy 6 in cases of autism.
And there are issues with the school she loves so much. When she comes home, she spends the evening zoned out, tantruming, or repeating over and over some song or something that she learned at school. She's never HOME. She used to love our Bible time after dinner. She listened and took great pride in reciting all the verses - even the ones Kordell forgot. Now she sings, and bangs on the table, and does this bizarre echoing herself thing with the verses. It is driving us all batty. She's not there. She's still at school and we are outsiders.
I don't know what the right thing is yet. To pull her out of school willy-nilly would be devastating to her. To homeschool her would be a challenge, to say the least. To abandon her to the wolves is not an option. It seems for the moment, that this year's course is set and deviating from it would not be the best thing.
But still there is a stirring in me that begs for her presence in the garden.