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Author Topic: Concerned family needs advice  (Read 6103 times)

noname

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Concerned family needs advice
« on: May 24, 2005, 10:54:46 pm »

 know it's long....please bare with me....

I'm new here, and as a matter of courtesy I would normally wait before posting, but I need advice.  (relationships changed for added anonymity)  My nephew, who is now 14 has Asperger's syndrome and is very high functioning--his disabilites do not have significant learning components. My niece is 12 and 'normal' (for lack of a better word).  My Sister, decided she would homeschool her son when he was two or three.  In the state where they live, parents must submit a curriculum, not for approval just to have on file, and provide proof of progress to the next grade level each year.  This can be done by standardized test, portfolio submission, or a statement attesting to said progress by a certified teacher.  My sister has been doing the paperwork to keep the school happy, but has done almost no teaching.  A certified teacher at her church has been signing off on their progress each year without so much as talking to the kids. Her son can read, though at what level I am unsure as I am not a teacher.  Her daughter can also read, but has only been able to do so for the last 2 years (approx.).  Their math skills involve multiple digit addition, single digit subtraction, and nothing else.  Furthermore, the only reason they have any subtraction skills is that my sister has on several occasions left her children with another homeschooler (who is actually teaching her children) and they have participated in the other homeschool lessons.  I could give a list of other activities that keep my sister from teaching her children, but that might give me away if she were to read this.  I have purchased countless study materials on at least 15 subjects the kids find interesting and would be helpful for independent study in the absence of homeschooling.  If they were learning anything at all I'd be happy.  However, my sister puts the books, CD's, computer software, and such away saying she doesn't want the kids to damage or lose them.  She claims they will have access to them during 'homeschool time.'  I think, okay, that makes sense.  The problem is they never have homeschool time.......In 4 different locations she has been 'setting up' the school and I quote "as soon as I get the homeschool set up we're going to start school again." The last time I spoke with the kids they said they had not had school in 8 months. 

I'm bringing this long background up because I have several concerns you as homeschool proponents might be able to help me solve.  I have purchased supplies, offered to help with teaching responsibilities, and offered to hire tutors while she is busy with the other things I eluded to.  After all rejection, I contacted the school district, praying they could do ANYTHING( this was an act of desperation).  I was hoping to remain anonymous because I knew my sister would no longer speak to me or let me speak with her children.  The superintendant told me there was nothing they could do because she had filed her paperwork (months after the due dates, I might add).  The only way I could do anything was to have my name documented, and I needed to document that she wasn't doing her 900 hours of teaching.  I don't know, but documenting what isn't being done is very difficult.  I am 100% certain she is verbally and emotionally abusing her children (in a severe way).  I figured children's services would help me/them (please keep in mind, I hated to do this fearing meddling from them could be disastrous--but I was desperate).  They told me they wouldn't get involved because the children are not being physically or sexually abused.  I am frustrated that no one will step in to save these children from the hell they are living in and the life that is being slowly stolen from them.  Since they are not being taught anything, how will they get anything but minimum wage jobs.  I keep seeing how homeschoolers want as little regulation as possible.  I will likely homeschool my children for at least the first couple of years, but I see how someone like my sister is feeding into every 'regular' educator's worst fear.  I know what homeschooling is supposed to be, and how I want it for my children, but I don't know how to close this loop-hole without overregulating.  It seems there isn't enough regulation to solve this problem.  Since my sister and I no longer speak and live a long distance apart (i.e. I can't document those hours) does anyone have constructive ideas on how to solve this for my niece and nephew?  You know what it's like to be overregulated, how can both sides of this argument be addressed?

I'm sorry this is so incredibly long, but I feel it is important to give as many facts as possible in order to solicite good advice.  It hurts me terribly to see children fall through this proverbial crack....I'm sure most would agree. :'( ??? Though I want to make it clear I am NOT anti-homeschool....I'm just opposed to people who are too lazy to take their kid to school and use homeschool as a kevlar vest)

noname
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Gabo

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2005, 12:27:04 am »

It is quite sad when parents decide not to educate their children....

Unless the parents are purposely trying to ruin their children (which I could hardly imagine), then a good talking to should solve the problem.  Let the parents know they are ruining their children's lives, and should stop right away.  Any half decent parent would switch to a more workable learning style.

And if the parents really do want their children to fail, that's where the right to emancipation comes around.  I believe children should actually be allowed to emancipate themselves, mainly for cases such as this when they are being mistreated.  The child could then choose to live on their own (which there's no reason to do at such a young age), or find new parents to care for them.

If parents knew that their child could leave if they were mistreated, less parents would do mean things to their children.  If they really do love them deep down (which nearly every parent does), then they will try their best to keep the child in a good enviornment.
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SteveA

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2005, 12:59:06 am »

It's true that some parents don't do a very good job of parenting.  If homeschooling was more common I'm pretty sure there would be easier options available for parents but that still doesn't guarantee children get a good education and with the current system, we don't see as much emphasis placed on a parent's need to encourage education (not that public schools guarantee an adequate education anyway).

Maybe providing some educational materials to the children directly could help.  It might encourage the children's reading with something like an audio tape/book combination.  From what you said, I don't get the impression she's against their education, only resistant to outside involvement and apathetic in providing it herself, so if the children themselves were encouraged (assuming you have a way to periodically see them) with some materials, that might make a bit of a difference.

Of course, I don't have any personal knowledge of the family relationship and I can't claim to know much about homeschooling (other than I learned a majority of the skills I've found most useful outside public education) but as a sidenote, a formal education is a valuable tool but not irreplaceable, my wife has no formal education but she was working at 18 and helping support her brothers and sisters and she's a valuable mother to our children.  I know Herself said that she had a rough upbringing and my mother caused a bit of grief in our family but where you start life isn't always where you end up.  I don't want to sound like I'm encouraging breaking up the family but consider that in a few years her children will probably be "out and about" more.  So you can see if there's something you can get them interested in, when the opportunities are present (maybe even something in art, like some clay and a book on sculpting) ... and in a few years when her children begin stretching their wings there might be more opportunies to assist as a mentor.  Again, I'm assuming that the mother isn't opposed to her children getting an education altogether but is overly protective to an extent that is isolating.
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LeRuineur6

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2005, 10:53:59 pm »

noname,

Pressure is one very important method of creating change in the absence of law.  Have someone call the mother and tell her that EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG will be told about this if she does not immediately promote learning among her children.

Millions of people homeschool, and many also unschool, which means to teach nothing at all by force.  The problem with your situation is that the mother is obviously trying to prevent the children from learning anything.  Unschooling means to promote learning every day, to help children retain their natural love of learning which public schools destroy, and to give children everything necessary to learn as much as they want about any subject they are interested in.  Unschooling requires effective guidance and a supportive parent, and it often results in brilliant children from what I've seen.

As someone in your position, I would do everything possible to communicate that you wish for her to promote learning, make learning materials available, and give the children a chance and a reason to join social clubs, work in internships, start businesses, and take part in other important learning experiences as desired by the children.

I see law as a last resort, and rightfully so, as the government is not gentle change.  Government is force, it is fire, imprisonment, theft, and destruction.  Government never solves any problem without creating a host of new problems, and it should not be used in my opinion.

Be creative and you will find a non-government solution to the problem.  My initial ideas are:
-pressure her as much as possible
-tell her you will not rest until she changes, for the sake of her children
-tell all of her family members about it
-threaten to publicize her situation
-actually publicize it, if necessary

I'm sure you can come up with better ideas given that you've been worrying about this for much longer than I have.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more ideas.  I'm always willing to help others.
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BlueLu

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2005, 09:41:25 am »

Spend as much time with them as you can.  Arrange for them to spend time with as many intelligent, interesting people as you can.  Give them interesting gifts that they can learn about or be creative with. 

Learning does not have to depend on "school materials" and formal instructors, and it is frequently hindered by them.  Learning takes place best when a person indulges his/her curiosity, creates,  interacts with interesting people, and anticipates gain from learning about something.

Also, is there a social group that your sister belongs to, like a religious congregation or motorcycle club, whose leaders could be tapped to encourage her to expose her children to more and better learing situations?

Edit:  That's right.  You mentioned the church school is signing off on the home schooling.  I would seriously consider taking your concerns to the top clergy at the church.  If they are doing their jobs, they should deal with this sort of problem facing their parishioners and should do it discretely.  But unless someone close to the situation like you tells them, they may not know.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2005, 01:17:17 pm by BlueLu »
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BlueLu

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2005, 09:54:54 am »

If your nephew were in need of life-skills training, I would suggest hiring a life-skills consultant to go with you to their house as "a friend who is coming along", but from your description, it sounds like he is not a life-skills kid.

Discussing with a clinical counselor your plans and the ways you interact with your niece and nephew would probably be a good idea too.  They spend a lot of time and money learning effective techinques for making unusual relationships productive.  Though you have to be careful you are not getting a wacky one.  The flip side of their valuable knowledge is that a lot of mental health professionals are brought into the profession, because they needed and benefitted from being counselled by one earlier in their lives.
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Greenbacks

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2005, 10:29:11 am »

aspergers syndrome (a mild form of autism) is very tricky because it has a social component (characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood) - I have a friend with a 13 yr. old son diagnosed as a young child.
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BlueLu

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2005, 01:08:49 pm »

And it certainly is not OK to socially isolate children.  I think what Greenbacks is saying is that the behaviors which might cause more social problems for your nephew than for other children, need to be handled well for his sake.  I certainly wish you the best of luck in trying to get loving and understanding people into their lives, not just intellectually stimulating ones.
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Greenbacks

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2005, 01:48:52 pm »

And it certainly is not OK to socially isolate children.  I think what Greenbacks is saying is that the behaviors which might cause more social problems for your nephew than for other children, need to be handled well for his sake.  I certainly wish you the best of luck in trying to get loving and understanding people into their lives, not just intellectually stimulating ones.

exactly...I would also encourage them to seek professional help with Aspergers.

it appears to me maybe because this child may have behavioral/learning challenges that is much "easier" to keep them isolated...
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Evenstar

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2005, 05:14:14 pm »

As someone who is getting more and more sold on Unschooling the more I study it, this situation is scary because people who don't know the difference could think that what this woman is doing and what I propose to do are the same.  What I saw suggested earlier is a good idea, though, and a start in the right direction.  Give gifts to the children that are interesting and stimulate their brains without being overtly educational.  Books of all sorts, puzzles of all sorts, manipulation games, and the like all qualify, and you can probably think of more.  Other than that, a lot of the suggestions above are good, but if you go to Government for a solution, make sure to emphasize that she is RESTRICTING her children's access to education, not merely not "teaching" them.
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jeanius

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2005, 08:02:23 pm »

Good advice, Evenstar. 

I've read this thread and have held off commenting.  It is difficult to judge this situation from the outside.  I don't know the dynamics between the people involved.  I know that my sibling and I don't always get along and advice from such sources can be fraught with baggage from the past and "other" meanings.  I think all approaches *except* for government should be pursued.  Check in with family, get their support *and* involvement.  Loving confrontation can be a powerful tool.  Check in with your sister's friends and do the same, if you can. 

Some approaches to learning don't formally introduce reading until late.  The theory is that the brain really isn't ready for it until 8 to 10.  It is generally true, that late to learn to read does not a poor lifelong reader make.  I have found, and have heard from others, that you have to actively get in the way to stop kids from learning.  I've been heard to say ... "my kids learn in spite of me".  And I spend plenty of time and lots of money on education.  They learn things that I didn't "teach" them ... by reading books, watching the Discovery Channel, observation, ... It's truly amazing.

I really *do* want to point out, however, that homeschooling is not the problem here.  The comments point to verbal and emotional abuse.  Bad parents are everywhere both as homeschooling and schooling families.  I think it is possible that education could be the least of these children's problems.  :(

Jean
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Evenstar

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Re: Concerned family needs advice
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2005, 08:11:28 pm »

Something else that came to mind in thinking about this situation.

Without the possible abuse angle, my mother asked me a similar question about a neighbor of hers who claims to be "Unschooling" but is in fact simply NOT schooling.  She asked me if I thought she should take steps to get the kids into public school.  My answer was (and is) that if the parents aren't supportive of learning, there is little chance that the kids will learn much of value in school and a good chance they will pick up many of the negatives: peer reliance/pressure, hatred of learning, and such.

If the children are still interested in learning, a parent would have to be very diligent to STOP them from learning, but if they've already lost interest, a public school is unlikely to make it much better.  In fact, only a change in the parents' attitude is likely to make a difference.  However, a child interested in learning can learn a lot from the world around them without any formal instruction.  I only need to look at my son (who'll be a year old in two weeks) to see that.

Just a thought.
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