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Choosing Between Public or Hybrid School for My Sons With Special Needs

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My twin boys start third grade in a little over a week. Each year I am amazed at what a steep jump each grade seems, but even more so this year.

We have had an amazing public school experience so far, but if there’s one thing that bugs me about public school, it’s the testing focus.

And 3rd grade… that’s when standardized tests start.

Both my sons love school, and I want them to keep that attitude as long as possible. With the testing pressure looming large, I found myself wanting to reduce that pressure, all the while seeking to preserve the joy and love of learning they already possess.

So, I started doing some heart-searching and brainstorming about whether or not public school was still the best choice for our boys.

An exciting opportunity presented itself in our town: A new hybrid school that is a blend of homeschooling and private school. In this school, the children attend class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and are taught by a professional educator. Then, on the home days, the students review and reinforce their lessons with their parents.

The school is launching this fall, and I was beyond excited. I scheduled a private meeting with its founder, and we talked educational theory for nearly two hours in my living room. I went to the start-up meeting for parents who were interested in being part of the core team. I promoted the school on Facebook and invited people to come to the public information meeting.

I loved this idea.

And yet…

I didn’t know if it was going to be the right fit. I wanted it to be. The focus would be on a love of learning, not testing.  The parent/teacher balance seemed ideal, the perfect blend of freedom, creativity, and homeschool/traditional school.

But I was struggling with the fact that I didn’t know if it would be a good fit for my sons… and me.

My boys have special needs in various forms between the two of them—ADHD, language processing learning disabilities, anxiety, sensory processing disorder (SPD), and autism.

Even during homework time, our tempers flare and emotions run high — as much as I love them and want to give them the best, could I actually be the best teacher and mother to them on the days we would do school at home?

Some days I was sure: Yes, I want the best for them. This would be the best. I can give them this best.

Other days, I was struck with the starkness of my own reality: Is this what is best for them? For me?

Would I be able to be the mother I wanted to be if I was teaching them the majority of our days at home?

As stressful as it is being the mom of two kids with special needs, did I want to
add the responsibility of “academic teacher” too?

Would they thrive?

Could I handle it?

Do I really want to do this?

As second grade came to a close in the spring, I still had not made a decision. I was stuck between the scenario of what is best for my kids vs. what is best for me.

One day, I brought it up with my son’s counselor. After I laid all my arguments, desires, dreams, and doubts before her, she said something that jolted me to my core, and ultimately helped me make a decision between public school and the hybrid school.

“The thing is,” she said carefully, “What is best for you is what is best for you kids.”

Her words stunned me.

What is best for me is what will be best for my kids?

How can that be? Wasn’t a mother supposed to be selfless, always sacrificing, putting her kids wants, needs, and desires before her own? Could I embrace this truth? It seems so counter-intuitive.

But it brought light, clarity, and peace to my conflicted soul, and after she said this phrase to me, I knew what my decision would be.

We would continue in public school for third grade.

The truth is, I knew in my heart of hearts, that to preserve the best mother/son relationship with my boys, I needed to delegate the role of “academic teacher” to someone else, namely the wonderful, professional regular and special education teachers at our public school.

I have been working hard to reduce stress in my life lately because I have realized that when I am less stressed, I am a calmer, more loving, more patient mom.

Choosing the hybrid school would have been an amazing experience, but I know it would have been a huge stressor as well.  Many days, I feel like my relationships with my sons are fragile.  With all their special needs, I need to do all I can to reduce the stressors that could strain those relationships.

Would the hybrid school have been good for my sons? Oh yes! I believe they would have loved it.  Would it have been good for me? Probably not, and that means it was not the right decision for my sons either.

Sometimes, being a good mom means doing what is best for you — and in doing that, you are doing what is best for you kids too.

I don’t know if the advice the counselor gave me pans out in every situation. I’ve applied her maxim (What’s best for you is what is best for your kids) to many imaginary scenarios and, weirdly, her advice rang true in most situations. Hm…

What do you think of her advice? Is what is best for you what is best for you kids?

Share your thoughts and story below!

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: August 26, 2016
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