Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If a letter never gets read does it really make a point?

For those of you tracking such things, summer vacation is nearly one-third over. I'm keenly aware of the passage of time this summer; I want to have all my ducks in a row to start our homeschooling adventure in the fall and that means lots of reading and internalizing. I also have one order of business to take care of that will formally take us out of the public school system. I'm required to notify the school district of our plans to homeschool. I'm sure nobody really looks at the letter. It probably just gets filed away somewhere and that is that. I'm just not sure how I feel about going so quietly. I want my voice to be heard. I came to the decision to homeschool out of necessity. Nothing the school could or would offer me is satisfactory and I want them to hear that. I want to tell them my thoughts about this experience when I visited the kindergarten classroom where they would have me place Oliver. I want to tell them how it feels to have an SLP who has no understanding of autism working with my son. I want to tell them what I think of a school district that won't support a family systems model of remediation and yet commonly places middle-school aged children like my son in residential facilities.

And yet. ...

I have a good friend here in town who fights the good fight. She knows the law. She has educated herself on how to be a good advocate. If you look under mama bear in the dictionary you'll find her picture. But I also know how emotionally draining it is for her. And in the end, even if she gets everything her heart desires for her son, who is so much like my Oliver -- it wouldn't be anything I'm willing to fight over. An old tin can is still an old tin can, even if you knock all of the dents out of it and put a new label on it.

I won't be happy with anything less than a paradigm shift. And one little letter from me telling the school district how I feel won't even take me a step closer. I've been mulling the idea of writing two letters, one formal, perfunctory letter telling them that we will be homeschooling and another -- sent directly to the superintendent and special ed director -- telling them, well, everything else. But wouldn't it just be wasted energy?

What do think?

10 comments:

  1. Write it, see how it makes you feel once you get your thoughts out on paper and then decide if you feel like mailing it. I don't think it will be wasted energy. You aren't looking to keep Oliver in the public school, you just want them to know how you feel. Maybe one day, if enough letters are written, they will have RDI in school. You never know. I say write it though.

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  2. Write it but don't send it. You never know if you will need to go back to the public schools for help. I hope to never have to go there myself but you don't want to burn any bridges. If you do send a letter make it factual and professional, not emotional. Just my advice from advocating.

    I became drained advocating as well. It is so tiring but necessary. We now homeschool so we have a nice break. For a time.

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  3. I think they might hear your words better than someone else because you are not embroiled in argument with them. You're not fighting the fight. Not that I don't fully support doing so when necessary, but you are in the unique position of backing out quietly and so honestly, they might hear what you say better than some other parents. I say, write it. You never know when your words will be just what someone in power needs to hear just one more time, or in that certain way, to make a change.

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  4. As a person who's written MANY letters to school-type folks -- no, I don't think it's wasted. The letter can be diplomatic enough not to burn your bridges yet direct enough to address your concerns. Definitely send a copy to the special ed. director. :-)

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  5. Write it! They need to know how you feel. It won't be wasted energy at all, even if they never serious think about what you wrote. It still needs to be said.

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  6. Of course you should write it. I wrote a letter to the director of Henry's preschool after we had withdrawn him. Not an angry letter, just a suggestion-making letter.

    When the preschool hired a new director, I sent it again to her. I have no idea if she read it, but I hope so.

    I write in my blog and it makes me feel better, even if no one reads it :-)

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  7. Of course you should write it. I wrote a letter to the director of Henry's preschool after we had withdrawn him. Not an angry letter, just a suggestion-making letter.

    When the preschool hired a new director, I sent it again to her. I have no idea if she read it, but I hope so.

    I write in my blog and it makes me feel better, even if no one reads it :-)

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  8. i say, write them both and send them both! i'm confident that you will do it beautifully with power and clarity and tact. we need to be willing to shake the school system up with what we know is basic but what feels radical to them. the more they hear it, the more chance we have that something will sink in. after all, the paradigm shift must begin with something, yes?

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  9. OF COURSE you already know what I think. I have written at least four letters in my blog, some sent, but not all. Here's what I think. I think writing letters is powerful. Sure, it's powerful for the reader, but more for the writer of course. Writing a letter is medicinal. It educates us about ourselves, and what heals more than learning? Not a thing. "How can I know what I think until I see what I say?" I have always loved that quote, and I hope you think about it and write the letter. I'll be looking for it.

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  10. Write it. Send it not only to the school and the district folks; copy the director of your state board of ed AND your local/state legislator(s). Make it clear that you are choosing this route because no matter how much you resort to due process/mediation/litigation the system is broken.

    Don't go quietly at all. Consider writing an editorial for the local paper?

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