Back in the summer, we had Bun's speech evaluated by our county's Early Intervention to see if the delay we suspected would be confirmed.
It was, which came as something considerably less than a shock. We sort of clued in to his delay when we noticed he wasn't saying anything. At all.
His largely silent day was lightly peppered with "Bun Language," which mimicked the cadence and intonation of regular speech, but which was unintelligible about 95% of the time. And that was for me, the person who spent all day with him. I knew if I couldn't figure out what he was trying to communicate, then it was pretty hopeless for the casual observer.
We've had early talkers and we've had shyer, later talkers, but we knew that the no-talker was in need of some help.
We'd been through speech therapy before with Fiver, but he wasn't diagnosed until he was over three years old, which meant that he didn't qualify for Early Intervention services. We were steered toward private therapy, and it was a good fit for him, given all of his other issues.
Bun is under three, so we thought we'd start with the county's services first, since we were unfamiliar with them and they had the attractive benefit of being free. Well, as free as you can get as a tax paying citizen anyway. We pay a lot of taxes, and it is nice to see where some of them go.
The evaluation team was great, and within a week or two of meeting the criteria for a delay, Bun was receiving speech therapy once a week in our house. I have to admit that having the therapist come to the house feels like such a luxury after spending years dragging all the kids through the waiting rooms at private therapy for Fiver.
Bun has been responding very well to his therapy, and the change in him is amazing, but he only qualifies for the in-home therapy until he is three. That's only about three more months, and then he is transferred to our county's intermediate unit for a continuation of services.
It is at this point that I'm starting question our plan, and I wonder if I should put him in the same private therapy that we used with Fiver.
We had the initial meeting with the intermediate unit (IU) a couple weeks ago, and it was very pleasant. They like to meet well before the child's third birthday so that there is no gap in services, which makes sense to me.
The coordinators were completely charmed by Bun, and they were very pleased with his social behavior and interaction. We had a lovely conversation, but I still left with some nagging thoughts about the next leg of his journey with the county.
Bun will no longer qualify for in-home therapy, which I understood from the beginning, but as pleasant as the women in the meeting were, they couldn't really answer my questions about where Bun would go.
They couldn't tell me anything "officially" since Bun has not yet been evaluated by an IU team, but they were "pretty sure" that he would not go to an IU classroom, which are reserved for more severely delayed/disabled children.
They just kept saying he would "go out," but they couldn't tell me where. He would just "go out" to a "preschool class setting." Hmm.
One of the coordinators must have seen my expression change, because she started explaining The Philosophy to me.
According to her, the prevailing educational philosophy, to which the IU adheres, is that from birth to three years of age, the home is the best place for a child to learn, but after three, home is just not cutting the mustard. Kids need to get out of their homes and go to school to learn better.
I question that philosophy. I heartily question that philosophy.
These women had just been telling me how bright and happy my child is. They were marvelling over his progress with the in-home therapist. They were commenting on how much social interaction he must get in such a bustling household, and how much he benefits from the different ages of his siblings.
But come February 1st, that environment is no longer considered the best. He will need to leave our busy, social home, with two loving parents who are completely cooperative with his therapist's suggestions and with four siblings who love to be included in the therapy plan (even if only because they are Nosy Parkers).
He will need to go out to a classroom where he will be instructed according to a philosophy with which his parents may not always agree, and where the teachers, however enthusiastic and engaging, are not there solely for his benefit. Teachers are paid to teach. We are here solely for Bun's benefit.
Again, the coordinators must have seen a change in my expression because they started asking some questions. (Note to self: do not think about poker as a hobby.) Questions like, "Well, has he ever been to preschool? Have any of your other children been to preschool?"
Uh, no. He has never been to preschool. He is two. Preschool for his age is called daycare, and why send him to daycare if I'm home?
I got the feeling that they were trying to suss out whether I was some crazy, anti-establishment homeschooling wing nut. They wanted to see where I stood on The Philosophy.
So here's my deal: I am not some crazy, anti-establishment homeschooling wing nut. In fact, I greatly respect homeschoolers and the vast majority of homeschoolers I know are the furthest thing from crazy wing nuts. They are just trying to do the right thing for their children.
So are the parents who send their children out to school, of which I am one.
We all have the right and the responsibility to determine the best place for our children to learn.
I am not anti-preschool. I know I've mentioned before how much I love preschool, and both Francie and Fiver went. Sally had no desire to go, so I didn't force her to go. It wasn't what was best for her. Anyone who knows Sally can tell you that there is no reason to fear for her social or mental development.
I am not trying to slight the IU. They do excellent work with kids, and I am grateful for all the help Bun has gotten so far. We are so happy to see him blossom and come into his own. But I have to always be ready to do what is best for him -- to follow my own philosophy if I know in my heart that it is better for him.
I have never thought of myself as a crazy wing nut, although I am sure that my lifestyle is seen by some as a rebellion against the status quo of modern society. But I'll tell you this: you'll have a mighty hard time convincing me that plucking my little guy out of my home this winter is a better educational move. No matter what the prevailing philosophy says.
If that makes me a wing nut, then so be it.
PS: A comment before the comments - I hope you did glean from the above that I am not harshing on all preschool. Of course there will be some instances where a child would flourish more in a school setting, especially if that child comes from a home that is less than cooperative about following through with prescribed therapies. From talking with various therapists through the years, and from what I know of my sister's job as a social worker, there are a great many homes where the children are not receiving what they need in terms of developmentally appropriate attention. This home is not one of them.