This past summer, JR finally hit the age where our state law required he be registered with the state as a legal homeschooler. I obliged, as the penalty for not registering means he is legally “truant”, and that could be much worse. Because registering made us feel somewhat “marked” though, we decided that since homeschooling our children was a long-term plan for us, we would join HSLDA.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, HSLDA stands for Home School Legal Defense Association. It is an organization, founded by Christian lawyers and homeschool supporters and advocates, that spend every waking moment defending national parental rights to homeschool our children. On occasion, they even get involved in international matters, if there is a potential risk of it causing loss of homeschool freedom in America. The benefit to members is in the event you ever find yourself in a legal situation as a result of your homeschool. You would then have the ability to contact a lawyer immediately, 24/7, to help you deal with it appropriately. If your case you should go to trial, and they feel you are unjustly acused of something like truancy, then they may take your case and represent you at no cost to you. That’s what membership fees are for. They are a wonderful organization, and I highly encourage any homeschooler to join and support them. Of course, when you join, you never really think you will actually need their help.
The last couple of days, I have been trying to get A’s final appointments all lined up. Once again, his pediatrician is not supporting us, and refuses to contact the endocrinologist that the neurologist wants us to see, which means the earliest appointment I can get is in May. So, I gave up, and started working on his therapy appointments, which both the pediatrician and neurologist would like to see him in.
After a lengthy discussion with Tricare, I was told that, because he is 3 years old, Early Intervention will no longer work with him, and he is required to have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) from the school district in order for Tricare to cover his therapies. I explained that he wasn’t in school yet, and was told that it didn’t matter, it was just procedure for that age. The school district had the specialists who would identify his exact needs, write a report that would be submitted to Tricare, and we’d go from there. Easy enough. It didn’t make much sense to me as to why the school should be involved, but, feeling I had no other choice, I called the number she gave me. In summary, I was told by the school district that A would have to go before a screening board, and if they agree he needs help, it becomes official. Then, he’d go before a board of medical experts, including therapists, psychiatrists, and child development specialists. They determine exactly what therapies he needs. Sounds fair enough right? Well, because of how the law works, once they determine what he needs, it goes on record, and in order to receive therapy, he must be admitted to the public, government funded pre-school for 4 days per week, where he will receive his therapies as part of the school day. That’s the only option. Once the IEP is written, it is followed up on to ensure compliance. I felt justified in explaining to her that we were a homeschooling family, and asked about non-school options for therapy. She said there were none. The state system was set up that way, and I needed to go ahead and schedule his screening then and there. When I told her I wasn’t calling to schedule yet, and needed to discuss things with my husband, she got upset and tried every possible approach to get to me to schedule. I found myself in a very uncomfortable position. I have heard waaaaay too many horror stories. There was a little more to the conversation, but that was the jist of it.
I was furious at the idea that what she said might be true, and that my son needing therapy might be the way the law forced him into government-funded public school. It may seem like a silly thing if you aren’t a homeschooler, but I felt like another right I had as a parent had just been squashed. I love this little boy, and have given him my very best effort. I have fought for his 3 years of life to help him, even when doctors refused to listen. We finally started making progress and getting somewhere, and BAM! I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake by not just keeping quiet. I can’t regret, and yet, I wonder if I should. There was something in the school lady’s voice when I hung up, when she couldn’t convince me to schedule the screening yet, that made me very nervous. Perhaps it’s just paranoia, but something in my gut said we suddenly had a file, that had just been moved to the top of the stack for closer monitoring.
I called S and told him about the conversation, and I think he got as upset as I did. There is no possible way our U.S. Constitution would allow us to be forced to put our child into a public school system. Yet, it happens all the time. What really makes me angry though, is how a small group of “experts” could look at my son play games for an hour, and then decide that him being assigned to a classroom with 15 other children his age, half of which are also IEP children with all sorts of disabilities, would be more beneficial than allowing me, his mother, to work with him. There is no possible way you will convince me that the one teacher and 2 volunteers assigned to each group of 15 children could ever love him as much, or devote as much time and effort to his needs. And what about when he has a moment where he loses his self-control and acts on impulse? Am I to believe they are more qualified, or will handle it in a better manner for improving his character than I could as his mother? Worst of all, what about the influence the other children would have on him? I can’t even afford to risk what could happen if A, with his lack of self-discipline and self-control, and his occasionally extreme impulsiveness, were to be exposed to 15, 3-year olds every day. I might as well throw in the towel now, as I have no doubt that most of the training and teaching I have done regarding his character would go right down the tubes when influenced by peers. I am confident the good examples set by his older siblings are much better for him in that area of life.
I think S was even more nervous than I was, and he told me to get HSLDA on the phone immediately to be proactive and hopefully find some truth on the issue. So I called, and was immediately directed to the lawyers office that handles our state. I had to leave a message, but the lawyer called back later. To my relief, he said, “They told you a load of CRAP!” He further explained that they had dealt with a number of these situations. Basically, Tricare is a lousy form of insurance if the state provides therapy through the school system. Tricare indeed demands an IEP, and IF we want full coverage, then yes, we would have to allow him to receive it through the school, which charges nothing to Tricare (just taxpayers). However, I could send him for however many days I wanted–or not at all. I could also take the IEP to a private therapist and pay out of pocket. Or, I could forego the IEP completely if we found a private therapist willing to simply use a doctor’s referal.
So, now we are at another wall for the moment. S has decided we absolutely will not use the school district, if for no other reason than because we can’t support the blatant lies I was told. We are still debating on the IEP, however. Our pediatrician has become so uncooperative that he doesn’t even care to follow up with A, except for his normal well-child visits since his MRI and labs showed nothing. I can only assume he is adding me to his pile of “those” mothers who always worry about nothing. I have one phone number left that may get him into physical therapy at least, based on his pediatrician’s original referral. Then, we have the EEG to go to still.
A is such a difficult child to deal with, his toe-walking is getting increasingly worse (it’s about the only way he walks now) since we stopped seeing the chiropractor, and he has developed a new habit in the last month of almost always having his tongue sticking out of his mouth. He still frequently spaces off, and still regresses when we are in public or when overwhelmed by something. This stuff is NOT normal, and I know that. Yet, the primary care doc continually refuses to support us, and except for these last few little straws left to grasp at, we are almost out of options for help. This week, S and I really prayed together and just handed him over to the Lord. We realize we may have reached a point where we just need to let God handle his issues, and trust that A will develop into what God wants him to be. God always provides what we need, just when we need it, so the journey certainly isn’t over yet. It will just be interesting at this point to see what doors He opens, and how He leads us through on this increasingly frustrating and worrisome journey.