It is what it is

Today was Moose’s appointment with the developmental pediatrician.  It was not at all what I was expecting. First of all, I was under the impression that in addition to the doctor, there would be a variety of therapists like at our home visit.  No, just the doctor.  That’s OK I guess–no duplication of efforts there.  Anyway, I thought there would be more play based observation, which there wasn’t.  Really, most of the appointment involved her asking me questions from a screening tool, and then recording my answers to get a diagnosis. I didn’t entirely trust this tool–there were times I felt like she didn’t understand my answers, and other times when I felt like she was trying to prompt to answer what she felt was accurate.  I hope it all came out the way it should have.

She had already been over the reports from the three therapists who had observed him, so she had an idea going in what she was looking for, I guess.  She also observed Moose, but there wasn’t a whole lot for him to do–we were in a typical doctor’s examination room.  Not too exciting for a not quite three year old. She also did a brief physical exam at the end of the appointment–not sure what the point of that was, but she seemed satisfied.

Anyway, after going over the screening tool, she gave Moose the diagnosis of mild autism.  She said that with therapy, in the future the diagnosis might be “downgraded” to PDD, but for now, it is what it is.  Her recommendation is that we send him to the preschool program through the special ed branch of our school district, and, while she wasn’t sure if they even offer it, she thought full day would be best.  I have several problems with that, beginning with the fact that he isn’t even three yet, and still needs a good long nap, but whatever.  I have to call the district, and they’ll tell me if they even offer full day for someone his age, which they very well may not…we’ll just have to see.

Here’s what bothered me about all this, aside from the diagnosis itself, which has me quite down.  First of all, she was a half hour late for our appointment.  First appointment of the morning, you don’t expect that, but she got stuck in traffic or something…didn’t really get us off on the right foot, and she wasn’t even apologetic, which I didn’t appreciate.  Her manner was a bit brusque, too, which wasn’t helpful to me, as I was upset, but this appointment wasn’t about me, so I can get over that.  I didn’t like her basing her observations of Moose on only what she saw of him in an exam room for an hour, though.  There was nothing for him to do, and all she could do was point out him opening and closing the doors on the cabinet.  Yes, a repetitive behavior that can be a red flag, but he doesn’t stuff stuff like that to that extent at home, or in other environments where there is something else to do.  He was bored, plain and simple. She also pointed out how he didn’t want to come to her and interact.  Again, I get that that can be a red flag, but that’s not how he usually is with people.  From the first day the therapists came into our home, he has been sitting in their laps, playing with them, and being generally sociable.  And he didn’t know them from Adam, although he is getting to know them now.  Isn’t it possible that he just didn’t like her?  I didn’t really; why should he?

And the other thing that gets me is that all three therapists that observed him reassured me that they didn’t think he was exhibiting traits of autism, that it wasn’t something I should be worrying about.  All three of them saw him on different days, in different moods, and yet they all told me this, without knowing the others had said it.  How can they all be wrong?  I know that they’re not doctors like the woman we saw today–they’re “just” therapists.  But this is their specialty, and I don’t think they’d just tell me what I want to hear, so what’s up with that?

I don’t know.  I really wasn’t expecting this diagnosis going in.  In my gut, I thought she’d say PDD, which is on the autism spectrum, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for a full-blown autism diagnosis.  It’s good that it’s mild, and I guess I have no choice but to put him in the preschool, for at least part of the time, and do all of the therapies that are being recommended.  But I really don’t think she got a good sample of what his normal, daily behavior is, and I really wish there was some kind of option for a second opinion or something.  I suppose that I sound like I’m in denial; maybe I am.  But if he’s going to be labeled with something this serious, I’d like a little more reassurance that it’s an accurate label.  I find this whole thing very troublesome.

Considering My Options

I hope there will come a day when I am not obsessing over curriculum. In fact, I hope that day will come soon, because I really hope to place our order for the coming school year within the next two weeks. I, for one, am just grateful that I was able to choose a company from which to order so quickly. If I had to compare different curriculum packages within *and* between companies, I would be completely looney toons by now. I suppose, depending on who you ask (read, my husband!) I already am, as I cannot put the Sonlight catalog and/or website down in the evenings, but it is what it is. Decision time approaches, so hopefully I will get this figured out, and fast.

The way I look at it, I have three options. I’ve basically eliminated one of those, but it was my gut instinct as to what I should order, so I have to keep it on the table, just in case. I was initially just going to order the Core K, with K readers (Option One). Switch out the handwriting for a different style, but keep everything else in the package basically the same. I was going to add the Get Ready, Set, Go for the Code set for some extra reading help, but the rest was going to be the K suggestions–math, science, Bible, electives, etc. However, after talking to some people who have used Sonlight, I started to worry about starting Bunny at the K level too young (she’s four). Now, anybody who has met her can attest to the fact that she is quite bright, and rather advanced for a four year old. I wasn’t at all worried about her being able to pay attention or keep up with the work. But, some moms who have been through it mentioned that as we got into Cores Two and Three, the subject material might be a little heavy for her if we started a year early. Actually, some of them even recommended starting at the P 3/4 Core, but I think that’s ridiculous, and not an option at all–we’ve been reading a lot for the last three years, we need something more structured.

Anyway, those comments got me to thinking. Looking at the P 4/5 Core, I initially thought it would be too boring for Bunny and Turkey (who is five). We have read some of the books, and there isn’t really any structured math or electives, and no learning to read, so I couldn’t really see how that would work. But the thing about Sonlight is, you’re supposed to look more at the age ranges than the Core level, and doing that, Core P 4/5 makes the most sense, as it’s for four and five year olds, and I will be teaching, well, a four and a five year old!

So, Option Two was born. After considering to myself how I could tweak not only this year’s program to make it more advanced, but not set us up to get into too heavy subject material a few years down the road, I came up with what I think is a good compromise. I would get the P 4/5 Core, but with readers K, as well as language arts K, as planned in option one, which is an available choice from Sonlight (up through Core Three, you have the option of either advancing a core level in the readers, or an advanced set of readers within your core). Even though neither Turkey nor Bunny can read independently yet, they seem to be ready to learn, so this would be a good place to start. I would also get the handwriting and Explode the Code that I had planned to do with Core K, as that stuff is easily switched around in future years, and would provide them with an extra challenge. I would then also plan on getting the Classical Kids Collection of CDs (volume two, as volume one makes an appearance in an electives package in Core One or Two, I think) to add a little music appreciation/background of classical composers. I can also add a pattern blocks kit, which introduces some math concepts such as counting and geometry, and will help Bunny with spatial thinking (Turkey sure doesn’t need help in that department!)

This option is looking pretty good. We’ll be able to work ahead in reading, and from what I can tell, the readers are not so much the problem in regards to heavier content. That comes more from the book selections for the history core, and if we do the P 4/5 now, we’ll be more on track with the ages recommended for the cores later. Bunny will still be at the low end of the spectrum, but at least she’d be on it, unlike if we start with K now, and she’d always be a year “too young”–and like I said before, she’s advanced, so I think she can handle it. The other nice thing is the way the readers are laid out in coming years. We’ll be a year ahead, but once we get to Core Two, we’ll have the option of regular readers (which, in theory, we’ll do with Core One), as well as advanced and intermediate. So, even if we’re a grade level ahead for a little while, it’ll all catch up by Core Three.

Then, there’s Option Three. I honestly think that in an ideal situation, this is the best option we’ve got, but finances make it basically impossible. I haven’t discounted it altogether, because I honestly believe it’s the best solution, but I also don’t think it’s really going to happen. My big concern with the P 4/5 core is that we’re going to go through it faster than scheduled. Knowing my children, and their desire to learn, I have a hard time believing it will take a full school year to get through, even with the tweaking I have planned. So, ideally, I would like to do option two above, and order Core K with Readers One. If I do this, we can spend at least half the school year (which is what I’m estimating it would take to do the P 4/5 Core if we do it at the pace I think we’re going to want to) on the P 4/5 Core, and then move right into the K core without a break. This will give Bunny especially a little more time to mature, as opposed to jumping right into Core K, but will also (hopefully) prevent them from getting too bored. I would then get handwriting for Core One to go along with it, because it doesn’t really matter if they get ahead in that, as well as Explode the Code 1, 2, 3, which is scheduled to go along with the readers and language arts for Core One, which we would be upgrading to.

I see option three as the best of both worlds. We can ease our way into homeschooling (and school, in general) with Core P 4/5 and work at our own pace. If it goes fast, we can jump right into Core K. At worst, the P 4/5 really does take a full year, and we have the K curriculum ready to go next year when we need it. I don’t know–such tough decisions to make, when it’s in regards to your children’s education. I guess option two will work out OK as long as we don’t go through it too fast, and the bonus is, it’s the cheapest of the three options!

Wow, that was really long and confusing! If you’ve never looked at a Sonlight catalog, I’m sure it sounds like a foreign language. Actually, it’s taken the better part of three weeks for me to understand what I’m talking about, and I’m not even sure about myself half the time!