Thursday, May 23, 2013

Home School Never Stops

I was raised in the 50s and 60s. I was not well related to my older sister (we ignored each other or fought), and my parents, who both worked full-time outside the home, were busy, tired and unhappy with life, and my younger sister was 8 years younger, like a play toy to me. My preferred world, my real life, was public school.

My elementary school still had big windows that let fresh air and light into our classrooms, George Washington framed on the wall by the Stars and Stripes, and young, pretty, happy teachers who often would retire as soon as they started their own families. There was time to do all kinds of art. We got great stories read aloud to us everyday after lunch recess with our heads on our desks to rest. A music teacher came in once a week to lead us in the glories of choral music. Thanks to a great phonics teacher, reading, writing and spelling were a snap for me so I got affirmation there. Everyone seemed to value me at school.

In the mid 70s, I had a part-time job as a hall monitor in the new junior high in the town where I grew up. School was very different now, thus my job had been born to help keep order. The kids were disrespectful of authority, smoked pot out back with the principal's knowledge, trashed the lunch room everyday and some bullies intimidated others from being able to use the restrooms. I decided right then my children, should I have any, would not go to public school.

It wasn't until the mid 80s I discovered the concept of home education from a Focus on the Family program with Dr. Raymond Moore. Married now with two young children, I was thrilled to find a way to teach them that did not require the expense of private Christian school. I plunged in and read everything I could find, implemented everything I could, bought into the belief that education begins at birth.

But as my children grew in number and age, it became increasingly difficult for me to do what I wanted and needed to do in their home education. I missed the affirmation of the teachers who had liked me and my fellow students who had valued me. That was all I knew experientially about school; all my homeschool knowledge was theoretical. I lacked maturity and discipline to do what was required of me as my children's teacher without any outside affirmation. My empty, valueless feeling was strong. Also, my working-outside-the-home mother had not been an at home model for me. I didn't even know how to be a stay at home mom, much less one who educated her children at home!

The discontent I experienced, the lack of value I sensed, the absence of feeling accomplished and successful at what I was doing did not make me dig in and work harder. I needed to learn how to motivate my children rather than to control them. I needed to work hard at overcoming my lacks in hands-on home education so they could learn to work hard. Instead, I figured I needed to be developing myself, my writing, speaking, singing, sewing, etc. I thought I just had a thankless job and needed to find value somewhere else, in some loftier aspirations where others would affirm me.

Of course, that just made everything more difficult and caused me to do even a poorer job at mothering, home making and home educating. I eventually drifted into doing those things much as my mother had lived, as busy, tired and unhappy, even though I was not working outside the home as she had! Perhaps the worst fruit of all was I taught my children by my example to be discontent with whatever they were presently doing, to always long for time to do what is really important and valuable but out of reach, because what you are doing now isn't all that.

In God's mercy, He gave me a son with Down Syndrome, who will never be done learning and will not move away. I am slowly learning to do hard things, to be content, to be affirming instead of critical and controlling, and Arthur is slowly blooming. I have moments, hours, even days when there is nothing else I'd rather be doing!!! Home school never stops.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Arthur Goes to Court

Last December we initiated the process of becoming Arthur's legal guardians. After a person turns 18 in this country, they are legally free from their parents' oversight. Therefore, in order to retain the right for us to care for Arthur and make decisions for him, we had to become his guardians.

First we met with a young lawyer who started filing the forms, instructed us where to get the online training required by law to become a guardian and assigned us to a Guardian Ad Litem, who would determine whether Arthur met the requirements to receive guardianship and whether we were suitable guardians.

We met with this man, who is older than the lawyer but younger than us, in our family room in March after Arthur turned 18 and after we completed the online training and had a court hearing date assigned. The GAL saw that Arthur was an "incapacitated person" and appeared to think we would be good guardians for him. But he still required a doctor's appraisal of Arthur to confirm that Arthur needed guardianship.

Getting Arthur's doctor to fill out the form took longer than anyone figured it would, but the GAL had it in his hands a week ago, so he could finish his report and recommendation and we could keep the court date of May 3 at 8:30. On the phone to Dennis he was very positive in saying he felt we were the best guardians Arthur could have in that we were parents who loved him. That was encouraging!

Our lawyer, the GAL and the three of us Millers were allowed into the courtroom a few minutes before 9 o'clock. After one other brief case, Arthur Miller's case was called and we all walked forward and sat in the chairs they offered with the lawyer and GAL standing. After our lawyer made some date changes with the clerk regarding when the records we will keep have to be filed, the judge asked us if we had anything we wanted to say. Now we had told Arthur that the judge wanted to meet him. So when she said this, he went forward to get into the witness seat! (Too many movies!) They let him go ahead, and then he launched upon a several minute long testimony that only had a few words we could make out, those words being Paul and Annie. Dennis finally stood up to signal to Arthur his need to be done talking, so Arthur got out of the seat and returned to us. Then it was over and we were all dismissed.

Outside the courtroom, we waited for some paperwork from the lawyer, who had to stay for some other legal work there that day. We walked out with the GAL, who mentioned he could help us with the new forms the lawyer would be sending should we have questions.

Yesterday there came in the mail Ethan Miller's graduation from high school announcement. Ethan is four months younger than his cousin Arthur. Should we have taken a photo of Arthur on the witness stand, I suppose we could send that out as he commences upon being under our guardianship!