Our five-year-old is loud. I think I’ve said that before. His conversational tone is LOUD, and his screaming and shrieking is LOUDER, and sometimes, on days that the onslaught has been particularly overwhelming, we feel like we’re going slowly insane, while the noise presses down on every nerve in our bodies.
Other parents of five-year-olds, or former five-year-olds, have assured us that this is normal. And we do remember that our now-almost-eight-year-old used to be a little louder than he is now.
But the five-year-old recently failed his first hearing screening. The nurse was extremely patient and Sterling was actually very attentive, and he understood the directions and responded to the practice tone and yet, after that, he heard…nothing.
So, we’ve added an audiologist to our growing list of doctors.
My husband and I were talking about the possibility of a hearing loss this week, as we listened to our VERY LOUD child.
“What happens,” my husband asked, a little panicked, visualizing years of yelling, “if he does have a hearing loss, and this…volume…is something he really can’t hear?”
“Then they will probably fit him with aides, and it will eventually become easier for him to monitor his voice. He’ll have a better sense of how loud he’s being.”
“Oh,” and my husband’s face relaxed a little because, in my former life, I taught hearing impaired children and this is what I know. Then he panicked again, “What if he doesn’t have a hearing loss?!”
We just started a series of doctor appointments, something we’ve had to do every year or so since Sterling was born. It takes up our focus for a few months, waiting for appointments, getting blood draws, waiting for test results that then lead to referrals to more specialists which mean more blood draws and more waiting, going for scopes and hunting down pharmacies that will compound without question. It’s exhausting for everyone. We took a break from it all for a little more than a year, because he was doing so well and his little veins had been assaulted way too often. This past May, though, Sterling started getting sick, with one little thing followed by another little thing, and now the cycle has started back up, with the added twist of the audiologist.
Going to so many doctors means that we get fill out a lot of paperwork. Many offices seem to assume that your contact information and your family history have changed in the last two months, and many of the forms in the stack of papers given to you when you arrive in an office ask for the same information. Again and again and again. It gets a little tedious.
The audiologist is going to be our fifth doctor’s appointment in four weeks. So when I went on-line yesterday to fill out the case history form for their office, I was tired of forms. When it asked for “Mother’s profession”, I wrote “recovering special ed teacher”. A little further down on the form, we needed to check off “ethnicity”. We haven’t done that since my daughter was in school.
My husband said, “He’s Black.”
I said, “Yes, but that’s not an option. I can check ‘African American’.”
“Is there an option for other? Write ‘Black’.” My husband, the History teacher, is not enamored with “African American”.
I discovered I could actually erase “African American” and insert “Black”. Problem solved.
Further down on the form, was “Educational History”. There were a lot of assumptions on that part of form, most notably that the children in the home go to school. (See, this is actually about homeschooling, in a round-about sort of way.)
The first question under “Education History” was “What grade are they in school?”
I pondered writing, “They aren’t in school,” but my husband said to write that only if I’d like a visit from social services. So, I wrote “We homeschool. The children are 12, 7 and 5 years old.”
The rest of the questions asked about special services in school, difficult subjects in school, whether or not your child likes school, whether or not his school work is satisfactory. All were very school-specific, and it reminded me again that homeschooling is still pretty far off the mainstream radar. I forget that sometimes; my perspective gets a little warped because we’re around so many homeschooling families.
The final question in the education section asked for additional comments. I wrote, “There are a number of families in the area that homeschool; this section of the form probably should be revised a little.”
When we were at the immunologists’ last week, we again had to give a very detailed family history. Fortunately, most of it was oral while the doctors notated what they felt was significant. One of the doctors asked about our older children, and whether they were often ill (they’re very rarely sick). Then, he asked about homeschooling…Do you homeschool all three? And you’re (nodding towards me) their sole teacher? And you have all three in the house? Do they ever get to be around other children? Are they ever exposed to others?
Ah. He thought my older kids never get sick because he assumed they’re completely isolated. He thought that homeschooling literally meant home-schooling.
That would almost be funny if it weren’t so sad that people actually have that perception.
And what was that crack about “And you’re their sole teacher?”? Did he need to see my credentials? Did he doubt the ability of a mere mother to be a teacher? I squirmed a little and I actually opened my mouth to list my qualifications, but then I closed it. Because, first of all, it was none of his damn business. And secondly, I’ve met an endless number of mothers who don’t have teaching experience, who don’t have a college degree, who have as much right to homeschool their children as I do and whose children are amazing and creative and don’t need a curriculum or a textbook or the walls of a classroom to learn.
It suddenly felt disrespectful to defend my choices using my education degree as validation.
Yes, all that ran through my head while I sat there with my mouth open. (I did eventually answer with a simple “yes”. I’m sure the doctor was very impressed with me.)
Beyond those few questions, I liked the doctors. They were great with Sterling, and that counts with me as much as anything else. It was just glaringly obvious that misconceptions about homeschooling are still pretty widespread.
My daughter recently used some of her pet-sitting money to buy a back-pack. She bounced all the way back to van, and pulled it out and counted the pockets. She came home and packed it up immediately, putting board games, her current book, and a binder in the main compartment and filling the pockets with pens and markers and card games. A few days later, one of our neighbors noticed her with the bag, and asked if she was back in public school. Adria said no, she just bought the back-pack because…because we have a lot of stuff for school. She told me later that she didn’t want to explain that she just wanted the bag for the fun of it. People understand the concept of school supplies; she’s found out that they have a harder time understanding the concept of writing and reading for fun.
Even my children have noticed that people have a slightly distorted impression of homeschooling.
Most homeschooling communities are an eclectic group. You can’t lump us all together in the same box, especially not the one most frequently portrayed in the media. There are certain homeschooling groups that tend to take the focus, probably because they welcome that focus, and it’s that group that helps to create a public image. Which means that when any of the rest of us ends up under scrutiny, we don’t fit.
As much as I’d love to start a public service informational campaign to deconstruct some of the more commonly held beliefs, I don’t have time. We have doctor appointments, with more forms. We have blood work to do, an endoscopy coming up…and we’ve got to squeeze in parks and fossils and museums. We’ve got to get back to life and hope against hope that life doesn’t make Sterling sick. And we hope that, in time, life gets just a little quieter.
Missy's homeschooling journey began when she realized that the walls surrounding her daughter's classroom were too narrow; there was no room for exploration, no space for stretching. Now, she and her three children stretch and explore the world together. My blog: caffeinatedjive.