Do you know what? Contrary to every expectation, we clearly are getting better "services" here in our little Catholic school than we ever thought of getting in the public school. I was just reading a post by another adoptive mom, struggling to get appropriate services for her son, and realized that I am very fortunate.
I struggled and struggled when the children were in public school. Everyone was glowingly kind. In so many ways it was a lovely school. Teachers and staff were helpful, interested. Yes; they'd all admit that each of my children needed some extra help to catch up to their peers, but what it seemed to boil down to is that all the criteria they are required to use are aimed at diagnosed learning disabilities, or at ESL students who are speaking fluently in their native language at home with their parents.
The unique problems of older adopted children are not on their charts - which causes them to blink blankly and look confused, and go through their papers again and again, bring in other specialists (such as the Speech and Language lady) that might be able to squeeze my children into their set of parameters, promise to call downtown, and fribble and frabble and nothing much (of true value, and APPROPRIATE) ever happens for our children. It is clear they need some help, but at this point common sense flies out of the window and they delve into their handbooks again helpless to find what they want to find there.
Of course there were the ESL classes, but however "sweet", they were just a "vacation from class" for my kids, aimed as they were for "short term" ESL kids - children of migrant workers, or children of university students....all of whom had normal language development because they spoke fluently at home with their families, and who (in the case of most of the university kids) spent evenings doing their "real" schoolwork in their own language. Reading a story book and doing an activity about American culture a couple of times a week does not fluency make. Eventually (after a year of it) Sergei begged not to have to go to ESL because it just resulted in him getting further behind in his "real" class. What he needed (in MHO) was an aide to sit with him and assist him for at least part of the day...but that was not in their list of possible assistance.
I finally decided to bring my children here to the parish school for a couple of reasons. One was simply logistics - but based on the public schools' seeming disregard for parents [all parents]: They have a K-4 building, a 5-6 building, a 7-9 building and High School. If you have children in each of those buildings, as I would, there is obviously no way you can ever manage to "pop in" and touch base with their teachers on a daily, or even frequent, basis. (Particularly since there is little possibility of even parking at these buildings before or after school.) Furthermore, there was no way I could any longer afford to spend over an hour and a half on drop-off and pick-up each day. But, the clincher was the absolute refusal to hold Zhenya back a grade. Even when he scored at the bottom of his class on every measurement. Even when we did the bone scan and found out that he was at least a year, if not two, younger than we originally thought he was. Even when it was clear to everyone that he is bright, but behind. Even when I pointed out that he spent his kindergarten year, not learning the letter sounds, but just learning to live in this new environment.
Nope. "Research shows it doesn't make a difference!" But.....! What about common sense!!! One of their chief criterion was "he is learning and making progress".... As though learning and making progress means he is in the right setting! I pointed out that he would undoubtedly "learn and make progress" if he were to sit in the office all day - or stay in kindergarten, or enjoy the high school environment! He's a bright, interested child and would learn something in any setting! But is this setting the best for him? Is he progressing as well as he might? Didn't they suppose that always being the one who didn't "get it", or the one who got the worst grade wouldn't impact his self-image at some point?
We moved to our parish school last year. There are clearly some delicate situations that arise due to my also working here, but it is really the BEST situation for the children. The school trusted me to decide on the grade that would be best for Zhen. And, he repeated second grade. It was such a good decision. Instead of being at the bottom of his class, he is in the middle, and improving all the time. Furthermore - he is in with children who are developmentally at the same stage as he is.
But I have been really impressed with the help I am being given with the older boys, Ilya and Sergei. The counselor put together a "staffing"this past Wednesday after school and all of the boys' teachers spent over an hour with me talking about strategies to help them achieve. I was really impressed with the way these teachers worked together to come up with some ideas for helping both Sergei and Ilya get more out of school. Furthermore, I got the feeling that the teachers sincerely care for each of them. What more can you ask??? For them to freely offer time after school, during lunch and during planning periods? I got that too!