I enjoy homeschooling. But this year I am feeling overextended with teaching Jamie for kindergarten, working my internet business, working as a nurse, shuttling around to appointments, and keeping up with the house. And the sibling rivalry is getting to me! I have the “bully” and the “screamer” here. I was fully expecting my 3 year old to qualify for the local school district’s preschool with an IEP this year. He had received birth to 3 services since he was 6 months old, and though he has made huge gains his speech is still difficult to understand and he has low muscle tone. So when we had his PPT last spring, I was surprised to find out that he was unlikely to qualify. He has lost all of his delays! We are thrilled with his progress, of course, but I was looking forward to some quieter mornings with our “screamer” in preschool. He did qualify for speech therapy. The school district suggested Headstart. So I decided last spring to apply to enroll Samuel in the half-day program.
First of all, I must say that Headstart is the worst bureaucracy that I have had to deal with in quite some time! I should have known when I left messages initially and calls were not returned, what I was dealing with. I met with their family advocate and put in his application early in the summer. I needed to hand in a few missing things afterward, like a copy of my husband’s social security card, and a recent physical. I wasn’t told that the his application would not be processed until all of this was in. When I did turn it in, the physical was not on the proper form. The form that they never gave to me. Once I turned that in, I didn’t hear anything for over a month. Calls were not returned. We met with the school district and arranged for speech testing for our follow up PPT as Samuel turned 3 and exited the birth to 3 program. We had the PPT, and it was decided that Samuel would receive speech therapy. But I still had no start date for Headstart.
Just before we went on vacation in mid-September, I found out that Samuel was accepted into Headstart. They asked for a new physical, so I called to schedule it for the last week of September after our vacation. We could not get an appointment until mid-October. I called back Headstart. He cannot start without the physical. Meanwhile Samuel is only sporadically receiving speech therapy, as the SLP keeps wanting to know when he will start preschool so she can pull him out for therapy. She doesn’t want to make appointments for me to bring him in. But no one at Headstart could give me an answer about the start date, nor did they return my phone calls. We got in for the physical, and I drove straight to Headstart to personally hand in the form and try to speak to an actual human. By some miracle, I was able to meet with the family advocate. Now we need clearance from the nutritionist about what Samuel can and cannot eat due to allergies. And the fact that Mommy has much higher nutritional standards than the program does.
So there goes the rest of the week, and no speech therapy. However, on Friday I do get a “tenative” start date. The following Tuesday. First they have to make a home visit. Then I have to attend the first two days with him, for 2 hours each day. 9am to 11am, then 11am to 1pm. But we have an 11am appointment 30 minutes away on Tuesday, so after explaining this several times we went with Wednesday. (They actually said “Do you want 11am to 1pm on Tuesday then?” DUH!) Of course, my 5 year old isn’t allowed in the classroom so I have to have my parents watch him. More shuttling around.
As far as the food, I think Headstart’s standards are extremely poor. I did manage to negotiate sending in my own milk for my child, fresh milk from grass fed Jersey cows. But apparently it takes an act of Congress for me to send in food. In order to avoid another month’s delay, I negotiated that he will only be allowed cold cereal twice a week and only Cheerios. No toxic, GMO, Kix corn puffs or sugary Berry Berry Kix, Raisin Bran, etc. He can have muffins, bagels, or french toast. I give him a healthy breakfast at home and consider their breakfast to be a snack. Looking over the menus, their breakfast is nearly all carbohydrates. The only protein included is the skim milk. (another reason to send our own milk in) When I looked at a recent menu, lunch seemed ok on the surface. Until I was there and looked at it. The first day he went directly for the bright red Jello with Cool Whip and rainbow sprinkles. He ignored most of the other food. The other items were turkey in a dubious gravy (MSG?), mashed potatoes from a powder, canned fruit (most of the fruit they serve is canned), a white dinner roll, and corn AS A VEGETABLE! Umm, basic nutrition here, corn is a GRAIN. Although his propensity to the Jello is foolish but typical, my otherwise intelligent 3 year old chose to ignore the potatoes, turkey, and corn. Instead he kept asking for, and receiving, more milk until he was full. The teacher dutifully continued to refill his cup whenever he asked for more. Since it was our good quality milk from home, and the food was so nutrient poor I didn’t have much of a problem with this.
On Friday he went for the 4 hours without me. I was running late so he missed breakfast. No big loss there. I asked when I picked him up, “What did he eat for lunch?” Although they had checked off “Yes” for eating lunch on their little form, the answer was “Basically nothing.” He had his milk, some raw carrots, one bite of pizza, and a fruit popsicle. (They were careful to mention that it was made with fruit.) I think I will be asking every day what he is eating, so I can give him a proper lunch at home if needed. For some reason they could not give me a menu until the next cycle starts. I want to look ahead, there may be some days I just show up early and take him before lunch starts.
In a perfect world, I would drop him off after breakfast and pick him up before lunch everyday. But I’m sure that would ruffle some feathers BIG TIME. I did observe that he would be missing little of value in the program if I did so. Lunch is followed by toothbrushing and quiet time. That’s it. All the circle time, play time, storytime, etc is between breakfast and lunch. Here’s to seeing how much I can get away with!
Update: After two month’s I have had enough of this program. It may just be this particular Headstart, but I think my child is better off without these people. My husband likes to refer to the head teacher as “the warden.” My child has been clinging to my leg when we arrive at the program in the morning. I am able to leave without him crying, but I’m not sure he is completely happy there. His behavior at home is worse. And to top it off, when my husband picked him up for the first time last week, he was informed that we were going to be charged a $5 fee because he was 1 minute late! (Hence the term “the warden.”) He thought at first that she was joking, but after hearing her tirade decided she was not. He told me he felt like he was returning a video late, not picking up his child from preschool! I also wonder if the processed meats they often give for lunch and the bleach they constantly spray on the tables is not affecting his behavior. So I called the teacher Tuesday morning, after the MLK holiday. I told her I would be keeping him home this week, and that I suspected that something there, such as the bleach and/or the foods provided, was affecting his behavior. I arranged to bring him in to the school myself for his speech therapy and physical therapy he is starting this month. I am adapting our homeschool program to include several activities for him, probably better that what he was getting at Headstart.