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Talking About Homeschooling. (Panicking About Homeschooling.)

school-pictures

We’re starting to talk about homeschooling.

And by “talk about” I mean we start to discuss homeschooling and then I howl “NOOOOOOO!” and that pretty much ends the conversation.

The only reason we’re even talking about homeschooling is because of Eva’s food allergies. Having her in school raises the risk that she’ll come into contact with an allergen, especially if she isn’t in a nut-free school, and most of the schools around us aren’t nut-free. They all have nut allergy policies, which usually means no nuts in classroom snacks and kids with allergies sit in a separate area of the lunchroom. Unfortunately, that doesn’t cover the fact that nut allergies like Eva’s can be triggered by airborne particles. It also doesn’t cover the random peanut butter swipe on playground equipment from a kid who forgot to wash his hands. It also doesn’t cover well-meaning friends like the one who gave a peanut to her seven year old classmate without realizing she had a peanut allergy. And yes, she ate it. And yes, she died at school.

Cue discussions of homeschooling.

(Nooooooo!)

I would love it if the local schools went peanut-free. Of course, I would love it if everything went peanut-free. Like the planet. That would be really nice…but it’s not going to happen.

I have read stories of parents who were champions for their allergy kids and they turned entire school campuses into nut-free zones. That’s amazing. And exhausting to think about. Especially when I think about common reactions from people like this guy, who thinks allergy kids belong in bubbles (and the guy who agrees with him):

peanut-allergy-forum

Or this person who likes the idea of enforcing segregation or forced homeschooling (and also takes a second to look back on the days when the allergy kids died and didn’t cause so many problems…):

peanut-allergy-forum2

To be fair, I don’t encounter these people too often. Most of the parents that I meet are happy to get the peanut butter out of their kids’ lunches and wash their hands and stock up on nut-free candy for the holidays. There are also a lot of parents who would stand shoulder to shoulder with me and throw rocks at the people who feel like peanut butter is more of a deserving right than an allergy kid’s right to go to school without dealing with potentially fatal risks.

But, I don’t know…I get that it sucks. It does suck. And I don’t want Eva to be known as the kid that has something wrong with her, which is what her label would be if she had to carry an Epi pack every day and sit at a different lunch table and grab the recess aide for every hive or wheeze.

I also already have nightmares of Eva not telling anyone that she’s choking a little bit. Playground attendants who don’t know what to do in an emergency. Substitute teachers who bring peanut candies to win the kids over.

(That last one is a valid concern, I’ll have you know, because I subbed for a year here in Salt Lake City and I was always packing candy. It never occurred to me that a kid might have a peanut allergy. I easily taught over a thousand different children and if one of them had a reaction, I would have had no idea what to do. I don’t even know that I would have gotten them to the main office fast enough. I lost a Kindergartener for an hour once, for crying out loud, because I was nineteen and I only made $5.60 an hour and I had no idea what I was doing. Scary scary scary.)

Anyway, we’re dipping our toe into the homeschooling conversation, since our options right now are (1) homeschool, (2) send Eva to the local school and just hope for the best, or (3) send Eva to a private nut-free school and pay eight grand in tuition every year…sixteen grand when her brother starts school. Choke. And the other option: (4) start working on the school now and get forms and opinions and lawyers and make the school nut-free and deal with all of the crap so Eva doesn’t have to worry about it. I just…I don’t see it happening.

But homeschooling would change everything. Absolutely everything. And all of those school plays and Valentine’s Day exchanges and games of freeze tag and class spelling bees…those all disappear from Eva’s future. They’re replaced by museum visits and workbooks at the dining room and endless hours of time with me. And I would always know what she was eating and touching and her medicine would be right there and I’d probably sleep a little better. A part of me feels like I should get excited about that. Instead, it makes me very sad. And very very very tired.

I only knew a couple of homeschooled kids and they were pretty weird. Anyone have a better experience?

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27 Comments

  • Reply Ashley

    A lot of families I go to church with (aChristian church here in SLC) homeschool and their kids don’t seem weird. They also have a homeschool co-op that meets weekly so the kids can socialize and the parents take turns teaching lessons (art, science, etc.).

    February 17, 2014 at 5:02 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      So good to know! I’ve heard of homeschool co-ops but I’ve never talked with anyone who is a part of one. I wonder how many they have in the city?

      February 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm
  • Reply Jessica

    I’ve been homeschooling my daughter since pre-K, and we have had some great experiences. We are a member of one local group, we have playground days, field trips, co-ops and parties. Our group recently had a Valentines day party with a valentine exchange (so that could remain a part of Eva’s future). There was also locally a homeschool acting/play opportunity last year that I remember reading about. I’m a member of the Disney Schooling group online, though they do in person meet ups at times in Disney World.
    Online I also frequent secularhomeschool.com the forum there has been a great resource for me, and I know there are some parents on there homeschooling because of allergies as well.
    Homeschooling does not have to be an isolating experience. Just look for a homeschooling group near you, find one that fits what you need. Eva can still get a lot of the fun experiences with groups of kids.

    February 17, 2014 at 5:32 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      (1) I had absolutely no idea that there was actually a Disney Schooling group but I think that’s awesome and (2) I love that you’re recreating classic classroom activities outside of the classroom. Best of both worlds!

      February 17, 2014 at 7:57 pm
  • Reply breath

    I think you need to take a step back and take a deep breath. Eva is not the only child to ever have a peanut allergy or even a severe peanut allergy. She is not the only child to ever go to school with a severe peanut allergy. Embrace it and educate the people around you. Allow Eva to be a child while still being cautious. If you want to home school that is wonderful. My best friend does and loves it. But don’t home school just because of Eva’s allergy. You are only isolating her BECAUSE of her allergy and quite frankly you can’t isolate her forever. She will eventually have to be put in situations where she might potentially encounter a peanut.

    I hope you don’t take any of that the wrong way. I have young family members with severe allergies including all nuts. Even the younger one (4 years old) knows to ask if something has peanuts in it or if it is ok to eat. Her mom carries extra safe snacks and sends them to school for parties just in case.

    February 17, 2014 at 5:50 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I agree that I need to draw the line somewhere. I’m not sure when/where though since Eva isn’t trustworthy about checking her food yet (at nearly-3 that’s not a surprise). Do you know why your friend decided to homeschool? I’m curious about the families that are choosing it on purpose and not because they have to. There must be some good motivators out there!

      February 17, 2014 at 7:57 pm
      • Reply Anonymous

        My best friend comes from a large family and was home schooled. I’m not sure why her mom did it, but my best friend is doing it because she feels it is the best environment for her kids to thrive in. She was just going to do preschool and kindergarten but they have done so well she has continued.

        I met my best friend playing basketball through our church. Her mom encouraged them to be involved in social activities, but they also had a home school group that they did activities with.

        February 18, 2014 at 3:19 am
  • Reply Gaylin

    My sister home schooled her 3 kids until they were 13, 10 and 8 (she was worn out). They went into public school and did just fine and are adults now and are not living at home, have functional relationships and good jobs. I think they were fortunate to not end up weird home schooled kids, because I know some of there HS friends were really, really odd.

    I think vigilance will be required if you put her in a public school, until the day when she can stand up for herself and her allergies.

    I am 54 and still get pressured by people who seem to think I have allergies just to be a burden to them . . . Come on, you can just have a little. Yep, I have no answers for you, I am fortunate (in a way) that my allergies landed on me when I was 35 and able to fend for myself.

    Okay, I did put myself in the hospital once. Ooops.

    February 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I know – I think the public attitude is changing with allergies since they’re becoming so common in kids, but I’d like it to change a little bit faster. The idea that an allergic kid can have just a little bit and be OK is the scariest. I’m glad you’re able to defend yourself, but I wish people around you weren’t giving you a hard time (or trying to poison you!!).

      February 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm
      • Reply Amber

        So, I am a homeschooling mom. It was totally not my intention to homeschool the kids, but they asked me to and I agreed to do it (and I screamed NOOOOOOO at first too). I have my master’s in education from Arizona State University, and never in a million years thought that I would support the homeschooling crowd… but here I am.

        I have my kids in the K12 online program. The lesson plans are prepared ahead of time and you work with your child, or in my case three kids, on their daily lessons. It is a public program and the kids participate in state testing (yuck) and everything else their peers do. Only they get to learn the same stuff at home in a one on one setting. I have found that it truly has been the greatest accidental parenting experience to date. If you think you might be interested in trying it out at some point just email me. I can walk you through it.

        February 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm
  • Reply Amy

    I’ve met a few people now in their late twenties and early thirties who were homeschooled. These people all went to college, and although there were awkward times there, they’re pretty average people now.

    I sometimes teach homeschooled elementary-aged kids, as the arts org I work for is certified to offer theatre/dance/music/art programs for those kids, and the parents can even apply for funds for the kids to attend. I think it’s a lot more common now than it used to be, and those kids are able to participate in group activities in many ways they couldn’t 20 years ago.

    I also spend a lot of time in elementary schools across five districts, and I can say that the schools treat nuts very differently, though I don’t know if that’s because there are severely allergic kids at any of them or not. Some schools have a nut-free table, others have a nut-free lunchroom, one only has about four feet of a table cordoned off as nut-free (that one bothers me). But, because we have good weather most of the year here, some schools have the kids eat outside the vast majority of the year, and then there is no chance to even wash hands between eating and jumping onto the playground.

    My one suggestion would be to look into charter schools. Still public, but parents are so involved in how they’re run (some, not all), I would think it would be easier to get a safe policy in place for children like Eva, as change can happen with less bureaucracy and uninvolved voters clogging up progress.

    February 17, 2014 at 6:38 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I do need to look into more charter schools. I looked at the Montessori schools and the private schools, but there are small charter schools opening all the time that I don’t know anything about. I think a smaller environment where I’m involved and in touch with all of the allergy procedures would be perfect – social but not a place where Eva and her allergies would get lost in the shuffle.

      February 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm
  • Reply Jessica {from Petite Lemon}

    hey girl!! I’ve got a dear friend who has gotten into homeschooling, or as they call it, un-schooling … in so. cal … check out her site, http://www.ochomeschoolgroup.com/

    she’s really opened my eyes to it — it seems to really work for their family and their kids … much different that I org. thought homeschooling was all about. she told me that they have several kids that are involved in their group because of allergies 😉

    February 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Your friend’s site is AMAZING! I’ve been slowly collecting resources, but I haven’t seen half of these linked websites. I love all the pictures of the kids together – so reassuring.

      February 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm
  • Reply Brandy

    As a teacher, I just want to add my two cents in. I’ve had severely allergic children in my classroom. It was NEVER an issue.

    One little girl carried her epi-pen everywhere in a cute cross body purse. We had a brief discussion about it with the class and read “The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies.” (There are other great books, too, just do a search!) After that it was pretty well smooth sailing. The other kids and the parents were extremely supportive, most even sent ingredient lists to the girl’s mum so she could approve it before sending birthday treats in. And I had a stash of safe treats just in case. She is now in fourth grade and has a ton of friends. She still carries her epi-pen and everyone on staff is trained in how to use it and how to recognize the symptoms. Her friends also did special training in when to get her help and on how to use her epi-pen in a real emergency. (She did this privately, hosting a bit of a party with all the girl’s friends.) So, while it’s not a big over-blown deal, there are a lot of people watching out and ready to help.

    There are a lot of varying needs in a typical classroom. The best advice I can give is to be very honest with everyone. Come in and speak to the class, de-mystify the situation. As soon as it’s common knowledge, it’s not a big deal to kids. And any teacher worth their salt will work with you to make sure your daughter is safe.

    February 17, 2014 at 6:54 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I love everything about that story. I’ve seen the cross-body packs since Eva is supposed to learn to carry one (haven’t gone there yet) and I’ve always wondered if it was just a big target on the kid that said, “I’m weird! Don’t play with me!” So good to hear that isn’t the case at your school.

      February 17, 2014 at 7:51 pm
      • Reply Brandy

        Honestly, the only time I’ve seen kids be upset with “weirdness” is when they don’t understand it. Some parents won’t allow the teacher to discuss their child’s needs with the class, and that’s when things can get not so good. Parents want things to to normal, but kids can see the differences and they are aware of them. However, once they have an explanation, kids are pretty accepting of a lot of things.

        I’ve also had medically fragile children over the years. Once their classmates understood the reasons why their friend couldn’t play the same way or needed special equipment, they would go out of their way to be inclusive. Most kids are pretty amazing. 🙂

        February 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm
  • Reply JR

    I was homeschooled from Grade 8-12th. My brother was 3rd-10th. My parent’s reasons were for safety. We lived in an unsafe area and the numerous death threats and abuse while in school was affecting our mental/physical health. This hindered our ability to learn.

    I’ll be honest; the focus on our education while at home could have been better. It was far superior to our public school option, but my parents didn’t have the time to properly dedicate to it. Not to mention, both were just high-school graduates. Their knowledge was pretty limited. I’ll blame my lack of doctorate on that. 😉 On a serious note, I don’t think this will be an issue with you. I know it will be an exceptional in your home, because of your extensive education and how passionate you are about the kids learning through Montessori.

    Back to my personal experience, we don’t regret our parent’s choice. It taught us to be self-sufficient in terms of studying, as it was up to us to pick assignments and keep up with coursework without prompting. I think I had an easier time in college because of it. My brother also had no issues integrating and keeping up with course work when he enrolled in a public High School. We went to college (I have two degrees and my brother is currently getting his masters) and we both did fairly well.

    To stay well-rounded, we had sports/hobbies and jobs outside of home, which helped prevent the lack of socializing most associate with homeschooling. We were able to take more field trips and experienced things hands on more than any public school kid I knew, because of our flexible schedule as well. If I could convince my husband to let me home-school my daughter, I would do it. He is just anti-anything different and it is hard for him to understand something he personally never experienced. Kind of like my idea of wanting to do a home-birth. It is different, so no. lol

    As for the weird thing…..a kid is going to be weird regardless of their schooling. I will say, everyone I have told about my education, was surprised. I don’t know what kind of weirdos are out there, but I guess I am not “home-school weird” enough. It can be avoided!

    Personally, I think it might be a great idea for you guys. With Eva’s health issues, it is one last thing to have to worry about. Atleast, while she is young and relying so heavily on others and their awareness of her allergies. It is tough. If you do the home-education route, you can always do tutors or look into programs that do part-time to help you with that load. I would think there would be lots of excellent resources for home-schoolers in SLC!

    February 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm
  • Reply Maggie

    I was not homeschooled, but I grew up with a lot of homeschooled kids. (Mine was the only family at church that wasn’t homeschooled) The kids who were raised in the middle of nowhere and only met other kids at church or homeschool conferences…they were weird. The ones who were in neighborhoods, or played sports, or did something with other kids (who weren’t exactly like them) weren’t weird. So my advice would be to find ways to engage with other kids. Maybe homeschool groups or sports teams.

    February 17, 2014 at 7:15 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I think you hit the nail on the head. The two people I knew who were homeschooled were siblings and as far as I know they didn’t really socialize until middle school. Kids who lived on their block had never seen them before…I really don’t want Eva to be that kid!

      February 17, 2014 at 7:50 pm
  • Reply JR

    You know, after reading my comment, I am afraid I came across as telling you, “Well it was good for me, so it will be good for you guys!”

    Ultimately, it is what you think and feel is right for your family. You have amazing intuition and know what is best. Go with your gut. If you feel that is to continue public schooling, Brandy’s tips were amazing. Amy’s idea of a charter school is also another great idea.

    If you choose to try home-schooling, even for a year or so, Ashely and Jessica’s recommendation of using resources and join a group would be excellent for helping you with that journey. You can’t go wrong either way.

    Maybe try baby-steps and test out home-schooling over the summer? See if it will really work without having to actually take her out of school to find out.

    February 17, 2014 at 7:16 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I don’t think you came across that way in your first comment. It’s wonderful to hear that you had a good experience since I really don’t have any first-hand experience with anyone who homeschooled (either as a kid or as a parent). I love the idea of doing a test run this summer…right now it seems impossible, but I suppose if it went well…

      February 17, 2014 at 7:49 pm
  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    The comments that you screen-grabbed made me so mad! It’s not like you’re telling people not to EVER eat peanuts. You’re asking for them not to eat them during school hours when your child is exposed. It’s like asking someone to not smoke around you. They can just smoke elsewhere right? When did people stop being considerate for others? There are other options besides Pb&J’s for lunch and these people that suggest keeping allergy kids in bubbles or segregating need to be more compassionate. I remember you being a teacher before and I know you’re very smart so I have no doubt that you could handle home-schooling your kids. I’ve also heard about homeschool mixers where the homeschooled kids get together to socialize. I think one of my friends was homeschooled and she turned out okay. Also, just because you got to public school doesn’t mean you know how to socialize either. I went to public school my whole life and I can remember a few outcasts so don’t let the lack of socialization keep you from homeschooling your kids if you decide that that is the safest option for you. In your situation, I think I’d consider homeschooling during the early years and then try integration once Eva was able to communicate better and truly understand the severity of her condition. I wish you the best and know that I support your decision one way or the other. If there’s anything we can do to help – online petition, letters to the school board, etc. please let me know. *hugs*

    February 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm
  • Reply Amber

    My oldest homeschooled from 7th grade onward. I promise you, he’s a fully functioning, well-mannered, hard-working adult. 🙂
    For totally different reasons, we have homeschooled our 5th grader for most of his life, and as of January 1st of this year, my 2nd grader just switched over from public school to homeschool too.
    Like you, I work from home. It’s not easy, but their social life is of the utmost importance to me. No one wants to sit at home with just their mother all the time! 🙂
    I have several friends that have, or still do successfully homeschool, and you have other relatives that do too.
    I have a lot of info and resources that may interest you, if you decide to go that way.

    February 17, 2014 at 9:58 pm
  • Reply J. Humenay

    You’ve gotten a lot of great feedback here and on facebook, so I don’t have a lot to add. I have cousins who are all home schooled, some for medical reasons (heart transplant and a lung condition), some are considered emotionally fragile and learn better without the distractions of classmates. They stay well socialized by staying plugged into society and various support groups that really help the kids. Each hobby/group meets the kids where they are at (physically and emotionally). One has grown up to join the Marines, and another has grown up to get her degree in large animal veterinary science. All are very well rounded.

    Homeschooling doesn’t have to be a long term solution either. Just like you guys are renting your love nest, you can home school her until maybe she’s old enough to use her epi-pen without your supervision – similar to maybe how an insulin dependent diabetic child would use their insulin?

    Just an idea. Love the Charter school and other ideas out there too. Who knows what the next few years might bring? Maybe you’ll move closer to a school you feel safer at? It sounds like you’re being pretty rational about the whole thing.

    Whatever you choose, you’ve got this.

    February 18, 2014 at 6:04 am
  • Reply Shannon

    I teach k-1 at a small (free!) montessori charter school and I have one student with serious food allergies- it hasn’t been an issue. Since I have a small class size and an assistant we are able to really supervise all kids to make sure they are learning and safe. You may want to see if there are any charter schools in your area, you may be able to speak with the teachers and administration about Eva’s needs.

    February 18, 2014 at 8:06 pm
  • Reply Christina

    Hi Carly!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now, but I rarely comment unless I feel like I have something to add to the conversation. Well, today is one of those days where I feel like I have something (hopefully) helpful to add!

    I would greatly encourage you to consider homeschooling for your family. It really sounds like it would come quite naturally to you, seeing as how involved you are with your kids already.

    Personally, my sisters and I were homeschooled from K-12. It was a positive experience for us, and we are all planning on homeschooling our own children. There are actually a great number of families who homeschool in Southern California.

    Homeschooling has certainly gained popularity over the years and is very different now than it was back when we were kids. I think in general, society holds an inaccurate view of what homeschooling looks like, especially when it comes to “socialization.”

    When my mom first started homeschooling, my dad encouraged her by asking her, “what don’t you know about kindergarten?” She realized that she could handle kindergarten, and took it one year at a time. If you do decide to try it, you only have to take it one year at a time. There are tons of support groups now days, and apparently you have many readers who are quite familiar with it and who would love to help you and support you along the way.

    Either way, I’m sure you will make the best decision for your family. Best of luck as you figure out what that is!

    February 18, 2014 at 11:44 pm
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