Originally published March 3, 2012
Unless you are the parent of a special needs child or a teacher, the title initials probably don't mean anything to you. ESY stands for Extended School Year - the Texas' Special Education equivalent of summer school. ESY ended this week for 2011, so I've been thinking about it's role in Shelby's learning. In order for a child to qualify for ESY, teachers must show proof that the student would regress in skills without classroom time for the entire summer. The purpose of ESY is somewhat comical to me. It is made abundantly clear that the one and only goal of summer classes is to maintain skills the child already has. Nothing new will be taught. Makes me laugh every time I think about it.
The first year Shelby was awarded ESY, she went to school for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week for 8 weeks of summer break. Not bad. I still had time with her, she still had plenty of break time, but she also had a good amount of structured classroom time. Last summer, her instruction was reduced to 3 days a week. We weren't too pleased with that, but were still grateful. This summer, largely due to budget cuts, Shelby got 2 days a week, 3 hours a day for 8 weeks. And 30-40 minutes of her day were spent eating lunch. What? It hardly seemed worth it to send her. But we dutifully did.
Now this may sound like complaining to you (ok I guess it is if I'm honest), but I am really so appreciative of everything our school does to accommodate Shelby and help her get the most out of her education. Shelby started to lag behind developmentally at 18 months of age. I was one stressed out mom. I started going to seminars on how to teach her. I checked out videos and books. I only looked at toys that were "developmentally appropriate". And my anxiety grew as I worked to "catch her up". I believe it was possible and that it was MY responsibility. I ceased to be "mom" and became "educator". Now, I do believe that teaching is one of the primary responsibilities of parents, but I could not balance that with nurturing and being a wife. I did not feel like I could sit and cuddle, watch a TV show with her or just goof off. I felt guilty for any time I spent cleaning my house or maintaining our home. It was not a healthy time for me and our family suffered. It wasn't until she entered the school system at the age of 3 that I could fully exhale and relax. I then had partners in Shelby's education - professionals with real training! I could pass off that job and balance a little teaching with a lot of cuddling and homemaking. Whew! And I have been grateful for every moment, every therapy, every program that Shelby has had the privilege of participating in. We have a few weeks left of summer to sweat through, but when school starts, I will be one of those moms rejoicing. Not because someone else will care for my child all day, but because wonderful, qualified professionals will invest in her. And she loves it. I found a poem today that adequately expresses how I feel about Shelby's education called "The Two Sculptors" by Cleo V. Swarat
I dreamed I stood in a studio and watched two sculptors there. The clay they used was a young child's mind and they fashioned it with care. One was a teacher: the tools she used were books and music and art. One was a parent with a guiding hand and gentle loving heart. And when at last their work was done, they were proud of what they had wrought. For the things they had worked into the child could never be sold or bought! And each agreed she would have failed if she had worked alone. For behind the parent stood the school, and behind the teacher stood the home!