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How it all began…

Our Homeschool Journey

Why We Chose To Homeschool

I decided to start this blog because I am just like every other parent out there who loves their child and has realized that public education just isn’t what it could be. It falls short in so many ways. Denying our children the one-on-one attention they deserve. Killing creativity, it now encourages us all to be the same instead of celebrating our differences. And let’s face it, it no longer provides the safety and protection every child deserves to expect when they walk through those doors.

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That is not to say that there are not many wonderful teachers who truly are blessings and really touch lives. However, these teachers are overworked, underpaid, and held back by new standards. These new standards were the beginning of the end of T’s time in public school.

My son T was in public school until this past year when we finally decided to draw the line. The final straw for us was the “common core curriculum” standards instituted here in Tennessee. Instead of re-hashing the battle, I am going to post below the letter I sent to the school, the TN Department of Education, The White House, The governor, and on and on…

Good Morning Dr. W***,

I am writing to express my concerns about the new All Inclusion Policy which was just instituted at my son’s elementary school, H***** Elementary in Elizabethton TN. My son T is in
the fourth grade. He was born with bi-lateral cleft lip and palate and while he has already completed the majority of his repairs he currently has speech and language delays and developmental delays which affect him academically. H***** School has been blessed with an exceptional Special Education Group, led by Laura C****, which has helped him overcome so many of his obstacles and reach many goals but he remains behind and needs their assistance desperately. His IEP allowed him the majority of his day in general education class with the typically developing students and about an hour a day with his resource team in
a classroom that is designed to suit his needs and teach in a manner that differs from the practices of general education teachers greatly. This environment is one I consider critical in moving him towards his ultimate goal, which is to become current and enjoy full time in a typically developing class. In my opinion, this system was highly effective and his records can attest to
the success he has had with a partial inclusion environment. This year however,his time in the resource room has been taken from him. His Special Education Teacher and her aides are now attempting to teach them while the general education teachers are teaching, in the same classroom and at the same time.
The result is that none of the students are getting what they need most and his Special Education Teacher is reduced to more of a quiet tutor. I cannot fully express how valuable the assistance provided by Mrs. C**** has been and what a blessing she has been to my son, our family and our community. When we went to
register my son this year I visited her classroom and was impressed with all the time she had spent preparing it. I will give you one example, though there are many. My son has a hard time reading a clock. She knew this and had turned her clock into a flower with the petals reading :5 – :10 – :15 etc to help them
grasp the concept and so they would be continuously exposed to it. Do you suppose the value of this kind of clock would be welcomed in a typically developing fourth grade classroom? Not likely, the kids may even say such things as , “We’re not stupid, why do we need that clock?” Well, my son is far from stupid, he is extremely intelligent but Dr. W***, he needs that clock! He needs that classroom. He needs Mrs. C****. So does every other
student in our school. By taking away her classroom, our children are left without her individualized lesson plans, they are robbed of her one on one uninterrupted attention and let’s be honest, they are robbed of their best shot at getting the very best education possible. I find that unacceptable and it is my sincere hope that you do too.

My son has been working this past week in the All Inclusive setting and he has chewed all of his nails off, he has cried in front of his friends out of complete frustration (he never cries and it is his worst nightmare to show such emotion in front of his peers) he
says he feels stupid all the time because he just doesn’t have enough time to keep up with the rest of them and he is in no way benefiting from this new arrangement. He is hurting instead. I ask that you do all that can to help us.
Join Team T, Dr. W****, we invite you, and let’s get back to
partial inclusion where our kids don’t miss out on time with typically
developing kids, but they are also given an environment where they can work through their delays and come out ahead.


May God Bless You,

Gwen Little

Well, I received replies from several people but they all had the same message, it’s state implemented and our hands are tied. Until the principal of his school was contacted by the head of the Department of Education at which time I was immediately granted a meeting and assured that every effort would be made to assist T during the transition. This lasted less than a week. I do want to share a few more pieces of correspondence I received before I move on because I don’t want to sound as though no one cared, though I did feel that most just didn’t.  Here is the exception to that rule:

On Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Dear Ms. Little:

I received a copy of your e-mail from Dr. W****.  I am the special education supervisor for the district and I can appreciate your worry and concerns.  I have a call in to Ms. C**** to discuss your son and learn more about his individual needs.  Beginning, next school year, it is required that all students, to include special education students, be in the general classroom for ELA and math classes. We have moved, statewide, to the common core standards and are in the process of transitioning. This year is more or less a pilot year for our students with disabilities, although we have been told that our students will be in the general curriculum for these classes. In addition to a 90 minute period for ELA and 90 minutes for math, he can receive small group instruction in these areas in an intervention period, so he will actually receive smaller group instruction for these areas in addition to the general curriculum.  T will continue to receive all modification, supports and accommodations that he needs. I will contact you again after I have had the opportunity to talk with Ms. C****.

Director of Special Education

Carter County Schools

My reply:

Thank you for your reply. I did have a meeting with Ms. C****, Mrs. C***** and Mr. C******** today and we were able to make satisfactory arrangements for T this year. I am still concerned about his, and all of our special needs kids’, future education under this plan. I expressed my concerns in my previous communication but I would be interested in knowing if there is anybody at the State Department that may be willing to listen to the parents. Any direction you can give me would be appreciated. I sincerely can not see this working unless they greatly increase staff as well as restructure classrooms, and if we are going to use tax money to do that, why not just keep the resource rooms and spare the kids the social impact of having all of their peers keenly aware of their extra needs? The partial inclusion system for Special Education students in my experience, is not broken and the new environment is bound to failure. I would be very interested in sharing my experience with anyone who is behind this all inclusion plan. I care about these kids, one of them is my very own, and I am sincerely concerned about the long-term impact these changes could have on them all.

I thank you for your time and attention and look forward to hearing from you!

I received the following:

Ms. Little, I think you could talk with Joey H***** who is the Assistant Commissioner of Special Populations.

I am glad you were able to resolve the issue. We too care very much about our children and want only the best for them.

My reply:

Thank you very much, Dr. W*****. I will get in touch with him and I appreciate your assistance. I do know how much you care about these kids and how hard you work for them, and I am very grateful! T has been receiving speech therapy ever since he was three months old and he has continued to reap the benefits of special educators his entire life. It’s people like you who have made this all possible and have led him to the point he is now. I have always had nothing but gratitude for the system but I just feel so strongly against this all-inclusive environment that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to reach out in an effort for change before the full impact is felt by our kids. I have tried to consider this from all angles and I cannot even come close to supporting something that takes so much from them.

I have also looked over available information regarding the common core standards our schools are striving for and I see the obvious benefits we can offer our typically developing and advanced students and even provide support for such a plan. It seems to be the basis to prepare them for the world after school and give them their best shot at continued education. I can certainly get behind that.

However, if you are attempting to prepare my son for example for the world of higher education then he must first receive the basics. The common core expectations are too high and I fear such a standardized curriculum may fall short of awarding him in areas where he does excel. For example, T was in the third grade before he was able to read his first full sentence. At the beginning of this third-grade year, he made drastic improvements in his recognition of letters and sounds and it all finally started coming together for him. I doubt that a standardized testing environment would recognize such improvements when establishing testing criteria for a third-grade class. If he took a typical test it would likely show no more than that he could not read a sentence. Chances of it including opportunities to show off his new abilities just wouldn’t be tested. By the end of third grade, he was actually reading. What an amazing achievement! If tested, he likely would score low.

The efforts and successes of all his educators would print out – not up to par, despite the fact he just achieved almost three years of improvement overall. All the patience, all the re-teaching again and again, all of the endless encouragement showered upon him and grand success achieved and the reflection upon the student and the teacher would still show, not up to par.

These kids are special and they just can’t be tested the same, they simply cannot perform the same as the other students, and they should have no shame in that. The last thing they need is more pressure. They often work harder than straight A kids, they take smaller steps and they require more guidance but as you know, they still can get there in their own time with the right support.

I apologize for being long-winded but I am mystified at the logic behind many of these changes and I wish there was more I could do. Please know that I am very grateful to you and your department, I am just honestly frightened by a lot of these changes, I want him to keep moving forward, slow and steady if need be, but forward always.

Thank you,


Thanks for visiting Geez, Gwen today! We are so glad you found us! We are not believers in coincidence so we are confident you are here for a reason! We are a family-focused blog so we have a lot of inspiration and encouragement for you and your loved ones. Perhaps we can offer you some simple yet tasty recipes to make your weeknights easier? Perhaps you’ve wondered how to bring your family closer together or strengthen your marriage. Maybe you’re looking for fun family activities you can enjoy together. Perhaps it’s been too long since your last date night and you need inspiration. Maybe you just want to know the truth about what we homeschoolers really do all day! Whatever it is, it’s clearly Destiny at its finest! Don’t let this opening door of opportunity slam shut! Run through by subscribing to our newsletter. 

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2 thoughts on “How it all began…

  1. Marilyn Dockery says:

    Thank you for starting this blog. We found a great Co-Op. Don’t feel like you are to just go to the 1. You can sign up for many. Remember it doesn’t take place of your regular core study.

  2. Jenny Million Goodson says:

    This is a story I hear over and over from smaller counties. Special education classrooms reduced and sometimes cut all together. I ache for these kids. I’m a special education teaching assistant, and I’m currently going back to college to become a certified special education teacher. I’m blessed to work at a school that has one of the best special education programs in my county. We have students whose families have moved into our district so their kids can come to our school. Our entire department, (resource, cdc, and cdc-a) is amazing. Every day, I feel like I’m making a difference, even if it is very small, in my students’ lives. These kids need us. I hate that smaller places are taking a step back from all that the American’s with Disabilities Act has accomplished. It is a sad testament that schools are forced to cut programs because our government is more interested in test scores than they are in the kids. I fear things will only get worse before they get better. I’m so glad T has a mother like you. Not every family is in the position to move to a place with a program like the one I’m involved in. And, unfortunately, not every family has the ability to do what you do. It is a hard job. Rewarding, but hard. Keep doing what you’re doing, and maybe one day, things will get better again. We can hope and pray for those kids who are still suffering due to the same things T experienced.

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