Our oldest son is autistic and we are currently in the process of looking at group homes for him. We went to look at one the other day. I walked in and and I honestly was appalled. The place had window air conditioners, and there was a big space I could fit my hand through to the outside next to the unit. I asked the house manager and she was like "oh... we hadn't noticed that". The place smelled moldy, the air conditioning unit in the room we were looking at did not work, the place was filthy, the carpet was disgusting, and she had not bothered to wipe the table we were all sitting at to talk. When we left the apartment the house manager accidentally pulled the handle off the door. Clearly the handle had been broken for some time but she acted like she had no idea this had happened. Remember they get state and federal money to keep these places up and staffed appropriately. I was taken aback.
But, then I got to thinking... there are at least five other hourly workers here. She is in charge, and there are three people in charge above her. Has someone not noticed that things are so bad? I know at one time they were better because our case worker had seen the place five years ago and it was fine. Didn't someone think to report this? Didn't someone think it would be a good idea to clean? Didn't someone notice that there was a big hole that birds and insects and rain and snow could get through? Did this not bother anyone??
Then I thought about our home education (stay with me). All those skills we teach our kids every day. We have them do chores, we teach them to be polite, to right wrongs, tell us when things are broken, and to treat people with respect and dignity. All of those skills that somehow can seem less important in the rush to do math problems, correct spelling, or write a well thought out paper.
But at the end of the day, doing more math problems really would not right this situation, or even correct spelling. No one from the CEO to the hourly worker had enough sense to look in on this building that is falling apart and say, "Hey, things are not good here." People with disabilities should not have to live in squalor. No one should.
So as you go about your home education day, correcting your students, reminding them of the importance of good habits, teaching them to care for all people, and instilling values in them, remember that this is important work. Sometimes it feels like we battle to instill good study and work habits and almost never get to academics. But, that is not true. All the work you do all day is valuable. Sometimes it seems like we have to get through work habits and how we treat others to get to the real issue of math. I believe that is not true. These are really important skills that lead to helping our child complete work. We can not see teaching those as less important. They are crucial not only to our children, but those around them in the future.
Who knows. Maybe someday your student will be the one who stands up for someone who can not stand up for themselves. They will remind others to be on time, and show them what a hard worker looks like. And luckily, they will also be able to do the math to show them the cost of neglect.
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