The past years weren’t easy. After a forced transfer to a school for children with special educational needs, it was sometimes hard. This transfer came with bullying and violence towards our oldest child. In the last year of primary school, parents are supposed to pick a school for their children. Going to the secondary school of choice isn’t something that is not self-evident when your child attends a school for children with educational needs.
It’s Friday night and I posted a video with English translations on IGTV and Facebook. I did this because I wanted to share this with the rest of the world. Maybe it can help other parents or even children in their struggles to cope with the educational system in the country they live in. It also shows the impact of this news.
From regular to special
Over the past few years, I wrote about what happened a lot of times. Our child went from regular primary education to special primary education. With an intermediate step to Waldorf education. That second transfer turned out to be a disappointment. You might say that the damage was too big to be solved. The damage caused, among other things, by bullying.
Never underestimate the impact of bullying. Don’t consider this a “child’s play.” Speaking of “never.” We have never heard an apology from the teachers of the first school our child attended. This wasn’t that important. It could also be a matter of not knowing how to deal with a situation like that.
Last week, my better-half walked our dog. She passed the building where our child was educated first. A sweet little girl who knows our dog started talking to her and the dog. More children came to the fence and, eventually, so did the teacher. This happened to be the first teacher of our child in kindergarten. She was also the teacher in the first grade. A strange conversation started.
“You were Dante’s right?” It’s hard to translate this correctly. It seemed as she had forgotten that my better-half was the mother of our child. She asked if all turned out well. Being annoyed with the start of the conversation my better-half said it didn’t turn outright. Because of the intense bullying, he had to go to therapy for three years. Today he still suffers from performance anxiety.
He underwent therapy because of this bullying and the loss of his grandfather. That last part wasn’t the school’s fault, I know. What was wrong: three days after the funeral they insisted that he had to do a test. He said he wasn’t ready, but he was forced anyway.
As my better-half spoke, the teacher turned silent. She didn’t know what to say, except for words that were way out of line. She told my better-half that she always did her best for our child. That may have been the case according to her memories. Not to ours. But we’re not education experts.
Well, we might be educational experts in some way. My better-half has gained her teaching skills. Long before COVID-19 and the homeschooling, we were homeschooling our child from time to time. For those of you who complain about this homeschooling: nowadays there is a pattern. Homeschool is from Monday till Friday. When we had to do this, there wasn’t a pattern. It was all a matter of school informing us they were unable to provide education for our child that day. We were forced to become teachers.
Together with my burn-out (2013/2014), I decided to become a stay-at-home-dad. I tried working again in 2015, 2017 and between 2018 and 2020. It wasn’t possible to combine all of this even with a part-time job. That is why I became the stay-at-home-dad who combined his business activities with the care for his children. One needing it more than the other.
In the meantime, I am writing about history again. That history. I wasn’t supposed to do that. Forgive me, this was merely an introduction. Let’s focus on the here and now. Well, not really. I have to move a few steps back in time again.
Dutch school system
In The Netherlands, the school system has a solution for children with special educational needs. There is a law that should ensure that every child can go to a regular school. Only when this is not possible, the child goes to schools for children with special educational needs. Then it concerns children with ADHD, ADD or autism. Our child was “only” diagnosed as traumatized. Nevertheless, he ended up in a school for special primary education. A school where our child did not belong.
Dutch law is strict when it comes to education. The possibilities for homeschooling when there isn’t a pandemic is limited. I did my research because I wanted to try homeschooling. I finally had to give up, because of the fines that you can get for homeschooling your child when there is no pandemic. This resulted in a period of bullying and violence. In the end, it turned into violence based on gender choice and orientation.
During all of this, we were supposed to pick out a new school. This wasn’t only hard because of COVID-19. It was also very hard because the options seemed limited. We didn’t want to choose the school for special secondary education. This was because even the teachers at the current school stated that this type of education and the children attending it wasn’t the right climate for our child. You might consider this conclusion as rather late. I wished they came to this conclusion earlier. Before the bruises, before the harsh words.
So we searched for a school that had all the right options. In the end, only two schools were an option. We decided to contact both schools. Being admitted to one school wasn’t that much of an effort. However, they made it clear that it might be too much for our child. They concluded this because we also applied for a new type of education. Both courses belong to the same school community.
We applied for Agora Education. This is a new type of education. Children do not follow courses but take challenges. The teaching material focuses on this challenge. There are no keys. There is no pressure. There is no report. But there is an exam. And an official diploma.
All of this was very stressful. Further training would start with a draw. A draw may mean that there could be a rejection. What then? Then it would be a further education that we all didn’t want. This was a stressful time.
Our child typed a motivation letter, we got interviewed and we had to wait. On Wednesday (17-02-2021) we received an email asking us to stop by (only the parents). They had some additional questions. During this conversation, I had the fear that this might not be possible. It’s not that I didn’t want to stay positive. We had received rejection so much or so often over the years.
The conversation ended with the words, “I think we know enough.” The sentence was added to this: “We would like it if your child starts with us next school year.” The news was like a hammer blow. In a positive way that is. It showed that our battle had not been pointless. That it is indeed possible to move from an awkward, perhaps even almost impossible, position to something that can become incredibly beautiful.
I cannot predict the future. I don’t know if it is going well. I don’t know that for any school. What I did learn because of this: some schools keep their doors closed to children with learning support. That is unjustified. Doesn’t every child deserve a fair chance?
Anyway, maybe I’ll make it too big again. I’m not an expert, so I’m going to vacuum again. Something that I’m good at (I think).