Today K and I made a list of things she'd want (or not want) in her perfect school. Though we love the school she is in now, it isn't long term (which we always knew.) She needs to be challenged more academically, and definitely needs more social opportunities (right now she is 1 or 2 students in her class.) This school has done a lot for her, mental-health-wise, and for that we are eternally grateful, but at some point we'll have to find a new placement.
So, today, while we were getting in some afternoon snuggles, we decided to make this list. Actually, I asked her if she wanted to make a list of wants and don't wants, and she agreed. We make so many decisions for our kids, I wanted to make sure K is represented in whatever we choose to do down the road. Some of her answers I prompted, knowing what she loves about her current school/misses about her old school. Some of her answers she gave without any prompting at all. I think the most important answer was no restraints. This was 100% her, no prompting needed.
So, here is K's list. Short, sweet, and oh-so important:
A class pet
closer to home
Homework (she hasn't had that in her previous two placements, anyway.)
One of the things K loves most about her current placement is the culinary arts program, so I am really hoping we're able to find another school that offers that. She loves using the iPad for all her schoolwork, too. The fact that physically writing is such a challenge for her, and can get in the way of her overall performance, an iPad, or laptop, is definitely something we need to make happen.
The class pet? This might trump everything else on the list, but is probably the hardest thing to find. Especially as she gets older. We toured a few different schools, and class parts are few and far between. I'm sure K could convince a teacher it's something absolutely necessary, though ;)
And girls. Well, we are realistic about this one. If we could find a school with even one other girl K's age, we'd consider it a win!
Nice teachers, good food (in the cafeteria), and art class are all things that will hopefully be easier to find. As far as distance from home? Well, we live in the boonies, so nothing is going to be close. One can always hope, though!
As soon as we started making the list, K said something she wanted was "no restraints". Actually, what she said was she didn't want "that thing at the other school", and I immediately knew to what she was referring. It's sad that has to be on the list at all. That in this day and age educators can't come up with a better way, or have enough respect for our kids that restraints and seclusion aren't even on the table.
A school's policy on restraints/seclusion is something that will be immensely important moving forward, though.
As for homework? Most of the programs don't have homework, but that isn't a given. Being that we needed a tutor specifically for homework when K was mainstreamed, I wouldn't mind no homework either. It caused a lot of unneeded anxiety and behaviors in our house, and I personally don't think homework is necessary, for any kid. Reading at home should be the only homework a kid gets.
K considers anyone she doesn't get along with a "bully", so this is a hard one ;)
I am hoping that K's next placement is the school she will be in for the long haul. It would be amazing if we could find a program that could get her through high school, even, though I know that's a tall order. I just don't want her changing programs every couple years. Hopefully we can take some of her wants (and don't wants!) and find a program that will work for her. There is no perfect school, but I want to make sure that K has a voice in whatever we choose.