Sunday, November 17, 2013

Special Ed for "active" children

I was talking to my brother.  He has an active 4yo.  He himself had some trouble in school back in the day, 25-30 years ago, when it was suggested that he be placed on medication so he could concentrate.  This is well before the current trend of medicating.

Let's put it this way.  If he were in my homeschool, I'd want him to have a shadow.

So I said to my brother that what I think would be ideal for my nephew would be to get another 2 or 3 active boys whose parents don't want them on meds, hire a teacher, set up your basement, and have him at school that way.

My brother, ever more community minded, said he'd prefer to have the school separate out a few kids, put them in their own classroom, have their own curriculum, and that way all the resources of the school--gym, playground, computers, etc. will be available to them.
As a homeschooler, I tend to think personally, not globally.  I'm not in the habit of thinking about sweeping reforms for education.  If I want something different educationally, I take care of it myself.

But I've spoken to many people over the years who need Special Ed, not because of learning difficulties, but because of their inability to function in the classroom.  I've seen it mentioned over and over again particularly regarding boys, though there are definitely girls that encounter this problem, too.

I read an article by Rabbi Kelemen in Jewish Action:
Frum inflation” is also a factor. Our kids can’t keep up with the rising emotional and physical tolls of being an outstanding Orthodox Jew. While young boys during the times of the Mishnah weren’t expected to start learning Talmud until age fifteen, today we demand that of children under ten who can’t possibly fathom what they are learning. The length and intensity of the school day is unprecedented and torturous, and those children who can’t sit still and concentrate through classes from morning until night are left behind or encouraged to take stimulant medications to help them become more “healthy.” In certain segments of the Orthodox world, playing ball is often discouraged, and team sports are virtually nonexistent.

(The bolding is mine.)  I don't actually think the length and intensity of the school day is unprecedented (though I do think it is torturous).  I'm pretty sure the Rambam quotes the gemara of those little boys who started at age 6 or 7 and sat all day in tinokos shel beis raban.  I'm also pretty sure corporal punishment was used, though the Rambam brings down that you should use laces, not whips.

In no way am I bringing the following video to criticize Chazal.
I would suggest, though, that sitting for that long without either corporal punishment or medication is going to be difficult for many children in our society.  Which leads me to thinking about a Special Ed program that can be implemented in schools designed for active children like my nephew.  I'm going to work out a rudimentary proposal.

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