Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2015-2016 School year is coming to a close.

The school year is coming to a close, and I wanted to write this out for myself, for my kids, for our families, and for our friends. I am always an oversharer, but you can be supported so much better when your support team knows what's going on!

When we moved over to Spokane from our tiny town full of friends, where everybody knew you, I enrolled the kids in 100 million things hoping they wouldn't miss their friends and their activities. I soon became overwhelmed. This is actually a huge fault of mine and something I do frequently. I have an overwhelming fear that the kids will grow up having no close friends, that they will never get to try everything they want to try, and that they wont have any hobbies... so I do too much, become crazy and cranky, and then drop out in utter exhaustion and defeat. Not surprisingly, by December it all came to a screeching halt.

The kids didn't want to be doing all these things, we were perpetually exhausted from running around and having something on the calendar every night of the week. We cut out Awana, and finished swimming lessons, we pulled Molly and Lucy out of girl scouts, still being overwhelmed, exhausted, and essentially alone (Alone as in, knew no one in our school district, knew none of the teachers, could barely find the kids' school, knew no one on the PTA, knew no one in our neighborhood or on the buses), we eventually pulled them out of school. When we moved in I just assumed that the elementary school that is literally 3 houses away from us, was where the kids would go. Boy was I shocked when upon enrollment, my kids were split up and sent to 3 different schools. I had never heard of an "overflow school". I had never heard of an elementary school not having any kindergarten classrooms.

Sam attended the school next door. Joe and Molly were bused 35 minutes to a school 11 miles away. Lucy had to attend the Kindergarten center; half days in the afternoon. School was literally, chaos. I never knew whose homework was done when, I never knew which release form this was for. When was this kids' concert? What do I do when two kids have a veterans day assembly at the same time!? What PTA do I attend; they were both on the same night. Even after everyone was safely to school, my brain was just so overwhelmed.

Sam's teacher would assign these very complicated and lengthy projects which I could never help with because he never sent home papers explaining what he was supposed to do because he wanted the 5th grade students to be responsible for their own education. Sam cannot do that. His sensory processing disorder brain does not work that way. I told his teacher this several times. After a few months of seriously being stressed out I come to find out these projects aren't graded. ever. My husband was outraged. At his parent teacher conference his teacher told me Sam is way above their learning level and he wanted to recommend Sam to jump to 7th grade and skip 6th grade altogether but the school district would not allow that because his penmanship is so poor. In case I've never mentioned it, Sam has Sensory Processing Disorder, he is on the Autism Spectrum. It is a HUGE part of his life. He was nonverbal until he was about 3. He couldn't eat anything besides crackers when he was younger. He literally survived off of crackers and milk. He attended therapy from the time he was 13 months old, finally graduating in 3rd grade - two years ago... and you're telling me because he has an actual physical disability (poor fine motor skills) that he will have to be in a class that does not challenge him.

Joe made 2 friends on the bus, both overly questionable. One little guy told Joe all about how his sister was taken away from the family by CPS because she pulled a knife on a teacher and was abusive to him and his sister, something Joe had never heard of (that someone could take kids away from their families, and I believe it introduced fear into his little sensitive heart.) The other friend, a 5th grader, was a terror to Molly and bullied her everyday, telling her that she was going to kill her, would hit her or scream in her ears, and once stole her coat while it was snowing. The Principle dealt with this by saying that this child just had poor social skills and said things wildly inappropriate but never meant them. That does not help my nervous already anxiety ridden sweet and innocent second grader. About 3 months in, the school next door called and said they had a 2nd grade spot open and Molly could transfer over. YES. A million times, yes. She transferred and made a best friend the first day there. They even dressed up as sneetches on Dr. Seuss's birthday.

However, now Joe was alone on the bus. He became very strangely attached to the little boy, and became very sullen. He suddenly wanted to wear black all the time, became obsessed with this creepy game, and started getting in trouble at school. Little things, nothing huge, but things like not turning in his homework for 6 weeks before we heard anything about it. Spending 45 minutes in the bathroom to get out of class, and the last straw for me, was downloading an app on his phone (That he had only because he was riding a bus alone in the big city!) that made a gun shooting noise. Joe is not a bad kid... a weird kid, yes, he beats to his own drum... and that drum is brightly colored, is a triangle shape, and sounds like a horn when you beat on it (lol) but he is a good, good kid. He has a very tender heart, loves his family, loves God, loves going to church, drawing, riding bikes, building blanket forts... he is not a bad kid. But whatever was happening at school was changing him and it broke my heart.

Lucy was absolutely in love with Kindergarten, and her teacher, and her friends. She loved the playground, she loved coloring, she loved everything. However, Lucy had struggled with her allergies so much when she was younger, and with her stomach trouble, and her skin trouble, and her 4 years of incessant crying, I believe her body took all her learning and growing abilities, and she is just a bit young for her age. I thank God that she is now completely healthy and happy, and growing and learning, but she is still behind the other kids her age. And dude, that's ok. Her school was crazy concerned and wanted us to run all these tests, they even wanted her to start spending time with a special Ed class because there was a possibility she has a learning disorder. I wanted to tell them, just calm down people! Take a deep breath and calm down. Even if she has a steep learning curve, putting her in a special ed class would not be good for her. She just needs more time. Since she went to afternoon kindergarten we had a busy, busy morning getting up and everyone off to school then almost immediately getting her showered, lunch, dressed then off to meet the bus. She still naps even now and she sorely missed her naps. She fell asleep at the dinner table, at 5pm on the stairs, on the couch, sometimes she would just put herself to bed. Her home life was really suffering, she was so tired, she could hardly ever be happy or loving.

I don't want to sound all negative, but it was such a hard time for us. We were all just very very tired. It seemed like our move left us jet lagged for months.

The kids have been home schooled since February and it has been wonderful. It's been so relaxed and it's been so healing for us. We needed time to reconnect as a family unit. We needed to remember we all love each other. There is truly nothing more important than family, and somehow all of us forgot that and forgot how to be together. We've spent so much time together, and I've loved every minute of it... and I think the kids have too. We've needed this and we've learned a lot.

The first thing we learned, is that families are forever. We will be together no matter what, and we are our best friends. This was a huge lesson for the boys. They have become much closer and fight much less now. I find them frequently supporting each other and saying encouraging things. They ride bikes together, they build legos together, they help each other out when they're stuck in a game. It's not all fun and games, they still bicker, but they're no longer at war.

Secondly, the kids have learned that we all have to work together to make the house run. They all have their chores down pat. No more arguing, stalling, wheeling, or dealing. Chores get done by 9am, every morning. This also applies to them taking care of themselves. The three big kids now shower themselves without being reminded, have finally learned to floss and brush their teeth twice a day, and all know how to dress themselves, and brush their hair. This is a really big part of living in the world... we call this, being responsible. I truly am not sure they would have been able to learn all this if they were still in public school, but this is part of life man!

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, I have learned to appreciate them more. When I am a stressed out Mom I am not my best self. I yell more, I have less grace for them, and offer way less learning opportunities. I also learned that I am not a good teacher. We've focused on math and reading. Tons of math, tons of reading, but not a lot of anything else. I'm not good with coming up with content to teach, I need a plan. However, I'm not able to figure out how I can make a plan that can challenge my intelligent 5th grader and my young kindergartner at the same time. I also do not know how I could go with a stricter curriculum for 5 different kids. I can be 100% confident in saying that I have not offered them everything the school could have offered them by way of written instruction... but I am equally, if not more confident, in saying that the public school will never be able to give (or take away!) what we've just spent 4 months giving and repairing, to them.

Jerry and I have been praying about it and we feel like the lord is pointing us to put them back into public school in the fall and we are feeling very at peace about it. I am planning to spend every single day until they start, praying for them that they will be confident in who they are, and that they will stand out in their classrooms as good examples and loving, supportive friends. I will also spend the next 4 months continuing to build them up and prepare them for challenges that they will face in public school.

But I'm truly not worried about them anymore, they are different people today than who they were on their last day of public school. It's like we dug ourselves in, repaired, replenished, and restored, and now we're all ready to go back out and fight the good fight.

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