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Monday, February 25, 2013

K12

Our adventures in homeschooling are off to a good start.  Grace started at Evergreen Flex Academy.  She is in a 2nd/3rd grade class Monday and Tuesday mornings.  She felt a bit nervous today but was a trooper.  Her teacher Mrs. L placed her in a table group with some cute girls.  A sweet little boy came up to her and gave her a picture to welcome her to class.  She liked feeling welcome.  This afternoon she pulled out her front tooth.  I am so happy as it has been dangling in her mouth for days, but she wouldn't let anyone touch it.  I told her to "be brave".  I was proud she finally did it!

In addition to the two days she attends Evergreen Flex, she will be progressing through a curriculum chosen by the district.  I have tried to embrace this process with an open mind, and part of this process is using the curriculum that the district provides.  The curriculum is called K12.  As an educator and a busy mom, I am happy to report that so far I really love this curriculum.  It is online based, but there are books, manipulatives, readers and all sorts of fun things that are coming to our home soon.  In fact I was incredibly excited to see Handwriting Without Tears (my favorite handwriting program) on the list of things coming in a big box to our home.  Originally it was on my list of things to get for Grace, and I was happy to cross it out and even happier when I didn't have to pay for it!  All of this curriculum is being provided for free by the school district.  I will be excited for the boxes to arrive.  Grace and I are tracking the shipment.  In addition the lessons are colorful, she works both on the computer and in workbooks.  The program also keeps track of attendance and when lessons are completed time is automatically added to her attendance bank. 

Grace seems to be happier settling into her new schedule and routine.  We were able to make cookies and do some fun activities.  We recently renewed our zoo pass and I hear there is new aquarium in Portland that I would like to take the kids too.  I feel really blessed today!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Transparent

Tuesday I will add a new title to the many "hats" I wear.  I admit that I didn't plan on EVER wearing this hat.  But keeping in step with all the life changing things that happen to me...it CHOSE me.  Tuesday I will become a HOMESCHOOLING mom.  Mark and I were really praying about and researching homeschooling for Grace beginning next fall, but situations be as they may...a change was needed now.  So...here we go into uncharted territory.  Truthfully I am nervous.  Not that I can't teach her.  She loves the work, and will sit with me until I need a break.  Just nervous to catch her up.  To make up lost ground.  To reteach and make progress at the same time.  She is a year behind in her classwork and reading.  Grace is also struggling with symptoms of her obsessive compulsive disorder.  Once things settle regarding her schooling, I am going to pursue art therapy for her as recommended by Luke's therapist.

Grace will be attending a 2nd grade classroom for two half days a week at our school districts alternative learning school called Evergreen Flex Academy.  She could stay the full day (twice a week), but she just isn't ready for that yet.  We will see where she is next fall.

My heart breaks for how much she has been struggling in school.  I am also disappointed that staff never told us about her struggles until we questioned them.  We spent time talking with Grace's teacher, and she agreed that Grace needed more help.  I have had Grace tested for special education services but she was not low enough to qualify for any extra help.  Luke and Grace have reported that several other staff members (neither of them work with Grace) at the school questioning them about our decision to home school her.  I find that very unprofessional as Luke and Grace do not know the full reasoning surrounding the decision.  I promptly informed those staff members that if they have any questions regarding our decision to home school that they could please contact me and then gave them my cell phone number.  I would be happy to discuss it with them.  I think that shut them up, as I haven't heard from them.

As an educator myself, I understand how some teachers feel about home school and public school.  What I have learned as a mom and a teacher is that not every student is going to learn the same way.  Not every child's education is going to look the same way.  Our decision to home school is based strictly on what Grace needs, our desire to see her experience academic success and thrive in an environment that supports her. 

Here is the transparent part of this post...I feel that I have too much going on in my life.  That I am being pulled in too many directions.  That I am wearing too many "hats".  This leads me to feel not effective in anything.  I am on the brink of burnout.  The last month I have really had to take a step back and figure out what is most important, because what I have realized is that I CAN'T have it all like I thought (see previous post).  I've learned and am still learning some really difficult lessons. 

I have issues with needing "titles" to feel like I have value.  Stupid...I know.  It's just the truth.  We've probably kept our foster license too long because I didn't want to "give up the title".  I went to work this school year for a lot of reasons but one was for the "title" and the badge.  In a way, looking at my picture on my badge that said "staff" made me feel like my schooling and hard work had value.  That I had accomplished something.  I went back to WSU because I wanted the "title" that goes with the finished the product. In hind sight all these "titles" have cost me too much.

In this past month we decided that we are handing in our foster license.  We will NOT renew.  It is time to "let go".  This has been a difficult decision for me to process.  I wrote notes to each of my favorite social workers Peggy and Beth telling them our decision.  Both of these women were instrumental in helping me become a mother.  How to you thank them for that?  I tried.  I admire them and the challenging work they do.  They loved my children before I did.   They changed my world.  I hope they know how much I love them and miss working with them.

I stopped teaching the preschool class at church.  Too much preschool can wear a girl down.  I said no.  I may or may not continue with WSU.  I am still thinking about that one. 

And on to work...hind sight is 20/20 right?  I probably knew I shouldn't have decided to work on August 24th, 2012.  This was the day I found out Bella had delays and was going to need therapy.  My heart felt like it was ripping from my body.  I knew that she would be with her dad, but here I was going to go off to work to help special needs children and my own baby was diagnosed with special needs.  I ended up in the ER that day hooked up to the heart monitor because I was having heart palpitations.  I was stressed, anxious and I hadn't even started working yet.

When I started working I found out that my 20 hours a week job really was going to take more time (25 hours a week) plus my hour commute, plus all the time working on things at home.  It was more than I planned on.  We have made adjustments, but I have a VERY high stress job, and a high stress job with my own children.  There has been a lot of stress!  Things have become clearer to me as Mark and I process them.  My first priority is my sweet little family.  They are a full time job.  My heart is with them.  For me...I have a difficult time balancing be a special needs mom and a special needs teacher.  I know there are many out there that do both and they have my admiration because anytime I try to both...I fail.  I am committed to finishing this school year and then re-evaluating.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Honest Truth about Special Needs Parenting

I have cried more tears in this past week than in the last six months combined.  My heart is heavy.  Maybe I am just emotional, hormonal or overly sensitive, but I am concerned for my sweet Grace who struggles off and on with symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.  Her symptoms first appeared upon her entering kindergarten and have come and gone in waves over the last several years as stress and anxiety affect her.  Unfortunately, I believe this latest set of compulsive behaviors was triggered by my own personal stress and anxiety.  My kids are very "in tune" with how I am feeling and I have been "off" for awhile now. 
I have tried to pinpoint why I have been "off" why my stress is higher, etc., however, I look back and see no defining event.  Mainly I feel it is trying to manage everything, deal with everything  and hold it together for too long.  I feel burnt out.  I am run down.  I am tired.  I am depressed and anxious all at the same time.  I really believed that I could "have it all".  I remember saying multiple times as I began working my part time job, "I will have the best of both worlds."  Only what I have realized is it is NOT true.  We want our cake and to eat it too.  And I know that is me.  I took on too much.  I can't give 100% to my kids and I can't give 100% to my job and I can't give 100% to my marriage.  I am not excelling in anything...just treading water.  Enough to get by.  This is so frustrating for me.  I thought this job would be the answer to everything that burdened me last year.  It has only caused different burdens.  The job is stressful.   There are students with high needs.  I have been bit, scratched, hit, kicked, hair pulled out, things thrown at me, and have had both my cheek bones bruised.  I take on the responsibility everyday of attempting to keep all my students safe.  It is a big task.  I don't always win.  I have a huge feeling of defeat when someone gets hurt. It is a stressful environment.
This is one of those difficult life lessons to learn.  I was reminded of what my therapist said to me in the beginning stages of therapy in my post partum state.  She said, "you can do anything for five months and then you hit a brick wall.  You can push yourself for five months and then you have to make changes."  Mostly this was talking about my sleep deprivation but I found it to be true.  I added up the amount of time I had been working...yep...five months.  Five months of trying to convince myself that this is what I am supposed to do.  Five months trying to be happy imagining myself working in that classroom for the next 20 years.  Five months kissing my 2 year old goodbye hearing her say "no classroom mommy.  Stay me."  Five months telling myself she would be ok only to feel like my heart was being ripped out and my arm severed from my body.  Five months.  Now...brick wall.  But Mark and I are walking this hand in hand and praying about what the answer is.   
Grace's latest trials have caused Mark and I to re-evaluate her placement in school.  She is struggling academically and socially.  She understands that she is behind in areas, her peers understand that she is behind and they make sure to remind her any chance they get.  Grace feels beat down, unhappy and self conscious.  It is interesting to me how just a month ago I spent all this time researching school options for Luke, but now I am using all that information for Grace.  I am glad that I did my homework.  Grace's last day at her school will be on Thursday.  She will be switching to our school district's alternative learning program.  She will go 2 days a week in a small classroom and 3 days a week at home with Mark and I.  We will also be looking into some art therapy for her, as recommended by Luke's therapist.  The last thing I need is another appointment, but Grace needs it and so do I.  I honestly do not know how I am going to juggle even more.  My plate is already so full that things are dangling from it.  I think back...probably shouldn't have gone back to school, probably shouldn't have taken on a lot of things. 


So honestly...special needs parenting of three special needs kiddos is rough.  It is not pretty.  There is no magic over here.  I am not a saint and fail daily.  It is ugly at times as far as the pain, sadness, grief and feelings of being so alone.  There are triumphs too, but right now I am in the trenches of some really intense parenting and it is difficult to see anything.  I think of Dory in Finding Nemo....just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, because my friends all I am really doing right now is swimming...somewhat.
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