Trust

Last summer my running partner convinced me to do track workouts.  I’m pretty new to running and had no idea what a track workout was.  Basically what you do is sprint twice around the track (1/2 mile) as fast as you can, jog around the track once….repeat….at least 4 times, building up more repeats as the training season goes on.

It’s grueling.

It makes me feel like I’m going to barf.

It makes me slightly dizzy and forced to run with tunnel vision toward the finish line.

It wipes me out for much of the day, and sometimes the next day too.

And yet, I did it, and went back throughout the summer.  I trusted my running partner.  I was training for my first marathon where speed, not just finishing, was a goal.  I knew she was pushing me in the right direction and had my best interest in mind.  She is a much more experienced runner than me. I listened to her and pushed myself to be uncomfortable and work very hard.  I trusted that this new training method would deliver results.  Trust is the cornerstone of any great relationship.

 

When you ask someone for help, you are essentially saying that you trust the person enough to actually help and you believe they know what to do.

This week I will go to #3s post-assessment meeting.  I have been asking for help all year.  After initially being denied an assessment, #3 received more interventions in the classroom and with Minnesota Reading Corp.  After 6 weeks we had another meeting, and not only had he not made progress, he went backwards in his reading achievement.  Although he was still not as far behind as they initially told me he had to be according to the Mondo Achievement test, the school agreed to assess him for special education services because the interventions were not helping him move towards grade level.

The assessment guarantees nothing.  If I sound jaded, I am.

For the past week I have noticed my anxiety on the subject climbing and I have wondered why.  It is possible that he will qualify for special education and the IEP they propose is something that would help him reach grade level in reading and writing.  I have seen IEPs for children from this same school and I think the goals and steps are excellent.

So why am I so nervous?  I really have no reason to be.

It’s because my trust is gone.

This is not about the teachers at this school.  I trust the teachers.  I trust the special education teacher at this school…that is why I want her to be #3’s case manager.

I don’t trust the system.  I have asked for help so many times only to be ignored or turned down I no longer believe they have my children’s best interest in mind.  I don’t trust the policies surrounding qualifying children with learning disabilities.  My experience was so horrible when #2 had an IEP and the services he received only made the situation worse, I know that having a piece of paper saying my child gets help doesn’t mean the help with be appropriate or, in fact, helpful. If I don’t agree with the assessment results, I’m quite certain that no one in administration is going to listen to my concerns.

When I asked the school to test my child for special education I was putting myself in an uncomfortable and vulnerable situation.  I was putting #3 in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position too and letting him know that I think something is wrong.  I was openly admitting he is failing.  I was asking for help, and not just a little help, but a lot of help, to simply get my child to read at grade level….nothing that incredible and something that is quite easy for many kids.  During this process I was reminded of all the hurt and anguish I went through seeking help for #1 and #2 in the same school district, and never finding that help.

It’s hard to ask for help.  It’s hard to ask people to listen to your concerns.  And it’s really hard to ask for help when you don’t trust that things will get better.

I want to trust the system again.  I want to trust that they understand the importance of early detection and early intervention for children with learning disabilities….BEFORE they have failed so enormously that catching up seems nearly impossible and their self-esteem is crushed.  I want to trust that special education is set up to help students and not protect the school district from law-suits.  I don’t want to be jaded anymore.

I want to be presented with a plan, that is researched based, telling me the steps they will take to teach #3 how to read at grade level.  I want to come out of an IEP meeting with a smile on my face and breath a sigh of relief knowing I can trust the new initiative, the new training method, to help my child who is not reaching his own goal of learning how to read and who is beginning to show signs of frustration and learned helplessness.  I want to trust that they will push him in the right direction.  I want to trust that his best interest, not dollar signs, case loads, or misguided policies determined the education he will receive.   I want them to push him to work hard and try what is difficult even when he’s uncomfortable, which will lead him to achieving success.

 

After my first track workout, when I was standing on the track, hands on my knees, gasping for breath I looked at my running partner and said, “Why did you make me do this?  That was awful!!!! It’s quite possible I almost died.”

She replied, “Physically it makes you stronger and gives your cardio a wake up.  Psychologically you are learning that even when you don’t think you can keep going, if you just trust your body, your legs continue to carry you along.  You are learning to trust yourself.  You are learning to listen to your body and know how hard to push.”

“OK, fine.  That was awful, but I’ll do it again if it will help me.  I’m going to trust you on this.  Same thing next week?”

With a sly smile, my running partner grabbed her water bottle and said, “No, next week I introduce you to hill drills, and that is an entirely different out of body experience.”

 

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Have a good playlist

No deep thoughts today!  And nothing about dyslexia!  Sometimes its good to take a break, and what better way than listening to music.  Below is the playlist that my running partner made for me which turned out to be the secret to my success for the Twin Cities Marathon.  While I was typing each song I could remember the smile on my face and my deep feeling of contentment.  I also enjoyed hearing the secret messages and the overall theme of run to the beat I knew my running partner would insert.  Hope some of you can find a new song or two to add to your playlist for running, cleaning, driving, completing Excel spreadsheets, dance parties, etc.

  1. Easy — The Commodores
  2. Bright Morning Stars — Abigail Washburn
  3. The Book of Love — The Magnetic Fields
  4. Hide and Seek — Imogen Heap
  5. Blue Mind — Alexi Murdoch
  6. Whenever God Shines His Light — Van Morrison
  7. Mandolin Rain — Bruce Hornsby
  8. Seasons of Love — Original Broadway Cast
  9. Keep Your Head Up — Ben Howard
  10. Hard Way Home — Brandi Carlie
  11. Ants Marching (Live) — Dave Matthews Band
  12. Just Say Yes — Snow Patrol
  13. Wake Me Up — Avicii
  14. Cruise (Remix) — Florida Georgia Line
  15. Come on Eileen — Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  16. Girl on Fire (Inferno Version) — Alicia Keys
  17. Hey Brother — Avicii
  18. Love Story — Taylor Swift
  19. After School Special — Jurassic 5
  20. Suga Mama — Beyonce
  21. The Distance — Cake
  22. Follow Your Arrow — Kacey Musgraves
  23. Ladies Love Chest Rockwell — Lovage
  24. I Gotta Feeling — The Black Eyed Peas
  25. Have you Got It In You? — Imogen Heap
  26. Blister in the Sun — Violent Femmes
  27. Raise Hell — Brandi Carlile
  28. Altrevete — Calle 13
  29. Tangerine Speedo — Caviar
  30. Awake My Soul — Mumford & Sons
  31. Merry Go ‘Round — Kacey Musgraves
  32. 1 Goddess — Soho
  33. All This Time — Sting
  34. Real Fine Love — John Hiatt
  35. Calabria — Enur
  36. DotA (Radio Edit) — Basshunter
  37. Fit But You Know It — The Streets
  38. Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses
  39. Forget you — Cee Lo Green
  40. Wagon Wheel — Old Crow Medicine Show
  41. Echoes (Radio Edit) — Hennik B, Niklas Gustavsson & Peter Johansson
  42. Lover of the Light — Mumford & Sons
  43. Empire State of Mind — Jay-Z
  44. Don’t Stop Believin’ — Journey
  45. Firework — Katy Perry
  46. Nothing Compares 2 U — Prince
  47. Can’t Hold Us — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  48. Shadows of the Night — Pat Benatar
  49. The Rockafeller Skank — Fatboy Slim
  50. Without You — David Guetta & Usher
  51. Love Somebody — Maroon 5
  52. Move (If You Wanna) — Mims
  53. Stay Loose — Jimmy Smith
  54. Thickfreakness — The Black Keys
  55. Less Talk More Rokk — Freezepop
  56. Heart of A Champion — Nelly
  57. Hall of Fame — The Script
  58. Kids — MGMT
  59. Get Up On It Like This – The Chemical Brothers
  60. Desire — U2
  61. Baba O’Riley — The Who

©Running Partner, October 2013

And I’m still wondering what this guy was thinking.

Did he lose a bet?

Think this was hilarious last week….and then he hit mile 4?

.Chewy 1

Hopefully he also had a good playlist.

Listen

The morning of the marathon my running partner dropped her husband (running dude) and me off near the starting line.  She was not running this year because of an injury and we found ourselves alone without our caretaker and guide.

“Time to get our watches on I suppose” said running dude.

With a panicked look in my eye I turned to him and said, “I forgot mine.”

“YOU FORGOT IT?!?!” says running dude in a squeak, his eyes flashing a feeling of panic that he trying to hide.

This was bad.  I had trained all summer to run a certain speed.  I’m a slightly erratic runner and pace is a little bit of a problem.  Also, running like I was shot out of a cannon or like a racehorse is sometimes my style, and this is not the way to start a marathon.  I knew exactly what pace I was supposed to run to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but now I would have no idea if I was going to fast (and running the risk of crashing around mile 22) or going too slow for the cutoff.

After awhile of rising blood pressure, and a moment of “what would my running partner do?” I said, “You know, I think it will be fine.  I no longer will have something on my wrist pressuring me to go faster or slower.  I won’t be looking at it every minute and feeling bad that I’m not going the right speed.  I won’t get into my head with negative thoughts and panic.  I can just go out there, listen to the music, listen to my body and run.”

Before we had to line up we said our good-byes, wished each other luck and took a deep breath together….hoping the next time we saw each other we’d both be happy at the finish line and not in a first aid station along the way.

As I stood in my coral waiting to start people started turning on their pace watches and waiting for the satellite signals to kick in.  Panic started rising in me again as I wondered how I was going to have any idea if I was going the correct speed. Right before my coral started, and I started at the open streets of Minneapolis, I silently meditated:

Listen.

Run to the beat.

Listen.

Your running partner will guide you with the music.

Listen.

Your body will carry you.

Listen.

And with that, I was off to run the marathon.  The first song on my playlist started and it was “Easy on Sunday Morning” by Lionel Richie.  Hilarious.  I started at a nice easy pace, looked down at the pavement, and eased into the run while people were flying by me at a sprint.  Instead of joining in, I listened…..

And so it goes with raising children. Throughout my parenting journey I have discovered that listening to my children is many times the most important thing I can do.  I had to listen to #1 and #2 struggle to know it was time to figure out what was going on with their learning.  I had to listen to #2’s signals which told me his elementary school was failing him.  While I was homeschooling him I had to listen very closely to his signals.  I didn’t have any test scores telling me if he was progressing, I had to listen to his progress.  Sometimes I think test scores are like a pace watch.  We don’t listen to students, we simply wait for the score and adjust.  This feedback is helpful and necessary at times, but harmful when its the only thing you rely on.  I had also listened to his signals and decided he was ready to try going to a more traditional school again.

When #1 was having a very difficult time at his elementary school I had a series of meetings with teachers and administrators.  Every time I met with them they would have a stack of papers containing various test scores.  They would throw out numbers and tell me everything was fine. Because I am his mother, and I was listening to his signals I knew things weren’t fine.  Finally I said, “Has anyone in this room ever listened to him read? Just sat down and listened?” I received blank stares.  I was furious.  In the room was his classroom teacher of almost 2 years and his reading specialist of almost 2 years.  I had been raising concerns for 5 years about his reading progress and NO ONE had ever simply listened to him read a paragraph.  Everything they were telling me was based on a number that was spit out of a computer. They had never listened to what I was telling them or what #1 was telling them.

Ridiculous.

I replied, “I think if you listened to him read this would be a different conversation.  There are 6 adults here, perhaps someone could find 5 minutes to listen to him and then we can meet again in a week.”

Later that week the classroom teacher did listen to him, and she was shocked…..he couldn’t read anywhere near grade level. She said she had no idea.  However, it was nearing the end of 5th grade and the said there wasn’t much they could do that year.  They suggested lots of tutoring and summer school so he could improve over the summer and hopefully 6th grade would be better, but offered no help from the school.  I listened for solutions and signals that things would change, and there were none.  I took this as my exit sign.  Through listening, I heard it was time to get out.

I told them I was officially done with the school and they had failed two of my children.  Because they had refused to listen, they had failed.

Sometimes steps can be hard and painful, such as leaving your community and friends, but sometimes the best thing you can do is listen to what your environment is telling you.

And so it went with the marathon.

There I was, going around the lakes in Minneapolis.  I had no idea what my pace was and I was caught in the middle of the pack.  I definitely knew I wasn’t going too fast, that was for sure.  But, I was enjoying the run and not worried about my time because I had no clue what it was!  After some slow songs the tempo started to pick up.  When “Girl on Fire” came on, I knew this was the signal from my running partner that it was OK for me to go for it.  A couple miles later along the Mississippi River I heard “Have You Got It In You?” My answer was yes, as I started passing more and more people.  As I entered my home turf of St. Paul for the homestretch down Summit Ave. where I would see many friends and family the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” was playing.  Suddenly a good friend from from my running group I call Team Varsity ran out and screamed “You’ve got this! Oh my god!  Just go!”  Around mile 24, during “The Rockafeller Skank” my beloved running partner was at the side of the road jumping up and down and screaming “You’ve got this baby!”  I couldn’t believe my body was telling me to go faster.  I still had no idea my time, and every step seemed to be taking increasing energy, but my body was telling me I had enough in me to get to the end, especially if I got there quickly.

mile 25

A friend took of picture of me running up the last hill of the coarse at mile 25.  I think the smile was gratefulness that I knew I wouldn’t have to climb another hill and I could sit down soon.

And then I was across the finish line.  I still had no idea my time, or what pace I had run, but it was over.  Soon I got a call from my running partner who said, “You did it! That was pretty amazing.”  Hearing her excitement was music to my ears.

Later that day my official results were in.  I had run an average pace of 8:30, the exact speed I planned to run, with negative splits through the marathon.  My time was 3:42:40, Boston Qualifying by a hair.

I had listened to my body.  Listened to the music.  Listened to my friends.  Proof that amazing things can happen when you listen to the signals around you.

Better Together

“Run in places you love with people you like. Enjoying your surroundings and training partners will strengthen your commitment to running and bring out the best in you.”
~Deena Kastor

At the end of a long run this summer my running partner looked at me, with hands on her knees, and said, “There is no way I could have done that without you.”

“Right back at you,” I said with a smile and a wink.  Those who have run 17+ miles with me know the deep, dark secrets start to come out to carry us through those last couple miles.  Sometimes making yourself vulnerable physically and emotionally are exactly what you need to do to form bonds, and it’s amazing what you can accomplish with strong connects to others.

It is this belief in strong community that lead me to find a school for #2.  I no longer wanted to be the principal, janitor, lunch lady, classroom teacher, curriculum design, social worker, special ed. teacher, case manager, behavior intervention specialist AND parent.  Well, forget janitor, I had given up on that one almost immediately.  I did, however, know that #2s case was complicated enough that I could no longer educate him and prepare him for “real life” by myself.  He really struggles with self-advocacy, and its difficult to work on this skill when your mother is continually by your side.  He struggles with knowing how to handle social situations, another tricky thing to work on from your dining room table.  By the end of May he was through the first 6 levels of the Wilson Reading System.  I knew he was reading above grade level and his math was above grade level.  It was time for him to work on some other parts of life.

I had heard bits and pieces about Cyber Village Academy from some acquaintances, but when a friend who has a child that struggles in traditional school told me she had enrolled her child, I decided to get serious.  I did a tour and turned in the paperwork, crossing my fingers the entire time.

Two weeks ago I had #2s first IEP meeting.  I felt slightly queezy going in.  I had flashbacks to the disastrous IEP meetings at his previous school.  Those meetings were combative and infuriating.  I cried during or after each and every meeting.  All I wanted was for my child to receive an education and I was treated like I was asking for some incredibly impossible prize at the end of a fanciful rainbow.

This time, however, it was different.  I was listened to.  They asked questions.  They worked with me…and in turn, I worked with them.  I immediately felt part of a team.  I shared with them some successes of homeschooling, and let them know some failures.  I trusted them enough to be vulnerable and let them know I don’t have all the answers.   I told them that this is a very difficult child to educate and this is why I need help.  We laughed at some of my descriptions of trials and tribulations in homeschooling…and I did not cry!  I left the meeting feeling empowered, supported and encouraged to go home and help make this educational setting a success.

And it is that sense of community that will help carry me through 26.2 on Sunday.  Yes, it’s my legs that will need to continually turn over, just as it’s #2 who needs to read, write, listen, etc.  But, a marathon is truly a team effort.  I will have friends and family throughout the coarse cheering, encouraging, taking my clothing layers and handing me gels.  Yesterday, a running friend brought me this for carboloading:

carboloading

really good beer.

And my dear running partner, who has brought me this far, taught me so much, and trained with me for 3 summers in a row brought me this:

playlist

an iPod with an individualized playlist for my pace.  All I need to do is keep the beat.  Because of injury she has decided not to run this year, but she will be with me every step of the way, encouraging me to keep going with the beauty of music (and maybe there will be some deep secrets hidden in the music I encounter at mile 24).

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we do things together.

Questioning Summer

It’s July.  Summer is in full swing.  In July is when my marathon training really kicks in for the Twin Cities Marathon.  Soon I will be breathing a sigh of relief when I “only” run 15 miles early on a Saturday morning.  This is the third summer I have trained for the TCM.  I have yet to make it through an entire summer without some sort of major injury that sidelines me for months.  So far this summer, I am still feeling good.  The past 9 months I ran 3-4 times a week pretty consistently and found two new sports that I love and wish I had more time to pursue, yoga and skate skiing.  Because of yoga and skiing, my body is stronger than its ever been which has helped me a lot so far this marathon season, yet I remain anxious about an injury.

When I am running alone my brain doesn’t stop thinking, “Is that an injury? Or that? What about that?” THE ENTIRE TIME.  When I’m not obsessing about every little tweak I feel turning into a major injury I’m thinking, “Can I actually run a marathon again? Can I run it faster? Perhaps I should not worry about the time.  Maybe I shouldn’t run the marathon.  If I think this 14 mile run is tough what am I going to do when its 26.2? Why am I doing this to myself? Who do I think I am? When did I decide I was a runner? Am I lying to myself?”  No wonder I get exhausted.

Last weekend I was out on a country road alone and wanted to get my long run over with because my brain wouldn’t turn off (see above), even when I started singing Beatles songs to myself.  I slipped into a long stride which allows me to run pretty fast with many less steps.  It only took about 5 minutes before I felt the scar tissue in my upper hamstring remind me that this stride doesn’t work for my body.  My brain immediately flooded back to September, 2011 and I could picture a particularly painful 10 mile run that good friends dragged me along on (at my request!) before I decided the marathon just wasn’t going to happen for me that year because of the severe pain. The memory of that injury is always looming and I can feel myself hold back because of the fear of re-injury.  When I’m alone, I can never truly run free and enjoy the meditation of running….I have too much fear of what is to come that continually cycles through my inner-monologue.

This sort of anxious-anticipation-while-doing-something-you-love must be how summer break feels for a profoundly dyslexic child.

All of my children are completely immersed in summer.  Sports, camps, swimming lessons, afternoons with friends, trips to the cabin, planning our summer vacation to Yellowstone, lazy days flipping through the Guinness Book of World Records for the one billionth time, playing Monopoly with your siblings and flipping the board across the room when you land on Boardwalk (and you don’t own it, but your big brother does, with hotel)…..  #1, #2 and #3 all worked very hard in school this year to overcome their many challenges and made great strides.  I thought I would do more academic work with them this summer, but I quickly discovered we all needed a break from phonics, handwriting, writing assignments, spelling and splitting words into syllables.

We have all been enjoying the break from syllable division and flashcards.

It’s possible to almos relax and forget how hard academic work is September-May….almost.  Dyslexia pops up nearly every day, sometimes when we least expect it.  The library reading program now requires children to write a book review, not just the name of the book.  Great idea, but not for my boys.  It takes them almost as long to write a short paragraph as it does for them to read the entire book.  None of us wanted to deal with the tears of forced writing assignments in the summer.  A camp counselor called to discuss #2’s journalling project during a week of nature/science camp.  #1 receives e-mails from friends and has a hard time responding without his mother to help with spelling.  #3 is asked to read and write something at his piano lesson.  Although dyslexia is not at the forefront of our lives in the summer and things are going pretty smooth, the anxiety and frustration are still there and I can see the anticipation on their faces when they are entering a new situation.

I’m continually wondering if I’m doing too much, or too little, or not the right approach, or the right approach but not enough of it, or too many camps, or too few, or the wrong camps, or enforcing reading too much, or perhaps not enough, and what about writing, and should we be doing math worksheets?  Exhausting.

Yesterday I stumbled across this article, Summer Fun, by Kyle Redford on the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity site.  He writes:

“Balance is important to all children, but one could argue that it is particularly important when a child feels that his life has been hijacked by a learning disability.  The amount of time, energy and thought aimed at coping with dyslexia is significant. Since dyslexics spend nine months out of the year grappling with difficult school tasks that frequently lead to despair, summer is a relished opportunity to refuel and recharge.  Summer vacation is also an important time for a child to pursue activities that are fun and fulfilling, not frustrating.”

The article also has great tips about inspiring reading in your children during the summer that I was really happy to see we already do.  Listen to audiobooks! Listen to NPR!  Listen to RadioLab!!!!  We have been doing plenty of science this summer since #2 and I started a vegetable garden at the end of May and everyone has been pitching in to help.  #3 found milkweed in our yard this week and has been anxiously waiting for Monarch Butterflies to visit.  But the article also brought out my anxiety again.  Tutors? Special camps for dyslexic students? Academic remediation? Should I be focusing more on those flashcards and syllables this summer? Oh the doubt.  Where is that crystal ball I wish I could look in to see 10 years down the road and know if I’m doing the right thing.

Perhaps the summer is like the off-season of my running and the school year is the training.  Summer is the time to keep up with your skills without exhausting yourself.  Summer is the time to figure out new things you can do and feel good about.  Summer is the time to enjoy what you are good at, not to reinforce the things that are hard.

So, they will continue to work in the vegetable garden,

Megan in vegetable garden

see how far they can jump off a diving board,

Eddie jumping in pool

build their dreams,

Leonardo's Basement Rocket

experiment in the kitchen,

Leonardo's Basement Test Kitchen

and fish with their grandparents.

Fishing at Sand Lake

Near the end of the article it states, “Educating a child with dyslexia is a marathon, not a sprint.”

At least I’ve picked the right sport to carry me through this journey.

 One less thing to question.

Gaining Strength

We acquire the strength we have overcome. 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One year ago I was spending a lot of time sitting around rubbing ice on my ankle.  I didn’t know it yet, but I had a severe stress fracture that was 3/4 of the way through my ankle bone.  I had just run the Fargo 1/2 marathon, injured, and only made matters worse with more intense pounding.

It was time to change directions.  Speed should no longer be my goal.  It was time to learn from my mistakes and not add a lot of speed and a lot of distance, at the same time, to my running.  It was time for me to finally face the facts….if I’m going to be a distance runner, I need to gain strength, I can’t rely on willpower and stubbornness alone.

This time of the school year is always difficult for me.  It is filled with lots of anxiety…for me and for the kids.  We mourn having to leave a beloved teacher and move to the next grade, we have anxiety about what next year will look like and what will be difficult as academic demands become more intense.

It has been a great year academically and socially for all 4 children.  This is not something I have been able to say…..EVER.  #1 is at a new school and is getting his confidence back.  He has friends and he feels accepted for who he is instead of ridiculed.  He knows that certain things are hard for him, but once again he is willing to try.  #2 had a full year of homeschool and confidently tells people “I’m a really good reader.”  At times his classmates are retired ladies who are fellow dog walkers in the neighborhood.  They enjoy asking him what he is currently learning at school.  #3 finished year 2 of kindergarten (first year was 1/2 day, this past year was full day) and is wishing he could make “kindergarten student” his career choice.  Kindergarten is about curiosity and wonder, something #3 thrives on.  #4 is wrapping up preschool and will head off to Pre-K next year.  I am wrapping up 7 years of driving to our beloved preschool and feeling intense sadness and loss that in a couple days I will never again have a child at Dodge Nature Preschool.

A year ago life was so different.

A year ago I was sitting in the principal’s office pounding on a table asking, “Will someone in this school ever do something to help?” For 5 years I had been sounding alarms about #1’s struggles…and for 5 years I had been told not to worry.  Finally, at the end of May during 5th grade his classroom teacher listened to him (attempt) to read out loud and they tested him on his phonics skills.  The Friday afternoon before Memorial Day Weekend I received an e-mail from the reading specialist detailing the test results.  If I would have had a child in my 1st grade classroom with these results at the end of the year I would have frantically looked for interventions to help the child….that’s how bad the situation was.  At this moment I knew I was done with the school, but I agreed to meet with them one last time.

The next week I limped into my last meeting with the principal and various teachers at the school where I was told to put #1 in intense tutoring for the summer, and find a counselor for him to see a couple times a week because they were seeing signs of anxiety.  We would meet again in the fall.  They had no plan to change their instructional methods at school.

I don’t think so.

Their unwillingness to take responsibility for the education of my children had pushed me right over the edge and I needed to be done talking to them.  Walking out of that school I knew in my heart I would never return.  It was the place where I had volunteered and formed friendships with other parents for 5 years. The school failed to educate two of my children and the administrators didn’t seem to have one bit of remorse, just a lot of excuses.  I had spent the year fighting with the principal, first about #2 and now about #1.  I am a person who does not like conflict and fights.  Conflict makes my insides churn and keeps me awake at night, and I had spent an entire school year in conflict.  I was feeling incredibly betrayed, angered and hurt.  I was broken….physically (my ankle), emotionally and mentally.

It was time to pick myself up and get strong.

I promised #1 I would find a new path for him.  We have.  I did not cancel his camps, which are also valuable experiences, to put him in tutoring.  I thought this would feel like a punishment for a very active child.  He spent the summer decompressing and doing things he enjoys and reading some easy books.  A year ago I had a 5th grader crying, “Don’t make me go to school.  I hate it there.”  Now I have a 6th grader who is sad the school year is ending because he has loved it so much.  He has worked tremendously hard this year, and reading and writing are still difficult, but he feels understood and valued.

I spent the summer doing yoga, going to physical therapy and pushing my cardio skills in a spinning class.  With very little actual running during the summer, I was able to run the marathon in October.  This winter I learned how to skate ski and pushed myself more in the yoga studio, along with running over the ice and snow.  My entire body is stronger, and because of that, so is my spirit.

Although next year may be tough, we are ready.  Our injuries have made us stronger.

Reframing it

It is almost time to begin training for the Twin Cities Marathon in earnest.  I’ve been looking over Hal Higdon’s training guides and trying to decide which option would be best for this year.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking: What is my goal?  Fast? Just get it done? No injury? Boston Qualifying? Run as fast as I possibly can?  Stick with my much more experienced (and smarter) running partner? All the above?

There will be times when I’m mad that I’m training for the marathon.  I will want to go out late on a Friday, but I know I have to run 18 miles the next morning.  The two don’t mix.  I will be running when its way too hot and humid to rationally run, but the training guide says I must and there is no end in sight for the heat wave.  I won’t want to get up at 4:55 AM.

But, I will remind myself the entire time….I get to do this.  I’m the lucky one.  My body let’s me do this.  My husband supports me doing this.  My lifestyle allows me to run.  I have wonderful friends to run with who encourage and challenge me.  I get to.

This is the rationale I’ve been turning to lately with raising children with dyslexia and especially homeschooling.  It’s May.  The weather is finally nice.  I feel like I’m on those last couple weeks of marathon training when your body is so tired and you are crossing your fingers you don’t get injured.  I have worked so hard for so long and I’d like to be done for awhile.  Homeschooling #2 is not easy for me.  It’s nothing I thought I’d ever do.  And just when I think we are getting somewhere….that there is light at the end of the tunnel….that some spelling is really sinking in and that -ed ending is cementing…I get the following text from #2 (sent from my mom’s phone):

text

Are you kidding me?!?!?  GUST? PAST? YORE?  Can someone tell me how this sentence passed autocorrect? Where is Siri when you need her?

OK, I’ll give him yore….at least he got the vowel-consonant-e concept we’ve worked so hard on.  And the g/j sound is really hard for him. He needs to learn it to 100% accuracy and obviously we need to review.  BUT PAST?!?! No -ed suffix? It’s what we’ve worked on for 6 weeks!

Forget it.  Running a marathon, no make that an ultra-marathon, up a mountain, in elevation, on a really skinny path, is easier than this.  I’m a total failure of a teacher and parent.

I believe this is what they call “hitting the wall” in marathon terms.

It was time to dig deep.

There are two types of perspectives you can take when thinking about dyslexia; the deficit perspective or the strength perspective.  I was stuck in the deficit perspective.  The end of the school year is approaching and I’m stuck thinking of all the things that are incredibly hard for #2.  Spelling, reading speed, reading comprehension, writing, slow processing speed, math facts, sports, coordination, physical strength, attention, musical note reading, holding that darn violin bow straight…..I could go on and on.  It was (and is) bogging me down and it must be bogging #2 down too.

It’s time for me to re-frame. For myself I need to remember that I get to homeschool.  My life life work and personal background has lead me to this.  I am strong.  I am capable.  I get to be my child’s teacher.  I get to.

For #2 I need to help him reframe his dyslexia.  (#1 and #3 are also dyslexic, but they have different strengths.)  He gets to be dyslexic.  He gets to have dynamic reasoning.  He gets to be an intuitive thinker.  He gets to have the same strengths as Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Mozart (both dyslexic).  He gets to have vision about a complex process.  He gets to be good at connecting the dots and spotting patterns.  His diffuse attention is building creativity. His creativity is especially valuable in situations that are changing or ambiguous.  A high percentage of his type of dyslexics are in the following careers: entrepreneur, chief executive, finance, geology, physics, business consulting, economics, medicine (immunology, rheumatology, endocrinology, oncology), farmer, and construction. (Information from The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain)

He gets to be profoundly dyslexic.

I get to be his teacher and parent. I get to  help unlock his wonderful brain. I get to.