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.”

 

Advertisements

Our Journey with Dyslexia

Tomorrow I am venturing to a legislative hearing for HF 2529 with #1, #2 and #3.  This is a bill which would give families with a dyslexic child a $2,000 reimbursement for tutoring costs or assessment costs.  The bill also gives teachers a $1,000 tax credit for training in a research based method to help teach dyslexic students.  This is a wonderful first step to help families and teachers enable their dyslexic children to reach their potential and alleviate some of the stress involved with dyslexia.  Below is my story I am sharing with members of the committee.  If you have a story, I encourage you to send it to your legislator, no matter what state you are in.  The theme during Lent at our church is “Hold on Tight to Love and Justice.”  One good way for my family to do this is to put ourselves out there and be witnesses for our struggle and the struggle of other children with dyslexia.  We are open with what is hard in hope it can make a difference for the future and that people who are going through a similar challenge can feel less isolated.

 family-64-2    family-54-2-2    family-28-2

            Our story with dyslexia starts when my middle son was in kindergarten.  He is a gifted child, but after preschool, many hours of being read to, and an excellent kindergarten teacher, he could not name most letters in the alphabet, let alone their sounds.  His anxiety was through the roof, in kindergarten.  It was a daily struggle to get him to school.

            In first grade things only got worse.  He qualified for the gifted and talented school in our district and we sent him there because his older brother was at the school and we had built a strong community of friends there.  First grade was a disaster.  I was constantly told that one day he would suddenly start reading, I just needed to keep reading to him at home.  I saw a child that was turning into a puddle, getting further and further behind his peers in every subject by the day.  I continually asked for help, yet no help came.

            Meanwhile my oldest child was at the same school in third grade.  He could barely read.  Again, I was told that some day he would magically start to read, though he was not getting any help towards this goal.  As the shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” happened during the second half of the year, the bottom fell out.  I brought my concerns to his teacher over and over again, but she felt there was no reason to worry or do anything different.  His writing notebooks were blank, he couldn’t read a book to complete a non-fiction report, yet I was told the school would not and could not help.

            The next school year was no different.  I had two children who could barely read, and who avoided writing because they had no idea how to do it.  They were light years behind their peers and they knew it.  Both of them hated going to school.  Again and again I asked for help at the school.  None came.

            Finally, when they were in 3rd and 5th grade we had scraped together enough money to have them tested.  We are not a family with a lot of extra money, and having our children privately tested is a sacrifice.  My middle son was diagnosed with profound dyslexia.  My oldest son was diagnosed with a mild form of dyslexia.  I felt like I had the golden ticket!  A diagnosis! Our money had been well spent.  The outside assessment had a couple pages of educational suggestions to help my children learn to read, which in turn would help relieve their deepening problems with anxiety and depression.

            The school, however, was not equipped to help my children.  The special education teacher had not been trained in educating children with dyslexia.  She did not have access to a reading curriculum that is research based for teaching my children how to read.  My older son started going to the reading specialist at the school.  But he was in a large group, for a very short period of time, and this teacher was not trained in helping children with dyslexia.  The special education and the reading specialist intervention were not effective and another dead-end.

            I ended up pulling my middle child out of school in the middle of his 3rd grade year when his mental health was reaching a very serious stage.  School was no longer an option for him.  I shut down my life and homeschooled him for 3rd and 4th grade.  I am a former 1st grade teacher and have also worked in special education so I felt equipped to do this.  Additionally, I went to training sessions at Groves Academy and bought the same curriculum Groves uses to teach reading.  I am proud to say that I was able to teach my middle child how to read and write and he is now at a small charter school.  Because he is doing so well he was recently removed from special education.  Success can happen with the correct teaching methods.

            My oldest child is now at a different charter school and in 7th grade.  After a disastrous 5th grade year, where his anxiety had become a very big problem, I pulled him out of his public school.  I had begged for help for him for 5 years at the school and witnessed him turn from a confident child with a deep love of learning to a child filled with anxiety and a dread of school.  When I asked continually for help in teaching him to read the principal finally told me that they could not help and I would need to hire a tutor 4-5 times a week and also find a good counselor to help him with his anxiety.  This is when I decided to find a different school.  We can’t afford that much tutoring (and for 3 children!).  He still struggles with reading and writing because he was never taught with correct methods in elementary school.  His standardized test scores are very low in reading and this will be a lifelong struggle for him.  However, he is starting to get his confidence back at his new school because they have made reading and writing a much more concrete skills for him to work on.

            I now have a 1st grader at a public school in St. Paul.  This fall we again got the money together to have his assessed privately when the school was failing to act.  He was also diagnosed with dyslexia.  Thus far, however, the school has refused to test him to see if he qualifies for special education because he hasn’t failed enough yet.  There are no reading specialists at his school.  So, his classroom teacher was handed a curriculum that she has never seen before and has no training in and told to do interventions.  For a student like my son, he needs 40 minutes of 1:1 teaching with a multi-sensory curriculum (Orton-Gillingham based) with a trained teacher, something that is impossible for any classroom teacher to accomplish.  Again, it seems tutoring is the only option for teaching one of my children how to read.  This is not a financial option for my family; so again, I am the tutor for my child, squeezing in time wherever I can find it.

            Life at home should not be about spending all your time doing the things that are hardest for you.  I try to also provide them time to pursue music, play sports, be outside, attend church, help around the house, and play.  School should be where a child learns to read and write, with support from home, but a parent should not do the main teaching or be forced to find a tutor who will.  We pay our taxes and support public schools as much as we can, but the schools fail to educate my 3 boys in the basics of reading and writing because their brains function differently than most people.  They are dyslexic.  They need a different reading curriculum.  With correct methods they can become successful readers.  My middle son is proof of that.  Children with dyslexia should not be continually told that public school is not for them and if they want to read they need to look to tutors, homeschool or expensive private schools.  Growing up with dyslexia is hard enough; being left out of an education only makes it harder.

Dear School District……I have a rebuttal.

On Feb 11, 2014, at 3:57 PM, SAINT PAUL PUBLIC SCHOOLS wrote:

Dear Saint Paul Public Schools Families,

Saint Paul Public Schools and the leadership of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers – the union that represents teaching staff in your child’s school – have been negotiating the terms of our teachers’ next employment contract since May of last year. That contract outlines wages, benefits, and other work-related issues. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers has scheduled – on Monday, February 24, 2014 – a vote asking its 3,200 teacher members to decide whether or not to authorize a strike.

We want you to know that if the teachers union votes to strike:

  • Your child’s PreK-12 classes will be canceled at all Saint Paul Public Schools for the duration of the strike. This might be one day, one week, or longer.
  • Before and after-school childcare, Discovery Club, Early Childhood Family Education and Community Education programs will not be held.
  • Your summer plans could be impacted. Classes for K-12 students could extend into summer to make up for lost instructional time. Summer school (S-Term) dates would need to be rescheduled.
  • The district would be unable to provide any food service for your child.
  • If a strike lasts more than a few days, it will likely have an impact on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) scheduled for April 2014.
  • All teachers, school staff and district staff will be affected. Many staff members, including teachers, will not be paid during the strike.

And…my response:

Dear Ms. Silva,

     This e-mail was very insulting to me.  I have e-mailed you in the past with my concerns about St. Paul Public Schools and I have never received a response from you.  One e-mail was just last week when my child was denied an assessment for special education even though he is behind 1st grade benchmarks, is labeled gifted and talented, has been formally diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, and I put my formal request in writing.
     I support the teachers in this conflict.  There are NO RESOURCES to help my child learn to read.  NONE.  My child’s 1st grade teacher has a large classroom with a huge range of cognitive and emotional needs.  She is an amazing teacher.  She cares deeply about each student in her classroom and wants to meet all of their individual needs.  To help my dyslexic child learn to read she was handed a curriculum she has never seen before and told to individually teach him.  This is wrong and unfeasible but there is no other option.  How can she teach all the children if so much is demanded of her to teach one.  Other children’s needs are just as important as my child’s, but there just aren’t enough teachers to help.  There are no reading specialists at my child’s school…..and the district denied my written request for a special education assessment, leaving the classroom teacher as the only option.  If his classroom was smaller, much smaller, it may be possible for the classroom teacher to teach him individually with the type of intense intervention he needs.  But, the classroom isn’t small.  Because of your policies, it’s large.  My life, the life of my 1st grader, and the career of his teacher is effected every single day because of this reality…..but I should worry that his Community Ed. class is cancelled?
     Because of your policies my child and his amazing teacher have been set up to fail, but you are telling me my concern should be that he can’t take a standardized test…which would only show me that my child is failing to learn and no one in your district is able to help him.  Parents are stressed, teachers are stressed, children are stressed….but I need to worry that his unhealthy breakfast in a plastic bag won’t be available to him.
     I want nothing more than for St. Paul to have strong schools for ALL children.  This is why I’m siding with the teachers.  I am willing to have my life disrupted for however long it takes for the school board and you to sit down with the negotiating team and work out your differences.  During my 12 1/2 years with a child in this district (I started with ECFE in 2001) I have only seen the situation for students and teachers get worse and worse.  I worry on a DAILY BASIS about how my children are going to read and write.  DAILY…and many times at 3:00 AM.  Administration has never been of any help.  I have been shut down time and time again.  My life has been disrupted enormously because of failed policies in your district.  I have homeschooled.  I have changed schools.  I have tutored my children.  I have had heart wrenching meetings.  I have had to look at test results that show them in the bottom percentages of the district.  I have put my oldest children in charter schools.  I constantly worry about their future.  And because teachers want to make the educational environment better for children you send me an e-mail telling me to worry about after school programs.  When are you going to worry about my children not learning how to read and write?  When are you going to worry about their crushed self-esteem?  When are you going to worry about my feeling of helplessness?
     Don’t tell me I need to worry about breakfast, lunch, and vacations.  Thanks, but I can handle those things.  Easily.  Actually, feeding my child is my job.  Figuring out summer vacation is my job.  Teaching my children how to read and write….that is your job.  And, so far with my children you are 0/3 on fulfilling your responsibility of teaching them the basics.
     I want to thank Mary Doran, chair of the school board, for reaching out to me last week to share her personal story.  I appreciated her taking the time to listen, really listen, to my concerns.  I do have hope that things will change in St. Paul Public Schools.  The conversation I had with her was heartwarming and I felt listened to.  This was the first time in many years I felt listened to in St. Paul Public Schools by anyone except a teacher.
     The e-mail that the district sent, however, took away much of that good feeling.  Again, the district is not listening to what parents are saying, just proving talking points.
     I speak for many when I say the parents are sick of the talking points.  It’s time to really listen.  Listen to parents.  Listen to teachers.  Listen to the children.  Don’t assume you know what is best.

Hitting the wall

Marathon runners talk about hitting the wall.  This happens, usually around 18 miles, when your body wants desperately to stop the madness but you need to make it to the finish line (if it’s a race) or a couch at your house (if it’s a long training run).  To get past the wall I focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other.  As long as I keep moving, progress is made.  This is where determination, grit, and a high pain tolerance comes in handy.  Also, some well placed stubbornness.

This week I finally heard back from the principal at #3’s school.  Last week handed in his assessment which clearly states he will qualify for special education and details how intense the correct interventions need to be NOW so that he doesn’t slip into failure (I would argue a deeper failure).  At first I heard back nothing.  So, I e-mailed the special education teacher and principal to let them know the paper work had been turned in.  I asked a simple question, “Is anyone at our school trained in an Orton Gillingham method?”  Again, no answer.

Finally, yesterday the principal came into #3s first grade classroom while I was there and asked me to stop into his office when I got a chance.  Yeah!  Progress.  I really like this principal.  He is responsive to parents and truly a nice guy.  He has a great love of what he does and it shows.  A couple minutes later I sauntered down to his office with high hopes of having a great conversation. He would share with me how quickly the school is going to move because of the thorough assessment I provided. We would end it with a smile and perhaps even a high 5.  Go team!

I’m so dumb.

He started by going over the qualifications for special ed. and I realized this was not going to be the conversation I had pictured.  First, there needs to be a discrepancy between achievement and ability.  #3 has a huge discrepancy.  He is labeled gifted by the district (and this was confirmed in his outside assessment) and is in the bottom 5% for reading achievement and phonemic awareness according to his psychological testing.  Second, his level of achievement must be very low.  Again, we have mastered this one…..he is below the 5% mark.  Third, he has to show no progress.

And this is where we hit the wall…..according to the principal.

#3 is holding his own, to a very low degree, in the classroom (I completely disagree with this).  In other words, he hasn’t failed yet according to the districts standardized testing.  He is on the low side, but until his standardized tests show that he is very low and he is falling further and further behind his classmates, no assessments will be made.  Its all about the number on one test in the Mondo Reading Curriculum.  What I say doesn’t matter.  What his classroom teacher says doesn’t matter.  What an educational assessment says…that doesn’t matter either.  He hasn’t failed enough.

I was stunned.  Am I supposed to hope for #3 to profoundly fail so that he can receive help?  Really?

Oh, but there is a solution the principal says.  The classroom teacher is going to do the Sonday System (Orton-Gillingham based) with him and another child.  I was speechless because how do you respond to insanity?

#3’s teacher is a master teacher.  She is disciplined, incredibly hard working, doesn’t waste a single second of instructional time in the classroom, and very skilled….however, she is human.  She has not been trained in how to teach children with dyslexia.  She has not been trained in the Sonday System or any Orton-Gillingham method and has not been trained in how to teach children with dyslexia.  So much of teaching a learning disabled child is about the pacing and the understanding of how frequent you need to go backwards and review.  These children learn at a very different pace and with very different instructional methods than other children….THAT IS WHY THEY STRUGGLE IN THE CLASSROOM.  A classroom teacher should not be expected to do everything twice, once for 90% of her classroom and another time for the other 10%.  Sometimes this is appropriate, but this should not be the final solution.

BTW, she has about 25 kids in her classroom, many of them with their own set of special needs: behavior, social, academic, highly gifted, poverty, struggles at home, etc.  She is supposed to figure out how to use an entirely different curriculum, find the time to do intense intervention (at LEAST 3 hours a week) AND teach the rest of the class all on her own?  Again, she’s excellent, but not a miracle worker.  This is not fair to her.  This is not fair to the classroom.  This is not fair to #3.  So much of what happens in the classroom for reading and writing does not apply to him, but he will be forced to sit there and watch his classmates understand and catch on to what is happening why he is continually learning “this does not apply to me” because the way reading is taught in the classroom is wrong for how his brain is wired.  Confusion sets in when a child is asked to do the classroom reading curriculum, guided reading and also a specialized curriculum.  That is 3 different approaches to tackle something that is already incredibly difficult…..when only one will work…..the other two only create anxiety and failure.

But, no help outside of the classroom will be given because he hasn’t failed enough yet. And I have yet to get an answer to my original question, has anyone in the school been trained in how to teach children with dyslexia?

I have hit the wall….in this case it’s the wall of crazy policies and bureaucracy in the district.  No help until your child is a puddle of tears on a daily basis, is so far behind his peers there is virtually no hope of getting caught up, and you and your child are both filled with hate and rage towards school.  Lovely.

Time to put one foot in front of the other.  Remember my form.  Breath.  Don’t freak out. Believe in myself.

I have trained hard for this.  I’ve been down this road before.  I know what needs to happen.  I have a good playlist.  I have friends and family along the road yelling encouragement, taking extra baggage, and handing me nourishment.  I have grit, determination….and let’s not underestimate my well-placed stubbornness.

I can’t see the finish line, but I know it’s there, and I will work with everything I’ve got to get there.  On the other side of the wall will be a child who believes in his academic capabilities and is given the chance to succeed.

family-27-2Failure is not an option.

When is it time to get your child tested?

Answer: When you have some money burning a hole in your pocket and you have a lot of grit.

Seriously.

First, financials.  Many places that understand and diagnose learning disabilities from an educational point of view do not accept insurance.  Which is particularly maddening because schools will not recognize/treat/accomodate dyslexia because it’s a “medical diagnosis” in their view (I can really flip out about this subject….since when are medical diagnoses not valid in the eyes of a school?).  Insurance doesn’t agree with this and tells you learning disabilities (aka problems in school) is not their issue because its not anything medical/health related.  Financials are just another area that parents are tossed around from one party to another with no one wanting to take some responsibility to help….and you are literally stuck with the bill.

Second, grit.  To go through this process you need determination and grit to face reality.  Determination just get to the process moving and see it through.  Grit to face what comes after the diagnoses.

Last night I sat in the office of the same educational psychologist’s office that diagnosed #1 and #2.  This time I was there concerning #3.  I had assumed he was dyslexic for years but didn’t have a formal diagnoses, paperwork and testing to back me up.  After a couple months in 1st grade it was clear I was going to need this to get attention so his teacher (whom I LOVE) wouldn’t continue to assume he just needs more time to practice reading the same guided reading books over and over and over…which quite frankly is a waste of his time.

Because I’m not homeschooling #2 anymore, and #4 is in school this year, I have time to be in the classroom volunteering.  On Tuesdays I volunteer at a program called Rocket Readers in #3’s first grade classroom.  I have a small group of some of the lowest readers in the classroom….because that is where my child is.  While another little girl, who started at a much lower reading level than #3 continued to improve through September, October, November and now into December, my child stayed at the exact same level with absolutely NO IMPROVEMENT.  The little girl has begun to sound out words.  She has different decoding methods.  Reading is still hard, but she is improving.  #3 can read some of the books at his level, but he is reading the pictures and using his background knowledge.  He is not reading the words.  He is not looking at the letters, understanding the sounds and putting the sounds together into words.  He could read a little book about a fire station because he has been to fire stations, I have read him books about fire stations, he had a unit in kindergarten about fire stations, etc….not because he saw the word “h-o-s-e” and can sound it out using phonics rules and know this word is hose.  The teacher continued to tell me that he was smart, a good student and he just needed more time.

Absolutely not.

I’ve been down this road before.  More time would only let him fall through the cracks more.  Let him fail further.  Bring about frustration, anxiety and a hatred of school.

He needs to be taught with different methods, something that is compatible for the way his brain is wired.  A whole language and guided reading approach will never EVER work.  He needs a systematic approach with phonics (aka the Wilson Reading System).  It was time to get the paperwork to back me up.

As I sat in the educational psychologist’s office hearing the words, “Yes, he is definitely dyslexic.  Its very obvious.  No one can question these striking results.  He needs appropriate interventions immediately.  It is so good you came as early as you did.”  He is more severely dyslexic than #1, but not profoundly dyslexic like #2. If I want to pursue special education, he would definitely qualify. I was filled with a sense of relief.  I was right.  Its always good to be right, isn’t it?

Later, at 3:00 AM, came the sense of dread.  Holy crap.  I have 3 kids with dyslexia.  And I live in a district that refuses to help them.  What am I doing?  Will this be a big huge fight too?  Will this principal treat me the same as the last principal (horribly)?  Will these teachers dismiss me and the needs of my child?  Will this school tell me its not their responsibility to teach him how to read and write and if I want that to happen I better find a tutor or private school?  Will anyone listen to me and understand that teaching a child with dyslexia is not outrageous, its just different?  (insert string of words I’m not going to type out……)

And then the alarm went off.  If I would have had time to get new spikes for my shoes (St. Paul is covered in ice right now) this would have been the perfect morning to get out my angst on a long, fast run.  Instead I hit off and prayed for strength, determination and grit.

Psychology professor Angela Duckworth defines grit as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” She writes that “the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.”

Marathon?

Advantage is stamina?

Grit.

Its the one thing I actually do have.

Time to get those spikes for my shoes.  The road ahead may be treacherous, but with the right equipment, and a healthy amount of grit, anything is possible.  Especially when preserving #3s infectious personality is at stake.

family-34-2

 

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.

Typing

Teach your kids to type and  provide a lot of time (years?) to practice.  Many children with dyslexia also have dysgraphia, which is a specific learning difficulty in handwriting.  For some reason dysgraphia does not effect drawing, violin playing, building with legos or typing.  Another one of those things that I suppose I should read about, but at this point I’m just going with what works.

My kids use the program Typing Instructor.  I like that I can manage the words per minute goal to give them a sense of accomplishment and prevent frustration.

And when frustration rears its ugly head, tell them stories about your typing class in high school….with real, actual typewriters.  They will look at you like you landed here from another planet when you describe the white-out sheet you had to use when you made a mistake.  It will make them quickly appreciate typing on a computer.