Monday, February 20, 2012

Update on us- and what we've learned from our great public school experiment.

its been a LONG time since my last post, i know. I've been slogging along... slowly... getting all the stuff done that needs to happen, trudging along... same old same old... suffice to say, i've been in a rut.

It was my friend Evelyn who clued me into the fact that my heart was slipping away again and i've been trying to survive on my own strength. This is something i'm HEAVILY prone to, and it doesn't help that we are in a position that requires near constant work on our part- or maybe it does. I think that God is allowing us to stay in this place in order that we might really really GET that we aren't doing this on our own. When people ask how "I do it" My response usually indicates where my heart is currently at- the correct answer is, "by the sheer grace of God- nothing else!" my life is a testimony- pure and simple- a living testimony. Apparently, He has not seen fit to change that any time soon :) so here I am, learning and relearning the same lessons, over and over again.

If you recall last spring Andrew and I both felt a strong leading that we were to put our children in public school. With our autistic 2yo we were having a very poor school year and were constantly occupied and exhausted (still are!!) We were reluctant, having heavily identified ourselves AS HOMESCHOOLERS! However we knew that homeschooling was not going to become an idol for us, our allegiance was to God alone. So we did just that. September was a horribly hard month for us. Leif was having issues in school, while we were SURE that he'd have the easiest time of all, we were wrong. He cried a lot and complained constantly that he didn't get much time with me. He struggled through his small bit of homework every night, turning it into a BIT bit of homework every night. Annabeth was having BIG problems, being basically a non reader. i knew that she had some kind of learning disability, but had NO clue what- and knew she'd be in special ed at school. so there was a pretty big issue going on with her. Chloe assimilated nicely into school and did and has continued to do wonderfully, earning "tiger club" status the first month, and reading to earn AR points like there's no tomorrow! She's JUST like me, and thrives in the competitive environment of school, in which she is pretty advanced and can breeze on by. Nikolas having the upbeat, perky, can-do attitude that he has was doing ok, but i noticed him getting more and more tired as the month went on.

With all the kids, we'd be up till 9 or 930 just trying to get our regular home stuff and homework done. My stress had not been at all lessened- but increased- significantly. I was still working with the twins all day- and completely on my own- very difficult and then the older kids would get home and we'd start on the evening stuff that would go on until bedtime. I was BEAT. Nik started complaining about having to leave for school so early (about 630 am) we had just received first Chloe's diagnosis of Aspergers disorder and then Asher's official diagnosis of Autism, which was strangely heartbreaking for me. I KNEW that it was the case with both of them. But the diagnoses were overwhelming for me. It felt like more impossibleness piled right on to my overflowing plate.

Finally, at the end of September, many nights of tears and struggles, and much prayer and discussion, we decided to pull Nik out of school. He would be a great help to me at home, and wouldn't have to get up so early, and we'd have the opportunity to tailor his curriculum around his specific LD needs and also around his desire to write a novel. Having Nik home with the twins and I was so wonderful and we felt so much peace about the decision. Nik and I got a LOT of time together to talk and relate and we shared baby duty and I had the chance to help him one on one with his schoolwork during naptime. He is my nurturing, loving, helper of a child and He's been such an enormous blessing to our family and to me personally. I'm not sure how I'd have survived this whole ordeal without him. I struggled with that- I still do to a degree, but at the same time, my "peace level" has been God's way of communicating with me as to where my children each needed to be when. Sometimes I feel like i'm shortchanging him, but when I see how happy he is, and his great relationship with his brothers, I realize that he doesn't even fully comprehend it yet, but he is participating with me in scomething incredible- he's helping Asher reach his full potential. Someday he will get it. Someday he will understand the immeasurable influence and the amazing gift he's given to his brother. I'm so proud of him.

It was wonderful with Nik home, but I still had that nagging feeling that something was STILL not RIGHT. Leif was having major issues, forgetting stuff at school, getting bad reports, and finally a FAKE wetting his pants incident, He was crying out and we knew we had to respond to his needs. When we had a flu bug roar through our house at the end of october and Leif missed a week of school, we decided we might as well pull him out then. We did and the amazing peace feeling again washed over me. Things were right... almost. We had done a lot of soul searching and discovered what exactly homeschooling meant to us. The local schools were fine! our children have had and the girls continue to have STELLAR teachers. The elementary school personnel have bent over backwards for us to help with anna's issues. She's still struggling but with the services they have provided, she can now read!!!! she's still behind but she's making progress, which was a first for her. Overall, we determined we just ARE a homeschooling family, we LOVE spending time with our children, teaching them, discipling them, watching them grown into wonderful adults. We've seen the amazing fruits of our labor as Alex is going into his 3rd quarter of community college at 16 yrs of age, taking calculus and chemistry and pulling a 3.93 GPA. FAR more important than that, though, is that he is growing into a marvelous man. He's a gift and more of a blessing than i'd ever have imagined or dreamed, and I got to spend those precious years with him, watching him grow. What a gift!

We still have hurdles ahead of us. We've determined the girls will complete the school year and then we will again unite our family in homeschooling, though we are not sure what we might do regarding Annabeth and her still undiagnosed LD issues. Well that's not entirely true- she WAS diagnosed with Auditory processing disorder. I suspect that Nik and her are most likely dyslexic but i can't find anywhere that accepts insurance and will make any kind of solid diagnosis. Its frustrating to me, because it would be so much easier to know how to best meet their needs if we knew what their needs WERE. I don't necessarily agree with the school strategy of working more slowly with her in pull out sessions- it helps with her APD, no doubt as she can't hear with background noise, but i'd really like to dig deeper with both her and Nik and work toward getting to the root of their problems. I have a battle on my hands, fighting for Anna to have access to an FM system, which her audiologist prescribed for school use, but is a very expensive piece of equipment. She also suggested we apply for a scholarship to get one for home use, since our home ALSO has a lot of background noise!

Ultimately, i can see now where God was going with this whole crazy adventure. He KNEW that i needed to SEE what I was missing, and really APPRECIATE homeschooling my crew. He was entirely right. I'm longing for next year when we will all be together, short of Asher who will be in much needed preschool and possibly added autism therapy, which i'm sad about but know its the right thing for him. We are working hard to keep our hearts in the right place- to acknowledge HIS work in our lives and not claim it as our own credit. He is amazing and is daily creating a testimony in our family, because truly, alone we could NEVER do this. Its just too much. As a family with the assistance of our Lord and Savior, we can do ANYTHING!!!