Tuesday, June 14, 2011


We signed with Marie, as we had with David, and she learned quickly. 

I was so excited:  She actually TRIED her birthday cake!! 
Marie is signing "all done"!
For size comparison:  On his first birthday, Ian wore size 5 1/2 shoes.  On her first birthday, Marie wore size 2 shoes.

One week, Marie was unusually grumpy.  Towards the end of the week, I changed her diaper, saw something round and black and thought, "That's odd;  we haven't eaten olives lately....and, come to think of it, olives aren't perfectly round...."  IT WAS A DIME!  The ONLY place she could have found a dime was at church FOUR DAYS EARLIER.  When I had leaned closer to check out the "olive" I also notice a small magnet from a Bingo game!  (When I mentioned this to Husband he said, "Oh yes, she was sitting on my lap the other day playing with those magnets."  WHAT?!)  No wonder she was grumpy!  I immediately took her to the pediatric clinic and had them x-ray her in case she had swallowed anything else I didn't know about!  (She hadn't, whew!)  I NEVER would have guessed that my sweet, quiet, little girl would be the one to necessitate an emergency x-ray!  (By the way, I kept the dime;  it's in my picture album.)

Before the school year had ended the year before Ian would be going, I had gone to the school, observed the teachers, and talked to the principal about Ian's challenges.  I had picked out a teacher that I thought would work the best for him, and the principal had said they would try to make sure he would be in that class.

By this point, part of me was feeling like I should DEFINITELY be getting the mother of the year award because, for HIS sake, I had kept Ian in his 2 hour preschool program even though he could have legally gone to the all-day Kindergarten.  I will not lie:  I was counting the days looking forward to Ian starting Kindergarten in the fall.  IMAGINE MY SURPRISE when I went to the school for Kindergarten parent orientation, and the voice of inspiration said, "DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILD HERE."  I looked around at the perfectly lovely classroom and the competent teacher I had picked out and said, "WHERE ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO LEAVE HIM?"  (Never mind that I was a certified teacher and had graduated in Elementary AND Special Education...)  I started him at school anyway because, before this, I had never really considered that I would do anything else.  (Sure, I had HEARD of homeschooling, and it sounded like a lovely idea....but think about trying to homeschool Calvin, from "Calvin and Hobbes"...)  But the uncomfortable feeling WOULD NOT GO AWAY. 

There was Kindergarten screening for the first couple of days, and, at the end of this, the teacher met with the parents and told a few of the parents that their child wasn't quite ready yet (the teachers KNOW these things!).  Of course, the school couldn't enforce that suggestion, they could only provide the parents with the information.  All of the parents opted for the free daycare instead of keeping their children out for another year, so the class ended up having 21 children 4-6 years old with 1 teacher and an aide who was shared between 3 classrooms.

In Kindergarten, they were learning about shapes and letters and colors....but Ian wanted to be learning about George Washington and the Revolutionary War.

I volunteered in the classroom once a week while Ian was there, and I always felt SO BAD for that teacher!  She had one student who qualified for a full-time aide but did not have one because of budget issues, she had another student who was such a behavior problem that she spent most of her time dealing with him, and then she had 4 or 5 more who had moderate behavior problems (AMAZINGLY, Ian was not one of her behavior problem kids).  I knew it was just a matter of time before Ian figured out that the teacher couldn't keep her eye on everyone and he DID become one of the behavior problem kids.

Ian would come home from school crabby and exhausted.  The noise and chaos of the classroom was really hard on him.  One day, as we were walking home, he said, "Mom, sometimes during circle time my ears go numb and I can't hear the teacher." 

After the first time I had volunteered in the classroom, I started looking into homeschooling.  I asked Ian once if he wanted to keep going to school, or if he would like me to teach him at home, and he surprised me by saying he would like me to teach him at home.  By the second week, I just couldn't ignore that feeling that I was making a terrible mistake by sending him to school.  I found it HIGHLY IRONIC that I had to GET PERMISSION from the same people who had decided it was a fine idea to have 1 teacher in a room with 21 4, 5, and 6 year olds to take my child out of school to homeschool him.  During the week that I was waiting for my permission to arrive, I unpacked all of my teaching things and got everything set up at home so that I would be ready.

Even thought I was a certified teacher, I was still worried about teaching at home.  My mantra for that year was "It's only Kindergarten, it's only Kindergarten, it's only Kindergarten...even if he doesn't learn ONE THING from me, he still already knew everything they were going to learn in Kindergarten, and what are the chances, really, that he isn't going to learn ONE THING?"

The biggest challenge ended up being, of course, that Ian fought with me on EVERY! SINGLE! THING!, and that was VERY TIRING, but I persevered and he did, indeed, learn quite a bit.  Ian was very happy that I could incorporate the things he wanted to learn into the things he needed to learn.  I was very happy when reading finally "clicked" for him because children can learn SO MUCH just from reading books they enjoy!

Many people said, "You should just send him to school;  it would be so much easier for you!"  But it wasn't easier, actually.  When he went to school, I had to wake him, and anyone else who was still sleeping, so that we could get him to school on time.  At the end of his school day, I had to disrupt quiet time and wake anyone who was sleeping, so that we could go pick him up.  THEN I got to deal with the behavioral fall-out (anxiety, heightened irritability, less patience for dealing with things at home) from Ian being at school all day, while also trying to get him ready for his next day of school and take care of the other children.  Also, he went through a phase of wearing his clothes inside-out and backwards (the tags and seams were bothering him), which wasn't a problem if he was going to be home all day. 

Some people also said, "Why would you choose to homeschool Ian when he is such a difficult child, and especially since he fights with you at every opportunity?"  I did it because I felt like homeschooling was the best choice for him.  He needed CONSTANT, IMMEDIATE feedback on his behavior, and he wasn't going to get that at school;  the teacher had too many other things she needed to take care of.  Being in a regular classroom environment was VERY STRESSFUL for him, largely because of the bright lights and the noise that comes with a room full of children.  I still wasn't exactly sure what was going on with Ian, but I knew he wasn't a typical child and that, to have a chance to learn all the things he needed and wanted to learn, he needed modifications to his educational experience that the school couldn't provide.  *I* was certified to teach Special Education (not that I think a parent needs to be a certified teacher in order to teach their children, but I hoped my training would be helpful, especially considering Ian's special needs), and I knew how to provide the modifications he needed and provide him with an Individual Education Plan.  I'd always thought it would be ideal if everyone could have their educational experience tailored to meet their individual needs and interests, so I decided to try.

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