Dear School System…..

To the School System,

This year has been an extremely tough one for our family.

I’ve been a parent in the School System for 15 years, and was a student, myself, for 13 years (K-12).

I had no issues.  I found school to be easy….probably too easy.  I definitely didn’t try hard enough and still got mostly great marks.  Sure, I re-did Math 10 (3rd times the charm, right?) but I didn’t care one bit about sin/cos/tan or graphing.  Never have used it.

I believe that over the past 11 years, my sons (and I) have been repeatedly traumatized by the School System.

I understand that is a weighty sentence, but I fully believe it to be true.

Trauma is described as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience.  It doesn’t have to be a death or violent event for someone to perceive a situation as traumatic.

Complex trauma is:

  • Chronic
  • Begins in early childhood, and
  • Occurs within the child’s primary caregiving system and/or social environment

Typically, complex trauma exposure involves the simultaneous or sequential occurrence of child maltreatment and may include psychological maltreatment, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing domestic violence.

Exposure to these initial traumatic experiences, the resulting emotional dysregulation, and the loss of safety, direction, and the ability to detect or respond to danger cues may impact a child’s development over time and can lead to subsequent or repeated trauma exposure in adolescence and adulthood without supports that might buffer the negative effects.

 

I have two sons that have experienced repeated distressing and disturbing experiences within the school system.  They both have a diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

Cognitively, one son is average and the other is superior…..that also brings in another layer of complexity.

We have fought on behalf of our boys, for the last 11 years.

There has been misunderstanding of their specific disabilities and needs.
There has been mistreatment by well meaning but un-informed teachers.
There has been GROSS misjudgment of stress behaviors.
There has been repeated segregation, alone, in medical rooms.
There has been denial of child specific supports as defined by diagnosis.
There has been brutal bullying with no consequences for the bullies.
There has been denial of access to opportunities because of disability, with no support.

There has been repeated emotional and mental trauma which has also resulted in physical strain on both of my boys.

It doesn’t stop there.

What affects my boys, effects our entire family.  Our family of 7 is precariously balanced on the best of days….Neuro-Diversity, and Mental Health are tough loads to carry.  Throw in any mental and emotional upheaval and there is no balance….we come crashing down.

My boys are resilient in the fact that, they get up every morning full of anxiety for what the day will accost them with.  Every social interaction is fraught with anxiety; and requires that they must decode idioms, expressions and body language.  This “social language”, that we take for granted, is foreign to them; and they struggle with learning it.  Not because they don’t try or  want to understand, but because they have a neurological difference that makes it difficult to do so.

EVERY DAY is filled with stress…..with anxiety……with sensory overload.

They don’t get a break from it.

And yet they carry on.

My boys keep walking into your schools EVERY DAY knowing that at some point they will be mentally, emotionally, or sensorily assaulted.  Maybe not on purpose, but it happens just the same….

If I slam your hand in a car door by accident and then apologize, does it make your fingers any less broken or painful?  No, the trauma is still there.  Imagine how you would feel, if people repeatedly slammed your fingers in doors.

You’d probably end up extremely jumpy and tense; and mistrustful of those around you.  It doesn’t matter how much they seem to like or try to understand you, “survival brain kicks in and reasoning and logic shut down.” In fact, you’d probably not want to go where people and doors are.

But everyday, my boys continue to enter your doors, and try again……it’s insanity, really.  And I feel like I’m perpetuating the insanity….the trauma…. by encouraging them to continue to “go and trust”.

They are so very tired.

And I am so very tired!

  • I am tired of holding them when they come home crying because someone misunderstood their diagnosis and their heart.
  • I am tired of fighting every year to say the same thing and not being heard.
  • I am so very tired of being seen as someone causing conflict or someone on the “other side”.
  • I am exhausted from scraping up a weeping child who has been judged incorrectly as defiant or non-compliant.
  • I am exhausted from dealing with meltdowns as a result of pressures placed on them at school, to live up to “typical” standards.
  • I am so very weary of encouraging my children to go back to their teachers and EA’s to work “issues” out, when I believe that my child is being hurt (however unintentional) as a result of lack of knowledge and understanding.
  • I am angry that I have been fighting for 11 years for people to “see” my children….to see beyond the the stress behaviors and see their heart.
  • I am so exhausted  and traumatized from the past 11 years, that I cannot even fathom continuing to advocate for my children.  I cringe at the very thought of connecting with the schools to advocate on behalf of my boys and yet….. I must advocate for them because I am SO concerned for their mental and emotional well being, in regards to their care and treatment within the school system.

 

Dear School System,

How can we change this?

How can we affect change within our school system, so that children like mine are not traumatized on a daily basis?

How can we affect change within our school system, so that children like mine are recognized for the value they bring?

How can we affect change within our school system, sooner rather than later?

  • Do our children have the right to access a place where they can be encouraged to love to learn?
  • Do our children have the right to have the same opportunities as their “typical” peers?
  • Do our children have the right to access safe places, mentally, emotionally and physically, to learn and grow?

Right now, this is not the case….my children (and many others) are not being taught, trained  and encouraged in safe and meaningful ways, within the School System!

How can we fix this? How can we work together to accomplish this?

ps. It is not my intent to disparage any specific teachers that my sons have or have had.  I feel very strongly about the brokenness of the School system, specifically in regards to special needs children.  I feel that there is a HUGE lack of knowledge, in regards to working with children that are Neuro-Diverse.  I believe that there are a lot of teachers and staff are that are well-intentioned but unfortunately, unknowledgable regarding neuro-diversities.

There is a WEALTH of information available.  I’d strongly suggest Stuart Shanker’s Self Reg as a great starting point….not only to aid with Students but also with Teachers and all School System Staff, in dealing with their own stresses.

 

Don’t Pick Up The Rope

Imagine that you are a child, standing on the edge of a cliff. You look up and on the other side of a deep gorge is another cliff. You look over to the side and there is a rickety looking string bridge. You aren’t certain of its ability to carry you safely across to the other side, and so you refuse to move. All your friends are on the other side and it looks like they might be having a lot of fun. But you refuse! You aren’t really sure how everyone got over there, but that bridge looks unsafe and safety wins out over fun, every time. You decide that you are not going ANYWHERE.

People suggest that you come over to the other side. You want to but……….refuse!
They tell you that you have to come over. You really aren’t sure if it’s safe…….so you continue to refuse.
They start to insist that you come over. That isn’t helping, you feel pressured and uncomfortable…
Voices get louder, more commanding and more demanding. You continue to dig your heels in and refuse to comply.

The harder they pull, the harder you pull…..just trying to remain safe.

 

All of the sudden you realize that people are pulling and forcing you towards the bridge.

You resist.
You yell.
You’re scared.
You scream.
You panic.
You start to thrash and flail.

You do anything to protect yourself from the uncertainty of what’s before you. In a blind panic, and completely incapable of rational and reasonable thought, you bolt. You run. Or conversely, you curl into a ball and cram yourself into the smallest corner available, so that no one will be able to force you into, what you are sure is, an unsafe situation.

How many times have we asked a child to do something and then been frustrated when the situation devolves into anger, defiance, rage or physicality? You don’t really understand because what you’re requesting is not something weird or terrifying. It seems a pretty simple request and yet……..the child is labelled oppositional, non compliant or defiant.

I hate those three words. Very rarely are those accurate adjectives to apply to a child.

I believe that we need to approach children from the viewpoint that they WANT to please and they WANT to succeed. If behaviours arise that appear contrary to them pleasing and succeeding, WE NEED TO PAUSE.

We, as the adults, need to question “What is at the root of the negative behaviours?”

Why this this child feeling anxious?
Why is this child feeling insecure?
Why is this child feeling less than capable?
What is feeling overwhelming to them?
What is feeling uncertain?
What is unclear?
What information are they missing or unsure of?
How can I help?

Going back to our picture at the top of the post…. Here is a different view of that situation.

You are, a child, standing alone on one side of the cliff. You are aware that you are missing out on what seems like fun on the other side. You feel alone, anxious and unsure. You are desperate to feel accepted and safe; and while you wish you could go over, safety wins over fun, every time. You realize that someone is calling your name. They crouch down beside you and ask if you’d like to join the rest of the class on the other side. You aren’t sure how to answer because you are scared. They start to explain what the rest of the kids are doing and it sounds SO fun. It’s too bad that the bridge is the only way over. They explain how the bridge was made and how many pounds it can carry; and that makes you feel a bit better but you’re still not sure you can believe them. They call another kid over, who crosses that scary bridge, and together they show you how two people can cross the bridge. You are still unsure. They tell you that it’s okay and that they will stay with you on this side. That makes you feel a bit better. They share a time when they felt scared and uncertain. You want to join your classmates but you really aren’t sure. You realize that the person isn’t going to force you but will stay with you and that makes you feel a little bit safer and a little bit stronger. You eventually agree to try to cross the bridge even though you still feel scared. It might take you longer, but with acceptance and relationship you can accomplish amazing things.
Instead of calling for the child to take action and then labeling them as non-compliant, what if we made the effort to understand and accept?

What if we stopped pulling on the children, which is only increasing their anxiety?
What if we didn’t “pick up the rope” in the first place?
What if we joined them, and validated their feelings and emotions without having to fix or change them?
What if we made sure they knew and understood the facts and information? 
What if we found out what they were fearful of?
What if we explained how the bridge was made and why it is, in fact, safe to cross?
What if we explained exactly what was happening on the other side?
What if we told the child that we would cross with them?
What if we gave them the power to make the decision and until they did, we sat with them and gave them the opportunity to feel safe and accepted?
What if we built relationship instead of building conflict, opposition and disconnection?
What if we allowed the time and space for a child to feel safe?

I believe that this scenario plays out, at some point, with all children but that it’s especially true for children with anxiety, special/high needs and neuro-diversities.

It’s important to recognize that the majority of opposition and non-compliance stems from anxiety and insecurity.; and that we have the ability to make a difference in the way we view and approach children. We need to look beyond the bravado and indignancies of anxiety and insecurities; and see the cries for help.

We need to build trust and relationship instead of building conflict and disconnection. We need to join with them, where they are at; and when we have built a solid relationship founded on trust, we will go so much further than we, or they, could dream or imagine.

Don’t pick up the rope!

Good from Bad (part 2)

I’m wanting to put this down here so that I can just walk away from it over the next 2 weeks.  

It’s not that anything HORRIBLE happened but it seems to me that it’s a lack of knowledge…..or, it could be that everyone was tired and emotional.  But my responsibilities lie with the little one in my charge and I have the honor of standing up for him until he can stand for himself.  

My biggest issue with what happened yesterday is the misunderstanding of what was really going on.

I believe children want to do their best and if for some reason they are acting in a way that doesn’t fit the situation……we, as adults, should be asking ourselves “what’s going on under the surface?”

Children want to please, they want to succeed and so often their “negative” or “inappropriate” behaviours are a result of their insecurities and anxieties over a situation that they can’t figure out, control or succeed at.

If our first response was not one of frustration or assumed disrespect, I believe that so many tense situations with our kids could be dissipated before the kids got stuck in fight or flight mode.

Siah was sad and overwhelmed and running away from those feelings and emotions.  The harder people tried to force him to face those feelings, on his own…..the harder he dug his heels in.  The moment that I joined him, in his feelings, and helped him to carry and process those feelings is the very moment that his defences started to come down.  

This is not something that is solely applicable to Siah….this works for every child.  

  • Believe that children want to succeed.
  • Believe that children want to please.
  • Know that something else is going on, if they are acting contrary to those two beliefs.
  • Attempt to determine the cause of the anxiety or anger
  • Empathize with the child ( you don’t have to fix the situation, validate their feelings and check in with the child to make sure they feel understood and that you have the correct read on the situation)

I have found that this works almost 100% of the time to dissolve anger and anxiety.  

It’s almost impossible to work through anything or to teach a child when they are in fight/flight mode.  And anxiety in children often presents as anger.

Anger is usually a secondary emotion to fear or sadness and usually presents when a child is feeling out of control.  

Empathy and empowerment are two of the most critical tools when working with children, in my opinion.

As adults, it’s our responsibility to work with the children and to adjust to their needs and deficits while continuing to teach and encourage in those areas of deficit.

They are the vulnerable and needy. We need to put their needs first. 

I believe that there may have been a personal desire to be in the assembly which may have prompted personal feelings of anxiety for missing a special event.  But…..if the focus had been on why Siah was struggling and not on “just getting him back to the assembly”….the entire situation could have gone down very differently.  

Think of a tug of war over a canyon….with the child on one side and an adult on the other….the canyon is the event or idea that is causing the anxiety…..the harder the adult pulls the child,  the harder the child will pull back trying to remain in a place of safety.  They will quickly lose all ability to reason and rationalize as they struggle to find a place of safety.  If the rope is laid down and the adult crosses over to the child,  they can stand together on the edge of the cliff and talk about the issue without the fear of being pulled into it. Once the adult lays the rope down, there is nothing for the child to be struggling against.  They may be SO terrified that they don’t realize the rope has been laid down and it may take a moment to help calm them enough to see that……but it’s SO MUCH easier to do that beside them, then across the canyon. 

Siah did go in and sing “What a Wonderful World” and I’m so glad he did.  He sat with me at the back of the assembly and enjoyed the videos and the music.  At one point, he leaned over to me and said, “Something good always comes from something bad…..the good thing in this bad situation is that I’ll get to meet a new principal, right mom?”

In the middle of his stress and anxiety and internal chaos……he’s still looking for the silver linings.  I love that.  

Our children will struggle – that’s a given – and some more than others, but it’s our job to stand beside them and to help guide them through, until they are strong enough and confident enough to do it on their own.  It’s a privilege and honor to be able to be there for them, especially the more vulnerable ones.  

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…..not necessarily Siah’s particular situation but this idea…..this idea that children inherently want to please and that we can help or hinder the situation with our actions and reactions.  Is this a foreign concept to you? 

I’d challenge you to try it then next time you come up against a child who seems defiant…..it will blow your mind!

Moving Forward The Morning After

So I posted last night…..

I was tired and emotional and probably if those two factors had not ganged up on me….I may have filtered myself a bit more or even just made less typos…..maybe….maybe not?!?

I don’t know that this morning brought any new clarity with it.

I woke up with a killer headache……….at 5:30am.

Yah, it’s been a long day already and it’s only noon-ish. Did not get back to sleep after that. BLERGH!!!!

On a side note….It’s gorgeous outside.

That is the view to my right….

and this is my view straight ahead…..

She’s not supposed to be on the couch….but I haven’t exactly kicked her off.

It’s the last day of school before the Christmas Break….and probably my last quiet (ish) day for the next two weeks.

So, I’m taking advantage of it. I’m sitting. The house is a mess, and I made Judah pancakes for lunch. He is currently trolling Netflix….I believe Ninjago is the show of choice at this exact moment.

I’m currently staring at my Christmas Tree trying to figure out what I’m thinking, but again with the 50 million thoughts going in 50 million directions.

I had a few people send me private messages of encouragement and those were so nice to hear.

I wonder if it’s about perspective.

I’m in the middle of it all. From my position, I look around me and I see children who are unique and amazing and challenging in their own fantastic ways. I see the screaming and the bickering and the squabbling and the challenges to get them to do their chores and take care of their responsibilities. I see their shortcomings and I want to work with them to strengthen those areas while at the same time encouraging them in their strengths. I see these amazing individuals with really great hearts even in spite of all the challenges that we’ve faced individually and as a family……. But it’s a constant effort to keep these 5 bodies moving in a forward direction.

We were so isolated over the “cancer years” and before then….doing almost anything with Jeremy required HERCULEAN effort and sometimes it was easier to just not do anything. Again…..very isolating.

It is hard when you’ve had it said to your face that people can’t be friends with you because your child is too difficult. Or to hear from others that you shouldn’t subject your children to people because they are too much effort to have around and be around.

Just typing both of those down….I realize how brutal those two comments are. I mean, I know how brutal they are….I’ve lived though both of those said directly to my face and more. But I can’t imagine saying those things to someone…..EVER!!! I love children. I especially love the challenging kids. The ones that make you think and keep you on your toes. The extremely smart kids that say the most incredible things but require a little more attention and focus……I love the regular kind of kids too, but somehow, the ones that people seem annoyed with or bothered by….the ones that talk and talk and talk and talk and never shut up……I LOVE those kids. I want to go out of my way to make sure that they feel special and included and NEVER EVER a bother or an inconvenience….

I get it. I know how much effort it is. I live it…..EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! Jeremy has not been the easiest child. He requires some effort. Well, he requires a lot amount of effort. So does Josiah in a different way and Judah….well, he’s a 3 year old. What 3 year old doesn’t require some attention and effort. My boys require effort……I know this. I guess, it would just feel really good to feel like others “want” to be with my kids. Do you know what I mean? I think that in spite of their particular challenges or maybe even as a result of them….that my kids……all 5 of them are pretty amazing. I’d love to feel like others felt that too and wanted to spend time with them….not cause they HAD to, but because they WANTED to.

So, to those who have said something…..THANK YOU. Really! I appreciate it more than you may ever know.

I’m not sharing this in the hopes that people will “do” something. I am just trying to unravel some of this mess inside myself. Part of that is dealing with the hurts and wounds that I have or have gotten.

I realize that I’ve been hurt and I definitely have some sore, open wounds when it comes to my kids and how they are perceived and received.

And this OBVIOUSLY colors how I hear people comment on my kids.

So the school wanting to help Siah….turns into….HE’S A PROBLEM…..which I can’t even fathom….cause he’s freaking sweet kid who can read and write and wants to please…….and then I go…WHAT….WHAT do I even do with that….

How could be he a problem…..which, when it comes down to it….that is not even the issue at all.

He is a great kid….who has some quirks and may require “some individualized strategies” to help him succeed and how do we (parents & school) as a collective team help him to achieve success?

So we met, and talked through some things and I think I have a better perspective. I think we are more on the same page than I “felt”.

Which is great.

Not that the whole things doesn’t still stress me out….but the Principal….she’s an amazing lady, encouraged me to trust them and to just “plug my nose and JUMP!”

I believe this school and these people are amazing people…..I believe they truly care about Josiah. I really do believe that they want the best for him. That they want him to succeed. And so…..I jump.

I’m scared.
I’m nervous.
I’m sure I’ll need reassurance again.

But…..

I want to trust.
I want to believe.
I want to be in “community.”

and so….

I carry on…

one step after the other…..hopefully in a forward direction. 🙂

Finding a lose thread

It feels like I have a million thoughts running through my brain. I just wish I could pick one of them, out of the jumble. I feel like if I could find the loose end of “one” thought……then maybe…..just maybe I could start to unravel this mess inside of myself.

But it seems like the harder I try to wrestle within myself…..the tighter the mess inside me gets and I’m left wondering if I should just stop fighting so hard to unravel it all or even if I should just let it all go?

The biggest thing weighing on me right now is Siah……always with a heavy weight of Jeremy……but today we had a meeting with Siah’s school.

It was a good meeting, as far as meetings go with the teachers, the resource teacher and the principal go.

I’m so…….so……….

I’m so conflicted about it all.

Siah is so different that Jeremy. I get that. I get that no two kids are the same. But I also know what we’ve been through as far as assessing Jeremy and getting him helps and I’m not sure how to even approach that with Siah.

On one hand, I feel like they are saying “THERE IS A PROBLEM.” And on the other hand, I hear that they see the potential within him and they want to know how they can best support him.

I actually do believe that this school and these people really do want to help my son succeed.

I find it so hard, when our experience with Jeremy and school has been SO negative. Dealing with Jeremy and “the school system” was soul crushing. I had people saying that he was a nice kid but then sending him out he the hall or the sick room cause they couldn’t “handle” him.

Throw the maternal guilt and a massive anxiety complex on top of it all……and you have a very messed up trying to function through the pain and rejection while trying to survive against ADHD and undiagnosed Autism.

I keep hearing snippets from today’s meeting playing through my brain and while I desperately want to believe the good about people and situations….I feel like I’ve got a war going on inside of me.

I want to fight for myself and my kids. I feel like I can’t trust people. I feel like people don’t know us and won’t see “us”. I feel like they won’t understand and see the “good”. I feel like I have to fight…….kicking and screaming for everything that we deserve.

I don’t want to live like that. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of living “on my own”. Of raising my kids, “on my own”. Of fighting for my and my children’s right to be accepted and loved as they are………and not only “if they conform to social norms……”

I’m tired.

Jon and I were talking the other day and while I feel like I’ve recovered some from the intensity of the cancer devastation……..we’re left wondering if we will always feel tired like this…..

I don’t know.

I want to hear that people love my kids and want to spend time with them. I don’t want to always hear about how my kids are a problem or how they fall short. I don’t want to hear that I should spank or discipline harsher. I don’t want to hear that I just need to do it “this way” or “that way”

I want to hear that my kids are treasures and that they are special. And not because they have “special needs”

I need to go…..to go to sleep. To hopefully let some of this settle. Maybe in the morning, maybe then I can find a loose end to start unraveling. But for now……for now I will sleep…….and cry……..I hate crying. I’m so tired of crying. It sucks…..leaves you puffy and with a headache…..I hate that.

Cannot wait for the Christmas break. It cannot come soon enough.

Changes can be Good

So many new changes…

20130513-111031.jpg

We moved into our new home just over a week ago. The home itself is lovely and bright but the actual move just about did us in.

We have moved so many times over the past 18 years but this move was by far the absolute hardest…..even taking our move from Abbotsford to Langley after 10 years of living there.

I’m not exactly sure what made this move so horrific, but I’m almost positive that our “reserves” to be able to handle stress were non-existent and that made things so SO tough.

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We have things settled down to where we can sort of function but we are not actually “settled”. My room is a disaster with unopened boxes still stacked about and we are still trying to figure out how to place our furniture. It’s tough when everything had a place and now the layout has changed and you are not sure how to “Tetris” everything in. There is quite a bit of puzzling and re-arranging to try to fit 7 people and all of their stuff into a new space.

Jeremy is finally starting back into his regular homeschool routine after 2 weeks of chaos. We started a little bit at the end of last week just to ease him into it and then we hit the ground running this morning. Our “office/homeschool” room is still a bit chaotic but it’s coming along slowly.

One of the bigger changes around here, as if moving wasn’t enough, is that Siah is going to the local Elementary School. He started the first Monday that we moved. He’s been so excited. We had a big meeting with the school before we moved and then another “intake meeting”. That one was kind of rough because you are talking about all the ways your child struggles and will need help. Having a child with learning differences is not easy but having already gone through the Infant mental Health Clinic at BC Children’s has totally given us a leg up to be able to get him the help he needs.

It’s exciting to see him SO excited to go to school and meet new friends. Today he is going to attend until noon. They’ve started him attending slowly and are working up. We’ve gone from 1 hour last Monday to half a day today.

I’m shocked at how much it feels like I have “all this free time”. It’s quite a lot of work teaching two kiddos while supervising a third and trying to care for the home too.

So not only are we adjusting to a new home but also a new schooling balance. I’m excited and exhausted. Looking forward to spending the summer out on my deck and in the backyard.

Just trying to get through today…….that’s how my world feels right now. Just focused on today…….sometimes that’s all I can handle.

But I feel like this is a new beginning and I’m pretty excited. I have no idea what the future holds but for the first time in a long time……I’m feeling that we are headed in an upward direction. I feel like I can breathe. I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I’m tired but feel like we’ve crossed over from barely treading water to being able to rest and rejuvenate. It’s such a welcome feeling after the past 3 years.

Not like an elephant

My dad used to ask odd riddles. (I would never do that to my kids…) One of the riddles went like this: How do you carve an elephant out of a block of wood?  The answer is: You take a chisel to a block of wood and knock off anything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

elephant

As dumb as that it, it’s relevant in raising a family in today’s world.  You have to know what your family is supposed to “look like” and knock off stuff that doesn’t look like that.  I guess its also like driving a car; after a while things just look like they are supposed to.  You can’t really explain why you stop before going through a green light, but something just doesn’t fit the normal and then a car runs a red light right in front of you.

This happened today for me with my daughter. Angelica has fought cancer, and now she is fighting to get back her strength and mobility.  She wants a car, she wants a job, and most of all she just wants to be normal (at least as ‘normal’ as one of my kids can be).

She is taking a class at school called ‘Planning’.  In this class they discuss all kinds of relevant stuff, like what skills will actually make you successful in the real world and how to think critically and how to prepare for a career and how to apply for a job.  This part is awesome!!!

In teaching the class, her teacher wants everything to be ‘real’. He wants them to make resumes with skills that they actually have, select a job from the local paper that they might actually apply for, write a cover letter for their tailored resume as if they were actually applying for that job, and then conduct a mock interview where you explain why you want the job and what your qualifications are.  This part is awesome!!!

The line was crossed for me when her teacher (name blurred to protect the well-meaning) told her that she couldn’t apply to be a “mother’s helper” because she can’t run after kids on a playground if they start to run away. Again, this is all in the name of making this exercise ‘real’, and I kind of understand the point.  This went back and forth a little bit, but today Angelica got this note:

gelica-job-letter

An alarm went off inside me… Now that I have processed it, written a response, received an apologetic call back from the teacher, I know perfectly well why this is bad, but I wrote the email before even fully thinking it through… I just knew it didn’t “look like an elephant”.  Here is my reply:

As per attached, I do not agree with this and I want it to stop immediately!

Angelica has fought cancer with every fiber of her being for over three years. It has been one of the most difficult things that I have seen a child go through. Angelica was very athletic and was talking about signing up for baseball before she was diagnosed with cancer. The most painful part of the treatment for Angelica was what it stole from her in terms of time and opportunity. Now she is in a place of working very hard to recover and we are constantly reinforcing for her that she can do anything.

In an attempt to make this job interview as real as possible, I believe that you have crossed a very sensitive and very real personal boundary. The facts of her “medical condition” have only been discussed at length with Mrs — and Mr —. By repeatedly questioning Angelica’s “mother’s helper” job application and telling her that she couldn’t do that job, you are 1) incorrect about her condition, 2) incorrect about what a mother’s helper job is, 3) acting in a manner that will be harmful to her recovery, and 4) breaking the spirit of my daughter.

  1. Her condition is such that she should avoid running or doing major impact, but is completely capable of it if needs be. I don’t believe that its really her responsibility or requirement to provide you all the details of her condition to take this class. If she says that she can be a mother’s helper, then you are in no position to say otherwise.
  2. We have employed a couple mother’s helpers in the past and it did not always include taking care of children. A mother’s helper may be required to do household chores so the mother (who is still in the home) can spend time with their child. A mother’s helper is not the same as a nanny as a nanny is left alone with the child and chores. If Angelica applied to be a mother’s helper to our family, and I knew what I know about her capabilities, I would hire her in a heartbeat.
  3. Angelica needs motivation to do all the physio that she is required to do. Her motivation right now is that she wants to buy a car, and she needs a job to do that, and she is doing her physio as hard as possible so that she can get an actual job as soon as possible. By making her focus on limitations (that aren’t actually there) you are taking away her motivation.
  4. Angelica, who holds her emotion in to her own detriment, has broken down in tears about this. She is getting the message from this process that she is not good enough, that she is broken, that she could never get a job. My daughter has the spirit of a fighter, and in fact she has fought through cancer to live. But it took a lot of effort on the part of us, her parents, school counselors, friends, neighbors and family to constantly encourage her to fight, to win. I did not tolerate negative reinforcement then, and I will not tolerate it now.

I believe that walking the kids through real world scenarios is VERY VERY good. I wish that I had been taught what it is to apply for and compete for a job when I was in school. I understand the motivation for making it real, but I ask you to step back from the “realism” in this area.

I was impressed when I read my own email. The teacher called me right away, immediately saw my point and has set out to amend the situation.  I wouldn’t always jump in to fight for my kids, but there are times when I do jump right away and I can’t really explain why… I just know what my family is supposed to look like and I’ll knock off anything that doesn’t look like it.

When do you jump in and fight for your kids, or let them fight for themselves?

Paint, pain and chaos

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We are in the home stretch before we move. One month to go and I’m exhausted. There is still SO much to do but we will make it……we always do.

I’m sitting here in bed, icing my knees, in the middle of chaos. My room is a disaster……honestly, the house is a disaster AND we are starting school tomorrow in the middle of that disaster.

It feels like we got a fair amount accomplished but then when I go and look at my list……there is still so much to do even after I cross off all that we did today.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day, a fresh start and maybe I’ll feel a bit more cheerful in the morning.

Another Beginning

So, I guess I took the summer off, eh?

Wasn’t planning on it, but it just turned out that way. Life has been so busy and it doesn’t really show signs of slowing down any time soon.

Today was our first day back at school for all 4 of the bigger kids. Geli’s in Grade 10. Xani’s in Grade 9. Jeremy started Grade 7 and Josiah started Kindergarten. Judah doesn’t want to get left out of anything and so….well, he just joined right in with us. (Forgot to get the girls pics….will have to do it when they get home today….oooops!)

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Siah wasn’t exactly thrilled to have his “first day of Kindergarten” picture taken. Just keeping it real, people. Just keeping it real!

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Once I let him go back inside and get his DSi…..which is what he wanted. I was able to grab this shot where at least, he is looking in the general direction of the camera and sort of smiling.

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As far as first day’s go…..I think today was a pretty good one.

Jeremy did a great job reviewing some of his last years stuff and we ploughed through a ton of stuff with Josiah. I can’t wait for a few months to be able to see how far he’s come. We’ve got a fairly hefty reward incentive thingy with stickers and a goody box and all that jazz going on……in an effort to convince him to “stay focused on the actual activity at hand”, and I’m really hoping that soon we will be able to phase that out or mostly out.

Not surprisingly, Jeremy is quite nervous about what he may or may not remember and so I’m planning on doing a bit of review this week to “prove to him” that he is actually as smart and competent as I say he is.

We did manage to get out for a “Recess” and took a walk along the trails by our house. We picked a(nother) full tray of blackberries to freeze. (Jeremy will eat frozen berries like they are candy and so I’m saving up as many as I can get my hands on.)

We made it to lunch time, made it through lunch and now that the baby is sleeping, we are about to start a section of Arts and Crafts…..I think we are gonna do some leaf rubbings. Jeremy picked some up on our walk……We’ll talk about seasons and the leaves changing colors and falling….and it will all tie into Josiah’s Science Lesson for the day.

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I am hoping that I’ll be able to carve out a little more time for myself now that we are back into a “routine”. I am really throwing that word around lightly here, but I’m confident that we will get there…..right? Positive thoughts! Positive thoughts!

How was YOUR summer? I’ll get to mine in the next few posts or so…

How has your September started off? Busy? Regular? Quiet? Slow?

How I wish mine was quiet and slow……how I wish!!!!

Foundations

This is my view right now…

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And my other view…

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It looks very calm and peaceful and for one second it is….and then chaos erupts as we learn to work together. It will come. I am certain that we will all learn to work with, beside and together, but until then…..it’s interesting, to say the least.

We have decided to homeschool Jeremy for the time being.

There are so many factors that went into this decision and it was not a decision that was made lightly.

I feel somewhat conflicted about this decision and yet I believe that it has the potential to be the best thing for Jeremy.

We are going to be working with him on a bunch of foundational stuff. Not just math, reading and science….but we are working on keyboarding skills, organizational skills, typing skills, social skills and so much more.

Yes, there are moments of panic when I wonder what the heck I am doing, but somewhere deep inside of me under all the noise of the fear and dread that I might be messing my child up is this still small voice that says that we are doing the exact right thing for Jeremy at this moment in time.

And when I choose to listen to that voice….I have peace.

And so I’m going with the peace.

I figure that we will work through today. And there is a good possibility that tomorrow might look very different from today or….today might work SMASHINGLY and we will carry on with the plan from today.

I don’t know.

I don’t know if we are going to do this for the rest of this year, or for grade 7 too. Will we continue on for Grade 8 or will he join the public school system for High School?

I don’t know. At this point we are just working day by day and will see how this works for us. We have a goal…..

We want Jeremy to be the MOST SUCCESSFUL person that he can be. We want him to be well rounded and a contributing member of society.

Yes, he has things that our society deems are limitations, but I believe with everything in me that Jeremy has every capability of being a HUGE SUCCESS! We believe that he has the ability to learn all the skill necessary to be able to accomplish any dream that he has. He may need some coaching and he may need some creative help, but I believe in him.

We are working on foundational stuff that will help to set him up in an incredible way for if and when it’s time for him to go back to public school….

At this point, we are taking things day by day…….although I’m nervous about it all, I’m also very excited.

I’m looking forward to seeing Jeremy grow and become the amazing man that he is destined to be.