Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Never say Never

There is a saying, "Never say Never". Meaning, never say you will never do something, because that is exactly what you will do.

I remember when Maddie was about 8 months old, I had decided she would be my only child. I didn't want to share her or our time with anyone else. Also the thought of having to care for more than the two of us scared me. Not too long after that Jason and I got married. We decided to have just one more child. Another girl.. I wanted Maddie to be a boy, but once she was here, I never wanted a boy. I wanted Maddie to have a sister, someone to grow up with and share things with the way I did. The timing was perfect, Maddie would have a sister, two years younger than her... I had a boy.

Two for two with that one.

We moved to West Mobile. I would never move back to North Mobile. I liked it in the West. It's been 16 years, We live in North Mobile.

I think sometimes of all the things I said I would never do. Its scary to think of how many more things I've said that about, that I may just be doing soon.

Last week I went to a meeting to set up a meeting. Yep, that's right.

 A month back I went to a meeting to see if the school agreed with me that Haleigh and Landon needed special education testing. They both did, but because of Haleigh's hearing she wasn't actually tested at all, I have no idea why it took so long for hers. Because, they could I guess. Then last week we all met again, so they could tell me, based on testing they will get special education services. What services they will get, when, how long, what does it mean? Oh, that meeting is the 23rd. So I went to a meeting for them to tell me we are having another meeting to talk about what services the kids need. I now know why nothing ever gets done.

When I put my oldest child in kindergarten 13 years ago, I had no doubt she was smart, and she is. I had no doubt that she would thrive in public school and she has. I had no doubt that all my other children would follow her and do just as well as she did. I was wrong.

I had said I would never homeschool my kids. If my child needed something extra then the school would provide that. An education is a right everyone has, my children would get a free public education, from the state of Alabama. I was wrong.

There are so many things that are wrong with our education system. There are parents who have been trying to navigate the system for years longer than I have. I started two years ago when Landon first had his accident. I wish I would have pulled him out when our first meeting didn't go well. I trusted them though and I didn't. I left him in the system, he struggled, but he was doing ok. This year was so much worse. Third grade is hard and without the skills he needed to succeed, he faltered.  It's the very end of third grade. He has 7 days of school left. The meeting is 3 days before he gets out. There is no time for anything to help him this year. I'm not sure if he passed this year or not. I am actually not concerned with passing or failing anymore. He hasn't learned the skills needed to be successful in the 4th grade. He repeated kindergarten, simply because he was too young to be there really, I should have kept him home another year. If I leave him in public school he will restart 3rd grade at 10 years old. I can only imagine what that will do to the confidence he has managed to hold onto. I think if the school had agreed to help him last year, or maybe even the first part of this year it could have made a difference, but now its a little too late.

First grade is a big year, they learn so much that year. Haleigh struggled tremendously throughout the year. We didn't realize her disability until mid year and I didn't realize how much it was effecting her until it was a little late. Her meetings have gone the same as Landon's. She has a hearing advocate with her though sent by the state. Haleigh works so hard. I love her teacher, she is amazing. Has helped Haleigh in so many ways, and if we were to leave Haleigh in the system I wouldn't want her to be in anyone else's class. However, If I am going to have Landon home teaching him, I can do the same for Haleigh. There is no reason for her not to have the one on one or two on one, she can get at home. It will be better than the 25 on one she is getting in the system now. I love that she is such a hard worker. I know I can teach her the skills she needs to be a great reader. I know she will catch up to her peers, and I know I can teach her the sounds she is missing. I just have to leap with her. She's ready, I just have to unlock the special way she learns.

It's my job, I am her mother. Their mother.

A free public education is a right, everyone has that right. To teach is a parental obligation, every parent has that obligation to teach their child.

Friday, February 12, 2016

First Grade and IEPs

First a Little About the Grown ups

The kids went back to school the first week of January. I worked 40+ hours through their entire brake and I felt bad about it. I felt like I needed something. A change. I didn't really know what, just something. SO I got on the job sites and started applying again. There wasn't much there, but I did apply for one job. The next day I got a phone call, I was at work so I called them the next day and set an interview for the next week, on my one day off. I got the job. Its part time, but since it pays more I didn't lose much money, in return I get to take my kids to school everyday. I get to be off every weekend. And I work with people who care. When they asked in my interview "how many days in the last month have you had to take off?" I panicked  little and decided to be honest. I told them that I had taken more than I'd like. I told him that the job I had working was full time 8-5 and that I had a children and that I had just found out that my youngest was deaf in one ear. I explained that since I worked all day, that I had to take off for her appointments. They were just .... understanding. Told me family was always first and that they understood, kids need their moms. I wanted to beg them to give me the job. (haha). I got the job offer the first week in January and Started the next week. I am so thankful for the job and the people I work with. Today I had to take off for the first time. We found out 3 weeks ago that a spot on Jason's nose was Basil Cell Skin Cancer. He had to have it removed today. When I told them, my boss just wanted to know how we were doing and what she could do. She didn't care that I needed time off that was a given. She was worried about me. Yesterday before I left she told me she would be praying for us. This is the kind of atmosphere I was looking for when I started looking for a job. A work family.

Jason is doing well tonight. Resting and healing.

Haleigh is my 5th child. I have done Kindergarten 7 times, as two of my children with July birthdays repeated. This my 5th time doing first grade. Its changed since my first was there, sure but I expected the normal, first grade experience. I am getting something completely different. I know every child is different. I know no two will be exactly the same. I know there is nothing wrong with doing things differently. Its just not what I expected. Haleigh is struggling. I know she is a smart kid, her teacher knows she is a smart kid. there is no doubt about how intelligent she is.

When she started first grade in August we didn't have a clue she needed glasses. She never said anything. She passed the vision screen at the dr the November before. We had no reason to believe she was seeing things any differently than she had in kindergarten. We also didn't know she couldn't hear out of her right ear. She didn't have issues with it that we realized, however hindsight is always clearer. So despite all of Haleigh's challenges, we always expected school to be mostly normal. We were prepared for time off for surgeries (maybe), but not this. We never expected so many other challenges. That's what these are they are challenges that we are overcoming. However it is taking its toll on her.

I talked with Haleigh's teacher for about an hour last week. She sent her progress report home with a note that said to call her. I've talked to her several times about Haleigh before, and I am so thankful for her guidance. My thoughts were that it was about the IEP meeting we have scheduled for The first week of March. It kind of was. She wanted me to know that, while Haleigh's grades don't reflect her progress, she is doing so much better, since she has her glasses and everyone is on her left side. The problem now is, she didn't get the skills everyone else did when she couldn't see things correctly and when she wasn't hearing everything. She missed skills and since she doesn't have those skills she is having a really hard time doing the work everyone else is doing. She is behind everyone else in her class. And while I don't know it for sure, she's probably behind everyone in the first grade who has been there 6 months.

Haleigh's teacher is wonderful. She stays after school on wed. to tutor kids in her class. Haleigh has been going since she started it in September. She also gets puled out and helped in reading for 30 minutes four days a week. It is suppose to be 5, however they have cooking class on Fridays and if you take all the good fun stuff out, there would be nothing for the kids to look forward to. I firmly believe kids need kid time, cooking club is kid time and I will not take that from her. She love it. While this extra help as helped her improve over the last couple week, she is still so far behind. With that her teacher decided she should refer her for an IEP meeting. To see if there is anything the special education program can help with. I honestly don't hold out much hope that it will make difference. (Landon has a TBI and since he is doing well and improving they cant do anything. He does get extra help in reading as well. But not from special education.) None the less, we have an IEP meeting scheduled and maybe we will get something out of it. It will probably come too little too late this year though.

I hate seeing her struggle. Struggling to relearn the right way the B and D and the P go because she wasn't mixing them up like the rest of the kids, she mixed them up because she couldn't see them correctly. I hate seeing her struggle to make the right sounds because she hasn't heard them correctly and when we were teaching her the sound for P and saying ...pa pa pa pa .... I have no clue what she herd and no clue what she saw when I held the P up. Its frustrating and not only is she now learning skills we thought she already had, she has to unlearn the wrong ones like hearing "BA" instead of "PA" and seeing "B" instead of a "P".

I'm mad that I didn't know something was wrong earlier. I'm sad that she is struggling so much after all the other things she has dealt with in her very short 7 years. I want her to be herself, not like everyone else. I want her to be able to hold her head high and walk into anywhere and be confident, I want her to be sure of herself, who she is and for her to be comfortable being who she is. I'm just torn on how to get her there.

Chances are she will repeat the 1st grade. We will make that fine. She will not be singled out about it. She wont have to wonder if she could have done better. we know she is doing the best she can with the issues she is dealing with. We know she can learn, we know she is learning, we know that given the chance to hear the right sounds with the right letters she will have the skills she needs. The problem with public or traditional schooling is that they cant go back now and reteach her skills she should have mastered. She's still learning them and that's why she gets pulled out. However she is tested on grade level. She is tested on a 1.6 level. she is preforming on a 1.1 level. Can she catch up in the next 3 months? Well, yes of course she can. Is it likely? No. My hope is that she can overcome this and thrive. That she will not become down on herself and that she will understand, she didn't do anything wrong. That she will understand, that she is smart and special, and that despite the challenges she faces, she can do anything she wants to do.