Archive for March, 2011


I bought my first homeschooling materials today. I am beyond excited.

If you had asked me three years ago whether I would ever consider homeschooling, I would have said, “Hell, no!” I thought people who homeschooled were crazy, and not live-in-a-“compound”-with-arsenals-on-the-fringe kind of crazy. Seriously-a-glutton-for-punishment kind of crazy. “Not me.” I thought. “Never me.”

Then, as school has gotten harder and Chi has struggled more and more, I began to see that, at the very least, I might have to homeschool through middle school. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, the middle schools in our district are crap. CRAP! (Our elementary school is NOT crap and we have issues.)

Now, after the awful year that has been 2010-2011, I can barely see doing it any other way.

I’ve been researching what curricula I want to use and I’ve made some decisions. (Truthfully? I’ve made ALL the decisions. I KNOW how I’m going to start, but I’m trying to pace myself. heh)

So today, I purchased Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer and  the workbook The Complete Writer by the same. I will also be using First Language Lessons for the Well-trained Mind by Jessie Wise. These two women are former teachers who specialize in home education consulting and they have some really great philosophies on why so many high school graduates have little to no idea how to write persuasively or creatively, and not just with grammatical accuracy.

The Future

Susan Wise Bauer writes “…In an effort to solve the problem of poor writing skills, schools are giving longer and more complex assignments to younger and younger children. They theory is that the more writing children do, the better they’ll get at it; as one proponent of it recently told me, “Give the children high-intrest assignments and have them write, write, write and revise, revise, revise.” First and second graders are told to write journal entries; third and fourth graders are assigned book reports and essays. Fifth and sixth graders are given research papers.

Meanwhile, writing skills continue to decline. And for the last ten years, at education conferences all across the country, I have heard the same refrain from the parents of these children: My child hates to write.”

Now, Chi hates to write, but he has ALWAYS hated it. He never liked to color or draw with any type of media. But Pynni LOVES to write. She draws, and colors, and writes words and letters and her name. When there is no pressure to write any one thing in particular, she will spend all day drawing in one manner or another. Even with all of that, she has developed a dislike for writing as pertains to school. Who wouldn’t, though?

She has barely learned to form the letters semi-correctly before she is asked to write SENTENCES. Not just words. She can’t tell you what a subject or a noun or a predicate or a verb is. She can’t SPELL the words they are asking her to write. The homework is generally something like: write a story about what you did this weekend. IN KINDERGARTEN. And now, I see, that maybe, just maybe, some of Chi’s dislike of writing (and now Pynni’s) is that they are asking TOO much TOO early in his development.

I look forward to starting over in this with him. I look forward to working through this curriculum (it’s very scripted and I NEVER thought I would be looking forward to something like that) and giving my kids the tools to be competent writers, and hopefully, at the very least, not hate writing.

I’ll let you know how this goes and what I think after we actually get into it.

Hmmm, now on to what to use for math.

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My Chi

Wednesday was hellish. When Chi got home, he was already grounded due to his recent regression and his lack of participation at school and at home with his homework. I had told him Tuesday night as he shuffled off to bed, that he would be working on all that incomplete work from the moment he got home from school [the next day] until he got finished, or went to bed, whichever came first. As per his M.O. lately, he melted into a puddle at my feet Wednesday afternoon requiring a mop and bucket to clean up (read: patience and ibuprofen).

After a bit, when his moaning and chirruping were growing increasingly louder, I sat down at the table to see if I could assist him and eliminate some of the stress that might be aggravating the situation. He was working on multiplying mixed fractions, but seemed to not know how to do this (how, indeed? Hard to hear the teacher when one is busy occupying floor space) so I explained the finer points of fraction multiplication to him and we worked through several problems.

**NOTE** This is, in fact, a gross misstatement of the facts. Chi sat as limp and crumpled as one can be and still remain upright in the chair while I walked him step by step on a separate piece of paper prodding him into making calculations which he barely forced past limp lips and then achieved a feet of heretofore unknown lightness of pencil markings that could possibly be construed as writing the answer on his homework sheet. INFURIATING!

The further along we got with the work, the less I was doing, and the more recalcitrant Chi became. He stopped responding to my questions and stopped writing all together. I couldn’t get him to look at the paper or hold his pencil. I snapped. It had been an awful, awful day punctuated on both ends by this crap from Chi like some sort of horrible Spanish exclamation designed to gouge the brains right out of my head. I stomped away after saying something along the lines of “I can’t help you if you won’t let me” and “Why should I care, when you don’t care enough to even TRY!” I may have cursed.

I took deep breaths and came back to try again. All told, I spent about 45 minutes trying to help him with no response from Chi. I was just. so. mad. I was. ARG! SO I snapped at him. “PUT ON YOUR SHOES!” I stomped around and got my shoes and purse and keys and phone and went and tapped my foot by the door. He trudged up to me, barely picking his feet up and still remaining as limp as physically possible and still remain upright. My Chi was just not there anymore. He hadn’t been there all day.

We got in the car and I tried just talking. He didn’t respond. I put the car in reverse, backed out of the driveway, and headed down the road. When Chi still wouldn’t talk to me, I told him, “When I feel overwhelmed, and I just can’t take it anymore, I do one of my favorite things. Do you wanna know what that is?” nothing “I like to roll the windows all the way down, turn the music all the way up, and drive and sing at the top of my lungs. It’s one of my most favorite things. The wind whipping my hair around, sticking my hand out into the air, feeling the breathe leave my body at top volume, and feeling the thump of the music in my skin. It’s exhilarating and rejuvenating!” He glances at me askance and then buries his eye sockets into his kneecaps and plugs his ears with his fingers. /sigh…whatever.

We go to Target, walk the isles, and buy too much chocolate. The muttering and moaning and flapping and flopping are subsiding. I decide that we need more time for our mental health break. I can see that he is there, now. My Chi. The monster is withdrawing and Chi is taking control. So I crank up the music, roll down the windows and we go to Sonic to get uber unhealthy food and drink to finish the climb out of the mental health dumps.

Chi is back. He is hanging his arm out the window, bouncing along to the music, and smiling. As we pull into the driveway, Chi says, “I’m sorry that I acted like that.”

I say, “I forgive you. I’m sorry that I yelled at you like that.”

Chi says, “I forgive you. I like the windows rolled down. Can we turn the music up louder next time?”

“Sure,” I say.

There is something about the windows down and the music loud that can cure just about anything, don’t you think?

Sad Panda

I thought that after finding out what was up with Chi (why is he so WEIRD, anyway? Surely, not because I am, heh.) we could move into a more proactive phase of childrearing and put all of the structures and tools in place to stop regression before it started. (Although, now that I look back, I had NO CLUE that regression was going to be part and parcel of raising a child with Asperger’s.) I thought all the therapy, all the money spent, all the nifty tools purchased, all the meetings with teachers and administrators would naturally ease Chi’s way through life and make everything easy, and ooooh, I don’t know, normal.

This has not been the case. No matter how many books I read. No matter how much money we throw at it. No matter how many therapists we see. NO MATTER WHAT. Life with Asperger’s; life with SPD is REACTIVE. We remain on the defense. Our defensive line has to win by playing the game as the offense dictates it to us. Never will we dominate the offense and make them play the game OUR way. And VERY RARELY will we actually put our offense on the field. That’s not the way this thing works.

Chi’s been sliding backward a little in the last couple of weeks, and the regression has been marked in the last few days. This morning, he said not one single word of English. NOT ONE. He moaned, groaned, squeaked and chirrupped his way through the morning giving me a splitting headache, that I cannot get rid of, in the process.

We’ve been lucky this school year that the small backwards steps seem to resolve themselves in a relatively short amount of time and things continue in a more forward sort of direction. I hate to admit that I get so used to things being good, and dare I say, even normal, that when Chi starts shutting down, I flinch away at first. I try to ignore him and then, as if I’ve lost the ability to deal with these things, I completely lose it and yell. (Not screaming, as such, but I snap at him) So, as he has gradually regressed over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been having to have little talks with myself about patience and looking for the root of the problem (there seldom is one glaringly obvious one) and dealing with it in a helpful manner.

This morning, after the not talking and the absolute FAIL that was our morning pep-conversation, I was tracing Pieces’ hand and thinking. Things have changed at school. Chi isn’t dealing.

INFORMATIVE MOMENT: School this year, third grad year, has been almost entirely about taking this End of Grade (EOG) Test that kids now take EVERY YEAR once they reach the third grade. Starting early in March there are EOG camps for special needs kids. Starting early in March, the classes start taking practice tests. The individual subjects themselves are now taught in a way that aligns them more with how things are going to be worded on the EOG; how questions are going to look and therefore how they need to be answered. The content of the classes has changed. The subjects not covered in the EOG’s are being shuffled off to the side in favor of spending even more time learning, talking, working, and practicing for the EOG.

These changes are rocking Chi’s world. He is very rigid. There is no bending when it comes to his schedule or his

BUT I was gonna go to Toshi Station to pick up power converters!!!

expectations. When it is time for Math and he goes into his class and instead of the teacher explaining something new or expanding existing knowledge, the teacher plops a sheet of paper covered with 200 problems on it and says, “Do this as fast as you can…GO!” He doesn’t pick up his pencil thinking that he can be the first to complete this paper. He just stops functioning all together. He may stop hearing. He may stop speaking. He may stop using muscles to hold himself upright. He may start stimming. He may hide under his desk. He may start kicking the legs of his chair REPEATEDLY. He may chirrup or squeak uncontrollably. It can vary depending on several factors. 1) how stimulated is he? 2) is this the first time this has happened today, in this class, this week? 3) does he struggle with this subject under normal circumstances? 4) was he already out of sorts from some other surprise thrown at him?  etc. And Math? Well, Math is his favorite subject. Imagine if it were something he hated.

It burns us, Precious!

Now, I found out that he basically piled himself into a heap at school and chirrupped at Ms. Eff after I dropped him off at the door. He wouldn’t even sit in his chair. Now’s the time for reaction, I guess, since being proactive hasn’t eliminated the regression I had been working toward avoiding all year long.

**sigh**  Reactive sucks, but it’s what I’ve got. Off to contact Ms. Eff for a conference and see what we can come up with.

And that is that. Homeschooling it is, then.

Now’s the time on sprockets when we

a) Dance a jig

then

b) Plan plan plan

followed closely by

c) Buy books and supplies

not to be put off is

d) Find out if Southside High School still knows who I am enough to send me my transcript.

but that can’t be the last thing because

e) Fill out the forms and await approval

BUT

FIRST THINGS FIRST

I gotta name my school. It can’t be something hokey because it will (potentially) go on my kids’ college applications.

I’ve already done tons of research and I know what curricula I’m going to start out with. I even have a general idea of how I’m going to ease into this by introducing only a couple of basic subjects before diversifying. I’m fairly certain that I have the yearly schedule all planned out in my head. Now, I just need to plot it on paper. THEN. Well, then I have to have the talk with my kids. I’m waiting until school is out, and I have a good reason for this.

Apparently (no surprise here), Chi hears EVERYTHING. He has heard the conversations his dad and I have been having “out of earshot” of the kids. (FAIL) I know this because Pynni told me a couple of weeks ago, in that teary sad voice she gets, that she misses me too much while she’s at school and really should be allowed to stay home with me all the time. I mean, really, couldn’t I teach her? After all, Chi said that they were going to learn at home soon, anyway, so why not now? (I couldn’t lie to her, so I told her no decisions had been made. We were still talking about possibilities. She had all the rest of kindergarten to worry about and she would be finishing that first, thankyouverymuch.)

And that isn’t the only time that this homeschooling thing has been brought up by my kids and I haven’t even TALKED to them about it yet. Huh. So, I’m holding to the explanation that they go to school NOW and they need to focus on that.

So, I will let them know the official changes at the end of the year. I don’t need any more shutdowns from that department than I’ve already got, thanks.

Yeah, so back to the naming. Any ideas?

Metaphorically Speaking

We get into the car to take Pieces to school and then me to the chiropractor this morning and after about five minutes we are all sweating like it’s a sauna. Hubs adjusts the temperature controls but it’s still HOT in the car. I glance behind me at the temperature controls for the rear seating, which is located between the front seats but faces the back seats. The knob is turned all the way to the highest heat setting. I adjust and Hubs comments that Chi ALWAYS turns the dial to the highest heat if he’s cold or the highest cold if he’s hot with no in between.

I point out that is actually a really good metaphor for Chi. He lives his life turned all the way up. He is either into something or doing something 200% or not at all. He is either all the way on or shut all the way off. There are no grey areas with him. It is the way he operates and it is the way he sees the world.

Somehow, even before he spoke English marginally well, I knew that Chi did not see the grey’s in life. To him, it is black or white. All of our house rules and all of my explanations for why something is a certain way have always had to be black and white. Grey’s just confuse him. He doesn’t do exceptions to the rules at all.

Huh, I may have just explained, at least one reason, why Chi hates writing/spelling/grammar so much. All those exceptions. “I before E except after C” Yeah, he’d just rather do math homework.

Befuddled and Bemused

There is something wrong. Terribly wrong. I can’t think. I can’t focus. I can’t remember. I’m depressed. I have no energy. I’m so tired I can’t hold up my GIGANTIC head or keep my eyelids (that way a frigging ton. EACH!) open. My hair is falling out. I’m so cold that I’m breaking out in hives (the hives are a totally other issue called Cold Urticaria that I’ve had my whole life and aren’t really the issue but the COLD part is) when it is 75℉ outside and hovering around 78℉ in my house.

I thought it was allergies. You know, maybe I was so stopped up at night that I wasn’t sleeping well. I started taking claritin every day. No dice.

I thought I, maybe, needed to up my vitamin intake. No dice.

I thought, maybe, I needed to drink more coffee. I just made myself sick. heh (it was more of a long shot really)

I thought, maybe, I just needed to sleep more so I started going to bed earlier. Nada.

I thought, maybe, I just needed more exercise. What with my back being as it has been, movement in general has been fairly limited until the last month or so. So? Nope. Just makes me so tired I have to lay down.

I thought, maybe, I needed more water. So I increased my daily intake. Nope.

And it’s all gotten progressively worse. I can’t live like this. Today? Well. Today I spent the morning hanging outside with my kids. It was glorious. This afternoon, though, I slept for 5 (FIVE!!!) hours, and still, I could have slept until tomorrow morning. And ALL afternoon? My bones hurt. I felt like I was running a fever. Like I was coming down with Mono. AGAIN. And that’s when it hit me.

I went through all of this a couple of years ago, but instead of dealing for a couple of weeks, I was sick for MONTHS. I had strep or mono alternatively for 5 months. Twice I had “strep” where the rapid test was negative, but no one ever called me about the longer test that got sent to the lab until I went for the THIRD time in as many months and my doc says, she says, “You don’t have strep. I see here that you haven’t had strep any of the times in the past except the first.” So she does blood work. I have Epstein-Barr (which is the mono virus in adults) and it activates when I get exhausted. “Well,” I said, “I’ve been exhausted for MONTHS.” I explain my symptoms.

(It is pertinent to note here that I am a coper. I cope. I really, REALLY, distrust doctors and I HATE baring myself in such personal ways to veritable strangers. So. I cope. I deal. Until I just can’t stand it anymore.)

She runs a much more detailed set of tests and turns out I have thyroid issues (IMAGINE. That doesn’t run in my family OR ANYTHING. /sarcasm). So she prescribes Synthroid and it has been a revelation!

So now, today, I’m looking back at that whole ordeal and I believe I need my meds upped. I will be calling the doc on Monday. Oh, man. MAAAAAAn! It’s not a holiday is it?

**disclaimer** If this makes no sense or is riddled with typos? Please see title.

I’ve spent a lot of time since we began this journey with Chi and the public school system thinking about pulling him out and homeschooling. I spend a lot of time everyday making sure Chi is ready for school, prepared for whatever the day may bring, armed with whatever tools I can give him to cope, and then repairing any damage being at school each day causes.

We have days that are what I imagine days for parents of neuro-typical kids are like. That means, to me anyway, that there aren’t the usual struggles associated with regular daily occurrences like brushing teeth, or walking out the front door, or maybe riding in the car to school. Maybe, when Chi comes home, his pupils aren’t dilated until there is almost no blue visible. Maybe he has a snack and heads outside to blow off some of that pent up energy (which takes a surprisingly short amount of time since a small part of his issue is his stamina level, or lack thereof, even though I make sure he gets lots of outside time away from his beloved video games) without me having to get mean about it. Maybe sitting down to do homework or simply being told to tie his shoes won’t result in limp-noodle Chi.

Awesome kiddos

Mostly, though, I have to go through the motions to make him do the things he would rather skip and get right on with the game playing.  Is body-brushing necessary? Does he need some time spent under his weighted blanket? Do we have enough strong flavored gum or sour-something-or-other to get him through homework? Is the trampoline cleaned off so he can jump to wake himself up or get the need to move constantly out of his system? Do I need to enforce the silence-in-the-house rule to eliminate one of his biggest triggers for overstimulation and meltdown?

All of these things are tiring. And I’m exhausted. I can barely keep my eyes open some days and my temper under control others. It can be so hard to see these issues as part of a larger problem that we are constantly working on, and not just Chi being difficult.

**note** I realize that Asperger’s is not a problem to be dealt with, nor is his SPD and the trial that encompasses. Still, when dealing with a lot of these things, they feel like problems. They make life more complicated. Harder. As if childhood is not filled to the freaking BRIM of pitfalls and potholes without extra obstacles to dodge. Or scale. As the case may be.**

They can be emotionally and somehow physically wearing, but they’ve become second nature by now. (Except, you know, when I fail to explain to Chi that the Zoo in Ashboro isn’t like the Zoo in Louisville before I send him off with friends and he proceeds to completely shutdown and require carrying through the Zoo. At 60 lbs? That’s not a comfortable proposition. Sorry, Taz’s Mom and Dad!) So I feel like (now especially, that we aren’t having a period of regression) I’ve fought the hardest fights at school (so far) and we’ve gotten the principal on our side which helps get the right sorts of teacher (Thank God for Ms. Eff. **gotta think of something GREAT to get her for a thank you gift at the end of the year**) for Chi and the help and environment he needs for certain special circumstances; that I’ve laid the paving stones to make passage through the future less treacherous.So with all of that, and even with the nightmare that was Second Grade (I imagine a deep booming voice saying that like “Pigs in Space” on the Muppet Show for some reason), I had not truly considered homeschooling again.

Now there’s my sweet Pynni. She loves the kids and even loves the various substitutes, but she cries (CRIES!!!!) over her homework. She cries over having to write a story. CRIES!!!! When she writes stories on her own without it being homework, but for whatever reason, the mere fact of it being for school pushes her over the edge. She is in Kindergarten FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! And already she wilts when it’s time for homework. She doesn’t throw fits or shutdown or anything even in the near vicinity of her older brother, but two months ago, three months ago, she lit up about homework. She would ask for MORE homework.

I cannot have her doubting herself. We are working, and working hard, to bring her self-esteem back up. We are working extra hard on the things the school says she is struggling with (which I STILL don’t see evidence of). We work all evening outside of dinnertime on homework.

It’s funny, really, that with all the setbacks, and struggles with Chi; it’s Pynni that has me researching homeschooling.

I am still not saying that I am doing it for sure because Hubs isn’t entirely sold on the idea, yet. I, on the other hand, have picked the curricula I’m going to use and I’ve started planning the order in which to start and how we are going to move forward. I’m a lot excited and a little nervous, but I see the way we work together doing homework. I know that we could have a blast and they could know how smart they really are.

Update. Decision made.

I have decided to take advantage of this terribleness that is Pynni’s lack of a permanent teacher. I am going to game the system and send invites to the few kids Pynni has chosen to invite to her party (which is less than half) and ask the teacher to put the cards in those children’s daily folders. Go me!

That means that I will be have the one party for two kids at the one place. So, less stress. Less mess. More fun!

And, I’m all about the fun, donchaknow.

Oh, and I’m gonna make cupcakes, I think. Red velvet ones. From scratch. It’ll be beautiful AND tasty. Multicolored and bright. The only theme is gonna be fun. LOTS of fun.