Archive for May, 2011


Well, we are in the home stretch. School for my elementary kids ends on June 10. (Pieces’ last day of school was last Thursday) We’ve successfully navigated this year and it was a hard row to hoe, but every obstacle brings a learning experience and I can only hope that I’ve learned…something. Patience? One can hope.

Chi finished the EOG’s and was none the worse for wear. AND HE PASSED!  He got 3 out of a possible 4 on the reading and combined math tests with 2 requiring a retest and 1 meaning “sorry there is no hope for you”. So, yay! He has, since, struggled with the changes in his daily schedule because, well, it’s the end of the year and there’s retesting for those who got a 2 which puts all the kids who passed in different classrooms where they have to be quiet. (and in case you forgot? Chi is almost NEVER quite, during sleep included.) Still. It’s close to the end and I can’t help but breathe a giant sigh of relief.

Both of my kids have moved on to the next level. I will be teaching it to them. I’ve discovered that it’s possible to be so excited about something you can’t sit still and paralyzed with a sick fear of making the wrong decision all at the same time.

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EVIL END OF GRADE

Chi took the dreaded EOG this week: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He was as prepared as possible. His attitude was positive and he seemed unfazed all of a sudden. So okay, I’m thinking, maybe all will be well.

When Chi got home Monday afternoon, I asked how it went. We had talked about what he was expected to do a bunch and I reiterated all the salient points on the way to school that morning. He was excited and said that it went, “GREAT!” and that, “IT WAS WAY EASY!” (I can’t make those letters any bigger, but I could add extra exclamation points and it still wouldn’t impart the level of excitement this kid was vibrating with when he walked in the door.)

I asked him if he wore his headphones (yes) and if he finished all the questions (YESSSS! With much sighing and irritation. How could I even need to ASK this question, his tone of voice seemed to say.) I asked if he had any meltdowns or if he was able to work diligently (OH-MAH-GAWD-YES! IT WAS ALL FINE AND NO FITS AND ALL GOOD! If he were a teen there would have been eye rolling involved. I think if he cursed, now would be the point when those would be added.). So I asked if it took him the whole three hours. He just looked at me. “Well, did it?” He huffed and said, “We got breaks, Mom. Every twenty minutes.” As if I hadn’t planned it that way. As if I hadn’t had meeting after meeting about what would be the best way to present this testing situation to Chi.

But I was curious. How did these scheduled breaks factor into his test completion. So I asked the question differently, “How much time did you have to finish the test, bud?” He plunked his hands on his hips and then flopped into a heap on the couch (His favorite position is with his head jacked at a ninety degree angle to his body, up on the back cushions with his back along the seat cushions and his legs folded up near his ears. I’m not sure why, but there you are. OH, and he almost ALWAYS achieves this position by slamming himself onto the couch.). “The test ended at 12:30 (pm), Mom, ” he deigned to reply. “We started at 9:30, but I finished in 40 minutes.”

“…y-you. You did whaaaaaaat?!?” I’m a little in shock. I was told to expect this part of the test to be the most grueling. It may have the fewest questions, but it takes the longest to complete.

“I finished the test before the second break. We had a break every 20 minutes.” He seems completely unphased by this, like somehow it was to be expected.

“You were supposed to be taking your time.”

“I DID, Mom. I answered all the questions.”

“Well what did you do for the rest of the time?” I’m still stunned. Unable to wrap my brain around this.

“I just sat there.”

OOOOKAY…

So on Tuesday we talked about the Math part (there are two days of Math testing) and he seemed ready. His math test was going to be read to him, not because he can’t comprehend reading math problems, but to help pace him and keep him from getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of math problems. Plus, his class practiced these tests with the teacher reading the questions to the students. Wednesday morning we were going over, one last time, the expectations.

I said, “You listen to the teacher and take your time. She’ll help you stay focused.”

He pauses for a moment and then says, “Oh, I just finish all the problems on that page and sit and wait until we can turn pages.”

Me, deep breathing, “So you don’t wait on the teacher?”

“MOOOOOOOM, she’s sooooo slooooooow! I can finish all the problems on the page before she gets finished reading the second question.”

Me, almost afraid to ask, “So what do you do while you wait?”

“Oh, I just sit there.”

Sheesh, well, I guess, at least he didn’t shut down and not finish his test, but I don’t know how to feel about this. Did he rush too quickly and make a bunch of stupid mistakes? Did taking the test with all these buffers help him stay focused and that’s why he finished so quickly? Would he have fared perfectly well with the rest of his class? Jeez, I guess I’ll find out when we get his test results.

You can bring the EOG to the kid, but you can’t predict how he will handle it. No matter how prepared he is.

**Disclaimer**  I didn’t sleep much last night so I expect major leeway in what actually gets put into this post.

**side note**  Other than minimal brain function, that has absolutely nothing to do with what I have to say.

Dimple

I had an email from Chi’s teacher Wednesday morning, early. (I don’t usually check my email before I take the kids to school because that can take more time than I have to give and we might end up being late. You know how it is.) I checked my email for reasons unknown and came across one from Mrs. Eff requesting an emergency conference and an immediate call back, which I did. We scheduled the conference for later in the day and I did a short scramble to find childcare for Pieces.

I get to the school and the conference isn’t just with Miz Eff, but also, with the PrinciPAL, Ms. A and a woman I know but have no clue what her job title is. We’ll call her EOG Admin (EOGA for short), as that seemed to be her duties in this meeting. (Ms. A is the 504 coordinator). There were some concerns that there was no way to meet all of Chi’s requirements for testing as laid out in his 504. I had talked a little about some of this with Miz Eff in March but I thought things were settled.

Here’s the score:

Chi’s 504 has some pretty specific requirements for him while taking the EOG. Things to help him cope better with a process that is likely to be very difficult for him to adjust to because it changes everything he knows to expect in school for three days only, but three crucial days. These things are (and I’m gonna use bullet points, YAY!) (in no particular order):

  • He is able to write in his test book. Meaning that he doesn’t have to fill in little circles. For a kid who hates writing and coloring, that would be tedious at best. Also, he couldn’t stay in the lines to save his own life. And that’s a fact.
  • He is to be in a group of kids of no more than 10 and no fewer than three (including himself). He does not do well at all when he is the center of any kind of attention. He does not perform. He will shut down. That is a fact. Also, if there are too many kids things get too busy and too distracting. Not good. Additionally, Chi is noisy. He is almost constantly making noise. When he is in a good mood and doing his work, they are little and quiet: hums and chirps and little squeaks, but when he is shutting down and having a bad day, they escalate in decibel level and intensity/frequency, etc. This is not a quiet kid. If he were to be too much of a distraction for the class, a mistest could be called and the whole class would have to be retested. Yeah. So not good. (oh, by the way? These noises are not something he does consciously. Yes, sometimes they are, but for the most part he has no control over them. For the record? Bringing them to his attention to makes matters worse.)
  • He is to get as many breaks as he needs, whenever he needs. Chi is remarkable at focus. When he is enjoying himself. When he is uninterested he can take a task that should take 5 minutes and stretch into hours and hours of flopping and moaning or just diving into his inner world. Plus, he has movement needs.
  • He is to wear his headphones. He has noise canceling headphones. They eliminate white noise, and most extraneous ambient and distracting noises and allow him to hear the teacher or those talking directly to him. It is like a miracle drug for his ability to cope.
  • He is to be allowed as much extra time to complete the tests as he needs. Because his focus can wander and he can have shutdowns and he may need breaks as often as every 15 or 20 minutes, he will need extra time to complete his exams.

Well, I found out in March that there was no group that met all of his requirements, which meant that he would be alone with two teachers (the proctor and the administrator)(talk about center of attention, sheesh). There was one, however, that met most if Chi could have the test read to him (just the Math portions, not the Reading portions). Since the kids have been practicing taking the EOG in class and those practice exams have been read to them problem by problem, Miz Eff thought this might be a good fit for him. After some discussion, I agreed.

Yesterday they tell me that the group that meets all the other requirements has only one other kid in it. This is a problem if that kid is sick because that would leave Chi all alone, which is why the 504 stipulates no fewer than three kids. I was told that, really, Chi could write in the test book and wear his headphones in any group, so those aren’t deal breakers, but there was no one group that fit all of the other stipulations. So we set about deciding what was most important.

There was a group that fit everything, but the breaks were scheduled every 20 minutes. Miz Eff worried that with Chi being such a proficient reader such a rigid schedule would interfere with any groove he may get into with reading and answering the subsequent questions. So I pointed out the most important parts: he will need breaks and he cannot be alone. I, then, pointed out that while I found Miz Eff’s concerns valid, that Chi does really well with a rigid schedule and that the best solution would be to tell him what that schedule was going to be and let him know what time the timer started and what time it was set to go off. I think he would do fine with that. If every thing else was met in that scenario, then things should be set to run a smooth as possible for him.

PrinciPAL was worried that if Chi was sick that he would have to make up that testing day in a one on two scenario and I assured her that, if that were to be the case, then we could deal with that when it happened. It would be hard, but I think with the right prep, he would be semi-okay. Miz Eff then asked if she could be the one to administer any make up testing and was assured that, indeed, she could. That’ll make a big difference if that is a necessary thing.

EOGA was concerned that Chi was going to be uncomfortable with his testing administrator and has been pairing him for the last couple of weeks with a woman, Ms. Title 1 to be exact, who sees Chi at no other point. Thus eliminating any stress of feeling like he’s being judged by any of his academic authority figures, but still putting him with someone familiar.

So now, I come to it. I sat in this conference room, with these Education Professionals and boggled at how thoughtful and caring they were about this one student. These women have fought for Chi along side me. There has been no fighting, no head butting, nothing but cooperation and compassion. They truly care. They see the exceptional kid before them and not his issues. They want to help him.

Things have been far from perfect this year for Pynni and Chi has had his struggles, too, but in the end these people are trying, and in the case of Miz Eff going so far beyond that it takes my breath away. I sat in this room with these people, strangers really, who were fighting for Chi, and found myself, not questioning whether or not I should homeschool, but lamenting that they wouldn’t be in my children’s lives anymore. Homeschooling still solves so many problems that we will face in the future.

But I can’t say that I’m unhappy with the adults they’ve had in their lives thus far. I can say that I’m grateful. I can say that I appreciate what they’ve done; what they do.

When I left, they, each one, told me how amazed they were with my quick response and willingness to come in to meet with them so last minute. That still, flabbergasts me. Who wouldn’t, I think, this is for my son, how could I not?

Large Feelings

If I had been told, prior to having children, how difficult, how wrenching it would be, and I took those words to heart, I would never have become a mother.

If I had known then, how hard it was to raise a truly unique individual, one who doesn’t meet anyone’s definition of normal (yeah, yeah, I know that whole “what is normal anyway?” crap, but until you’ve met or loved or dealt with a person on the spectrum, you truly have no idea (I put myself in that category, I assure you)), I would have shied away from starting a family that included more than furry children. If I had known how whole my heart had been before it had been touched with children, and how it would tear into little pieces every time one of them hurts, I would have insisted on more birth control. If I had even an inkling of how children in my life was going to completely throw me into an identity crisis that could have killed me; had I known beforehand that I would struggle with the face staring at me in the mirror for years after the birth of my son; had I been able to divine the future and see that I would give up my dreams of continuing education indefinitely for children; I mostly likely would have run screaming in the opposite direction of parenthood.

Had I known the ramifications of unprotected sex, truly understood them, I would have clamped my knees together and demanded a damned chastity belt.

But then.

I would never have experienced how large my heart could grow to accommodate these children. I would never have seen my husband hold his babies in his arms and feel my love for him grow exponentially with each one. I would never have completely fallen apart at the thought of losing one of my kids and then found the iron core within myself to fight for their happiness. I would never have heard their little voices laughing with the sheer, unadulterated joy of life and breathing. I would never have gotten to view the world through the eyes of a child as an adult. I would never have looked into the clear eyes of my children and seen the purest, truest kind of love shining back at me.

I would never have known what it is to be someone’s parent and not their best friend.

I would never have been able to embrace the ways in which my parents’ raised me. I would not be able to look back at things I’d considered unfair or uncaring at the time they happened and see the love of my parents blazing out at me. I would never have experienced the bliss that I feel whenever my kids run and hug on my parents.

I would never be able to look my mom in the eye and tell her that I know. I know and I love her and I’m grateful.

Being a parent is hard. There are no words that can hold the amount of effort, the amount of pain, the amount of fear, the amount of irritation, the amount of lost sleep that being a parent contains.

But there is so much that makes it the best experience of my life.

Not the least of which is the end of I and the beginning of we.