Life With Nine Kids

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We are now a homeschool and public school family...

I’m waiting by the front window. I’m waiting for Layla to get off the bus from her first day of first grade. Yesterday I asked Layla to do her time4learning program for the 20th time in a week. She didn’t want to, again. She had begged and bothered me to start paying for that online school service again (she did it last year). I finally signed her up again. She did it for 3 days and quit. She said it was too easy and I told her she needed to move up a level then. She didn’t want to. When Layla gets it in her head that she doesn’t like something it sticks for a long while. She is very smart but very impatient and stubborn. Last year she asked me to teach her to tell time. She was really grasping it when suddenly one day she didn’t want to learn it anymore. She picked up books instead and taught herself to read. She did some phonics worksheets but not all the time, mostly she picked up books, asked for help when she got stuck on a word and taught herself to read. Recently she wanted to count money. We started on it a bit, talked about place value and within a couple days she thought the whole thing was dumb. She’s been unhappy, restless , moody, and angry for months. She flew into this world with very a particular set of rules and expectations, none of which she shared with us, we just have to guess them along the way.

She has always had tactile sensory issues. She can’t stand certain clothes, shoes and socks. Tags, seams, bumps, certain clothes and some car and/or booster seats can all send her into a frustrated rage. when she was 2 she'd try on everything she owned -by herself- and cry because nothing felt right. We were shocked. She’d scream as a small baby until I’d finally undress her (this helped sometimes, not always). She seemed to always be under or over stimulated. As a baby she slept a good 8 hours a night but only 10-20 minutes a day. Even as a 4 week old she only slept 10-20 minutes a day. To make things harder I was the only person who she’d have anything to do with until she was 18 months old. She loved her Daddy from a distance but he couldn't hold her after she was about 2 months old. It was a very hard time, I felt lucky she has an amazing Daddy who loves her and respected her without doubting her or me about her needs. To most people she would seem liked a “spoiled brat.” To me she was desperate for me, and when she didn’t have me she’d hyperventilate (seriously). It was confusing to me because everything in her life was perfect. Mommy at home, loving daddy, happy house, a safe, fun environment. We joked that children who have been abandoned fared better than she did! As a baby she became obsessed with my hair and had to hold it it in order to feel safe and secure, as if it were a blanket or stuffed animal. We had to go through a lot with her over the years and the only way we made it was taking it one day at a time. She is now usually: talkative, helpful, bright, witty, funny, and a fantastic sister and daughter. Those mood swings she has are killer though. It’s like a switch gets turned on and so does rage. We’ve researched middle child syndrome, we’ve tried to help her in case that was the problem because a general feeling of unhappiness has struck her this past year. Nothing seemed to work. I was once a very angry child who, when having an ‘on’ day, was also fun to be around. Watch out if it was an off day. The rage, sadness, confusion and anger just couldn’t be explained when I was a child either. It’s kind of like depression, many people don’t know why they have it or what to do about it -except this is just a cranky, horrible, bad feeling mood swing. I recognize her moods.

At the beginning of this school year I didn’t listen to a little voice in my head that told me she’d enjoy, even thrive, in a classroom environment. I didn’t listen to myself when I asked the question: What is best for Layla *right now*? The answer was: A good school that’s not at home. Ricky and I were very close to enrolling her but our own homeschool routine started back up early and Layla was doing well. She was learning, having fun and I couldn’t imagine her away from our homeschool family dynamic. I’ve had a terrible time in the past with Sage. We got through his insecurities, difficulty learning, his lack of drive, his laziness, his developmental delays (according to public school standards, us homeschoolers just call “delays” learning at your own pace). I figured Layla was just another tough cookie and we’d get through it. I’d let her unschool her way to success. The problem with this plan was she became more and more unhappy at home. I tried one on one time, I tried special outings and days just with her, I tried leaving her alone, I tried more structure, then less structure. Nothing seemed to click with her. Recently with her building boredom and flip flop of wanting school work and then practically throwing it in my face I knew we needed a change. When I sat with her yesterday morning with a heap of base 10 blocks talking about place value she seemed interested, for 30 seconds. She suddenly whined and stormed off with an angry tone. I told her I’d call the public school if she wanted and she could go there. It wasn’t a threat, it was an offer. An offer she gobbled up. I asked if she was sure. She said she was. Before I knew it I was on the phone with the assistant principal of the small town school a mile away. A few hours later we were filling out paperwork, meeting her teacher and seeing her classroom. Layla was happy, excited and ready for this adventure. At home her brothers and sisters were excited for her, too. I knew going in that this school is supposed to be a very good school. What I saw when we visited was outstanding. (I have a few gripes, but what I like is outweighing them for now.) Her teacher is kind and understanding. She seemed ready for the challenge of a mid year self taught reader and homeschooled (primarily unschooled) student. I took Layla this morning for her first day and had breakfast with her and then showed back up for lunch with her too. These are the highlights:

  • The school welcomes parents for visits. The cafeteria has a sign in the food line that says “Welcome Parents.” I love.
  • All the main lunch ladies said hi to her and told her to ask if she needs help.
  • I’m allowed to visit anytime. A huge change from Charlotte’s time spent at a public school years ago.
  • The kids could talk during lunch -again different from Charlotte’s time in the pen. lol. :)
  • The children were polite, friendly and helpful
  • Parents are encouraged to have breakfast / lunch with their children
  • Children at Layla’s table talked about their parents having lunch with them from time to time.
  • I saw a mission statement sign from the school district that said children should receive individualized instruction, among other things. That’s the item that stood out to me.
  • The school has an emphasis on respect and manners.
  • Children were eager to help and told me Layla needs to bring pretzel money for pretzel Friday - fifty cents.
  • At lunch the kids at her table were kind and told me all the fun things they have done so far this year. Pizza parties, donut tied to a string eating contest, movie nights, earning reading rewards, Etc. They all sounded happy.
  • A funny boy told me she needs tennis shoes for P.E. He said, “We’re doing dancing right now, I’m not excited about it at all.” It cracked me up.
  • Her teacher told her if she doesn’t understand something or doesn’t get the review stuff they were doing today she could draw.
  • The school reminded me of a charter school -in the way that it had a strong community feel, strong emphasis on parental involvement. Very small town feel.
  • The school has won a very neat award. I don’t want to go into it because I try and keep my location online somewhat private.
  • As far as schools go, I really like it.
  • I love a small community school, the office ladies spoke of that too.
  • The kids I talked to today I REALLY enjoyed. Many of them were hilarious. After lunch I helped a couple of them with reading their papers in class. (And now I want to be a parent helper --because I have time to help 16 other kids, right. LOL ;)

So will Layla tire of this? Will it end up being a mistake? Will she go again next year? When will she come back and be home taught again? What if she is never happy? How long until getting up for school is a “you have to right now” issue?

We have to handle this like we’ve always handled Layla...one day at a time. Right now she’s happy. My eyes flooded with tears when I left her at school today, I miss her. BUT nobody said this mommy thing was easy. It just goes to show I don’t have as thick of skin as I thought when it comes to her. (Over the years I’ve been preparing myself for Layla running away and join in the circus when she’s sixteen, or something).

What's wildly strange is that we took Charlotte out of public school because she was unhappy, and here we are all these years later putting Layla in public school because she seems unhappy. People are all so different. Which leads me to this thought; if public school isn't a fit for every kid then homeschooling isn't either.

Tomorrow I’ll write about her first and second day, riding the bus, and anything else that happens.
This will be so funny if she decides to quit next week. lol. (no not really!)

A few more things:
I adore that she wants to ride the bus. Sure, it makes my life easier, but it's also SO typical of her to want to jump right in feet first and ride the bus. That’s the part I adore. Also, the bus picks her up and drops her off right at our house, perfect! Can you imagine her explaining to her friends on the bus why a yard full of kids greet her everyday. Hahaha.
I enjoyed hearing her get home today and say hi to everyone.
I'm actually completely shell shocked by all of this. It happened SO fast. It's like a dream and it's really weird. I've been extremely busy running back and forth to her school (only a mile away), holding down the household here, homeschooling, and trying to overcome a lot of chores this week. I'm not sure any of this has sunk in and I might have a mini emotional breakdown soon. (Not like a bad one lol, I'm just in a whirlwind of crazy busy overwhelm right now and I feel so exhausted. )
I told the kids I was thinking about putting Sebastian in half day preschool two days a week because he is making me crazy (we are having a hard time getting school work done with him around right now) and Sage quips "Geez mom you're just shipping everybody off aren't you?" It was hilarious.

The whole thing about place value that I wrote about above? Where I tried to teach her yesterday with base 10 blocks and she thought it was dumb. That is THE thing that set off a chain reaction of her going to public school. Well, she brought home a worksheet from today doing the exact same thing. She did the paper front and back and liked it. It sure helped me feel better this is right for now. She also read 3 books tonight for her reading log. My baby-girl's going to school...wow.

1 comment:

Molly said...

Wow! That is a big change! I hope she continues to enjoy her new adventure and that your family finds the new routine enjoyable too. I totally agree with you that just like public school isn't right for all/doesn't meet all needs, homeschool also doesn't necessarily meet the needs of all either.

Right now Alaina is making it pretty hard to do schoolwork here--she sits on their books, rips pages, grabs pens, etc.