Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School, part 1

This will be our 3rd full school year without daddy. He died at the beginning of the 4th quarter of her first grade year. The reality set in on me the day before her first day when we were on our way to have dinner with my mom and stepdad after church. I started to think of Thomas and the tears came as I was driving. Neither of the children noticed. I had recently went back and read my journal about her starting kindergarten and how much she interacted with Thomas that morning, proudly showing him how she was dressed, her new shoes and posing for him to take a picture of her.

It has been tough preparing for this year, making the decision to remain in private school after a Dyslexia diagnosis, arranging therapy, screening and hiring a reading specialist, researching different accommodations, having meetings with school administration staff about her, doing it all alone. And there is more to come. He wasn’t a hands on participant being so ill, and I’m not even sure how supportive he would have been in some of the decisions I have had to make, particularly the one to retain the reading specialist at $40/hour . Ariana likes her and unlike Sylvan, which is more expensive, it is one on one attention. I gave up home phone service to offset the cost at least until the first of the year when I finish paying for our minivan. I’m not sure what I will do then as far as getting it back. I felt like we were getting robbed on it anyway. I barely use the phone and was paying over $100/month. I really want to upgrade the cable and internet.

I felt some peace after the Orientation a few days before school. I met the teacher and though we had not talked about Ariana yet, during her presentation she mentioned how she would vary her teaching methods because she knew not every child learned the same way. She talked about singing the lessons and having the children prove they had mastered the material in different ways. She talked about molding them into creative thinkers as opposed to them memorizing everything. That includes doing the spelling tests differently and concentrating more on learning the meaning of the words. She told us she would not give more than 30 minutes of homework a night. Everybody was shocked. One of the dads jokingly asked “what will we do with the rest of the night?” She continued saying, “I don’t need 30 math problems for me to know they understand. I will be able to tell with 8.” After all of our marathon homework sessions last year, I literally got weak in the knees hearing this. I felt bad because we didn’t get all I wanted to get done during the summer and feared being swallowed up in homework again and having no time for building strength where Ariana needs help. I feared slipping back into the drive-thru habit in anticipation of spending 2 plus hours on homework after dinner. It’s a small class this year and she plans to use that to her advantage to help the children grow individually.

I did stick around to speak to her afterwards and let her know we had some challenges we were dealing with, what steps I had taken and where we are. She’s going to assess everyone in the first couple of weeks and communicate more as they settle in. She’s been teaching for 20 years. The reading intervention specialist has been doing what she does for 30 years. I feel confident in my decision to keep her in private school.  Mind you the actual panic attack she had when I pulled the van up to the public school I was considering did weight heavily on my decision.  Bottom line was we just are not ready for that much change.  Ariana has so far handled her father's death and our new life with grace and with the difficulties anyone would expect, but she's maintained her love for God, life and people. 

One thing she continued to say of her school during this process was "I have been there all my life."  That got me to thinking.  So few things have been there "all of her life".  I just after all of the prayer and observations over the summer concluded I could not take that away.  Am I nervous?  A bit.  I feel like I stepped out onto the water with the decision, but like Peter although I see the wind, I know Jesus is there.

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