Friday, December 11, 2015

Ginormous Leaps of Faith and Lots of Change

I've always been one of those people who don't like to include others in the choice I make.  I mean, outside of the people involved.  These days decisions made are between my husband, me, and God.  Sometimes we include the kiddos.  But I really don't like to post via social media, because I don't want other's opinions to cloud the answers I am receiving from my own reflection and feelings I feel when I pray.  THEN once I make the choice and act on the choice, I don't mind sharing.  In fact, I really enjoy letting my family and friends know what we are up to, just as much as I love knowing what they are up to as well.

This last month has been a whole new adventure in the Nutshell family.  My husband and I made a huge choice that will change everything.  EVERYTHING.  And it was a HARD choice to make.  One of the hardest of my life.

Let me start at the beginning.

All my long time readers know that my oldest two boys have each come with a unique set of "issues." Sam, 10 years old, has ADHD, some ODD, and a speech/language impairment.  Nephi, 8 years old, also had ADHD (but manifests it in a totally different way!), and some other compulsion issues as well.

We started them out in a charter school in Utah that had some great structure, and they thrived!  In fact, they were a whole school year ahead in reading and math when we moved to Oklahoma.  Enter common core (which OK did away with the summer we moved)... and the nightmare began.  Disclaimer: I am in no way blaming common core for my children's behavior.  I know there are LOTS of kids who do well.  My kids' brains are just wired differently and they couldn't wrap their minds around how they were teaching things.  They stopped doing work.  They couldn't focus. They got bored.  They got fidgety. Slowly, their grades started to suffer.  My once brilliant boys who GOT math and reading and everything else, were now struggling.  I didn't get it.  Sam's ODD got so bad in Oklahoma, there was a point where the police were involved just to keep him from getting expelled.

I didn't get it.  Wasn't I a good mom?  Wasn't I doing everything under the sun to help my boys?  I got them on some mild medication (which helped... a lot), I got them speech therapy, counseling, tutoring, etc.

Then we moved here to Tennessee.  I was looking forward to a fresh start with a new school and teachers.

It was worse!

I thought it couldn't get worse, but it did!  Nephi had to get a 504 to FORCE the school into giving him daily recess and not taking it away as punishment.  I'm not kidding you.  They gave them such a short time to eat lunch that he stopped eating and actually started losing weight.  He started pooping his pants all the time because he was afraid if he went he wouldn't finish his work and his privileges would be revoked. (He did it at home once in a while, but this really escalated the issue).

Sam decided he already knew everything, so he would read his Goosebumps books instead of doing his work.  He was loud and disruptive. He started getting bullied at recess because he is really short, and is a bit socially awkward.  Because of his speech/language issues, he doesn't understand everything people are telling him, and he is a bit more immature socially than the other kids. Except the fact that he REALLY likes girls... and that gets him teased too.

Between both boys issues, I was getting calls from teachers at least twice a week.  I was taking them out a couple times a month for doctor appointments.  And I was meeting with teachers and school councilors at least twice a month.  So here I am, super pregnant, with a one year old and a 4 year old, trying to balance everything without completely losing my mind!  They fought me at home too.  It was a challenge every day to get them out of bed and out to school.  Then I had to fight them at night to do their homework.  We were constantly fighting, and the feeling of contention saturated our home.

A month ago we had parent teacher conference.  I left crying.

I don't blame the teachers.  They are very sweet women and they tried really hard to help my boys in the way they could.  But with their hands tied with the set common core curriculum and lots of other kids who need their help and attention, they just couldn't do for my boys what needed to be done.

Over these last months I have completely exhausted all ideas on how to help them and I felt like the biggest failure of a mom EVER!

What was I doing wrong?

God had given me 4 beautiful boys and I had flunked motherhood.  I had somewhere along the road missed something and now my boys were failing out of school.  I didn't get it.

I came home from the meetings just devastated.  So I did what I always do when I don't know what else to do.  I knelt by my bed and I prayed.  I poured my heart out to the Lord.  I told him I had done everything I could think of to help them and I was failing.  As I said Amen, I literally felt warm arms around me and a feeling of great peace fell over me.  Then a voice as clear as day said in my ear. Homeschool.


If you read my post last fall about back to school you will remember how I feel about this...

That was the ONE answer I REALLY didn't want!

I sobbed now.  I felt comfort and peace as I cried.  But cried, none the less.

Did God not understand all I would give up if I homeschooled?  I'm not a selfish person, for the most part, but I LOVED my alone time.  I LOVE having the older kids out of the house so I can do what I want to do.... mostly household chores... but I get to do my crochet and watch whatever I want on Netflix.  I get to nap while the other boys do as well.  I would be giving up all of that to homeschool.  Because I knew that if I choose to do that, I would go at it full force and my kids would get the best education I could give.  And that would take away my alone me time.

And what if my kids turn out weird??  Face it, we all know someone who was homeschooled that turned out less than normal and blame it on the homeschooling factor.  (Never mind that we know a million weirdos that went to public school as well).

I thought about it all day.  When Ben came home that night I told him what I felt.  And he said that was exactly what I needed to do then.  He then told me that he knew I could do it, and that he felt that everything would work out.

So I started researching it.  I started looking into all the curriculum people suggested for kids with ADHD.  After two weeks of research I had a complete plan worked out for the rest of this school year.  Everything seemed to just come so easily to me.... I know the Lord was guiding me, no doubt about that!

The boys were actually pretty excited about it.  They were looking forward to the new adventure as much as I was terrified.

I called their teachers and talked to them.  I let them know how much I appreciated all they did for my boys.  I wanted them to know that the choice was all about what the boys needed and I wanted to part amicably.  And we did.  They were so sweet and encouraging about it. The only one who gave me a bit of a hard time was the school secretary when we went in to withdraw them... and only because I know she loves me and will miss seeing me there every other day.  It was a very positive, yet scary experience.

Today, we have been homeschooling for 2 weeks.

Let me tell you:  Best decision we have ever made for our boys.  They are HAPPY.  I mean REALLY happy!  They get an extra hour of sleep, which makes a huge difference.  They love that I have all their work all ready in a daily folder so they can track their own daily progress.  They know when we start, when we have lunch, and when we end.  We are still flexible, there are errands to run and doctor appointments to attend, but they have these little clipboards and they bring their work with them.  We have a school room, just for school... used to be Ben's office and gym.  They know where all their things are, they have weekly schedules to look at, and I try to make things fun.

As for me?  I actually have MORE time to do things.  My house is actually cleaner because my kids are happily helping me!  Emphasis on happily.  I tend to the other boys while the big ones are doing worksheets, and I don't seem as tired and need naps because I'm not fighting the boys every 5 minutes.  Not having the homework factor and morning drama has made me SO LESS stressed.  I am happier too!

Many homeschooling families would disagree with my methods.  But with my boys special needs, this is the best way for us.  And my boys LOVE it.  In two weeks, they have gotten back on track in math.  Where they were once struggling, they are now succeeding.  And all they really needed was more attention and a learning method that worked for their little brains.  And I think, above all, they needed me... and if I am honest with myself, I needed them.  I think I have learned more about my boys in the last two weeks, then I have in the last year.  I thought I knew them, but they have other sides to them I didn't know, and I am really enjoying getting to know those sides.

Well, folks, sorry to cut and run, but lunch is over and my kids are bugging me to start math.  Imagine that!



Carrie and Karl said...

I am so excited for you! I hope it continues to work well!

Carrie and Karl said...

I am so excited for you! I hope it continues to work well!

Michelle Nagel said...

I wish I, a complete stranger, could give you a hug. Thank you for being so courageous in both doing what is best for your boys and also for sharing your story. Blessings on your family.

Damaris said...

You're awesome Catherine! Good luck with the homeschooling. It's no surprise the boys are thriving with your help. You're an amazing mom!

Bridget said...

Way to go Catherine! I have to admit that I would be more than terrified to homeschool, but you are wonderful to do what your boys need at this time. I'm so glad that it has been going well and hope that it continues to. All the best to your great family!