Monday, April 11, 2016

Surrendering

I know it's been a while since I've posted and since I've updated. Unexpectedly becoming a homeschool family has changed our lives more than anything since the birth of Noah. My days look very different now. Homeschooling is a full-time job. It really is when you add up the time that it takes for good lesson planning and record keeping and prep-work.

I wrote the post below over a month ago, and so much has changed since them. I wasn't going to post this, it felt, kind of depressing, not who I want to be, but I am deciding to publish it, because it's part if the "real." Thankfully, things have gotten better in many ways, and I will write about that soon too. This past month has taken twists and turns, some felt pretty devastating to me, and others, quite hopeful.

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Homeschooling this year has been the most fascinating journey. I can't express how interesting I find the fact that I have gone from a typical homeschool skeptic, to a homeschool believer! Every single little doubtful question that I've ever had about socialization and learning and this and that has been sufficiently answered and more. It's like a whole new secret world has opened up once I really stopped to question our norms and my preconceived beliefs about education. 

I've always fancied myself an open-minded questioner, not somebody who followed the flock at all times. In retrospect, I'm shocked that I didn't realize how many different paths there are to learning, especially as a person who personally struggled with the traditional model of school.

For the past six months, I have vacuumed up and consumed every single book, website, podcast, online group and video that I could get my hands on, on homeschooling and different learning styles. When our library doesn't have the education book that I'm looking for, I go through the inter-loan systems, and nine times out of ten, one of my state's libraries is bound to have a copy. I've read websites and newsletters and magazines for months, subscribed to everything that I can, and joined well over ten homeschooling groups. We've visited two local co-ops and signed up for classes. My ears listen to homeschool, education and child-development podcasts non-stop, I joined Periscope for the homeschool "scopes" and scan Youtube to glean tips. I'm all in. I'm enmeshed. I'm engrossed by everything.

But this comes at a price. My whole life right now is about Noah. Trying to figure out what happened this past fall when we had no choice but to withdraw from school, trying to understand what makes Noah......Noah. Why is he anxious, why has he always been so intense, why is he distracted and unfocused? Why can his thinking be ridged and inflexible to reason? Why do new experiences and some old ones come so much more difficultly to him than other children?
How can we help him? How can we make school and day to day life smoother, easier, less intense?
(Just to let you know, Noah gave me permission once again to blog about this here. I would not share without his blessing. We both hope to find other kids sharing the same ups and downs of this experience.) *edit* And we have! :) I will write more later, but the first things that comes to mind is a wonderful 2e homeschoolers support group. Many many of these children has the same constellation of differences and diagnoses. I don't feel so alone anymore!

We've spent the past eleven years trying to understand the differences in our child. It's been a long road full of wonderful doctors, teachers and other professionals. Hours and hours of testing and working on things and more money than I ever want to think about. Some of the varying professional  opinions over the years have been giftedness, ADD, OCD, mild sensory issues, and just like me, Noah struggles with anxiety, which colors it all. There is also a possibility that he inherited dysgraphia from my side of the family, which affects his ability to make his hand write what he wants easily. It is all just a jumbled puzzle of "maybes" and little answers, nothing that has ever added up to a sure explanation. 

Jon and I, our life, most of our conversations, they revolve around Noah and how can we help him, how can we solve him. It had always been hard work having a child who is not exactly typical, more ridged, but this year, this year has just been exhausting. Last week, after a second expensive test in the past six months that has made little sense and only added more unanswered questions, we were both left with a heavy feeling of hopelessness. The feeling that if professionals can't explain it, then we'll never understand ourselves. We felt sick by the stress and worried and both of us had terrible tension headaches by the end of the week.

That's when one night, around 3:00am, after the second confusing test, Jon woke me up.........

"What if he said..." "What if we stop ruining ourselves trying to figure out what is exactly going on with Noah, and JUST ACCEPT HIM AS NOAH?" "What if we stop trying to change and fix him, but teach to who he is, parent him to who he is?"  This simple thought was a life-changing idea for us. After a decade of swimming up stream, why don't we just go with the current and surrender?

Of course this doesn't mean giving up on seeking help and understanding, but it means instead of digging deeper and deeper for the mythical reasons for this trait or that, we just focus more on WHO he is and how we can help. 

I laid there in the dark, Jon's words rolling around in my head. I thought about what happened this past weekend, when we had plans to visit my Mother and Father-in-law in Toledo, which is an hour's car ride away. For several reasons, we hadn't seen each other in an uncharacteristically long time, it was a much anticipated visit. Then though, when the time came to leave the house and head down to Toledo, Noah went into panic mode. We could not get him to leave the house. I don't know what we were thinking, making plans to visit. We knew that Noah had developed a fear of freeways last summer, when he became carsick on a trip up north. As recently as last month, Jon and Noah planned their annual father-son trip to the Detroit Autoshow, but Noah's anxiety kept him from getting on the freeway. It was heartbreaking for Jon and I to see Noah so scared and unable to get into the car. It was also embarrassing, we worried that we must look like parents with "no control over their child."  We felt like people wouldn't understand (of course my Mother and Father-in-law completely understood without any judgment, only love) but still, we felt terrible, and this similar situation has happened over and over and over for years. Travel, birthday parties, day camps, playdates, school, crowded places....

On a happy note! Here's the magical thing about choosing to surrender.......when we turned our focus from "why is this happening?" to "ok, how do we move forward in our own way?", eventually Noah back on the freeway ! Once we truly took stock of Noah's fears and his needs, and called off the day trip down to Toledo, things started to improve. We talked and talked and walked outside in the fresh air and talked and talked some more. Together the three of us came up with incentives to help Noah face his fears. Amazingly, later that night, after dinner, Noah was willing and ready to try riding on the freeway for one exit! This was huge. He hasn't been on the freeway since last August! Once we took the pressure off, once we stopped fighting, once we surrendered to what is, there was room for growth! One exit ramp's worth. :)

One ramp on, to the next exit ramp and off. The deal was, if he could do it, we'd all celebrate with ice cream and playing some Wii, and he did it! We worked on all the breathing techniques and the relaxation tools and the CBT principals with him and he did it!!!

NOT ONLY THAT....but Noah wanted to try going FARTHER!! So we got right back onto the freeway and drove for ten miles.
Yep, and now Noah says that, and I quote: "That riding on the freeway is actually relaxing." LOL!!!
I'm so proud of my guy.

I found this article on Parenting a Child With Anxiety very profound.

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Not only were tests and freeways causing stress, but as much as I love the concept of homeschooling, Noah is often unfocused and not very motivated to learn for me. (It seems though, for what it's worth, it was usually similar in a school setting for him too.)  It's a long, slow process, and takes a lot of energy to get an ADD child to comply and complete their work. Noah has expressed all along that he would like the option to possibly go back to school in the fall. So,with the end of March  looming just ahead, the time when he is supposed begin the admissions process with a visit for observation and tests, I need to prepare him. That means being up to speed on math and other subjects. It's been a daily struggle to get Noah to willingly cover all of the material. This constant push and pull has made him sad and stressed and both of us sometimes resentful of being stuck homeschooling in this way.

(What learning and life can be like for a child with ADHD. I've been there myself.)

It had been a really really difficult week last week, and we were ready for some kind of game-changer, and once again, the answer turned out to be simply..... Surrendering.

If I could change my views on parenting Noah and on homeschooling in general, then why could I not challenge my opinions of HOW I  should be homeschooling? I have certainly become well versed over the past year on all of the many styles of homeschooling. The classical, the unschooling, the Charlotte Mason type. The unit studies, the traditional, the interest-lead, the Waldorf and us, the eclectic homeschoolers, I've researched them all! I've tried them all, trying to figure out which teaching and learning style suits my child the most. Yet here I was, frantically buying the same exact math books that his former school uses and trying to cover the same science that they were currently doing, just to give him a chance to be re-admitted. All along KNOWING that the "school at home" approach was just pushing Noah away and causing so much stress for both of us. All things equal,  if I could follow the style that seems to call to both of us, it would be interest-led, eclectic, with a dash of unschooling thrown in. My mind keeps saying "as long as Noah wants the opportunity to perhaps return to his old school though, we must keep up, I need to keep pushing."

But this is Noah, and just as one of his therapists recently said: "Too much pressure to complete work and to jump over hurdles makes him shut down, and too little pressure leads to no motivation. It is a difficult balancing act." It's a tricky thing, getting an ADD kid to succeeded. So this week, I decided surrender again. 

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Since September I have tried many many different "curricula" types. We started by pulling from some great workbooks, classic novels and videos from the library.  I fell in love with the Life Of Fred Math curriculum  (so did Noah) and the humorous math and grammar books by Dan Greenberg. We tried a unit study, an inclusive online curriculum, and various computer based grammar and math sites. (In another post I'd love to go more in-depth on those. We've just tried so many)!
Educational netflix programing has become our friend and getting a membership with Education.com has left me with endless worksheets in every subject. (Noah prefers worksheets surprisingly). The biggest game-changer for us though, was purchasing an all-inclusive curriculum, minus math, from Moving Beyond the Page.

Moving Beyond the Page is a fantastic literature-based curriculum that promotes critical thinking skills in a unit studies format. It's very hands-on and project heavy as well. Each unit includes it's own a science text/workbook and a Social Studies/Language Arts text/workbook. The most amazing part though, is that you are provided with tons and tons of hand picked educational books, both fiction and non-fiction to go along with each unit. Also included are many novels. The books bring everything to life! And this is before you get to the materials kits....! Terra Cotta colored clay to reproduce native American pots, kits to make dream catchers, the classic computer game "Oregon Trail," boxes of tools to carry out science experiments, a see-through model of the human body, complete with "squishy guts." It's great!


(This is everything that came. Workbooks, textbooks, literature and materials kits.)

(Here are the Language Arts text/work books.)


(And there are the Social Studies/Science books.)


(These are the novels for this year.)

(These are the nonfiction resources.)

(Here are more science books and materials.)

(And yet more hands-on materials....)


This is a good example of the kinds of projects that Moving Beyond the Page has you doing. We started with a unit on the geography of the united states. When we got to the western states, one of the activities was to roll out sugar cookie dough and use a stencil that we made to trace the region. The circles of dough on the cookie sheet are just extra, and the big blob, well, you might be able to just make out is  California with Oregon and Washington on top. LOL.


Next, Noah had to bake the cookie and frost the land with green icing. He pipped in blue icing for major rivers of the west, traced rough outlines of the states and places chocolate chips for mountains and red hots for major cities. Cool, right!?


We also studied Native American culture. We watched a video on traditional pottery techniques of the   Pueblo Indians and used terra cotta colored sclupey to simulate natural clay from the southwest.
We even went to a pottery workshop shortly after and spoke with a potter about special stones that some native cultures used to smooth and shine their pieces. It was great!



For some reason this is as far as I had gotten on this post and so I think I shall just leave it here!


Until next time, go with the flow and try to enjoy the ride. :)
xoxoxoxoxoxox,
Lauren



















4 comments :

TempestKnits said...

Hi! I think acceptance is a better word than surrendering. I had a similar experience with my son Zack (who is now 20, by the way)! We did the rounds of tests, starting when he was in pre school. Zack's diagnosis is Semantic Pragmatic Disorder (high functioning autism). By the time we had a 'diagnosis', it really didn't matter anymore. Zack is and always will be Zack. He is just an incredible person! It has been hard and there have been highs and lows, but the biggest thing we instilled in Zack is that yes, you CAN do anything you want to if you try. And keep on trying! Zack is now studying for a degree in Engineering at college. He goes every day on the train by himself,has a great circle of friends (his best friend from high school didn't even know about his diagnosis until recently. He was like 'and so what bro'?). By the time Zack was in High School, he was doing everything to ditch his learning support assistant - literally giving her the slip as he went to class. We had a meeting and she said 'Zack has found his wings. Now we need to let him fly solo', and so we did. And boy, did he fly! Noah will too. Trust me, he WILL find his wings! A diagnosis, in the end, will not change the incredible human being that he is, or the potential to love others and to grow and to fly out into the world (in his own time, when he's comfortable). My advice is just to keep on loving, no matter what. And encouraging. And learning to ACCEPT. Much, much love to you, your Husband and Noah from us here in Scotland. xxx

Lauren said...

Hi TempestKnits!!!

Oh my gosh, you are so so right. Thank you. ACCEPTANCE is such a better word than "Surrender." I want to make it know to all my readers that beyond anything, we accept Noah for Noah, and love him just the way he is! You're right though. I used "surrender" as word to describe the way that Jon and I decided to stop fighting and just go with what was. I don't mean it as having to surrender to any part of Noah, but just for us to stop fighting and struggling.

Thank you so much for you sharing your story about Zach. That brought me hope and a huge smile!!! :)
I love his "so what bro?" Ha! That is GREAT!

I appreciate your input and advice and will hold it close to my heart. Thank you so much again.
xoxoxoxo

Outrageous wonderful said...

Lauren, thank you for being so brave and real.

Lauren said...

Thank you for saying so Outrageous Wonderful! <3