Homeschooling – so far….

I’ve just come home from a massage. Yes – the last time I came home from a massage to write my blog post “Forth Time Lucky” – that was full on – wine, tears and typing. So best be ready.

Sol has been homeschooled for 6 weeks now. I’m going to list the positives and the negatives to date:

POSITIVES

  • Sol struggled to hold a pencil or pen properly to write. Granted he is just 5 years old but without consistent OT intervention, I wasn’t sure how this would improve in a school setting. At home, Sol has a slanted writing board where he can clip on paper. He has a seat with a non-slip cushion and a foot roller that allows him to regulate his sensory processing and this means he can comfortably FOCUS on trying to write with the correct pencil grip. He would probably NOT have this in a group classroom at school.
9e412609-192a-458e-857b-30b035f8276a
Sol can Write!
  • There are no distractions. Sol’s dyspraxia means that with lots of noise and movement, he is very easily distracted. He is not able to focus on multiple requests. He needs one request at a time. With NO distraction, Sol can execute what is asked of him. A recent social experiment – Sol and I were in a busy cafe and a good friend came up to say HI and ask Sol how he was doing. Despite the fact that Sol knows this person very well, he was not able to answer. Thirty minutes later, the cafe had cleared out somewhat and our friend came back to speak with Sol again, and then Sol commenced to communicate without distraction.
  • No distractions mean that Sol is picking up speed on areas that he was behind in when he was in a classroom setting. My concerns were that he was behind on reading and writing and in SIX WEEKS, I do not have those concerns anymore. Can I just say that this realisation is worth the anxiety of starting Sol in homeschooling. Sol is starting to read and understand sounds and language, as well as transfer this across to writing words and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
  • Sol can take “sensory breaks” as and when he needs it. There is overwhelming research and support  to show that young children cannot be expected to sit still for longer than 15 mins. Sol can easily do 15 mins or more at home but we make it part of his learning to take a break on the trampoline or some playtime outside and “recap” his lesson while he is moving. Just think about that a second – how many people do you know that use exercise or movement to help them work through an issue, problem or idea? I know I do it!
  • Sol is surrounded by teachers and specialists with his best interests in mind. We are able to curate a curriculum that puts Sol’s strengths and interests first. This means that he will not be learning anything that bores the shit out of him and things that he may not have been interested in before are now made interesting to him and in a way that he can understand and learn.
  • While I was initially hesitant that Sol would not be having school “everyday” like a neurotypical kid, this has turned out to be a blessing. Sol has 12 hours of lessons – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. This leaves Tuesdays and Thursdays to focus on his Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Swimming, Playdates and other activities. Sol also has Visual Therapy twice a week and this is quite intense (separate post coming). So in a nutshell, Sol’s FULL education is well balanced and we don’t have to try and fit in all his specialised sessions after school hours when he would be way too tired to get much out of them.
  • Sol is consistently praised and encouraged for his efforts. His self esteem and his willingness to learn remain as high as they ever were. On the days he doesn’t have Ms Rachel, he is often in his classroom, sitting at his desk, doing his “homework” as he likes to call it.
  • We use technology to compliment his learning. We have apps and programs that allow Sol to interact in a less formal way with lessons and keep him abreast of learning with technology. It is very likely that Sol will require a laptop if he re-enters the school system. At his age in a classroom setting, this would be unlikely. Once the schools catch up and realise that differently wired kids respond well to learning through technology, then we may consider going back. Sol will always struggle to write and it will take him longer and that is a part of his challenge – why make him suffer for it if he can get all his ideas down on a laptop from the get-go?
05fb66e0-56c8-4a89-bde3-b1fbab95fc3d
Learning through technology
  • While I work full-time, I have a certain amount of flexibility in my hours and destinations – I can pop in and see Sol at home! We might have lunch together or a mid-afternoon cuddle.
  • Sol doesn’t need a haircut now. If he was still at school, I think we’d need to keep his gorgeous curls contained. As he’s at home, we are going to let our little dude grow his amazing hair. Skater boy! Here we come.

There are probably a few more positives and as these present themselves, I can update in another blog.

NEGATIVES

I’m going to address the biggest one last as this is where my TRUE message for today lies.

  • Hang on, give me a second to think of one.
  • Got it! Nope, the one I was thinking about was that we didn’t get access to a school library anymore but then I remembered that my daughter is at an International School and as a parent, I can take books out of the library and so we do! In fact, Sol and I went there together and we can take out 10 books at a time. Sorted.
  • If I expand on the book-thing a little, I loved the association the schools have with the Scholastic Book Club order. And luckily my BFF can help me out with ordering books too.
  • Do I have access to materials for art, craft etc. HELL YES! Check this out! TWINKLS

So, our biggest “perceived” negative and the one I can see concerns MOST parents that ask me about Sol’s homeschooling experience is the “lack of socialisation”. Let me frame how this could have also been our biggest concern. While Sol was at pre-school, he had a ton of friends and an insane playdate schedule. Sol was loved by teachers and kids alike. He is a kind, funny, sweet kid and this draws people to him, particularly those that take the time to get to know him. Sol adores his buddies.

As the socialisation of kids Sol’s age continues in the school environment, I’ve noticed that Sol is not sure how to relate to the “style” of play of his friends. Words like “dumb, stupid, bad guy and you can’t play with us” are some of the things I have heard recently directed at Sol.  I went to an average school where bullying was common and “kids were kids”. I even had a bully who targeted me and to this day, I remember the feelings of anxiety of walking home after school thinking that my bully was going to attack me verbally and sometimes physically. We were taught to believe that we should just handle it and it would eventually go away and if it didn’t, then you arranged a “face off” with your bully and just fought it out. Which sounds horrifying when I think about either of my kids having to physically protect them selves from some asshole.

I have friends with kids at school who are being bullied or have been bullied. And this includes isolation.  While schools have implemented “anti-bullying” days and processes by which a kid can gain support if they feel they are targeted, it’s the “words” that are hurting our kids the most. In every class there is an “alpha male or female” who owns the power to grow or slay their classmates with a few choice words. And I don’t mean “choice” like us Kiwis use the word “choice” (meaning awesome, amazing). The alphas are the ones you want to be friends with because then, like the caveman days, you’ll be protected and you’ll ultimately survive. And school is like that. If you are alpha, popular, funny, good looking and smart in a neurotypical way, then you will survive and thrive the school system.

How does this pervasive caveman mentality continue year-on-year in our schools? When did I become “that mum” who advocates for the “underdog”? Do I want for my child to be subjected to that type of behaviour? HELL NO! Does this make me an over-protective parent. Well, probably, but let’s just dive a little into “what is over-protective”?

Knowing that my child has a learning challenge and will struggle in a noisy, busy environment and this will make him “stand out” as different and not “good-different” but set him up for ridicule and isolation – I choose to shelter him a little longer until he has his “witty, appropriate responses” to the ignorants that try to dim his light.

I believe that my choices for Sol will positively impact his world and the world at large. This kid is going to change lives because he will continue to be kind, sweet, empathetic, open minded and not isolated. The state of the world today indicates that we need more people like Sol. The greatest gift I can give Sol is to understand his gifts, his challenges, how his brain works and to not shy away from his uniqueness. I don’t need him to know as a 5-year old that he doesn’t “fit in” or that there is “something wrong”. I want for him to grow with confidence in who he is, own it, share it and not be judged in a negative way for it – just like every single parent I know.

IMG_20180921_120538_029.jpg

 

 

Sister Love

I’m Jazz, Sol’s older sister by eight years. My mum asked me to write for her blog. Not sure if its because she’s run out of things to write about or whether writing this blog post for her was another bribe so that I could enjoy back-to-back sleepovers – LOL.

So here goes –  being Sol’s sister… if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never noticed much of a difference between me and my friends who also have annoying wreckless younger brothers. I mean at the end of the day, they pull hair and kick faces just the same right? Well of course with Sol, all of those things were slightly delayed (which worked out in my favor), and I did have a few extra months that I was able to bask in the fact that no one was calling me a stupid poo bum face 24/7, but I do think that just like any other sibling relationship, very, very, very deep down, Sol loves me. I believe that part of the reason I have never noticed a super obvious difference between Sol and other boys his age was because I’ve never really had a basis for comparison. And while part of this was because I’ve always hidden in my room while Sol had friends over so that I wouldn’t be called to clean up after him (which believe me is very annoying), another part is because I had wanted a sibling for so long that I didn’t really care who he was or what he was diagnosed with as long as I had someone to cuddle with and read books to and laugh about our parents with.

38af7aa8-a8a7-4b7e-80ed-178aee3aa977

Like any other brother and sister, Sol and I have had our fair share of ups and downs, which usually ends up with him down on the ground because I’m incapable of letting anyone beat me at a fight or, in that case, pretty much anything. There are moments where he’ll come into my room reenacting scenes from movies and asking me to play along – like the time when he was three years old. He came into my room at 6 am, lay on top of me, and asked me if “I want to build a snowman”. Or the time we were having a family dinner, I can’t remember what we were discussing and Sol just chimes in with “Are we going talk about the elephant in the room?” and looks at us all very seriously. And then the time we were arguing over something (again I don’t remember what) and he says “You can’t tell me what to do! You don’t know me!” LOL – well, actually I do buddy. But there are also moments where I’ll get kisses for no reason, or he’ll come into my room late at night asking to sleep with me because he’s scared of “the monsters” in his room.

I still remember when Sol had gone for his MRI and Mom had sent us no less than a billion pictures of him with wires of every color sticking from his tiny coconut head, making him look like some odd alien with a big goofy smile staring at the camera. I didn’t even have to be in the room to know that my mom was probably cooing at him so she could take the perfect photo.

One of the things that I’ve always admired about Sol is that he never fails to get up and try again.  He’s less coordinated than the average 5-year-old but this has never stopped him from trying to flip off our couches or literally climb and bounce off the walls, but every time he falls, he gets back up. He’s always ready for trying new things and literally has NO FEAR. Believe me when I say he’s had his fair share of knocks on the head, cuts, and bruises, but not once has he let any of it stop him from trying again or trying something that he’s never done before.  I believe that even that in itself is something that many adults could do well to learn. Anyways, I could go on and on about how much Sol impresses me on the daily when he comes up with new lines and arguments on why he deserves new toys, or even just how good he is at always being himself, but I am going to say that despite everything, I do think that Sol is the very best brother I could ever ask for and I Iove him so much.

0be64433-88c6-49c3-b73f-c58e809a879f

 

-Jazz (13)

Forth time lucky!

76113_340927509349813_1004484087_n

Sol has an older sister. Her name is Jazz and she is eight years older than him. “That’s quite a gap!” – I get that a lot. I was 34 years old when I fell pregnant with Jazz. Is there another way to describe “falling” pregnant that doesn’t have a negative connotation. The “falling” feels like getting sick, dropping out of life or maybe I just think too much! Getting pregnant and being pregnant was a breeze. I was fit and continued to exercise and teach group classes right up till 8 months. Granted this was some time ago and living in Malaysia, I would often get comments of concern or suggestions that I NOT lift those weights/ride that bike/go for that swim. I distinctly remember a disgusted club member walking away from a class I was about to teach after asking me if I was going to be the instructor that day. There is so much irony in this as the ladies in the rice fields of Vietnam or Bali are working up till D-day, pop out the little one, strap them on their back and carry on without blinking an eye.

Jazz was an easy, happy and social baby. I was working and traveling and she came with me and our amazing nanny, Tina. Three years pass by and we began the discussion to add to our family. I was 38 years old and it might be a good time to try again before the big 4-0.

I got pregnant quickly again and at 6 weeks, just as quickly miscarried . That sucked but then I was quite pragmatic and accepting of my age that this might happen. I recovered well. I was pregnant again within the year and things were going to plan. 9 weeks and another miscarriage. Needing a D&C this time, which made the whole situation a bit more dramatic and drawn out for recovery, both physically and emotionally. But I did recover and we were determined to keep trying. However, my body didn’t “reset” and the monthly cycles never came.

I was studying for an MBA at this time and I was on 6-week cycles for papers, assignments and exams. Every 6-weeks after a unit, we would have a 3-hour exam and then straight after start learning the next unit. It was really full on but I relished the learning.

I had my “Carrie” moment half way through the Marketing exam. I distinctly remember writing about Lance Armstrong and his “Livestrong” project when it felt like someone had dumped a pail of warm water on my nether regions. I looked down and was horrified to see that I was bleeding, just like that bloody movie! I was wearing a pair of jeans and I had a dark jacket which I quickly wrapped around my waist. I was also sitting right up the front of the class and the exit door is at the back. I started to shake and then I  started to process my situation. Do I feel sick? Dizzy? Do I think I can keep going?

I called over one of the administrators and quietly explained the situation – I had had some surgery 12 weeks back and it looked like I was bleeding heavily. SHE (yes, some respite, it was a SHE), asked me how I was feeling, if she could escort me to the bathroom and once we were outside, she asked me what I would need and if I wanted to postpone the exam and resit another day. Since I had managed to comfortably walk outside without any side effects and I wasn’t feeling any worse, I asked her to help me get some pads with reinforcements and I would attempt to finish my exam. And I did – I finished the exam, continued to bleed, calmly walked to my car, called Dave and then drove to the hospital. Verdict? Retained product of conception – basically, the D&C did not remove all the “product” of the last pregnancy and my body thought it was still pregnant and continued to act as though it was nourishing a new life. A blood test confirmed that my pregnancy hormone levels had not dropped and were present in my system. So, in for another D&C (insert expletive). And more recovery time and another year passes.

My body DID reset itself and I was pregnant again – on my 40th birthday. I celebrated my birthday in Bali with friends and family and a small 10 week baby bump…..and no alcohol. But we had an amazing time.

36098_403716561779_5669028_n

Due to my advanced age and that I was now a “geriatric pregnant women”, I had to undergo all the tests plus some. My blood test at 8 weeks indicated that I had a 1/50 chance of a chromosomal issue so I was promptly booked for a amniocentesis at 14 weeks. I mean, come on! 1 in 50 chance of a problem? That means 49 chances that everything is OK right?

Dave and I went to the appointment for the amnio. Our gynae prepped me and then started to search for the heart so that the needle would be in the right place to extract fluid. A few minutes pass and she’s not chattering away like she normally does. I know it before she tells me – no heartbeat. My first thoughts are not of me or the baby but how horrible it must be for our doctor to have to tell us that the baby has died. She looks disappointed and I feel like I’ve disappointed her for the third time – 2 miscarriages and now this! Dave and I hold each other and cry and she leaves us in the room. I am so grateful he is there. Through the shock and pain, we manage to pull ourselves together and sit with the doctor to discuss how this could have happened. Of course, I’ll need another D&C and I requested if we could find out “how and why” our baby died. She confirmed that they would be doing tests. To cut to the chase on the test results, our baby had the chromosome for Downs Syndrome. DS has a spectrum of severity and for a baby to self-abort, this indicates that they were on the spectrum for the most severe. How does one process this information? This is very personal and this is how I did it.

I do not ask myself if I knew I was having a Downs Syndrome child, that we would would continue with the pregnancy. That question and decision was removed for me when our baby died. And that is the only pain I have to live and deal with. I have a greater amount of empathy and heart for those parents that actually do need to make a decision on whether to carry on with a pregnancy when they know their child will have major life challenges. I have NO judgement for those who decide that the burden may be too large, for themselves or for their other children, if they have any. This was my greatest lesson through my experience. I can not and will never judge another persons decision to keep or abort. I do not make any political or moral statement here because this is not about politics or right and wrong – this is about MY life experience. And this was one of the most painful experiences I have gone through. So at 40 years old and not sure if we will or can have another child. Oh, and he was a boy….

I had a bad knee. It was time to fix it. I was still young and I could recover well if I got on with it, rather than wait till I was closer to 50 or 60. I had an ACL replacement and stem cell injections to rebuild the years of cartilage damage I had inflicted through running long miles and jumping repetitively. The surgery went well and the rehab was aggressive – 4 hours per day, every day, for 6 weeks and then I could start hydrotherapy. I was 8 weeks deep into the stem cell injections when the thought crossed my mind that I could be pregnant. When you’ve been pregnant a few times, you get attuned to that niggling thought and that strange sensation in your body that you might be “with child”. Before I took a pregnancy test, I went out for dinner with my fellow stem cell buddies (all of us on crutches!), had a glass of wine thinking it might be my last for a while and then hobbled into the pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test. Didn’t sleep well that night.

5.30AM – Pregnant. At 42. With crutches. My heart wouldn’t stop racing. This was crazy!

I changed doctors. I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to my previous doctor with the history and fear we shared. My new doctor looked through my history and put me on progesterone injections. I was referred to Dr Ramen, a lovely older doctor who specialised in advanced maternal pregnancies at FGMC.  Dr Ramen assured me that 42 years old was fine and that my history did not necessarily mean that this pregnancy would end badly. My blood test came back at 1/250 this time – a good sign. And I was able to have a CVS at 11 weeks. This meant that before my first trimester and before I told ANYONE we were pregnant, I would know that our bubs was going to be OK and the pregnancy would be viable.

Dr Ramen called me with the results as we were traveling to Bali for our summer break adventure. He confirmed that our baby was genetically fine and that we were having a boy. I cried with relief on the way to the airport and committed to doing all I could to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

482996_340927099349854_261900431_n

Sol was born on 30th January 2013, 8 years after our beautiful daughter. The pain, heartbreak, surgeries and healing have long been forgotten when he smiles at me. Sol has healed my soul and has entered our lives to teach all of us a new way to view the world. And while life with Sol is not as easy as it is with neurotypical kids, I would not change a thing.

820651_345384762237421_127579172_o