Micah has been having a really hard time with school. Oh, not the academics (never the academics), but with pretty much everything else.
If you have ever had a situation in which your kid is struggling to fit in, you know exactly how heartbreaking that can be. If you’ve ever seen something like your kid chasing after other kids because they won’t play with him, you know that particular brand of pain, don’t you. It’s like no other.
Things reached a tipping point at the end of the year, and Micah’s voice, always kind of raspy, simply went away.
I thought he might have a cold or something, but I was suspicious because it was weird to me that his voice was gone when there so much hurt happening with him. It was weird to me that he lost his method of communication right as he was told by some kids that they didn’t want to communicate with him.
We left and some time passed and his voice came back, but I noticed that in any situation in which he was scared or nervous or his mojo was gone – so was his voice.
It just left.
I signed Micah up for a week-long day camp in town and had him interact with other kids there. He had a blast. He made friends. His voice was back.
I am leaning strongly on homeschooling Micah next year.
For one, if he goes back to school, he’s going to be with the same teacher in the same class with the same dynamics. I simply don’t think he should go through that again. There are some things you want to struggle and persevere in life for, but I don’t think pushing through a situation like this with a kid as sensitive (and young) as Micah is one of them. I don’t think you should push through that when there are sure alternatives that will give him friends, a solid education and creative freedom.
This is what my gut says, but it’s hard to not out-guess myself.
Moxie started school yesterday at The Best School Ever.
I have a confession to make: I don’t actually tell you the FULL TRUTH about The Best School Ever and it’s because after reading everyone’s blog posts and Facebook updates on the living hell that most schools make life for parents (- especially life for a parent of a child with a disability), I feel GUILTY because holy Mother, we scored here.
Maybe I should be a little more honest just because then you know that something like this actually exists in the world? And might give you hope and also some juju power to not accept less?
I don’t know.
But this is the ratio in Moxie’s class: 14 kids to THREE TEACHERS. Yeah, that boils down to almost (almost!) 5 kids per teacher. 5 small people per blessed teacher.
I love it. And her teachers? They bring to the table pro-farming skills, massage therapy and horse therapy! The master teacher of the class has a background in Special Education and these young people get to do all kinds of Waldorf-y, Montessori-y stuff like learn to garden, play with wood blocks, paint, art, art, art, art, art and learn Spanish. The school “sanitizer” has Down syndrome and is a presence by hanging out with the kids (- his nephew is in Moxie’s class) and also teaches them sign language.
It’s “win” all over the place and we feel doused in a cauldron of Luck, simmered in Good Fortune and double dipped in Gratitude.
But enough talk. Here are the photos from yesterday:
We arrived at school, Moxie went into her room and her eyes seemed to expand and take up exactly half of her face. She looked around, taking in the art centers, the playdough table, the puzzles, the blocks, all of these things she loves to play with – and the little children running around doing what little kids do – and she looked at me and lovingly sighed, “Maaaaaaaaaaaaa……”. Heaven in a room for this chica.
Meanwhile, however, MacQ was missing her something fierce.
He cradled Moxie’s “Boots” for a good long time, wandered around and asked for her.
The entire school – all 50 people? – had assembled in a circle under the large oak tree. There was a round of introductions, all the kids introduced themselves, the adults too. The principle went over a couple of new things (- like, Friday afternoon will be when we all clean the school together!), and told everyone to think about the rules they wanted to make for our school this year. Someone chimed in that there were rules already and she nodded and said, yes, there are rules now and we are going to think of what we all want for this year… so think about that and you’ll talk about it in your classes.
It’s just like, Oh. My. God. This is a public school?!!! You know?!! Can it get better than this? At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the principle was really a unicorn changeling and the school was really the spot at the end of rainbows.
Moxie will be starting next week and MacQuinn will start next year.
Love. This. School.
– and so does he, our brand-spankin’ new FIRST GRADER!!!
So after we were totally blown away with meeting everyone from The Best School Ever, we had to wait around 10 days to start anything (on account of their Spring Break and all). When school re-opened, there we were, waiting by the door with some big smiles on.
Micah went on in and has not looked back. We put him in kindergarten because he was gravitating towards the two other kids his age (- yes, two…!!!). There are 7 kids in his mixed-grade class, ranging from Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.
Even though he’s attending and hasn’t looked back, it’s not all easy. He has hit some bumps in his road, namely that the other kids are not into Transformers or Star Trek. I think there a couple of kids in the school (- not his class, mind, the school) who are into Star Wars. As it is in all places, the kids here have their collective interests (and very cool interests I think they are, by the way: building cars for rallies, creating shields for play, soccer and good ole’ dirt n’ cars).
He gets upset thinking that the other kids don’t like him, or when they don’t want to play with him.
We do some walking through that stuff, reframing it to tell a new story. Instead of “the kids don’t like me, noone wants to play with me”, we go for, “it takes time to make friends. I’ve only been a short while and I’ve already gotten to know quite a lot of kids. It’s going to take time for them to get to me and for me to get to know them. I’m sure we will find things we like about each other. I already like soccer a lot more than I used to. I look forward to this time next year when we are all good friends and not everything is so new….” – etc.
Little by little, right?
I’m cool with him homeschooling or staying at home – but every.single.time I offer to let him stay home, he flat out refuses, “NO WAY!” – Despite his occasional bummed-out sessions on who-plays-with-what-and-whom, he LOVES SCHOOL. So much so that I can even use it as bait, “now, Micah, if you don’t put your clothes away, I’m not sure we can let you go to school…”
Moxie started with the preschool class with The Best Pre-School Teacher, ever. I was there, right along with MacQuinn. We loved the class and the teacher BUT – yes, there is a BUT, there is a huge BUT that is in the form of MANY LITTLE BOYS. The class has around 7 little boys and only 1 other girl. The little boys are like Micah was at that age, in fact, Micah’s going to have a blast when school starts next year and all these boys will be joining his class!
But for Moxie, the class we tried next, the pre-pre-K (2-3 year olds) was a lot more fun. The kids in the class were into the same stuff she is, puzzles, DORA, bikes, DORA, painting, DORA, blocks, DORA, crafts, DORA, gardening, DORA…. [full disclosure: the other kids don’t walk around saying “Ooo-RA” but they have Dora’s mug on their goods, so there’s some Dora-love going on for sure)
This is part of the school garden – and it’s while Moxie’s teacher was in the process of revamping it. UNBELIEVABLE, right? 80% goes to the kid’s school lunches, you can see the cafeteria cook walking outside with her big bowl, collecting the veggies she’ll be using in their lunch… I was nibbling on spinach back there and got a huge hankering for more – it was so thick and juicy! I’ve never had spinach like that! Have you? It’s always really thin and spindly when we buy it – Micah brought a bag home, YUM
Back to Moxie! Sorry, I’m kind of all over the place today, aren’t I?
So she has a lot in common with the younger kids. We tried it out with her, Mac-Q and I, then just with her
Leaving her there was AGONIZING for me – of course she was just waving me bye without even looking at me, me and Mac-Q were just hanging out waiting…
Mac-Q was clearly THRILLED to be hanging out with me all by himself. This kid? Well, like my mom said, “Micah has the Transformers, Moxie has Dora and Mac has YOU.”
So the day came in which we were just going to drop off Moxie. No waiting around, just drop her off and pick her up at the end of the day.
It went GREAT.
She is so ready it almost makes me feel bad, like, I should have had her in school before…? But no, because this, The Best School Ever was not around and I would never have trusted her out of my sight in any another environment.
There is a BUT coming. Ready? Okay, here is it: BUT she can’t attend as a registered student.
Nope… you see, her teacher can only have 8 kids in her room and there are 8 kids registered. Moxie can only attend that class if someone is absent OR if I stay and help out. I thought I’d stay and help out but I found it so draining that I’ve pretty much chucked that idea. So at this point, Moxie has a class that is perfect for her and that she can attend when someone is absent.
While I’d like her to be in school because she loves it SO DAMN MUCH and because it’s absolutely wonderful to have a semi-break, it’s okay.
Mac-Q doesn’t have me all to himself but he’s cool.
I wanted to add that The Best Pre-School Teacher Ever made it very clear that she welcomed Moxie in her class and would help Moxie adjust… she was so wonderful and sweet about it that I was really tempted. After all, if Moxie was in her class, she would have a definite spot (- they don’t have the 8-child cap). But I really think Moxie would get lost in that mix.
The Best Pre-School Teacher ever will most likely be Moxie’s teacher in the next year, along with The Best Pre-Pre School Teacher ever (- they are talking about team teaching!!!!!). So we’ll wait.
Today we went to look into the local school for Micah.
MmmmHmmm. Yes, you read that right: school for Micah.
We were chancing on being The Worst Parents On Earth, enrolling him in school for the very first time ever in APRIL of the school year ending mid-June. I could just see him lying on the therapist’s couch in the future all, “YEAH, they had me start kindergarten in APRIL….”
So…… we were going to dip our foot in the water, see if he liked it – if he did, we’d try it out, if he didn’t, we wouldn’t make him go, totally up to him. This is all about what he wants, because we trust him to know what’s best for himself in this. He can decide.
My mom was visiting so she drove us to the school, which is about 10 winding, country one-lane miles away from us. We aren’t able to take Myrtle (our F350) because I am scared terrified to drive her on these roads (- something about not being able to see the road from the steering wheel, and the road being on steep switchbacks over long drops does that to me).
And where were we here? Right. I was telling you that we were headed to the school to check it out.
We drove around the school – it’s tiny! – past the high school greenhouses and little buildings, parked, and started to look for where we should be. Moxie saw the playground and went nuts trying to get to it, signing “play! Play!”- we kept a firm grip on her. MacQuinn was simply round eyed. Micah looked kind of hungry.
We found the principle, who also teaches high school, a pretty awesome looking lady with white hair and sensible glasses. Earth brand shoes 🙂 Super laid back vibe around her. She took us over to the class that would be Micah’s, but she kept on talking about a class for Moxie as well, the preschool which was the room next to Micah’s. I wasn’t particularly interested in putting Moxie in school, but she did keep talking about it and mentioned meeting the teacher and so forth.
We went into Micah’s room and, oh man…. those kids! There are under 10 students, mixed grades – kindergarten through 2nd grade. It seemed like everyone was missing teeth. They were so excited to meet our boy, welcoming him with “yay!” and big bright smiles. Happy questions and chatter.
The teacher looked like someone I’d like to be friends with. She had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen and was relaxed, friendly, professional. I immediately warmed to her.
…. and it was kind of surreal. I told her we have been traveling for half the year and will leave in September to travel again, “no problem,” she said, whipping out a curriculum from the closet, “this is our homeschooling curriculum – you can just follow this and stay in touch and come back to school when you can.”
The class was an outstanding mix of the high and low tech: I saw new looking computers with apps that we use on our ipads with barrels of beautiful books, arts and crafts materials, maps and more. I was thrilled.
We went outside for recess, the kids were catching a frog – for real! like who actually catches frogs in school anymore?! -, we went through the school, the kids have a garden, they learn to grow food, she said the preschool does too, they have a gorgeous space just for them, then she told me something about the preschool:
The preschool teacher concentrated in Special Education. I told her that I’m deaf and that Moxie has Down syndrome and she smiled and said that the school custodian has Down syndrome, he went through the whole school system right there and he comes into both Moxie and Micah’s class to teach ASL.
I couldn’t believe it.
Just then the preschool teacher came up with the class, introductions were made and I asked her about her concentration and she said yes, she majored in Special Education and she practices Horse Therapy too… only she doesn’t have any clients…. I said, “you do now” and then bust into tears, those big, fat happy, embarrassing tears of just, it’s just too much, you guys are so perfect and how can this happen in this crazy, magnificent world? How do we come on a school so tailor-made for us, utterly fitting in every regard for me, for my kids, for our family, for all of us, how does this happen, after we give up everything and leave and travel and then decide to be responsible and come back to work? And how is it that the best stuff is supposed to be in the city, in Berkeley, in San Francisco, in these places of ivory-tower-intellect and yet it’s NOT, it’s in the isolated rural areas like the Lost Coast in which the thrilling education is really taking place?
As I wiped my tears, the teacher was calling to Moxie who was watching the preschool class from the safety of her slide. They were all on the round circle thing you spin (I don’t know the name for it?) and she invited Moxie to come. After some hesitation, Moxie came, clambered up, they started spinning, Moxie wanted to push it, they stopped for her and Moxie got off and helped push. The kids were looking at her and she was looking at them and I’ve never seen my girl so interested in other kids, other kids so obviously interested in her.
It felt right.
A few more tears may have slipped out.
In a nutshell:
Micah can start school whenever we get our transport arranged
Moxie can too – IEP’s weren’t mentioned at all – if we need an aid, they said, they’ll get an aid, they know all about this, it’s not a big deal. Nothing is a big deal. They are just happy to have her
I can be there all day if I want, it’s an open-door policy for parents, and I can bring MacQuinn too
The entire school is probably 50 kids?
It’s all mixed level rooms
The older kids all read to the younger kids and interact with them. So the high school kids read to Micah’s class, Micah’s class reads to Moxie’s.
There is even some ethnic diversity there
The kids bike and garden!
The community is integrated with the school: they have car building and racing, egg hunts, etc. It’s kind of the way I think America was once, before towns exploded and people got nuts with suing and insurance and bullshit.
Both Micah and Moxie wll be attending now – we’ll be there as soon as we get a smaller truck or car to drive there.