Tag Archives: school

Still Holding Out for Normal

It’s called tempting fate. Opening my big fat mouth (or laptop) and waxing eloquent about how FABULOUS something is going to be (The Most Wonderful Time of the Year).

Maybe it’s a case of unrealistic expectations. Maybe it’s God keeping me humble, “Oh so now you think you’ve got it all figured out and don’t need me anymore?” …smite. Maybe it’s just life. Which is rarely as perfect as my daydreams.

As I prepared to embrace my first blissful full day of school, I made a crucial error. I set myself up for disappointment. I didn’t allow for that all-important adjustment period. You know, the weeks where I have to re-train the entire household to get off their butts and get their act together.

“What do you mean I have to take a drink to school? I’ve never taken a drink before.” Only every single day, always.

“My lips are really dry. I thought it was chapstick.” Bright red lipstick actually. Are we seriously dealing with this already, in Grade 5? I let her put blue streaks in her hair last week. Is this the slippery slope those pastors have been warning me about all these years?

“Everyone mismatches their socks Mom. It’s better that way.” I didn’t realize I was so out of touch. Thank you for informing me so graciously.

“Honey, your shoes are on the wrong feet, again.” Sheesh. Calm down. I love you just the way you are. You still look VERY pretty. Just leave them that way. We’re already running late.

2 head injuries, 3 wardrobe debates, 362 fishy crackers bagged, 1 leaking water bottle replaced, 4 minor sibling skirmishes and 5 really grumpy people piling into the van.

yay. school.

Let the bliss begin. Except little brother isn’t feeling it. At all. He keeps looking for his favourite entertainers/helpers/victims. What’s a boy to do with only boring old mom? Sure, we enjoyed more cuddles and book reading than usual. We played at the park and walked around the zoo and tried desperately to distract him from the fact that he really, really misses HIS normal.

So, I anticipated pick-up time. I counted down. I thought THIS would fix our day.

But B was at the end of her rope. She’s not used to such a long day away anymore. While she was enjoying her New Class, she isn’t quite as happy with her perfectly good New Teacher. She wants “Smelling!” (her grade 2 teacher). She wants a snack. She wants her blankie. She wants to watch a show. She wants to do anything but sit quietly while I make that all important First Contact with New Teacher. Who seems great, so that’s something.

Meanwhile, the boy is happily mauling his sisters. I think this means: “Hello. I missed you. Don’t ever leave me again.” But it feels a lot more like grabby, grabby hands, head butting and the occasional bite (ouch).

They are patient. But they are tired, too. And have a million things to tell me. Which I’m DYING to hear. Except there is only one of me. And the littles are melting down. And the garbagemen made a mess on our curb. And snack is REQUIRED IMMEDIATELY. And I wonder WHY I was looking forward to this…

We spend the evening corralling the boy, calming the weeping B, wiping up blood (when she picked open a bug bite on her face, and once again as she scraped her entire face on the side of the trampoline), encouraging our neighbour-friend who had a day of miserable-girl-drama for HER first day, assuring C that strict does not mean unkind (while secretly being pleased that she’ll be whipped into shape this year), discussing grade 7 grad plans with L (because it’s never to early to rub those fun plans in your sister’s face), and finally, shopping for some last-minute school supplies.

I was sure we had it all sorted out last week, but that’s just crazy-people thinking. There’s always something missing. I was so tired I went to the expensive dollar store. That’s right, there’s a MORE expensive one. A crazy splurge for me, but it is slightly closer and takes credit card. But even with two stops, I didn’t find everything. So we scrounged and rummaged and wondered where on earth all the stuff from last year went. I suspect the same place that our Wii remote, iPhone charging cord and DS player went (B likes to hide things put things away for me).

C will have to make do with my dictionary until I can find the “right” edition, which I’m pretty sure we’ve bought several times over at this point. I may have donated this last one to charity. Oops.

I try not to take it personally when she laughs and laughs at it being called the “New” Websters Expanded Dictionary. “It was made in, like, the 1900s Mom!”

AND I stubbed my toe.

So here’s me, and tomorrow I’m spending the day at Children’s Hospital with the boy. I’m pretty sure that’ll give me a boatload of perspective when it comes to all these petty irritations.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Never has a hand-me-down been so happily recieved by a little sister.
B wore the sparkly backpack all day and screamed for joy when we wrote her name inside it!

The commercials show jubilant parents skipping down the aisle caressing the Back-to-School supplies as they go. Petulant children trudge behind looking depressed. It’s an office supply store’s dream come true.

Mine too.

I often feel a bit guilty to number myself among those excited parents, thrilled to see September on the top of the calander. I have friends who lament the end of summer days with their beloved children. And I wonder, do I enjoy my children less?

But, I felt this way back in the days of homeschooling, when the end of summer “holiday” meant not less, but more time and interaction with my offspring.

It’s NOT that I don’t like spending time with my kids. Though, in all honesty, every moment of hands on parenting is not blissfull and life affirming. Admittedly, I relish the idea of a quieter house and days where I don’t have to extend my bathroom breaks to protect my solitude-craving soul. But, I miss them too. And I hate not having the inside track on all the goings on. Despite my daily bribes, “you must tell me 3 things about your day before you get an after school snack”, I don’t hear about everything they are doing (or not doing… yes, I’m talking about that spelling homework, C).

I felt this way as a school kid myself. I loved the crisp white pages of an untouched notebook. I loved neatly lining up all of my supplies. I even loved packing that very first bag lunch of the year. What can I say, I’m a total nerd.

It’s NOT that I don’t enjoy the freedom of summer. Lazy mornings, trips to the beach, family holidays, letting Glen cook dinner for a change (sorry honey, I don’t know which button to push on this thing and you are SO good at barbecuing)… Every week brings some new adventures and the kids have time for uninterrupted play (the thing I miss most about homeschooling). This used to be elaborate forts and pretend games, but lately it’s been building sets and designing costumes for their latest movie.

The truth is, I miss normal. I miss routine. I miss predictable. I miss knowing what each day is going to hold. And I know my kids do too, though they claim loudly that the only good thing about it is seeing all their friends. They thrive when things go according to plan. Even my free spirit sleeps better and gets her chores done with minimal drama when things are back to normal.

We line up the pictures on B’s weekly calander and she can see which days are school and when she gets to go horseback riding or have speech therapy or swimming. She knows what happens next and she is so much better behaved. Just like her mom.

So, today as I snap the requisite “first-day-of-school” photo at the front door, it’s not the new backpacks and carefully considered outfits that put that hopeful smile on their faces (and mine). It is a giant sigh of Back-to-Normal relief!

So here’s me, definitely in need of a brand new notebook. It’s unnatural to be this jealous of a 7th grader.

Teacher, Teacher, Can You Teach Me?

Petty Tyrants. Jaded Clock-Punchers. Half-Assed Retirees in Training. Sexual Predators.

There are plenty of reasons to worry about the kind of teacher your child has. I can never forget that it was my Grade 2 teacher who taught me that grown ups can be mean, really mean.

Three years ago, we traded in our home school lifestyle. It was daunting delegating some of our children’s education to perfect strangers, especially our (then) nonverbal and sometimes challenging youngest. We went a bit overboard researching schools in the area – and got mixed reviews for every single one.

I’m not such a Pollyanna that I don’t realize the frustrated/disappointed/outraged stories are often true, or at least have some element of truth/hurt/miscommunication to them. I’ve had my own scuffle over speech therapy in our school district.

But we have good stories to tell too. And too often those are ignored or downplayed. They aren’t nearly as entertaining as the Bad Teacher tales, after all.

We are very happy with our little country school. The teachers there are the good sort. And we think they can teach us something too.

The Gentle Encourager: The Grade 6 teacher is a quietly enthusiastic, fun-loving and genuinely sweet lady. When I close my eyes, this is the kind of woman I imagine my eldest will be someday. It’s a good daydream.

The Challengers: We’ve seen a sharp increase in homework and level of difficulty in Grade 4. There has been complaining, muttering and foot dragging… so I gave out stern talks: “Christie, you are the Mom. Set a good example and just make it happen.” This teaching team has won us over with their great communication and creative projects. Our dinner table has been awash with interesting facts about whale blubber and pirate ships and the antics of Ramona B Quimby. C has never been so engaged!

The Supporters: We call them Special Education Assistants, and they are the hands and feet of inclusion. This year we had a great team. They consistently go above and beyond and are more friends than staff to us. Mrs. H is always reading and learning and sharing her ideas. The resource teacher and her daughter raised money and joined our run for Down Syndrome. Mrs. A is a kindred spirit, an extension of our own nurturing and parenting. Her whole family has taken B under their wing.

The Advocate: Every morning B runs into the classroom, throws her arms wide and yells, “Smelling!” This is her version of “Ms. Fleming,” and it earns her a hug and an enthusiastic greeting. Kids can tell if you really enjoy and appreciate them, especially B. Which is why she has continued to blossom this year. She has always been loved by her teachers, and in turn by her classmates, which is no coincidence. It’s not because she is all sunshine and gumdrops, but even in her difficult moments her teachers have seen HER beneath it all – especially Smelling.

The biggest gift this year has brought has been Ms. Fleming’s choice of thesis for her Masters degree: Teaching B to Read.

I’m sure it’ll have a long complex academic title, but for us it means that next year B will participate in the reading program (newly developed by the Down Syndrome Research Foundation):
the one we couldn’t afford
one on one
with her favourite teacher.

She asked if we would be okay with that. If we would mind her basing her project on B. If she could spend several days training with DSRF to know how to use it. If she might be able to establish it in our school and district.

Ummm… duh.

Today we will add our Thank You notes and gifts to the pile and pray that somehow they will adequately express our gratitude. We’ve entrusted them with the most precious part of ourselves: our children. This is why the outrage is so fierce when we feel betrayed, and this is why that coffee shop gift card seems so paltry when we feel so amazingly well supported.

So here’s me: school’s out for summer and I’m going to miss the help. What are the chances that we’ll have so many good stories next year?

The First Day of School

After 17 years out of the classroom I returned to school as a “Mature” student this January (they keep insisting that I’m mature, and I’m not going to tell them any different). It was equal parts terrifying and exciting. It sure has given me a better understanding for what my children went through when they started at a new school after years of homeschooling. Of course, I was lurking the parking lot, so it’s not like they were really alone.

Today my Life Writing professor returned this piece I wrote at the beginning of the year. As I look back on how I felt it seems a bit silly, but fears often are. It doesn’t make them any less real.

My First Day of School

I hemmed and hawed. Red, black, blue… heck, I even have purple. How are they doing it these days? It’s the computer age now, perhaps the entire argument is moot? Do they even use ink pens in University?

As all the boys and girls come to class with their laptops, netbooks and iPads, I will sit at the back of the room clutching a handful of ballpoint pens and all the courage I can muster in my sweaty hands. Is a look-of-sheer-panic “in” or “out” this season? I’ll need to see what Teen Vogue has to say on the subject.

It’s been 17 years since I’ve been in the classroom as anything other than the guest speaker or class Mom. I’m not sure what to expect and that terrifies me. Usually I’m the one doling out comfort and reassurance, lectures about “Behaviour I Expect” and advice on how to make new friends.

Who’s going to hold my hand on the first day of school?

So here’s me, months later and a veteran student. Turns out my friend Beth was in my classes. I tried to get her to hold my hand, but she insists on taking notes. I made new friends along the way. They didn’t hold my hand either, but I’m okay with that now. 

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