So most of you know we decided to home school the girls this year. It was not an easy decision and one that was definitely not taken into lightly. This has been on my heart for the past year as I have seen Jordan struggle in school. You have to know Jordan to know she is an extremely bright young lady and she has the heart of gold. God has truly blessed that child with the ability to love unconditionally. However, with that heart comes uncertainty and lack of self confidence. Since pre-school she has struggled in school, I struggled with putting her into Kindergarten but the pre-school teacher assured me she was ready. We looked at private school knowing that Jordan would do better in smaller classroom environment, but the private school Kindergarten teacher told us then that if she needed any special services they did not have the resources to help her. That coupled with the $7,000 a year tuition for Kindergarten and the fact that we were going to have another baby (Madison) nixed any ideas of sending her to a private school.
We sent her to Kindergarten at the public school up the street. When she was in Kindergarten and we had our first parent/teacher meeting in November we knew there was an issue. Jordan could not write at all, even though we had worked with her many times before school even started. We were very blessed to have a wonderful kindergarten teacher who absolutely loved Jordan (she has that ability to make people crazy about her once they get to know how sweet she is). I volunteered twice a week in both the writing class and Art class even though I was 7 months pregnant. The kids loved me and I loved them. I went to lunch with Jordan at school once a week. I enjoyed being there for her and wished I could have continued to be involved and tried to work it out after I had Madison but unfortunately it did. However, we were very lucky to have good communications with her teacher and frequent email were sent back in forth the second half of the year. We were fortunate enough to get her into the special education program in public school. We continued to pray the summer after Kindergarten praying that God would help us make the best decision for Jordan. We didn't know if she was ready for first grade or we should keep her back.
Part of all of this comes from Jordan's disease. Jordan has had a disease called DiGeorge Syndrome, it is a rare disease that is a deletion of a chromosome in her body. I probably should have started out with that first. Most children with DiGeroge have immune problems, she does not, but this disease is not a one effect disease, it effects many things. We know this disease came with her congenital heart defect and it is a side effect of it. So most all children with Di George have heart defects, and then a host of other illnesses, one of them is learning disabilities and some mental illnesses possible in later in life. We do not know to the extent of how this disease effects Jordan. We do know that it does have an effect on her learning and processing.
Anyway I digress from story. After the summer of Kindergarten we were able to get her into special education, we were concerned that she would loose the little self esteem she had if we kept her back in Kindergarten, so after much discussion with her teacher and the special ed counsel board including the principal we moved her forward to first grade and prayed that she would have the best teacher possible. OH how we were blessed with Miss Pivarnik. She was amazing with Jordan, she has a special ed background and really helped Jordan blossom, but she could only do so much considering she had 27 kids in her class. Jordan spent half the time with a special ed teacher and half the time with Miss Pivarnik. Still we met with Miss Pivarnik regularly and emailed each other back and forth, I was able to volunteer for small things in the class and keep an eye on how Jordan was doing. Thank God I had help with Kaleigh and Madison at that time so I could do these things.
At the end of first grade, we all were still trying to figure out how come Jordan could still not read and was not making progress. Thankfully Jordan still did not realize she was different. She still was not making the connections socially but she seemed happy. We asked Miss Pivarnik what would she recommend for Jordan for second grade, she suggested we move Jordan up because the special ed teacher in first grade would not be returning and wanted to take a job closer to her home. She did not know if she would have a special ed teacher in first grade if she stayed, she wound up NOT having one all of last year. She said Mrs. Carter the special ed teacher in Second Grade was amazing and if she couldn't teach Jordan to read than no one could. So with much prayer in our heart and trust in God that we were doing the right thing we sent Jordan to second grade. God truly blessed us again with wonderful teachers.
Mrs. Hillburger and Mrs. Carter were wonderful, especially Mrs. Carter. They both worked very hard with Jordan and tried diligently to help her reach her goals. With a special ed child they set what is called and IEP and Individual Education Plan , the set goals and hopefully by the end of the following year the child meets those goals. Jordan did well in math, keeping pace and surpassing what the kids in the regular class were doing. Mid way through school she started to meet some of the other goals like reading 25 site words and more. She did OT once a week for her writing and speech therapy to help with some vowel pronunciation. However Jordan had focusing issues and there was a concern that she would have ADD, they just wanted us to check with her doctor. Jordan would lose interest and she would fidget (something she does when she is anxious - she picks her fingers bloody sometimes). We spoke to the doctor and told us to keep an eye out for certain things and see how she does. That did not seem to be the issue.
By the end of second grade Jordan was still not reading or writing at second grade level. Not only that but by January Jordan had virtually given up in school, she would come home angry, exhausted and frustrated. By February and March she was covering up her early bird work (homeroom assignment while the day gets ready to start) so no one would see her mistakes. She became more and more angry and she was miserable to be around. She would fight to do homework and the homework would take her anywhere from 45 minutes to and hour and half and this was only second grade. To make matters worse she was not making any social connections in second grade. The kids were starting to get into cliques and she was not in one and she would come home sobbing that no one would play with her on the playground.Even the ones she had made earlier were already in their cliques and did not want to include her. She was not confident enough to say, please can I play with you, she would just stand by them and hope they would ask her to join them. Also the little girl across the street who she did play with on occasion did not have the same recess period, so she felt isolated and alone. As I write this I am holding back the tears thinking about this. Some people might have said OH she'll get over it, she'll make friends, it just takes time, but when your 7 year old's self esteem is that low and she has no peer to connect you as a parent want to help them and something has to change.
We prayed so hard that Jordan would make a friend. Well as you know God answers all prayers, while he may not always answer it in a way that makes sense to you he does. In the spring a little boy and his brother moved into the house behind ours and low and behold he was in Jordan's grade and had seen her during various class functions. So Jordan made a friend in Brady and Kaleigh made a friend with Jacob. (Why God can't give them little girls to play with I'll never understand, but this is who he chooses). Not only did Brady really like Jordan (strictly platonic way) he played with her on the playground at school. They played in the backyard when they were out side, looking out the back window when ever they had a chance. The girls were devastated when the boys went to Hawaii this summer to spend it with their mom (did I mention they are being raised by their single dad), but I digress. While they are still boys rambuncious and rowdy, they are absolutely the sweetest boys. If Madison is out there with the girls playing in the back yard they automatically help her on to the little swing, buckle her in and push her gently. They try to include her as best as they can, they are after all still only 8 and 6 like my girls, how much can you do with a 2 year old. When I bring Jaden out they instantly come running to Jaden to give him a hug, Jaden just loves it. They are just like my girls, they want to slide down the slide with him and help him walk. It's so cute. I think their Dad was a little concerned when we invited them over one night before they left for Hawaii as to what to expect, but turns out he's a PK (preachers kid) and his ex-wife gives him a hard time because he is teaching the boys about God and the truth of the gospel. Is God amazing or what. You can imagine how excited they all were when the boys came back from Hawaii, the first thing they asked their Dad if they could go outside and see if Jordan and Kaleigh could play, I think they were home 1 day. My girls kept asking me is is September yet? Are they back yet? They couldn't wait for them to come home from Hawaii.
Anyway I'm off my story a little bit, by the end of the third quarter it was obvious to everyone that Jordan was still not meeting ALL the requirements for second grade. Did I mention through out these past years Jordan has always gotten good grades. She always received G's and S's except in Language Arts (reading and writing). Everything else, math, science social studies, was always O's and G's, but she was still struggling. At a teacher meeting at that time we discussed with Mrs. Hillburger and Mrs. Carter the possibility of retention so Jordan could continue to close the gap between her and her peers. The same issue we had struggled with for three years. I mentioned home schooling and everyone shot that idea down. So I listened and Michael and I thought about it and prayed about it and decided well OK if this is what she needs then this is what we'll do. So we had decided that we would help her with the fact that she would need to repeat the second grade, not because she wasn't smart but because she just needed some time to catch up. From the beginning I struggled with this decision. Jordan had little to no self esteem and here we were going to crush the little she had by telling her that she was failing the second grade and had to repeat it.
Now I am not saying that children do not benefit from repeating a grade and do not go on to become successful. My point was that if it were a clear cut, Jordan is failing at EVERYTHING well then she needs to repeat a grade and I would have been a little more understanding of that choice. But there comes a time in every parents life where we have to make choices for our kids. Ones that we know will effect them in the long run for good or bad. So over the summer, with a heavy heart - I cried, I prayed, I thought there has to be another way. God please help me figure out another way.
I have never been one of those people who was like WOOHOOO yeah let's home school. I've always been one of those people who was like, yes school, I miss them terribly but they get to listen to someone else other than me and I get to have a break from them for a few hours. Sounds good to me.
Well what a summer it was, the more I prayed about it the more God kept putting it into my heart for homeschooling. I kept saying God I know you put that idea into my head last year and I told you no then, but why are you screaming it at me now. I can't home school, I'm not patient enough, how am I going to do this with 4 kids. I don't know about you, but when I tell God no, he keeps after me something fierce and won't let me ignore it. Well I began talking to a lot of home school moms, A LOT and I asked them how they did it, especially with small children at home. Everyone said the same thing It's REALLY HARD, but so worth it. I researched books and looked up statistics and of course I prayed some more that God would really help me to see this clearly because I was scared. Then I had to convince Michael who was against homeschooling. His biggest fear was to come home to a crazy wife and children who were screaming.... I told him that would be different from now..how?.. Have you ever been at the zoo at feeding time, the screaming the wildness. Picture that at my house at 5:30, sheer melt downs and chaos. So I told him, this is what God has placed in my heart, if I am going to fight with her every day to do homework and struggle through it, I might as well teach her in a way that she could understand. Figure out her learning style and do that with her at home. Give her a chance to learn with me on a one on one environment, in a way that she understands and can process it.
I have to tell you at first he was a little skeptical but he said "If you think you can do it, then I support you." Well that was the first step, you should see how excited he is now that we are actually doing it.
The next step came Kaleigh. Kaleigh has always been one of those REALLY bright children who absorbs things like a sponge and just gets it. Since she was 2 people have always said how smart she is, how amazed at how AHEAD she is for her age. We had planned on sending Kaleigh to Kindergarten all along. She was so excited to go to school and take the bus and the whole nine yards. After much thought and figuring out where Kaleigh was at this summer I knew she would be way ahead of her peers. Kaleigh is doing things most of the kids don't do until the end of kindergarten, colors, shapes, letter sounds, read, write, add, subtract, count by 2's, 5's and 10's. She can count to 100, and we are working on counting to at least 150 and recognize the numbers. None of this is to brag on her, she has a late birthday she will be 6 on October 10th. If she were able to go to Kindergarten last year she would be right where she needs to be, but because she has a late birthday she was not able to go to Kindergarten, because of the Sept. 30th cut off date. So I decided I will get her down on the foundations for Kindergarten by December and continue with first grade material by January. That of course is the plan we'll see how that goes.
All I know is that I want her to be challenged, if she is not challenged that child will wiggle and move like there is no tomorrow. She is anxious to do as much work as possible (she actually loves doing workbook pages) and wants to constantly learn. So we decided we would see how this year goes for Kaleigh and if she really hates it then we can put her in public school next year.
After doing some small stuff over the summer, we fully began homeschooling on Sept. 2. While it has been an adjustment for all of us it has been very good. The kids love the fact that they can do school in their pajamas, if they want to, they don't have to get dressed (all though most days we do). They love that we play games to learn, like Hopscotch Math and card games. We do mystery puzzle scavenger hunt, where Jordan has to read the questions, Kaleigh has the answers written in her notepad and they have to work together to solve the questions and get the items. We've done connect 4 with money (that one wasn't such a big hit), but we try something different and new every day. One of the best parts for me is that I involve Madison in some ways (we have flash cards with pictures and bottle cap letter match - Thanks Heather for that idea), we get a lot done when Madison and Jaden are down for naps, especially lots of reading.
One of the things we did want to do was join a Co-op. Our co-op meets once a week on Thursdays and it's all day (a little hard on Madison and Jaden,but we are adjusting). Our co-op consists of 13 families and 35 kids. We wanted to do one on Tuesday's at our church, that one I believe has somewhere between 50-100 families involved so you can imagine how many kids there are,but they were full this year. So the one we do on Thursday uses Classical Conversations as a curriculum, The curriculum itself covers history (everything from Genesis chapter one to September 11th including all the presidents up to President Obama). They also cover science (the first week they studied polymers and made silly putty - this week was an animal cell membrane), math (they are learning to count the first week was by 1's and 2's this past week was by 3's and 4's. They learn some language arts (I think they did a preposition, nouns and verb this week) and also Art, Music, Latin and Geography. So they are learning a lot of information that I review with them on the rest of the time until we go back the following week. The other parts of the week we focus on Language Arts and Math. Our co-op has a dress code (hence the picture below) they have to wear Khaki pants, skirt, dress etc, and a solid shirt, doesn't have to be polo. We all meet in the multipurpose room at 9:00am for opening prayer and family time that lasts 15 minutes. Then they go into there separate classes with their different age groups at until lunch at noon. We eat lunch together for 45 minutes, and then in the afternoon they have what's called a muscles in motion (a phys ed, OT type program) it's to help them use their bodies to cross the mid line of the brain to teach them to use both sides of the brain. It's a great program especially for Jordan, although Kaleigh really enjoys that part.
Well all this to say the girls are doing well. Jordan has really felt so confident with her reading, she's come along way, I think she still feels unsure reading in front of new people but with us she is doing GREAT. In our co-op she speaks up clearly (there are 8 kids in her class) and she tries her best to participate. Kaleigh will read out loud and wants to read Jordan's books- she's not quiet at that level yet but she wants to be and who am I to tell her she can't do it.
Both girls decided to do a different activity this year. So we decided not to do Tai Kwon Do after out year was up. So Jordan is doing Soccer and Kaleigh is doing gymnastics (that child was meant for this sports). We are so excited for them both. They have had a chance to play with their friends almost every single day since school started. How awesome is God that we are able to have this opportunity and to continue to be blessed by it, so they can still be with the friends they made in our neighborhood. They are not isolated from them and are making new friends at the same time. Like I said some days are harder than others, Jordan still fights bot not nearly as much as she did when she was in public school...so far.... but so far we are really enjoying it. We are trying to plan our first big field trip (I'm a little nervous planning around 4 kids) but it is definitely one of the perks, learning first hand in a new place.
Our life is different but in a good way. You might ask when do you get a break from all of it, I take an hour or too hear and then when the kids are outside playing with their friends or when Michael comes home. So far God has given me the strength to sustain me, just as he has given me the strength every day to take care of my family. He has blessed me tremendously.
Sorry this was so long had lots to say and if you've gotten to the end I thank God for your love and friendship.
They love the uniform.