Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day Of School

It's August 27.  And, if you've been reading my posts lately, you know what that's the start of another school year.  And it's the start of a BIG year.....Big Brother is now in 2nd Grade and Ballerina and Music Man are now in KINDERGARTEN!!!!!  Music Man has the shelter of a special education classroom and Ballerina has been thrown to the wolves, starting her career as a student in a general education classroom.

I've been both excited and terrified (this is beyond nervous) about what's coming.  Ballerina has not been excited about starting school this weekend, but showing signs of nervousness.  I'm not certain if that's me projecting my own fears onto her or if she really wasn't happy about Mrs. R winning the battle of wills this past Friday during the Open House.  And everyone has been making such a big deal about kindergarten, I can understand her feeling apprehensive.  To make matters more complicated, I took her to school this morning rather than her arriving by bus.  And it's not the same school she's been attending the last 2.5 years.  She is now attending the same school as Music Man, for the first time.  Yet they're separated by the wall between the two classrooms.  And Big Brother is all the way down the hall, as far away as he could possibly be.

But, when they woke up this morning, we just jumped right in.  We had a normal breakfast.  Ballerina had her morning pudding (Focalin XR) and actually finished her cereal (slightly unusual).  Then she played on her phone and in front of the mirror.  She enjoyed looking at the princess in the mirror.  Music Man too was having a normal morning.  But I could feel the tension the closer we came to walking out the door.

For Music Man, it came out when I started putting on the socks and shoes.  He didn't want to wear sneakers or socks.  He knew that this meant it was time to go to school.  And the crying started.  He was all right once we got outside and into the car, but when we pulled into the school parking lot, things went from bad to worse.  He really didn't want to be THERE.  School was one thing, but Big Brother's school was another.  But as we were walking to the door, he saw the paraeducator for the kindergarten class, and he immediately started to feel more comfortable.  I could feel him stop pulling me away from the school and considering going with the para.  And, a minute or two later, she held out her hand, and he took it and went happily to his new experience.

For Ballerina, things didn't go so smoothly.  She became upset when Music Man got upset (not much of a surprise).  That was when she realized something BIG was happening.  We walked into the kindergarten playground where the other kindergarteners were waiting and she began to cling.  She kept insisting, "I CAN'T!" and was just VERY upset about everything.  After a couple of moments, Mrs. R came over to Ballerina and me.  She said that I could stay for a few minutes, or I could leave.  But if I was to leave, I had to go and not look back.  I thought about it for a moment, and realized that I needed to do JUST that.  So, I got Ballerina back on her feet, gave her a hug, and told her to have a good day.  I gave her a hug and a kiss, and then left the playground to check on Big Brother, listening to her crying and screaming the whole time.  I just hope she didn't see that I was crying too.

Later, I asked some of the parents who were dropping off their kindergarteners to check up on her, and they informed me that she was no longer upset and that the teachers had her under control.

It is now 2:45 and I am getting ready to pick them up from their first day of school.  I only hope that they ALL had a good day!!!!!

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Big Brother preparing to leave for school.

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Getting ready to get in the car to head to school for the first day.

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Getting ready to enter the classrooms and begin a new year of learning.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Test

The last two days have been a bit of a test.....Back To School Night last evening and Open House today.  This was my chance to see who these teachers are and what they will be able to do to help Ballerina and Music Man.

First of all, let me say that I got my wish in Ballerina's teacher.  It was the specific person I was hoping for.....while being kind, she is extremely strict and the children in her class learn very quickly that this is NOT a woman to cross.  This is EXACTLY what Ballerina needs.....she needs to understand that lines in the sand have been drawn and she needs to behave in an acceptable manner.  I think this teacher will give her that structure.

Overall, I spent most of the night in Music Man's classroom listening to his teacher.  I am familiar with the kindergarten curriculum (which is relatively new) as Big Brother also experienced this same curriculum (he was the first class, so his teachers have been learning along with him).  Even though the Learning Center follows the same curriculum, things are presented in a slightly different fashion, so that was the presentation I attended.  I really do like much of what this teacher does.....she too is kind but firm and her reputation is untouchable.  I know of several children who have been through her class since we began learning about educating Autistic children and, as a parent, you couldn't wish for better.  The only surprise was that there would be 3 first graders in the class as well (how this would be handled was explained to me [and the other parents]) and I know we are not alone in this.....the other program we considered had combined classes throughout elementary school.

Then, after the Learning Center teacher was done, I went to talk to Ballerina's teacher.  She had finished talking to the parents, but we talked briefly about my concerns and fears and made my recommendations about how to handle certain potential situations.  I had written a letter to her, but chose to not bring it in (it really just didn't feel right to do that when the time came) and when I left, I felt much better about the situation.  I knew her slightly from personal experience, but mostly by reputation.  This conversation proved to me that her reputation is well-earned and, like Music Man's teacher, she is quite firm with these children while still providing a fun and loving atmosphere.

For the Open House, Big Brother was in his element.....he went in, met his teacher, bragged about his trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house (how he went to a planetarium and the Intrepid, attended a carnival, swam in a lake, etc).  He spent much of the time with Ballerina and I, giving her a tour of the school.  She learned where not only her classroom was, but where the cafeteria, art room, gym, music room, library, and computer lab were located.

But she did start testing her teacher.  She didn't WANT to look at Mrs. R.  She didn't WANT to do the "assignment" (scavenger hunt around the classroom and school).  She didn't WANT to put the stickers for success on the paper, but put them on her fingertips.  But Mrs. R insisted.  And Ballerina complied....not exactly willingly, but by the end, quite enthusiastically.

Overall, it was a good couple of days.  My anxiety level has dropped slightly and hopefully things will feel even better once I drop them off at school on Monday.  In the meantime, it's time to enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

6 Days.... 6 days school will begin again.

This isn't the countdown of a Mom who can't wait....well, it's not EXACTLY's partially that......but it's the countdown of a Mom who is terrified about what's coming.

Yes, I know that it's difficult for any parent to send their children off for the first day of kindergarten.  But with Big Brother, it really wasn't difficult at all.  It was, in fact, easy.  He was ready for it and so was I.  And I knew it (on both counts).  But this time, I don't know if it's because of their Autism diagnosis or if it's because they are my "babies", but I'm NOT ready for them to go off to kindergarten...exactly.....

We are in that home stretch right now.  We are finishing up the homework assignments and I'm getting ready to attend Back to School Night on Thursday evening to familiarize myself with what's coming.  And I'm going to bring them to school on Friday afternoon so they can all meet their teachers and really get a feel for the classrooms and the school as a whole.  I am working with teaching Ballerina what will be expected for her, and we are working on a specific issue that she has picked up (she's decided that tackling is fun) so that she won't demonstrate this new game to her classmates.

And we are doing something else today......Music Man has a play-date with a future classmate (who we know from Ballerina's preschool experiences).  This other child's mother and I are both hoping that, if they have a familiar face in the classroom, it will help make the transition just a bit easier.

We are doing everything we can to be sure they're ready for what's coming.  I have fewer concerns about Music Man as he will be in a more protected environment which makes me feel more comfortable.  But this is shaping up to be a VERY interesting week!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Realization Has Occurred

Yesterday, I discovered something......since the start of the summer, I have found some independence from my children.  Yes, I am the one who has become more independent.  They were already there.

A friend of mine runs a blog called the Oxygen Mask Project.  She recently wrote a post about coming home from some time away and, upon returning home, realizing how she had totally given herself to her children.  She talked about how she had the time to do the things she WANTED while she was away rather than the things she needed to do for her children, and all of the sacrifices that entails.  She willingly makes those sacrifices, as do all parents, because we love our children more than anything.  But she described quite a wakeup call when she returned home.  After reading it, I walked away thinking about how I always do the same thing.

Then, yesterday morning, I realized something else (and immediately sat down to write a post for Oxygen Mask Project myself).  No, I don't.  I DID!  That is until this summer.  This summer, I am taking that time to do what I need to do.  I am taking that time in the mornings.  After these kids are up, fed, and breakfasted, THEY go downstairs to play.  I stay in the kitchen / family room.  I make my own breakfast and sit to eat it.  I use my Keurig and make whatever coffee I feel like for that morning, and drink it while it's still hot.  I take a few minutes and go online.  I listen for my children and make sure that there are no problems and I can easily get to them should the need arise, but the time is MINE.

Maybe that's why, sitting here with school starting in 10 days, that I can claim I'm just as sane as I was the day school let out (all right, you can question how sane I was then, but at least it hasn't gotten any worse).  And it's made me a happier person at this point of the summer than I have been for a long time!

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Monday, August 6, 2012

It's Getting Closer

Last week, ESY ended for both Ballerina and Music Man -- because of the storms, Music Man continued through last Wednesday.  Overall, it was a good transition for us.  In the morning, I would tell them that it was time for "school camp" and they would get ready.  And now that it's done, it's "No More School Camp", and they're fine.

Who would've thought?

Overall, it seemed to have been a good experience for both of them this summer.  Music Man had a chance to say good bye to his teachers and friends.  He's still young enough that I don't think he sees this as a real goodbye, but who knows.  He got to do it in a more relaxed atmosphere then during the school year and I think he was happy both to see it start and to see it end.

Ballerina had a different experience this summer.  Her ESY program was designed to give these kids a chance to learn what would be expected from them when they start kindergarten later this month.  It was taught by a general-education kindergarten teacher (coincidentally, the one who had been working with Ballerina since February) and she treated them just like she would treat an incoming kindergarten class, with those same expectations.  In our phone conference, the teacher explained that these kids are all preparing to enter a general education setting or an Early Learning Center setting (similar to the class Music Man will be starting) so these expectations will be set for them during the year as well.  Ballerina responded well and didn't have too many behavior outbursts.  The teacher also explained to me that she really does seem to take her cues from the other kids in the class.....if they are having a bad day, chances are, she is having one too.  While this piece of information doesn't really surprise me, it is something that I hadn't thought of, and I will have to remember to pass this information along to her kindergarten teacher once I learn who she is.

Right now, that's probably the biggest outstanding question for starting kindergarten -- who will Ballerina's teacher be?  I sent a note to the principal asking if this information was now available (her CAPP teacher from last year has offered to give her a social story and this information would be EXTREMELY helpful), but he informed me that the classes won't be finalized until August 13.  So, we're going to have to wait another week to get this last piece of information.  Then we will be all set for the final preparation of entry into kindergarten!

But, in the meantime, there are other skills kids have when they enter kindergarten.  They know how to play, and to play appropriately.  This is something that we have always had issues with for Ballerina and Music Man.  But over the weekend, this happened......

So, now it appears they have found this skill.  After all, they have a ready-made playmate right beside we just have to encourage them to continue this new behavior!