Sunday, December 28, 2014

You Said!

The week before Christmas brake, Noah and his classmates had a gingerbread week.  They made a gingerbread house and they learned the story of the Gingerbread Man and had Gingerbread Man cookies.  So, when I got groceries and was trying to think of things to do with Noah over the break, I got some of those pre-rolled out gingerbread cookie dough packages and some cookie frosting. 

Of course, with all the sickness, we hadn't gotten around to making them yet and last night he saw the frosting in the pantry and was ready.  I told him we'd do it tomorrow.

When he woke up this morning, and Ching came up here to get him to pee and get dressed, as usual, he wanted no such thing.  Sigh.  He wanted to make the cookies. 

I came up thinking I'd be reinforcement, and he pointed at me and said, "YOU SAID." 

HA!

I told him, "You're right.  I did say we'd do the cookies today.  You just have to get dressed first." 

So that's what we did. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thoughts on Education From Three Perspectives

I've had lots prompting me to think about education the past few weeks. 

First, and most importantly, as a parent.  You all are probably familiar with my thoughts on public schools and home schooling.  Yet, we find Noah in a public pre-school for special needs kids.  And I am generally very impressed with his little school.  I think there are a total of 42 students that go there.  There are two morning classes and two afternoon classes.  They have a fantastic playground, a lunch room, a special area for kids to go blow off steam or energy by jumping on a little trampoline or some similar activity. 

Mostly, though, the teachers are great.  It takes very special people, with special skills and patience to work with special needs kids. 

As you know, Noah loves school.  He's not the best behaved kid, but he follows along pretty well and has fun with the other kids.  His language ability has come so far since school started.  They're also trying hard to help us figure out how to get him to eat new foods.  We send something new and they have him try at least one bite of it.  That's more than we can usually get him to do at home!  And now, even better, they're really helping us move him along in potty training.  This week he's finally wearing his underpants and not diapers.  At school they made him a sticker chart and every time they ask if he's still dry they give him a sticker and high five.  Praise really works for him.  This started last week.  We'd put his underpants over his diaper, then at school he'd pee when he got there and they'd just not put the diaper back on.  So yesterday we just started the day with undies.  It wasn't until they helped him that he started making real progress.  And I'm so glad they help us come up with a plan and help him with it.  We were really at a loss as to what to try.  Before that he'd absolutely refuse to let me put undies on him. 

So this is an area that for now is really great for Noah and us.  They have the years of experience and the tools and resources we would never have. 

I'm still not sure I'll be as impressed when he's out of the special ed programs.

Second, I'm also involved in the school's advisory council which means once a quarter to go over the goals and progress of the school.  This led to me also being on the Superintendent's Advisory Council, which meets monthly.  I've been to two meetings so far and have really learned a lot about the school district.  This is a group of 75 or so people from all of the schools that really does give recommendations to the school superintendent.  At the meetings we get different presentations.  Last one was about how the district is trying to serve the Gifted population, and then the other was on how they're teaching math at the elementary level. 

So far, I've also been really impressed with the school district.  They seem to have a good approach to things. 

But...  it's a huge bureaucratic organization.  There are FOUR curriculum people for example.  In a future meeting we'll do budget stuff.  That really interests me.  I know big budgets are hard to read.  I was thinking it would be nice to have it broken down by building - the budget and staff at each school and each administration building. 

Anyway.  It's really made me think about just how hard it is to really accomplish real change in "education".  For one thing, they're about to start making their plans for 2020.  It's taken several years to overhaul the Gifted program, and so far they've only done the middle school programs. 

Of course, in some way every teacher and every principal can have an impact - for good or bad.  But for big change it comes from "big government" - the school board, the city council, the governor.  Etc. 

And we saw what happened to Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee when they tried big, serious reform in the DC school district.  They were pretty much run out of town.

Third.  As you also know, I score standardized tests from home.  I read everything from middle school and high school essays to short answers.  I'm currently doing a project of high school short answers that are just terrible.  They wouldn't be passing if written by 6th graders, much less high schoolers.  Some are literally a jumble of words.  Forget grammar and spelling, they can't even understand that Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address - it wasn't about him. 

I know a lot of people are against standardized testing.  I'd challenge any of them to find a way to read even 20 essays from students at their school.  They would be appalled. 

Sigh.  So how does it all tie together?  How can the district have all the specialists, all these people working so hard, so dedicated, and the results sometimes be so terrible? 

I know...  parents, society, economics... and on and on. 

But.  Whatever it is that's broken has to get fixed.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Are Your Parents

Since becoming a parent, one thing I often find myself wondering when reading or hearing news stories is, "where are your parents?  what do your parents think of X."  When I watch The Actor's Studio or other interviews of famous people, or read biographies, I am interested in their parents and early childhood.  Are people still close to their parents?  How do they talk about their parents?  So many of the people on Actor's Studio are children of divorce it's a theme of the show. 

This naturally leads to me wondering what Noah will one day think and say about us.  What will he remember?  This is also a little complicated by the fact that we're older parents.  While I have every intention of living to 100, who knows.  Who knows how long we really have to love and teach and influence him. 

This isn't a very well thought out post.  But hopefully you get the gist. 

Fun With Pets

The cats have wanted to go outside from just about day one.  We really wanted to wait until Spring for that to happen.  Then lately, there has been puddles of pee just in front of the two litter boxes.  The other night, Ching caught Ramen doing that.  Poor old puppy.  He might have actually been trying for the box.  (Dealing with Ramen and his old age is a different post.)

We decided the most simple solution was to put the pet door back in.  We bought one several years ago that is an insert in the sliding door to the deck.  It lets in drafts of cold air and such, so we had taken it out mostly because we didn't have Silly and Little Man to go in and out anymore. 

It's been fun this morning to "teach" Peppa and George to use it and to watch them venture out, Peppa more bravely than George, into the outdoors. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Special Boy

Noah's speech delay was obvious.  He makes slow, but steady progress.  It was easy enough to get him speech therapy.  No problem.

But.  Then came the phrase "developmentally delayed."  I'm not sure we've ever been very clear on what that means.  I don't think I even paid any attention to it the first year or more.  I would get frustrated with his speech therapist the year he was two because she always seemed more concerned with his not paying attention to the activities than to his speech.  (I thought the activities bored him.)  It was at the end of that year we found out she really was doing developmental therapy - not speech - because he didn't have enough speech for speech therapy. 

When he was three, we sent him to a regular, private pre-school.  In our minds, this was mostly because he loves being around other kids so much, and then, of course, it was also a good way for him to work on his speech. 

We were a little surprised at the end of that school year to have his teacher and his development person tell us they thought he'd be better off in a special needs class.  That took a while to sink in. 

We've never had someone explain to us exactly how and why he's delayed. 

Sure, we get the IEPs that tell us he's at X years and months for X abilities according to their charts.  We're never sure those accurately measure our boy.  Sometimes it's things he can do at home but doesn't do at school that are slightly off.  Or, it's things we think are mostly due to his being an only child. 

But, we followed the advice and put him in the school he's in this year.  A classroom with three teachers, a helper, and his speech therapy once a week.  There are supposed to be 8 special needs kids and four regular kids in his class.  There are a wide variety of special needs in his class.  The teacher also comes to our house every other week for 45 minutes of activities for him and is really good about answering any questions we have. 

This year we at least feel like his main teacher mostly understands him.  He had a IEP that was supposed to last until Feb. or so, and they're already amending it because he reached those goals.  I think at the end of January we all have another meeting to start figuring out what to do with him next year.  We're also happy that his goals are concrete and seem suited to where he is at now.

Our goal is to keep him on grade level and not hold him back.  But, we do know there are circumstances where that might not be possible.  We were happy to hear there are smaller, specialized kindergarten classes he might qualify for next year. 

Anyway.  All that to get to this.

He's getting closer to four and a half and shows no interest in potty training.  We have the two weeks of Christmas break coming up and I'm going to make a more focused effort and see how it goes.  For two or three months he's had so much trouble with pooping, we're afraid he's getting a complex about it. Last night we really wondered if him not wanting to take a bath was due to being afraid he'd poop in the tub.  We'd given him some poop meds for two days and it was starting to work.  He needed to poop and just wouldn't do it.  I swear he has an amazing ability to hold poop in.

He did poop overnight and was so happy this morning that he and I could just clean up him and his diaper and he didn't have to sit on the potty for poop.  We clapped and did high fives that he pooped at all.

We often find we don't know how far to push Noah and when to back off in the interest of not screwing up the future.  He is so stubborn in such a quiet way.  And he forgets nothing. 

Then there's the new NO phase, the telling us "Shhhh Quiet" when we tell him to do something.  The hitting us when he's frustrated.  The yelling we do.  The meltdowns.  It really feels like he finally hit the terrible two/three phase.  His being so tall and strong makes it harder to literally handle him than if he had done this back at age two or three. 

Is this part of the developmentally delayed stuff?? 

His teacher saw one of his meltdowns last week after school.  She and I were talking after class, everyone else left.  Then he didn't want to get in the car and go home.  I got him out the door of the school.  Then moved him along to the car.  He's saying NO over and over.  We get to the car and now I'm out of patience.  It's cold and raining and he won't get his backpack off and get in the car.  I finally get the backpack off of him and throw it in the car.  I finally yell at him, pick him up, and wrangle him into the car.  Sigh.

She said there really wasn't much to do differently.  I had talked nicely to him, offered him choices, told him he could have his gum once he got in the car (he usually loves that), told him he could watch his favorite cartoon when he got him.  None of the nice worked. 

In the car he's still crying and yelling and saying NO.  I tell him if he doesn't stop he'll have to go home and go to bed.  Four minutes later he says, "no bed", stops crying, and is fine.  Sigh.

Over the weekend he had other meltdowns over baths, bedtime, etc.  It's leaving us feeling exhausted and frustrated and horrible.  When they're over he seems fine.  But he's getting to the age he'll start remembering all of this later. 

His teacher is good with suggestions on a lot of this.  But I think Ching and I both feel alone together in this.  Over the weekend I was ready to pack it all up and move to Texas where there is at least family to hand him over to sometimes, and better food. 

Parenting is all trial and error.  It's figuring it out as you go along.  It's praying for wisdom and patience.  It's limitless love and limited patience. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Evil Genius

After school today, Noah's teacher went over the information for his upcoming IEP.  It's about how he's doing in school with language, social skills, motor skills, etc. and what the plan is to help him along the next few months.

It says:

Noah occasionally adopts a directive mode and will tell another child that an adult wants them (when they don't) so he can take their toy when they leave.  Or, he will tell the lights helper it's time to turn off the lights for clean up time without an adult giving the request.  (This is so he can stop doing whatever activity it is he's not enjoying.)

HA!

We kinda proud of his planning and carrying out such plans.  The nice part of the first one is that at least he's not just yanking some other kids toys from them.  He continues to be very polite in his evil ways and refusals to do things. 

Oh my.