Monday, October 21, 2013

Kindergarten, Take 1

Posting again from my drafts on Joshua's educational experiences. This post was written a while ago and is mainly for my own memory, and for my children's insight. However, if it helps even one person, then that is a blessing. (After I re-read this post, it sounded kind of depressing...but things do get better eventually!)

After 2 1/2 years in that town, Jim's job moved us about 45 minutes away to a new place. And we loved it immediately. Very family oriented town...lots of kids.

Logan was born before we moved, so we were now a family of 5. We found a house and a church and a pediatrician...and connected with some "old" friends from college. We put Joshua and Holly in a Mother's Day Out at our church, but Joshua was turning 5 and it would soon be time to start him in Kindergarten.

Our town had a "school" for children and adults with Special Needs. I visited there, but I just knew that was not where Joshua was supposed to be at this point in his life. So, we met with the local elementary school that was closest to our house, and, reluctantly (on their part) a plan was put into place. You have no idea of all the paper-work and logistics involved in having a child with Special Needs. And I think Joshua was the first child with Down Syndrome to enroll in the public school it was a BIG DEAL to everyone.

Part-way through the summer, we were contacted by a very sweet lady who taught at the elementary school. She had found out about Joshua and had asked for him to be placed in her Kindergarten class. We were blown away by her kindness. She told us how much she had prayed about it and all the things she had planned for the year. Of course, not for a minute did we ever think we were going to just drop Joshua off and say, "he's yours for 7 hours...good luck." No! We knew it would require effort on our part to make the teacher's job easier. Joshua was not a "regular" kid. Fortunately, we were all on the same page and wanted the best for Joshua, and wanted to set it up so that he would have success.

As the days got closer for school to begin, I became more and more anxious. Joshua was a very sweet and loving child, but very unpredictable. He was as fast as lightning and could climb like a monkey...and while he could pick out an apple from a basket of plastic of fruit when asked, or point to the color red...he definitely didn't have the connection between actions and consequences.

But school started and we all made it okay for the first few days. It was a big adjustment for us all. I stayed in contact with the teacher and tried to help her as much as I could. It became apparent after the first week that the teacher was extremely overwhelmed. We were "summoned" to the school by the administration and had a little conference about Joshua. I sat there with my head down most of the time. I mean, like it's not hard enough already...all of these professionals were saying, "he can't do this..." or "he can't do that..." or "we can't be expected to watch him constantly..."

There was a window in the hallway where we could see into Joshua's classroom, so they took us down there to observe. The teacher was having story-time. All of the kids were sitting in a circle, listening to the story. All but Joshua. He was having free reign of the class room. He was into the books, in and out of the closet, over in the art supplies, etc. I was, like, "what is he doing?" and "why isn't he sitting with the group?"

Turns out that the teacher, what with her kindness and prayers and sweet spirit and all...she had no clue about children with Special Needs. She was WILLING to help. She WANTED to help. But she was not equipped for the situation. Her philosophy was that she couldn't expect him to participate like the other children, because she didn't think he really knew what he was doing. So while she was making the other children follow the rules...she was letting Joshua run wild. She thought he was precious, but she didn't enforce her class rules when it came to him AT ALL. It was just so anti-everything we were doing in our own home. We had other kids...and I expected them ALL to listen and obey and follow directions. I certainly didn't let Joshua have the run of the land, while making the other ones tow the line.

BUT, in her defense, she had 20 other children in her class with needs and issues all their own. And she had a curriculum to teach and a schedule to follow, and she was just doing the best she could...but it was not the best for her...OR Joshua.

So...what I learned: A LOT. I learned I was stronger than I thought. I learned that my gut instinct was usually right. I learned to fight for my child, but to always listen to others...And that sometimes, even if it's not the outcome you want...even if it's not the best scenario...if it's all you can get, then that's where you have to start. And I learned that you can want to do something really can pray about it and talk about it and be excited about it...but until you are actually IN the situation, you can't truly know. Because how things look on paper, and how you feel about it in your heart...can be very different from how things look and feel and real life.

"...I am He who will sustain you..." Isaiah 46:4

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