Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Did It! We Did It!! We Did It!!!

Sorry, long post with pics!

It can be so easy to get bogged down by the daily struggles of life.  Lately, as I look around, all I see is personal failure on many fronts.  Nothing big, just lots of areas where I wish I were doing better, wish I was more effective, wish that maybe something...anything...would be easy.  Dominick and I have thrown our hands up in the air lately as every.single.thing. is breaking, broken, needing repair, looking bad for some reason or another, and even when fixed it needs another repair.  Door handles, clothes dryers, vehicles, computers, swimming pools, tires, tables, you name it.

School has been rough with the kids, but definitely better than it was 2 weeks ago.  When I say rough, I don't mean because of the kids really, but because subjects are growing more challenging, language is becoming more difficult as we hit higher level vocabulary, and Kenny is still confusing "a" and "e", "p" and "b", "o" and "u", "f" and "th"...and today added "qu" and "g" to the mix.  Angela, whose language skills are probably the highest of all three of our older adoptees can't hang on the new words or their attached concepts to save her life this week, and it is frustrating both of us as we hit this wall.

The past couple of days though, I have been renewed in ways I never expected, and reminded over and over again that the tough things are worth it, and that I am blessed in countless ways even if others would never see it that way.

The biggest news?  Tonight was one for the record books, at least for our little family.  After attending a Board of Stewards meeting for our homeschool program, I had our Director share our basic state test scores for the kids.  I had been sort of dreading it, because rightly or wrongly it feels sort of like my own personal report card, and with all we deal with it can be another blow to see that we are so far behind despite how hard we work at our school work.  And believe me, we work HARD.

The state tests were taken almost exactly 2 years to the day of beginning homeschooling the girls after coming home with not a lick of English (the test results were from the test taken this past March).  So with Kenny who is severely learning disabled, 2 English as a second language learners, Matt who has some sort of dyslexia/dysgraphia/dyscalcula going on that has yet to be diagnosed...and little Joshie all in the mix, I held my breath as she offered to show me the scores on her laptop.

Everyone, every single child, every single subject:  Proficient.  Not partially proficient, not unsatisfactory.  P-R-O-F-I-C-I-E-N-T.  In fact, 3 of the kids scored advanced in math, and get this, Angela was a hair breadth away from ADVANCED in writing.

I almost started to cry, I kid you not.

We did it, and I actually can't believe it.  Kenny even scored solid in writing and reading both!  Reading is based mainly upon comprehension, which has never been his problem, as processing speed and accuracy/word recall is.  Olesya...proficient in math despite her very real inability to "see" certain things in math.  Matthew, proficient in writing...must have scored high enough to push him to the bottom of proficient because his mechanics are, frankly, terrible, and I mean still waaaaayy below grade level, but good enough it seems to at least pull him out of "partially proficient".

How I wanted to do the Happy Dance!!

I needed to see progress right now, I needed to not see just the day to day grind of explaining and re-explaining things until I am blue in the face, trying to find that new way to say something so it will make sense or stick.  I needed to see progress as we do phonics yet again with Kenny, I needed to know that all this effort indeed does add up to success somewhere along the way.

Then Dominick told me something that made me re-prioritize it all.  He said that the kids were at the kitchen table until after 6:00 pm tonight, working on their school work.  This was after I left the house at 4:00 this afternoon and told them they could quit for the day in about 20 minutes.  When I asked them why they all kept at it, I was told that they were working and just didn't want to stop until they were finished.

Now, really, it is great that we hit "proficient" in all subject areas.  I know that most parents would likely cast a quick glance at state test reports, see "proficient" and then toss the report on the table as they moved on to something else without giving it much more thought at all.  Proficient would be the expected norm, the only acceptable scores, or perhaps advanced would be expected.  So I know that our "accomplishment" doesn't really mean much to most folks, though for us it is huge.  But even though that does reflect some level of academic achievement for us and wouldn't impress a single soul, what I really thought about as I sat down to write this was not scores, charts or categories.  What I thought about was five kids who always give it their best effort, even against enormous odds.  I thought about five kids who can be trusted to work hard at every single thing they do, who have developed a work ethic that really will be behind whatever success they manage to achieve in their lives far more than any letter grade or score will.

Tonight I am grateful that we did it, that we achieved what two years ago seemed impossible.  But what I am most grateful for is walking through Walmart with rotating children all wanting to walk next to me with their arms draped over my shoulder as we laugh and carry on.  I am grateful for the fact that they are even here in our home, cherished and safe.  I am grateful for the kindness they show their parents and others on a regular basis.  I am grateful that they are healthy and whole.  I am grateful that we have had opportunities to enrich their lives.  I am grateful for every person who has contributed to their well being, who love and nurture them, who spend time with them and in their own way have adopted our kids as their own.

And really, after reflecting on such things that are really what make our children who they are, scores on a piece of paper, even decent ones finally, just takes a back seat.

I don't know if next year's test scores will be the same.  It is likely that as the grade level gets higher, we will find it harder to advance because of the time it takes to develop higher level vocabulary.  We might drop in some subjects, we might hit more roadblocks.  Heck, I am sure we will hit more roadblocks.  Luckily though, their self worth...and not measured by the state.  For us, we don't measure math scores or editing mistakes.  We measure laughter, we count the love.  In that, I think we probably get an "A".

Here are some pictures taken over the past couple of days as we enjoyed some family time together and  just hung out.  This is far more important, and is the stuff that really makes a person feel whole.:

Happy, Happy Birthday, Dear Olesya!!

Thirteen Years Old!

We spent the day in Grand Junction, just window shopping.  Her special treat in lieu of a party was to have the entire family go out to dinner at the Golden Corral.  She was SO excited about that, because for us it is a huge treat to go out to a real restaurant like that.

While she got a small purse and a memory stick for her documents, this was her real gift...and she loved it.  I think we will all loved what she will be doing with it.  We joked that she will have an entire kitchen outfitted long before she ever moves out on her own someday.

The boys all were having a good time as they watched Olesya open up the gift they got her, a computer game about pets where you can dress them up and give them a bath.

Josh with the ever-present blanky.

Kenny doing the boogie!

We joked about not having first day of school clothes to wear, but we did have First Day of School totally radical, cool tie dye folders!! Haha!

This is part of Kenny's reading program, the Wilson Reading System.  We have thus far spent about 6 weeks on the main phonics sounds of these letters and digraphs.  We have tons more to go, and the program is quite involved.  There are workbooks, a BORING BORING reading book that drills and pounds sounds, he has to take dictation, and practice identifying sounds and spelling sounds he hears.  His lessons take an hour each day, and it is about 10 parts to each lesson.

Regardless of how long each lesson is, we are starting to see real results!!  We are identifying specific problem areas, he is beginning to break the "guessing habit", and he is catching his mistakes and self-correcting more.  It is actually a pretty complex program to learn to teach, as it is usually taught by teachers after attending a two day seminar on how to use it.  Today as I looked at something Kenny wrote for his writing workbook, which is not part of the program, I realized that he had only ONE spelling mistake in it!  For him, that is amazing!  It wasn't but about 2 1/2 years ago that I think I blogged about how worried we were because we gave him a test at home of the 100 basic words for 3rd grade, I think it was, and he misspelled over 80 of them.  The above is amazing for him and we are so proud of his hard work to get this far, and his outstanding attitude that has kept him motivated.

That's our boy!  Still a lot of work ahead, still many, many issues to try and deal with, but finally...true success in an area of huge weakness!

We had a surprise night out in GJ the very next night after having driven up the day before.  One of Dominick's old food delivery drivers texted him Sunday night and asked if we would be interested in tickets to watch a baseball game at the local college field up there.  I had no idea (although Dominick knew) that Grand Junction had landed its very own farm league team for the major league Colorado Rockies, named ever so creatively, the Grand Junction Rockies.  Tickets were cheap, so we decided to go ahead though none of us were expecting much out of the evening.  Surprise, surprise, we haven't had so much fun in a long time!  This was the lowest league possible, I believe, not even an "A" level team, but instead part of the Pioneer League.  The young men were between about 17 and 23, and some had some real talent.  We were right above the 3rd baseline dugout, and having never been to a farm league baseball game I didn't realize how very "down home" it would feel.  Like going to a pro game without all the traffic, overpriced food, or crowded restrooms.  I love baseball anyway, and these young kids were such fun to watch.  Everyone laughed, danced to the music that was playing throughout the evening, stomped and was awesome and I think we will definitely try to make a few games here and there in the future.

The young ballplayers were giving out autographs, signing their baseball cards that were given out free upon entrance to the first 500 attendees.  We all got packs of cards, and the kids each set off to get signatures from as many players as they could.  You never know, one of these young men will one day make it to the major leagues, and we can say we saw them back when they were rookies.  So far they have sent over 30 players to the majors in the past 11 years.


Clowning around with Dad.

The game had a thrilling end, with the deciding run not advancing until the bottom of the 9th.  With 92 mile per hour fastballs being thrown, this was not your low level of play, but instead was true raw talent working on skills to hopefully get them to the next level.  Angela and I had the most fun, I think, as we cheered our throats raw, and sat on the edge of our seats with each play.  While everyone said they thoroughly enjoyed it, we were the ones most into the game.  What a total blast!!

Back to the grind this week, as we continue to work hard and get ready for volleyball practice to begin next week for four of the kids.  Poor Joshie is too young still, but he'll eventually get his chance next year.  

Tonight, as I readied myself for bed, Matthew came up to me and gave me a big hug, saying sincerely "Thanks so much for teaching me, Mom.  I couldn't do it without you, literally!".  It was the perfect end to a happy day.  Tomorrow might be awfully hard once again, or it could be easier, who knows?  All I DO know is that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing at this stage of my life.  There could be no job I might do that would be more valuable to our family.  It might bring in some much needed cash, but this brings an even more necessary brighter future to our kids.


Anonymous said...

A++ Team LaJoy and 7 cheers for persevering, prospering, perfecting--learning, laughter, love.

Thanks for sharing,

Anonymous said...

Hi, Cindy!
You've just written me to congratulate me on Al's getting past his written driver's test, so you can appreciate my appreciation for what you're saying about the persistence and the grind .... and the ecstasy when all that work pays dividends! Congratulations to you for your teaching, and to the kids for their stick-to-it attitude!
Love, blessing and shalom! Kaye