Friday, March 01, 2013

Puzzle Pieces

It's been a long couple of days as I worked to prepare our Field Trip Plan to be submitted to the school for review and, hopefully, approval.  It is an incredibly complicated process, as there is a lot of documentation of prior learning that must be done, cost outlines down to the penny of every dollar expected to be spent on the trip, maps of all mileage, justification for each stop along the way.

Then each document is times five kids.

It is a banker's box full plus accompanying maps the kids made of Westward Expansion.  Many families don't take advantage of the school funding for field trips because it is a pretty detailed and complex project.  As I sat at the laptop today I realized how much our learning scaffolds, even as adults.  Paperwork for international adoption forces you to learn how to be organized in a big hurray.  I submit everything tomorrow and await committee approval, which will take 3-4 weeks as it goes through the committee and the district school board. If so, our trip will be amazing...a blessing in every possible way:

Jorge the van will get a workout on this trip!  We are very excited about the prospect of going on such a great adventure, and would love to hear from anyone else who recognizes where we are heading and has ideas for things we just can't miss.  If approved, we plan on departing April 15th, when we will most likely be officially done with school for the 2012-2013 year.  Matt may have a few math and German lessons left to complete, but he has made it a goal to finish by then if at all possible.  All the other kids have already just about finished everything else, and actually started math for next year so they'll just keep going.

Not much else going on around here, other than plowing through school and finishing planning for the next academic year.  It may feel early to some to be thinking about it, but we will start our new year by the end of May, so I don't have much longer to get it all together!  Angela and Olesya have both been down with pretty severe colds this past week, and I am hoping they are in better shape in the next couple of days. The boys and I have managed to avoid it thus far, though Dominick definitely did not.

Spring is now on our minds, and we are planning a little science project!  We were talking about phototropism (I sound so smart, don't I?  Don't worry, I had no clue until I read it today! haha!) and we are going to experiment.  Phototropism is the growth of an organism toward or away from a light source.  We got the bright idea to set up a camera on a tripod, get a plant and set in in the window, and take pictures every 15-30 minutes.  Then we will create a slide show to see how much movement there was.  It should be cool!

We have been SO enjoying our little Apple TV box that attaches to our TV and allows me to mirror what I see on my iPad onto the TV while wirelessly connected.  Wow, what a wonderful time saver and great learning tool it has been!  We use a lot of video illustrations for school, especially for science, because there are so many awesome 3-4 minute clips out there to explain various principles.  Being able to tap my iPad and have it immediately show up on screen has been totally awesome, and may be one of our better homeschooling tools.

I had our special education meeting for Matthew last week, which was helpful.  It was sweet to hear one of his evaluators say that it had been a long time since he was around a young man his age who was so polite and appeared to be such a nice, respectful kid.  We looked at test results, and they were as quirky as Matt himself is.  Kathie, the special ed coordinator, explained some of his scores, which were predictably all over the map.  His spelling and phonics fluency were at 12.9 grade level.  She said that with his issues she expected his spelling to be awful, and was tricked by his test because then she remembered that  words in isolation are no problem and he almost always got 100% on his spelling tests.  She said he has a better command of spelling phonetically than most do also.

Every result in every category were well over his 8th grade level, that is until she got to the writing sample.  Bingo!!!  Hahaha! I can't believe I am excited over that, but at least our frustration was finally understood and validated.  His writing sample was at a 5.6 grade level, and she explained that it was that way due to his editing skills and spelling when not isolated, not his actual use of vocabulary which was 12th+ grade level.  She laughed as she said, "No wonder you were not getting it, I didn't either!  He is a super bright young man, but his writing looks a 5th grader, which completely doesn't match his intellect.  I imagine you were pulling your hair out!"  So that explains that little bald spot I have :-)  Kathie and the other special education staff person said that dysgraphia like this is very subtle and hard to detect, particularly when it is in kids with Matt's is almost always assumed to be laziness.  Yea, I thought so too for quite a while, much to my own shame.

We learned something else, as they tested him for motor skills issues, as well, and they could clearly see a processing disorder with his drawing/writing.  He was able to complete three dimensional drawings quickly and easily of the sort that most would not be able to do (like me), but even on the most simple ones like just a diamond, it was ill proportioned and off kilter.  They had never seen that either in someone whose spatial relationship skills were so high, which was a big tip off to them that something is quite off base with Matt.  His terrible printing is due to some sort of as yet unspecified disorder.  We have always wondered about his vision, because he is always totally on top of whatever he is working on, nose very close to it.  Somehow, this is all connected. is documented now, and they will allow him to "legally" use adaptive technology for any writing he does, including for his state testing.  Once it has been documented for the next 6 months to a year, they can create what is called a 504 plan, which will be with him for the rest of his life and will allow him to use adaptive software for writing in college, as well as allow him to prove learning in different ways aside from just writing.

The odd thing is...he can really, really write. He has a unique and very interesting, descriptive style which, when edited, is actually quite beautiful.  But it has to be edited up the wazoo.

You know, I shared this recently with someone...I actually prayed over each of our adoptions, asking not for perfect children and being willing to love whoever God sent us, but asking specifically that our life with them be rewarding and interesting...not dull.  I think I was blessed in that area, times ten! Haha!!!  And blessed it really is, no matter what challenges we have.  I have sunshine in our home in the faces I see each and every morning, I have intrigue and interest and passion in so many areas with them all day long.  My life, which to many on the outside might appear to be incredibly boring as I am home all day with our kids, is the furthest thing from boring. I have five little puzzles to figure out, I am Mom Sherlock Holmes, only without the cool pipe!

Another puzzle yet to be pieced together is dear, sweet Olesya.  Yesterday Angela brought her up as we drifted into conversation about a character in a book.  She asked me why Olesya was the way she is, why she doesn't let anyone really get to know her.  She wanted to know if I thought it was on purpose, or if she even realized she was that way.  One thing that is interesting to me, and making me pause is that, unlike Kenny and Angela, Olesya never, ever talks about her life in the orphanage.  Stories will come out from Kenny and Angela, and when I turn to ask Olesya about if something like that ever happened or what she remembers, inevitably she avoids answering with a shrug of her shoulders, saying she just doesn't remember anything.  She says she doesn't remember any of it...not even the later years when she was finally reunited with Angela in the same orphanage.  It is beginning to make me wonder if her claims are true about not recalling anything about that horrific night her grandmother died. I know people can block out things, but for her to block out her first entire 11 years is not is avoidance.  I am praying about this hard right now, asking God for insight into how to proceed.

To give you an idea of how far inward she is, Angela turned to me during our conversation yesterday and said, "Mom, don't feel bad.  You are trying everything you can, and you are the only person who ever has. I have known her all my life, and I don't know her anymore than you do.  Actually,  think I know you heart more than I do my own sister, and you and I have only been family for 3 years.  She hides from all of us, and I think she remembers more than she wants to talk about."  Angela also told me that she was very happy when I caught on to Olesya early on, and began encouraging her to be open, and to see herself as intelligent and capable.  She added, "If anyone can help her, Mom, it;s you.  Maybe someday she will change.  Maybe someday she will feel safe enough and good enough about herself to share all her feelings.  It is a hard thing to do. It's not like she doesn't love all of us a lot, she shows it all the time.  She just can't be honest with herself.  Maybe she is cared of remembering everything, and it changes who she is right now. I know I was very, very scared and shameful of it (ashamed), too, like people would think I was awful because of things that happened to me.  Now I know that was wrong, but I was just embarrassed about how all of it felt inside.  You got to me, though, and I think one day you'll get to Olesya too."  Then she asked, "Do you think something happened to her at the other orphanage before she got to me?  She was always so shy the couple of times I went to see her there, she acted different."

Food for thought, another puzzle to try and figure out.  This one might prove to be the most difficult to put together.  Lots to gnaw on.

Not much else going on....guess I have enough anyway :-)  Night all!


Anonymous said...

Wow! That last comment from Angela may be the key.

Good luck with the funding. What a fun and awesome trip! Did you already say what your itinery is and I missed it? We traveled alot when I was younger and managed to see a ton of historical sights.

Take care,
Teresa F.

Lindsay said...

Glad you and Matt are getting some helpful results on his dysgraphia testing. Have they identified the type of dysgraphia he has (motor, spatial, dyslexic being the main 3) as this will help you understand the type of difficulties he will be experiencing. Have they also suggested at all have his eye teaming and tracking checked? may be a helpful read for you as issues with tracking etc are not unheard of with dysgraphia and could account for why he reads with things very close to his face.

Anonymous said...

Now, we must get the family to Dan Deuter's ranch before you go to see a genuine fort store, a medicine circle, homesteader's cabin, etc. and hear stories of the past. It will be ease you back into the past.