Monday, March 13, 2017

1, 2, 3 for Josh!

Many families have them, the one child who has no issues, who has no complaints, who does everything well and is mature and likable.  Sometimes, these kids get lost in the shuffle of larger families that include special needs.  I try often to make sure this doesn't happen with Josh, but I always worry that his self-sufficiency and easy going presence means he doesn't have enough opportunities to shine.  Boy, did he quietly make that possible this weekend!

Lacking true athletic prowess but enjoying physical activity, Joshua decided to play basketball again this season.  Much to our surprise, he showed a fair amount of improvement over last year! We all know he will always be one who has less playing time, and quite honestly it is his softer less aggressive nature that kills him on the court.  He realizes this and sees no reason to change, nor do we see a reason to push that since he is happy enough, so he cheerfully attends practices and games, enjoying the camaraderie and the work out, and he keeps his expectations low.  This remarkable quality of his has allowed him to truly enjoy playing this season, and to respond to his teammates with genuine encouragement.  His team was in its end of the season tournament, and was in the championship game Saturday!

Only his second season, Josh had great coaching and definitely improved his passing, dribbling, and placement on the court.  He didn't have many rebounds and perhaps only 4 baskets or so all season, but his improvement was obvious, and next year will bring more opportunity for growth.  How much it says about his character, that he fully intends to play every year, regardless of skill level, and not let that get in the way of learning a sport he enjoys!  VERY proud of this young man for that incredible attitude!!

Surprise!  They received 2nd place medals for the season, and 3rd place ribbons for the tournament.  

But wait...there's more!

Sunday afternoon Josh had a shooting competition for his club, which he thoroughly enjoys and has steadily improved at as well.  He has been awarded patches and a couple of 2nd and 3rd place trophies for team shooting, and is working his way progressively through the program.  Here he is, ready for competition.


He did it!  As he pointed out, this is the first time in his life that he has won first place in anything.  He has participated in several activities through the years including basketball, art, music, volleyball, photography, bowling, and soccer as well as shooting, and finally his steadfast commitment to gradual improvement paid off!

I have tears in my eyes even as I type this, because this son of ours is so special, has such a kind heart, and has humbled himself over and over again as he ventured into new activities where he was definitely not a natural.  He did it for all the right reasons, the ones we tell kids to participate in things for, but often lose sight of.  Josh never did, he has enjoyed everything he has done despite being less than stellar at it.  He has set his ego aside each and every time, been a positive role model for his team, a hard worker and an example of never giving up.  He has learned that delayed gratification actually works, that time dedicated to learning something can pay off...and sometimes it never does in worldly accolades but can still be enjoyed.

Unassuming, he doesn't see his gifts as much as he might.  His giftedness is subtle and general, he has no specific area in which he soars, but has quietly worked at a higher grade level for years with no real thought to it.  He is currently enrolled in College Algebra and is already halfway through the course in five weeks time, and is also doing high school geometry having already completed Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.  I am in a bit of a conundrum as I try to craft his high school plan as he moves on from 8th grade, because as far as Literature, History, US Government, and Math goes, he is already 2-3 years ahead.  He never mentions it, never gives it a thought actually.   

So today, we celebrate Joshua...who is an overcomer in all kinds of ways!!  You are seen, my dearest son, you are beloved, you are honestly an example to me in so many ways and I am proudest of your heart!!

Friday, March 10, 2017

The End is Drawing Near

As winter fades and spring tentatively arrives, there is the soft, gradually increasing cadence of "Pomp and Circumstance" playing as the score to our weeks.

We have a soon-to-be graduate in our midst, and it is a sweet, tender time for us all.

Eight years ago, as Matthew began fifth grade, we made the momentous decision to give homeschooling a try.  I can still feel his hand in mine as we walked with great deliberation through the school hall that day we tentatively removed him from public education.  I tried so hard to present a confident front for him, all the while feeling tremulous inside.  Who did I think I was to assume I could teach him?  How did I think I could ever possibly do this and do it well?  All I really knew was our son, for a variety of reasons, no longer fit this setting and we were at a turning point and could either ignore the obvious, or make a change.

Somehow, we fumbled our way through our first year, adding two new Russian speaking daughters, discovering how learning disabled Kenny truly was though without labels at that time, and if everyone was going to be home for school Josh might as well be, too.  I think I held my breath the first couple of years, uncertainty filled my heart while I was offered the greatest trust by Matt.  He gave me the gift of patience as I re-framed my understanding about education and what it looked like, accepted my trial and error as I gently felt my way through to solid ground,  and  eventually the two of us hit our stride, and we were on our way.

A sweet, caring brother...

                                                                  Who still loves his blankies!

Now we stand side by side once again, looking forward toward a new beginning, yet another re-framing of what post-high school education can look like, and trusting one another as we move into a new phase.  Others may not understand, but it is as if he and I glance in each other's direction, give one another a wink that silently says, "No worries, others may not get it but we do!"

Matthew is a young man for whom true pomp and circumstance hold no real appeal.  Where some of our kids appreciate ceremony and an appropriate moment in the spotlight, Matt has always eschewed such things, tolerating them at best.  We have tossed around several ideas as we have considered what a meaningful "graduation" might look like for him as a homeschooler.

He has elected not to participate in our local Christian homeschool group graduation ceremony for personal reasons that have to do with his strong faith and differing perspective around several issues.  After talking it through, he has decided that he would like to have a small dinner at home with a few friends who have made a difference in his life, and then he will accept the offer to have his diploma publicly conferred in church in Massachusetts when we attend our friends' high school graduation.  Simple, little fanfare, and he will be happy with it.

Electing to once again walk the road less traveled, Matthew is crafting his own post-high school education.  Dominick and I both trust him implicitly, and he has earned that trust many times over by proving his self-motivation and follow through with self-directed learning.

Utilizing several online resources, including IT Pro TV Online Video Technical Training, he will be working toward exploring the ever changing field of Computer Science.  In other words, he is not going to attend college or trade school but is going to cobble together an educational training track that allows him to delve into everything he wants to learn, including programming, web site design, networking, cloud computing, design, and more.  The resources online are infinite, affordable or even free in some cases, and he wants to obtain as many certifications in these areas as he can.  He is also going to look for brief internships, and develop his own ideas into project based learning.  It is his hope that he will be pursuing his pilot's license through Civil Air Patrol, which has eluded him this past academic year due to instructor issues.  He is also interested in drones and the uses that are being explored for them.

It is easy for Dominick and I to feel comfortable with this unusual direction for him that is non-linear to some degree, and totally self-directed.  Working on his own, he has already earned one certification from COMP-TIA, the main certification entity employers look for in general learning for the computer industry.  He has also already taken two full years of AutoCAD and may pursue certification in that as well.  He has already learned a programming language on his own, Python, and is currently writing his own first invoicing program for himself, learning through trial and error.  He is going to look into Geographical Information Systems (GIS) which is surveying using GPS technology.

In our minds, this IS college for Matt, just in a nontraditional form.  He and I have been playing around with language that will help us easily explain his direction and focus to others over the next few years.  We have agreed together on our expectations for the next 3-4 years as he immerses himself in learning full-time and continues to live responsibly at home.  He will be working very part-time at the liquor store (his back issues make it difficult to stand for any length of time), do store accounting work at home for us, and will continue to pick up computer customers here and there as he can, assisting people with their computer and wifi needs in their homes, training them, etc.  He has had a handful of customers this past year.  He also strongly desires to continue volunteering at Sharing Ministries assisting with administrative tasks.  He will be a very busy young man!

It was a dear and precious conversation we had this week, sitting before the laptop screen peering at various colors for his cap and gown.  We kicked around wording for his diploma, giggled over tassels, and then I asked him how it felt to be graduating, if he was feeling ready to enter the world.

"I don't feel any different, actually, as I am going to continue what I have been doing all along, so not a whole lot is going to change except for the fact that now I can spend ALL DAY studying the things that I am most interested in!" he responded excitedly.

I said, "It is going to be so interesting to see what you ultimately end up doing after you try enough to discern your main interest.  I have no idea how this is going to work, but I guess we will figure it out, right?"

With the cutest little conspiratorial grin, he leaned into me and with our eye glasses almost clinking he whispered, "Don't worry mom, I've always been your guinea pig, why change now when it has worked so well?"

Part of me will always, always be grateful for this young man who has pretty much always been this content, eager learner who allowed mom to try and fail multiple times, showing me such genuine grace throughout his entire life.

Matthew is a very bright, centered, self-directed young man.  Graduation means he will be unconstrained by the requirements to graduate high school, and I have absolutely no doubt we are in for an interesting ride next year!