Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Today, J took an online test for school. It was due the 24th, but it still went through. It was a math test. I was watching her as she took it and noticed a few things. She did better when reading the problem aloud and tended to fidget a bit. I'm pretty sure she's not allowed to do either when taking the test in school. She also would read the question but not "get it". She tended to overanalyze what some questions meant - sort of overlooking the obvious. She made a lot of silly mistakes, saying things like, "Oh, the answer is 7 because the line is right between 4 and 6". Or another thing she didn't get was if a street sign showed "Cinncinnati 68 miles" what is the sign telling you? She knew it meant how many miles it was from where you were. The correct answer was How far away Cincinnati is, but since that wasn't her wording, she was confused. And she thought that 1/4 was always 25 (like in money). It was interesting and I understand a bit more about how she does things. I think I'm going to use the "skills help" section of that website and have her do more problems in the areas she was confused. After she reread the problem, she understood it better and saw the mistakes she made. She did look at me to see if she was correct with most of them, but I kept a poker face and just told her to read the problem again if she had any doubts. It was hard not to intervene.

Tomorrow she needs to take a reading test online. I know she will do better if she reads the paragraphs aloud. I have to remind her to REALLY read the questions and make sure she knows that all the answers are IN the paragraph and not her own idea of what the answer should be.

BTW, she got 100% on the math test. The teacher is probably going to think I helped her through it since she did pretty poorly on the ones she took in school. J definitely does better test taking at home where she can relax and have no time limit. My presence is also comforting to her. I wish I knew how to get her feel more comfortable taking tests at school. That's what I need to research next, I guess.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas Vacation

All the kids are home for vacation until January 3rd. They are enjoying all their gifts and making pretty good use of their time. K has been downloading songs and listening to her mp3 player. W loves his football and scooter and has been using his new Leapster a lot. J is playing with her new twin dolls from American Girl. She is such a nurturer and loves being the "mommy". On Christmas day, she played a lot with her little cousins - who absolutely adore her. She keeps them all in line. She has been dressing and undressing her dolls and calling all her friends, having them listen to the sounds her Luv Cub makes and telling them all about her new "babies".

I caught J working in an old puzzle book today. It's a find-the-picture book. Not too educational, but I'm glad she picked up something else besides her dolls for a change. She is all set to do her vacation homework. We got her the posterboard she needs to do her project on comparing various countries. Tomorrow she'll get started on that and also she needs to go over her times tables some more. Her class has to get the 64 problem paper done in 3 minutes. I need to run to the store and pick up more supplies for her. The teacher is gearing up for a very challenging rest of the year. I really don't know what to expect. I am giving J her space to decide how and when she wants to do her homework and projects. It's very hard for me not to intervene, but I'll be here if she asks for help.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Today at School

I went to see J do a group project demonstration at school this morning. It was wonderful. She and her group presented their parts of the Decorative Arts of Japan. J talked about how she made a kokeshi doll. She made it completely by herself with a toilet paper tube, tinfoil, papier mache, paint, yarn, and construction paper. She is so proud of her work. I noticed she was nervous and wouldn't look out at all the parents. I was nervous for her and got a little teary. Then all the kids stood around the perimeter of the classroom and sang and did movements to a Japanese song they learned. J and 3 other kids were in the middle as the focus of the dance. It was so great.

The principal even came in to gush about the wonderful kids in this program. The GT classes are her pride and joy and cause the school much recognition. The teacher really has a lot of pride in her students as well. She kept taking pictures and gave them all so much encouragement. The whole classroom is filled with work the kids do and pictures of them doing it.

J's teacher came over and told me how beautiful J is and how she looked like a butterfly doing the dance. This is nice and all, but tell me about how thing's are going academically! I have suddenly learned to be totally calm and non-pressuring about J's school performance. I leave everything up to her now. I help when needed, but the responsibility is hers. She is in charge of remembering to do homework and when she should study. She's responding to this well. I guess I may have been too "on her" to get stuff done. Now if she gets it done at midnight or 5 in the morning, that's fine with me. I am letting her be her.

Another thing I've noticed recently is how the teacher accomodates when J has a problem somewhere. When J was having trouble with writing, the teacher became her writing partner. J doesn't test well so all of sudden their reading test was a take-home test. J needs to move around a lot, so the teacher lets the kids all do standing up/moving around types of work and made J a Kindergarten monitor at lunchtime.

I realize I have both of my older kids in excellent schools and I should feel really lucky about that. My town is notorious for crappy schools. A lot of moms I talk to ask me where my kids go to school and when I tell them they look at me in awe. It's nice to feel like I did something right along the way somewhere. Of course, I also think I have the best, smartest, happiest, healthiest, and most beautiful kids in the world, though, who will always draw good things to themselves throughout their whole lives!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Why This Decision?

My daughter J is 8 years old. From early on, her love of learning was apparent to everyone. She taught herself many things like reading at 3 and cursive writing at 5. She loved to write her name all over the playground in chalk at 2 years old. When Catholic pre-kindergarten began for her, she was excited, though reluctant to separate from me. Eventually she began enjoying school, but a little too much. She was in "time-out" almost every day for misbehavior (talking out of turn, fidgeting, being overly curious, etc). Kindergarten was ok. her first teacher was tolerant of her behavior and just said she had "ants in the pants". When I switched the kids over to the local public school, her new teacher enjoyed her and found her personality "exuberant". This teacher told me J was "way beyond" the phonics workbooks they were doing, so had J sit in the back of the room reading and doing book reports. J wrote wonderful page-long summaries of the books she read, but was very unhappy and felt isolated. I believe this was what caused her eventual disdain for reading. First grade was the worst. The teacher couldn't deal with J and we had several meetings on how to handle this.

I started researching on the internet what could possibly be the problem. So, I changed J's diet, eliminating anything and everything that could be a possible allergen causing her to misbehave. I found out J has a bit of a sensitivity to orange juice, tomato products, and corn products. But over time the difference wasn't that significant. Although this teacher really didn't like J, she recommended her for a nearby gifted program. All of J's information was sent out and evaluated, and she qualified to take the test for the program. We were all thrilled to learn that she was one of the top 2% to make it into the program.

Second grade at the new school was refreshing. J was happy among "smart kids" like her - no singling out or isolation here! She still was fidgety and chatty, but in general, her behavior had remarkedly improved. The teacher was concerned, though, and requested I get her tested for ADHD. This upset me, but I would do anything to find out why my daughter wasn't ever really "fitting in" with the school mold. So that spring, equipped with my parent and teacher questionaires, I went in to see a pediatric neurologist. She asked J about 3 questions and sent her out of the room. She then told me that since this office was an "artificial environment" she couldn't tell if there was anything wrong with J. She then made a diagnosis of ADD based solely on the teachers questionaire. I was confused and annoyed and asked about further testing, observations, and other parties involvement. She told me I was "just not ready to accept this diagnosis" and to come back another time to discuss treatment. Needless to say, I was livid and realized not only could this have taken place over the phone - she requested an office visit so she would get my insurance money, but this doctor was completely incompetent. I never called her again.

It is now December of third grade. She no longer has the fidgetiness or chattiness, but the new thing seems to be inattentiveness, lack of focus, and distractability. I researched things like CAPD and ADD-inattentive. I bought book after book on ADD. I gave J homeopathic ADD medicine (no side effects) and Omega-3 capsules. I even gave her coffee in the morning before school (I read it works just as well or better than ADD stimulant medication). Within the last month I bought a $30 e-book about how to combat attention problems by using exercises and activities and just last week I just bought a $170 "kit" containing all these things to help improve reading comprehension by learning how to use your eyes better (I don't know, it sounded great when I bought it).

I just feel like I have tried so many things. It is getting ridiculous. I know there is nothing wrong with J. She is amazingly bright and perceptive. She writes beautiful poetry and stories. She is always a regular in the popular groups and makes friends very easily everywhere we go. She notices everything and always has an interesting perspective on things. After almost 5 years of formal schooling, I finally realize that a classroom environment is too distracting for her. Although she loves school, she cannot learn there. She told me once that she hears all the outside noises (garbage truck, car alarms, airplanes) and inside noises (tapping, clicking, buzzing flourescent lights, and even other kids breathing). Any activity with a time limit is agitates her - tests especially. Her current teacher told me she is very smart, but is not a test-taker, and if she was in a regular mainstream class she would get straight As. She doesn't realize the mainstream class was actually worse for her.

So here we are. J got an assessment the other day stating she was performing below the program standards in Reading, Writing, and Math - Classwork needs improvement - Conduct is satisfactory - Homework and Effort are good. The teacher wrote a note below it saying the program is too demanding for J and it's not the proper placement for her. Well, that's ok. I would really like for her to be in this excellent program. It goes all the way up to 8th grade and all of the students go on to the top high schools. But, no matter how excellent the program is, it may not be a good fit for J. I do not think this is a case of "evening out". I have seen her love of learning fade slowly away over the years. It breaks my heart. Whenever there is time spent away from school (vacations), she becomes the child she used to be who loved books and learning.

So I have come to the decision to homeschool her if she does not make it to the next grade in this program. I mean, it's not over 'til it's over and we still may have until June to improve her concentration and grades. Third grade is the hardest at this school everyone says. Fourth grade is a breeze compared to 3rd. So I have a feeling next year at this school would be better than this year, but I don't see her moving on. I am already preparing myself to homeschool by September.

I have done so much research. I live in a state where the homeschooling rules and regulations are ridiculous, but manageable. I know how to prepare an IHIP, quarterly reports, and yearly summaries. I've made lists of what we have, what we need to buy, and what we will do all day. She is excited about the prospect and isn't worried about not returning to school. She is on a competitive dance team that meets 2 evenings a week and goes to Sunday school. We will also join local homeschooling groups where she can meet other kids who homeschool. All I need to do is decide on a curriculum - if we decide to use one. The first few months will be spent basically "de-schooling" to get the school out of her system and allow her to re-learn how to learn. I have only read good things about this and I have the support of my family behind me.

I just wanted to mention also, that J has 2 siblings (she's a middle child) who are in school and are thriving there. I think public school is truly fantastic for what it is and most children will do fine there. Some children are just divergent thinkers who are not wired for that specific way of learning.

The beginning of this journey is with public school. J's test scores have hovered between 70 and 80 for the most part, with a couple of 40s and a couple of 90s and 100s. She got all top marks in the enrichment classes: Science, Spanish, Computer, Library, Gym, Art. She got an 84 on yesterday's math test - better than usual. And 2 projects handed in this week were outstanding in my eyes. We'll know the grade in January, probably. I have to say, I have calmed down so much. I do not worry anymore about what will become of her if she cannot make it at the school. I have a strange sense of peace about all of it. I know she will be fine no matter what.