Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I chose to homeschool and why I chose to stop!

When Matthew first came to live with me he was just about to enter the wonderful world of schooling!  He was still in foster care so homeschooling was not allowed and I didn't know the length of his stay, so private school was out of the question.  I chose to place him in a local public charter school that I was working with at the time since I knew the staff and would be able to keep a close eye on him.  We made it through the year, barely, but only because Matthew had the awesomest teacher ever.  After Kindergarten it was clear that he would be staying forever so I enrolled him in the Christian school near me hoping that the good influence of his peers and no more traumatizing visits with birth family would lead to changes in his that didn't work.  After what is now merely referred to as the "incident" around Christmas in his first grade classroom this was no longer an option for him.  By this time I was working from home so I thought I would jump on the homeschooling ban-wagon.  For those of you not familiar with the attachment/adoption circle, homeschooling is kinda a big thing.  There is a large population of moms who are homeschooling these kiddos day in and day out.  I always perceived these women as more dedicated, more creative, more patient than myself.  They seemed to have this therapeutic parenting thing down to a science. I perceived them spending the day engaging their children in learning, baking delicious gluten free cookies, keeping the house cleaned and organized and all the while working through their children's trauma and healing, creating the perfect family.  Maybe that was the solution to all of our behavior woes.....I just needed to homeschool.  So in we jumped.  The last half of first grade was magical Matthew completed work that his first grade teacher had told me he was nowhere near capable.  Don't get me wrong we had our struggles and it took all of our energy to get through the basics each day, but we did it!  The house was a disaster and we ate out too often, but we did it!  I learned more about my son in those few months then I had in the last year and a half.  I learned what he was capable of, what triggered him, what strategies would work and what wouldn't.  I learned when to push him and when to back off.  I taught him how to understand empathy for others physical pain (and I had the bruises to prove it).  It was a magical time. I wouldn't trade it for the world. We began to understand each other. Then came second grade. We began homeschooling and I was determined that this was going to be a great year. However, the magic never came.  There was yelling, pouting, gnashing of teeth, and that was just on my end :) Things were not going as planned.  The control battles became unbearable.  We understood each other all right, he understood how to push my buttons and my sanity and I understood that he was capable of much better.  It became exhausting and triggering for both of us.  In December of that year Matthews younger brother was "released" from his preschool program, meaning he was now home with us all day.  It was the straw that broke the camels back.  Having two RADishes in the house along with a two year old who was into everything was. not. working. I struggled with the decision to continue homeschooling.  I worried about changing his school once again.  I worried that he would be able to manipulate and get away with behavior in the classroom causing all our hard work to be destroyed.  I was worried he wouldn't make friends and learn to further distance himself from peers.  I worried I would spend more time at school dealing with issues making it pointless.  I didn't want to explain our situation and teach yet a new group of professionals, but the struggle was mainly my own.  I felt like a failure, I didn't feel good enough.  I saw all these women who were doing it all and I just couldn't.  I contacted the public school and Matthew was eventually placed in a small pyscho-educational school with a 1:5 ratio.  Best decision ever.  He is doing great, has glowing reports, and best of all he is making some positive choices.  Only time will tell and maybe one day we will give it another go, but for now this is working for US.
What I realized was that if it wasn't homeschooling it would just be something else, maybe I just needed to feed a gluten free diet or sign the boys up for the latest therapy to come around.  What I perceived when looking at all these beautiful women and their beautiful families was partially true, they are all AMAZING, they are all DEDICATED, they are all CREATIVE, they are all PATIENT, but so am I.  They are all finding and doing what they think is best for their UNIQUE and INDIVIDUAL children, but so am I.  None of us are perfect and the grass may always look greener on the other side, but we are ALL dealing with our own unique blend of problems, worries, therapies and issues.  We are all in different stages of this battle for our kids hearts.  What works for one child might not work for mine.  There is no manual or one magic program that will "fix" what was broken in my child so long ago.  I AM ENOUGH, I don't have to be a supermom, I can leave my therapeutic parenting panties at the door every once in awhile and screw up and its ok cause there's always tomorrow.  My kids didn't get this way overnight, there were years of trauma that came before me, I cant expect them to heal overnight.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Checklists my ass

I came across some old paperwork from my fostering license. It was a child characteristic checklist of things you were willing to consider. I checked yes to pretty much everything; AIDS-sure, Missing Limbs- no problem, Learning Disabilities- right up my ally. You want to know what I said no to......Reactive Attachment disorder! Too funny how life turns out sometimes ;)

Maybe next time around I will just check yes to RAD and see what comes my way!


It's hard to put Orlando into words. Those of you that have been understand!

This year over 120 women gathered together in Orlando, FL. It is a time of fellowship, relaxation, rejuvenation and learning. Although my goal in attending this year was to soak up as much knowledge as I could to bring back to my kiddos I ended up finding so much more. Most importantly I learned the value in taking care of me! I'm of no use to my boys when I'm stressed and exhausted, which is pretty much my daily life as a single mom to three VERY active little boys ;). It doesn't mean I need to go on vacation 4 times a year or even an evening out every week, but it does mean I need to sit down and relax with a cup of coffee or a good book.....every single day!! I need to find something small to do for me everyday. Something that doesn't involve the boys, attachment, therapy, parenting, etc.
the other incredible thing about Orlando was the wonderful women I met. We all come from different walks of life, but all connect on the issue of raising kids from hard places. I know I could contact any of these women and they would be on The phone with me in a second!
So now I can go about my day, enjoy a cup of coffee and catch up with these great women all across the country (and a few of my favorite Canadians too)! I'm already looking forward to next year!

If you're interested in coming to Orlando in 2014 check out :

Hope to see you there!


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Its been almost three years since my three boys came to live with me.
 We have been through so much together, but lately I have been feeling stuck.  I was feeling like we weren't moving forward as a family, we were just going through the daily motions.  I found myself blaming the boys, if only they listened to me, if only they got along, if only they would just calm down.  Between the three of them they had brought along so much baggage, speech delays, ADHD, RAD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder; if only their birth parents hadn't screwed them over things would be ok.  However, this weekend I had the biggest awakening that although they had come into the family with all of these "problems" right now the biggest problem  This weekend Joel, my youngest, was playing around on the computer and came across some old videos of Matthew from the first year he was here.  To say that they struck a chord with me would be an understatement.  I had a full on revelation of biblical proportions.  One video in particular was taken several hours into an over 12 hour rage.  The house in the background was a disaster due to Matthew throwing everything that wasn't nailed down at my head.  He ran up to his room, climbed onto his dresser and was attempting to "fly" while hurling toys in my direction.  At one point in the video you can even hear me desperately telling him to practice his deep breathing he had been learning with the "therapist", "Come on honey, Smell the flower.....Blow out your candles."  HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The kicker of the video is when he is hiding behind a chair, he pops his head up and in the calmest voice with a huge smile, he says, "I'm going to get a gun and shoot you."  As I watched this video I realized something,  we have come SO far.  The kid that stands before me today is NOT the same child so why was I still parenting to that child in the video?!  I mean I know things had improved, but it took that video to make me realize just how far we had come.  I realized that I had been suffering from my own version of PTSD.  I had been parenting my kids like we were still in that crisis mode.  Every little infraction would cause my body to tense and send me flying back to those moments where I lived in fear, fear of my child, fear of the safety of the other children, fear of judgment from family, friends, social workers and therapists, fear of failure.  I would overreact and yell and stress out as if every infraction was going to lead us back to a 12 hour rage ending in a hospital stay or an all nighter stationed outside Matthew's door to ensure another fire wasn't set or a knife hidden.  It was necessary then, I had to be hyper vigilant and overly cautious to protect everyone and help Matthew feel safe.  However, living in a constant state of crisis comes at the cost of a happy family.  We were merely surviving.  I now realize....we have SURVIVED!  We are by no means perfect, but it is time for me to let go and transition into HAPPY.  Happy experiences, happy memories, happy kids, and a happy mommy.  If every slight infraction immediately sends me back to that state of crisis management imagine what my child feels and the places his trauma leads him to remember on a daily basis.  Its time to let go a little, time to focus on the battles that are important, time to give up a little control and help Matthew manage his own behavior.  Are we still going to have moments of sabotage, lying, stealing and defiance? Sure.  But those moments are just moments not 12 hour rages that leave me emotionally drained.  Not rages that leave me covered in bruises and bite marks. Not rages that result in safety plans and hiding spots for the little ones.  I am ready to move the boys beyond the trauma to a place of happy and maybe (just maybe) do it all over again.
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