Friday, September 28, 2012

D is for DeSales

I first was exposed to St. Francis DeSales and his teachings by the Oblates who staffed Father Judge High School in Philadelphia, PA.  Judge was the the "brother school" to my high school, and through the many interactions the schools had, I learned about St. Francis and was intrigued by his steadfast belief that regardless of what happened in life, God was there for us.  St. Francis' words have long brought me comfort:

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. 

Though it took us several months to accept, it quickly became obvious that a formal school was not working for Jude, no matter how many pleas I made when I dropped him off: "Please, God, let this be the day something clicks!" "God, just for one day let him find his way."  "Lord, I need to take somebody else to an appointment this morning, so today would be a TERRIFIC day to not get a phone call at 10 am to come get him..."  It was a hard to accept that he just was a proverbial square peg, and no amount of coaxing was going to make him fit into a round hole.  As much as we wanted him to go to a "regular" school, and his doctors and therapists felt it was a setting where peer modeling would help him succeed, it became clear that he did NOT want to be there with equal fervor.  Not being in a formal classroom style school setting was clearly better for him, but we also felt he was ready to move beyond passively learning through television shows aimed at the preschool crowd. This meant the decision to not be in a group setting  "in a classroom school" meant we were "homeschooling" by default, so we easily made peace with the choice.  However, the process of actually homeschooling -- well, for someone who never expected to be doing this, it's a whole other issue.  

There are many days where I am afraid D really just is a D, and I am failing as a teacher.  Some days go exactly as I would like, and he picks up the concepts quickly and we zoom through what I have planned and are staring at each other saying "What now?" and it's only 9:30. Then there are days where it seems like lessons are taking forever and we are stopping to wait for him to re-focus more than we are actually working.  A month in to the "school year," and we have had two weeks where we spend part of every day at doctors' appointments and have to scale down expectations to "what can we fit into the few minutes we have here and there," topped off with a day like today where we spent 8 hours between the car ride and appointments at the hospital and we get no "real" schoolwork done at all.  I am afraid he's not learning enough, even though we spent breakfast discussing "If you had ten blueberries, and you ate five, how many are left?" for Math, and stopping at every car asking "Can you tell me what's on that license plate?" for letter recognition.  It's the best we could do, but I'm afraid he's going to fall farther behind than he already is because we missed a day of working in his books and the lesson plan I spent three hours carefully crafting has been tossed out the window. I worry that if someone were to evaluate him, they would find us severely lacking.  In theory, we should be able to do MORE around doctor's visits, since he's not missing days and days of "brick-and-mortar" school, but it seems like we get precious little actually done because of logistics.  "How to effectively homeschool when you are always on the road" was never gone over in the education classes I took in college.

There are times I doubt my ability to teach him. (Another "D" word.)  Sure, shapes and letters and basic math aren't that hard.  I mean, there are even blue puppies that understand the basics of the universe; even a particular blue omnivorous monster knows "C is for Cookie."  Our first thought was for Jude to stay home through kindergarten, and then move to a regular school next fall.  It's becoming obvious quickly that his other needs are not going to permit this, and we are now looking at a much longer commitment.  I am trying to take things one concept at a time, but I have to admit I wonder how we're going to do when things get harder. (Especially with math.  I am not kidding that there was a reason I did NOT major in Mathematics in college.)   I see him struggling so much now and wonder how on earth is he going to be able to manage later; if he can't figure out what sound a letter makes, how will he read entire words?  I will never, ever give up on trying to teach Jude, but some days I wonder just how much he will be able to learn, and is it really his medical issues holding him back or is it just me and I'm not very good at this?

St. Francis DeSales

I've never been opposed to homeschooling; it just wasn't something we felt was best for our other children, so it wasn't something I had researched much about.  To suddenly be thrust into it without notice is like being sent on to a high wire with no net below and hurricane force winds swirling about you.  

But St. Francis spoke the truth: the days where I wonder how I will ever manage this, God shows me I'm not doing without His help.  Sometimes it is when we are having a rough day and when I am praying for patience that I feel a quiet calm and think maybe this isn't so crazy an idea after all, and we're going to be ok.  Other times it is through friends who say "I have an idea that might work for you."  And there are moments where Jude says something that lets me know something "stuck" -- he tells a random stranger in the hospital cafeteria, "The sun made the water evaporate!" or he walks along the construction wall at the hospital and says each letter correctly as he points to N-e-m-o-u-r-s, or he just remembers more of the Lord's Prayer on his own than he needs prompting for.  

I don't know what each day will bring, other than to be almost absolutely certain that it will be full of surprises.  And I'm trying not to let my fears overwhelm me; I'm working on remembering the teachings of St. Francis: even if I still have them, with God's help it will all be fine. 

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  1. Can I add another D? D is for a Dedicated Mom searching for what's the best plan for each child, even when none of the questions have easy answers.

    As for math, you can find a program that work for both Jude and you. Really.

  2. It seems to me that Jude is learning and liking learning. I like to think that as parents we all do the best that we can with what we know at any given time.Every person on the earth - child and adult - seek the same things - to be loved unconditionally and to have validation. You are providing all that.That's an A in my book.


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