Monday, May 23, 2005

Trouble At School Again

We had a good day on Saturday, we spent 8 hours working on mama's project to re-landscape the front yard. She likes to come up with rather ambitions projects, and sometimes she has bitten off more than we can chew. We made a lot of progress, and installed an irrigation line to attach drip lines. These drip lines will water our shrubs and flowers. After working all day (from about 8:00 am to 5:00 PM) on Saturday, we got the line in and buried, and several shrubs planted around the perimeter of the front yard.

The kids worked really hard too. My twelve-year old son, Bryan, worked really hard. He ran the power cultivator (a mini roto tiller) to stir up the soil and mix in mulch together. Meanwhile, I dug trenches for the irrigation line. Mama and Sammy (my soon to be 10-year-old daughter) distributed the mulch throughout the flowerbed.

Anyway, We worked hard all day on Saturday. The kids wanted to go swimming at the local recreation center. After finishing our work for the day, and gathering up all of our tools and supplies, we put on our swimsuits, and headed for the pool. The kids had a lot of fun swimming around, and going down the water slide at the pool. My wife (mama) and I spent some time in the water together, playing with the kids some, but also just kind of dancing together in the water. Later mama and I spent some time in the hot-tub next to the pool. It was really nice and helped soothe our stiff and sore muscles.

After swimming we went to a new Japanese Seafood Buffet that opened up in our area. It cost about $40.00 for the four of us. The food was really good. I believe we'll go there again sometime.

After coming home, we found that we were really tired. Previous thoughts we had of having some "extra-curricular activities" were now long gone. We got the kids off to bed, and watched a couple of home improvement shows on HGTV, and then went to bed.

Sunday, Part 1
On Sunday, I had early church council meetings (starting at 6:30 AM!) -- so I had to get up at about 5:00 AM to get ready. My meetings let out at about 8:30 AM, and I came home to see if anyone was out of bed yet. They were all in our bedroom, watching TV - well at least everyone was up.

However, I soon discovered that mama was not feeling well. She was stiff and sore from all the work the day before, but now she also had a COLD as well. Her head was really stuffy, and I could tell that she really felt lousy. I asked her if she planned on going to church, and she said no.

I had to tend to some church business at a different congregation from our own, so the kids couldn't come with me. My business would take place at the same time as our main worship service. Since mama wasn't going, that meant that the kids weren't going either. I felt bad about that, but there was nothing I could do to avoid it.

So I went off to my meeting, and took care of the business I had to attend to, and returned home. The last hour of our worship service was still about 1/2 hour away from starting. I got Bryan ready so that the two of us could attend the last hour of the service. I also needed to go to our local congregation, because I needed to give my monthly financial donation to the local leaders as well.

Meanwhile, mama and Sammy stayed at home.

After the services were over, Bryan and I came home to find that there was trouble in the air. Mama was not happy, and as the saying goes, "If mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy!" It turns out that we had finally gotten Bryan's progress report from school. In much of his writing and math subjects, he had only turned in roughly 50% of his assignments. In social studies, he had turned in the first couple of assignments, and nothing after that. The problem with all of this is that all along, Bryan had been claiming that he was completing and turning in all of his assignments at school, and thus did not have homework to do.

We had to get the house cleaned up because we were expecting some visitors later in the afternoon. As we walked in the door coming home from church, mama was in the progress of what I would call "Aggravated Vacuuming". There was a grimace on her face, a bark in her voice, and a dark cloud over her head. I knew that all was not well, and the rest of the day was going to be pretty rough.

The Youth Choir
After completing hour housework chores, I had Bryan come and sit down next to me on the living room couch, and we discussed a previous commitment for Bryan to sing in a large youth choir. The only problem, the choir was in 4-point harmony, and he was placed with the tenors. The reality is that his voice hasn't changed yet, and he is still a boy soprano, musically. However, singing with the sopranos is not a option, because the sopranos, naturally are all girls, and he must sing with the boys. He simply could not reach all of the notes. He can get down to an A or G below middle C, but that's about hit. Meanwhile, he can hit a high A or B above middle C, which many sopranos would love to be able to hit.

At first the rehearsals for the choir were with our local church congregations. However, from now on they will be at various locations quite some distance away. In fact, last night was a mandatory rehearsal. One big problem was that it was also at the same time as my Dad's 70'th birthday dinner celebration.

I could tell that the choir thing was not working out, musically, and also it was not working out practically. I wanted Bryan to be able to go to his grandpa's 70th birthday celebration. I also didn't want to have to transport him to hither and yon for the next two months until the choirs performance. And frankly, he is too young and immature to be off to these locations without close supervision anyhow.

So I sat Bryan down on the couch next too me, and asked him how he would feel if he didn't get to sing in the youth choir. His answer was, "It would be a big relief." Frankly, it was a big relief for me to know that he didn't want to continue with the choir, because I was about to tell him as gently as I could that I thought it was best if he did not participate. Having it be his own idea made it much easier. For him it was a relief, rather than a big letdown.

Meanwhile, mama came down the hallway, and I waved her into the living room to let her know what our plans were with the youth choir. I explained some of the reasons why it was just not going to work out for us.

School Troubles - Again
Then mama said that she had something we need to discuss as well. That's when she dropped the bombshell about Bryan's homework assignments. Now before you judge that Bryan is a total slouch, you must first understand that he has some learning disabilities. His whole school career has been a difficult struggle for everyone -- for Bryan and his mom and dad as well. He has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and time spent in "Resource", what we used to call Special Ed. His biggest problems have to do with short-term memory, being able to plan and prioritize his work, being able to stay on track with a task to completion. Because of all of these difficulties, he has a great deal of trouble with writing and composition. He has a team of experts working with him, his Resource Teacher, a school psychologist, an Occupational Therapist (for handwriting skills) and a part-time aide that works with him in the regular classroom to help him with his writing tasks.

We also made a big argument with the school district a year ago to "retain" him in 5th grade. We transferred him from a year-round school to a new school that would would on a traditional schedule (continuity works better for Bryan rather than all of the stops and starts of the year round schedule.) Right now Bryan is completing is second go round of 5th grade.

Even with all this help, school is still a difficult problem for him. And, hence, a source of great concern for his parents as well.

Mama confronted Bryan about his class assignments. It took quite awhile to get the truth out of him. He kept insisting that he had been turning in his assignments. What was really disappointing is that he would look at mama right in the eye, and lie through his teeth about the assignments. We new better, and eventually he caved, admitting that he hadn't been turning in his social studies assignments. But its not just social studies. His math comprehension isn't very good, and his general language skills are not very good either.

In reality, we are more disappointed in his untruthfulness, both yesterday's lies, and hiding the truth about his school assignments, and the need to do homework for the past few months as well. If he would have told us that he was having trouble getting his assignments done, then we would have helped him at home after school so he could get them completed. I suspect that he just didn't want to have to do homework - and hence the cover story that everything was being done at school. We were thinking that finally the aide situation was really working, and that great progress was being made. So this has been a real letdown.

We have some big decisions to make -- Whether to keep him in the public school, or to home school him. Private school would be great, but we can't afford the thousands of dollars per year in tuition costs. We were hoping that private school tuition reimbursement would pass in the state legislature this year, but that hasn't happened for us yet. If that ever comes to pass, we may be able to get Bryan into a private school that will give him the attention he needs.

We, or mama, I should say, has home schooled him in the past. After having kindergarten in the public school, Bryan was homeschooled for all of his 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade years, and for the first half of his 4th grade year. Sammy also was homeschooled for kindergarten, and all of 1st grade, and the first half of 2nd grade. Mama had some health issues in late 2002, and throughout 2003 which made homeschooling impossible (3 times in the hospital, for various problems, including two surgeries!) She had health issues basically throughout much of the year 2003.

We could homeschool for Bryan again, to try and get him ready for Jr. High. Sammy does really well in the public school (she did well in homeschool too.) However, its Bryan that really needs the individualized attention.

So there is trouble in school. Again! Every year there are heart-wrenching issues that we have to confront. The public schools just never seem to be able to get it right. Even the programs that the school district comes up with for Bryan don't have the follow-through that they should have. It seem like all you get is lip service. In the end, it is Bryan who pays the price. He is not being served well by the school system.

Meanwhile the concern for Bryan's future remains strong for both mama and me. We worry about what will become of Bryan. Not only in his academic career, but also in the kinds of career opportunities that will be available to him. Will he be able to provide for himself and his family one day? Will he ever be able to get himself organized, keep on task, and follow through on projects to the end -- without constantly having to be reminded to stay on task? We are as much concerned for his life skills, as we are for his academic skills.

At this point, I can't see him going to a regular 4-year college. I think he could do well in sales, if he can get himself organized, and be able to plan, make goals and accomplish those goals on his own. He also would do well with things that he could do with his hands. Like some kind of repair work, like heating/AC, or electronic repair work. I would suspect that sales, or a job in one of the trades would be the best fit for him. And the truth is, there is good money to be made in those fields, if he can get through the training process. In fact, some of these jobs are more plentiful and are better paying than many jobs requiring a 4-year bachelors degree.

So there is hope that everything will work out alright. But for now, as it has been for the past few years, it is a challenge, and a great source of worry and concern. It shows on mama's face, and it shows in her mood. And it weighs me down some as well. But we have to have faith. We need to trust in the Lord, that in His time and in His way there will be a way for Bryan to succeed. So our thoughts and prayers will be especially focused on Bryan the next little while.

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