Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Peewee

So MF turned 6 today. It was sort of a no big deal kind of day. We did let her sleep in today and took her to the dinner of her choice tonight. I fully expected her to pick McDonald's like she always does, but she totally surprised me and went with Texas Roadhouse. Mostly, she just wanted the peanuts but she likes the spectacle that they make for birthdays. She had her friend party on Saturday and her family party on Sunday. He friend brought her all manned of neat toys and her family brought the cash. Best of both worlds! :) She had a pink princess party on Saturday and we decorated tiaras, played pin the heart on the necklace and beat a castle shaped pinata into submission. Sunday, we had all the grandmas over but this year was fun because we had other kids at the party for the first time ever. I'm super glad there are a few more short people around for these things now! :)

Here is a picture of both kids when they were first born. Wasn't she cute? Who would have guessed that she would turn out to be the tiny (or not so tiny, since her last check up put her 97% for height and 95% for weight or as her doctor called her "just a big, strong girl" :)) tyrant she is today?

Probably anyone who has ever met her, that's who! :)


Even if she is a tyrant, I think we'll keep her around since she is a pretty cool kid too! :)

O.(T.) No, they didn't

At our meeting last week, the school suggested that Occupational Therapy was basically the cure to all of our ills. Of course, that is a service the district does not provide so I needed to take care of it. The school psychologist suggested I contact my insurance company to find out if services were covered, since paying out of pocket for that is cost prohibitive (or as she put it "insanely and dauntingly expensive"). My insurance is stupid and only open until 4:45 so I wasn't able to call last week.

I called today and was transferred around a couple of times. Eventually, I got to someone who told me that, while O.T. is covered, I need a referral from my doctor (no problem, I totally expected that) but that once that referral was made, we would have to visit the O.T., who would then contact the insurance to find out if services were ACTUALLY covered. I know, I totally felt my head explode as she was explaining it to me. So basically, I have to go and hope that the visit is covered or pony up the cost. Of course, I have no idea what that cost might actually amount to.

I called WF's doctor to get the referral process started and the nurse seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. She said the school usually handles O.T. services and she didn't know what they could do. I explained that the services were cut so we were trying to make up that difference ourselves. She said they don't actually offer O.T. services and can't refer us to Carle, who does offer O.T. She at least agreed with me that there was really no need for an office visit, since there was nothing to diagnose. She ended up giving me their fax number and telling me to talk to the school and have them fax over his assessment and their recommendation for treatment and we'll "see if we can figure something out"

So basically, I'm back at square one as far as getting him O.T. services goes. The school can't help, the insurance won't help and the doctor doesn't know how to help.

On a bright note, I did get to check out the new spelling system they are suggesting for him and I could totally make it myself, at home, for under $10! They said I could use the books they have to get him a jump on it, so I don't need to spend $250 per lesson or buy an iPad (since the app they suggested is only available for iPad AND costs $23!), so that was good news. The special ed teacher also recommended a dictation program for him to do his homework with. It isn't perfect, but it is a place to start, so that the words get on the page and he can at least work on editing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

BIT meeting

Earlier this week, I blogged about WF's math, and school in general, issues. We met on Thursday about supports for next year and, although I wasn't thrilled with the idea of the meeting, I came out of it in a better frame of mind. We talked about his focus issues, his spelling issues, his "floppiness", his habit of writing numbers backwards, etc. Today, it occurred to me that I should have asked them about his stutter as well, but I didn't think about it at the time. They agree that most of those issues are real issues and we talked about several things to help him overcome them. Unfortunately, OT has been cut in the district so he hasn't been seeing an OT all year so their first recommendation was to contact my insurance and see if they cover OT services at Carle. Of course, by the time the meeting was over, insurance was closed and then I worked late on Friday and didn't get the call made then either. It is on my calendar for Monday. If they cover it, the school wants me to at least get him evaluated and either do the exercises at home or take him regularly for therapy. For spelling, they want to start him on Barton Spelling. which is a different type of spelling program. Unfortunately, it clocks in at $250 a lesson for 10 lessons, taking you all the way to high school. It isn't going to be something we are going to purchase for him, but I'm assuming that the school has the system, since they said they are going to start him on it. The school psychologist said there is an iPod app that is similar and she is going to email me the details of that so he can start on it over the summer. They said OT would help with the inability to sit up (he is constantly laying over and flopping on other people's desks and being annoying) as would sitting on a therapy ball, since the first time he tries to flop over, he'll fall off the ball! LOL They are also going to get him a math tudor for school. Instead of doing math in class with everyone else, he will sit with this person and learn things at his own pace. They want him to practice math facts at home but he can figure out the math, just not quickly. I think the ability to do it is more important than the ability to do it quickly.

They suggested that he needed to work on hand eye coordination, which isn't surprising. The surprising thing was that they suggested playing Wii Fit for 30 minutes a day to help him get better. They said that 15 minutes of Wii Fit yoga and 15 minutes of balance games each day would help with balance and the floppiness. They also suggested that he play Wii Sports to improve his hand eye coordination. Sending him to the garage and telling him to play tennis or baseball on the Wii fits our schedule a lot better than taking him to the court or the field and hitting balls with him!

Over the summer, everyone is working on school work, everyday. We are starting with Kindergarten sight words and working our way forward for both kids. Both kids will practice K and 1st grade sight words, until they know them like nobody's business. We will also be working on spelling, either just going over the previous spelling words or through the iPod app. We are going to practice handwriting and reading for both kids. Our goal is to get WF caught up and MF starting first grade at least a little ahead. I've already started compiling lesson plans for both of them and working out a timeline to keep us on track. We'll see how our summer of homeschooling goes.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You do the math

WF is having some issues at school (again, I know, shocker). Up to this year, he has always done well at math and struggled with reading. This year, he has caught up, and stayed, exactly at grade level in reading and has slipped away in math. I completely understand this slide. I was always terrible at math, but I remember 3rd grade being particularly difficult because of multiplication. I learned the times table enough to pass the test (why do we do timed math tests, anyway? Isn't being able to find the answer enough, why does it have to be done in a certain number of seconds?) and then promptly forgot most of them. His teacher is nice but, as I'm sure I've mentioned, doesn't have much control of her classroom. I doubt there is a significant amount of learning going on in there because of that. Her big thing is that everyone must go to college. She even has a note on the wall about the college graduation date of this class. I think it is fine to push students to excel, but I don't think that she is approaching it in the right way. She told WF that if he didn't learn math and go to college, he would never have any kind of job worth having. While that might be partially true, that whole sentiment is a bit too insane for my tastes. I agree that the better educated you are, the better options you have. However, I happen to know personally that you can, in fact, have a job worth having while still not knowing a whole lot of math. RF and I neither one use anything beyond the basics everyday.

In fact, when I started college, I was a secondary ed major. I wanted to teach high school history. Of course, that requires a 4 year degree, with a lot of classes that don't mean much of anything. I took some classes towards that goal and then, after getting a job that paid for classes related to my job, I started taking business classes. Eventually, I left that job and decided to go back to school for the degree of my choice. I ended up picking preschool, partly because I had a preschooler and I enjoyed that age but mostly because it was a degree where I could work with only a 2 year degree. A 2 year degree meant that I only had to take statistics for math instead of Algebra. As I did more research into my options, I found that I didn't have to get an early childhood degree. I could pursue a CDA (which I completed all the class work for, but never actually finished the process), which would make me director qualified, would teach me practical teaching practices and best of all meant I never had to take another math class again. I honestly planned my career and life around a single subject and a few classes in that subject. RF never finished any type of degree. We will never be rich but we are comfortable. We both have stable employment and aren't constantly looking over our shoulder in fear of our job being cut(no job is 100% safe but both of ours are in decent shape, even if budgets are tightening). And really, that is more than a whole lot of people can say in this economy, college educated or not.

I choose not to do any math in my head. When I go to the grocery store, I have a calculator on my phone and I use it to figure out which item is the better deal. I can estimate and figure out that if I have $10, I can't get all three of the things I want at the grocery store. I know that $4.19 is more than $3.95 and that I'm going to Thorton's to get gas, instead of the place by my house. I know how to count change, although I do it so rarely that I do have to stop and actually do the counting. I can do basic geometry and figure out how much paint I need for the bathroom or how much grass seed I need for the yard (about twice what the bag says it will cover LOL). I don't really need any additional math and that is all stuff that they have learned by 3rd grade.

I facebooked about this, just out of curiosity about how much math other people use in their daily lives. I expected some of my friends to say they used a lot, but in thinking about their jobs, I expected most to be in the same boat I'm in. They know the basics but haven't done anything beyond that since high school or college. I knew I had some science-y people who would tell me that they solve complex equations in their heads before breakfast. The job I was surprised about was the video game developer. In the abstract, I guess I knew that computers=math but I'd never really made the connection until he pointed out that his whole job is basically writing word problems. I was surprised at what I perceived to be somewhat venomous responses. Several people acted like I was trying to give him an excuse to never do math again. I'm not, I simply wanted a balanced perspective to give him about math and school and college.

Do I want him to do well in school? Absolutely! Would I rather he be middle of the road and actually enjoy school? You bet! I waver constantly between wanting to push him until we both drop to be an A/B student and accepting the fact that, although he is crazy smart and creative, he simply doesn't do well at school. For his last few report cards, he has had a solid 75% across the board. That is the middle of the middle and you can't really get more average than that. There seems to be some stigma against being a middle of the road student that I don't get. They wouldn't call it average if everyone where getting As!

I was a good student, effortlessly. I never, ever studied and rarely did homework, except when turning it in was part of a grade. Unless something was actually being graded, I never did home work at home. I would do it during study hall, sometimes or, more likely, in another class. My dad, RF, my brother, none of them were great students. They were solid C students, most of the time, (unless something really interested them) so why should I be surprised that is where WF is? Of course, when they were in school, average was something different. A teacher friend of mine pointed out that, now, those middle of the road students are the most likely to get interventions because they are on the bubble, so to speak, for testing purposes. Passing is passing and failing is failing, it doesn't matter by how much. There is simply no point (as far as standardized testing goes) in wasting resources on kids who are sure to pass or sure to fail. Instead, they devote a ton of resources to those middle kids since they have the best chance of being saved from failure and bring the whole school percentage up. Because so much time and attention is being paid to those middle kids, it seems like everything is a bigger problem than it is. I've pretty well decided he is the student he is going to be. We'll keep working on getting better and progressing but I'm not holding my breath for him to suddenly become an A student.

We have another intervention team meeting on Thursday. Last year, we met about his handwriting (still horrible BTW) and he ended up with a 504 plan that allows him to use a laptop in class, during writing time. We got it for him in December and he has used it ever since. His writing isn't any better. he still isn't getting his ideas onto the page. He is still writing a sentence or two when he should be writing a paragraph. His spelling is still terrible. The theory was that if he didn't have to focus on the mechanics of writing that he would be better able to spell the words probably and the ideas could flow more easily. Not so much. The only benefit I've seen to the 504 plan is that he got to dictate his extended response on his ISATs this year. I'm sure that made a world of difference in his final score but this seemed to be much ado about nothing.

His teacher things he is has some issues with spacial reasoning. I know that spacial is how things relate to each other and how things fit together but I don't know what that has to do with school. He hates puzzles (me too) but he doesn't do them. She claims, vaguely, that spacial issues can be related to poor spelling, poor handwriting and poor math skills. No one seems to be able to tell me how, exactly, they are related or what exactly can be done about it. So I'm going to meeting on Thursday and I'm hoping to nail down some answers then but I'm just not getting too excited about it. On the one hand, having a "label" (besides "bad kid") might help him in the short term, I don't relish the idea of having him labeled forever. Of course, I don't think any label will get him the help that he actually needs so I'm just not terribly enthusiastic about the whole process.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Overheard:I'm glad today's youth are so well traveled edition

Girl at school: I've been lots of far away places, like New York and Urbana. ROFL

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Overheard: You are sweet enough on your own edition

We were at the park today and MF was in a snit about something. Who even knows what, because she is always in a snit about something, so mostly, I choose to ignore her attitude (or as I tell her, "I've got plenty of attitude of my own, I sure don't need your's too"). Anyway, we were at the park with The Fearless Phantom and her kids and her littlest (who is 4) said to MF, "It's ok, MF. I'll be your BFF. I don't have any candy but we can be friend fo-ever"! :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

This was a big weekend

Or how social media keeps me in the loop.

Saturday, I helped with the Girl Scouts at the finish line of the marathon. While it was fun, it meant that the bit I saw of the race was from behind a stack of water bottles. It also meant that I didn't get to see any of my friends that ran, including the person who rode to the event with me! I only saw him after because he had to find me to get home! However, thanks to Facebook, I was able to see Loosey's absolute glee at seeing her little family on the corner cheering her on and I was able to see race royalty, Special K, with her fancy running crown. I was able to virtually cheer for my friend who was medically ejected at mile 21 because that is 21 more miles that I'm willing to run!

Then Sunday, we had a CARE Easter egg hunt (because Ms. Loosey is a genius and does it after EAster so we can all score discount eggs! After that, we had a Girl Scout leader daughter lunch and I ended up being gone most of the day. I logged into Twitter that afternoon, only to watch my feed blow up as the news of the mall shooters started making it's rounds. Of course, that was big news so I followed along with that for awhile, reading media reports as well as personal accounts of being there when it went down.

After we watched a little TV, I headed to bed about 9 to read. Just before 10, I did one last pass through of Facebook to find the news of Osama Bin Laden's demise filling my wall. Now that we gave up cable, the only television I watch is on Netflix or DVD so I would have had no idea about these huge pieces of breaking news until I turned on the radio this morning.