Friday, March 15, 2019

Week 26 ~ Homeschooling a Special Needs Family

It was an exhausting but good week. I can feel energy, ideas and hope coming back into my life. It has been a hard winter, but spring is coming. I can feel it and I am so relieved. 

I do not talk about the specifics of my son's special needs very often because he has not come to accept them. They still cause him much heartache and frustration. Many of the books and professionals say being diagnosed in the teen years gives the young person understanding and relief, but that has not been the case for our son. Dean came to us at 2 days of age. His birth mother had given birth to him at home and after she put him through an extreme and painful trial, the police finally found him and got him to a small community hospital. The hospital released him into Social Services' custody within hours, even though he was a preemie struggling with crack withdrawal and polycythemia. To say the least, we received a very sick little baby that afternoon as our very first foster child. I had no idea of all the struggles and scary diagnoses that were to come when that precious baby was put into my arms. I just knew that I loved him with all that I had and that he was mine (even though I wouldn't be able to say legally he was mine for two more years). He was hospitalized again within three days with brain bleeds and a stroke. The next six months was a perilous journey to keep him alive. We have spent many years helping him to move forward in his skills and abilities.

Fast forward to his teen years and he has made extraordinary progress. He is a rock star in my eyes, but sometimes others don't realize that he is an amazing wonder and still thinks that he needs to grow up faster. They do not see his hidden disabilities. I guess that is why I feel the need to share his labels this one time. I hope that they will give others hope that they, too, can be marvelous and be whole despite their labels. Dean has been labeled with Cerebral Palsy, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder and Autism. That is a weighty list to deal with, but if you break it down, you will realize that each label has a spectrum of challenges from mild to severe. Realizing that does make it a little bit easier to manage. I have no doubt that my son will have a full life; it is just going to take him longer to achieve his goals than some others.

I have decided to start reading one chapter a day of a selection of special needs books, so I can try to pick up a few extra tips and encouragement. This week I read Trying Differently Rather than Harder. I read this book years ago, but with our daughter Katie (formally Goldilocks) in mind. Dean did not get most of his diagnoses until his teen years. This second time through, I got a bit more encouragement that my style of educating our son is correct and perhaps should be made even more kinesthetic based. I also feel more encouraged that time and repetition will help him to keep moving forward as long as he has a loving, understanding and educationally-rich environment. 

This week ~ 

Eureka Crate ~ Our Eureka Crate arrived and it is wonderful. Dean loved the Tinker Crate from this company for years but grew out of it. He has always had a mechanical mind that I really need to encourage more. It took him about one and one-half hours to put it together. There are 25 pages of instructions, but he zoomed through them all. I was very impressed. This crate is all about kinesthetic learning, conquering small challenges, following directions and a sequence of steps to achieve a successful outcome. These are all invaluable skills.

TimeLine (card game) ~ I stumbled upon the card game, TimeLine, recently and knew it would be an excellent fit for our family. There are several different decks and they can be mixed together. We have Inventions, Classic and Historical Events. This game is a quick pick-up game that is all about placing the cards in the correct order. One side of the card (the one you can see all of the time) has a picture and an event on it. The other side has the picture, event and date. The challenge is to figure out where the card goes in the line up of other cards before looking at the date. Once again, we are working on sequencing, understanding of when things occurred in history, decoding, memory recall and deductive reasoning. 

Equate and Chess ~ These two math games have been played several times this week. They are great for reinforcement. They also encourage sportsmanship, abstract reasoning, strategic and creative thinking and calmness under pressure. Mastering small challenges leads to success with larger challenges.

The Lasagna Fundraiser ~ Our dance studio had a fundraiser last weekend. It was a lasagna contest. Before the eating and judging took place, there was a small show. Anne was asked to dance a duo in it and Dean was asked to help with the sound and lighting. They both did an awesome job. There are more opportunities coming for Dean to do lighting and sound, which I don't think he is completely thrilled about because he is stressed that he will make a mistake. However, he did a great job this time. We just take it one step at a time dealing with opportunities in the outside world. As always, Anne loved dancing and performing.
Anne loved this guest dance teacher. The feeling was mutual. She wanted to take Anne back to Mexico with her.
The Great Outdoors ~ I am bringing back a weekly walk/hike with the kids. I walk every week, but we fell out of the habit of walking together. This week we only had about 25 minutes and Anne was feeling ill, but we squeezed out a short river walk on the nicest day of the week. Walking in nature clears the mind, reduces stress, helps with memory and recollection and tones the body (my son doesn't think walking can tone the body, however...ha!).

The flood waters this winter have brought so much sand up onto the stairs.
Sewing ~ Anne found a strapless dress in a thrift store that she loved, but it made her uncomfortable because it was strapless. She removed the belt and turned it into straps. Now she has a 100% wool dress that she loves and fits her like a charm. She usually wears a top under it.

An Ethiopian Restaurant ~ To wrap up our studies on Africa, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant. The kids really didn't care for this meal. However, they did try a variety of foods on the menu. They liked the spiced hard boiled eggs the best. The adults thought it was okay, but not our favorite.

They much preferred Pi day in which Grandma provided the family with Chicken Pot Pie from one of our favorite restaurants. Plus, she brought a store-bought strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert. Yum!

The Rest ~ 
  • Anne is reading an illustrated version of Jane Eyre.
  • Dean is reading The Five Rings of Miyamoto.
  • They each did math worksheets and games daily.
  • Anne wrote a creative writing paper.
  • Dean is halfway through a mini-unit study on the Boston Tea Party.
  • Anne completed six more blocks of sign language.
  • Dean completed the unit test on Africa for world geography.

Blessings, Dawn

Homeschool Coffee Break


  1. I thought diagnoses would help my Rose Red, but she reacted the same way as your Dean--in fact, we couldn't even finish testing to complete a diagnosis because she walked out of the testing, and I couldn't get her back. I feel like a diagnosis would be a relief, but clearly, it isn't for some of our kids! I, however, am totally grateful to read about your boy. He's a miracle, and you are a miracle family. I thank him for allowing you to share his personal information with those of us who so long to find a community and are inspired by him.

    I liked Trying Differently Rather than Harder. I haven't read it in a while. I probably ought to revisit it, but I may have my hands full with regulating meds for a season first.

    Your kids do really good things. They are getting a top-notch education via your leadership.

    We have Timeline, too. :) And Anne's dress is darling!

  2. It was really interesting to read about your son. It reminds me of my Katie, who will be 28 this fall and will (hopefully!) be getting her AA degree. Right before I chose to homeschool her, the public school system paid for a thorough diognostical work-up, and the five doctors all came up with different diagnosises. It doesn't really matter what the diagnosis is because we just treated the symptoms and she works hard is several years behind, but she has accomplished so much. I know that you know what that means, both the joy and the difficulties. You inspire me.

  3. I didn't realize Dean was adopted. I'm so glad God placed him with such a loving family to help him along his journey.

    Ethiopian food isn't a favorite for me either. The texture of injera is a turn off for me, but their coffee is amazing!