Saturday, September 10, 2011

School Starting & an Eye Tracking Problem

Now that I'm sitting in front of my computer I'm not sure how to start this post. I've had a range of emotions & thoughts this week.

On Tuesday my middle guy had his kinder orientation. He did fantastic on their pre-test. It makes me wonder a little bit about what he will learn that's new this year. But, I love his teacher & I think he will have a great year. It's funny how my attitude has changed. When Capt. N was in kindergarten he did very well, too. Back then I was so happy my kid was doing well in school. Little did I know that just because they do well in kinder doesn't necessarily mean they are going to soar their entire way through school. So, although Mr. T did great on his pre-test I've learned that it doesn't guarantee an easy time in school. It's weird the things your brain chooses to remember. I still recall this same kinder teacher telling me when Capt. N had her that the kids show their natural learning paths by 3rd grade. For example if a toddler was taught math, and in turn, did well in kinder math if he is a natural math person by third grade he will still be doing well in math. If he's not a natural math person by third grade he will start slipping in math. It's ironic that in second grade Capt. N was showing signs of reading problems & now I've decided to homeschool him for his third grade year. This life lesson has me being more realistic with Mr. T's academic potential.

When I left the school on Tuesday I felt reassured. I was glad Capt. N wasn't there. My heart let me know I was doing the right thing by homeschooling him.

Thursday was Mr. T's first day of kindergarten. Princess K & I walked him to his classroom. He went in happily, with no reservations. Here's the key to not letting the rain of emotions hit you on your child's first day of school - stay busy. Kinder is only about 3 hours. The first little bit I spent visiting with other mom's on the PTO. Then I took Princess K to her preschool orientation, which of course, she loved. By the time we were done it was time to go back and pick up Mr. T. He enjoyed his first day of school & I was too busy to worry & fret about how big he's getting. I'm sure it will hit me on a slower day, though.

Friday, when I dropped Mr. T off at school a few kids asked me where Capt. N was. I appreciate them asking. I'm glad he's the type of kid they want in their class. But, this is the stuff that makes me feel guilty by choosing to homeschool him. I am taking away his peers and it breaks my heart. I don't want to sacrifice his friends. But I also know last year was not a good year & I wasn't willing to do it again. A few months ago when I decided to homeschool I determined his education was more important than his friends... at least for this year. This is the only struggle I am having with choosing homeschool as a permanent schooling option for my kids. As much as I know there's peer pressure & there's going to be issues with friends, I think these things are stepping stones to adult life. Of course most of the parents that do homeschool their kids don't think this is an issue at all. I'm hoping I learn that this school year. Because at this point, I'm really having an internal battle about which is more important. I feel I can do a good job educating my kids. I'm motivated to do so, there's a ton of resources out there & there's a homeschool group I'm considering joining. I'm just trying to decide how important it is to see your peers almost daily. Honestly, it's what I remember most about school. And, still to this day 3 of my very best friends are girls I met in junior high & high school. On the flip side of that, most of my 3 years in junior high sucked due to a small group of "cool" girls. They had decided early on in our 7th grade year that they didn't like me - which swayed others not to like me either. So I dealt with mean comments all through junior high. I would never want any of my kids to go through that. Somehow I hoped it shaped me to who I am today - which, I think I turned out alright. But, I had a few rough teenage years & I wasn't doing things a parent would be proud of. I know it had a lot to do with those girls being mean to me, which left few people to actually even get to know me. So I chose to be friends with people that would hang out with me, but that certainly didn't mean they were good people to be spending time with. I could have easily taken the wrong path in life. Lucky for me, I didn't. I can't stand to think of that same thing happening to my kids. Anyways, I could yammer on about this topic forever. For now, I'm movin' on. I'm sure I'll blog more about it later.

The other thing that happened on Friday is that the school had a fall picnic. I met who Capt. N's teacher would have been this year. I gotta say, I really liked her. I was hoping he'd get some crabby, terrible teacher making me oh, so happy that I chose to school him at home this year. But, of course not. He had to get one that makes me really question whether this year would have been as bad as last year. Capt. N is in cub scouts. The scouts had a booth at this picnic. I am so proud of Capt. N. Reading is obviously not his strong suit, but he's got so many other great qualities. A mom came up to him and asked him a variety of questions about scouts and he answered her perfectly. He was polite and enthusiastic, he spoke clearly & gave good information. I was proud to stand back and watch him - especially because this mom was the teacher he was supposed to have this year. Sometimes Capt. N can be a bit silly & anxious, sometimes he speaks babyish or quietly. He didn't do any of those thing. He answered an adult's questions just like a big kid should. Also,  the scouts were asked to work a shift at the booth. They were to answer questions, help with the game & hand out flyers. Capt. N worked his shift & more without one word of complaint and behaved in a way he should be proud of. Even though his friends were at this event, he still took his time & did what he was asked to do with a very good attitude. Then, of course, he went off to play with his buddies.

Moving on to what I hope is a starting point of figuring out why he is such a slow reader. After a frustrating school year, many hours of trying to figure out if homeschooling was a good fit for us, terrible results from a literacy program, many parents telling me their kid had reading problems too but it's no big deal & many, many, many hours surfing the web trying to figure out why all of a sudden reading is a problem for Capt. N I stumbled across a mom's blog that sounded a lot like what I was experiencing. I've also talked to two mom's that really helped me - although, I don't think they know it. Both their son's have dyslexia & some sort of vision problem. This led me to researching vision problems. The blog I found listed many things her son said about reading & many things people were saying to her. Many of these things sounded way too familiar to me. What I really appreciate from that blog was saying that this is different than just a typical far or near sighted problem so your child needs a Behavioral Optometrist, not just a typical eye doctor performing the typical tests. You need to request to have your child's eye tracking tested. Well, this was news to me. My kids, hubby & I don't have glasses so I'm not well-versed in eye stuff. In March last year, I asked Capt. N's pediatrician about his eye sight. She did a little test in her office & said he was fine. If I hadn't stumbled across that blog who knows if I ever would have figured this out. Thank you internet! Thank you internet! I made an appointment for him. The initial appointment was (I think) a typical eye exam. It lasted an hour. I don't know if the dr. did other tests knowing I was there specifically for tracking, but she claimed this was a routine exam. He had two more appointments doing a ton of tests. One appointment was an hour, the next one was 2 hours. The last appointment was just this past Thursday, so the dr still needs to write her report on the findings. But, she said for sure he has trouble with tracking. I asked her how bad it was. She said it was definitely not normal, but she has seen worse. In the next couple weeks he will start vision therapy. Once a week he will go into the office & we will also have stuff to work on at home. She made it sound like there are other issues too, but the tracking is the starting point. From there, they may address other vision issues and/or refer us to a reading specialist trained for teaching kids with vision problems, not just reading issues. This relieves me. I'm, of course, not thrilled that he has a problem. But, I'm so relieved to think we may be on our way to finding and hopefully improving the problem. All summer I've researched & talked & explored many avenues trying to figure out what his problem might be. Although many people told me not to worry about it, my instincts were telling me something was not quite right. How can a "normal" child read so extremely slow and nothing they were doing was helping? How can a kid who can read words easily have such difficulties reading whole paragraphs? Something just wasn't adding up & I couldn't just sit back and not investigate. It seems my super-sleuthing may have finally paid off... I hope. It, at least, gives us a place to start, which I am so thankful for.

This brings me back to the reason I decided to homeschool in the first place, which was to improve his reading skills because they will be key in the rest of his school years and adult life. I had decided the way the school was teaching reading wasn't working for him & I don't want to send him back just to get further behind. Now we know why it wasn't working. His problem is not just reading, it's vision. They don't have vision class at school. So, although I'm sad he won't get to see his friends as often I'm still confident we made a good decision by homeschooling.

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