Education,  family,  high school,  siblings and autism

All hands on deck

Me and my girl

This week was “all hands on deck” and by Tuesday night we very quickly realized that we were in desperate need of more hands.

This was W’s first experience with finals, and to get her through the week took as much mental muster for me as it did when I worked with J (although in very different ways). W, on her own, got up at 6 am every morning to study for the finals scheduled for that particular day and didn’t go to bed until 10 pm each night. She was very stressed out (I think partly because she didn’t know what to expect and partly because “everything from now on counts for university”). Monday night she studied for geometry and French and had Steve quiz her vocabulary on both subjects while J and I reviewed English and math.

Then Tuesday rolled around. I had decided already that J was going to have a “light” study night, and I was hoping that by laying off he’d have a better chance of being fresh for his exams. W was frantically studying for her science and English final–two classes that she was on the right on the edge of an A.

W in 2016 at Dr. Brooks’s lab at NDSU. Amanda had invited W up to check out the spiders and her lab!

Suddenly Steve was the English tutor helping W with grammar and vocabulary. (Yes, I’m the one who worked as a copy editor for an academic journal for years and have a terminal degree in Creative Writing, but you know 😉 ) W assigned me the role as science tutor. (I’m not sure why, Steve is WAY more scientist than I am).

Maybe it was because I helped W finally straighten out her power point notes on Dalton, Thompson, Rutherford, and Bohr just days before? I do feel like one of my superpowers is being able to take seemingly random information and organize that information into themes and categories and figure out the relationships between facts and stories. (That’s my writing background right there–see, English skills translate to other fields from time to time). I showed her the progression of the atomic model and how each scientist expanded that theory throughout the years. I even downloaded flash cards from Teachers Pay Teachers that had awesome little drawings of each model so she could create a visual picture with each name.

And yes, that’s a tarantula!

But Tuesday night, my super powers could only stretch so far. As I sat on the couch with W, quizzing her on her study guide, I quickly realized she wasn’t confident on about half of the items listed. Especially ionic and covalent bonds. All of these terms were vaguely familiar to me (as a parent I am beyond shocked at what I can recall out of the deepest, darkest, parts of my memory when absolutely necessary in helping my kids). In my brain I could see valence electrons floating in their shell and knew number assignments were significant to shells, but I couldn’t tell you what those assignments were or why they were important without having to Google or YouTube them. As we progressed there were even more terms like this that were fuzzy for both of us, and as I saw the panic washing over her, I finally thought, we need someone else to help us on this.

I still can’t believe W wasn’t phased at all with having a tarantula in her hand.

That’s when I texted my friend Dr. Amanda Brooks. She’s a brilliant scientist at NDSU (she studies spider silk–listen to some of her research featured on MPR) and she’s an incredible teacher. I texted her to see if she would be willing to answer a few of W’s questions and she volunteered to come to our house and help her through the study guide. For 45 minutes, she sat with W, on our couch, drawing pictures, patiently, calmly, and happily explaining to W all the concepts she didn’t understand. (Patient and calm were not virtues I had at 8:45 that night–I hate to say it, but sometimes W doesn’t always get the best from me) I was beyond grateful for her generosity with W. Steve and I had nothing left, and here was Amanda, filling in the gaps. I’m so grateful to have a smart and talented friend who was so quick to drop everything to help out a 14 year-old struggling with chemistry.

The end result? W ended up getting As in all her classes. All that studying about Dalton, Thompson, Rutherford, and Bohr? Useless. Apparently there weren’t any questions on the test related to the atomic models. Ionic and covalent bonds? Yeah, those were a big part of the test.

I say this a million times. I’m so grateful for our village. Most of the time I talk about the village that helps us raise J. But every once in a while, we have to call on our village to help W out too. Parenting is just too hard of a job for just two people to manage 24/7. Sometimes you just need some backup.

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