autism,  cross-country,  Education,  high school,  motherhood,  teen years

Back in the saddle

Our first full week of school is sandwiched between a two day week and a three day week. It used to drive my crazy–this short start, full start, short start schedule. Why couldn’t we just start the school year after Labour Day, like our friends across the river in Minnesota?

When J was younger, the spotty school days at the beginning of the year would mess with his poor little routine-seeking autism/anxiety nervous brain. Having just a taste of the new routine only for it to be taken away again for a few days, only then to have a full week, and then a short week when transitions were hard enough? The recipe for an anxious meltdown. But like a lot of things with J’s autism, age and a little maturity have made those rough spots a little less rough. I want to tell all of you autism parents out there that it gets better–sort of. The sensory stuff gets easier, the wrench in the routine stuff gets easier, there’s a little more flexibility and negotiation. Don’t get me wrong. There’s still plenty of stuff to stress out about–some of it a little more high stakes, (puberty can be awful) but it’s nice to be able to eliminate some of the daily paralyzing struggles especially when you’re dealing with new challenges.

I’ve decided that the “false start” school year isn’t so bad after all. Because I need those off days to get my life together. The long weekend after 7 days is nice. Back to school is just as much of a transition time for me as it is for the kids. It requires a lot of organization. And here’s something about me you may or may not know: I am not a naturally organized person. It’s something that I have to work really hard at. And so at the beginning of the school year, I’m working really hard at something that doesn’t come naturally to me.

Of course, high school is a whole new can of worms that I’m still figuring out, but with the last three years of middle school–and the complex balance of how we manage homework/home school/study I feel like I’ve finally found a good system. And so for the first 7 days of school, I’ve been trying to re-organize J’s life (and mine) again.

Here is my method to my madness:

  1. Organize all of the school supplies: Guess what? High school doesn’t have a school supply list. So after the first day of school, I went through all of J’s syllabi (or syllabuses–what’s your preference?) and figured out which class needed a binder, folder, notebook, etc. And then I doubled it. Because whatever J has at school I make sure we have the exact same thing at home. If J has a binder for Algebra 1 then we have a binder at home for Algebra 1. If J has a folder for English at school, then we have a folder at home for English. You get the picture.
  2. Start the 3pm Powerschool assesment: One thing I found REALLY useful in the middle school years was checking Powerschool (an online planner that teachers fill out) for both my kids at around 3pm each day. I take a break from whatever work I’m doing and jot down the homework that’s due for the day, and make note of any quizzes coming up in the next few days. Remember that extra Algebra 1 binder I mentioned? I print off every single packet of notes and sheet of homework the teachers list for the day. One thing I’ve noticed about math teachers? They usually have the entire week up at a time, so I can print off the entire week’s worth and put in our home Algebra binder. That way if something gets left at school, we have it at home. I can also preview the math before J comes home, find any YouTube any tutorials I may need, and start brainstorming how to teach new concepts to him (more on that in later posts).
  3. Order any books from Amazon: Because of J’s reading needs, we absolutely need a copy of whatever novel he’s reading at home. And Amazon has 2 day shipping. This week I noticed on Powerschool that the class is reading Finding Laura Buggs, so I went ahead and ordered a personal copy and had it by Thursday. The book choice peaked my interests. Local Minnesota writer? Definitely interested. Small press publication–even more interested. Sometimes helping your kid out might be beneficial to your professional pursuits and interests too 🙂
  4. Figure out the home study reinforcement schedule: Right now I’m not pulling J out of school for a couple of hours each morning like I did in middle school, and I have to figure out when we’re going to study and relearn/reteach things at home. The fantastic news is that J is in a 2 block math and 2 block English class (part of the Freshman Academy option at his high school). Which allows him to take twice as long at school to go through and understand things. I’m definitely excited about that!
  5. Figure out my life again: For a really long time–for almost an entire year now–I’ve pretty much put off any of my own personal work projects and ambitions. For the last 3 years, I’ve told myself that “by the end of the year, I’ll have my thesis revised and out to an agent for publication.” And I haven’t come close to reaching that goal because our middle school experience was so time consuming. I even had to drop out as an adjunct because I just couldn’t handle the extra time and stress (even though I LOVE teaching) and I barely had any time left for my own writing (which I tried to find time to squeeze in every once in a while). So for the past week, I’ve collected all of the little notes I’ve made while I’ve been working out my story over and over in my mind and have started to organize all of my revision ideas I’ve had over the past year and reread my most recent chapters I’ve been able to squeeze out. And it’s gotten me SO excited to get back to my novel. It’s overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time.
    I probably have 10 more stacks of note papers across the desk. It’s like I’ve got pieces of my brain scattered everywhere–and it’s gotten a little out of hand. A few months ago, Steve and I got to see David Brooks speak and he mentioned that when he wrote a column he had stacks of drafts and ideas across the floor. I felt 100% validated.
    Writing historical fiction is kind of a bear. I have two binders of “historical research” and “character/plot/chapter” revisions and somehow over the last year or so, they’ve all become mixed in each other–which is problematic if I’m writing a scene and all of a sudden have to validate whether something could have happened or not. I also collect a lot of pictures and newspaper articles because sometimes I have a hard time “seeing” the history and that makes the writing a little more tricky.

    XC picture of the week. J had his 2nd XC meet. He was doing SO well–and in this picture, halfway through the race, he’s ahead of 2 teammates and finally won the battle he had the 1st half of the race with the kid in the blue jersey. And then something happened and he fell apart 3/4 of the way through. I suspect that maybe the head cold he’s had since that night had something to do with it? The fact that he had a field trip all day before and that messed him up somehow? Was he dehydrated? Who knows, but at one point he sat down and refused to finish. But after a little meltdown he got up and did. It just shows that you never know what things are going to be like with this kid.

Our universe has shifted again–we’re back in the high paced (often high stress) pulse of the school year. Homework after school, XC practice, late night meets. It’s overwhelming and energizing at the same time. A new start is always scary and exciting. I’ve had a lot of people ask me over the past 7 days how J’s transition to high school has been. It’s been pretty good–a lot better than I expected. Has it been perfect? No. But J’s matured a ton over the past 3 months and I feel like there’s some good resources in place at his new school to help him emotionally and academically. It’s only been 7 days, but I’m cautiously optimistic. Heck, I may even get that manuscript into an agent one of these months 🙂

Knock on wood–(I’m just a touch superstitious)

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    • sarahwbeck

      The freshman academy options include a 2 block class of Algebra 1 and a 2 block class of English. Algebra 1 is the grade 9 level math–except the 2 blocks allow for the kids in freshman academy to take twice as long as everyone else to get through the material. One block class of English is dedicated to Read 180 (a remedial reading class) and the other block is grade level English. They do cross over, so things talked about in the “regular” English class get talked about in the Read 180 class too. Right now I’m REALLY appreciating the slowed down math pace 🙂

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