On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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A Labor Day of love

School is well under way in our household, and I’m not teaching. Not yet anyway. And I won’t be teaching anyone whose last name is Ford.

That’s a new thing for everyone, and the first three weeks have gone as well as or better than we anticipated. G still doesn’t love going to school, but she’s relieved to be past her freshman year. Her guidance counselor is pretty fantastic, too, and sent me a note that she hand-picked G’s teachers. I’ve already informed Ryan that we probably need to send her flowers.

H loves the social aspect of school and waivers between loving and hating the rest of school. She survived an embarrassing moment in PE, learned how to unlock her locker, and applied to be part of the SCA because she wants to remove the graffiti in the girls’ bathrooms,  She just finished the first round of standardized testing and informs me that math is too easy. I’ll take that as a thank you for six years of teaching her math.

S, on the other hand, is thrilled to be in school. She loves what’s she’s learning even when she’s not sure it’s the best use of her time. She is wise beyond her years though. After her first day of school, she informed me that she had made a bookmark, taken a personality quiz to find her spirit animal, and learned how to sit in a line with her PE squad. She was rather dismayed and disappointed about the lack of academic pressure.

“Welcome to public school, kiddo,” was my response. I then nicely explained why they had done those things and commiserated with her, too.

What’s going really well is managing S’s diabetes and this is what prompted me to write. When we started the registration process six months ago, we envisioned a fairly smooth transition from homeschooling to middle school. After all, it had taken us just two days to get Grace enrolled at the high school last year, so how hard could it be to put two kids in middle school?

Well, it turned out to be hard. The school didn’t want to accept the standardized test scores that I had been submitting to the county as proof of the girls’ academic process, so I brought the girls to the school for more testing. Then I brought the girls to the school to choose their classes and meet the 504 coordinator. Then S’s doctor filled out her diabetes paperwork. Then I took the girls to the pediatrician to prove that they were vaccinated and fill in any gaps in their records. Then we waited for meetings and schedules. With two days until the start of school, H still didn’t have a sixth grade schedule, and S still didn’t have a 504 Plan to manage her diabetes. Everyone was feeling the stress.

And then God showed up–of maybe that’s when I finally noticed that He answered our prayers in ways that I hadn’t thought to ask. With 46 hours to go, H’s schedule popped up online, and H was able to calm down, which meant I was able to calm down, too. With 21 hours to go, I sat down at a table with nine teachers, an assistant principal, and the school nurse. Sixty minutes later, S had a legal document, her teachers had shown appropriate concern, the new 504 coordinator made sure I was comfortable, and the school nurse showed everyone her CGM.

Yes, the school nurse has diabetes and wears some of the same devices that S wears. And God is good. Not because either the nurse or S has diabetes, and I do not want to imply in any way that God gave the nurse diabetes. Instead I point out His goodness in that He brought this woman and my daughter together this year. Type 1 diabetes has no cure–yet–and I struggle with what I can and cannot control. I cannot control S’s diabetes, but I can try my best. I cannot control her safety and well-being, but I can rest easier knowing that her nurse understands my struggle and S’s struggle.

I predict that we will send flowers to the nurse, too.

Last weekend I drove S back and forth to Lynchburg for a Labor Day soccer tournament. It was hot and miserable, and S was disappointed with her team’s second-place finish. But she was also elated over scoring a goal on a penalty kick. What she wasn’t expecting was that Ryan would call me and let me know that her beloved Dumbo rat had died while she was gone.

I waited until we had finished eating dinner before I told her the news. Then I braced myself for the emotional onslaught. Instead S surprised me. With her lip quivering, she told me, “Mom, I’m not going to be sad. She was such a good rat that it’s better to have enjoyed her while she was alive than to be sad now.”

S holding Suki earlier this summer

Ugh. Why do kids have to be so smart sometimes? And how do they grow up without us noticing? No matter what I say when I am most frustrated and frazzled, I sure do love these kids.

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Trying to let go…

Yesterday was supposed to be the first time I put my baby on a school bus. There have been countless times I wished I could put her on a school bus, but I digress.

I signed up H to attend Horizons Camp, which is for rising sixth graders who want to meet other students or get used to middle school before the first day. Or it’s for mothers who are really excited that a school bus will pick up and drop off their rambunctious children and let them have a little peace for four hours.

Except that H wasn’t on the bus list. No problem, emailed the principal. Just drive her in Monday morning, and we’ll send her home on the bus.

So that’s what I did. I took H and her buddy B to the high school just down the road past the middle school. The middle school is under construction for the summer, and the sign-up letter listed the high school as the location.

At the high school, I met a group of other moms–and one dad–and their rising 6th graders. A very nice but very confused secretary assured us that Horizons Camp was not being held at the high school.

After a quick phone call, everyone caravaned down the street back to the middle school. Voila. Camp Horizons was being held in part of the middle school not under construction. A very apologetic principal assured us that all would be okay.

Except that it wasn’t. B and H did not ride the bus home at 12:15. The bus driver did not have either of their names on the manifest–yes, just like an airplane manifest–and his assistant explained that my little girl refused to ride the bus.


That’s when the principal pulled up to the bus stop with B and H in tow. B’s mom and I had both missed her phone calls since we were walking to the bus stop, so she drove them herself. H’s explanation?

“Mom, it smelled like cigarette smoke on the bus. I cannot ride a bus that smells like cigarette.”

I thanked the principal, who seemed fairly mortified by the day’s misadventures. She promised to get both girls on the manifest as soon as she returned to school.

That’s when we started the walk back home, and that’s when the next part of the adventure began. You see, in order to reach the bus stop, we had to cut through someone’s property and literally walk by No Trespassing signs. But B is a rule follower and would have nothing to do with our return route. Given that our other two choices were to walk along a two-lane highway with no sidewalk or follow a trail, we chose the trail.

B’s mom tried to make conversation. “So…tell me what you did. Was it fun?”

Yes, it was fun. H said that they played a game called Me, Too.

I gave my friend a look that showed my horror–and naivete. “Laura, it’s not that kind of Me, Too.”

“Yeah, Mom, like when someone said, ‘I play soccer,’ I said, ‘Me, too!'”

Then the girls explained that they had had math and reading blocks, played soccer, and created a tower out of balloons. But no snack. H thinks it’s cruel not to feed children, and she reminded me that I had said there would be snack provided.

Yes, I had told her that. Because that’s what the information sheet said. Then again, we hadn’t been doing well with the information sheet so far.

By now we had reached the trail. The girls chattered about seeing a copperhead yesterday. “You saw a copperhead and didn’t tell me?” I said. “How do you know it was a copperhead?”

B explained that it had a diamond pattern on its back. Then she started shrieking hysterically. In the trail ahead of us was an actual snake that looked a lot like this.

Northern ribbon snake on leaf

That’s an eastern ribbon snake, and it’s very tiny and harmless. That didn’t deter B from hysterics though, and I can’t really blame her. If you’re scared of snakes, then there’s no differentiating between good and bad snakes.

As we slowly walked home–keeping an eye out for more snakes the whole time–H told me the real reason she wouldn’t ride the bus. Since her name wasn’t on the passenger list, she was supposed to sit next to the assistant–the one who smelled like cigarette smoke–and she didn’t know him. I’m sure I’ve mentioned H’s general suspicion of any adult male she hasn’t previously vetted. I sighed.

Later that afternoon the principal emailed that she couldn’t find H in the computer system. Had I forgotten to register her for sixth grade?

Are you kidding me?

We skipped the bus adventure this morning, and we’ve decided not to try the bus again until the “real” bus arrives in August. I also decided to visit the office after I dropped off B and H. It turns out that all of H’s information is safely in the system. It’s just that the system doesn’t roll over to the next school year until July 16.

Of course it doesn’t.

I promise I’m trying. It’s not every day that a mom who’s been homeschooling her children for 11 years decides to turn control over to someone else. And it’s clearly going to be a learning process for all of us–me especially.