My friends have been asking “What’s going on” so often I feel like Marvin Gaye has been following me around serenading me.
It is no wonder. First I was homeschooling Kindergarten with a Waldorf approach, then this winter I proclaimed we are getting ready for evaluations for Kindergarten at our local public school. So I am writing a long overdue “update post” to get everyone up to speed.
What Happened to Waldorf?
We started out doing mostly Waldof-style (Oak Meadow, see http://wp.me/p2OomI-Ue) and quickly learned it was not the best curriculum for Beth. I made a valiant effort at engaging her in the fairy tales (minimized language, highlighted the exciting parts, etc.), which are a huge part of the curriculum, but Beth wanted nothing to do with them. I still learned a great deal, because the fairy tales had rather small illustrations, which led me down a path to understanding the visual scanning and attention issues that impact Beth’s ability to attend to books. I came to the conclusion that while there are some worthwhile concepts in the Oak Meadow curriculum, Beth did best with more traditional techniques (like flashcards, Oh the horror!) and workbooks with minimal clutter. Also, Oak Meadow seemed below Beth in some ways and above in others. At some point I just started skimming the books for ideas and then supplementing with standard Pre-K and K workbooks and special education materials (file folder games, pocket charts, etc.), and going at Beth’s pace.
Why Kindergarten Next Year?
A funny thing happened as we were homeschooling. Beth started showing typical signs of “school readiness” other than academics:
- Let’s hear it for self-regulation! In the late summer and fall, Beth had a series of doctor’s appointments which sent her into a freak out at the beginning of each appointment, which was typical. Then something very new happened…she calmed herself down and coped. It took me a about 4 doctors visits to wrap my head around what was going on, but finally I was like, “Oh! THIS is self-regulation!” Ever since then she has become more able to calm her self down. She is sleeping better, and putting herself back to sleep when she wakes up, and she is usually able to get enough words out to get her needs met before the freak-out ensues.
- Interest in other children. Beth started smiling and following kids on the playground a little. Then she started bouncing on the trampolines next to kids at Sky Zone, as if she was trying to get their attention. And finally, she made it clear that I didn’t need to go with her on the trampolines or inflatable at jump places. She wanted to be on her own, and if a kid bumped her she didn’t freak out like she used to. I wouldn’t say she is totally ready to play with other kids or that she is always tuned into them, but she is generally more content around them now and showing interest.
- Willingness to sit in a chair and on the floor. Beth isn’t thrilled about sitting in a chair to work, but she will do it if the reward is high enough (see token board article, http://wp.me/p2OomI-1dU) and we keep sessions short. The newest development is she will sit on the floor this way, which is a fine way the sit (criss cross is hard for kids with low tone):
- Beth’s receptive language and ability to follow directions went way up, her motor planning and sensory integration took a huge upswing, and her expressive language started moving.
After noting these changes, I felt we should hold steady on K level academic work and do more language work. Her speech therapist led the way and we doubled up on speech therapy sessions with me doing more work at home with her. Also, I went back to the VB-Mapp and evaluated her and tried the ABA method again (now that I understood her visual scanning issues made flashcards a very good method for learning language after all, see http://wp.me/p2OomI-1dU). Now she can answer Yes/No to questions, request the potty, ask for or indicate she needs help, ask for food/drink, and much more.
With all the focus on language and all the positive changes in Beth, I decided it was time to call the school district and talk about placement. She has a lot of K skills, but probably not enough to make her ready for 1st grade. But that is fine with us, because lots of kids delay K for a year for a variety of reasons. The way I see it she will be going into the classroom with pretty good academic skills and can focus more energy on adjusting to the class and on social goals.
Evaluation #1 of Many
Today was the first evaluation, which was with a school psychologist who will compile her thoughts and recommendations from 4 other evaluators for placement (special ed, typical classroom with support, or combination). The psychologist came to Beth’s music therapy session at Ambler Music Academy. As soon as we pulled up to the building, Beth started freaking out saying, “potty, potty, potty!!!!” I drug her to the potty inside the building and she was crying inconsolably. The psychologist was running late so she missed this display of misery. As Beth was crying on the toilet I took some deep breaths and just thought to myself, if she is a mess so be it. It is what it is. The kid has been sick for over a week and is just pulling out of it. Somehow we talked through it and Beth didn’t really need to go potty, so I assumed she just wasn’t feeling well and was hoping we would drive home and go there.
After awhile, Beth calmed herself down and I asked her if she was ready to see her music therapist and she said yes. Then she went on to have a nice session where she showed natural imitation with her therapist, song fill-in skills, and her ability to show her happiness to be with her therapist through smiles and eye contact. She sat on the floor with her little legs tucked under her for longer than ever. I just focused on Beth and tried to forget the evaluation lady was there. Beth will place where she places and I have accepted that. I held onto gratefulness for all the skills she has gained: self-regulation, interest in others, sitting on chairs and the floor, integration, and expressive language. She is dong the best she can and I am proud of her.