Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"But what about socialization?!"

Any parent that has ever even expressed (out loud) a vague interest in the mere possibility of home schooling their child(ren) have inevitably heard the exclamation, "But what about socialization!" This is generally from some well-meaning friend or family member. But, they might be looking at you with an inexplicable fear in their eyes, like your child might become the next Unibomber or any other depraved lunatic you can think of, if they are not trained to "socialize" in the public school system, like most others are.  

You know, I'm just going to say something that crosses my mind a lot, but I only say out loud to Chad. Here's the thing about me and Chad: we have thoughts and views that are not always the most common, or popular, especially in our tiny part of the world. We don't go to church, we love Obama, we support gay marriage. We don't do Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or any other made up holiday character. We don't follow ANY professional sports, even though Chad is in fact a man! And, we don't plan on sending Lu to school full time, and maybe not at all. But most importantly, we believe in taking our time to think things through before we make a decision, so we know it is what is best for our little family, not just what people expect us to do. We believe it is really important for everyone to be able to make their own decisions in life without feeling pressured to fit into that round hole that I detest so much. 

With that being said, I also feel very strongly that the big old public school system is just not the best place for children to learn socialization. I read an article one time where a man talked about how he didn't feel that being in a room full of peers all day, who also do not yet know the best ways to "socialize", was going to be the best way to teach his children to become caring, responsible members of society. AGREED! Another phrase I have heard several times from homeschooling advocates is, "I socialize my dog, not my child!" Ummm...right on. I believe more in quality interactions than quantity. I believe that Lucy learning to interact with the world in positive and meaningful ways is way more important and effective than when she was in a busy classroom with other children her age who are just not developmentally ready to slow down and talk with her and wait for her to respond. 

In the past week, like I said in my previous post, Lucy interacted with a group of grown-ups that she had just met. How often are four year olds shy, hiding behind their parents, and not saying a word? And many of those children probably go to preschool or day care, or some type of organized place where so-called socialization is said to take place. Well, then why isn't each and every child who attends public school an expert at socializing? Why don't they all step forward politely and introduce themselves to new people while shaking their hands and smiling? I will tell you why: because public school is not the be-all and end-all of socialization. It is not the only way that children can learn to socialize. In my personal opinion, not only is it not the only place, but I don't feel it is the best place. 

Lucy has a small group of friends and a bigger group of loving cousins that she interacts with regularly, and by "regularly" I don't mean every day, and sometimes, especially in the winter, not even weekly, but I still think it is enough. She has initiated conversations on her Tobii with the librarians at the public library. She talks to her therapists, grandparents, and me and her dad all day, everyday. We go to story time at the library. When she decides to part with her own special purse money that is hers to spend, she pays for her own purchases. Oh, and SHE IS ONLY FOUR.

You know what, Lucy slept with us for awhile when she was a baby, just whenever she seemed to need to, and I never worried about it even though people would act like we were creating a problem. My view on it was always, "When Lucy is 20 she won't still be sleeping with us." I always feel confident that with time things will work themselves out and that we don't really need to get ourselves in a panic when something might be taking longer than is "expected".  I didn't go to preschool. Many people my parents age didn't even go to (gasp) kindergarten! The compulsory school age in Pennsylvania is 8!  Finland is consistently ranked one of the best countries in the world for their education system and they don't even begin formal education with their children until they are 7. They take one standardized test when the students are 16, and their scores are consistently among the highest in the world. So, not only does Finland not believe that they need to start formally educating their children from the womb, but they also obviously do not think that a lack of formal "socialization" is detrimental to them, specifically in the early years. My thoughts on our educational system could be another post on its own, and the point of this one is not to even address it other than to point out that other places in the world let children "be" longer, and do not act as if the world is ending if they are not enrolled in preschool when they are three.  

My main point is that Lucy doesn't go to preschool, and isn't going back to preschool, and Chad and I feel like we really aren't that interested in sending her to school ever again... and she will be fine. We are pretty competent people and we will make sure that she learns to interact and socialize with others.  There doesn't need to be a mad rush for it to happen immediately.

Look, here she is socializing in the comfort of our own home with her sweet cousin Ava! And we didn't have to go to school, get a cold, worry about pneumonia, and take two weeks to get better. I don't think it looks like she is suffering from her lack of preschool time, and I think she will be fine. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Birthday to Lu!

Tuesday, May 20th Lu turned 4! Last Saturday we had a nice party for her that was pretty busy and crazy, but she smiled the whole time! Here are some pictures from the party which had a theme for the first time and Lu had chosen a super hero theme:

We had a lot of fun and I think so did all of the other kids. Then on the day of Lu's birthday we went to see her Daddy at work and got to meet some of the kind people that bought her bike for her! She giggled the whole time and was so friendly with all of the strangers. At one point she was surrounded by about a half dozen men and she chimed in on a joke they were making about her looking at one man in particular and she said with her Tobii, "I think it's, funny!" And then a little later she said, "Let's go!" After the Minitab visit we took Lu to Ruby Tuesday for a birthday cheeseburger. A week or so before she had said with her Tobii, "Let's go, in the car, Ruby Tuesday"! So to Ruby Tuesday we went! 

Here is a picture of Lu outside of Minitab wearing her brand new, handmade, super hero dress from my good friend Ann:

So our big girl is 4. Every day I look at her and can't believe how old and big and not at all like a baby she looks!  Right now she is super-healthy, happy, getting stronger, and making progress every day, so what more could we ask for! 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thank you friends at Minitab, Inc.

When it comes to buying gifts for Lucy for Christmas and her birthday, I try to not go overboard. I follow a guideline of buying her: something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, and something to read. And the majority of her gifts are seldom brand new. I get her great things from the local kids consignment shop, Kid to Kid, or Ebay if I'm looking for something very specific. For example, Lu's birthday is coming up and here is what she is getting from Chad and I:  Want: a big bin of miscellaneous Mr. Potato Head pieces that I found at Kid to Kid. I will put pictures of them all in her Tobii along with the others she already has in there and then she can play just like other kids, it is one of her new favorite things to do. Need: A new life vest that will help her float on her back in the pool and kick her legs, Wear: a new bathing suit, Read: a dinosaur encyclopedia, a Princess Tiana beginning chapter book (because we read one about Ariel from the same series and she loved it), and a Martha Speaks chapter book with great pictures (those are a great series also for kids who are starting to listen to chapter books, very colorful!) all used from a site called So, my point is, I try to not overwhelm her with "stuff" and the acquisition of stuff. Experiences are what I think are even more important and she has certainly become rich with new experiences in the past few days!

If you read my post from a few days ago you know that over the weekend Lucy got a new puppy named Finn, and her wish from Make-A-Wish was delivered which was an adaptive swingset for in our yard. Well, a few weeks ago Chad got a big surprise at work when his supervisor handed him an envelope with enough cash in it to buy Lu the adaptive tricycle that she did not win in the Great Bike Giveaway in March! His co-workers had decided that they really wanted her to have that bike and so they took up a collection just amongst themselves and raised $1500 for Lu to have her own bicycle! And it came this week! 

It is so exciting and so amazing to see her legs go round and round! And we are so excited for her to be able to ride bikes with the other kids, just like any other kid can! I think like in many other situations, unless you are raising a child with disabilities, parents seldom think about the luxury they have of just being able to zip over to the local Walmart or Target and grab a tricycle for their little one. Or the luxury of knowing they can buy them any old swingset and they will be climbing the ladders over and over again to get to the slide.  I can't even buy Lu's shoes at a store most of the time because they have to be wide or extra wide to fit over her braces. 

And because of what I just mentioned, it makes the generosity of Chad's co-workers so touching and just so amazing to us. Because they took the time and effort to realize that Lu would like to have a tricycle like other 4 year olds and we weren't going to be able to just run to the store and get her one. Chad works at a great place that obviously also makes it a priority to hire great people. We are completely blown away by this surprising and generous gesture and will be forever grateful that Minitab and such wonderful people are a part of our lives. 

I guess I look at it as Lu still isn't being spoiled by "stuff" but her life is being enhanced by experiences that without the help from all of these kind people she wouldn't have had. I keep telling her that she is the luckiest girl in the world. Rett Syndrome aside, she is surrounded by people that love and care for her. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Big Weekend

In a contradiction, and a conflict in my heart, fortunately and unfortunately, Lucy qualified for the Make-A-Wish program. People were often suggesting that I look into it and I kept himming and hawing around, unsure of how I felt about it. However, girls with Rett Syndrome all qualify for Make-A-Wish because it is a life-threatening condition, as I have mentioned several times before. So, I did finally decide to look into it after thinking about whether or not we should wait until she is older, but the point is, she is at a higher risk for possibly not getting older. And you know, really, no one is guaranteed that their child is going to get older, but with Rett and other serious conditions like it, there just is more of a risk that there will be complications so we seldom take for granted that she will just get older. 

Anyway, she was approved for a wish and I made her a page on her Tobii with pictures of wonderful things that I thought she would love. In the end she chose to have an adapted play set for in our yard so she can swing and slide whenever she wants and have equipment that is suited for her, as there is not adaptive playground equipment at any of the playgrounds in our area. She is often talking about gardening on her Tobii and so we also have lots of space around the swing set for growing whatever we want. It was delivered on Saturday and she was very excited! The local Make-A-Wish volunteer, Stephanie, did an amazing job and is such a kind and caring woman! We are so grateful for all of her help and hard work!

And the second exciting thing that happened to Lunthis weekend is that her new puppy, Finn came home. Yes, I said it, another puppy! My sister Chas and her husband Paul have a pair of chihuahuas that they have bred several times and they have always wanted to give a puppy to Lu, but I was never so sure about chihuahuas. Well, I fell in love with the on Christmas day, and even though they were ready to have the Momma "fixed" they let her have one more litter to make a puppy for us!  Here are some super adorable pictures of him and Lu:


So far he is super sweet, hasn't had a single accident in the house so far, and isn't a hyper nut...but he's still a baby! Wish us luck! Third times a charm hopefully!