A Very Tired Parent’s Point of View – My Son Just Wants To Go To School

Sent this opinion piece to the Raleigh News and Observer tonight. My heart is broken, my stomach is sick.

The state board of charter schools just recommended that the state revoke the charter for the only public school in North Carolina for special needs/exceptional children. This sounds like a bad joke from a bully’s day dream. But it’s not. It’s the truth I just found out via email from my son’s school.

Why?

Initially, the school had issues with paperwork, codes and administration. But when the team sent by the state to investigate these issues pointed them out, the school quickly righted them. This left them at a disadvantage. Because of all the back tracking and correcting of files and computer codes, the school missed out on state monies usually granted to charter schools such as this in their first year of opening.

None of this is surprising. It’s the first year for this school run mostly by parents concerned for their special needs children – exhausted, desperate, intelligent, hard working parents. They completed the extensive training, but missed crossing a couple of Ts, leaving a significant financial deficit for the year.

In January the board heard all of these facts and granted the school till May to right the financial deficit. They recommended the teachers take a pay cut. How they could recommend this, none of us understood. As parents we rallied, we pledged to pay tuition, raise funds, host a gala, a road race, a charity auction, write grants – basically, we were ready to sell our souls to keep this school open for our children. The principal even offered not to draw a salary for the rest of the year.

Why?

Because we need this school. Our kids need this school, right now and for future generations. North Carolina is seriously lacking in support for exceptional children. Under funding, over sized classrooms, a huge push for mainstreaming used as an excuse to further cut funding to special needs kids, have all left a giant hole in the system that no one can fill. Don’t believe me? Ask any of the hundreds of parents on the North Carolina Special Needs Home School email lists or clubs or boards. We gave up on the system and pulled our kids out – those of us who could anyway.

But those of us who couldn’t had to watch our children struggle in schools where they were forced to sit at a desk in often over-filled classrooms, mind numbing worksheet after worksheet put in front of them. Pull out for speech, pull out for OT, back in for everything else – most of it going right over their heads. Bullied at recess, bullied in the bathrooms, bullied at lunch – “..there is no recourse available. Just help him learn how to get through it…” These were actual words told to me by a teacher who’s hands were tied in the case of a very large student who decided to make it his duty in life to make my son’s every day a living hell.

But you can’t blame the teachers. Our teachers work their fingers to the bones for a fraction of what they should be paid. No. This goes all the way to the top.

How do I know this?

Because every suggestion to the school from the state has been met. The money is slowly trickling in, with promise of huge donations and fund raising in the next six weeks, and yet they still recommended to shut the school down.

WHY?

That is the question I’ve been asking myself all night long. Why would they close this school when my son is finally happy, finally feels he is in a place where he belongs. He is finally out in the world without his mother and thriving. He is finally learning with his peers. He is growing and making friends and even leading discussions – something that would NEVER have happened in a traditional public school setting. He is finally HAPPY about going to school, in fact he even got up on a Saturday morning and was disappointed to learn it wasn’t a school day. When in the history of school has that ever happened anywhere ever?

I’m stunned, shocked, heart broken, and completely jaded now. The only answer I can come up with is one my friend suggested. The county has failed. The state is failing. And they can’t stand to see anyone else succeed because it would make their short comings glow like neon at midnight. This is a political move at its lowest. There is no concern for the children in this agenda. It’s all about the adults with jobs to protect and future ambitions to worry about.

Bravo, North Carolina. Punish the children for your faults and short comings instead of facing up to the issues and learning from your mistakes. Where is your courage? Where are all those lawmakers so dedicated to education? I’ve been fighting this battle for nine years now and I’ve seen nothing improve except the opening of more charters. But what is the point of that if you make it impossible to succeed without a huge national charter school brand name to back you up?

Yep, you’ve beat a group of exceptional children and their parents down to the ground. Bravo.

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DCCS – Save Our School Family 5k is LIVE!

Hey! We have a 5k for Dynamic Community Charter School ready to go! It amazes me what can be accomplished in 24 hours when smart, willing people get together and work hard!

Please share this link, and please participate! World-wide runners, walkers, and sleepers are welcome. Join us in person at Lake Benson Park in Garner, NC on March 21st at 10am, or join us virtually from your neighborhood or couch! We don’t care. We love you anyway.

Race Registration: http://www.gofundme.com/k5mw3c

This is going to happen people!

CHEERS!!!

Dynamic Community Charter School

Help Save Our School

My oldest son has Aspergers. It’s a kind of autism. There are millions of blogs about the details of all of that. I’ve even posted a few. Here is the short of it.

Big classrooms are torture for him.
Hours of desk work is torture for him.
Unsupported social settings are torture for him.
He has significant learning gifts and deficits.

This all equals the fact that public school has been so difficult we chose to home school.

FACT – there is no school for kids with special needs in the state of North Carolina that isn’t private with a huge price tag.
FACT – NC is struggling with the education budget in so many areas, special needs have completely fallen off the table. They do the minimum to meet the law and that’s it.
FACT – this leaves thousands of kids with no where safe and supportive to learn.

When NC opened up it’s cap on Charter schools, an amazing mother in Cary, NC got herself in gear and put together a charter school specializing in exceptional children. This was the result:

Yes, my son is the one talking like BatMan at the end of the take.

Rumors flew that the school was closing in December. The principal and much of the staff walked out right after TG. As a parent I was scared, but Evan loves this school SO MUCH, it’s such a perfect fit for him, we decided to hang in there and see what happened.

Today I got the whole story.

The Short of It – DCCS is a new community just learning the ropes. They underestimated the costs they would have to cover for children who didn’t have state money coming in with them. It was an honest mistake. State money will be available for all children next year as long as the funding gap is made up before May of this year.

The state board of charter schools could have closed the school down today, but they gave us until May to keep the school open and get the books worked out.

I’ve already started planning a 5k in Garner. I have started looking for corporate help. I have friends looking for grants. But we need as much help as we can get.

I’ll be posting updates, numbers and links for ways to help right here on my blog over the next few months.

This school can’t close. If you have a child with special needs in Raleigh, call them now. They have spaces and they get funding for children enrolled – you won’t be disappointed.

If you can make a cash donation and if your company does matching, you can do that today through paypal!

I know we can do this, and I can’t wait to go back to the state charter board and show them that we took the chance they gave us and blew it out of the water.

Go Dragons!!

School website: http://dynamiccommunitycs.com/
You can donate directly to the school by going to their site and clicking on the PayPal link in the top right corner. More soon!

 

THANK YOU!!!

Running too Slow

I am a runner. I have been running since I was a kid and we lived on a half-mile dirt road. I ran all over a five mile radius of farm land, and occasionally, I would run as fast as I could to get away from my parents. But they always caught me and dragged me home.

Then I got into high school and wanted to run track, I was too slow so they put me on discus.

Then I realized that I didn’t have to be on a team and I started running alone. I ran alone for years until my friend Alison took time to help me learn better form so I could be faster and run farther. She is an amazing marathon runner, but she took time out of her training schedule to teach me and keep me company and really help me find the beauty in running with friends.

We moved several times after that. Everywhere I went I looked for friends to run with – people who needed my help and people who could help me. It was a wonderful way to exercise.

Eventually we stayed put. And I made wonderful running friends in NC. I helped and encouraged them through babies, marital problems, death, divorce, depression – and they did the same for me.

Only we’ve been here for 7 years now and what I’m starting to hear, over and over again, feels a lot like that little girl running away.

You aren’t fast enough. We will catch you. You can’t get away.

Or that overweight teenager – You are too fat, too slow, we don’t want you. Go do something else.

And now a middle-aged mother – You are too slow. You need too much sleep. You ruin my work out and get in the way of my training program. You whine too much. Oops, sorry, we planned a bunch of stuff with out you, but you can’t do it anyway, you’re too slow.

I’m back to being on my own. It hurts. It hurts a lot. But what am I supposed to do? Whine? Apparently I’ve been doing that a lot lately. It just makes people avoid you more.

Look for new running partners? Yah, I could do that.

Or just run by myself.

I’m happy being alone. I go to the movies alone, I schedule one day a week to work on my books all alone. Why not just run alone?

Because it’s not as fun.

This weekend, two of my super amazing running friends invited me to the beach with them. We went running together twice. I pushed my fat injured self and they took pity on me.

It felt almost like the good old days.

But it’s not. I still have a long way to go before I’m over this injury and I’m super again, but I’ll never be super amazing like my friends.

We each have our talents. Mine is not running fast. I don’t even really want that talent, if I’m honest.

I want to be well rested and kind to my body and my children. I want to feel healthy, but not completely beat down. I want to feel I’ve accomplished my goals, not beat myself into the ground trying to keep up with others.

And if that makes me too slow, then I guess that’s what I am.

And that’s fine with me. But it’s lonely.

This year, when you super athletes set your goals, think about helping someone else feel super, accepted, loved, and not left behind. Think about other people’s goals and not just your own. It will make your goals that much sweeter when you reach them, knowing you helped someone else along the way. I hope I run into someone I can help as I get my butt back in gear.

Happy running.

Last Place

I recently traveled to Utah with my kids to visit family and friends. We were there for two weeks, and yes, we flew.

Before you freak out about the idea of A) flying alone on a plane with four kids and B) Spending two weeks on “vacation” with four kids, on my own, bouncing from house to house trying not to wear out our welcome in any one town, let me assure you that it wasn’t that bad. My kids are excellent fliers. They love airplanes, and as long as there is a working electronic device, the baby is a dream boat. Also, our relations and friends are of the finest quality and are mostly deaf. So they couldn’t hear us and fed us marvelously, even with all of our weird food allergies and preferences. It was fantastic!

These are not my children. My children would NEVER do this. Don’t let your children do this on a plane. It is not cute or funny. Neither is kicking the seat in front of you. Even though my kids did do that. But only a couple of times – I swear.

While I was out there, I had the opportunity to run in the Ogden Half Marathon with a group of friends. Yes, I have a running problem. Yes, I run on vacation and I love it. Please don’t judge me, it’s better than smoking crack.

The week before the race I decided I’d better start doing a few little warm up runs to acclimate myself to the altitude. After all, it’s at least 5,000 feet higher there than where I live. Just a tiny bit of a difference. My nephew was running his first race ever, which just happened to be a 10k (he’s kind of amazing like that) and he asked me to run with him. I thought – Hey! Why not? Good little warm up run the week before the big run.

Saturday morning I spread my kids around the valley with various people to watch them and I headed out to a tiny little town in Cache Valley. It was freezing cold and drizzling. I don’t usually mind that kind of weather, in fact, I”m such a hot face runner, I feel better when it’s cooler rather than warmer. And rain just makes you HARD CORE!

So I sign up, get my shirt, steal a jacket from my sister-in-law (ok, so it was kind of colder than I thought it was going to be) and we head to the starting line. Since it’s his first race, he wants to be AT the starting line. I tell him, “Ok, but I run slow so I’m going to head to the side and you take off. By the way, what’s the course like?”

To this he casually replies, “Oh, it’s super easy, just run straight up the canyon until the turn around point and run back.”

“Run straight up the canyon?”

BANG!

And we were off. He was right, it was three miles straight up hill. Not only was I slow, cold, and completely having an asthma attack from the altitude, I was also at the front of the entire pack so I was being passed by everyone and their donkey. I tried to stay out of the way as I pounded up the mountain, but it was hard. Turned out there were a lot more people in the race than I had anticipated and a lot of them were extremely fast.

So, I ran and I got passed, and I ran, and I got passed, and I ran, and I got passed.

This is NOT what I looked like. This is the OPPOSITE of what I looked like.

People started heading back down the other side after about 1.5 miles – and people were still passing me. It felt like I was standing still as they whizzed past. Eventually the traffic slowed down and only a couple of people passed me, then I was all alone on my side of the road while everyone else flew past on the downhill stretch for home.

Let me tell you folks, this was the first time I was sure beyond a doubt that I was going to be the last person to cross the finish line. I’ve been in a lot of races, including a marathon that took me 5 hours to complete. I wasn’t dead last in that race, but I was very, VERY close to last. This was worse, but I kept going.

I felt sad and disappointed in myself. I felt weak and fat and (insert your favorite negative adjective here). It was just a terrible feeling. I took a deep breath and looked around me – it was a gorgeous day! Despite the rain and cold and feeling of defeat, I was surrounded by aspens and pines and huge rocks with a mountain range looming over me. The air was crisp and clean, there were little farms laid out along the road and animals of all sorts.

I hacked an asthmatic cough and took another deep breath and this time felt my whole body fill with appreciation for where I was right in that minute. Someone had to be last place. It might as well be the overweight mom from out of town. And besides, running slower meant I got to enjoy the moment longer.

Suddenly all these positive thoughts were filling my mind and lifting me up. I started to hum a bit (might as well, I’m all alone) and tried to just enjoy the oxygen deprived day.

It was with this sunny attitude that I came upon the turn around point. I happily wound around the orange cone and prepared to sail down the mountain to a victorious last place finish, when I realized that I was not alone. In fact, in front of me now, on the uphill side of the street were at least three dozen people struggling, heads down, panting, faces pained – just like I had been.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised in my life. Here I thought I was the big loser of the day, and it turned out, the farther I ran down the mountain, the more people I passed struggling up the other side. I was actually very far from being the loser. It had all been a matter of perspective.

So that’s you happy, slappy, feel-good thought for the day. When you feel like you’re being left in the dust by those around you, just wait for the dust to settle before you throw yourself a pity party. Odds are very likely that you aren’t the only one choking. And even if you are, it’s probably a beautiful day. And even if it’s horrible weather and you are all alone in last place and you might die of hypothermia, well then, I’m not sure I can help you. But I’m sure you’ll think of something. `

The Secret to Saving BIG BUCKS as a Mom

Yeah… I need a snow cone.

I’ve been reading up on how to make my own laundry detergent and dish soap. It seems to be “all the rage” on pinterest right now. Plus I’m trying to figure out a way to tighten our budget so I can buy more chocolate licorice and snow cones this summer. I printed out a few recipes, made a shopping list (Who has this stuff at home? I mean, really, borax? I haven’t seen that since my granny made me scrub her toilet with a toothbrush. Ugh.) and then promptly lost it – the list, that is.

So, I started over. But decided to check the supply closet in my bathroom first. Just in case I already had a bottle of super toxic kitchen cleaner tucked away in there already. Sure enough, I had a bunch of stuff tucked away in there; toilet bowl cleaner, counter top spray, glass cleaner (who bought that?), carpet deodorizer, wood polish (again, who polishes wood in this house?), and even some spray and wash. I stared at this treasure trove of cleaning supplies in amazement. I didn’t remember buying all this stuff, although it was clearly a collection of odds and ends I picked up off clearance shelves. And I also wondered – why haven’t we used this yet? I hadn’t bought any of this stuff recently. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a cleaning product of any kind. What was going on?

Then I shifted my gaze and noticed the bathroom floor. Eeew.

Yah, that’s why I hadn’t used any of these cleaners – I wasn’t CLEANING. Great. I could suddenly feel ten generations of my grandmothers shaking their fingers at me from heaven.

But look at all the other great stuff I was doing! Building chicken coops! Roller skating! Planting a garden! Writing kids books! Running lots of cold, cold miles! Eating cookies to warm up! Teaching my kids to bake the cookies so I didn’t have to! Come on grandmas! Lighten up.

The final note to this story is that after a quick survey of my closet and the comfortable layer of grime in my home, I decided I was already saving a TON of money on household cleaning products by using them SPARINGLY. And I thought this was a tip worth sharing.

Ladies, do not clean unless someone you know to be anal is coming over.

Remember that sanitary does not equal “spotless”. You don’t need to be gross – no roaches or rats in my home – but a little dirt on the kitchen floor never hurt anyone. Neither has a ten-day-old noodle. CHA-CHING! No more silly floor wax!

Buy way more paper plates than you’ll need for that party and use them for meals weeks afterwards – you’ll save BUCKETS of money on dish soap! CHA-CHING!

Make your kids wear their PJ’s all day and then to bed again that night when it’s raining outside. Who cares? CHA-CHING! Another dime in my pocket that I stole from the washing machine!

Brush your teeth with your finger when you’re in the car. If they are especially carpeted, use the inside of your shirt collar. Way easier on your enamel than a tooth brush. CHA-CHING!

Give your kids raw oatmeal for their cereal in the mornings. Tell them it’s just like eating raw cookie dough. CHA-CHING! Time AND money saved on that one!

Always wear shoes in your home, or at least a very thick pair of socks, so you can’t feel the lumpiness of the seriously needing to be vacuumed floor. CHA-CHING! Saved the environment by reducing my carbon vacuum footprint of greenhouse gasses.. and stuff…

As you can see, if you are anything like me, you’re probably well on your way down the road to achieving financial independence and complete budgeting bliss. So kick those clean clothes off the couch and back into the basket on the floor and sit back and enjoy some netflix and a snow cone. You’ve EARNED IT!

What? Those clothes are dirty? Well what are they doing on your couch? Get them on the floor, girl!

**Footnote: When the neighbor kid with OCD offers to clean for you, let him. It’s not saving you money, but it’s giving his mom a break, so technically you’re paying it forward. (Thanks for the reminder Wendy!)