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.

Two Times the Delight

Lyndsey Lewellen

There have been quite a few changes here at LLewellen Designs. The first of which made their appearance a few months ago. Weighing in at five pounds each, my two little boys, Digory and Emeth, have joined our very large family. Here’s a pic of the little guys.  10570408_10203354160989823_6860100395218487521_n

They’re so much bigger now, it’s hard to remember them that small.

The other change has mostly to do with the site. We will now be sharing and promoting our covers over at our new Facebook site. Like our page, and get the latest from LLewellen Designs!

Logo for Facebook page

-L

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Spelling for Dummies

I will always be the first one to admit that I am a terrible speller. If you ever beta read a book for me you will notice all kinds of mixed up homonyms and typos that spell check wasn’t savvy enough to red line. I used to blame it on the fact that I’m “super creative!!” and I can’t write fast enough to satisfy my creativity if I’m slowing down to look up every other word that may or may not be spelled the way I pull it out of my brain at lightening speed.

It’s a poor man that only knows one way to spell a word.

– Dad

Then I realized I was being ridiculous. There were lots of words (like ridiculous) that I was misspelling the same way over and over again. So I sat myself down and gave myself a talking to.

Self, I said, get it together! You’re a grown woman. You should be able to spell the words you are using. I started to slow down and force myself to think about every word that tripped me up. I even started to GOOGLE THEM! (gasps from the crowd) That takes a lot of time out of the hectic creative brain’s schedule. But the results were positive – not perfect, but positive.

Looks like I’m not the only educator with spelling issues.

Then my kids came along and, except for one, they were worse little spellers than I was. I knew we should probably have spelling time in home school, it’s a big part of the weekly grind in public school, but even the public school grind didn’t make my kids any better spellers and I just couldn’t fit it in. Plus, when I tried to fit it in, no matter how fun or creative I made it, no matter how many times they wrote those words, used them in art projects and creative stories or spelled them out with noodles, they weren’t learning them.

So, I gave up.

I figured they would figure it out when they were adults, just like I did. Or they would use spell check and Google like I do. That’s what the whole world does, right?

OH! CONTRAIRE! (sp?? I know that’s french. I don’t think I should have to know foreign languages as well as my own. I guess I could Google it.. hmmm)

A good friend of mine introduced me to a spelling program called Phonetic Zoo. It sounded way too lame for my oldest, but honestly, I was getting very worried about his lack of consideration for vowels – as in he never really used them. So, I decided to give it a try.

The first thing I did was watch the video. Which I’ve posted here for your viewing pleasure:

It made so much sense to me I almost made a cake.

The whole idea is that when you LOOK at a word on paper then copy it to paper a million times, you are taking all the letters in at the same time and spitting them out at the same time, a lot of times in the wrong order. But if you SAY the word out loud and then spell it OUT LOUD it gets recorded on your brain in order.

And we all know I could use more order in my life!

We are six weeks into the course, it doesn’t take up much time and I’ve seen VAST improvement in my kid’s spelling abilities and retention. Plus I’ve learned a few things my self.

Final evaluation: Two Thumbs UP UP for phonetic zoo – no matter how dumb the name sounds 😉

Here’s a link in case you want to check it out for yourself. You can also find it used on various websites such as eBay or home school recycling sites.

Happy Spellin’!

Puke Waxes Poetic

It has been a crappy, crappy month. Which sucks (yes, I’m using all the mommy swears today) because it’s our big birthday month. Several of us have birthdays in February, plus we have Valentine’s day and all those other fun, lesser holidays. Anyway, we usually party our brains out, but instead we’ve been puking our guts out for two weeks straight plus fevers and sinus infections. It’s like I’m living in a dystopian novel or something. Anyway, it’s reminded me of this poem I wrote a few years ago. My, how nothing changes… I love my job, no matter how gross. Mike Rowe has nothing on me.

 

A Mother’s Valentine

I do not love you with candy hearts 
Or waxy chocolates from the dollar store.
I do not love you with flowers that wilt
Or toys that break by lunchtime. 
I do not love you with frothy cards 
Full of glitter and inane declarations written by some other hand.
Rather, I love you with bacon sizzling in the dark morning hours before the birds.
I love you with a soft blanket tucked around your shoulders after you drift away. 
I love you with bags full of library books and bags under my eyes,
With lectures on strangers and street ball,
With broccoli and cabbage and peaches and spinach
and dirt under my nails from our three season organic garden. 

I love you with long walks in the park and stories about childhood without video games. 
I love you with homemade cookies. 
I love you with piano lessons. 
I love you with a foggy, sleep deprived brain. 
I love you with red leaky eyes and a heavy heart when you are hurting. 
I love you with exclamations and swelling emails to your grandparents when you are triumphant. 
And oh! 
So very, very, very many photographs. 
I love you with blossoming fears and fully rooted dreams. 
I love you with food on my floor and barf on my shirt. 
I love you with marker decorating the new couch. 
I love you with Tide, Clorox, baking soda and vinegar. 
I love you with toothpaste and tear-free shampoo. 
I love you with gluten free vanilla special ordered from Madagascar. 
I love you with the latest Pixar movie and popcorn and a blanket on the floor. Likewise, 
I love you with time out and grounding until you turn 21. 
I love you with the keys to the car, 
my best lipstick,
the necklace your daddy gave me, 
and my credit card. 
I love you with pride and humility and every night I love you on my knees,
pouring out my soul to Our Father who made us, 
grateful to be your mother, 
pleading for your safety,
longing for your comprehension,
but knowing it will only come 
when you are a parent too.