Friday, October 14, 2011

Homeschooling With Sam!!

I didn't go into homeschooling because it is something I always wanted to wasn't my passion. Sam had medical issues and immune system issues that made attending school very difficult. So after much pushing Ellen Doman, our NACD evaluator finally convinced me I could do it. First hurdle completed.

But then came the hurdle of Sam and I working together. This was more of a wall than a hurdle...and it was a really big wall. Sam is a great guy if you let him do what he wants to do and what he likes to do. Academics were not on Sam's top 20 list of things to do. Sam's inherent personality is pleasant but when asked to do something his response is simply "NO". Now let's take a "NO" boy and add in a mother that is not passionate about homeschooling and things can get ugly quickly.

I was comfortable going through the areas of Sam's NACD program that had to do with movement and I even quickly embraced flashcards...mainly because Sam liked them. But the academics presented so many difficulties for both Sam and I.

When I started homeschooling Sam was non-verbal. I found it really hard to continue to talk to, show, demonstrate things to a child that couldn't tell me if he understood any part of what I was saying. I had to rely on Sam's eyes, did he have that "I'm with you" look or was he somewhere far away. I had to rely on Sam's actions, was he moving toward me or away from me. Often times Sam would just move away. But that movement was communication...what you're doing doesn't interest me.

Another issue for me was when I thought about schooling I tended to refer to my public schooling experience. So I tried to create that in my home. Big mistake!!! Sam has never liked worksheets, he never has liked to sit at a table (unless he is eating) which now as I reflect back could have been an early indication of his hip issues. He is a hands on, make it fun and interesting type of guy. Oh yeah, and remember my auditory channel doesn't work all that well so I'm pretty much a visual kind of guy.

But as much as I failed in my early years of really wasn't failure...because I was learning how to work with Sam. He was showing me what was going to work and what wasn't going to work.

Now add in Sam's hearing issues and the puzzle of working with Sam becomes even more complicated. Sam didn't respond to questions appropriately. Hmmm let me refer back to my school days. Teacher asks question, student responds inappropriately...teacher assumes the student doesn't know the answer. That would normally be the case...but then along comes Sam. Sam's auditory processing has been a struggle, add a hearing issue and the struggle becomes more intense. For the first 6 years of Sam's life, before he got his hearing aid, he attempted to guess at what people were saying. He maybe picked up on the last couple of words in a sentence but often his ability to hear and then understand was pretty much hit n miss. Now along with the hearing issue which affected his receptive speech abilities, Sam also struggled with expressive speech. Sam often knows an answer but can't pull out the right word or any word for that matter. I figured this out when NACD asked me to use word banks with stories and suddenly by glancing at the words Sam's ability to answer correctly went up significantly.

Now add in Sam's health and physical issues and Sam quickly becomes a very interesting child to educate. But if you have followed my blog you already know...I'm not one to back away from a challenge. We recently went to our NACD evaluation and I was thrilled that Sam's auditory processing was at a five but I also knew that it meant Ellen would check his dominance. I have always felt that Sam was cross dominant like his brother Ben since he exhibited many of the same struggles in reading and writing. Sam and Ellen quickly confirmed my suspicions. Yee Ha, another challenge. My signature for my email previously read, Sue Mayer, Mom to Sam (10) with Down syndrome, Brain Injury, Apraxia, Dysphagia, Respiratory/Immune Issues, Bi-Lateral Conductive Hearing Loss and now Hip Dysplasia & Perthes or as I like to say "Yada, Yada, Yada". It was my way of saying that Sam's labels do not define who Sam is...but I just couldn't add another one, so instead I changed my signature to Sue Mayer, Mom to Sam (10) who is genuine, unique and perfectly "Sam". I like that better.

My homeschooling over the years has become scheduled but not rigid. I changed out paper for white boards and magnets until Sam showed me he was ready for paper again. I have dealt with behavior issues, including complete non-compliance, hiding program items, tears, temper tantrums, choosing time out and an intentional lack of focus. I have struggled with my own demons of procrastination, lack of interest, lack of energy...just plain lacking. I am guilty of trying to find the perfect curriculum only to find that Sam will lead the pace, Sam will determine the interest and the curriculum that works for him will have to be tailored to him. I have tried the approach of "it's my way or the highway"...Sam quickly chose the highway.

And all along Sam was trying to tell me, show me, demonstrate to me that I needed to follow his lead...I needed to listen to him...I needed to understand him. If you would have asked me two years ago how Sam is doing with math, I would have told you it is non-existent and there is not enough medication in the world for me to tackle that subject with him. I bought the coolest manipulatives in the world and watched him hide them, shove them down a hole to the basement, feed them to the dog and throw them in the garbage. Sam hated numbers, he didn't want to count, he didn't want to recognize that a number was a quantity...he drew a line in the sand and dared me each and every day to cross it. But I just kept crossing that line. I tried new things, I tried old things, I used videos, sand, chalk, clay, magnets but each and every day we counted something, we tried something and gradually the light came on and Sam began to embrace this math concept. It's still slow but we are making progress...we didn't give up.

It isn't until I have a day like I did a couple of weeks ago that I finally realize the progress we have made. My love for and interaction with NACD often shows me the superstar kids. The ones that began speaking in full sentences when they were toddlers, the boys and girls that are having complete conversations by the time they are 7, the boys that are playing in Little League and competing on teams with their peers. I am happy for each of them but at the same time my heart still hurts for Sam.

And then he surprises me. The other week Sam and I were both sick. Now in the past Sam would have been happy to lay in bed and watch TV all day, he would have he would have staged a revolt if I suggested we do any program. But this time, Sam felt better before I did and as I lay in bed trying to get rid of a fever Sam pulled my blanket down and said "Mom, come here...come here now!" I just wanted to curl up in a little ball with my warm blankets around me and sleep but I've never been able to ignore Sam. We walked into our parlor where Sam now sleeps and I thought we were going to snuggle and watch a movie but Sam had different plans. Sam handed me his handwriting sheets and his DVD and said "Mom, Sam make better B's". You could have knocked me over with a feather. I put in the DVD and Sam said "Thank you Mom, Bye now". I walked out of the room thinking "Who was that child", maybe my fever is high enough that I'm hallucinating. I crawled back in bed only to be awakened a few moments later by Sam with more letters he felt he needed to work on. When he was done with his letters he called me again asking for his BrainPop movies. I was now sure my fever was getting the best of me. After his movie Sam was back in my room, pulling on my covers and demanding me to go with him. I shuffled through the front room and kitchen and followed him into the laundry room. Sam said, "Mom, Sam fold". As I got the clothes out of the dryer Sam laid out his Flip N Fold on the living room floor. I piled the laundry next to him and he told me to "Go bed, Mom". I was happy to comply.

A short time later Sam was back and wanting to do his words on PowerPoint. I began to say out loud "Who are you and what have you done with my child?" When he showed up with his math notebook I was sure my child had been abducted by aliens. At noon Sam plopped his gluten free bread and the peanut butter and jelly on to my bed. He came within inches of my face and said "Mom, sandwich please". I dragged myself out of bed yet again, shuffled to the kitchen and began to make his lunch. Sam suddenly whistled and said "Mom, listen", I said "Okay, I'm listening". Sam said "cow, dog, horse", "now you say". I began to chuckle, my little man, my dear, sweet, precious little man was now giving me sequences. I replied "cow, dog, horse". Sam smiled and said "Good job". I handed him his lunch, he smiled, said his prayer and then yelled "Everyone eating!" I walked back to my room, crawled into bed, folded my hands and thanked God for showing me just how far we have come.

"The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn, and shine with increasing clearness on your path."
Jim Rohn


  1. How beautiful to receive such a boost of encouragement when you least expected it!

  2. Oh how I needed to read this!!!
    This is my first year homeschooling and we started NACD program at the same time! I am right about here:

    "I have dealt with behavior issues, including complete non-compliance, hiding program items, tears, temper tantrums, choosing time out and an intentional lack of focus. I have struggled with my own demons of procrastination, lack of interest, lack of energy...just plain lacking."

    I didn't think it would be easy, but I didn't think my basically compliant child would resort to all these 'difficult' behaviors either! Reading your posts are always entertaining, inspiring, refreshing, dot dot dot. Today I found hope!

    Thanks again for sharing. How wonderful for the rest of us that writing is therapy for you!! ~dj

  3. i just found your blog.. and am looking forward to going back and reading the posts on dyslexia. i have a 6th grader i am homeschooling this year (for the 1st time). looking forward to reading more!