This may sound crazy as it is the middle of July, but I feel as if my summer has JUST begun. My oldest two kids were in summer school through the whole month of June. Then some close friends had a family emergency during which I jumped in and helped. So, last week was the REAL start to my kids' summer.
(sidenote: Summer school is God's gift to special needs parents. The kids go to school early in the morning. They come home in time for a late lunch. Then, they are so exhausted that they nap willingly. After sweet sleepytime, there's just a bit of time left to play outside in our kiddie pool before we have to start supper, baths, and bed. Then we do it all again. God bless summer school. Moment of silence for its passing, please.)
It's not that we haven't been doing fun, outdoors/summertime activities since early June, but last week was the first time that I woke up and realized those three short people in my house were stuck with me for the next month and a half.
And they weren't leaving on a big yellow bus anytime soon.
Month and a half. (Deep breath.)
I may have had a meltdown.
When you have kids with severe delays and special needs, you really can't take the summer off from learning. Nasko NEEDS to practice his letters almost daily, or he will forget them and act like your flashcards contain hieroglyphics.
When I remembered this fact last week, I had a flashback to homeschooling.
I did not ever find the love for homeschooling.
Hence the first reason for the summertime meltdown.
A couple hours later though, I did what I always do when I get stressed out – I got down to the business of being controlling and crafty. I made a daily schedule chart for Nasko.
I colored and tweaked the pictures from an ADHD mama's website (which I, of course, cannot find now, sorry) and wrote simple literacy commands to accompany each picture. I purposefully did not include times because IT IS SUMMER, for crying out loud. (If the Spirit were to ever lead one of these children to sleep in past 5:30, I would not want to be the one stopping His good work.)
So, everyday, we get in some school work, some chores (for which Nasko earns a quarter, so he's pretty motivated!), and some playtime/outside time.
As part of his PTSD and his autism, Nasko NEEDS to know what is coming next. He feels much more peace if he knows what to expect. If he's unsure of the future, he begins to obsess and make his own plans. Then when his own plans (bike rides for days) don't actually happen, he becomes upset.
Already, I've sent him to the schedule when he starts pressing me to play outside or to use his iPad before it's actually the designated time. This schedule doesn't allow him to control the situation or make his own unrealistic plans. It has worked VERY well for him so far.
The other reason for my minor meltdown last week came from my desire to constantly "catch my children up". I started thinking about how, for the next month and a half, I was in charge of these minions, and there are LOADS of things that they need to work on –From forming complete sentences (Nasko) to not throwing screaming fits (Edward). From using eating utensils (Nasko, Edward and Louis) to using the toilet (Edward and Louis).
The magnitude of the job of raising three little boys into socially acceptable men had me in a bit of a panic. (I mean, especially when one of them is Nasko, who has recently started calling EVERYONE "honey," including our mailman, a random jogger, and our pastor. Good gravy.) This is no small task.
So, again, in the spirit of my controlling nature, I sat down (with Chance) and wrote some very specific goals for our kids. We decided that each child needed a social goal and an academic goal.
Here's what we came up with:
Social/Emotional - Develop trust in parental authority (example - ask what we'll be doing that evening, not demand his own plans. I could write a whole other blog post on this topic, but we are attempting to establish that Nasko is NOT the boss, and that we ARE. For years, he took his survival into his own hands, and we are still working with him on relying on his safety and security through us - ultimately so he can do the same with God. Whew... see? Whole other blog post.)
Educational - gain the ability to copy whole words (He has mastered tracing them.)
This is a sample of just part of Nasko's school work from today:
Social/Emotional - Develop the ability to speak with kindness (He's in the habit of demanding, and he is then stubborn enough not to say please, even when reminded. This goal benefits me more than anyone. Well, and maybe his future wife.)
Educational - Write his name. Legibly and independently.
Edward's teachers sent home a copy of his daily sign-in page from school. I used it as my master copy, and we are hoping he will be able to fill it out independently when he returns to school at the end of August.
Social/Emotional - Decrease the severity of his reaction when he does not get his way (he's been hitting himself and head-banging a tiny bit. We want to thwart these behaviors before they are habits. Must read more on this topic.)
Educational - Increase his vocabulary. (The child has started sounding out words. Reading is coming soon, but he needs to know and say more words before sounding them out actually makes sense. And yes, this is my two-year-old. That kid.)
My favorite way to work on Louis' vocabulary is using this book.
These goals have been HUGE factors in my days being positive and enjoyable these past couple weeks. So Edward didn't use the toilet all day - it's ok! It's not one of his main goals! Or Louis gave up on his spoon at supper and fisted his rice into his mouth - we'll gently remind him to use a utensil, but it's not our focus right now! Pushing these things off as not being such priorities has been very freeing.
When my three delightful boys bound into my bedroom before 5:30 in the morning, I no longer get (as) stressed out! I have a plan and a schedule.
We WILL survive and be intentional about our summer (or what is left of it!)