Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looooong Overdue Update

I'm not even sure where to begin or if I'll include a full update. Let's just start and see where it takes us...

I think I'll start by talking about homeschooling. It has turned out to be the best thing we've ever done for Paige. If I would have tried to write about it the first year we started, this post would have a completely different feel. It took some time to figure out what homeschooling style was right for the both of us. But, here we are in year 2 of homeschooling and Paige is a completely different child.

To back up a bit... Paige was in public school from age 3 (special ed preschool) through 3rd grade. Intellectually she has never had a problem keeping up. As a matter of fact all of the testing showed that she was consistently scoring a few years ahead in math and at the end of 3rd grade she tested to be at a high school level reading. Socially, though, she was crumbling. Not only does she suffer from OCD and anxiety issues, she is a literal child who is extremely gullible. She was still tattling and never seemed to understand why kids didn't want to be around her. She is such an outspoken child and had no problems speaking up when she felt wronged-something that is not cherished in public schools. Then there is the fact that we are atheists living in the bible belt. When she found out that "under god" was not part of the original pledge (something that she found out on her own) she refused to say it and would stand her ground when questioned. Top all of that with the fact that she was the reason why her class never won perfect attendance (thanks to all of the doctors visits relating to her ongoing health issues) thus giving the kids yet another reason to tease her. She would be in tears virtually every day when I picked her up from school. She felt trapped and I didn't blame her. By the end of 3rd grade the decision to homeschool her came quite easily.

So here we are, year 2 of homeschooling and Paige is thriving medically. She has gained 15 pounds and approx. 4 inches in just over 18 months! My little Paige, who was always under the 5th percentile on the growth charts is 75 pounds at age 11!!! She is rarely sick and her OCD is under control (I'll talk more about it later).

Academically she is still quite advanced in reading and language arts. She loves science and can talk your ear off about history. But, as is the case within the preemie community, she is showing strong difficulties in math. Over the years I had heard other preemie parents talk about how their child was on target in math until they hit 4th grade and this seems to be the case with Paige as well. She is in the "5th grade" but still working on 4th grade math. This is one of the many benefits of homeschooling.

Socially she still struggles. We are starting to feel that she always will. Last year she was in a play, in our local theater, where she played a townsperson. She came alive! She is super animated which came in handy for this years production... Seussical the Musical. She was cast as one of the Whos. She had a blast but still didn't really make any friends. She often makes comments like, "I don't know why no one likes me." Thankfully she has a good friend that live across the street. Their friendship is so important to Paige.

I'm often asked if we'll send her back to school. As of now, the answer would be a strong "no". I am not anti public school. It just wasn't right for Paige. Tyler, on the other hand, can't wait to go. He just wants to ride the bus (what else do 3 year old boys like-lol). I'm not sure what we'll do when he turns 5. He is quite the technology smarty pants for his age. He loves the computer and even has his own homepage, which he can sign into himself. He knows how to get to his bookmarks and knows which games are on what site. He has started to read, can spell his name but can't write it yet. He can count and even do simple addition. He loves to sit near his sister while she is doing school and has picked up so much from their interactions. I'm fearful that he will be bored in school. If he hasn't outgrown his life threatening peanut/tree nut allergy then we probably won't send him to public school.

I am quite passionate about homeschooling so if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask. While I realize that it isn't right for everyone, it has changed Paige's life for the better.

Medically Paige is doing wonderful. I can't even remember the last time we've seen a specialist. I know she is not out of the woods. Puberty has started and we are watching her like a hawk for signs that her seizures have returned. Since she has gained in both weight and height, we've been cleared by endocrinology. She does still have issues with constipation but now that I'm the one controlling what she eats (and not relying on cafeteria food), it's a lot better. Her headaches have all but disappeared. We have changed pediatricians and finally found someone that took her oral health seriously. Paige has holes in her teeth from acid reflux but since her PH probe was normal, her previous docs ignored the problem. Our new doc was appalled and immediately put Paige on reflux meds which is also helping her stomach aches.

As for her mental health... she is doing so much better. When I look back and re-read old posts I can still feel the pain we were experiencing because her OCD was so hard to control. She is still on 2 meds for OCD and anxiety but now that she is no longer in school the meds are able to help her keep her stress level under control. When new stress is added to her life (like acting) her mental health issues become harder to manage. But, instead of removing the stress, she is able to face it head on and cope quite well. She no longer picks her skin on a regular basis but it is something that she has to work hard on.

As for me... well that's a different story. Now that the majority of the stress (related to Paige's medical/mental health issues) has diminished, I seem to be having a harder time coping. I think the stress was keeping me going. Boy that sounds funny as I'm re-reading it. But I don't have any other way to account for these feelings. PTSD?? I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop and can't seem to shake that feeling.

Although homeschooling was the best thing for Paige, it ended up altering life in a way that I was not prepared for. My friends had always been the other moms and we got together during school hours. That all is gone now. As I mentioned above, we are atheists living in the bible belt. I have not found a local homeschool group that will allow us to join so I tend to feel a little left out of the world. I'm not completely without friends but it has definitely changed. I still feel strongly that it was the best thing we could have done for Paige and I stand by my decision. I honestly would do it all over again. I just wish people weren't so closed minded so we could share in the homeschool experience with other local families.

So, that's about where we are... in a holding pattern... enjoying life without all of the stress we used to have but keeping both eyes open.

Visiting with Santa


Aidan's mom said...

What a great update! I rarely blog myself anymore so I was happy to see your note on FB to direct me over here.

So glad to read and SEE how great Paige is doing. Kudos Mom!

Kristie said...

I'm so glad to hear how well things are going. Paige looks great! We're going to have to decide what to do about school for C (31 weeks) soon and I bounce back and forth about whether or not I'll be able to hack it with her at home.

We are secular homeschoolers too, and even outside the bible belt, it is hard to find like minded families. I'm alone at home with the kids most of the time, so I can relate to how you're feeling. Being pregnant again isn't really helping my coping skills any...

I hope school continues to go well. It was great to hear about how you guys are doing!


Tamara said...

It's strange to read about your daughter and see so much of my own in her. My daughter was also a preemie, is extremely smart and she's skipped a grade (they had considered skipping her ahead 2 grades). But what worries me is her social skills. She's also very literal. If the teacher tells her to gather up the student's papers she does that. Snatching them from the students who aren't done and more. When asked to draw what the world would be like in 100 years, she drew a gravestone with RIP on it, understanding that she wouldn't be around to see it.

I've sent her to school, she's in 3rd grade now, hoping that maybe other children would be the best teacher. We've had to move a lot and she's been in 4 schools all ready. Within 6 weeks, always 6 weeks, we start to hear of problems at school. Kids picking on her, teachers complaining about her being disrespectful. I don't even honestly thinks she means to be. She just doesn't have any impulse control. She acts out. If someone touches her and she's not expecting it she throws an elbow. It's just a reaction. She tries to control every situation, her teacher has told us she's told the other girls in the class to include her but she immediately goes over and just starts to boss the kids around telling them every thing to do.

I honestly think she just doesn't connect how to interact socially. She applies the wrong things at the wrong time. I've told her if someone makes her uncomfortable to walk away, but she'll do that with the teacher too (hence the disrespectful). It's all these mixed signals she just can't sort out.

On top of that she's a very emotionally intense child. She can't stand the slightest bit of teasing. Growing up even if her dad would call her a cute nickname like 'Cookie' she would start bawling telling us that wasn't her name. When she wakes up in the morning and I laugh at her hair being messy, she takes it extremely personal and tells me I'm making fun of her.

Hearing your homeschooling experience is helpful. I don't know if I'm ready for that leap yet. While she's a natural learner there's a small part that wonders if she's not as socially adept because she just has never had the chance to make friends with all our moving. Thanks for keeping us updated!

Fanciful Expressions said...

I'm glad that you're back to posting. I just want to say that I'm so proud of you and Jason for being the wonderful parents that you are.
I agree that the homeschooling has been terrific for Paige. She's so much more at ease and she looks terrific---so healthy looking and vibrant.
As a Grandma it's so nice to not have worries over my grandkids because I know they're in such good hands.
Love you

3 good eggs said...

Love the Santa Pic. Happy Holidays.

Susie Korbel said...

I'm so glad that things are going well with Paige and Tyler. It sounds like homeschooling was absolutely the best decision for her. It's terrible that your community is so closeminded, though. You must feel so alone at times.

*hugs* Keep plugging away though... things can always change for the better! Look where you are now- it's so much better for your family than it was a few years ago!

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

It is so good to see an update! I am glad that Paige is doing well and thriving with home schooling. I look forward to hearing about Tyler's adventures on the bus soon enough!

Laura (aka Waldenmommy) said...

What a wonderful update! The picture of your kids is adorable. I hope you find a homeschooling group soon. I know we have a secular one in our area.

I know what you mean about the removal of stress making things worse. When I some major stressors (moving, etc) in my life ended, I HAD to focus on some issues that I had been ignoring. And, wow, did things come crashing down! No advice but BTDT.

Hope all contuines to go well for your family-

tbonegrl said...

I am so happy to hear about how well Paige is doing! I know you must be really proud, and I am proud of is such hard work!

I am worried about you and your PTSD though. Please find time (I know it is hard) to talk to someone.


RhondaLue said...

So great to get an update! Sounds like homeschooling has been wonderful, though I'm you have to all be the same religion to be in a "homeschooling group?" I've never heard of that before. But then again, I don't homeschool so why would I?! Lol

I've always kept the HS idea in the back of my mind. I will do it if it becomes necessary but I have concerns over my own abilities to teach my son appropriately, and not getting a break from his adhd self is a tough pill to swallow!

Anyway, the pic is so cute! Hope you have a happy season!

Eleanor said...

Great Update Stacy!
Homeschooling is hard but I'm glad we're doing it too. My youngest turns 5 next year and everyone was asking what we were going to do about school - once I found his SLT would move to a different category and probably not get it continued that became a no brainer!

We don't really fit in any homeschooling category either - and T's health this year has precluded much involvement anyway - so I do know the isolation.

But it's fantastic to see and hear the changes happening for Paige!

Donna said...

so great that Paige is doing so much better... she's looking so grown up now!

terri w/2 said...

Tamara (12/11) post and others who are concerned about their former preemie's social skills. .here is a checklist that may be useful.

Non-verbal learning disorder seems to be quite common among former preemies. A book called "Bridging the Gap" by Rondalyn Whitney helped us enormously in identifying our daughter's condition. I'm not diagnosing your child, but some of what you are speaking of in your post seem very familiar to what we and others are seeing in our preemies as well. High verbal skills combined with poor social skills and rigidity. Schools do not know much at all about this condition, so if you suspect your child my have this, the best next step is to get a neuropsych eval.

Hope this helps.

Two Shorten the Road said...

Hi! I'm usually a lurker (preemie mom, 30-weeker) but I wanted to mention this -- I did a paper in grad school about people who live under extreme stress and then doing poorly when the stress is removed. It has to do with your body getting conditioned to run only under stress, and not knowing how to react once the stress is removed. Here's an article about a study on the phenomenon.

thecatsmeow said...

Hey...look who's back!! Apparently I can't post under my usual handle, but I do have a blogger account now so I can still post. (Usually I posted as "medrecgal", I think.) I was wondering if you'd return eventually; glad to have this great update on Paige!

Anonymous said...

Isabella arrived 4 months too soon and wasn't given a very good chance of survival, let alone a "normal" life. Bella is 11 now and doing well on every level except scholastically. She especially struggles with math and reading. She had to repeat 4th grade this year and my wife and I aren't seeing a marked improvement thus far. Our two sons (21 & 17) were both full term and great students. My wife and I have tried everything we are acapable of with regard to helping Bella get over her hurdles without much luck. We're simply not equipped to help her because it isn't due to lack of interest or effort, in fact all of her teachers over the years have said they have never had a more determined student. Bella wants so desperately to do well and feel normal, anyone have any suggestions?

Doc's Girl said...

I'm so glad that things are going so well...:)

commercial property insurance said...

It is good to see the update very soon..I am glad to see that everything is going well...Great Man ! Have A Very good Morning!