The Best Advice about school I was ever Told

When we first put Thad in school it didn’t go great. I had picked out this beautiful Montessori school and thought he would love it. Instead he screamed and threw tantrums everyday when I left. People told me it was normal and part of the process of learning how to separate. They told me it would stop if I waited it out. I knew in my gut something wasn’t right but I listened to those who said it would stop. It didn’t. He cried every day for 3 months. Then a dear friend gave me permission to listen to my own intuition. 

She said “Do you feel peace about the school he’s in right now?”

“No,” I replied right away.

“Well, then you need to listen to that and find something you can feel peace about.” 

I pulled Thad out of school and put him in a little one room Montessori preschool down the street. He still complained sometimes about going to school but he didn’t cry when I left and I didn’t feel that pit in my stomach. We had peace. 

We had a similar experience when we first put Sage into school and again I had to learn to listen to my intuition and follow peace. We pulled her out of the first school we tried within two days. When we did finally put Sage back in school we ended up with the best teacher and team I ever could have imagined for her. I felt amazing peace about leaving her. 

All this past summer I have again been wrestling with school decisions.

I knew I didn’t feel good about keeping Thad at the school he’s been at for the past three years. It’s a good school and we’ve been well cared for there, but I knew the 2nd grade teacher there wouldn’t be a good fit for him.

We looked at other schools. I toured other schools. I even started filling out an application for another school, but couldn’t bring myself to finish it. A few weeks ago I was wrestling through the decision with a friend and she gave me again the same advice I had heard from that other friend so long ago when I first put Thad in school. 

Sometimes I’m a slow learner. 

She said, “You just have to go with whatever option you feel the most peace about.”

At that moment I realized I didn’t feel peace about ANY of the options we were looking at. A few days later I learned about online elementary schools.

Thaddeus has been asking to homeschool ever since he found out homeschooling existed, but I didn’t think I had it in me. I just didn’t think I could do it with everything else in my life. But I was intrigued by online schools and started looking into it. I liked the idea of him still having a teacher and someone else he’d be accountable to rather than just me.

And as I started looking into it more I felt peace, a lot of peace. 

But I didn’t think Bryan would ever go for it – especially right now while he’s in so much pain. Doing online school would mean no break for us and we really like having breaks from our kids. 

When I told Bryan about the idea he surprised me, though.

“I like it. I think it would be good for Thad,” He said. So, we decided to look into it some more. 

Soon after that conversation we made the decision that Bryan would enter a cancer trial at UCLA and we would go back and forth between AZ and CA for weekly treatments for at least the next 3 months. That sealed it. We enrolled this week in Arizona Virtual Academy through K12. 

So far we’ve been impressed with the whole process. They communicated with us clearly and often throughout the registration period. The schedule is fairly flexible and they individualize the curriculum for each student through regular evaluations and conversations with the parents. His teacher called and introduced herself on Friday and was very nice and very understanding about the need for flexibility in our schedule as we’re traveling. This weekend three boxes arrived on our doorstep filled with books and other school supplies. Thaddeus loved exploring all the different supplies and was especially excited about the things they sent for science experiments. 

I know it might not work out. I might not feel peace about it a month from now, but for right now it’s clearly the next best step. So we’re taking it. 

If you’re struggling with that unsettled feeling in your gut about your kids schooling let me do for you what my friends did for me and give you permission to pursue peace. Listen to your intuition. You know your kids better than anyone. 

You don’t have to stick with something because it looks good on paper, or because everyone else is going there, or because it’s exactly the type of school you dreamed about for your kid, or because it’s where they’ve always gone. Follow peace, friends, that’s it. Follow peace. 

I’m also learning that intuition is not always rational. Taking Thad back and forth with us to UCLA and adding teaching him to my already full list of caregiver activities doesn’t make sense in many ways. But, I know it’s right for us for right now. Following intuition, following peace, following that still small voice of the Spirit, hasn’t always been easy in the past, and it hasn’t always been rational, but I can look back and see how the rational choice hasn’t always served me, but the intuitive choice has led me to good, time and time again. 

We’ll try to document our own online school journey a bit more along the way for any of you interested. 

Grace and peace,

Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

On Following Intuition and Taking Sage Out of School

I think the decision to put your child in school, and in which school, is always challenging for parents. We all want to do what’s best for our children. We want them to learn, succeed, be safe and happy.

Sending your child off to school always requires a great deal of trust. Suddenly your baby is out in a world that is unknown. You are no longer the only one protecting and guiding them. School is the first giant step they take away from you.

Every parent feels a tinge of sadness and fear, mixed with the excitement of freedom, as they hug their child goodbye on the first day of school.

But when your child has special needs, that sadness and fear is magnified tenfold.

I started having anxiety about sending Sage to school when she was barely one. In Seattle we were told that if she didn’t enter the public school system at three she wouldn’t get therapy. When we moved to Arizona we learned that because Sage got into long term care she was eligible for therapy even if she didn’t go to school. My relief was tangible. At least some of the pressure was lifted, but not all of it.

I still knew that Sage would get more therapy if she was in school than out of school. She would get more mental stimulation in school than out of school. She would get more social interaction in school than out of school. I felt I had to put her in school in order to provide these good things for her.

But, that didn’t make me feel better about sending her off.

How could I really send my non-mobile and non-verbal daughter into the world at only three years old? She can’t come home and tell me what happened at school. She can’t come home and tell me about the kid that bullied her or the teacher that scolded her. She can’t defend herself. She can’t even move from point A to point B on her own.

She is highly susceptible to illness and anytime she gets sick it disrupts her feeds, which has often landed us in the hospital.

She is vulnerable. On so many levels.

Throughout the summer, as her third birthday drew close, my unrest and unease grew. “We are doing the right thing, we are doing what’s best for her,” I kept telling myself. But I couldn’t quite believe it.

I thought it was just fear and I don’t ever want my decisions to be determined by fear. But today, in the quiet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This feeling of unease is more than fear, that’s why I can’t shake it.

If it was just fear, then my self talk, reminding myself of all the reasons why school would be good for Sage, would help quiet my unease. But it hasn’t.

If it was just fear than facing my fear, sending her to school, having some of those fears become reality, would diminish the power of this uneasy feeling. But it didn’t.

As I drove Thaddeus to school I suddenly remembered, what I’m shocked I could have forgotten. The lesson I learned about intuition when I put Thaddeus in preschool.

The first school we put Thad in looked perfect on paper. It was a well known, well established, Montessori school in our area. The campus was beautiful, complete with a lovely garden the children helped tend. The owner of the school was a kind, structured, earth-loving grandmother figure. The teachers where knowledgable and highly trained. But I felt conflicted, torn, and uneasy the whole time he was there. I never felt peace about it. For six months I tried to rationalize away that intuitive feeling. For six months Thaddeus cried every single day that I dropped him off.

Then over Christmas break I finally listened to my heart, and to the voice of the Spirit that had been trying to get my attention. I pulled Thad out of that school and found another school for him. The new school was small, and much less shiny on the outside, but the teachers really cared about their students and Thaddeus did well there. He stopped crying when I took him to school. And I felt peace.

I realized today that the feeling I had with Thad at that first school is exactly the feeling I have about school for a Sage right now. I don’t want it to take six months before I listen to that feeling. I have too often ignored that still small voice and come to regret it. I want to respond more quickly now.

So, today I officially decided to take Sage out of school. Right away, I felt peace in regards to her schooling for the first time in months. I have to follow that peace.

Throughout the day I slowly came to realize ways that I could meet the needs of my daughter that school would have fulfilled.

I had a wonderful talk with a friend who’s starting a preschool co-op, which seems like it could help with my desire to give Sage more social stimulation. I talked with the pediatrician about a service in the area where the school district sends a teacher to the home of medically fragile kids for two hours a week to provide learning and mental stimulation. I got some necessary paperwork done so Sage can continue to receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy every week.

I worried that if I didn’t put my daughter in school she would be suffering and wouldn’t get what she needs. I don’t worry about that anymore.

Sage is thriving and she will continue to do so even outside of school.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Why school? Why Monessori?

Why school?

Although it often surprises people to learn, Thaddeus isn’t three yet. He’s close, just a few weeks really, but even three is so young.


I never thought I would put my children in preschool.
In fact I think I was sort of against it. I’ve never been a big fan of our current education system and before I had kids when I thought about school I always sort of assumed I’d homeschool or maybe even unschooled them.

But, that was then and this is now.

Tomorrow Thaddeus will start preschool. He will only be going for a half day, but it will be every day of the week.

And you know what? I’m thrilled! Ecstatic! I can’t wait. I wake up dreaming about what I’ll do with my two and a half precious hours a day and fall asleep thinking about the same. My biggest fear (I’m actually terrified of this) is that they will kick him out for some reason and I’ll be robbed of my time without him.

I never thought I’d put my child in school so early, especially if I didn’t have to because of work, but I also never thought I’d have a child like Thaddeus. Or at least I hoped and prayed I wouldn’t. But, often God gives us what we need and not what we want, right? I need Thaddeus. He has taught me patience when I thought I had no more. He has pushed and challenged my convictions about parenting and about myself. He has forced me to give when I didn’t think I had anything else to give and then give some more. I love him, but I don’t always enjoy him. He’s been a real challenge for me from the beginning – a challenge I am grateful for, but a challenge none the less.

And after almost three years, I’m burned out. The level of excitement I feel about putting him in school is a testament to how burned out I’ve really become.

I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to parent from that place. I need to create more space for myself, to come back into my center. Not just space to make sure the house gets clean, the laundry is done, and the basics are covered. Not just space to go to doctors appointments and therapy appointments (which we have plenty of at this season). I need space for things that fill me back up and I’m hopeful that school will be a great way for me to work that space back into our schedule.

The best reason that it’s a great way for me to get that space though, is that we know it’s gonna be good for Thad. Better than a babysitter now and then, and better than grandma and grandpa, too.

Thad is a really smart kid and he needs more stimulation, more structure, more responsibility, than I’ve been able to give him right now (especially in the state I’ve been in the past few months). He also really needs the interactions and friendships that school will provide. He has very few (read: almost no) friends his same age and as much as I love having him around adults I know he needs peer interactions too. He gets so excited whenever he gets to play with other kids and I want him to have that more often.

So, for all of these reasons and for the kindness of family members willing to pay for school for Thad (thank you!) we are making the leap and starting school now.

Why this school? Why Montessori?

I have always been intrigued by Montessori education. My cousins went to a Montessori school and have only wonderful things to say about it. I love the emphasis on intrinsic motivation and the freedom within boundaries that they give the children. I love that the classes are mixed age groups with 3-5 year olds all together – the younger learning from the older. I love that he gets to stay with the same teacher for three years and that they get to really know him and us. And I love the idea of the adult as a facilitator and guide instead of a top down teacher.

And I really think that the structure as well as the freedom of self determination given in a true Montessori classroom will be a great fit for Thaddeus and the kid that he is at this season.

So, when I saw the sign for a Montessori school only a few blocks from our apartment I knew we had to check it out.

What we found was even better than I could have hoped. Whole Earth Montessori School is a prekindergarten through six grade Montessori school with a wonderfully clear emphasis on caring for the earth. They have a beautiful garden that the children maintain and care for. Solar panels that the older children also help monitor. A beautiful campus with tall trees and a stream that runs through the front. The classrooms are well organized and clean and wonderfully well lit with natural light streaming through large windows.

The founder of the school gave us the tour and I have to say I really love her too. She just seems so sweet and caring and even a bit earthy. And it seems like she really loves what she does and truly cares about children’s education.


It was pretty clear right away that this was where we wanted to put Thad for school.


Now I’m just praying that nothing goes wrong to prevent it from working out (can you sense my anxiety – I really am stressed that something’s going to happen and it won’t work out after all). And praying that Thad ends up loving it even more than I think I will.


What about you – what are your kids doing for school this year?

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.