2 years ago, my husband walked in the door at 10am on a Monday in February. He was visibly upset after learning his employer at the time had not done something that was promised & this one small act (or lack thereof) changed the course of our lives. We uprooted our family which, unbeknownst to us, actually protected one of our children from a bad situation that had been occurring. Our new home added a layer of new challenges, though I can say without a single doubt in my mind that I would do it again. Was it perfect? No. There was certainly better ways to fix our situation. Still, knowingly or unknowingly protecting my children will never be a regret. I would move our family 100 times over without batting an eye.
Last month my daughter told me she would like to go back to public school. We talked about why & I listened as she reflected on the last year. She’s been a very impressive human in all of this. I wish I could begin to explain my pride in her. She surprises me daily & I continue to learn & grow as a person in her presence.
Her feelings were valid & from the beginning of our homeschooling last year I had assured the kids that public school wasn’t going anywhere. After discussing our options Colin expressed a similar sentiment as Lily & it became clear that it was time to sharpen our focus on what these kids were wanting. With clear heads & much deliberation, we decided as a family that we would begin the process of buying a new home in a school district that met our needs.
Our single most important criteria was what the school district offered for special education. Colin struggles with fine motor skills. This causes issues with many school related activities. If you work out, your muscles are tired & your sore. It’s the same idea for Colin only it his fingers & wrists that are tired & sore. The tiny muscles in his hands need to work harder so he compensates by using his bicep. Exerting energy using the larger muscle makes his arm poop out much quicker. Once he’s had enough, he begins to distract himself. He doesn’t want to sit still & he gets pretty wiggly. Now being aware of what a good school & quality teacher support looks like, we started our search for the perfect area.
Our list of criteria had an excellent special education department at the top of the list, but we certainly had other factors that mattered. Small class sizes, ethnic diversity, focus on quality art & music programs, & a district that was well funded & supported by its community. We narrowed our search to two different areas, one had 4 out of 5 of our criteria, the other had 5 out of 5. I rooted for the one that met all of our criteria though it wasn’t looking good for us. Most of the houses we liked were gone within a day of listing & the others wOuld not suit a family of 5. We offered on a couple in the other school district & were (luckily) beat out by better offers. But on Feb 3rd we had an accepted offer on a house in the school district of our dreams.
The real work began. I contacted every one I could think of at the school district that would ensure Colin received any & all of the support he needed. In Nebraska, we have a place called PTI Nebraska. They basically give you knowledge on how to advocate for your special needs children. One phone called changed everything. I learned that I could use our pending contract to enroll the kids now which might be ideal for Colin since the school district needs 45 days to do a full MDT which includes IQ, social emotional, behavior and functional academics.
Another family meeting took place at our house & it was decided to enroll the kids now so that we had any services needed for Colin ready to go by next school year. It felt like the best move to support his desire to return to public school. Meeting some neighborhood kids before we moved into the area would be a bonus. Their enrollment went smoothly & we had a start date in place.
So why did I feel sick? My stomach was in knots. I thought about all the (what felt like to me) mistakes I’ve made thinking I was doing the best for my kids. How can I know if I’m doing the right thing? I took a really deep & thoughtful look at the past 2 years. Though I have learned a significant amount about advocating for my children, I didn’t need it until Colorado. When we got to Colorado I didn’t know what I was up against. Before Colorado, our school district and teachers didn’t need me in their face. You could feel the love & support for the kids right from the start. We were lucky.
After some much needed advice, I decided I needed to speak with their new teachers directly. Talk about having a weight lifted. I didn’t feel like I was leading my kids into a dark room with no flashlight. We had found the light switch & what sealed the deal was our school tour the very next day.
Colin’s new teacher informed me that once she heard about him she specifically requested him. *one moment while my heart explodes* We arrived at the school and immediately bumped into her. She greeted Colin with the warmest hug. She asked him if he wanted to peak in on the class & say hi. He did & off they went. I stood back & watched my shy, sweet, charming little boy greet his new class peers with a bit of hesitation & a lot of excitement. She let him know that his new classmates have been so excited to meet him. It was basically all he needed to reassure himself he could do this.
Lily’s teacher was at a meeting the day we toured. When we popped into her class we were met with a slew of girls excitedly waving & once they got the go ahead my blue haired hippy child was surrounded by girls. Giggly & excited to tell her everything she needed to know about her new school. They showed her around & I hung back with the other 5th grade teacher. We left the school that morning knowing without a doubt in our minds that we were exactly where we should be.
Today my husband & I dropped our two oldest babies off at public school. We walked them into their classrooms & took their pictures with their new teachers. We shook hands with some support teachers & gave our kids hugs & kisses & told them where we’d pick them up. We watched as they excitedly got to see their new seats & where to put their things. We left happy with our decision.