Tag Archives: school

No More Pencils…

No More Pencils…

By the time you read this, the kids will be done with school.

It was a pretty mixed year.  Xander did a lot better in some ways.  I do think the tech school was good for him, taking some of the homework pressure off him.  I did have some serious teacher issues with one of his teachers. On a daily basis, she would score him well, but on a weekly basis, she tanked him.  Which I had suspected would happen when we switched to weekly reporting.  She would give no ground and wouldn’t really work with us, to the point where by the end of the year, his behavior specialist and I were both throwing our hands up and told Xander to blow off an assignment she wasn’t giving him any wiggle room on.  You know it’s bad if we’re both saying that.  And it’s not strictly the subject matter, because he did fairly well in that class last year.  But he’s passed the class, and honestly at this point, that’s all I can ask.

Hero is another issue.  We got her IEP in place for the last marking period, but it wasn’t really in time to do much good.  she already had three failing marking periods behind her, and dragging herself up from that was a daunting task even if she’d been able to put the new habits in place, which at that point she really wasn’t.  So she is right on the edge of failing 2-3 of her classes.  It really all depends on her finals.  If she fails 2, she can retake them in summer school.  If she fails 3…  Part of me worries that she self-sabotaged, as her two best friends were also failing and she doesn’t want to leave them behind.  I’m also struggling with the question of whether or not to get her medicated to help with her ADHD.  I would really rather she learn how to work with support systems on her own, but if she can’t focus enough to internalize those systems, I’m not doing her any favors.  That’s the route we took for Morgan, and now his self-esteem is in the toilet.  I don’t want that for Hero as well.

We won’t know her grades until next week, and there’s not much I can do about it now.  Summer school classes start the 29th, so we’ll have our first trip out of the way.  I will have to make arrangements for her to miss one day of classes for our July trip, though.  But again, can’t worry about it now.

This weekend we’ll work on their plans for the summer.  They’re going to work on DIY badges again this year, so we need to figure out which ones they’re going to work on.  Xander needs to decide on a fitness activity.  I may make him walk the first episode of the 5k training just to see if I can get him hooked on the story.  We have to figure out their summer reading yet as well.  Both of them have one assigned book (she has The Illustrated Man, he has The Cage) and then they get to pick one book.  I’m letting them both do graphic novels, but I’m being picky about what they can choose.  So we have to sit down and talk about genres and see what they might be interested in.  I’d love to get Xander to read The Graveyard Book, but we’ll see.  I never know with him what genre will catch his interest.

And hey, I can start sleeping in a little!  Or go out for an early morning run.  Oh god, am I going to turn into one of THOSE people?

ETA: LATEBREAKING NEWS!!  This was written on Wednesday.  On Friday, the last day of school, I got word from Hero’s case manager that SHE PASSED EVERYTHING!!  It was really damn close, as she got a 66% overall in Math, but she did it!  No having to plan around summer school!  HALLELUJAH!



Greetings, all!


Gratuitous bunny picture


Well, that was a bumpy few weeks.  Got back from the bliss of (an albeit unproductive but much needed) Writers Weekend to dive straight into the teeth of school meetings and a fun little head cold.  But I’m starting to dig out from under everything, so now I can tell you about it.

First off, the school meetings.  Xander has to go through a battery of tests every three years to gauge his development and learning strengths and weaknesses.  This also confirms his ADHD challenges and compensations.  His developmental pediatrician wanted a new version of this, even though he’s really not due until the fall.  I can request the eval at any time, so I did.  And since I was at it, I decided with all the problems she’s been having this year, Hero needed to be tested as well, so I put in that request.  Unfortunately, that was right around winter break, and then when they got back, it was midterms, so they didn’t start doing the testing until the middle of February.  Then we had to find a time we could all meet (and I do mean ALL) to go over the results, so it was another two weeks for that to happen.  So we scheduled to meet on the 17th.  In the meantime, I got an email from Xander’s case manager from last year, asking when I wanted to schedule Hero’s IEP meeting.  My first response was, “Hero’s got an IEP?” and my second was, “She’s got Mrs. Stonis for her case manager!  YES!”  Jen knows us, knows how I work, and in addition to having supported Xander last year, she’s been the support teacher in Hero’s science class all this year, so she knows how Hero works, too.  But the fact that she’d qualified for an IEP before we’d even met to talk about the test results told me that yeah, they’d found something.

I’d booked out a couple of hours from work that day over my lunch hour to go to these meetings.  Boy, did I woefully underestimate how long THAT would take.  It ended up being closer to 4 hours.  That’s because we also did Xander’s IEP update meeting, and I don’t know why but those always take an eternity.  But it was all really interesting.  Yes, Hero’s tests confirm that not only is she ADHD, she’s REALLY ADHD.  Just inattentive fortunately, but still a major academic problem.  She was there while we went over the results, which I think was good for her to hear that her problems aren’t because she’s stupid or because her teachers don’t like her.  She got a lot of positive reinforcement, and seeing her high IQ score helped her get the fact that she’s not stupid.  Because she’s not.  She just doesn’t have the discipline she needs to get her work done regularly.

Xander’s results didn’t bring any surprises, although for the first time they were able to get him through the whole IQ test and get a result that we all think is more in line with his abilities.  He had tested at 86 the last two times he’d taken it, and we all agreed that was just because he couldn’t sit still for the test.  This time a lot of it was on an iPad, and he really liked that, so got more done.  He’s high average, which yeah, is what I’d thought all along.  We went over his IEP with a fine tooth comb, since next year he’ll be at the high school with a bunch of new support people who don’t know or understand him.  It’s one of the things I really like about his current team, they are really looking out for him and making sure he has what he needs.  Next year will be an interesting time as I break in the new team…

Then last week we had Hero’s IEP meeting.  Which was the two of us sitting down with Jen and a blank IEP and saying, “Okay, what do you need?”  Lots of organization/executive function support, mostly.  We talked about the peer tutoring and the afterschool homework club she’s been going to, but Jen thought once we got the IEP in place, she wouldn’t need those as much.  We compromised, so she’s going to go to the homework club once a week, which will let her start going back to her only remaining extracurricular activity as well.  I have to take her out this weekend to buy a bunch of binders for her new organization system.  And now I have someone at school who will double check that the work I’m making her do at home is actually getting turned in.  Which is half the battle.

Now I’m just waiting to hear back from CHOP about getting her in to the ADHD center for evaluation and to start making the decision on whether or not she needs medication.  It’s such a hard decision, but I know it’s made a major difference for Xander, and I don’t want to deny her the help she needs if it really will help her and isn’t just a crutch.  We’ll see how the changes and the IEP go before we make any final decision.  Of course, it can take as long as a year to get in to be seen, and I still haven’t heard back from them despite having put in the appointment request at the same time I put in the testing request with the school.

Can You Make A Pie? (Neither Can I…)

Can You Make A Pie? (Neither Can I…)

Hero got her acceptance letter into the tech school culinary program for next year yesterday.  Yay!  She’s decided that she wants to be a baker, although after we went to the open house and then she went for a shadow day, she got more interested in restaurant and front of house work.  The nice thing about the program at the tech school is that in their first year, they try all four areas: front of house, restaurant kitchen, industrial kitchen and bakery.  Only in their second year do they have to pick a concentration.  If she stays in the program all 4 years, she’ll come out in good shape to go right into a job, either instead of or in order to pay for college.  And the community college here has a great culinary program as well, so there are a lot of bonuses if this is a good fit.

When she told me she wanted to do this, after my initial “where did this come from?” freak out (before September she wanted to be a vet!), my biggest concern about the whole thing was that for someone who wanted to be a baker, she didn’t…well, bake.  Or cook at all without me pushing her into it.  That didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence that this was really something she wanted to do.  Last night we talked about that and came up with an idea for her to build some skills.  She dubbed it a Baking Ladder, and the title’s stuck.  Basically we came up with 9 categories going from easiest to hardest with 6 items in each.  By completing each category (the “rungs”), she’ll develop skills and confidence and maybe get a better sense of whether baking is really her thing.


She’s excited about it, and is already talking about doing a Chef Ladder when she finishes this.  This is what I want to see, her getting excited about something that is supposedly her passion.  I’m totally on board with encouraging her, and as always happens when teaching, I’m sure I’ll learn a lot, too!  I’m going to try to encourage her to blog about it as she goes.  If she does, I’ll be sure to let you know!  And you know I’ll be talking about my part in it here.

Schedule Change

Schedule Change

Morgan started back to school two weeks ago, and that’s brought some changes for the whole family.  He didn’t register until the last minute due mostly to his own social anxiety issues and not understanding the financial aid system.  And I mean literally the last minute.  The night before the first day of classes, in fact.  I’d been asking him for his schedule, which he kept forgetting to give me, and it took me a stupidly long time to realize what was going on.  That night I gave him a promise of amnesty (meaning I wouldn’t get mad at him if he’d done something stupid) and he confessed all.  Then and there we sat down with his program, the course catalog and his computer and got him registered to what we could.  It was too late to get into one of his required computer science classes, but we got him in Game Design, math and econ.  But to keep his financial aid, he had to carry at least 12 credits, and he had to retake one core class that he’d failed, so that class wouldn’t count towards his load, so it had to be 15 credits.  He’s taking a badminton/racquetball class which satisfies part of his health requirement, and then I told him to just take something he was interested in even if it wasn’t in his program.  In the end we found a basics of photography class which I hope will inspire him.

The biggest problem is, because of the last minute registration, he didn’t get a good pick of times, so he’s got a tough schedule.  His math class is at 7:35 a.m. MWF, the racquetball class at 8, and the game design class meets in the evening.  So on Mondays he’s at school from 7:30-6, and Tuesdays from 8 a.m.-10 p.m.  Which is a long ass day.  The rest of the week isn’t too bad, as he’s done by early afternoon, which kind of makes up for it, but those first two days are tough.

But this impacts the whole family.  Montco (Montgomery County Community College) is right on my way to work, and with it being so early, it doesn’t make sense for him to take the bus when I can just drop him.  But I have to drop the kids off at school first.  I had been dropping them around 7:30, but since that’s when Morgan would have to be at school, we’re having to get up earlier and out the door sooner, which hasn’t been easy.  I’ve only set my alarm fifteen minutes earlier, but it means me getting moving 45 minutes sooner than I was, and getting the kids moving, which is even harder.  You wouldn’t think such a short time change would make a difference, but it really does.  I was so exhausted last week I literally crashed out every night by 8:30 or 9.  I’m bad with daylight savings time, too, so change is not my friend when it comes to time and sleep.  I think we’re all starting to get used to it a bit.  I wasn’t as tired last night, at least, although I needed high explosives on Xander this morning.  So we’ll get there.

But the three mom!cab runs on Tuesday nights kind of blow.

Another “Is too much” post

Another “Is too much” post

Another gap.  ::glares at the calendar::  I think I’m going to have to make February a Blog Every Day month just to get back in the groove.  But today, let me summarize.

1. The kids are back in school, but not without changes.  I’ve had to pull Hero from color guard, as she’s continued to fail several of her classes.  I feel bad, because I know it’s the ADHD finally rearing its ugly head, but I couldn’t not do anything, either (pardon the double negative).  Three practices a week was just too much of a time commitment, and I couldn’t pull her from Odyssey of the Mind, as that would have punished the whole team and not just her.  But that situation resolved itself as well.  The OM higher-ups had changed the parameters of the challenge the team was working on three months in, invalidating all the work the kids had been doing.  Three of their members had quit the team, leaving them at the minimum participants allowed (which was why I couldn’t pull Hero), and they were demoralized and no longer committed.  After much soul searching on their part, they decided to disband the team for this year.  I think it was a relief for all of them, although their coach was heartbroken.  Now we just have to focus on getting Hero back on track.  I’m getting her tested with the school and am trying to get an appointment for her at CHOP to be formally diagnosed as ADHD.  I’m really torn about medicating her, but we may have to at least for a little while while we work with developing other coping skills.  None of the tools we’re trying to put in place for her right now are taking, and it may just be that she’s too out of control to internalize them.  But hopefully we can get her through the year and by fall have her back on track.

2.  The house has gotten a bit out of control.  Christmas took the card system right off the table and I’ve had a hard time getting it back.  I suspect I’m going to have to start it from scratch, pull all the cards and re-introduce them like I did when I started.  Which still won’t be as hard as it was the first time around.  It’s not that the house is bad.  It’s just not where it was.  There are piles everywhere, small piles, but piles nonetheless.  The dishes aren’t getting done nightly, which means the counters and floor aren’t getting done regularly and the floor needs a mopping.  I can’t remember who’s turn it is to get their bed linens washed (probably mine).  I just need to…start clean.  Give myself permission.  Yup, that’s it.  This weekend I’m pulling all the cards, sorting them by room and starting from scratch.  Hell, I’ll do it today.  The living room won’t take that long to get back on track.  Can do the dining room Wednesday and Thursday, then the kitchen and bathroom this weekend.  Yup, that’s a plan.  Thanks, guys!

3.  I’m behind on Sleepy Hollow and Elementary, but OMG are you guys watching Agent Carter?  WHY NOT???  It’s encapsulating every perfect thing about feminism and equality and heroism and glam and SHE BEAT A GUY UP WITH A FUCKING STAPLER!!!  I’m actually trying out power lipsticks thanks to this show.  You have to watch it.  Honestly, it’s such an utter joy.  And I may have a tiny little crush on Hayley Atwell..

4.  Hrm.  I thought I had a 4, but maybe not.  Life hasn’t been THAT exciting, which isn’t a bad thing.

5. OH!!  I sold my loom!  This is a kind of sad thing, because I wanted to learn more weaving, but I just didn’t love it enough, and it was taking up a lot of space in the house, which as you know I don’t have as much of as I’d like.  So I put it up on Ravelry and an 83 year old former Marine from Pittsburgh bought it!  Nikki and I drove out to Harrisburg with it last weekend to swap with him, and he was just the nicest guy.  I know the loom is going to a good home where it will be well used.  And I got $400 out of it, so that’s a good thing!  Still keeping an eye out for a cheap drum carder or hand cards, though.

So, can she stay current?  Stick around to find out!

School Daze

School Daze

Do you ever have one of those dreams where for one reason or another you have to go back to school?  For me, it’s always because I didn’t pass one math class, usually over one test, and never mind that I’ve graduated college and done three years of graduate study, I still have to go back to high school for a whole year, and not just to do the math class, but to do the whole senior year over.  But the school’s never the same as when I went there, and I don’t have my schedule or any of my books, and I have no idea where to get the information, and no one will talk to me because I’m so old.

I hate those dreams so much.

Unfortunately, having kids with learning challenges is exactly like living those dreams.

Xander is doing okay.  Not stellarly, but for the most part he’s managing to get B’s and C’s, which is all I ask.  But he had to write an essay this last week on Romeo and Juliet.  Writing is his barrier.  Any kind of writing just stops him cold.  So over the weekend we slogged through with reviewing his organizer, laying out the outline and just bloody writing the thing (there were many cupcake bribes involved).  So of course, when he turned it in on Monday, he got it back with revision requests.  Which is hellish in and of itself, but it came at the same time he got a heavy homework load.  So I have been scribing for him and carrot/sticking him just to get through the daily stuff, which he’s dragged his feet on partially because it, too, involved a lot of writing and partly I suspect because he knew he was going to have to do the revisions when he finished.  He (meaning we) was doing homework every night until 10:00 without us ever getting to the essay.  Finally last night he got a break (orchestrated, I suspect, by his case manager) and we sat down at the keyboard to do his revisions.  Keep in mind I HAVE NEVER READ ROMEO AND JULIET.  I was fortunate enough not to have to do it in 9th grade.  The AP class did Tale of Two Cities instead, which was much more interesting.  Of course I know the basics of the story, but I hate that story so much.  I haven’t seen Romeo+Juliet, I haven’t even seen West Side Story.  So my contribution to this whole process what prodding him with questions.  I helped him break down his points into individual sentences instead of one long one and showed him how to add justifications to each point.  It took an hour, but finally at the end, he had expanded everything I thought reasonably well for a child with a learning challenge.  It was interesting because for the first time in a couple of weeks, he was getting no points on his daily behavior chart in English, even though all the other classes he was getting 3-4 out of 4.  I asked him if he thought it was because he felt bad about not having his essay done, and he thought yes.  I’ll be interested to see his point sheet for today.  Now back to dreading the next writing assignment.

Meanwhile, there’s Hero.  Despite the threats to her participation in colorguard, she hasn’t changed her homework behavior.  Interims are next week, and last week I checked to online gradebook just to get a sense of how she was doing.  Just like last marking period, she was failing two of her classes, strictly due to lack of homework completion.  Ten minutes later I got an email from her Latin teacher with concerns about her there as well.  So she got another two-footed landing on.  She has until the end of this week to get all her missing work done.  If she does, then I will give her a second chance on colorguard until the end of the marking period.  But I’ve watched her this week, and I’m not seeing a lot of drive for her to get the work done.

It’s frustrating, and it truly, deeply feels like one of those sent-back dreams.  I really have no control over them, or over the teachers, beyond what’s set up in their plans.  If the teachers don’t post to the HAC or their teacher websites, I have no way of knowing what homework is assigned or missing.  I just have to do the best I can, even if that’s just sending in a note saying “Neither one of us understood this math, although he made the attempt.”  I hated high school the first time, and I’ve already done it a second time through Morgan.  Now it looks like I get to do a third and fourth time.

At least my I-never-went-to-play-practice dreams haven’t come true.

May I have your attention?

May I have your attention?

Having a child with ADHD is a challenge.  Having a child with ADHD who is on the autism spectrum is fucking hard.  Having more than one child with ADHD is a nightmare.

Having all your kids with ADHD makes me want to throw up my hands in despair.

Now before you start throwing statistics, data and wild accusations at me about over-diagnosis, restriction of natural expression and all that, know that I’ve been living with this for twelve years.  I have read the books, the articles, the websites, the studies.  I do think it’s over-diagnosed, especially in boys.  I do think there is a cop-out mentality to be able to shoehorn kids into an educational system that is set up for limited modalities.  But I also know my kids. I can tell what’s them avoiding something they don’t want to do and what’s them not being able to control their own brains long enough to get shit done.  And all the wholistic, person directed thinking in the world isn’t going to help them get through the hoops they need to to be able to function in everyday life.  Add to that the fact that every child with ADHD is different, due to age, gender, co-morbities, temperment, mood, a million things.  I can’t take what worked for one kid and slap it on all of them and call it done.  I have to learn everything new with each child.  Hence the despair.

I got one through high school unmedicated, but it was so incredibly ugly that I will always feel like I failed him by not getting him diagnosed and formally treated.  Morgan had IEPs from fifth grade on, but all the supports and exceptions he got didn’t help him, and he graduated feeling like he was stupid and incompetent.  If there’s one thing I’m grateful for about this first year he’s been at the community college, it’s that I think he is really starting to see that he wasn’t the problem, and there are a lot of different ways to learn, some of which he is good at and some he isn’t.  He seems to really be enjoying college, and doing well.  Or he’s lying to me about it like he did in high school.  I won’t know until Christmas.  But he’s going to class every day, which to me says a lot.

Xander is different.  Which of course he would be, as he’s ASD.  He’s struggling with a world where he can’t quite make sense of the social rules at the same time his brain is running around in circles doing 20 things at once.  He’s had support since he was about 2, as he had abnormal lead levels as a child and some early profound hearing issues.  He started on medication in about fourth grade, as he just couldn’t cope with all the sensory input.  It wasn’t a magic cure, but it allowed him to function, and to start processing the social component he had so many problems with.  We didn’t jump straight to ritalin/amphetamines, but started with anti-anxiety meds, and it took a while and a lot of experimenting to find that he really needed the heavier duty stuff.  And his needs have changed over time.  At first he was on a small dose, but he couldn’t take the extended release.  As he grew, the doses got larger, and now at 14 he actually does better with the XR.  And we still have a lot of supports in place both at home and at school, plus he has a behavior specialist and a mobile therapist that each work with him once a week.  But he’s finally getting to a point where he can express himself, and we’re learning what actively interests him, so we’re starting to be able to direct him towards a better place academically.  His teachers all think he’s smart and well-spoken when he bothers to speak, and they’re often surprised by some of the things he comes up with. The social piece is still a problem, and most likely always will be.  But Morgan was a loner until high school, so I’m hopeful Xander will follow a similar pattern.

And now it’s Hero’s turn.  This one is the hardest, because unlike the boys who were happy to just go with the flow, she has life goals, and I am so worried about her getting in a position where she can’t follow her passions.  We’ve know she had issues for about five years now, but usually she’s been able to manage it with a little help from her teachers.  She doesn’t have an IEP, but she does have what they call in Pennsylvania a chapter 15, which is basically an IEP for kids who are doing well enough in school not to need an IEP.  Except this year, all that has gone to hell.  She’s failing two classes, is in danger of failing two more, and all of it is because she’s not doing her homework.  She’s not using the tools that are in place for her, and basically she doesn’t have the coping skills that the boys did at her age.  We didn’t push it because she seemed to have things under control.  But now she has a big social circle, and there are a lot of activities she wants to be involved in, all of which are pushing out the things she’s required to do.  And as she falls more and more behind, she gets more and more frustrated and shuts down, to the point where Tuesday she had a meltdown in science and had to spend time in the nurse’s office calming down and talking to her guidance counselor.  I took pity on her and gave her a mental health day yesterday so she could get caught up, which to her credit she did.  Thankfully my job is such that I can work from home occassionally, because I think having me across the table from her kept her on task.  She got about 12 assignments done over the course of the day, which I think will get her out of most of the holes she’s in.  We meet with all her teachers next Monday to talk about the situation, and the marking period ends next Friday.  I’ve told her that if nothing else, she’ll be stuck with whatever grade she gets this marking period, but then she’ll have a clean slate for the next one, so long as she applies her tools and does her work.  But she’ll lose some extracurriculars if she fails anything, so we’re trying to avoid that (even though if she succeeds, it’ll cost me $150 in fees for colorguard.  Oi.)  But then I have to go through the struggle of do I get her diagnosed, and once diagnosed, do I get her on medication.  I hate to do it, and I’d rather avoid it if I could, but I don’t want her to struggle the way Morgan has.  Either way, helping her manage her condition is going to be incredibly different than it was for either of the boys, and I’m feeling a bit in the weeds at the moment.

The added challenge, for me at least, is that I can’t comprehend any of it.  It makes no sense to me that you would spend three hours avoiding homework when it would take you fifteen minutes to do it.  Or that you would hide it in your locker instead of turning it in when it’s already done.  I get that not everyone is a writer or a reader (although that can be hard for me, too), but just the basics of school don’t seem that hard.  It’s like a video game.  You do your daily grinds, you earn your points, you get to do something fun.  They love video games, this should be a pattern they comprehend.  But they don’t, and I don’t understand why.

So that’s today.  A day of cautious optimism, and plans for Halloween (I’ve been looking up fake blood recipes) and pretending for a little while that these things aren’t a struggle every day.

It’s when now?

It’s when now?

You might think from the radio silence around here that nothing’s been happening in my life.  Au contraire, mon frère!  I’ve had so much going on that finding time to breath and not collapse into an exhausted heap has been hard to do.  Kid stuff and house stuff, work stuff and food stuff.  Lots of…stuff.

Had two meetings in the last two weeks regarding Xander’s support.  We had his IEP review and met with all his teachers.  I think I know part of his issue with English, as I’m not crazy about either of his teachers.  His primary teacher was very resistant to the idea that he doesn’t comprehend reading, and listening in class isn’t any better, as there is too much to distract him.  But his case manager and the program manager heard us and got him set up with an audio copy of the text book, which seems so far to have helped a lot.  Having headphones on turns him inward, so he actually retains the story.  I’m hoping this is going to help.  Then this week we met with his wraparound program to renew his behavior specialist and mobile therapist for another 6 months.  That went fine, and everyone’s pleased with his progress, so we’re easing back on the BSE just a little with the hopes that we can manage his mid-year crash this year.  Fingers crossed.

Extracurriculars have kicked off for the year as well, and when I say kicked off, I mean crash landed.  I went from having one kid in one activity to two kids in FIVE.  Hero’s doing rabbit club, Odyssey of the Mind, environmental club and now wants to do color guard.  Xander, meanwhile, is trying out archery with 4H and the new robotics team.  And let’s not forget Saturday racquetball.  ::stops to count::  I’m sorry, SEVEN activities.  I had to put everything on a calendar, and I realized I’ll only be home Thursday and Friday nights during the week.  Hero cheerfully piped up, “Until March!” Which is when colorguard adds a Thursday practice.  Oy.

Of course, it almost wasn’t an issue, as when I checked the Home Access Center for Hero’s interim report, I found she was failing math.  Not by a little.  MASSIVELY.  35%.  I flipped out.  Immediately wrote to her math teacher and her guidance counselor, printed out all her missing homework, and then landed on her with two feet.  She had until today to get it all caught up or she could forget about color guard.  She’s been working on it since Tuesday, and as of this morning was just missing two pieces.  She had an extra study hall today, so hopefully she got it done.  Thankfully math is her last period.  Much as I don’t want to be stuck running around to one more thing, I don’t want her to miss out on an activity she really wants to do.

The saga of the basement I’ll save for next time.  Suffice it to say, it’s epic.  And not yet complete.

Your Princess is in Another (Ivory) Tower

Your Princess is in Another (Ivory) Tower

In amongst all the other craziness of the last 6-8 weeks, we have been getting Morgan ready to start college at our local community college.  Pretty straightforward, you might think.  But with Morgan, nothing is really straightforward.

He graduated high school in the spring of 2013 by the skin of his teeth.  Not that he’s not a smart kid, because he totally is, but he’s really good at self-sabotage, i.e. not doing his homework.  It’s how his ADHD manifests.  He also has pretty bad social anxiety, so when he gets overwhelmed, he can’t ask for help, so instead lies and avoids until a fairly small problem becomes gargantuan.  He literally turned his senior project in on the last day possible.  Not the last day it was due, that was 4 weeks prior.  No, the last day they could make an exception for him before they were forced to fail him.  Same with two English papers.  So high school was not a good experience for him.  After graduation, I told him he could have the summer off-ish, but he needed to decide whether he was going to get a job or start at the local community college in the fall.  He decided to go the job route, except a combination of the economy and his social anxiety kept him from ever actually getting a job.  Cue months of the two of us doing war over where he’d applied, how he’d applied, and had he ACTUALLY applied anywhere (see lying and avoidance above).  I even, in desperation, threatened him with the military.  He had to do SOMETHING.  Finally, after Christmas, he agreed that this wasn’t working and that maybe if he tried community college, he could get some work experience there that would make it easier to get other jobs, and he’d get a sense of whether he liked college or not.  So we sat down and did his application and his FAFSA and started jumping through all the hoops to get him registered.

Or at least I thought we did.

Any thoughts I’d had for him taking 1-2 spring term classes quickly went out the window as he put off and put off and put off taking his placement tests.  The Financial Aid office sent us requests for supporting materials that he didn’t take in (but told me he did).  It was agonizing months of me trying to trust him to do things and him being certain someone would get mad at him or yell at him or just make him feel bad when he did any of them.  Finally, FINALLY, in June he took the placement tests.  And bombed the math part.  So bad that he would have to take remedial math before he could take the math class that was a pre-req for one of his computer science classes.  *sigh*  Okay, we’d do what needed to be done.

He scheduled his orientation for just after 4th of July.  Got his program description, his suggested class lists for the semester and they walked him through registration.  And he was told there was a math refresher class which, if he took, would allow him to retake the placement test.  Hooray!  Get him back in the swing of math and give him a second chance on the test!  He was actually pretty good in math, so hopefully this would at least get him into the pre-req class if not jump him up to Precalc, which is one of his program’s required classes.  So he went and took the test and we waited for the results.  And waited.  And waited.  Weeks.  “I thought these results were supposed to be instantaneous.” “I don’t know.  They said they had the scores, they just haven’t gone up yet.”  Finally, in desperation, the week before we went on our big trip and three weeks before the semester was to start, I took the afternoon off work and said we would go in, get his scores, get him registered for the remaining classes he needed and get his payment plan set up.

The best thing I ever did for him was grant him immunity that day.  We grabbed lunch in the student union, and while we were eating I said, “Look, we have a lot we need to get done this afternoon, and I need you to be honest with me about what you have and haven’t done.  So, for the rest of today, I promise not to get mad at you for anything you have lied to me about as long as you tell me the truth now and we get it fixed.”  “Okay.” “So, did you really take the make-up test?”  Pause.  Shoulders slump.  “No.”  Deep breath, count to three.  “Okay, then that’s our first stop.”  And it was.  I hung out in the library while he took the test.  Which he improved on by 25 points.  Not enough to get into Precalc, but enough to get into the pre-req math he needed.  So hurray!  Then off to Guidance to deal with his registration.  We’d tried looking at his schedule the night before, but for some reason his classes weren’t in the system.  We found out in Guidance that the reason was that we hadn’t paid for them by the deadline the week before so they all got dropped.  Okay, we can work with that.  Between him, the counselor on site and a little too much help from me, he got registered for 12 credits.  Not an exciting schedule (Math, English, Art History, and a Communications writing and lab combo), but enough to get him started.  Then we went straight to Enrollment Services to set up his payment plan.

One thing I like about the way MCCC works is their Enrollment Services office.  These are walk-up windows where you can make payments, get help with registration, check your financial aid, everything all in one place.  So easy!  And in our case, fortuitous.  We met with a very nice lady who totalled up his classes, looked at the state financial aid award we had just gotten notice of the day before, deducted that from his balance and set us up with a monthly payment that I can thankfully manage just out of my salary even if a Federal award never comes through (but please, ghod, let there be a Federal award!)  But funny I should mention that… “Did you plan to finish your Federal financial aid application?” Me, dumbfounded: “We did.  Weeks ago.”  “No, we’re still waiting on your IRS transcript.” (Your tax return isn’t good enough.  You have to turn in this IRS transcript which is a pain in the ass to get.)  “We turned that in weeks ago!” I turn to Morgan. “Didn’t you turn that in?”  “I thought I did.”  Deep breath, count to 5.  “Okay, we’ll go home and see if we can find it.  If not I’ll print out another one and you’ll have it by tomorrow.”  Thankfully that was our last stop, as it was 4:30 by then.  Home we went, and sure enough, he “found it in a folder”.  Turned right around and took him back to school to turn it in.  So there.  He was now officially a Montco student.

Getting his books turned out to be another challenge, as there were too many options and he ended up feeling overwhelmed.  In the end, two days before classes started, he just went to the school store and bought or rented them all there.  Which is fine.  More expensive, but in this case it was his money (we cashed in a bunch of savings bonds his grandparents had given him over the years) so he could do it how he wanted.  I was starting to worry about whether he would actually GO to his classes.

Yesterday was his first day.  He went to class. (Huzzah!)  I think he liked class, although the syllabus for his Communication lab is a little ridiculous.  10 pages?  Really?  But it’s part of the experience.  He has one class today and one tomorrow, so definitely easing into the semester.  His English class doesn’t even start until the end of September!  But he came out of the day upbeat and interested, wasn’t hard to wake up yesterday or today, so I’m hoping he has a little more confidence now that he’s more familiar with the place.  He needs to make some friends, but that will happen.  And I keep telling him, even if one of the classes ends up bad, it’s only 15 weeks and then he never has to take it again!

But doing all this school stuff for him has reminded me how much I loved college.  I really did.  I found so much freedom when I went to school.  I had to, since half my family had moved to New York as soon as I graduated!  I was a little uncomfortable helping Morgan with so much of this, as I had done all of it myself when I started, from the applications to the FAFSA to the room requests and registration, all of it.  I had to help my mom with FAFSAs when she went back to school six years later because she had no idea!  I don’t know if I could go back to school now.  I loved being in college, but I didn’t always like actually doing the school work.  It was the environment that appealled to me.  I would love to work in a university publishing house or something similar, where I got to be in that environment but didn’t have to take classes.  I envy him the experience, though.  And more than anything, I hope he has a good time…