Uncle! That’s it. I give up.
Lei has changed schools seven times between pre-k and the end of fifth grade. She’s been homeschooled twice, once for second and part of third grade, once for the first month of fourth grade, before she got a spot at her most recent school, which we shall refer to heretofore as Hippy Dippy Palace or HDP.
When she started at HDP we all had high hopes. After all, with a name like Hippy Dippy Palace, it has to be good. Right? Lots of love and togetherness, caring for the Earth, being inclusive, developing body and mind, doing yoga, cooperative games, and kids who first met her in kindergarten, before she transferred away because she hated being the only one with hearing aids.
(All the Deaf People say it’s bad to be the only deaf or hard-of-hearing (D/HH) person in the school, and I listened to them and took my daughter out of HDP, where she was doing quite well at the time, and put her into a school with a deaf program where she found out that her deaf peers were at the two-word phrase level and just looked puzzled when she held forth – at length – about Harry Potter or her imaginary friend, Sarah. Then there were the hearing kids. And her complete Muggle of a teacher.)
Anyway, so now Lei has been back at HDP for two years. I’ve advocated fiercely for her, been deeply involved in the creation of her individualized education plan (IEP) goals, and spent countless hours emailing back and forth with her teacher, psychologist and case manager. And in spite of my efforts, school has been so stressful that Lei has been sick numerous times in addition to the times she faked being sick because she hated being at school so much.
But my husband and I thought we could fix this with another school change.
My husband came home from one of his last days as a middle school music teacher before summer break and told me his principal had offered Lei a spot at his school. This is a Level 1 school. It has an award-winning military academy that gives the kids in this inner-city neighborhood everything they need and would otherwise seek from gangs and drugs. They belong. They are part of a respected group. They are mentored and cared for. They are safe. They work together toward short-term goals and succeed. They put their skills to the test performing in parades and competitions, and their community is wildly proud of them.
Unlike HDP, Husband’s school is big on discipline. The boundaries are set and maintained. Transgressions are dealt with in a consistent way, and repeat offenses treated with calm and firm, but escalating consequences. Because of this focus on discipline and solid classroom management, the school is an island of learning in a high-crime neighborhood.
Husband and I were optimistic this school would offer Lei a safer environment, more experienced teachers and the physical presence of her father as her parent and advocate. It seemed like it could work.
But two full days before Lei was to accompany Husband to the summer band camp he’s teaching, she got a stomach ache. The stomach ache progressed to severe pain and a complete work stoppage in her lower GI tract. When I asked if she was nervous or anxious, she said the idea of going into any kind of school – even with her dad right there – was just too much. We’ve spent all week getting her back on her feet.
So we’re crying uncle. We are getting off the merry-go-round. There will be no more school for Lei in the foreseeable future.
This means that either I will find a job in Pittsburgh – where I’ve been looking for a job for more than six months – and we’ll move there and Husband will take over as the homeschooling home executive, or HHE. Or I won’t find a job in Pittsburgh, he will stay at his wonderful school in Chicago for the coming year, and I will become, once again, the HHE.
I did not love that role when I had it before, but sometimes you just have to roll with the changes. So if I find myself the HHE again, I will put my back into it. I might get injured by putting my back into rolling with the changes, but somewhere in the melange of acronyms and metaphors that is my life, my daughter needs some serious help, and I mean to find it. First and again, I look within myself.
P.S. In case you were wondering, Lei eats lots of fruit and raw veg, drinks lots of water, takes probiotics, eats yogurt but not much other dairy, does abdominal self-massage and all the yoga poses for digestion.