The Lily Pad


Portland, Oregon, USA
June 07
She Who Must Be Obeyed
Yes please! Come on over. We'll have tea.
Mom, editor, writer, wife, traveler, dog owner, laundry wrangler, and superintendent of homework.


Froggy's Links
FEBRUARY 12, 2013 7:24PM

Hope for my Engineer

Rate: 9 Flag

High school isn't easy.

Lost in the glop of teen hormonal stew, my son started high school in September. In between the cute girl with pink hair, his friend with the frizzy blond skater 'do, and the who's-dating-who chatter on the bus, there is that pesky thing called schoolwork.

He's dyslexic. And has a host of other disorders that mean school is impossibly hard. I've danced this dance with him for so long, earning my PhD in mom-of-kid-with-learning-disabilities, chasing the tide of late work, lost papers, tests taken over and over to scrape out a passing grade. I've tutored fractions, algebra, and this year, geometry. I've helped him sort out the backpack that looks like a hamster cage. And add into this mix severe school budget cuts that left him in classes of more than 40 for every subject, one class as big as 48. In a world of round pegs, he is triangular. Or maybe octagonal.

He's drowning. I've thrown ropes, lifejackets, speedboats, hell, I've probably thrown a cruise ship. There's only so much a mom can do. A mom, a dad, a retired physicist grandfather, and our language tutor who has been like part of the family since our son was in fourth grade. All that wasn't enough to fix the Fs that are now on his transcript. The special ed teacher said, "Maybe he's just not mature enough for high school." Thanks. That's your solution? Really? "Maybe he'll need an extra year." Maybe, just maybe, a special ed kid has no chance of learning in a class of 45. Maybe no kid can learn in a class of 45.

He's off-the-charts brilliant stinking smart. Trust me, Mr. Special Ed teacher, we know. We paid for the private testing the school wouldn't provide. My kid is probably smarter than most of the teachers, but not in ways that are easy to deal with, or easy to teach.

And here I am, here we all are, at the cusp of something new. Leaving public school, starting tomorrow in an astronomically expensive private school for kids with dyslexia. It's like buying a second house, with money we don't have.

My son is lonely and sad. "How was your last day?"

"It's like no one cared." I don't know what to say.

He wants to be an engineer, but he can't pass math when the class goes too fast and the teacher won't slow down. He can't pass math when it's sheer laborious work to just write down the problems in illegible scrawl. The brilliant brain of his, trapped in a dyslexic head, that can design bridges and bicycle parts, that thinks in three dimensions, can't be an engineer without one hell of a lot of math.

The endless loop in my head, the mental hamster wheel goes round and round. How will we ever pay for this? Should we have tried harder to make public school work? But how could we possibly try any harder? They're talking about more budget cuts next year! This isn't going to get better, not any time soon, not before he's 25 years old and far past high school. My son won't get a second shot at high school in some distant utopian future when my state decides that an educated population is worth paying for.

Tomorrow, he'll start his first day. I'll paint on a smile, I'll make pancakes, I'll try not to show him I feel just as adrift as he does. I'll write an enormous check. And I'll hope like hell we've done the right thing.

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Oh, Froggy. I'm willing to bet you have done the right things all along, and are now doing the right thing again. I wish him happiness and success in his new school. It sounds just right. xoxoxoxox
Thanks Joan. We've heard all sorts of wonderful things. But it's being stuck between here and there that is hard.
Ah, my dear, dear friend.
You've made the right choice. I did it when I had to, back in elementary school. It was always hard, so tight on the money thing, but there was always enough. And we made it.
And you also will.
You and that brilliant young man who will become a star in his own field.
You see, island witches always know a thing or two.
(sending lots of love your way)
I have a friend who put her daughter into a private school, in her case because the girl was being bullied. She said it's the best thing she ever did. It's a good thing that you're doing for your son.
"It's like no one cared," tears me up. My daughter had ADD and struggled both with school and friendships. I feel for you and hope the new school provides a place where your son not only learns but feels like a success.

Any chance that the school district could be required to pay for the new school since they weren't able to accommodate his needs?
Vanessa, thanks so much. I know you've been down a variation of this road. Thanks for the kind words.

phyllis, no bullying here, just overworked teachers who don't have time to help.

jlsathre, he has ADHD too, and a bunch of other stuff. And yes, we're going to see if the school district will pay.
joan said it: you've made the right choices all along. kids who need the ordinary amount of a teacher's attention times ten won't do well in a class where they are they are the only ones not skating along at the normal pace. one of our grandsons is like your engineer, and he finally did well in school (and in life) when his parents moved him to a private school exclusively for learning-disabled kids. they didn't think they could afford it either, but they did. best of luck, froggy. i believe you made the best choice.
I feel for you. It's tough.

Mrs. teaches special ed. She has maybe 10 of these kids in a day she is supposed to help change. Some do, some don't. Not easy from her position either.
Hi there Ms. Forte--sometimes we can only see to the end of the headlights, and we make whatever choice we have with the info we have. The trick is telling myself that I did the best I could.

alsoknownas--your wife has my eternal gratitude. I have met some wonderful special ed teachers in the past, and this guy this year is just completely overloaded. I wouldn't want his job in a million years. The school system is saying, "Here! Here's a zillion kids with all kinds of different needs, and it's your deal to get them through. And you have no tools, and no time, and too many of them. Good? Good. Off you go."
I'm so sorry to hear about all this. I think you made the right decision. Your son will thank you someday - and whatever happens, it's clear from how you write about him, how much you love him, and having that love carrying him forward, goes such a long way. I wish him - and you - luck.