Thursday, October 10, 2013

What to do when your child is struggling...

 As a parent I would like to think I know what to do to help, guide, teach, and support our children. The past two years have been an eye opener that I will not always have the right answers, answers, or even thoughts that come even close to an answer when it comes to raising our children.

Let me give you some background info... I am a mom to five children. Three are in elementary school and two stay home with my husband and I. We run a group home daycare which allows my hubby and I to work together and work from our home. My oldest daughter (6th grade) has never had to study, work for her grades, or had struggled when it came to school. If she gets a lower grade it isn't because she didn't "get it", it because she is lazy. I can say that because it is true and she is my kid.
Our second daughter (3rd grade) on the other hand is a different story.

Meet Kadyn. She is our 8 year old ball of fire. She is a beautiful, loving, social, hard working, talented dancer, soccer player, who struggles in school. My heart aches for her. Toward the end of Kindergarten we found out that reading was not her strong subject. I didn't think too much of it since it was only Kindergarten. When entering 1st grade, I informed her teacher about the feedback we had received and asked for her feedback as well. Kadyn was behind for a first grader. From the start Kadyn was pulled from her class to meet with a reading coach. As her first grade year continued she slowly fell more behind.

The summer between 1st grade and 2nd, Kadyn (Kk) went for tutoring every morning for a month and a half. We continued to work with her at home by doing flash cards, reading with her, and reading to her. When she started 2nd grade, we again approached her teacher updating her on Kk's progress and struggles. Shortly after the year started, she was working in a small reading group with her teacher and attending a reading group lead by the reading specialist at her school.
 (The Fluke girls)

Her 2nd grade teacher was a God-sent. We stayed in contact via weekly emails and parent meetings. Her teacher went above and beyond with Kadyn and her reading struggle. We saw progress with Kadyn but is was slow compared to other 2nd graders. She wasn't at a 2nd grade reading level and her standard testing scores were low. The team at her school increased her guided reading time, her teacher increased her reading time, and we added tutoring to her schedule as well as keeping up with our family routine of reading. When we decided to add tutoring, we consulted her teacher, asking her if she could provide lessons or tell us more specifically what the tutor would need to work on. Her teacher then offered to stay after school 2x a week to work with Kk. Can I just pause a minute so that last sentence sinks in? Her teacher then offered to stay after school 2x a week to work with Kk. Without any pay, and yes we offered, she devoted even more time, support, and effort into our child. 
 Her second grade ended with level three guided reading, reading groups daily, tutoring, and then speech. Wow! Not to mention she danced two nights a week, played soccer, and attended Awana at our church. Kadyn did not give up, she did not feel like she was any different, and she did not let this struggle get her down. She is a trooper, hard worker, and fun kid to be around. No, I am not just saying these things because I am her parent. Yes, I do think she is a special girl but so does the professionals that work with her everyday. That is evident in how much time, support, encouragement, and heart they have poured into this child. Our child.
 Over the summer we continued to have reading time at home. Practicing worksheets, flashcards, writing journals, and reading to her. We started 3rd grade this past August. We were lucky enough to move up to the next grade with her teacher from the year before, a term called, "looping". I literally jumped for joy when we had the choice to stay with her current teacher. We started 3rd grade with the same educational team. Once school started, without missing a beat, Mrs. H (Kadyn's teacher) offered to start tutoring back up 2x a week. How many teachers do you know that would do this? What an investment she is making in her student, guiding her, encouraging her, and being a role model for her. We as parents can not thank her enough- we can just show how much we appreciate her by working just as hard at home to make Kadyn a successful child.
 We are finishing up our first quarter of 3rd grade. They have completed their standard state testing and soon we will have parent teacher conferences with her teacher and reading team. I would LOVE to tell you we had a happy ending to this story, this struggle. But I don't. I am sad, I feel like we have failed our daughter, or we have done something wrong. How can we raise two school aged children the same and have one struggle while the other doesn't. What do you do when your child is struggling? How can you make things better for her? How can you defend her when some people just don't "get" what she is going through? 

Our next step was a hard one. Even writing about it now is hard. After seeing how much help Kadyn receives in a week, I asked her teacher if she should be tested for a learning disability. What am I missing, what is wrong that reading isn't clicking? The next week we had a General Educational Meeting, another fun term. All of the educators met with me and we went over Kadyn's progress over the past year. I left in tears. Not because of Kadyn's struggles or the discussion but because it was overwhelming how much these people cared for her. Our child.
It took a couple of days for me to send the email to the school requesting additional testing. It is hard to admit that she might have a learning disability. We had to sign more papers that ok'd the school to pull her out of classes and begin the process. Her teacher has already been a huge help in the next step as well by providing times that Kadyn can be pulled out of class without missing core subjects. We are just starting this process and I don't have anything to report. I am nervous, hopeful, excited, and scared of what we might find out. I hope the additional screenings might reveal something that will allow us to help Kadyn on her reading journey.

So, I return to my original question, "What to do when your child is struggling?". I am humbled by this child. She never ceases to amaze me. I wouldn't change this time in my life for anything, as my 8 year old has taught me so much through this journey. I pray her story has a happy ending, a caught up on reading, independent reader, strong learner kind of ending.

Kadyn is a tough cookie and no matter what, that skill can not be taught. So, what do I do when my child is struggling? I pray over her, she is a child of God and He has placed this struggle in her life for a reason. I pray over her educational team, they have been placed in our life for a reason as well. We keep her well balanced- while we focus a lot on her reading and schooling, we allow her to be a kid by dancing and playing soccer. We try to make studying at home fun by using cool markers, chalk boards, computer apps and more. And while we try all of these things most of all we love her. She is our child, and nothing will never change the love we have for her and her struggling nature. Ya know, I don't know what the right answer is when your child is struggling but I know I won't lose faith as I know Kadyn is strong and will overcome this!

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