Monday, June 24, 2013

Education Update

As most of you know, Blake and Emery had very little education while in the orphanage.  They attended kindergarten from September 2011 until we brought them home in April 2012.  Kindergarten in Bulgaria is similar to 2-day preschool in America.  Basically, it is more about socialization than education.  When the twins arrived home, they could not color and did not even hold a crayon correctly.  Blake did not know the Bulgarian alphabet or have any idea what an alphabet was, much less a letter or a word.  He knew no numbers or shapes or colors.

Based on the level of his social skills and opinion of our teaching staff at our school, we started Blake in the 1st grade in the Fall of last year.  Since we did not get very far working with him over the Summer, I was a little worried about how far he would get after one school year.  Thanks to a wonderful 1st grade teacher and phenomenal skills support staff at St. Anthony, Blake did better than I imagined. He can write all of his letters, his first name and a few words.  He can accurately identify most letters and can count and write numbers up to 12.  He knows all of his colors and most of his shapes. He began learning a few sight words and simple addition and subtraction.  A few weeks before the end of the school year, he surprised us by reading a simple sight word book to us.  He pointed to each word as he read and he was so very proud of himself.  It brought tears to my eyes thinking about how far he has come. From knowing no English and not even understanding what an alphabet was to reading a simple book!  With all of the other things that he has had to deal with this past year, I consider his progress to be amazing.  I am so proud of my guy!  He is still significantly behind his peers, but he will get there.  Nothing seems to stop him.

Due to Emery's speech apraxia and sensory issues, we placed her at Horizons Development Center.  She has been attending therapy sessions once per week since September.  Her progress has been
amazing. She has a dedicated, caring and extremely knowledgable therapist.  We recently discussed a
potential education plan for Emery with her therapist.  Her therapist did not think Emery was ready
for a formal education setting.  We agreed.  Emery is still not speaking many words spontaneously and she still has sensory issues, although very much improved.  We decided it would probably be best to keep her in therapy and begin a homeschool program with her this Fall.  Our goal would be to get through a preschool and kindergarten curriculum with her for the 2013/14 school year.

I was very nervous about homeschooling.  I was not very successful working with Blake last Summer and feared I would not be any better with Emery.  We did not want to put her in a public school program because we were afraid she may never progress if she was in a special education program.  Emery's therapist confirmed our fears and strongly recommended avoiding a public school program. She believes Emery has a lot of potential and feels it would not be fostered in a special ed program.

Still nervous about homeschooling, I decided to schedule a meeting with St. Anthony's principal and vice principal.  The vice principal also is the phenomenal skills support teacher that worked with Blake this past school year.  I really didn't think a small catholic school would be able to accommodate Emery's education needs given her speech and sensory issues.  As it turns out, they had already been discussing an education plan for Emery, assuming she would eventually be at St. Anthony.  I felt instant relief after just 5 minutes into the meeting!  They want to begin Emery in half day Kindergarten this Fall and start out with her only attending for half of the half day.  So about 1.5 hours per day.  Emery would work one on one with the skills support staff for part of her day and slowly be integrated into the classroom with her peers.  She would be in a class with only 8 other students and her teacher would be the same kindergarten teacher my girls had at St. Anthony.  My girls loved their kindergarten teacher and I think she would be wonderful with Emery.  I cannot begin to explain how wonderful this has made me feel.  We talked it over with Emery's therapist, and she thinks it is a great option.

The therapist and skills support teacher will converse to make sure they our both on the same page regarding Emery's needs and Emery will spend some time with her teachers in August to get to know them and her surroundings.  I am so grateful for such a wonderful school.  Having an education plan
for Emery brings such a sense of peace in my heart.  I want what is best for her and I know she will be in the best hands at our school. We will still continue her weekly therapy sessions for as long as she needs.

So, for the 2013/2014 school year, I will have one high school freshman, an 8th grader, 2nd grader and part-time kindergartner!

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