Thursday, July 16, 2015

Giving up Homeschooling, and Unraveling from FB posts (Weeks 3 and 4 after moving)

The Third Week.

The snow melted, and the phone calls began. I spent hours on the phone.

Days of phone calls. Note-taking. Websites. Forms. Applications.

Now that I am posting this months later, I can update and say that I spent four solid months doing this every single weekday. The process is quite unbelievable for moving a special needs child to a different state. I have spent an enormous amount of time on the phone. I spent at least 2-3 hours every weekday for over a month solid, making phone calls about Lilli. Then it tapered off to about an hour a day, or two.


I'd been through all this before, so I thought it wouldn't be so bad.

I was wrong.

Anyone who has a child with special needs can sympathize: when it comes to switching to a new state, nothing can be more frustrating than dealing with insurance, government and state agencies. Every state handles things differently. There are different programs, waiting lists, and information is scattered and hard to find. In summary, it's kind of like this:

1.make phone calls (endless annoying automated systems with no people to help and being put on hold forever or transferred from person to person)
2. take notes on what those people tell you to do.
3. call the people those people told you to call, and re-explain to them what your situation is with your child.
4. Those people tell you something completely different that conflicts with what the first people told you, and you have to start over.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 about five more times. Or more. Seriously.

Josh and Chloe were starting to get stir crazy, from two weeks of being off schedule from moving, and no pre-school for Josh. They fought and chased each other through the house trying to hit each other.

Lilli watched movie after movie as I sat at the table with stacks of paperwork spread out and scribbled furiously in a notebooks while balancing my phone with my shoulder and holding the baby on my lap. Unbelievably, I was able to get Chloe to do some homeschooling work. But not too much.

I unpacked more. I did more laundry. I was desperate for organization, all the while knowing that we would not be "organized" for many months.

Everyone was off schedule. I felt very stressed, discouraged, and homesick for the way things were before.

One agency I called, I spoke to a woman and explained about Lilli. I told her what Lilli had qualified for in our previous state, based on her disability. She told me nothing like that existed here. Nothing? Nothing. I hung up and cried. I wanted to move back to our old state. (Several weeks and phone calls later, I found out she was wrong. Very wrong.)

One week later, after many phone calls and tears, I had to call and postpone Lilli's appointment with the new neurologist here. I felt panicky about her seizure medication, prescriptions running out, and getting new health insurance coverage. Transferring things over, like her medical equipment and her specialists, and her therapies, well that was just not easy at all.

I spent hours online researching, trying to figure things out.

My phone rang, and it was a woman who had randomly overheard a conversation by the nurses in the new neurologist's office, about how I had to postpone the appointment. She said, "I think I can help you. Tell me about your daughter."

Like a superhero, she swooped in and saved me. She told me, "Yes, I am familiar with that program Lilli had in your previous state. We have that here. It just has a different name. Here is the name and number of a person you can call who knows what they are talking about. He will enter information about Lilli and get things rolling."


Next came many appointments and stacks of paperwork including two 20 page applications and a stack of other forms, and countless more phone calls. It wasn't any easier, but at least I knew what direction I should head now.

And I didn't need to move back over state lines after all.

The Fourth Week

I reached my breaking point. I could not do all of this anymore. Something had to give.

I had to give up homeschooling Chloe.

In a moment of peak frustration, feeling overwhelmed about everything, I unloaded on my husband when he came home for lunch.

"I can't do all of this. This is no way to live," I told him.

All of that time on the phone, filling out forms, and searching online, I felt like I was ignoring my children and Chloe's schoolwork was not getting done. The kids were fighting and Lilli was crying and floundering. I had to figure out everything for Lilli, and it was a full time job. I had done a much better job homeschooling Chloe with a newborn right after my c-section. This was crazy.

"I'm enrolling Chloe in school," I said. And Chloe was fine with it.

She was ready to go and meet some friends and do something different.  I think even she sensed that Mommy was overwhelmed and the situation wasn't good. So two days later, she started school. On a Friday. It's a tiny school, a free public charter school. On her first day, we pulled up and everyone already knew her name and welcomed her warmly.

The campus where the school meets is gorgeous. I pass two lakes as I drive through the car line. Chloe gets art twice a week, music twice a week, and even a dance class. She made new friends right away, and she was thrilled.

I teared up after dropping her off that first day. At least I could feel good about this. It was a good school. She was happy to go. I loved homeschooling her and we did do a lot of great things this year.

But now things have changed. And it's OK. I am doing the best I can.

There was a strange small nagging sense of failure I had trouble shaking, about giving up homeschooling. I cannot really explain it. It was like a dream dying. It was a tiny bit akin to a massive pinterest fail. It was like I had moved out of one camp (the public school camp) into the homeschool camp, and then left that camp too. Like I had pushed ourselves away from both sides, disappointing others and inviting silent judgement from many. This sounds all so dramatic (which I am) but it felt a little like we had good friends in two different cliques in high school, but now we did not belong to either one.

I still believe in the amazing, wonderful, powerful experience of homeschooling. I wish I could do it. I did the best I could. I think I did a pretty darn good job for much of the time. I learned more about what Chloe actually knows and can do than I had ever known before. We spent more quality time together than we ever had. It was not all roses, as we had many moody moments together. But I cherish the entire experience we had. I am glad we did it. I just wish I could have kept homeschooling her, and doing it well. I could not do it well with a crying child in the background of every moment of our day, on hold with the insurance company and distracted by a mound of paperwork.

Maybe another mom who used to homeschool and had to give it up understands how I feel. I just never saw it coming - that I would not make it to the end of the year. I loved homeschooling so much, but to do it well, it is very hard. I had a baby right in the middle of it. Still, we made it through. Our tumultuous time of moving had been tough, and I thought we would get through that too. We almost did.

What I could not handle was Lilli, and the extreme stress that piled on.

I pretty much had a meltdown about what was happening with Lilli, and knew that life could not continue like that for all of us for even one more week.

I wondered if I had done a good job. I didn't have to wonder for long. Chloe took a placement test and scored very high. I felt relieved. Her new teacher was very loving, and not at all like "What kind of parent are you, moving at the end of the school year?" She was extremely kind, loving, and encouraging. She loved Chloe instantly. She also never gave me the feeling of "Oh, you homeschooled her...huh." She was pleased with what Chloe already knew.

So it was done. Chloe went to school. Next it was Lilli's turn. Then I would find a preschool for Josh.

More calls about schools for Josh, and several more meetings with the school about Lilli. It was a busy time, and my stress level continued to increase even though we seemed to be making progress.

My Facebook Mistake

I made a big mistake. During my "down time," which was when I was sitting and nursing the baby, I got on Facebook. I read article after article. I don't know why I do this. I am not the type of facebook user who trolls other people's pages. I read the articles people post, and the related articles, and I read the comments from other people who also read the articles.

This was not a good thing for me to be doing, because I ended up reading a bunch of articles that had to do with autism. Some were about special needs children who were abused by their teachers at school and, thankfully, caught. Some were about studies and research done on people with autism. I read comments in one article and could not believe the negativity. The bashing. The meanness. I sat and read through dozens, maybe a hundred comments. Heaping negativity upon myself by simply reading it. Obviously none of those commenters has a child at home with autism, I thought. Not only was I overwhelmed with the stress of all of this other special needs "stuff" I had going on in my life, I was reading negative comments by dozens of strangers who thought it was ok to publicly insult parents of children with autism.

In my post about the first week of our move, I wrote about how I was reaching my mental breaking point. So ridiculous, but facebook pushed me even farther to losing it. I had to take a break. Social media can be great. It also can be terrible.

I guess I'm telling you all of this because I know many other people are affected in similar ways.

Feeling stressed? Don't get on Facebook. You will feel more stressed. Unless you strictly watch funny animal videos.

Feeling overwhelmed? Stay off Facebook. Other people's negative posts will overwhelm you even more.

Feeling depressed? Avoid Facebook. More doom and gloom articles on there than the evening news.

Maybe it's just my feed. Maybe it's just how Facebook works, that the more certain articles you look at about certain subjects, the more Facebook assumes you want to read even MORE about that same subject. So I guess I got trapped in a Facebook hole of depressing, stressful posts and it made matters worse for me.

I am still struggling with this issue. I am not sure how to change my feed so that it comes up all kittens scaring each other and jumping three feet in the air, and funny dogs eating ice cream cones in one bite. Maybe someone can give me advice on that.

Or maybe, maybe, I should just simply stay off Facebook in general. But I would miss my friends. Facebook has ease to it. I need ease in my life. I cannot write emails to each individual friend all the time. I rarely talk on the phone now. I use "speak to text" when I text. Facebook is easy. It's a love-hate thing, I guess. You have to take the good with the bad. But when the bad starts to overwhelm me, I have to take a break for awhile.

The good news is, the break helped. There is such a thing as a Facebook diet. It's like eating too much junk food. Take a break from it for awhile and it helps.

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