Archive for December, 2011

Since I have had some time on my hands and have had the opportunity to spend some time with my son, I have learned a little bit more about my son’s medical conditions.

My son has not had any seizures for over six months or longer. Up to now it has been difficult to tell because sometimes his non-epileptic seizures look like seizures. I am now pretty confident that the seizures he was having when he was younger are no longer happening. In those days his seizures always started with his eyes and head, and sometimes traveling on to other parts of his body.

Since I was going to be home with him full-time for awhile, I decided to slowly reduce his epilepsy medications. He was on depakote and tranxene. He has now been off both of these medications and has had no seizures. This is big for him. Eliminating these medications removed at least one ball and chain from around his neck.

He still has his VNS, which may be still providing some control over the seizures. We are approaching the time where we will need to change the battery in the VNS. He has had it since 2004 and it is about due for the battery to be dead. It will be a big decision to decide what to do. At times my son wants the VNS out. He doesn’t like the look of it in his chest and at times it will hurt him,which I suspect is from scar tissue. The last time he saw his neurologist he asked if it could be taken out. The doctor said we would talk about that when the time came.

My son also has this concern about having it in his body and that it prevents him from being “normal.” A year ago his someone made a stupid joke that he should be careful before the doctors turn him into a robot. Dumb joke. My son took it very seriously.

On the other hand, my son has mentioned that his VNS has always been with him. He is thirteen now. He questions whether to remove it because it is a part of who he is.

Decisions, decisions. We will see what happens next. It is wonderful having him off the medications. It will be interesting to see if there are improvements in his life as a result of getting away from the side affects of the medications. No more drowsiness. I wonderful how this will impact his learning. He is way behind in most of his classes. Is it possible that some of his learning disabilities were caused by his medications, or at least contributed to his learning difficulties? I guess we will see.

So now what’s next? The neurologist doesn’t know we did this. I am not sure what his reaction will be. I am also curious what my son’s epilepsy status will be labeled. Does he still have epilepsy? Is there a period of time when one is seizure free and one is no longer considered to have epilepsy?

This is a big change for us. When he was younger he was having cluster seizures twenty or more times a day. His seizures were sometimes triggered by bright lights. It had a big impact on all of our lives. And now, it appears to be over. I wonder for how long will I have my guard up? I am always watching, looking for that unusual eye blinking which indicated the start of a seizure. It’s an odd feeling. Waiting. Hoping nothing happens. Watching for any sign. I want to celebrate the moment, but am afraid to, in case it sneaks up on us again. Perhaps with more time this anxiety will go away. Lucky for my son he usually isn’t even thinking about it. Good for him. It s my job as his mom to carry that burden of concern. This way he can just live his life. I am so happy for him. We have plenty of time to celebrate.

Jim Erskine wrote and illustrated an article called 20 Great Reasons You Homeschoool.  In this blog I took his 20 reasons and wrote about how I relate to the reason.  So, this a personal experience with my son, who have newly started homeschooling.

11.  Vacations can be called “extended field trips” . . .

As a child I went on a couple big family vacations to San Diego. In San Diego we saw everything including the zoo, Sea World, the missions, an aquarium, went sea creature hunting on the shores, saw Palmer telescope, went grunyan fishing, and visited Mexico to name a few. Now this was in the early 70’s. What a wonderful educational opportunity. I learned more in that three weeks than I ever could have learned in over a year at school. I think family vacation are the best field trips. Lucky for me at the time my school recognized it too. I am not sure if the same would happen today.

Today we even use small trips as an educational experience. One day as we drove I explained all of the highway signs and what they meant and the markings on the road. Yes, it was a basic drivers education class. Sometimes when we drive I ask my son to read every sign he sees and then I can pick a word and ask him to spell it. What a great way to practice spelling.

All of this is real life education and you don’t even know you are learning when you are doing it. So here’s to field trips.

12.  You get to read more books than you ever realized existed . . .

I love this one. I happen to have a degree in literature. Nothing burns my butt more than the “banned books” list. There are no banned books in my house. If you read and teach them in their historical context, what is the issue? This censorship is bullshit and should be against the law. Literature is a part of our history. Are we going to put the statue of David in a closet because the nudity offends someone. IF YOU DON’T READ IT!

So in our home school my son is going to read Huckleberry Finn, along with all of the other banned books! What a great teaching lesson about the hang-ups of our current day.
13.  The latest fads usually never make it to your house . . .

I am really lucky. My son hasn’t caught onto this fad thing. Perhaps it is because he is a boy and it may be less prevalent. Instead, my son has, from little on, been encouraged to be who he wants to be. In first grade he sported a mohawk. Lately he is in a big afro. I am happy that he dares to be himself, which I think is much healthier. I guess he gets it from. I was born a hippy and will always be a hippy.




14.  You don’t have to worry about what your kids learned in school today . . .

It is really scary not knowing what information your child is being exposed to every day in a public school. While my son was in public school I constantly asked questions about what they were learning. Sometimes teachers would make some major misassumptions. Martin Luther King day was always an emotional time for my son and I think it was related how the school presented the information from their “white-sterile-centric” perspective. Our school was predominantly populates with white children. My son is not and his “roots” are directly from Africa and are not a part of the Black American lineage as it relates to slavery or civil rights. We had a teacher who assumed my son was a Black American and was using him in her lesson plans for MLK. I was furious. The lesson she was trying to teach was good, but her assumption that my son was African American was just plain ignorant! I don’t think she will make that mistake again.

Now, with home schooling I don’t have to play the detective sleuth. I know what my son is being exposed to in his education and I know how information is being presented to him.

15.  You don’t have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom . . .

Not only do you have to raise your hand, you have to face the fact that the teach may tell you to wait and go between your classes.  Worse yet, you have to carry around a hall pass.  Going to the bathroom is a natural life process, but my son w

as so concerned about the process of asking for permission to go to the bathroom that he just didn’t go.  He made sure he didn’t drink anything all day.  Then ending result was frequent urinary tract infection.  Bathrooms also provide a means of privacy.  When a child has Tourette Syndrome sometimes they need to go to a private place so they can try to get their tics under control.  With my son anxiety came hand in hand with his Tourette Syndrome.  In school he was already embarrassed by his tics, but also has to draw attention to himself when he asked for mission to go to a private place.

Now at home, this is no longer a worry.  You go to the bathroom when you want to go to the bathroom.

16.  You can wear pajamas to class and not be kicked out . . .

There is nothing better than doing your school work in your pajamas.  Pure relaxation.  You can do your work in your bed snuggled up with a warm blanket.

In fact you don’t have to worry about any of your clothing.  You can wear a hat.  You can wear a tank top.  You can wear a bandana.  We don’t have to worry about gang wear.



17.  Chores may be called “home Ec. Projects” . . .

Why not?  One of the most important thing you can give a child is some basic life skills, which may include loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking out the garbage,  picking up your clothes, helping fold the laundry, and basic cooking.  If he doesn’t learn this from you, how does he learn it.  In our home school we are including chores in our lessons but we are also adding other basics, which include things we do every day such as banking and grocery shopping.




18. There’s always time to bake cookies . . .

Not only is there time to bake cookies, but there is also time to take a break and eat a few.  Sometimes taking a break is a good thing.  What if you didn’t sleep well the night before?  You would be tired the next day.  Does the school take things like this into consideration?  Do they recognize that sometimes you are having a bad day.  With my son we had some days where his tics were really bad and went on for 3 or more hours in the night.  The school expected him to come to school and learn in this state.  A child must be in a state where they are able to learn.  If you are tired, or having a round of tics, you can’t learn.  No more worries.  Breaks are common in our home school.

19.  Learning becomes contagious . . .

In our short time of home schooling we have found out that learning is contagious.  There is excitement that everywhere we turn is a learning opportunity.  In addition, we can plan the lessons around interests.  Recently my son showed some interest in photography.  Guess what our science lessons are now.  Photography!  This way of learning is practical and the child can make the connection between what he is learning and what happens in real life.  As a result of this learning is fun.


20.  Your family is right where they ought to be … home!

What more can I say about this?  The whole family is engage in the process.  We are having fun doing it.  We don’t have to worry about outsiders that can cause negative things to happen.  We are in control.  We can teach our son what he is going to need to be a responsible citizen in this country.  He will get the basics, but perhaps there will be less emphasis on the things like the French and Indian War.



Drawings from “20 Great Reason You Homeschool”  Written and Illustrated by Jim Erskine

I would love to give credit for this image, but could not find where it originated from.  Children may not learn these rules in public school, but they can learn them in home school. 

Another reason to home school!

Jim Erskine wrote and illustrated an article called 20 Great Reasons You Homeschoool.  In this blog I took his 20 reasons and wrote about how I relate to the reason.  So, this a personal experience with my son, who have newly started homeschooling.

1.  Safety – Small Town vs. City

We have been lucky because we have had the opportunity to be very selective with where we live.  We love the city.  Cities are full of excitement and have people from all walks of life.  Over my lifetime, I have lived in places like Dallas and Chicago. As you know there is also the  bad of a city.  Our biggest concern has been safety.  We decided long ago that we wanted to live close to a city so we could have access to all of the great things that a city can offer.  We now live in a small town that is only 15 minutes away from the city.  A small town may not have all of the answers, and actually does have some disadvantages.  For example, everyone knows everyone.  So if you are the type who shakes the apple cart, it becomes very public.  Then again if you are a person who shakes the apple cart, you probably don’t care if it becomes very public.

The other thing to keep in mind is that racism, bigotry, uncouthness and ignorance are everywhere.  A couple of years ago a neighborhood girl called my son a nigger.  I was angry, and dealt with the situation.  Later I was talking to someone about what had happened and their response was “Your kidding.  There isn’t racism in our town.”  Bull.  It’s everywhere.

The other big reason I picked a small town is that I knew that my son had learning disabilities and I wanted a school system that I may have some power in and to force them to provide the services that he needed.  I have heard too many stories about city schools and the difficulties the parents have with getting their child an education.  Now I have learned it isn’t any her different in a small town.  Perhaps the only difference is the small town school tries to be slick about it and give you the impression they are trying.  In a city school it is more obvious they don’t care.  I guess it doesn’t matter any more.  We have now chosen to do homeschooling. We don’t have to worry about questionable teachers, or making no progress. We don’t have to worry about the added peer pressure or the bullies. Home school is safe and controlled. More importantly, you can anticipate favorable results, which we have never been able to do so before.

2.  The teacher-pupil ratio is great . . .

Having the opportunity for my child to have an one on one teacher experience is ideal for my son, which is probably why the school was never successful.  I understand that the school system can not afford the resources to a dedicated resource for each child with learning disabilities, but it takes some one on one time to be able to understand what the learning style the child has.  This close contact and observations can then determine what accommodations that need to be made and how lessons have to be adapted so that the child can get the full benefit from the learning process.  Since I started teaching at home I have found that my son is very visual, so having stimulating presentations of information works really well with him.  He also grew up in this video game era, and use of applications to present information such as math problems is like doing a video game.  He isn’t even aware of the fact that he is learning things or is practicing things.  The other observation I had is that when he starts something new he needs some validation that he is on the right path.  Once he has that validation, he is able to work independently.  I am sure that as we continue doing homeschooling, I will learn more and more about his learning styles and can easily adapt the lessons to fit those learning styles.

3.  You don’t need security guards or metal detectors . . .

What more can I say about this topic.  I have control over who is in my home and who interacts with my child.  There are no bullies.  There are no gangs.  There are no weapons.  I am not so sure the security officers at schools are a deterrent to some of the violence that happens at schools.  They surely don’t help in dealing with bullies.  The children in this country are screaming for help to them protect themselves against bullies, especially during the hours of school.  I know the schools have introduced anti-bullying problems, but they haven’t recognized that they themselves have had a hand in creating the situation.  I remember when my son was in 1st and 2nd grade and the school had lessons on how to deal with conflict while at school.  They suggested that the LAST line of defense was to tell a teacher.  Instead, they promoted the fact that the children need to deal with it themselves.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard the teacher say to my son, “Oh, he was just teasing.  It’s okay.”  Well it wasn’t okay.  I don’t understand why the school systems have chosen to ignore this issue.  Peer pressure, teasing, and bullying has a tremendous impact on the well being of an individual, and it totally affects the person’s personality.  I know this is true because it happened to me, and I know that this situation is pretty prevalent.

4.  Your kids enjoy socializing with people of ALL ages . . .

To be honest, my son hasn’t ever had a problem with socializing with children and people of all ages.  In fact he has gravitated to the older girls.  I wonder if that is a premonition.  What homeschooling does do is give my son an opportunity to spend more time with myself, my husband, or even his grandparents.  Everyone at one time or another participates in the education process.  This includes when grandma and my son are making spaghetti.  Or when my father is planting his garden with my son.  I take advantage of any moment that can be turned into a learning experience.  These moments have become a great life experience for my son.  It reminds me of when I grew up, and those memories are still precious to me.

5.  You don’t have to run to catch the school bus . . .

No having to deal with the school bus in general is a blessing.  The same peer group and bullying issues that exist are present even more so on the school bus.  My son had some awful experiences on the bus.  I think the kids think this is a place where they can do anything they want.  The definitely don’t follow the same rules that they follow while they are in school.  Students that don’t normally act out in school feel this freedom to act out on the bus.  I remember the days when I was in middle school and when I got on the bus I prayed that I wouldn’t be noticed by some high school bully.  My son mentioned this very same thing.  He is very timid around high school kids.  Now we don’t have to worry about this any more.

6.  You can sleep in on rainy days . . .

Unfortunately, I can’t take advantage of this because I still have a full-time job.  But my son can have this luxury.  Not only can he sleep in on rainy days, he can also sleep in on those freezing cold mornings.  We live in the north and it was always a pain to have to go to school when it was below zero degrees.  Now we don’t have to worry about weather conditions and don’t have watch for school closing notifications.  I also don’t have to worry about the safety of my child when there are hazardous driving conditions.  Plus I don’t have to rush home during bad weather when the schools have an early release due to bad weather conditions.  A few years ago, we had a really bad snow storm.  I was working in the city and on a good day the drive was about 40 minutes long.  On this particular day my husband had driven me to work and was going to pick me up.  Luckily I called him to come early because we were having a blizzard.  It took him two hours to get to me.  Meanwhile my son is at an after school program.  I call them and tell them that we are on our way, but the roads are really bad.  It was a horrible drive.  It took us four hours to get home, which was three hours beyond their quitting time.  They were really mad at us.  I think I was more stressed out about getting there fast rather than worrying about the drive which was really treacherous.

7.  School prayer is encouraged

God is a part of our every day lives. Why not in school? I think this topic has been blown way out of proportion. I treasure our right to practice any religion, or to practice no religion. This concept has been at the foundation of this country. Are we going to take the reference to go in our constitution? I say leave it alone. If it is not your belief then ignore it. As for school, there is nothing wrong with a child quietly saying a prayer to himself. The teachers don’t have to know. Home schooling is not going to change us for this topic. We have always practiced our own religion in our own way, regardless of where we are. We have also taught our son that one needs to have religious tolerance. There are many religions and none of them are wrong and all of them are right for those who follow it. The beauty of religion is that they all have reverence to something that is greater than us. It is all good. Once again I say leave it alone.

8.  You don’t have to buy “back-to-school” clothes

I gave up with the whole back-to-school clothes a long time ago. It is just another advertising push that has been imposed on us by the retail world. I will admit I like a good sale just as much as anyone. But I don’t need to buy clothing in August. I buy clothing when my son needs clothing. The whole cycle of buying clothes doesn’t even work with his growing cycle. I am lucky if he can wear the same pants for 3 months because he is growing so tall so fast. I can remember when I was young and the preparation for school. We lived in a rural area. Most of our “school” clothing purchasing was done with a catalog. JC Penney’s, Sears, and Aldens. I remember intently studying the clothes to determine what I would buy. And then you prayed that they fit. The catalogs were also not timed with the start of school. So in August the latest catalog available was a winter catalog which meant winter clothing. I can remember wearing my new clothes in August when the temperature was high and it being unbearably hot. If we didn’t get our clothes from the catalog, then we made them. I actually sewed some of my own clothes. I dreaded this because it was a pain to get it all sewed before school started. The only thing that we had to buy in August was shoes. One pair for everyday wear and a pair of gym shoes. Times have changed. The hassle of new school clothes no longer exists. I will say up until starting home schooling, I still liked to buy my son one new shirt for that first day of school and we have always taken his picture on that first special day. I guess with homeschooling we will have different traditions and different memories.

9.  You don’t have to develop a taste for cafeteria food . . .

Not having to deal with the cafeteria at school is a huge blessing for us. We had a number of issues when he was going to public school. As you may already know, my son is a diabetic. The school always felt very anxious about handling his testing and insulin. At least once a week I would get a call from the school nurse wanting directions. The second big issue we had with lunch time was rthe food itself. My son has some sensory issues which is related directly to the types of foods he can eat, which is very limited. Up until the last two years we had to beg the school to allow him to heat up his food in a micro wave. He always took his own food because the foods he could eat were not on the school’s menu. The third big advantage we have now is not having to deal with the loudness of the cafeteria. Loud noises have always been a trigger for my son’s seizures. There were many times he would have a seizure at lunch, which is not the best place to have seizures, if there is such a thing. For my son, it was the humiliation that was the worst. His classmates would see him when he was most vulnerable. Well now no more cafeteria. We have full control of his diabetes, what he can eat and what the eating environment should be.

10.  You can celebrate your birthday with a school holiday . . .

How many years have we had to celebrate my son’s birthday on a school day.  In elementary school in the old days you could at least bring some treats and have a littler party in the classroom.  Now with all of the food allergies that isn’t even possible.  So now that we are homeschooling we can take the day off and truly make his birthday a special day.

Drawings from “20 Great Reason You Homeschool”  Written and Illustrated by Jim Erskine

I am so glad that 2011 is coming to an end. It wasn’t a very pleasant year for my family. My son and I have been on our own for about three years while my husband has been in another country trying to create some financial stability for our family. A failed business, my son’s medical bills, our own health, and ailing parents have really set us back financially. In three years we have seen my husband for only two months. It is not easy dealing with life’s challenges without your husband or your father. This has been really hard for my son. He doesn’t understand that his father is sacrificing too. He doesn’t understand why his father had to go to another country.  He doesn’t that his father does not have access to the same opportunities here in America.

This year was a personal challenge for myself due to some health issues that creeped up on me. A year ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And then for about a year I started to have some unusual symptoms including dizziness and loss of memory. The loss of memory was getting pretty serious. My success in my career was mainly due to my memory and the creativity of the mind. Finally after going through some tests it was determined that I had hypothyroidism. Since starting the medication things have improved but not totally back to normal.

Who knows, perhaps I am back to normal. Perhaps this is just my stage in life. I am over 50 years old, going through menopause, have diabetes, am over weight, suffer from both anxiety and depression, and have a thyroid that isn’t working. Perhaps this is the new normal.

One of the other big challenges we have been dealing with is my son’s type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed a year and a half ago. A year ago he went on an insulin pump. Yet his blood glucose is still out of control. He is 13 years old and does not understand the seriousness of diabetes. I fight to get him to test his blood. I fight to get him to take his insulin. He is angry about the whole situation and I haven’t figured out a way to get this turned around. And now to top it all off I don’t know how I can keep paying for his diabetes supplies. We are struggling. We aren’t even able to live from paycheck to paycheck.

As some of you may know my son has several chronic health issues besides the diabetes. He also has epilepsy, non-epileptic seizures, Tourette Syndrome, an anxiety disorder, a little OCD, sensory processing issues, high functioning autism, and a little ADHD. That’s a lot to deal with. It all seems to be related. As you know many of these conditions overlap each other. The diagnosis is difficult, and the treatment is nearly impossible. Thus, this is where all of the medical bills come from.

Besides the diabetes, the other thing that was really beating us up was his Tourette Syndrome. He was having hours and hours of these violent physical tics and loud vocal tics. They were exhausting. Nothing seemed to help. We tried everything including medication, therapy, self-hypnosis and bio feedback. Nothing really worked. For most of this to work you have to really understand your tics and try methods to prevent them from happening. Unfortunately my son hasn’t quite figured that out.

Between all of the doctor appointments and nights with no sleep due to theses tics I was missing quite a bit of work and my son missed quite a bit of school. Lucky for me at work I had intermittent medical family leave time and was able to make up my time by working remotely. Usually my manager understood and then sometimes he didn’t. On the other hand my son’s school did not understand. They didn’t understand why he couldn’t attend school when he spent five hours or more in the night having full body jerks and vocal yells. They didn’t understand he needed to go to medical appointments. They didn’t understand that on top of his medical problems he is going to get normal illnesses such as the flu or a sore throat, or a cold, or a stomach ache. It got to the point they wanted a doctor’s note for every day he was having problems. Damm, I couldn’t afford to take him to the doctor every time he was sick or every time he had a bout of tics at night! They didn’t understand that there were no answers. The doctors had no cure. We have seen the best doctors in the country. On top of all this they didn’t understand that we needed to develop a plan that would educate my son with the restriction he has in life and teach him when he is able to learn.

So, this fall I took some time to evaluate the situation as it relates to my son’s education. As you may already know my son has some learning disabilities. He has been on an IEP since first grade. But in the last four years he has made no progress in math and very little progress in reading. He didn’t have the right accommodations in place, even though I would make suggestions, and I don’t think they were teaching him in his learning style. I don’t think they even knew what his learning style was. In fact I don’t think they cared if he was learning. I knew if I let things continue, my son would be graduating from high school and not be able to read.

I then realized I could do a much better job than the school. I was educated. I have a master’s degree. I know my son is quite smart and I just needed to take control and provide him with the education he deserves. So we made the decision to home school. And yes it isn’t easy. I work full-time. The key to it is to be very organized and planning ahead. I have my lesson plan for the whole year, with detailed daily plans that are a month ahead of us. My son follows a schedule while I am at work, and then in the evening we have class together. I am following a flipped classroom approach, where the detailed project work we do together. I take full advantage of information and applications that are available on the internet and educational television programs. I am taking a very practical approach to his education to ensure he learns what he needs to survive in life and to be a contributing citizen to his community. It is not easy, but we have already made tremendous progress since we started in October.

On top of all of this we have had a few more bumps in the road. Last summer we were rear-ended in our car. We both had whiplash and my son had a concussion. The car was totaled. Great, we have no money and I wondered how in the hell was I going to get a car. If I didn’t have a car there would be  no job. I commute about 35 miles away.  Between cashing in my 401K, which wasn’t much because I had already used most of it for all of the other emergencies, the insurance check, which wasn’t much because my car had 275,000 miles on it, and my gracious mother I was able to get a car. This was one less pressure off my mind.  THANK YOU MOM.

This year I have also been facing parents who are getting older and their health is becoming more and more challenging. My father was seriously sick for six months. He has been seeing many different specialist, all of them unsure of the diagnosis and each of them coming up with something different.  Most recently he saw a heart specialist and they have determined he has a blockage.  They will be dong surgery in the near future.  Most recently my mom is having a possible cancer scare. We will know more in the next month. She is a tough lady. She has survived breast cancer and uterine cancer.  The doctors are going to do a biopsy.  Hopefully it isn’t cancer.  We will see.

This year we also lost someone very dear to us. My husband’s brother died from cancer. He was in a country where he didn’t have access to medical treatment for cancer. He died within 9 months of being diagnosed. The end was bad. My husband was literally donating his blood daily to try to keep him alive. His wife went from hospital to hospital to try to buy blood. Medical care in third world countries is limited.  It was a terrible situation. But now he is at peace. We miss him dearly. He was kind and generous. More importantly he was greatly loved.

So we are almost to the end of 2011. The holidays are here, even though I don’t feel like being in the holiday spirit. I think to myself, let it be over. What could be worse than this year? I spoke too soon. My company informed me last week that my position was being discontinued and I was being laid off. What! Not now. My first thoughts were, I have to keep my son’s health insurance. I cried. Talk about sucker punching you when you are down.

I am telling you all of this because I have had a bad year and needed to get it off my chest. I am also telling you this because I am an example of one of those Americans that is struggling.  Looking back, my life has never been easy. BUT, I am also a survivor. I will get another job. I will take care of my son. Life will go on. I may not have my own home. My apartment may not be all decorated. I may not have a lot of clothes. I may not go on vacations. I may not be able to eat at restaurants. Sometimes I may not feel the best. I might even feel sorry for myself. But I am alive. I have a family that I love. And what else would I do. Give up? What would happen to my son if I did that? I have to be here for him. I have to make it. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, and that it is how it is with me. Doing what I have to do.

Here to 2012! It is going to be a great year.