I haven’t written for a while. That’s because, as the Yiddish expression goes, we make plans and God laughs. Life threw me a curveball, and I’ve been busy coping with that. But in a way, what I do has been uniquely positioned to support me in all of this!
My son has been diagnosed with both ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. He had some challenges in his K/1 classes, but he did pretty well. The transition to 2nd grade, however, did not go well. With a longer day, a more rigid teacher, fewer chances to move and more requirement to sit still and pay attention, he was not playing to his strengths. In fact, he was bombarded with so much sensory input he had to work hard just to show up. He didn’t have a lot of resources left to learn or interact with his peers.
After a month, the school decided they did not have the resources to support him, and that he would be better off elsewhere. I was surprised by the decision – not surprised that he was struggling, but surprised that we didn’t try more interventions before calling in quits. But, since it’s a private school, they get the privilege of choosing who they want to teach, and they dis-enrolled my kid. And, as of a Friday afternoon, I learned that I would be home-schooling my kid come Monday.
We could have chosen to enroll him directly in the local public school. The more we thought about that option, the less appealing it seemed. Not only is the local public school very institutional, it’s also large. If he struggled in a class of 20 with 2 teachers, he would not do better in a class of 30 with 1 teacher. We decided to start the process to get him tested to see if the school district can offer him special ed type services. If he has a shadow aide, can take motor breaks, can take longer to finish tasks or to transition, he might do well in public school. But not if we throw him in to sink or swim.
Now, I was not trained to be an elementary school teacher. I know nothing of classroom management for 7 and 8 year olds, nor curriculum, nor anything else. But I do know about play. I know about following what lights someone up. I can read his body language telling me when he needs to move, and I have the freedom to let him move whenever he needs to. And this instinct that I have for play has helped me make home-school work.
He has been watching a TV show called the Wild Kratts, which teaches kids about different wild animals, and after each show he’d go into his room and build animals out of LEGO® bricks. This one is a dragonfly eating a mosquito. He figured out which body part held wings and legs, figured out how to make the front legs bend, how to hold the smaller insect. It’s not the Science Curriculum his peers are getting, but I bet it sticks more because it’s fun.
We have gone to the library almost every week, checking out books on different subjects. He has a wide range of interests, this boy does! We have studied insects, manned space exploration, magnetism, rocks and plate tectonics, dragons, Native American stories, as well as ordinary stuff like math and writing. Plus, we have learned more about the places he struggles and the things his body needs to thrive. We have hung up a hammock for him to swing in, which helps his sensory-seeking. I made a “crash pad” for him to run into head first or dive onto from an exercise ball. He actually does better in everything when he has the opportunity to get the kinds of movement his body craves.
I find this fascinating since I think that movement needs to be part of play, at least sometimes. Even for adults. I would love to develop some sort of play that involves huge foam blocks, not tiny LEGO® bricks. I mean, I love the bricks, and we can learn a ton with all the detail available. And at the same time, using one’s whole body, not just the two hands, can awaken all sorts of body knowledge that’s not available other ways. I’m still trying to figure out what that means, but it’s the kind of thing I love to explore.
In the mean time, my son is calmer, happier, getting stronger, learning while playing, and getting the love and support he needs to thrive. I’m learning more ways that play helps people learn and grow, more ways to support people without judgement and with patience, calmness, and laughter. And even though at first it felt like God laughed AT me and my plans, now it seems that the universe is just showing me that the strengths I bring to LEGO® Serious Play® are the same that I bring to parenting and everything else. Laughter is a perfectly appropriate response to finding out that all of this stuff is connected, we are all part of this constantly shifting and growing universe, and it can be exciting to find out how what we offer can be used in the world.