Friday, January 7, 2011

Imaginary Audiences and Hidden Disabilities

Wow. What a week.

On my Unschoolers Yahoo Group, we've been talking about how school looks in our homes and the voices we hear (sometimes real, sometimes imagined), those expectations we have on our teaching styles. I consider myself a regular lurker in that group, but this time I chimed in.


My imaginary audience consists of "how it was when I went to school." I'm realizing that I was one of those kids who would have flourished had I been homeschooled. As it was, I was a "good student" because I learned to perform.

Now, I watch my 10-y(ear)-o(ld) D(ear) D(aughter) walk in so much freedom. I still feel guilty sometimes, still hear that voice in my head that whispers, "Aren't you doing her a disservice by not making her do traditional schoolwork? What if you're ruining her for life?"

Because of her learning differences and "hidden" disability (dyspraxia), traditional anything sets her up for an emotional downward spiral. When that happens, we all go with her. So in my search for ways to cope, we landed on " sneaky school." No worksheets, no textbooks (unless they don't look like textbooks!), no tests, etc. We homeschool under the religious exemption law so I've stopped worrying about standardized testing. I found so much freedom to follow my girl where she wants to go.

After almost 5 years of "sneaky school," she loves to learn. Even with dyslexia, she's learned to read. Even with dysgraphia, she's learned to write. She has a phenomenal sense of logic and story, and her graphic art is amazing, so far beyond her years. She and her daddy trade Pokemon cards, and they actually play the card game. She does math in her head, has taught herself fractions, and I am amazed daily at the way her brain works.

The people who matter in our lives know not to call our house before 10 a.m. because our family often doesn't go to bed before midnight, our girl included. We're not a perfect family, and I spend many days feeling like an abnormal family, but I have to declare: we are a much more peaceful family than when I was trying to teach her the way I was taught in school. She doesn't learn that way.

I never purposed to "unschool." I just kept trying to figure out her learning style, adjust my teaching style, and prayed a lot. Where we are now and how we do life is working, even though it looks totally different than other families we know.

Five years = not bad for a turn-around time.

This week also brought to my attention a new website that I think God must have raised up just for my family. Beth Moore wrote about this ministry here. I left what might be the longest comment I've ever left on the Living Proof Blog. (Yes, I am a Siesta.)

Thank you so much, Beth, for sharing this ministry with us. Words can’t express how much HOPE this information gives me. It’s so tough for my husband and I to serve in our gifting areas at church when we don’t trust our children’s program to accommodate our child’s “hidden” differences. God is so gracious to give us trusted adults in our immediate circle who love and understand our child. These adults often are the adults who have first-hand experience loving someone with “quirks.” In this season of our life, as our child reaches pre-puberty with all of its extra-intense emotions, our Abba Daddy has gone above and beyond (as He always does) and put in our church a trained developmental pediatrician, and a pastor and his wife who have an adult child with a hidden disability–a godly couple who are further down this road than my husband and me.

Now to have chosenfamilies.org as a resource is truly DELIGHT–and right in my backyard! (I live in northern VA.) I see so many ways God is drawing close to me in my brokenheartedness and giving me safe places to be crushed in spirit. The call to be an effective steward with my family’s story is wrapping around me like a garment of praise tailored just for me.

Your love, encouragement, authenticity, and integrity ministers to me daily through this blog, “Wednesdays with Beth” teachings, and your Bible study videos and workbooks. You do much to stir us on to love and good works. Thank you again for letting Jesus be all, and showing us how to live that way.
God gave me two promises for my child in 2006, when I took the “Breaking Free” class for the first time, before we had a name for her hidden disability:

from Isaiah 44:
“[Jehovah says] do not be afraid, My chosen one, do not fear.
For I will give you abundant water to quench your thirst and to moisten your parched fields.
And I will pour out My Spirit and My blessings on your children.
They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.
Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’
Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’
Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands
and will take the honored name of Israel as their own.”

From Psalm 144:
“Then (after all of Psalm 144),
our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.
Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands in our fields;
our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be NO breaching of walls,
NO going into captivity,
NO cry of distress in our streets.
Blessed are the people of whom this is true;
blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.”

Hallelujah!

I then went on to write the coordinator of chosenfamilies.org. I guess God is serious about the places He's taking me.

I just found out about your ministry through Living Proof's blog. I have to tell you, my spirit is a-clangin'! Thank you so much for being a resource for my family.
On the right side of the website, you provide links for help with various hidden differences, but I noticed some are missing.
Could you include SPDs (sensory processing disorders, specifically dyspraxia and auditory and visual processing disorders) and learning differences (dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADD (without the hyperactivity)?
These are my daughter's diagnoses. 
My husband and I are involved in a local church, and we've had extreme difficulty finding a place where our girl can thrive there. Although we have a special education ministry, our daughter's specialness is hidden, so she feels out of place even in the "Rainbow Room." We''ve resorted to taking turns staying home with her if a Sunday seems overwhelming to her. 
But most of the church body doesn't understand her, or us, or why we do life the way we do. We're just trying to survive, and I feel God's call on my heart to thrive.
Seeing dyspraxia as a gift? I'm not very good at that. Many, many days, I wake up wishing my daughter was "normal." As I look back through my blog for posts to send to you, God reminds me how wonderfully and marvelously He has made my girl. I'm asking Him to heal my heart of the same "shoulds" other folks at church put on my child.
I'm intrigued and excited about chosenfamilies.org because I want to help educate the church in ministering to families like mine. Maybe you can help me do that. 
Maybe I can help you as well. I have a blog where I've written posts about this journey we're on. Some specific posts:
Are you accepting new bloggers? How do I apply? God has been so gracious to me in providing safe places. Maybe it's time I'm a safe place for others.

Thank you again.

It's Friday. We have the flu at my house, and it's a cloudy day, gray and gloomy. That combination would usually justify my choice to stay in pajamas and watch TV.

But I feel energized, excited, eager to see God's next step. Unusual.

I could get used to unusual becoming usual. 

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