We're All Learning!
So we've made it through our first family Christmas, and New Year. One large innocent turkey got eaten, but apart from that there seem to have been no casualties! This afternoon has seen the Christmas decorations getting packed away for another year and the place as always looks drab in their absence. That happens wherever you are. It's always strange to me how welcome the decorations look immediately you put them up, but what a hole they seem to leave when you take them down.
Tom got the scooter he wanted for his birthday at the end of October, and he is now getting some confidence and learning to ride it. Scary for the dogs and for those he comes across too. We have such varying reactions to Tom being out and about. There are those who don't think he should be out at all, and the majority who just ignore him completely. Those who don't want to see him out there, well they'll just have to move over won't they!
So, finally, we have found a school who would accept Tom on a full time basis. They don't meet all of anyone's criteria, but they hit most of them, so we're going for it. Tom was a part time student there on a trial basis whilst I was homeschooling him earlier this year, and as of August 29th he became a full time student there.
There has had to be a big adjustment in the daily routine, as he leaves home at 7:15 and I'm known for not being a morning person.......
However, after week 1 Tom is happy as a happy boy can be, and whilst he feels like that I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep him that way.
On the way to this point, there have been a lot of lows. Nowhere in Shanghai was willing to take on Tom as a student, which I began to take rather personally. None of the over-priced so called international institutions of learning were willing to take any kind of chance on having him there. Particularly upsetting was one where he'd been having music lessons for 2 years, and they were making all the right and encouraging noises. Until I asked the question. Then there was a longer than usual silence, followed by another 'no'. No reasons, no apologies, just 'no' we're not the right place. My attitude by this point is "Well if you feel like that about my son, you are correct, and you are NOT the right place."
The place he is going now works for us and for now. Changes are coming, and we will see what they bring, but for now, the school run continues......
"Quote of the summer came from Bradley. We were chatting the day after a mutual friend's wedding, and Bradley (who has a long time friend with a blind son) said of Tom "well he's only bloody blind for God's sake!" FINALLY Someone who sees Tom the way we do. He's a person who just interacts with the world differently to the majority of us! He doesn't need to be wrapped in cotton wool, denied outings and trips, kept away from the mainstream and all the rest of the stuff we have to put up with on the less brilliant days here in China.
Meanwhile earlier this year:
Context. We were visiting Shining Star, the foster home where Tom lived for 2 1/2 years, and we had visitors.
Visitor 1. Hi what's your name?
Tom My name is Tom.
Visitor 1. Do you live here?
Tom No, I live with my Mum and Dad near here.
Visitor 1. Oh, who's your Mum?
Tom Julie Auntie is my Mum
Visitor 1. Head scratch Who's that?
Tom You're talking to her, she's there.
Visitor 1. Oh, OK, where does your Mum come from?
Tom She's English.
Visitor 1. Oh, is your Dad Chinese?
Tom No he's English.
Visitor 1. Does he look Chinese?
Julie Really? Dude? "^*&"^*&%!!
Tom Head scratch - I don't know what he looks like I'm blind.
You have to wonder sometimes......."
Last summer I met a wonderful woman, Hao Chang who was volunteering and then working for us at Shining Star. From the early part of her volunteer time with us I knew I'd hire her! She now works for us a couple of hours each day working with Tom on the basics (and I do mean basics) of function and learning. All this is done in Chinese and he has similar content classes with Miss Natalie in English too. Language is going to be so important to Tom, and I really feel it is important that he keeps up with both Chinese and English. I am doing some Braille with him and the wonderful Alex Wang is doing computers. With Nana on piano lessons and more help promised with music, all we need is some sports and we will have the beginnings of a curriculum!
We're determined that Tom will have a good education, that's one of the reasons we're all at this point. How to get started when he has no foundation and there is no obvious choice of school for him are challenging issues to say the least, and the main reasons for the decision to start with homeschool.
Couple this with Tom's neediness, anxious nature, and lack of social exposure and we're very afraid that putting him into a school atmosphere immediately would cause him to panic and shut down again.
So what do we want?
How do we get it?
Where do we need to be in 3 months, 6 months, a year?
All of these things we hope to discover and will share here.
If you have experience with the education of blind children on any level, I'd love to hear from you!