Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Word

Our church has a LOGOS program. On the surface, it looks like an all-around good deal. After school, children in kindergarten through 8th grade head to church. Now parents have a choice: return for your child(ren) in a few hours or stay around and participate. (Free childcare is provided for younger children of LOGOS parent volunteers.) From 3:50 - 7:20 kids will have a snack, do recreation together, sing in a choir, do a little Bible study, and have dinner.

Score! One evening's family entertainment taken care of PLUS we don't have to plan/cook/clean up dinner! AND, Ellie loves church. She loves snacks, playing outside, music, and dinner. The only catch is Bible Study. So I volunteered to be one of the leaders for the K-1 Bible Study class, thinking I can sit next to Ellie and keep her engaged.

It's not working at all.

Recreation: Week 1, Ellie's exhausted and keeps trying to lie down outside. So I take her inside to rest quietly. She wants to run around and play as soon as she's away from her group. I decide to skip recreation this year, let her play quietly at home for 45 minutes after school, and take her to church in time for choir.

Choir: Ellie doesn't want to sit quietly in her seat. She doesn't want to wave her streamer high in the air when the pitch goes up and sweep the ground when the pitch goes down. She wants to lie on the bench in the back of the room and kick it with her feet to make a fabulous booming noise.

Bible Study. She's hungry. She has to go potty. She doesn't want to hear a story. She doesn't want to color. She wants to leave.

The next week, I tell her that we have LOGOS tonight. She's excited. She wants to go. Until we get there. . .

The solution seems obvious. There's a lot of new stuff with kindergarten. Why push her into another activity? Well, because we have already cut our schedule way back and are spending a lot more quiet time at home. But organized recreation/physical activity (and this is very friendly, fun, low-pressure, age-appropriate stuff) is important for Ellie. Forging these connections is important for Ellie. When relationships at school get hard, having a supportive group of friends at church will be even more important.

And choir is good for Ellie, too. If she doesn't learn the songs, she can't sing with the group. She'll want to be up front with the other kids in the Christmas paegent, etc. Again, this is fun, low-pressure, age-appropriate stuff (did you catch the thing about the streamers?). Toddler music classes are great, but . . . they aren't designed for older kids. Older kids have more structured classes, where sometimes you stand up straight to sing and sometimes you get to dance in the back of the room while you sing but regardless you participate appropriately with the group and follow instructions.

It's so hard. I think this program is great for Ellie. But I don't want her to be miserable. This is a fine line to walk, as a parent. Do I let Ellie stay home and participate in nothing? That might seem kinder in the short-run - and I certainly don't want an over-programmed kid - but she's missing out on some really valuable stuff.

Everything is harder for Ellie. Except sitting at home, playing in her room or watching a video. Increasingly, she doesn't want to do puzzles, she doesn't want to color, she doesn't want to LEARN anything or follow any directions/rules, she just wants pure DOWN TIME.

I know it's no fun to have to work hard all the time. And when even active or organized play is hard work, what then? Surely doing nothing isn't the answer?


Kathy G said...

This is a tough one.

I'd probably opt to have her continue. It's only one day a week, and if you set the expectation that it's "what you do", then eventually she'll come around.

I wonder if you weren't so visible if her behavior would be better?

Sarahlynn said...

Thanks, Kathy! I was really craving some outside advice on this one. I try to hang back as much as possible until I can't anymore. In choir I hide in the hall, peeking through the tiny window occasionally, until I see/hear that Ellie is so disruptive that she's either completely left the group or is disrupting the class significantly. The teachers, after all, are parent volunteers, not specially trained educators.

I think you're exactly right, though. I need to be more stubborn than Ellie and make sure she knows: this behavior is inappropriate and it will NOT get you excused from the activity.

Eventually she will come around. If I can hold out long enough ...

pfdfyrfytr said...

While we did not have a child with special needs. (our son and daughter are now 25 & 23) What you are describing is not much different than what a lot of kids go through at some time. It is important to "stick to your guns" in getting your daughter to understand what is expected. All children are different and even under the best of circumstances, a battle of wills with your children is one of the toughest things you will ever face! Don't give up :)

flatflo said...

The LOGOS programs does sound like a good idea: family, friends, faith, food, and free (very nice in this economy!) Once a week is not bad, but maybe do every other week until she's more comfortable in that community?

Is there another adult that you know and that Ellie knows that would be willing to kind of act as her aide (or like a grandma or aunt?) Sometimes it not being a parent taking interest in a kid can be motivating. Also, I remember being that age and being so tickled when the 8th graders would come and "tutor" us: beneficial for both parties and a blast. If there is an especially nurturing older kid that might befriend Ellie, they both might get a kick out of it.

Jennifer said...

maybe she is testing you? How about having another parent volunteer shadow her and remind her of what is expected of her and assist her with areas where she needs the assistance. Then you will know if she is truly struggling or testing you.

Anonymous said...

From my position of perfect ignorance, I say make her do it. My 4 year old doesn't have Down syndrome, so I'm talking out my neck, but that sounds just like him. I don't know. All you can do is your best. I've cracked the whip and had him -love- the thing I made him do. And I've screwed up, too, and he's been miserable. Sucks to be a kid sometime (to say nothing about being an adult!).

I sometimes have to remind myself that my job isn't making him happy. My job is making him -him-.

Anne said...

From experience with my older kids the first 2 months of school in kindergarten and first grade were a tough transition. Kindergarten because they were getting used to going all day and first because they were getting used to doing academics all day. Give her at least a month and then reevaluate at that point.

Krupskaya said...

Do you have all-day kindergarten? (I can't remember.) Because all-day kindergarten, IME/O, is really, really hard. Maia had all-day and while I think it's a good program and I'm all for it, it IS a huge change for five- and six-year-olds. More so than first grade is, I think. And it took Maia at least two months to get into the rhythm, and when hockey season started it was really tough on her. She adjusted, and grew into it, but I think the culprit is all-day kindergarten.

Also, FWIW, Maia finds riding on the bus home exhausting. When the kids get home, all they want to do is sit, eat a snack, and read quietly for about half an hour. The bus is just so full of noise and other stimuli, as well as the added bonus of sometimes uncomfortable social situations because all grades, K-12, ride the bus, and that can be tiring. (I don't mean there's any bullying on the bus, but that even hearing 16-year-olds talk big and sometimes swear can wear a smaller kid down.)

So, my long-winded point is, Ellie might still be trying to adjust to kindergarten, and an instant transition to another long activity stretching into the evening might just be too much. I'd say try every other week, or drop it until mid-October. 10 hours is a long time to expect a kid to be "on," IMO. On the other hand, we are total introverted slugs, so that might just be me. ;)

Jessica said...

This is hard, Sarahlynn, and I wish I had an answer but I love how you pose the tough questions. You shy away from nothing when it comes to parenting your girls - especially Ellie - and I so admire that.