Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Back to School - but not for me!

A new school year has begun!

But not for me. I’m still on a leave of absence until Remi turns 2 – and with her currently 15.5 months, the end is creeping up faster than I would like. Last year, it felt so strange when teachers returned to school in August. For the first time since I graduated college, I wasn’t part of it. This year, I’ve grown accustomed to a certain standard of living. The strange thing was thinking that next year, I’ll be back in the ranks among them. I’m trying to just enjoy the rest of my time off, now that I know I can survive the SAHM life, if only barely. I’m also doing my best to dust off my rose colored glasses to focus only on the positives of work.

I'm not ready to give up going to the zoo on a Monday morning!

Enough about me. The important thing about this year is that I’m writing this blog post at 2:57pm – with no kids trying to grab the keyboard. Why? Because my eldest two are off at PreK, and Remi is napping.

It’s been a bit of a journey to get here. Last year, Dalton attended a private preschool two mornings each week. It was fine. His teachers were loving and capable, he enjoyed going, it was close to our house. There were things we didn’t love about it, so we didn’t plan to send him back the following year. He ended up leaving there in March when a free program became available, and he attended that until early May. We LOVED this program, but the location was awful for us.

Yeah...don't quite recall giving him permission to turn 15.

None of this caused me any stress really. With Dalton developing typically, I’m not about to lose sleep over preschool. The purpose is to get him around some other kids, learn school norms, and have some structured activities. Anywhere and anyone can provide that. No, I was very busy funneling all my time and energy into stress over Royce.

And not because he climbs everything.

It was being strongly recommended that preschool would help him develop his language skills. We hadn’t originally planned to send him at age 3, but of course we were willing to do anything to help his speech. The idea of sending a nonverbal three year old into preschool however, made my skin crawl. While I felt Dalton could pretty much go anywhere and get those simple preschool skills, the fact is that helping children with special needs thrive is just not something anyone can do. I spoke with the teacher and director at Dalton’s private preschool and I just...wasn’t comfortable. Royce doesn’t have many typical behaviors that are associated with lack of or limited verbal skills (tantrums, hitting, biting, etc). He’s a very laid back child and my concern was him just getting forgotten in a typical private classroom. He would be quiet because, well, he couldn’t talk and he wasn’t going to scream and yell for attention. I thought about it every single day and my heart felt like it would break thinking of him just sitting there like a bump on a log. I knew how smart he was, the testing showed how smart he was, but if he couldn’t express his knowledge the traditional way, it would take a teacher going above and beyond to help him learn.

I did a lot of research, and a program that seemed just perfect for Royce existed – right at our local elementary school! A three year old class that was made up of 50% children with IEPs and 50% typical children. It’s taught by a special educator, the speech language pathologist does push in lessons, another special educator consults with the teacher and pushes in, and there are two assistant teachers. It was a long road to getting him a spot in this program, but long story short, that’s where he is at this very moment!

I feel extremely confident about his team of service providers and his IEP goals. We actually had to revise them quite a bit because he has made so much progress! He’s consistently using 2-3 word phrases unprompted and independently. While I don’t think the majority of people reading this blog post could understand him yet, he will be working on articulation weekly with his SLP and I feel really positive that he will make huge strides this school year. For no apparent reason it hit me the other morning that he is TALKING and I got really emotional while randomly driving.

I have every reason to believe that come the end of the school year, he will not only still be talking, but speaking more clearly and using more complex language. After so long of being stuck at the same spot without seeing any real change, and being told not even six months ago that he may never speak, this is a pretty incredible feeling.

So where does that leave Dalton? In the same program, at the same school, right next door! While Royce got one of the coveted spots in the 3yo class due to his IEP, Dalton had to enter a lottery for the 4yo class. We found out he got in at the end of August. While Dalton turns 5 in a week and a half, the cutoff for Kindergarten in Maryland is Sept. 1, so he doesn’t go until next year, which is kind of the perfect situation.

The boys attend five days a week, in the afternoon. They are bussed there and back daily. This leaves our mornings free for playdates and adventures. This is hands down my favorite thing about being home (ok second favorite – napping during the week is my favorite) and I’m so glad I still get another year of it.

Hiking with our friends the other morning before school.

Then I kiss them goodbye, they get on the bus, adults much more qualified than me teach them and play with them, and they are bussed home. Could life be any better? 

While of course I love my kids more than anything in this world...loving them face to face all day, every day, mostly by myself, is a lot.

Last year, being home with an infant, 2, and 4 year old all day, every day, minus 5 hours a week Dalton was in school, was a lot. Summer time, being home with a 1, 3, and 4 year old all day, every day, with no break/childcare/school/camp/grandma’s house, was a lot. I want to pretend I’m supermom and I love every single moment without fail. I wish I didn’t feel guilty admitting that I crave and need breaks from them. I need breaks though. I’m a better mom, better wife/daughter/friend/sister, happier all around person when I get a little down time to myself. Even though literally every single mother I know feels the same, and I would wholeheartedly assure them they are in the right, something about putting down in black and white feels shameful.

On the topic of mom guilt, I have some guilt that I’ve put so much more of my mental energy into Royce’s education compared to Dalton’s. But I’m trying to remember that they are only ages 3 and 4 – I have plenty of time to even out the balance!

Judging me

It’s definitely a transition from daycare/private preschool, where you see their caregivers at every drop off and pick up. We used a much more informal in home daycare, where there were no detailed activity sheets, no cameras that broadcasted live feeds to your phone, I didn’t even know what they ate there day to day. Still, I underestimated the comfort of the daily face to face check in. Now, I just put them on the bus, and get them off a few hours later and hope everything went well in between. I’m at the mercy of small children for any information.

Prior to being a parent, when my only experience was on the other side of the public school system, I always swore I would make life easier on the teachers and not be “that parent”. You know, not a regular mom, a cool mom. Now I realize – Alyssa, you dumb slut, that’s a privilege reserved for parents of children who don’t even have a whiff of a special need. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be polite, respectful, and make sure to thank the educators for everything they do. But I’ve already emailed the SLP and case manager several times. It’s my kid’s ability to communicate with the world, ya know? Gotta stay on top of it!

So that’s what’s new with us! Anyone else do public preK? Private? Loved it, hated it? Share all the preschool experiences!


  1. So glad you have found a place they can both thrive.
    The US education system is so different to ours here in the UK but it seems that when it comes to identifying different leaning needs and putting plans in place your system is well ahead (despite I'm sure needing improvements and im sure we all wish for more funding).
    As a kid I watched my mum advocate for my little brother - I know she found it hard but it made such a difference in his life and attainment to have her as his spokesperson/champion/defender. He now has a degree and a masters and teaches in a bilingual Kindergarten on Berlin!
    Keep advocating! You're doing amazing.
    I started following your blog because of you running and have to say your tenacity in all areas of your life is inspiring - sending lots of support from across the pond.

  2. My son started public preschool right after he turned 3 in January, and it has been fantastic for his development. He has a significant speech delay as well as some fine and gross motor issues, and today he told me what he had for snack and a little bit about what he did at school, which is huge! He also traced his name yesterday, when I’ve never seen him do more than scribble. And we love the bus, especially with another little one at home—it’s awesome that they let Dalton ride too!

  3. Your kids are so adorable, and I'm glad the preschool setup worked out for you!

  4. All kids picture is very nice. Thanks for sharing story.


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