schooling thoughts

just chillin' to some 1980s Raffi

As with other years at this time, decisions are made for Rachel and Janneke regarding the next school year.  This is the time when the staff at the Niagara Children's Centre School reviews all the kids connected with the school to determine if the child will best benefit from remaining at the Centre school - or best benefit from transitioning into the local community school.

Well, it's time for transition. Gulp. This fall will bring a major change for Rachel. She will be transitioning from the NCC to her community school.  This fall, Rachel will attend Beacon along with Ralph and Soph. (Em is moving on to high school!)

Transitioning to a community school is a lengthy and layered process. There are the tough-to-hear stories of children with complex needs in community schools. Actually, there are a lot of those stories - children with EAs that come and go, children who are reassessed too many times and sit on waitlist after waitlist for therapy and resources, children whose needs are not met because policy trumps the child....

But, right now, I want to listen to the stories of success. There are some amazing community schools out there with caring staff who go the extra mile to help these kids - and we're hoping to add Beacon to that list.  If we can learn from other's stories and from our own mistakes, good things will happen and even greater things can be anticipated.

So... we told the Grade 3 class today that Rachel would be joining them this fall. These kids know Rachel because she has visited them over the years .

Yet, I wondered what their reaction would be to the idea of Rachel coming every day. Most kids show it "like it is" on their faces - no pretense. When Ralph said that Rachel would be coming to Beacon every day instead of the Centre this fall, the kids' mouths dropped and many of them cheered.  One boy in particular pulled his fist into a pump with an audible "yessssssss!"

(Yes, I told his mom later how much he made my day.)

We know that Rachel attending Beacon is going to change things for the school, the students, the community, our family... and there will be bumps along the way. Good things are happening already, and we anticipate a great year ahead.

Janneke? She will continue at the Niagara Children's Centre School. They will continue to work with her on communication and fine motor skills. The school will also be available as a resource should we need support at Beacon in Rachel's transition process. There are also times when students return to the Centre school for a year to receive intensive therapy or skill building that can't otherwise be found in the community school.

The most amusing part of this afternoon's announcement? Ralph and I talked with the class about being Rachel's voice -and her hands and feet. We talked about what it means to take care of each other. I then asked the boys and girls if there were any questions or worries about Rachel joining their class. I had anticipated they would talk about the drooling, the feed pump, or the wheelchair. The first question? "How tall is Rachel?" And then the conversation was about whom Rachel was taller than and who was the same height as Rachel... how normal.  Later, I was asked, "Does Rachel had a backpack like mine?"  Love it.

Just when I wonder if Rachel is miles apart from her peers, it's her peers pulling ME back and reminding me that sometimes the differences are only as gaping as you make them.

We appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we journey on.