Rachel was ready to go back to school on, December 20th. They got out on Thursday, December 19th. Rachel loves school and has always loved school. She gets that honestly. Her daddy and I both loved school. She was quite distressed that the cold stopped them from having school tomorrow. Not many kids would tell you the night before school is to start back that “I am excited about school yesterday. It is a new semester and we will go over the rules.” All with a gleeful smile on her face. She loves rules. She loves studying rules and reading directions. Then, with that same gleeful smile and her bright eyes she added, “Next semester I go to high school!” Yes, Baby Rachel goes to high school in 217 days people!
I referred to her as Baby Rachel because many people still call her Baby Rachel. That is how so many people referred to her before she was born and when she was little. She is definitely not a baby anymore. She is growing into a lovely young lady. She is confident and loves life. She is boy crazy and this may be the death of her mommy. She struggles with some of her classes. She loves the stage and wants to spend time with her friends. She is very typical in so many ways.
Today, I feel that same sense of nervousness I had when she was turning three and leaving early intervention. I feel that same sense of nervousness I felt before we entered kindergarten. I have those same concerns I had when we moved to Kansas and were starting in a whole new place. Middle school brings out fear in the most fearless of us, and I was no different. I say all of this while acknowledging that I trust God to help us navigate the course. Each new transition has brought nervousness but they have also brought excitement for us and for Rachel. Each leg of this journey has been hugely successful. Yes, mom and dad have had to be tough at IEP meetings. Mom and dad have had to negotiate and bend at some meetings. Every year it is exhausting to have a new set of teachers, related services personnel and support staff. You really do start over every time. We have done our part to ensure that Rachel would be successful. That’s our job. At times it has been harder than it should be since IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was passed in 1975. We have had to push and sometimes shove a little to make sure that Rachel was getting her free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). I can still say that I would still push for full inclusion because it is my core belief that this is a huge reason that Rachel is who she is. Friends have made a difference. I’ll address that in a separate blog.
I always say that nothing is perfect and you do have to decide what you want and what is important to you and your child. Where do you want them to be when they are 25? Plan accordingly. That’s what we have tried to do and will continue to try to do. The transitions are often not about the next leg being bad as the next leg being different. There is comfort in sameness and routine – even when it is not perfect. By the way, did I mention that nothing is perfect? Since my blogging has been primarily since we started middle school, my readers have followed our middle school journey. I have said that a big key to our successful middle school experience was preparation. We prepared and had a plan. We tried to think through all the things we needed to do to make it successful for everyone. We missed a few things but overall, it has been an amazing journey. I am a bit sad to be leaving middle school in just over six months. Our teachers and administrators have been a key to the success as well. Almost everyone truly wants Rachel to be successful and takes pride in their part of that success.
Finally, it is cliché but it is just true. Rachel’s successful journey is in large part because of Rachel. I believe if you would go all the way back to kindergarten you will find teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, friends, parents and some administrators (some administrators may still be throwing darts at my picture) who will say that Rachel made the difference. Rachel’s positive attitude, her work ethic, her love for learning and rules, her sense of humor – they have made the difference. A mentor told me early in the game, “Your part is to get her in the general education classroom. Rachel will take care of the rest.” She was right.
Now, I hope you will follow along as we navigate this next transition to high school and then beyond. Baby Rachel is going to high school in 217 days!