School Days

Now that Abbie is recovered from her round of surgeries, and therapy is fun again instead of being painful, it has become apparent that it is time to return more focus to her academic progress. A couple of weeks ago I settled in my heart that while I hope the educational system in Hawaii will improve it’s offerings for kids like Abbie, she and I can’t wait for that to happen. So, I headed to the garage. Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler — with the boxes of books to prove it.

I pulled out a curriculum that I used with the twins when they were young. “Five in a Row” is perfect for Abbie, because each week is centered on one great piece of children’s literature, which is read every day. All of the activities for the week are then based on the story. We’ve chosen “The Story of Ping” for our first adventure. It tells the story of a duck that lives with his large family on a houseboat on the Yangtze river. Part of the story describes how the last duck back to the boat each night gets a spank. The first time I read that to Abbie her eyes widened and she jumped.

This morning we did a science experiment to determine what kinds of things float, and what kinds of things don’t. Another homeschooling souvenir, the Teaching Tank, allowed Abbie to see the experiment results up close. I place the plexiglass tank on her tray and then helped her drop each item into the water. Interestingly, as the experiment proceeded, her muscle tone dropped tremendously. I think all that girl really needs is stimulation.

Once we’d retrieved and dried our floaters (and non-floaters) we couldn’t let all of that lovely water just go to waste. I decided that we should color it yellow like the “waters of the Yangtze river” in our story. But, this was school, so Abbie didn’t get anything for free. She had her “yes” and “no” switches, so I asked her questions to decide what color of paint we should add to the water.

“Are the waters of the Yangtze river red?” I asked. “No, that’s not right” came the answer from her switch.
“Are the waters of the Yangtze river green?”
“No, that’s not right!”
“Are the waters of the Yangtze river yellow?”
She answered with her eyes, then her lips, then her body and finally her switch, “Yes.”
So, I dumped a bunch of yellow paint into the tank. It may be the mom in me, but the yellow water reminded me a lot more of pee than of the Yangtze river. Fun for Abbie, all the same.

We are also using the story to build her literacy by choosing her “words for the week” from the book. These are the words we work on each day so that she will recognize them any time and anywhere she sees them. Her amazing speech therapist also spent untold hours converting the story into a computer format that Abbie can interact with electronically. We really are trying to use every channel of input possible, while keeping it fun and interesting for her.

We visited the orthopedic surgeon on Monday for a three month follow-up. He was very pleased with her surgery sites and with all of her joints (well, Mr. Elbow wasn’t his fave, but that’s OK). He thought that Abbie’s feet were going to quickly return to the obstinate little critters they had been, pointed down and out with little range in her ankles. Miss Ballerina Feet really impressed him. She has a tiny curve in her back, but nothing even meriting an Xray. We are just going to keep an eye on it and work with it.

So many good things are happening at once, on so many fronts, that I feel like I’m standing outside Jericho. I’ve prayed for years for certain walls to fall, I just never imagined they’d all crumble at once. I’m closing in on publishing a book about blenderized diets — so if there are any families out there blenderizing who would be willing to share your stories, please contact me at We are seeing very new, and very real opportunities in brain injury research and therapy development, as well as possible openings for educational setting advancements.

But, with all this excitement, the thing that thrills me the most is sitting on the couch with a beautiful girl reading about a little yellow duck far away.