I am the mother of a moment maker. I use to grumble at this title. I was constantly giving up moments to his teachers for various issues he had during the day. I never thought that I would one day accept my moment maker for what he is – perfect.
Through the years, my moment maker has been called a spirited child, inquisitive, a non-traditional learner, disruptive, clumsy, and the list goes on. He has been tested, retested, and refused testing. He is probably the most documented kid in the entire town. He is also the sweetest, most polite, kindest, and one of the smartest kids I have ever met.
My moment maker is now 11 years old; he has been to four schools since kindergarten. These school changes were not a result of our family relocating to a new city, or state. We have lived in the same house for all of his 11 years.
Why four schools? There must be an issue. There is, my son has ADHD and Autism. He was diagnosed with ADHD when was 4 ½ years old, not by our family doctor, but by a Behavioral Neurological Pediatrician. We also had him tested privately, which confirmed the diagnosis, by a doctor that is trained in elementary education, child development, school and clinical neuropsychology. No stone has been left unturned for our moment maker. At the age of 10 a Harvard Educated Psychologist diagnosed him with Autism. We feel confident his team of physicians have gotten the diagnosis correct.
Two of the schools he attended were private and one was a public school. We have run the gauntlet of options. He has had a few great teachers and some not so great teachers. The common element in these schools, they were all traditional learning environments of varying degrees.
Children sat at assigned desks, or tables in kindergarten. The teachers stood in front of the class and regurgitated information according to an established curriculum. There was an interaction and discussion between the teacher and the child, but it was an authoritarian relationship. The teacher dictated when, what, and how the child will learn. The class worked as a unit, together on tasks. Slower students pulled the class behind, while more advanced students were held back. Misbehavior was not permitted and recess was taken away as a punishment on a regular basis. It was the veiled threat that lingered unspoken all day, every day. Not much has changed since I went to school (both private and public) 30 years ago. Why is that? Why after 30 years are schools still doing the same thing?
The other common element between our moment maker and these three schools was he hated them all. He was miserable. Upon pickup from school everyday I would hear stories about how stupid he thought he was (he’s not his IQ is above average), or how he had his recess taken away again, how he had to sit out of gym for misbehavior, or how he failed his spelling/math/reading test. His last private school was better than the ones before it and he spent 2 ½ years there. But in the end he was still unhappy. If you’re child is in second grade and doesn’t like school, there is nowhere to go but down from there. Let’s face it as children graduate from one grade to the next the class work gets more regimented, the difficulty increases exponentially, and breaks decrease. The minor struggles they have in second grade become major issues as they progress through the system.
My husband and I knew we had to do something. We needed to engage him. We needed to find a way to tap into all of that hidden knowledge and love of facts he has. We kept telling him, “Read it will unlock the world.” But he wouldn’t. We would take him to museums and watch documentaries with him, you could see the excitement and zest for knowledge he had. However, we were unable to transition that love of learning into his everyday school environment. We were growing frustrated, and he was too. Every morning we would tell us, “I Hate, Hate, Hate going to school!” We had to do something, and we did. We made the best decision of our parenting life. We pulled him with one-month left of 2nd grade and put him in a Montessori school.
I picked my moment maker up the first morning at his new Montessori school and tentatively asked him, “So how was it?” He replied with the most excitement I have ever heard from him, “Mom it was awesome! We learned how to do Math the fun way!” I almost ran into the curb with my car, I was so caught off guard. Huh, math the fun way? What is math the fun way? Because I can tell you out of 18 years of schooling, I was not aware of any fun way to do math. He proceeded to tell me all about these beads, how he was allowed to touch them (!), use them to count in groups, and it was so easy to see and understand. He was excited to learn. He.Was.Excited.To.Learn.
Montessori puts the child first and provides a place that will foster exploration. He moves at his own pace, being ahead in some areas and behind in others. He is learning leadership and responsibility. No one is telling him to sit at his desk and now take out his book. There are only a few desks. It is hard for me to explain, and at times difficult to understand. But I see the transformation my child has made from the shy sad little boy that couldn’t find his place in the world to the kind excited child that loves books and learning.
People gave us grief about switching him to a 4th school. Why would we do that? He needs to learn that life is not easy. He needs to learn that he should do what he is told. We ignored those people and recognized that he is a child, and he should love school and not just make the best of it. He should look at knowledge as powerful and be excited to learn. He should realize there are options in life and he needs to work at things until he finds a solution that is best for him. Because there are solutions, some are just easier to find than others. I think we have finally found ours.
He is now in 5th grade at his Montessori school and loves it (as much as an 11 year old boy could). He has learned how to read and has confessed to me, “Mom, don’t tell anyone but I really like to read now!” I smile and nod my head, holding back the tears stinging my eyes. My moment maker has finally coming into his own. One time I overheard him agree with his friend from his old school when he said he didn’t like school. Later I prodded him and asked him if that was true. He sheepishly looked at me and whispered, “No, I was just saying that cause he says it. I love school Mom.”
My moment maker is no longer making moments to be upset about, but moments I am proud to witness and be a part of. And they are wonderful just like him.