Homeschool Hopelessness

No one warned me that I would experience periods of real hopelessness in our homeschooling journey.

These feelings were not so much because of a child’s slowness in grasping phonics, or mastering multiplication tables or coping with writing and spelling (although those struggles are real and difficult to cope with at the time), but I suffered from a deeper, insidious anxiety of not measuring up to the ideals and images of what I imagined of my parenting and homeschooling.

My struggle was that my children did not reflect what I thought they would be if I “did it right”.

I had visions of my children happily homesteading, singing songs, crafting and learning like the girls in the “Little House on the Prairies“.  I thought we would all be praying, singing, being kind to others … that kind of Christian-thing. The gratitude, the persevering, the teachable, the compliant child-thing. And I thought it would all develop into young adult expressions of that image.  But our children did not embrace or demonstrate that vision.

Actually my children started out a lot like that, back in the beginning of our homeschooling journey, so it was not that we couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t carry on into my children’s teen years. That is when things changed.  They changed.  They took charge, and it was really scary for me!

My children are amazing, unique individuals, and they were way stronger than me. No matter how hard I persevered, persuaded, cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, lectured, they did things their way. They made choices and insisted and persisted.  I watched my dreams fade away.  And, looking back now, it was a good thing.  My children were not supposed to turn out the way I intended, but the way the Lord purposed.

They abandoned, subjects,  ignored Charlotte Mason’s methods, made decisions for the all “wrong” reasons (in my mind).  Instead of continuing with Charlotte Mason principles, my high school children opted for textbooks. Instead of narrations, they chose tedious workbook lessons and stressful exams. Instead of a rich cultural Fine Arts, they chose dry bones “compulsory” subjects. Instead of delight-directed – they opted for minimum requirements.  One child became the master-procrastinator!  She managed to complete everything by the skin of her teeth and it was a nightmare trying to work with her.

I sat watching each of them move further and further away from my ideals, and morph into “let’s get it done the easiest and fastest way possible” and I became sadder, more and more hopeless.  As each teenager entered into this phase, I lost perspective and became really sad and depressed.

Both my graduate daughters chose not to study further.  They did not want specific careers.  They opted for part-time work and entrepreneurial experience.  From the outside, it looked like my husband and I had “lost the plot” and we came under prolonged, severe criticism from both our parents close family.  I felt judged and a failure.   I wondered If I had instead sent them to public high schools and forced them to follow the norm of ‘Matric followed by university studies’, then we would have done it the “right way” and we would have “succeeded”.

As I sat praying, I realized that I had laid an excellent foundation in their primary school years.  We established outstanding basic skills.  I had instilled a love for reading, for good literature, for Fine Arts and we had a lifestyle of both productivity and creativity.  We have a deeply spiritual home where we share the reality of the Lord’s word and work in our lives.

All was not lost.

I turned my eyes to the Lord and trusted Him to work out those promises He gave us for each of our children.

After my eldest daughter got married earlier this year, she flourished as an amazing young woman who loves her husband.  She happily creates and keeps her home beautiful, and she cooks healthy, wonderful meals on a tiny budget.  She is a deeply committed member of a small, but tightly connected community and she and her hubby practice hospitality in ways that really bless others.

My 18-year-old graduate daughter currently works as a freelance graphic artist. She is developing her skills as a photographer and amazed us all by becoming a singer and musician, performing among the emerging musicians in the Garden Route.  There was no clue that she would choose to sing publicly.  She was so shy as a child that she wept and just couldn’t give me speeches or prepared reading, not even for me, all alone in our homeschool study.  And she never took a single formal music or singing lesson!

Last week, as I sat among a crowd of over 370 people at the Live Event in the George Botanical Gardens, and I just marveled at her courage and her talent, her vulnerability.  She shares her own songs with the world.  I didn’t see that coming!

May I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to keep hoping and praying and trusting in the Lord for your children, especially when they take charge as they grow up.  He is faithful and He has a vision and purpose for each person.  He is able to “make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”.

Don’t allow periods of hopelessness and despair cause you to give up.  Have grace towards yourself for being out of your depth and have grace towards your children for working out who they are becoming.  It is Grace for grace.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Celebrating our daughter’s wedding

The past few weeks we have all been busy preparing and then celebrating our eldest daughter Tess and her beloved Ryk’s wedding.

Tess had always dreamed of having a forest wedding with both the ceremony and the reception in a forest clearing and under trees along the river, but it rained … and rained … and rained.  Rain fell all Friday evening and all Saturday.   In Africa, and in our ongoing extreme drought, rain is a mercy and a blessing, but for Tess, it meant that all her long-cherished wedding dreams had to be surrendered.

Her best friend Hannah planned, prepared and worked on all the decor and wedding arrangements.  Her team (her hubby, brothers and sister) agreed to set up the reception in the barn but to wait until the last-minute on Saturday morning to see if the weather would clear for the ceremony to still take place in the forest.  But, no, the rain continued to gently fall and so the men brought all the soaked benches into the reception hall and we had to quickly transform the dance floor area into a forest!  

In the months and weeks before her wedding, Tess made all her bridesmaids’ dresses in muslin which she and her sister Lara then hand-dyed in varying forest greens.

I made her wedding dress.  What a privilege to create a dress that she designed and loved!  Kate created the beautiful flower wreaths for the bridesmaids. Hannah made all the bunting, banners, did all the flower arrangements and penned the table seating cards.  Her husband and brother hand-carved apricot wood into candlesticks which were given as party favours to all their guests.  The team created flower wreaths for signage to the hall, made the intricate arrangements that fitted under the glass domes.  Everywhere we looked were the beautiful hand-made gifts as a demonstration of their love to Tess and Ryk’s on their wedding day.

It was a beautiful wedding!

Here’s the poem I wrote a few days afterwards ~

Forest Wedding Poem (for Ryk & Tess)

The wedding day dawns as gentle rains fall from the sky,
And the disappointed young bride, in her room, begins to cry,
Wet benches outside are now taken into the hall,
A created forest transformation requires frantic work from us all.

Ferns and ivy tied up to hang daintily on strings
And pillars are covered with green foresty things.
Food placed on platters, tables decorated with fairy lights,
The hall, now complete, looks like a forest delight.

While the groomsmen sweep away fallen leaves lying everywhere.
Kate gently applies Tess’ makeup and does up her hair,
Bridesmaids put on their long dresses dyed in forest greens,
Arrange their hair with flower wreaths, looking like fairy queens.

The beautiful wedding gown is pulled on and buttoned closed,
As bridesmaids follow the photographer into the wet forest to pose.
The Mother of the bride sees that all is done and everyone is ready,
She hugs the father and he holds her steady.

Guests, now all seated inside, whisper as they wait,
Bridesmaids & young ring bearers gather as the bride is slightly late.
Then the guitar, the drum and tambourine start the song,
As the beautiful bridesmaids enter, singing as they walk along.

Carrying lanterns and banners with blessings that they bring,
They walk down the aisle gracefully and sing.
Holding on to her father’s arm and her exquisite flower bouquet,
Tess, the radiant bride slowly comes in and makes her way.

Ryk, watching Tess approach, wipes away some tears from his eyes.
Grandparents and some others, in awe and joy also cry.
Embracing the groom and then kissing the bride,
The father gives away his daughter and steps aside.

Jakkie shares the message of Jesus, our Saviour who changes everything,
Then Ryk and Tess whisper their vows and exchange their rings.
Now, here they come, the joyful bride and groom step out of the hall,
As the delighted guests cheer and clap and confetti is thrown by all.

While the bride and groom and family pose and smile,
Guests enjoy sangria and savoury eats and mingle a while.
Inside the hall, the little fairy lights shimmer and all the candles glow,
While delicious lamb on the spit cooks till tender, turning slow.

Ryk and Tess then enter & dance to “Piece by Piece” in romantic embrace,
Smiles of delight shine on every watching face.
Champagne corks explode and speeches and toasts declared,
Grace is sung and the wonderful food is served and shared.

The evening is filled with songs, dances, chatter and laughter,
A perfect beginning to Ryk and Tess’ “Happily Ever After”.

(by Nadene)

Here’s the link to the video of the bridesmaids singing as they enter before the bride.

In the wink of an eye, my darling little girl is married and all grown up.  It all goes by so fast!

Blessings, Nadene

When your plans overwhelm

I am a planner.  I love “To Do ” lists, checklists, little boxes, and ticking things off a list.  I often place information in tables in documents.

When it comes to homeschool planning, I love creating the bird’s-eye view and then breaking it down into monthly plans.  (You can find all my free planner and organizer pages here.)

But here’s the snag … my kids don’t like my plans and they absolutely hate my checklists!

A few years ago my youngest child had a total meltdown when I showed her an overview of the work for her new school year. My high school kid freaked out when I showed her the year plan and the book lists at the beginning of her final year.

Okay – so they are not global or detailed thinkers. They are more free, creative, and spontaneous folk, and my detailed plans frustrate, frighten and freeze them.   I just need to show them the week, or even just the day ahead.

I have learnt to compromise. I need to plan for me first and then adjust the plans that I share with them. I often have to customize the day’s schedule so that they have a good idea of my expectations, and allow for their own choices and approach.  Even young children love to feel that they have some control by choosing what they prefer to do first, next or last.  Teenagers should be given this freedom of choice and learn to accept the consequences of their choices.

My children think and work at a different pace to me. When things are not essential, I have learnt to let them work at their own pace. Chores that I need to be done, should be done on time, but the rest they can do so long as it is done before I go to bed.
I am still learning not to drive my children crazy.

Right now, our daughter is getting married at the end of this month, and guess what? I started a 6-page checklist!  It even overwhelmed me and I became so stressed that I stopped. But, foolish mom that I was, I pressed on, continued, finished it and, what’s even worse, I presented it to my precious daughter-bride-to-be.  Her reaction was instant STRESS and anger.  My detailed plans did not help.  Frustration closed all communication channels and so I went into the shower to have a good cry.  You would think that I had learnt how to approach things with my children by now. I was filled with such sorrow and shame.

I came back and apologised.  I immediately resigned as the wedding planner.  We laughed at some of my ridiculous details on my checklist, and I put the file away.  Her best friend is an amazing wedding planner and is already helping her and us.  Her friend knows how to translate all the practical details into an approach that my creative, romantic, visionary daughter can visualize and process.  Weddings are stressful events to plan, people!  That’s why you have professionals who do this type of thing!

My daughter’s recent Kitchen Tea

We have celebrated her upcoming wedding hosting two kitchen teas.  The first kitchen tea (pictured above) was in the small town where she lives.  All her bridesmaids and close friends attended.  They prepared a beautiful venue and laid out a delicious spread, and we had fun with some kitchen tea activities as she unwrapped her gifts.  The other more recent kitchen tea was with family and friends in our nearest town.

Because I need to see things on paper, I will continue to work with the wedding plans to keep tab of things and I will act as my hubby’s PA and his admin help, keeping track of the budget and emails.  But I confess that I feel completely overwhelmed at times … especially sometimes when I lie awake at night …

We are in a slight lull right now, with most things booked, arranged and made, but in just 2 weeks, things will be revved up like crazy!  So, please excuse me from this little space while we are all busy, preparing, travelling and celebrating this incredible occasion!

Dear precious mom, learn from me and don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids with too many detailed plans.  Give yourself and your children the time and space to work in a way that allows them to use their best energy and focus.  Balance this grace with suitable, sensible training.   Teach them to prioritize,  set alarm clocks, be on time, and meet daily goals.  Allow for choices, alternatives, and options you may not have planned.  It will all work out fine in the end!

With every blessing, Nadene

 

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Christmas Greetings

My dear readers,

Here’s wishing you and your family

a wonder-filled

and Christ-centred Christmas

and a peaceful and restful festive season.

Sharing some of my Doodlewashed December Christmas sketches.

Until 2018, be blessed! Love, Nadene

Sad Tears

Getting Real ~

My sorrow suddenly crept up on me and it caught me off guard. Warm tears filled my eyes as I gently laid my hands on top of the piles of books in the still open boxes.  I pack the half-used highschool curriculum away, and I quietly realize that I feel sad.

These books are a wonderful curriculum and had I tried every which way to make it work, but my youngest daughter just did not connect with the package. The unread books simply became a boulder I felt I was pushing up a mountain.

“Have you read this week’s literature yet?” I would ask each week, knowing she had not.

We fell behind the already stretched out schedule and I finally admitted that it just would not work. We simply would not do the rest of the books.  It didn’t help if I read aloud to her.  The spark just wasn’t there.

It is not the unfinished course that bothered me. This happens, and I have learnt that when you force learning, it doesn’t stick. A child may have some short-term information, but, with no internal connections, it quickly fades.

I felt sad because there were treasures lying unopened in the box. Beautiful books, deep spiritual books, precious testimonies, amazing autobiographies, wonderful character-forming non-fiction books. I was sad for all these lost opportunities.

Perhaps, as I did in my early years of homeschooling, I could have pushed and insisted and maintained a stricter control over my daughter, but I did not. Maturity and two decades of homeschool experience have presented me with a different approach. One that recognises that I am simply a facilitator and encourager. My role as an educator is not to shove, push, pull, cajole, demand, insist, force, fret, or manipulate my child in her learning journey.

So, I acknowledge my feelings as I sit and cry for a little while. Then I wipe my eyes, neatly stack the books, pull the lid on and label the box. And it’s done. The era is over, that season is finished. I sigh and exhale the disappointment. I breathe deeply and accept what is and move on.

Sad tears as a part of letting go.

Blessings, Nadene
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Navigating postgraduate years

Here’s another “Getting Real” post ~  My eldest daughter graduated high school at the end of 2013.  Motherhood and homeschooling shifted gears and I entered into a completely different phase with a postgraduate young adult.  Somehow, navigating these years are far more difficult than I imagined.

If you follow the system, this is how educating your children usually looks ~

Schooling +12 years = graduate = college/ university = a diploma or degree = good job = successful life. 

Right?  In fact, I hear more moms who are considering homeschooling their preschooler or really young primary-aged children ask about homeschool graduation qualification requirements than how to enjoy the first few years of homeschooling.  The system rules their thinking.

I seemed to really have my act together when I was homeschooling my three young daughters.  As a qualified school teacher, no one doubted my ability or our vision for our family, but things changed drastically once my eldest graduated and we did not insist on her going to university to study further.

In fact, we have repeatedly been criticized by family and close friends for not providing her with the opportunities to achieve her God-given purpose.  I have endured days of long ‘conversations’ where granny and oupa and aunties have laid into us.  I received a heavily disappointed email with 7 attachments on “Finding your God-given purpose” from my dad.

But here’s the thing, our eldest daughter didn’t want to study further.  And I have learnt that forcing any education on a child doesn’t stick!  It vanishes like mist before the sun.  Our daughter didn’t want a chosen “safe” career or long-term commitment to a job or internship.  She didn’t want to do short courses. We thought, “Why invest heaps of money on courses or take out study loans or go into debt when someone is not keen?  It doesn’t make any sense.”

So, we allowed our eldest daughter to have a gap year … or two …  She has acquired major life skills ~

She and her best friend began entrepreneurship ventures when they were just 15 years old. They have been creative, hard-working and their skills have been tried and tested over the past several years.  They have stocked and run two shops.  She and her sister created a unique clothing range which they collaborated, created and ran online and at markets.  She has been committed to several short-term jobs, one where she gained valuable experience doing administration for a company. She has served others faithfully.  She has grown enormously spiritually.

During these years she assisted two of her friends with their home births.  She has learnt to cook large family meals on a very tight budget, from scratch, without electricity.  She’s learnt to run a home.  She’s attended a month of life-coaching.  She has been serious in her involvement with people and she is committed to deep and meaningful relationships in the small town where she has made her home.

Most importantly, I realized that she is community-driven.  She hated the idea of moving to a large town and living and working on her own.  I have to think that because we live so far from town, on such a remote farm, that we don’t have the same circumstances that most folks have of gently easing a new school graduate into jobs and towards independent living.

When we consider our eldest daughter, we realize that she is living out her life with her own, well-thought-out choices.  Our role is to help her in her startup ventures, assist her to begin businesses or start new jobs, and to encourage her when she faces disappointments and frustrations.  Our role is to champion her.  It is not what the system reflects, but what her heart longs for and how it leads her.  We seem to be navigating her post-school years without a map.

We are so proud of our daughter, and the amazing young woman that she has become!

The best way to parent a graduate is to be available, relational, supportive and encouraging so that we have a place of influence.    And to pray much …

In contrast, it is so easy to follow a homeschool schedule or curriculum.  You know exactly what is expected, what to use and how to get there.  The day is set out neatly.  You can tick the boxes and feel the accomplishments at the end of the day like a warm glow.  But this graduate phase … these open-ended days, filled with uncertain choices, unpredictable outcomes, and sometimes frightening opportunities scares us and it terrifies our newly graduate children.

Life after school is scary, folks.

So, enjoy your young children, your neat homeschool timetables and plans, your simple choices, your children’s innocent hopes and dreams.  And start praying now for those post-graduate years.

What advice do you have for other parents facing their children’s graduate years?  Please share your views in the comments below.

With much grace, Nadene

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Sacred Eating Bible Reading Plan

Sacred Eating describes a meaningful, deep, contemplative way of reading God’s Word.

Several years ago I wrote about how I usually follow a Bible reading program and systematically read through the entire Bible every year.  But for some time I had missed the revelation and intimacy of my more detailed, slower Bible studies.   I was hungry for more growth, for deeper insight and God’s personal revelation while I read.

I want the Word to be my daily bread that fully nourishes me, feeds me, makes me grow, and changes me.  I want the Lord to teach me how to really read His Word so that I grow, change, become more like Him.  And so, instead of reading long passages, I began a season of reading and meditating on just one or two verses …

A creative Bible note on one verse … I compared different versions to extract as much meaning as I could …

Reading (the Word), as it were, puts the solid food into our mouths, meditation chews it and breaks it down, prayer obtains the flavour of it and contemplation is the very sweetness which makes us glad and refreshes us.” ~Guigo

So here’s how to read the Word as sacredly as the bread of life.  When you read the Word you

  • Linger over the Word, reading deliberately, slowly, savouring and re-reading the words.  We chew the words over, understanding their meaning as a living message.
  • Listen to what the Lord is saying, as if spoken to us personally, listening to the still small voice of God that speaks to us personally, uniquely, and intimately. We meditate on this Word, letting His Word becomes one with our being.
  • Lift voices to pray, asking Him to forgive us where we fail to fulfil His Word, to fill us with His Spirit and make His word real and alive in us.  We sing songs of praise, thank Him, worship Him,  and respond personally to Him, asking Him to help us trust and obey his words.
  • Live out the Word as a lifestyle as His Spirit leads us.  We apply these words in our daily living, practically, obediently, faithfully, reverently.  In this way, the Word in the Bible becomes flesh in us.

What simplicity.  It is easy enough for a young child to learn and practice.

I have created a free download for you which includes ~

Free Download ~ Sacred Eating God’s Word

May the Lord faithfully lead you deeper in, onwards and upwards.

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part IV

This post concludes the series of Homeschool Beginnings. (You can catch up any of the missed posts here – Part I, Part II and Part III.)

I would say that I instinctively began homeschooling when I joined with two moms from our church group to meet once a week for a play date.  We met just to let our children play together, but we were all teachers (one mom was a high school Zulu and Maths teacher, the other mom was a music and choir teacher, and I was an English, Physical Education, and  Art teacher), and so things began to take shape.   Little did we even realize that we would start homeschooling!  

It began so gradually that we didn’t even think of “schooling” but rather playing while focusing on a theme and some fun learning activities.   We creatively brainstormed ideas while our kiddies played. We decided to work through the alphabet, and our play date included a Bible story, a song, a craft and a physical activity with the letter of the alphabet.

So we started with “A” is for Angels … and Apples … and Adam and Eve … We made paper plate angels, read about Jacob’s angels on a stairway to heaven and arranged angels from biggest to smallest … We climbed the jungle gym ladders, hopped and jumped on a ladder lying on the ground.  We ate apples, made apple pie, cooked stewed apples, etc. We sang angel songs and learned the word for apple in Afrikaans, Zulu, Hebrew, etc.   (You get the idea?)

Our kiddies wanted to do the same story and song every . single . week . and so we realized that repetition is natural and necessary.  We simply flowed with our children’s natural delight and interest and only added a new concept or skill to keep things growing and moving along once the previous learning moment had passed.  In a whole year, we only got to “G”!

We also went on outings and picnics, created plays, held parties, and enjoyed family get-togethers.  These early years of homeschooling continued as our families grew and until the oldest children were ready for Grade 1.

These were precious years and our friendships were deep and lasting.

And so, that is my story of how I journeyed into homeschooling.  Although I never imagined I would homeschool my kids, it was the Lord’s design and plan for our family all along.

How did your journey into homeschooling begin?  Please share your story with us in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part III

Continuing my personal story of my unlikely journey into homeschooling.

(If you’ve missed the first two posts, you can pop over to read about our baby’s serious illness just days after her birth – Part I and the sad prognosis –Part II.)

We were referred to a Baby Therapy Centre which housed all the therapists and treatments required to treat and help babies with brain injuries, and so began three years of therapy sessions, remedial splints, and ongoing consultations and reports.

Early on we recognized weakness and spasm on our baby’s right side. The doctors and specialists referred to her diagnosis as “Right Hemi” or right-side hemiplegia, but it was only after one year before I heard them use the term “CP” and was dismayed to hear she actually had Cerebral Palsy. I don’t know why, but the label seemed so harsh, so cruel. I think we all have fear and prejudice towards the “different”. I couldn’t imagine how my baby would grow up and become independent with her disability.

Let me say that the only label or report I really needed was the Lord’s.  Every medical report and doctor’s consultation filled me with dread and fear and pushed me into anxiety and hyper-vigilance.  Instead, the Lord spoke to me in His gentle love and care, and He filled my heart with hope and peace.  He helped me focus on “one thing” at a time.  He encouraged me to live in the “now” moments with my child and not worry about the future.  I wish I could say that this was my permanent state of heart, but it was the only way I could cope as we went through many valleys, peaks, and plateaus.

Using the new orthopedic thumb splint

By now I realized that I followed an “Attached Parenting” style.  I attributed this mainly due to my breastfeeding years and the amazing mentoring and excellent parenting books I read in the La Leche League library.  I wore my baby in a sling and chose to nurture and respond to her every need with care and love.  

After three years, the Baby Therapy Center referred us to private occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech therapists, as our child was no longer considered a baby.  We continued regular therapy over the following nine years.

Our daughter was a bright, chatty, young toddler. She was beautiful, vivacious, intelligent, creative, fun, strong-willed, sensitive, loyal and spiritual. I loved my days with her!

My child continued to meet her milestones and, praise the Lord, showed no signs of learning or speech delays.  We attended a toddler’s play group and we enjoyed monthly play dates with our antenatal moms’ group.  Homeschooling was a very vague option, but I felt that my child would cope in mainstream schooling, so I didn’t look into that aspect at all.  Little did I know how gently the Lord would lead me into that role.

To be continued in Part IV.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part II

Continuing my story of my unlikely journey into homeschooling from Part I …

Following our newborn baby’s diagnosis of meningitis and a brain bleed, we went into deep shock. It was the only time I saw my husband actually sob.

I spent eleven days in the hospital with my baby, now in the children’s ward, where there were five other meningitis cases, caring for my tiny, sick, newborn baby and trying desperately to learn to breastfeed.

Hospital life is interrupted, clinical, medical and full of fear.  Not the nurturing, calm and private bonding post birth experience I had dreamed for and that my hormones absolutely craved!  I almost gave up breastfeeding because my drugged and sick baby couldn’t latch properly.  I had cracked nipples and a bad case of milk fever, but a La Leche League consultant came and talked me through all my difficulties and supported my decision to keep trying to feed my baby despite all the obstacles. I am so grateful for her help as we went on to breastfeed for two years.

We were referred to pediatric specialists who told us of all the possible damage the brain bleed and meningitis could cause. The news was dreadful. The pediatric neuro-specialist referred to her diagnosis as right-side hemiplegia or right-side paralysis.   There were fears of possible learning and speech problems.  I was gutted.

My hubby and I immediately found ourselves in separate camps trying to cope with this news; he was quiet, withdrawn and in denial, and I began a frantic search for options, help, therapy, support, and interventions.  I think that I was determined to help my child and nothing was going to be too difficult.  I resigned from my teaching position and so I began my new role of stay-at-home-mom-on-a-mission!

To be continued in Part III.

Blessings, Nadene

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