Friday, August 21, 2009

Last day of school & we're building a special needs pre-school!

Perhaps because Reuben's school is part of the UCLA university campus, the terms are slightly different from the unified school district. And as such, we were able to enjoy a final week at school, actually wishing we hadn't been away from school at all, and today, a picnic for all the children of the early intervention programme.

How utterly delightful to enjoy time with Reuben's school friends and parents in the gorgeous grounds under the cedars and pines, the former reminding me of my own school convent grounds (more on that later). With dappled shade and a balmy breeze, unusual humidity for LA, we enjoyed summer fayre, baked and made fresh that morning. We don't usually get an opportunity to enjoy the garden setting and playgrounds with the children so feasts like this are a great way to end the school. Nurse Fanaye is back with us working a few days a week and was able to help with Callum's voracious appetite whilst I walked the wobbly bridge with Reuben. At circle time, Reuben had been signing away to all the songs as we've been focusing on with him and it would have been a treat for Teacher Belinda to see. Honestly, it couldn't have been more blissful than this morning!

Yesterday we learnt of plans to create a pre-school (3-5 years) at UCLA for special needs children but at which their siblings can also attend and which would be private (at the outset due to it being a new school) unlike the Early Intervention Programme which is free. The school would provide continuity for children with special needs throughout their formative years. I would of course work my damndest to get Reuben sponsored for the pre-school. The UCLA school is licensed for pre-school, but doesn't have funding so we've established a funding committee with the aim of raising $1m, no small feat, in order to get the school up and running. I'm empowered to set up the blog which will be our think tank for all matters related to setting up the school and to help with the marketing, my former profession. The teachers are equally experienced in the pre-school setting, the grounds are beyond fantastic and would be redeveloped with pre-school equipment and with an agenda which builds on each child's individual strengths, whether musical, artistic or academic. UCLA provides the classrooms gratis. Any advice on some serious fundraising for the new school and how I could secure a sponsored space for Reuben would be much appreciated.

My intention is to return in September upping our 3 days a week to 4 or possibly 5 half days. I've kept him back perhaps because of the time I've wanted to be with him, to focus on our signing together and for him to enjoy time with Callum. Reuben responds well to seeing regular faces and routine, but is also exceedingly comfortable and flexible when it comes to spontaneity, things I love to do on a whim when an excited urge hits me. If we do the 5 days, then we'll miss out on at least 1 1/2 day at the deaf school and therein lies my dilemna. Reuben does now have a few spoken words, mostly consonants with vowels attached so signing is his predominant expressive language and I don't see that changing anytime soon, but that said, the programmes, structure and environments at UCLA and Marlton are like chalk & cheese. I wonder what you think on this? Should he go to the deaf school 10 mins drive away (1/2 days) and become fully immersed in signing or reap the rewards of all there is to offer at UCLA, with me homeschooling him as I've done. I tell you, that boy can sign the ABC in a flash, much faster than I can with my super-fast typing fingers and I'm his blooming teacher! Wow!

Meanwhile, night nursie Jenn has been doing an amazing job of helping us get through the jetleg of the last week and the 4am rises of our boys.

Photos to follow...


Anonymous said...

I think you are doing such a great job homeschooling him on sign language and Reu seems like such a quick learner ... I would personally do 3-4 days of UCLA as it sounds wonderful and 1 day of the deaf school. I think its important to mainstream him as much as possible. I think he can learn so much from that. I'm sure you will make the right decision for him ... you always do. A Mother knows best and besides if you do decide to do 4/5 days at UCLA and you feel its too much in January you can always pull him out and add an extra day or two at the deaf school. That would be the worse that could happen. I guess this means your staying in the States?? Hope everything is going well ... would love an update ... you can e.mail me privately. Love, Tracy K.

JENN said...

Hello everyone:

could handle increasing challenges; "REU" is quickly attentive focusing thinking about it before acting out the signs -- then signing very fast too. He is so generous to show and tell what he learn for the day -- also he does his mini teaching as he is my little Big Professor in signing... even in his sleep... I would try to catch what it meant...look up the book -- took me a while to figure out what-- very much a beginner at this.. Of course, my signing pace is a lot slower -- at most very amazed how EXCELLENT REUBEN does this even in his sleep; Someday, I will be signing as his student...Makes him the World's youngest TEACHER at signing!!!

He does 4 days as oppose to 3, as an increase POSITIVE educational challenge for him since he will get additional practice in the structured learning environment & more fun with his classmates at his precious moments in school --- his great foundation for his PRIMARY education during his toddlerhood to 5-y-o VERY IMPORTANT experiences in his life.

One of these days, he will be tutoring me -- will be his biggest student and big time fan... so I could become familiar and be part of his FUN with REUBEN SIGN LANGUAGE ACTIVITY... That is an idea... and help fund raising maybe..