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First Day of School, 2023 (in 3 Acts)

ACT 1: Hazel

She didn’t get in.


Across the board, nearly every parent I know in my community with a child ready to enter Pre-K did not get into the public school Pre-K program because of limited spots and prioritized admissions (low-income, English as a Second Language, or IEP/disabilities). Hazel is a precocious almost-five-year-old who has been fortunate enough to attend preschool and ECI (as a neurotypical sibling), but not public school Pre-K.


We decided as a family that Hazel would homeschool Pre-K for kindergarten readiness.


Hazel was initially distraught. Why wasn’t she going to school? She’s accustomed to schooling. Did she do something bad? Did they not want her?


(Parents, when your preschool or early elementary-aged kids find out they cannot participate in something, they can spiral into self-doubt. Do not underestimate the importance of hearing their feelings and reassuring them).


“You’re going to get to stay home and learn with me. I’m going to teach you everything I know and we’re going to make learning fun! We’ll go to classes at the library” (Hazel LOVES library events), “time outside in nature and parks, and so much time reading books. We’re going to work on a great big project together that’s going to show you how much you’ve learned and how much you’ve grown!”

“Yay!!!”


We still went about our back-to-school rituals (haircuts, school supplies/shoes/clothes shopping), and Hazel got especially excited with fancy notebooks (her 3-ring binder features galloping unicorns with a backdrop of rainbows and puffy clouds), a wide assortment of writing utensils/art supplies, educational materials, and manipulatives for math and science.


In the meantime, I dove into kindergarten readiness standards for the state of Maryland.


(Parents, if you choose to homeschool, deep dive into learning standards for your state and tailor from there. I will write a future blog post tutorial on how to break down a standard to help you ensure your child is fully prepared).


To be kindergarten-ready, Hazel needs to know the following:

  • ELAR - Letter recognition, phoneme recognition (what sounds do letters make), print concepts, ability to comprehend a text (from read-alouds), asking questions, and writing to convey meaning (both letters, symbols, and pictures);

  • Math - Number recognition, counting, recognizing numbers as quantities, shapes, patterns, measurement, data, colors, describing/comparing objects (e.g. big/bigger), sequencing;

  • Science - Scientific thinking (Maryland doesn’t use “the scientific method” as I remembered with the Next Generation Science Standards), formulate answers to questions based on observations, what things are made of and how they change, elements of the environment and weather, study of living things like plants and animals, and studying energy, motion, and sound;

  • Social Studies - Similarities and differences of cultures, exploring the community, understanding rules and laws, history, and career paths;

  • Physical Wellbeing and Motor Development - Healthy habits (nutrition, hygiene, etc.), physical growth, and body changes (our most recent conversation is explaining why Maggie is losing her teeth), fine motor development (using utensils, scissors, buttons, crafting), gross motor development (running, skipping, climbing, etc.);

  • Arts - Making art using various materials, moving the body in creative ways (like dance), singing, playing with musical instruments, and dramatic play (a.k.a. “make-believe” play); and

  • Social Foundations - Playing nice with others, teamwork, sharing, healthy boundaries, building friendships, emotional regulation, executive functioning, grit, self-direction, initiative, etc.

My plan in homeschooling Hazel is to integrate the subjects in ways that work cohesively and organically. Schools compartmentalize subjects as a matter of convenience and necessity, but we will have the freedom to schedule our days and learning around events in our community, the weather, and the direction of Hazel’s curiosity. I think interdisciplinary approaches (like the International Baccalaureate programs) are more aligned with the needs of the world and future careers, which will heavily influence my future planning. The guiding question that will direct nearly all of our learning will be “Who am I and where do I come from?”


Our first formal assignment: a self-portrait and show-and-tell oral presentation.


ACT 2: Maggie



Maggie’s last school year, kindergarten, ended dramatically with her missing the remaining school days of June from her three-week hospitalization (for details on that situation, read the blog posts from June 2023). Her summer academic activities included the Extended School Year program and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).


I frequently get asked questions about Maggie’s medical concerns. The short answer is Maggie continues to have seizures daily (we are opting for quality of life over seizure-free living. For her to be seizure-free means she is so medicated that she is unable to function or learn). Her seizures are fairly predictable these days, usually a burst in the morning after her morning meds (and she frequently takes a nap afterward and her seizures are most often when she is falling asleep) and in the evenings during bedtime. She wakes up, has breakfast, gets ready for the day, and with any luck, she stays up and seizures won’t reoccur until bedtime wind down at night. If she does end up napping in the middle of the day, she will usually have seizures, so I ask her teachers to try to keep her up so seizures are limited at home. That’s not always possible, but it’s a goal.


Maggie is exceptional, in so many ways. I am often fearful of the spontaneity of her condition, that from one day to the next anything could happen. I know this is the case with anyone, anywhere. The forces of fate in the multiverse of life could create or destroy, that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh with no discernible explanation. The boons and busts of life are not mine to understand.


Every day, I measure Maggie’s progress on a different scale than my other children. Did she smile? Did she laugh? Did she feel a connection with others (her sisters, her teachers, her friends, her extended family, her parents)? Did she see how much she is fiercely loved? Does she know inside how much we love her? I ask these questions about my other children, but with Maggie, I am painfully and acutely aware of the fragility of life, and my utter dependence on God.


I am hopeful that Maggie will continue to grow and learn. I am hopeful that she will continue to make gains with her functional communication device, and that she’s happy. I hope she enjoys first grade as much as she’s loved ECI and kindergarten.


ACT 3: Me



Me? Were you expecting Penny? No, not yet. She’ll start Preschool in the 2-year-old class twice a week when she turns two, but that’ll be a couple of months. Penny will follow Hazel and imitate her assignments in the meantime.


(Penny is at the toddler stage where she follows Hazel around everywhere and imitates her doing anything).


I spent nearly all of my life writing, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I actually started to share my work with others. In my self-reflection, I asked myself whether I wanted to simply write for myself or if I wanted to share it with the world.


I do recognize that my blog and writing are currently read by immediate friends and family (and thank you! I am deeply grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my work), but my reach is fairly limited beyond that scope. I recognize that if I want to launch my writing endeavors, to dust old manuscripts off from my vault (Magnolia in November is not my first book, just the first one I’d want to formally and traditionally publish), I need to literally put myself out there.


Writing is very much an introverted practice. Marketing, publicity, and social media are very much extroverted pursuits. To say that dabbling in content creation outside of writing is outside of my comfort zone is an understatement, but that is the reality of publishing these days. I used to imagine that publishing books was a process akin to sending in manuscripts to publishers as they were ready, giving them permission to make some tweaks, and in due time, the final product would be shelved in stores ready for readers. Maybe publishing worked that way a few decades ago, but it certainly doesn’t anymore. Writers are now self-promoters, engaged in community and audiences that were once limited to book talks or book signings at retailers. Besides, my biggest takeaway from the writer’s conference back in May was to build a platform.

So how do I do that? How to develop and align a brand? How do I prove to literary agents and publishers that I am a writer worth investing in? I am confident of the caliber of my writing, but what good is it if no one sees it, if no one reads it?

Hence, my first day of school as a self-directed, self-taught entrepreneur. (I’m going with the word “entrepreneur” because it better fits the business side of my goals). I’m sharing this intention with all of you because I believe that learning never stops. I’m learning new skills, I’m evolving with the times and the market, and I find the process of becoming more fascinating than the end product. What I mean is it’s easy to look at your successful idols in pick-your-industry, but not see the path that got them there. I’m sharing this journey in hopes that when I do get there (because I will eventually get there, as in my book titles prominently displayed on windows at bookstores and end caps), the journey will inspire others to take those first steps.


So what specifically am I learning? Tech tools like iMovie for video creation; SEO (search engine optimization) strategies to expand reach; marketing strategies and content creation tools; branding and audience (defining, honing, and expanding), and honing in on craft in writing (because I won’t lose focus that my goal is to be a published writer).



2 Comments

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Guest
Aug 29, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Will you be connecting with like parent's, in the same situation for socialization meet-ups for the little ones? I've seen parents of home schooled children in my community arranging times for the kids to meet in the park to give them that aspect of learning.

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Vanessa Forisha
Vanessa Forisha
Sep 12, 2023
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Yes. We regularly meet with other families for playdates and community events. Socializing is very important for their development.

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