After being out of church for some time due to dh and me being on quite a spiritual journey, I felt a need for us to get back into church due to dd1 really missing it and us not having good relationships with extended family and me feeling like we were a little too isolated. We are also very income-challenged and not able to enroll the girls in many activities, So I felt like we needed a community of our own, and I really believe I found that community a little over a year ago, in our local Unitarian Universalist church.
Both our girls just absolutely love the children's program and never want to miss a Sunday. Dd1 is eleven and it's exciting to her to have so much time to play and interact with her peers, because in other churches we've visited, kids in her age group were expected to fit into a very structured format. Dd 2 is six (she turns 7 this Saturday) and really loves it, too. She and her best friend there take their My Little Ponies with them and get lots of time to immerse themselves in their imaginary worlds.
Dd2 has some special needs. She was actually in speech therapy for six months when she was four, which helped her tremendously and also helped us to become more aware of when she was mispronouncing words and gave us ideas on how to help her pronounce things correctly. The speech therapy was provided at our local children's hospital through Medicaid, but they let us know that after she turned five, if we wanted her to continue it, we needed to do it through the public schools. We would have needed to enroll her even though she wouldn't have had to attend school, but we would just need to take her to the school every week for her hour or so of speech therapy.
We decided to just keep helping her at home. I had been impressed back when she started her speech therapy, because there'd been a gap of a couple of months between her evaluation and the start of her therapy, and the speech therapist had been really impressed by the fact that dd had already made some progress, just on her own without any therapy. So, in addition to my desire to avoid enrolling her in ps, I also felt that she would continue to improve on her own so long as we remained attentive and helped her as needed.
We all understand her really well at home, so sometimes we don't realize that it's still hard for other people, mainly because she talks so fast. I also talk very fast, and when I was nine or ten, I needed some therapy to help me with properly enunciating my words as they were getting slurred together. So I realize that this is an important matter and I want to do whatever is best for my children.
In addition to the speech issues, dd2 was also evaluated as being sensory seeking through the Occupational Therapy department of our local children's hospital. I took her to occupational therapy for a while, but decided to discontinue it because the therapist was becoming increasingly focused on school readiness, to the point of battling with dd2 because she wouldn't sit at the table for very long.
Of course, in this case, we also learned a lot about our dd's sensory needs and are committed to helping her get the sensory stimulation she needs. The main thing that is noticeable to others is that she sometimes does this shaking thing with her arms, which, as the therapist explained, was her way of feeling where her body was in space.
Anyhow, when we started going to our new church, I told dd2's teachers about the shaking and the sensory seeking issue just so they wouldn't freak out when they saw her doing this. As I've already mentioned, she just loves her class and seems to get along really well with all the other children. One other teacher mentioned that she does just fine playing with the other children but it can be difficult to get her to stop playing when they want to have a story or some structured activity. But the problem has never been bad enough for anyone to come and get me.
At any rate, last fall, she was due to transition out of the preschool and kindergarten class and into the first, second, and third grade class, but after her first Sunday in this class, the children's director asked me if I would be willing for her to stay another year in the pre-k/k class because she just didn't seem to be ready for the more structured activities in the other class and she had been very disruptive in that first class. I said that would be fine.
Well, the children's director has just scheduled a meeting for this Wednesday with dh and me, to talk with us about dd2's special needs. She said that she doesn't think they can keep dd2 with the younger group for another year after this, and, apparently, she still doesn't think she'll be ready to move up.
One of my friends in this church has a son who no longer likes going to church; he prefers hanging out with his dad at the video arcade while she goes to church with their other sons. It seems that there are some similarities between him and dd2, in that they wanted to hold him back for a year, too, but she wouldn't hear of it because she felt that the teachers needed to adapt to all different kinds of kids. This friend leans toward unschooling though she said she doesn't unschool 100%, and she said that the leadership in the children's program have a very schooly mentality -- our children's minister and Sunday School director are both retired school teachers -- and they are having a hard time adapting to the fact that there are now all kinds of different families attending our church. Quite a few families from our local unschooling group attend this church.
The big difference between dd2 and my friend's son is that dd2 would be absolutely heartbroken if we didn't go to church every Sunday. Both our girls are very attached there, so it's not at all an option for dh and me to follow our natural inclination of wanting to withdraw and isolate ourselves right now. At the meeting, I plan to let our director know that I will start going to class with dd2; in this way, I can help her adapt to the activities or take her out if she's really not enjoying herself.
I don't know what else to do. Things were so easy back when our girls were younger and happier with just us, but now they both crave connection with the larger community...but dh's and my trust has been so broken by some experiences we've had with "concerned" family members and others who think we are very strange and that we are not doing a good job raising our children. So we'd kind of like to hole up and avoid the outside world -- but our girls really need the outside world. What to do?