» living life Upside Downer

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    Jen & Rob write about living life 'Upside Downer'. Follow us through our honest, whimsical, and real observations as we raise two kids (one w/autism)
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summer sweetness

I’m standing on the edge and looking down into the valley below. The colors are bright & vibrant, a canvass that feels warm & inviting. I’m excited to get down there but the narrow path that leads us there looks a little treacherous. My heart pounds & I wonder if I should have even taken the path? I come to my senses and the resolve to make the journey That’s kind of how this all feels right now.

Beginning tomorrow, we will embark on that path that seems a little scary & a little daunting. Zoe goes to a new school and Sam begins the decompression of not returning to school.

I think that one of the things that is making my heart ache just a little is that this weekend signals the end of Summer.
This past summer break has been pretty lovely and I want it to keep it going into the Fall. That’s just not possible right now.

Jen and I are still working on mapping out what Sam Schooling is going to look like. I would imagine it will take a few months to create a good foundation and then I feel adamant that we’ll never look back or yearn for something that looks remotely close to what school used to look like for Sam.

I have some projects in the works that I look forward to sharing in the weeks to come. The kids rooms will finally take shape, some projects for my woodworking endeavors, and the project that has been dogging me all summer… the water table. This will give Sam a space in the back yard to make potions and give his dolls baths and such. I have a feeling that the warm weather will be sticking around for a month or more so I’ve got to get cracking on that.

In the meantime, we will begin this month by embarking on the search for a new team of therapists. We need to get Sam back into a regular routine with Occupational, Speech and Physical Therapies. We would have done these more over the past year, but we lack the funds to keep paying out of pocket for the kind of therapy that he needs. This is one of the most frustrating hurdles especially when he makes huge progress after these therapies.

So, I am working on creative ways to raise the funds for this vital component of ‘Sam School’ and am open to any suggestions you might have. My latest idea is to take the proceeds from the sale of my woodworking creations and use them to fund therapy sessions.

Here we go!

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We’re going to call it “Sam Schooling”

Did you just hear the sound of Jen & I exhaling?
Don’t worry! Everything is fine!

This is what’s going on:
Jen and I just returned from a meeting with the Principal of the school where Sam attends school. We have informed him that Sam will no longer be attending the school this year and that we are going to be embarking on home schooling him.

Here’s the great thing about this Principal… He was supportive and agreed with our decision. The one thing that really stood out was his comment that he made about seeing videos and photos of Sam this summer (we follow each other on Instagram). He said “When I started seeing how expressive he was in the pictures and photos, the way he smiles so wide, I realized that this was a side of Sam I never really saw at school.”

That was profound to hear and a testament to just how amazing this man is… He IS a champion for the kids and we will miss our daily interaction with him.

I cannot begin to tell you just how huge the relief was for Jen and I. To have the support from a respected educator means the world to us.

So here we go!
We are doing this!

We are going to do our best to document the adventure because I hope that it may help someone else out there? If anything, it’ll help to have a platform for us to share information, ideas, and get feedback.

In all of the research into ‘home schooling’ a special needs child we had been drawn to a movement that is called ‘Unschooling’ but once we dug deeper into this movement, we decided that there isn’t a specific formula we can follow because Sam is… well… Sam.

So Jen came up with the term “Sam Schooling” and I dig it so that’s what we’re going to call it.

So here’s a basic overview of what we’ll be doing (and I will get into more detail on the day to day as we move forward into the Fall):

  • Physical Fitness – This will happen daily, several times throughout the day. There will be lots of nature walks, hikes, swimming instruction, climbing on play structures, and more.
  • Therapies – We’ll be assembling a team of therapists to provide Sam with private Speech, Occupational & Physical Therapy.
  • Sam’s Team – We have folks who will come regularly throughout the week and they will work with him on reading, taking him on field trips, working on epic art projects & so much more.

You may be wondering why we have decided to embark on this adventure?

For the past 2 years we have noticed that, while Sam does ‘well’ at school, he is not thriving. While Sam’s developmental delays result in delayed academic achievements, the main concern came from the fact that he was not thriving. Sam’s senses were overloaded when a classmate would have an emotional outburst (he is and has been an intense empath) and one of these episodes would derail him emotionally & behaviorally for days.

When Sam is at home during the Summer (or even during long breaks from school) we have noticed that his development explodes by leaps and bounds. So naturally, this path we decided to take seems really promising.

What it all comes down to is this… It is simply not possible for the school district to work with us on the type of educational plan that would really help Sam. They do not have the resources or staffing to provide the kind of specialized instruction that our son needs to thrive. So we’re doing it our way.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

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… and we’re back!

[Rob]: In the last days of summer we return after a long hiatus from the upsidedowner blog. So much has happened since our last post that it’s dizzying.

Zoe is 11 and Sam is 9.
We’ll have one in middle school and another in the 4th grade

Summer has been filled with creeks, lakes, beach, ocean, thrift stores, trips to Target, art projects, a big road trip, friends, and the excitement of new adventures on the horizon.

Over the next few days I will be sharing tales about the new shift in our family and our upcoming adventures in education.

It’s nice to be back and I look forward to making sure that you hear from all of us!

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Easter Weekend – Saturday Edition


Welcome to our family blog (those of you coming to us from Spectrums Magazine)

It’s warm here today! The first time we’ll surpass 70°F this year (and we haven’t done that since mid-October of last year).

Here’s where we stand today:

  • 3 of the 4 of us are suffering from allergies
  • The premiere issue of Spectrums Magazine is out this weekend! Look who’s on the cover!
  • We’re going to dye Easter eggs later this afternoon (that should be an adventure)

We’ll have more posts up beginning tomorrow. We hope to have lots of new visitors to the family blog as the amazing magazine makes its rounds.

Until then, the ‘McDowner’s’ are wishing you much happiness on this sun-kissed weekend (if you’re in the Pacific Northwest).

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Holy smokes! It’s March!

As each day passes we collectively desire to make more and more posts. Then life happens. Then we find that weeks go by and turn to months and now it’s 5 months from our last post. We’re approaching the birthdays season (Jen, Zoë, Sam, and Rob) beginning this Thursday and ending in the beginning of June.

Lots of things have happened.

We were able to buy Sam the iPad Mini.
Sam broke his arm.
Rob is suffering from the effects of vertigo (and we suspect he has Meniere’s Disease).
We traveled to California unexpectedly recently.
We’re excited for spring and eventually summer’s arrival!

We just keep moving forward.

We’ll have more updates this week as we’ve recently unearthed some old videos and it should be very interesting to look back and be amazed by how things have progressed.

We’re all wishing you a happy spring!

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