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Sam School is IN session!

We kicked off Sam’s new experience this past Wednesday.
It seemed like the best choice; making his first day coincide with Zoe’s first day at her new school.
I’ll share a little about the first few days but the most important thing I have to share is that, after kind of ‘functioning’ on 3 to 4 hours of sleep for his first day of Sam School, Sam and I had a great time! Not only was it a successful first day but it was also exactly what I needed to boost my confidence. I know, without question, that I am equipped to do this job and… That Jen & I made the right decision to pull Sam out of mainstream public school!

So here we go…

Wednesday:
Early start! Zoe was up at 6:20am and everything went by in a blur. Before I knew it, our little family piled into the car and drove Zoe to school. Her new school is located about 20 – 25 minutes away (during morning traffic). After drop off and popping our heads into the parent coffee social, Sam, Jen & I made our way back home and soon Sam & I were off doing our thing.

Before this day arrived, Jen and I had decided that we are beginning Sam’s new journey with a period of decompression. During this time, we’ll work on testing out routines that he can rely on, shelving the routines that fail, and fine tuning the existing ones. We’re also constantly ensuring that we leave room for unpredictability wherever possible. Sounds a lot like ‘everyday life’, right?

Back to our first day.  I had to disguise my errands so I just turned them into adventures with educational opportunities. We started at Costco. Here are a few glimpses into what happened there:

  • Sam asked me questions about the prices of things he really liked. We discussed the cost/value of things and I mentioned the words ‘budget’ and ‘savings’ a lot. I could tell that these concepts were a bit more complex for him right now so I tried to break it down a little. This gave me the opportunity to talk about his ‘piggy bank’ and how many coins something would cost. We have a long way to go here, but then I never had it broken down for me in a relational way when I was a kid, so I feel very confident that we’ll be able to help Sam have a good relationship with money.
  • Sam likes to say that something costs ‘Ninety Nine Cents’ and of course Costco was the perfect place to satisfy his fixation. Most every price displayed seemed to have ’99’ in the price. This may sound pretty basic, but helping him recognize numbers is a major goal. He often asks “What this cost?” and “What this price say?” and I keep telling him. He learns a great deal about things this way.

After the Costco excursion, we drove out to Tryon Creek State Park in SW Portland. Sam LOVES being outdoors and once we parked and headed toward the nature center he said “Hey Dad? It’s a beautiful day with colors and sunshine!”

The Nature Center offers some excellent curiosities and made it easy for me to open some dialog with Sam about things like beaver pelts, raccoon prints, trees, ferns, deer, birds… It’s all there. When Sam was done he said “I want to walk in nature outside now”

Here are a few glimpses into what happened during our walk:

  • Sam was drawn to the educational information posts that are found at certain spots along the trail. He loved opening and closing them and asked questions about each one. The most entertaining one came about after learning about Raccoons and the word ‘Nocturnal’. We discussed what it means to be nocturnal and Sam made the connection that, he too was sometimes nocturnal.

We returned home after having lunch together and Sam got to spend some time with his Uncle Ryan.

The first day was a success. Everyone was happy; Mama was thrilled that Zoe loved school, I survived, Sam had lots of fun.

The second day found us with a few bumps in the road emotionally (for Sam) but we spent a bit of time together the first half of the day and after lunch he got to go to OMSI with Uncle Ryan.

Sam’s ‘bumps in the road’ came during his time with Uncle. Sometimes Sam will find himself in a situation where things are not going the way he had envisioned them to. So he reacts to that scenario in different ways. In this case, he wanted to ‘run away’ from his Uncle but the problem, of course, is safety. He did that twice and the stress had built to the boiling point. When they returned home, Sam burst into tears. He felt a great deal of remorse and guilt and asked to go out with me alone. He needed to reset. So we went out to get some groceries at a store that also had things like Monster High & Barbie Dolls, Lego & Nerf Guns.  Reset complete.

Friday was a short day for Sam School because Zoe has half days.

We started our morning adventures at SPIN Laundry Lounge.  Both of our kids LOVE Spin. How could they not?
Sam was an exceptional helper. He insisted on helping load the washing machines and taking the clothes out of the dryer (wet clothes are not his thing, so I happily handled that task).

The cafe in the lounge didn’t have their gluten free/dairy free treats available yet so we decided to go for a walk up North Mississippi Avenue.

We spent the next half hour walking up and down this street, looking into businesses, going into a few of the shops that were open early, and talking about our plans for the day. Once the laundry was done, it was time to hit the destination that Sam had been waiting for all week… SCRAP!

A quick note about SNAP – This place has been such an excellent place for creating things. Zoe attended a summer camp here a few years back and both kids LOVE looking at all the odds and ends and using their imaginations to dream up wild creations with the wares they have for sale here. I have lost count of how many hours we’ve spend making stuff & I love this place!

Here’s a little glimpse into how I turned this into important learning opportunities for Sam:

  • Before arriving at SCRAP, I explained to Sam that we have a ‘budget’. I explained that we have $4 to spend there and that he can’t spend more than that on supplies. I went into greater detail with things like:
    – “You will want to look at how much things cost. If you don’t see the price, ask me and I will help you find it”
    – “You might find something you LOVE, but it might cost too much. Remember that there are treasures everywhere at SCRAP and you shouldn’t feel pressure, just have fun!”
  • We hit his two favorite spots first: Doll Parts & Costume Parts. They also happen to be filled with higher priced items because many of the parts are vintage/hard to find. When Sam picked up a few $2 doll parts I held up four fingers and explained “This is how many dollars you have to spend. put two of my fingers down and tell me how much you have left after buying the one doll head?” Sam got it and put the doll head back.
  • We encountered things we didn’t expect to buy, but I asked Sam to tell me what he wanted to do with these items and he explained his plans for them. His explanations mapped out great plans so we had to get them.

I found some things for me, a cool vintage patch for Zoe, and we still ended up paying $4.25 (My treasures pushed us over and well… Dad gets to break the rules).

We wrapped up the day with some down time at home before we piled into the car to pick up Zoe.

It was a fantastic week.
We wrapped up our week with a lovely dinner with dear friends on an abnormally hot September evening.

Next week we’ll look forward to dialing in some daily/weekly routines; incorporating daily physical fitness, scheduling adventures with Uncle, mapping out time with the other folks who are on our ‘team’, and chores around the house.

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