Near the end of February I received a bad news phone call from Claire's teacher.
>>>> Side note, WE LOVE CLAIRE'S TEACHER!!!
Bad news #1 Claire was assaulted at school, yesterday. Yep, Claire had been strangled the day before by a class mate. Her teacher went home sick right after and called the next morning. While Claire was being strangled her teacher intervened and Claire did not have any marks on her neck.
Bad news #2 Claire's teacher will be back next year but she is not able to finish the school year so a long term will take her place.
I pressed the little red end button, totally stunned, did she just say Claire was assaulted and her teacher isn't going to be in class anymore? The conversation kept replaying in my mind but no reaction came to me, should I be disappointed, angry, hurt, hesitant, hysterical... it all seemed appropriate but I felt nothing. I did however experience all these emotions and more in the following weeks. After talking to Nate we decided that some kind of plan to keep this from happening again would have to be in place before we sent Claire back to school.
Claire has a hard time communicating what happens at school and how things make her feel. We are still working on recognizing feeling hungry, feelings of stress are not in her emotional vocabulary. We had been concerned over the last few months that she was coming home agitated and was hitting and yelling a lot more. Nate and I try to spend as much time as we can volunteering in Claire's class and we had noticed there were some new kids with very difficult behaviors but we thought that what Claire was going through was just Claire. We started looking into behavior therapy and counceling for her way before the assult because she seemed to be slipping away. Claire was much less pleasant to be around, she was constantly sassy and talking back.
After I got the bad news I called a friend who also has a child in Claire's class. Surprise, her child was assaulted in the same way by the same student weeks before Claire. This changes everything, if having my child be attacked wasn't alarming enough now we know this has happened before. I called the other parents I knew in Claire's class, they all had been noticing negative changes in their children over the last few months: more stress, bad language, aggression, disrespectful behavior...
The following week the parents went together to a meeting with the district where the district basically said they had their eyes on the situation and we should feel safe there. I felt like, sorry ladies, my trust is broken, you are going to have to give be a better answer then that before I send Claire back to school especially without her teacher.
I did go back to school with Claire after the meeting to give them a chance but no, nothing had changed. Claire said goodbye to her teachers and friends and I tearfully took her home. My heart was so heavy. We were loosing so much: an amazing teacher, classmates Claire loves, Claire's first grade gen ed class we worked so hard to have, a great relationship with the school, our ability to choice Makenna into a great kindergarden next year... I cried every day for a week but I knew we were doing the right thing for Claire.
Long story short, we researched new schools which was a no go after looking into a few options and so I declared homeschooling so we would not be delinquent. Claire is truly enjoying her time at home and doing her school work with me (that was a pleasant surprise). I have never wanted to homeschool before but seeing the improvement in Claire over the last month has changed my heart. When Nate and I made the decision to keep her home we agreed that our first priority was Claire's character. Yes, we want her to be smart and have socially appropriate behavior but most of all we want her to be kind. After just a few weeks she was happier, more respectful, more compliant, totally motivated to do her home work (thank you iPad bribe). It has been such a relief watching Claire relax and enjoy her life and totally worth all the time and energy that goes into homeschooling.
Which brings me to Simon, I wish I could say that we handled all these changes and stress while having a foster baby better but I'll be honest, it was one of the hardest months Nate and I have gone through. We wondered if keeping Simon was doable with me homeschooling Claire. Would I be able to get Simon to all his parent visits, appointments and therapy while taking care of Makenna and Alice and homeschooling Claire not to mention Claire's therapy and appointments? That was the big question, we didn't want to rush to an emotional decision so we gave ourselves a few weeks to sort things out and create a new normal.
One night I was feeling very discouraged and started my bible study, not five minuets in I read this verse 1 Thessalonians 5:24 "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." What a timly reminder, it's not perfect but God knows and so we can move forward in faith believing that he will make a way. I don't think we have made it to our new normal yet but we are working hard to do our best every day to keep this family together and we are making progress. Claire's doing great, Simon is doing great and Mommy, well, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.