I’ve already covered a lot of reasons why this place is incredible. No doubt, The Morris Center is in a category of its own. But this is HARD. Like, really hard. Take a minute to put yourselves in our shoes. Imagine your kid has dyslexia (and some of you don’t have to imagine it because you already live it). Every day at school is a struggle. Every day your child has to work harder than the majority of his/her peers. He doesn’t love school and has been counting down the days to summer since the second week of the school year. Third grade is almost over and she can already taste the first sign of summer….the tiger’s blood sno-cone from the portable stand by the red light near your home. The boat is out of storage and he can’t wait to wakeboard and do donuts on the tube in the middle of the lake. This was us in April…. anticipating sweet summertime.
Suddenly, things change. Due to unique circumstances, our plan to be at The Morris Center in November was expedited to NOW! We literally had 2 weeks to pack up and leave. In that rush to get things done, we were met with strong resistance from our kids. Lots of pleading, lots of tears. A sad little girl saying “please don’t make me go now. You’re ruining my life. I’ll miss sleepovers and all the fun camps with my friends.” A clever adolescent using his math skills and new, not so nice addition to my name: “Hello, worst mother ever….So let’s do the math, From the start of 6th grade to the end of 7th grade, how many days of school will I have without a summer break?” To put it lightly, they were MAD! It’s a terrible feeling as a parent to know your kids think you are punishing them when you’re actually trying to save them. But alas, we persisted, reminding ourselves this was the best thing for them, and if we can just get there, they will understand.
We are now in week 6 of the program. The fatigue is setting in. They are no longer pacified by the promise of “fun weekends doing Florida things we can’t do back home.” In fact, they would choose to relax and chill over boogie-boarding the waves of the ocean. But we still plan activities because we know idle time leads to negativity. Too much time has them imagining all the “fun” their friends are having back home while they are in “school” all day (the grass looks greener than it actually is since the coronavirus has affected everyone’s summer plans…but you can’t convince them otherwise). They love keeping up with friends, but each baseball tournament, camp re-cap, lake day picture reminds them of what they “would be” doing if they were home. They haven’t seen their dad in 58 days. Being homesick is their reality.
And let’s talk about the work they are doing at The Morris Center. These kids are working HARD. This isn’t like regular school at all. This is six, 1-hour sessions per day of one-on-one instruction. There is no lag time, no mindless drawing in their notebooks during instruction, no zoning out while the teacher works with other students. No recess with friends on a playground or lunch dance parties in the cafeteria. There’s no distractions to slow the pace of learning. This is intense instruction with 10 minute breaks in-between. These kids are doing a week’s worth of the online NOW program every single day! Each week is a month’s worth of sessions. Their afternoons are structured and routine: come back to the tiny house (aka, our apartment), chill for 30-45 minutes with a snack and some youtube, Minecraft or Fortnite; bike riding or swimming, dinner, downtime, then bedtime. As parents, we have observations and meetings throughout the week to keep up with their progress. We are trying to offer well-balanced, nutritious meals to give them the right fuel. We are enforcing bedtimes since their brains do the rewiring when they sleep. We are waking them up early, packing lunches, fixing breakfast and sending them back to another full day of grueling thinking. All of this DURING THEIR SUMMER BREAK. We are tired, we are homesick, we are living in super tight quarters (3 beds, one room). The struggle is real!
But yet, these kids are resilient. They show up every day and give it their all (for the most part…the adolescent boy has recently gained some testosterone-induced courage that has him acting a little out of character….let’s just say he’s determined to be miserable and wants everyone else to know by his body language just how miserable he is….but nothing The Morris Center can’t handle). Sure, they are emotional at the end of the day and have moments that make us mamas want to barricade them in their rooms. But as kids with dyslexia, they are accustomed to having to work harder than others so they handle this better than most. The good in struggle is the way it will prepare them for life. Life is hard and it doesn’t play fair. Everyone will face hard times. When kids that always succeed face such times, they often can’t or don’t know how to handle it in the best way. However, kids like mine will look struggle directly in the eye and proceed forward. They won’t back down. They’ve learned how to overcome and find success. They won’t be victims of the unfairness of life. Instead they will be empowered by those moments and rise above them.
This week was hard. I felt defeated by the emotional roller-coaster that was only half-way over. I didn’t know how I would possibly make it and continue to be who they needed me to be. And at my lowest point, I was given a gift. Something to remind me why we are here. Something to show me that this is working. It was a conversation with my daughter on the way home one day:
A: I am reading “Ramona, Age 8” but Dr. Conway said I needed to be reading a harder book so now I’m reading something else.
Me: That’s great, A. I’m so proud of you. Let me ask you….what do you think about all this really? Do you think it’s helping you?
A: (no hesitation). Yes, it’s making reading easier.
Me: Oh yeah? What’s easier about it?
A: Well you know big words, like “complicated.” I used to have to sound it out like “co-m-p-li-cate-ed.” And now I just say “complicated” all together.
Me: That’s so awesome, A, and it makes me so happy to hear you say you can tell that it’s helping. And we’re really only about half-way through. What do you think it’s going to be like to read when we finish?
A: It’s going to be even easier. It’ll be like glass….smooth all the way.
Bam! There’s my rainbow through the clouds. The ah-ha moment I’ve been waiting to hear. I feel empowered to push through. We can totally do this, together.