Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

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Parental Winning

I spent this past Thursday-Saturday at a statewide Family Engagement Conference. It was amazing. I managed to hit 3 classes on time and even 2 more slightly late (thanks, kids) due to appointments and being the academic version of today’s Soccer Mom.

I was so inspired by so many of the speakers and the presenters and the people at the vendor booths. But the people who I found the most inspiration in were the other parents and Family Engagement Liaisons from the other school districts. Now don’t get me wrong. I DID learn a lot from the presentations. But the ideas that some of the other districts had on how to engage parents and their students in increasing the community outreach for our schools were nothing short of genius.

The high school I volunteer for in the Arlington ISD is Sam Houston High. My oldest graduated from there last year and the other 4 kids are all enrolled there this year. So in my ever-increasing desire to avoid folding socks and towels, I spend as much time and energy as possible assisting at the school where ever I’m most needed. I like working with the Family Engagement office because it seems to have its finger on the pulse of the majority of the school.

Our two FELs service a student body of 3,750 students and their families, over 600 faculty members, probably about 150-200 staff and administration members, and facilitate networking between all of them and our elected officials and community leaders and government, local business communities and post-secondary education institutions, as well as the elementary and junior high schools that feed into our school. They are superheroes working to build bridges and strengthen the Sam Houston Family on a shoestring budget.

We have engaged the local businesses to serve the needs of our community through sponsorship of recurring events such as “Coffee with the Principal” and “Teacher Appreciation Luncheon” held each month. We have provided booths for vendors to advertise their businesses by sponsoring our Open House events each semester, our Fall BackPack Rallies, our Math and Science Nights. We held our “Weird Science Night” this past October ¬†with a variety of local businesses participating, as well as the Arlington Police Department’s very own Crime Scene Investigator showing the students how science plays a great role in crime solving on a real life setting. It was a huge success.

This past weekend, I met people from Canutillo ISD, Houston ISD, and even Beeville ISD. I was amazed at some of the programs that these innovative parents and FELs have sown within their communities and the awesome results that they have reaped. I want to try some of their SO COOL ideas here and see if we can get Sam Houston in the AISD even better results. I think that if we can employ some of the ideas presented by the guest speakers and the other FELs and parents, the sky is the limit with how far we can take our kids. Thank you AISD and Title I for sending us to this conference. I plan to repay you in ideas and volunteer hours to help you continue to help my kids.