Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Friday, May 10, 2013

PAT Graduation.

Four and a half years ago...January of 2008. I just found out I was pregnant, and me, being the "Have to Plan Everything Ahead" person I am, I went to tell the school nurse so I could get the ball rolling on my homebound paperwork. How would I have time to deal with all that once I was 6 or 9 months pregnant, planning for a baby, and focusing on school? I wouldn't.
She looked at me and smiled as she pulled out a manila envelope and placed it on her desk. She wrote my name on the list of other pregnant students. "Man, that list is long," I thought. 
My morning sickness had already begun and I was starting to feel it hit hard. The nurse got me a Sprite and some crackers and told me to stop by any time it got bad. 
She told me I would receive my first pass out of class soon because the school was starting a parenting class, the first of two, but the only one that lasted. 
I received my pass, as did Jessie, and not knowing what to expect, we went to the nurses office and sat in a circle with the other young parents in our school. Some faces I still remember. Some had children already, maybe more than one. Others were pregnant, almost due, or had just found out, like me. 
And after awhile, a red, curly headed, spunky young woman walked in. Late. Which I would later learn was normal for her. But it never did bother me. I remember learning her name, Tammie. I remember her talking about her daughter who was just born that past August, and how she kept her up late at night. Despite that, she was there, and she passed around blue folders filled with papers covered in infinite amounts of information about the group and about Child Development. Parents As Teachers they called it. It was a group made for parents to help guide them in being their Child's First and Best Teacher, which in turn they hoped would yield a higher graduation rate. (I also believe the group was one if the contributing factors to my decision to homeschool Samantha. I found such joy in being her facilitator, I just didn't want to stop. Anyway, enough about that...) 
I read a poem about being a young Mom. And looked through some pictures of babies. Oh, I just couldn't wait! Tammie jokes all the time that she remembers me dragging Jessie to the meeting and elbowing him every time he fell asleep (from working late) and telling him to pay attention and read the papers! 
We continued to meet in our group once a month through my entire pregnancy. I remember she had an activity for each girl in the group, appropriate for their child's age. Some of the ones I remember most were the ones she brought for a girl who was a grade below me, but who had a daughter a year or two older than Samantha. Particularly, a "Fishing with Magnets" Activity and a "Jumping Over the Line" Activity. And when Tammie ended up bringing the activity to my house a year later, it got me so excited! I collected a plethora of information on prenatal exercise, nutrition, and development. And once Sam was born, I collected even more information on child development. Each month was something new.

I aspired to be a Parent Educator, my dream job! I even job shadowed Tammie my 12th grade year. Going and seeing those precious young faces every day, enhancing the confidence of parents, so that they can teach their children to the best of their ability. Encouraging them in tough times. Being excited with them during the happy times. Now THAT is making a difference. And although I never did apply for the open position as an educator, due to my lack of the ability to drive, it is still something I think would be worth dedicating your life to doing. 

And before I knew it, I was graduating highschool early with a 1 year old child. One of my main concerns...I did not want to be out of the group. So we began home visits. Those were even better than being in the group, because now she could work with Samantha one on one and do the activities with her. The tennis ball and muffin pan activity being my favorite. The grocery shopping game being Sam's. And oh, how I could go back and list them all I am sure...One thing about Tammie, she was not afraid to get on the floor, eye to eye with the kids, talk and listen, joke and laugh, make silly faces and voices. Samantha just Loves Tammie, most days anyway. ;)

Tammie was there all through Samantha's muscle and development problems, back when we lived with my Mom. She was there when we moved into the apartment and were struggling with money and again, my inability to drive. (What was I thinking?) And now in the house. (All within just a few miles of each other.) I remember the times when I was keeping my little brother, Brennon, and Tammie was gracious enough to take the time out to find an activity they could both do together. Through all the changes we have made, graduating school, getting married, growing up together, moving...being in the Parents as Teachers Group has been our one constant. One of those things that I can remember since the beginning of it all.

After we began having home meetings, I got my first invitation to a group meeting. I was a little confused as to what that was, because when I began the group at school, we did not get flyers for the group meetings, but we decided to go anyway, and it was a BLAST! The first meeting-that I remember attending was to the Rock City Corn Maize. Samantha was young, but she had lots of fun, riding in the hay ride, on the cow train, but not so much the maize itself. I remember being on the hay ride and Samantha hugging Tammie's youngest daughter, who at that point was no longer an infant, but a toddler, a walking, talking, ball of energy. I started thinking of how I could not imagine Samantha ever being that old. What I did not realize was that we were only about a year away from that age, and my did time fly.

I saw a picture of Samantha and Tammie's daughter hugging in the quarterly news letter, and I had no clue that later on they would sort of become little friends. Now Sam can't wait to see Tammie's daughters at the group meetings. I remember going to swim with them one Summer, and how much fun Samantha and I had. And how I could not believe that we went from being in a strange room with this strange, fast talking, woman who always had a smile on her face and a voice impression to make, to swimming in their pool. Samantha, to this day, still remembers Tammie holding a floaty to her head and saying, "Look, I'm a flower." I doubt Sam will ever forget that, because every time she picks up a float now, she exclaims, "Look, Mommy, I'm a flower!"

So much has happened through our adventures in the Parents As Teachers Program. I remember so many group meetings, Christmas parties, Valentines parties, Storytime, Swim parties, trips to the Fire Station, GRADUATIONS...I remember the first graduation I attended. Sam was a baby, well, a little over one year old. And I thought, "Gosh, I would hate to be one of those parents, graduating the group, no longer getting the joy and community closeness it brings into their lives. And on top of that, their kids were turning 5! I just couldn't imagine....

But today I found myself in that very same spot I always thought I would never be in, just a few years ago. Today Sam graduated the PAT (Parents As Teachers Program). She stood in front of the other members of the group while Tammie presented her with a small plastic medal, which she absolutely adores and is very proud of, a certificate, which she has already hung on her bulletin board, and a drawstring bag full of goodies: a book, some pencils, crayons, glue, paper. She is just so proud of herself, as are Jessie and I. We got her a small graduation card just to show her we cared, and she has posted that right next to her certificate on the board. Five and a half years, including my pregnancy, in an amazing group, and now we have to let go. How I will Miss the learning experiences and the chances to get out in the community and meet other Moms, but hopefully this will not be the last we see of Mrs. Tammie. In fact, I know it won't be, so that makes my day a little brighter.

Tammie has been a wonderful Educator for us, as I am sure she has for others. I remember the support we received from her when Sam was having muscle problems. And how I emailed her during the first Summer I had off school with Sam, and she was super clingy. When she emailed me back, she had lots of good advice based on her experience with her youngest child. As a new Mom, it was nice to not feel alone. All the times she gave me a ride to make sure that I made it to the meetings so that we didn't miss out. And let me say, am I thankful for that! It as nice to get out of the house now and again when I didn't really have the opportunity to do it on my own. All the talks we have had about the stuff we have gone through personally, and the stages our kids have been through. And despite the ever so slight age gap and the "Parent/Educator Relationship" that must be maintained, Tammie has been a good friend to me. I am proud to say that she helped me along the way these last 5 years. And I definitely recommend the group to everyone I come across, especially young/new Moms.

And this may all sound so over dramatic, but the group really has changed my life. It is something I have known since I was just 5 weeks pregnant with Samantha. It has been my support system. My link to this community. And most of all, for those of you who have had a child graduate prek, it is like that for me. Since Samantha will be homeschooled, this is like her right of passage into the OFFICIAL days of her education as a "Kindergartener," if you will. And, although I am oh so ready to join all the fun support groups and extra curricular activities that go along with all of that, this will really be something I will Miss.

Our First PAT Meeting-Gosh, how we have all three grown!

Our Picture On The United Way Billboard-Fun Day!

One of my Favorite PAT Group Connections

One of Sam's Younger Days Group Meetings

I believe she had just turned 2.
One of Sam's Recent Meetings-4 Years Old
This was the First PAT Graduation we attended. The one where I couldn't imagine Sam Graduating...

One year later at the PAT Graduation...

Another year later...at a super fun PAT "Practice Graduation" We were the only ones to show up, because it was raining, so Sam got to pretend like she was graduating. There was plenty of food and we got to play games with Tammie's girls and Brennon. Loads of fun.

And Today....

Proud Mama
Proud Daddy
Happy Hour at Sonic to Celebrate
Reading Her Card
And This-Is Her. My Girl, who is basically a big kid now. It's Bittersweet, but I look forward to what is next.

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