Thursday, September 4, 2014

Zoya Goes to Kindergarten!

Zoya's first week of kindergarten was successful! It's a work in progress, of course, always tweaking and reevaluating to make sure we have a plan in place that will benefit Zoya in the best way possible! We recently moved, and a huge part of that decision was moving to a smaller town so our girls could benefit from smaller schools and a close-knit community. We weren't sure if we'd send her this year, wait another year, try homeschooling, or WHAT! For some time I really thought we'd end up keeping her home and taking "a year of respite" for our whole family. It's not easy balancing all of the therapies, medical appointments, meetings to ask for or coordinate specific services, reviews of said services/programs, etc. We pulled Zoya out of her preschool program about a month before school ended because it just wasn't working. We were tired of her coming home feeling defeated and we were tired of feeling defeated! It was exactly what our family needed-some "quiet" (if you can call it that) time together with fewer places to run kids to and from. We needed time to just love one another and celebrate one another and remember what this life is all about.

So we moved in July and we knew in order to get an appropriate program in place for Zoya we'd need to make a decision ASAP. We met with the new district to discuss our options. All kindergarten programs around us are all full day. We really weren't sure if Zoya was ready for a full day program. She fatigues easily, and when she is tired her behavior declines greatly. Although her anxiety is much better controlled than it was over the spring/first half of summer, she still struggles greatly with the effects of being a neglected orphan for 2 years. She doesn't trust others easily and we often see behaviors increase in new situations....heck we always see behaviors increase with any adults other than US. It's frustrating, because with us, for the most part, she is very well behaved. She's still learning to trust new authority figures and really does best around her immediate family. With that said, she also thrives when she makes meaningful friendships with peers and feels valued. She learns really well with me as her teacher, in a 1-1 setting, but I also know she's learned so many things from her typical peer classmates that I'd been trying to teach her for a long time with no success! So we decided to opt for a hybrid type program, designed just for our special little Zoya girl :) The district has been amazing and so willing to work with where we are and what our needs are! Zoya goes to a typical Kindergarten class all morning and leaves at lunch time to come home. I work with her at home on reviewing skills they're working on in school, and since she's missing math I will be working a lot with her on a math program! So I'm sort of half homeschooling, but not "officially" ;) We have the option to increase her day slowly if we all agree that she's ready and will benefit from it. We will decide at the end of the year if we want to do full day kindergarten next year or move on to first grade. We feel really good about the start of her school year and know she's in a place with many people willing to iron out the details! We feel like her program is really unique to HER which is how it should be!

She's coming home giving me bits and pieces of her day, naming a few friends and singing some songs. She has been practicing her letter writing all on her own and when I got the paper home about what they were working on it all made more sense. I see her carrying over things from school into home (she's been raising her hand saying "me! me! me! pick me!" which I find hilarious! :) Nearly every day when we pull up to the school building she squeals in a high pitched giddy little girl voice, "THERE IT IIIIISSSSSSS!" I can tell she feels loved and valued and that makes my mama heart so happy. Our biggest challenge continues to be following rules and learning appropriate social skills. She happily shows me all her stickers she earns each day and then also tells me if she did anything wrong (will she always tell on herself??!! haha).

I think the one thing that has made this transition so successful thus far has been PRAYER. I have never prayed harder in my life than I have for THIS CHILD! We pray on the way to school each morning and Zoya shares some things she wants to pray about. I've been surprised by what she asks to pray about. I asked her what she wanted to pray about when I was done praying and I almost crashed the car when she blurted out, "Ukraine. baby. scary." This happened on the way to I'm thinking "Lord, why can't she just follow the rules and make this easy?" That's why...she's still struggling with the trauma she faced, in her own sweet little heart. It makes me tear up thinking about it. I don't know exactly what she's thinking in that little head of hers, but that was pretty telling for me and a reminder I needed. To go through what she's gone through and face such a big transition like this with such excitement (even though I now know in her heart she was/is a little nervous)...she is my hero.

I don't know what the next days, weeks, months, years hold for Zoya and her school experience, but I know we'll continue to take it one day at a time with the ultimate guiding goals that she feels SAFE and HAPPY. I'll keep praying my heart out because some days are just really tough when I feel we may not be making as much progress emotionally as I'd have hoped to have made by now. I am thankful for a God who is in the details and is capable of perfecting all that concerns my heart. His faithful love never ends, in the easy times, and in the hard!

We're really so excited for a great year for Zoya-a year of growing and learning and LOVING.

Up next, Mila goes to preschool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. Praying it continues to be a great fit for Zoya!

  2. Congratulations on finding the perfect setting for Zoya!! We too have struggled with this and finally found what is supposed to be the best ABA/Verbal Behavior program in PA for our Conor (he's 11). We are excited and hopeful.

    I will be wishing the best for Zoya; it sounds like you're definitely in a great school district!

  3. I emailed you about a year ago and we talked a bit about Zoya's education. I loved reading this post! I hope that when I become a teacher, I am able to work in a system that truly values its students and is willing to work to create the individualized program its students need. I will be keeping your whole family, especially Zoya, in my prayers as you all continue to adjust and she learns more and more things!