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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Moving on...in so many ways

At the end of each academic year, our schools hold a moving on ceremony to transition each class to their next grade. It's a nice opportunity to celebrate the collective and individual successes of the students. It's also a chance for proud parents to snap photos and kids to strut their stuff as they move up in the pecking order, proud to be another year older and wiser. For our family, the phrase "moving on" has a deeper personal meaning.

Four of our 5 kids joined our family through adoption. All 4 come from Kazakhstan, a country on the other side of the earth; they all used to live in the orphanage system there. They all have suffered trauma and/or abuse. None of the 4 were babies when they joined us; they all have memories of their past life, demons to battle, and loved ones to miss. For our family, the moving on ceremony serves as a very real reminder of how far our kids have come in their transition from past to present. This is why I sit through each year's ceremonies with tears in my eyes...and this year was no exception. Here's how our kids finished up the 2010-2011 year:

My 6th grader!

My youngest son has only been in the country since early 2009. He struggles with FASD , PTSD, and a host of other issues related to trauma and abuse. In his first few months with us, he had to be hospitalized for his own (and our) safety due to his violent outbursts. He had to repeat 5th grade and is still below grade level academically...but he is moving on to middle school next year. I shed happy tears as I watched this sweet, smiling boy stand on a stage and sing songs with his classmates, something his anxiety would have prevented in the past. My heart swelled with pride as he was presented the 5th grade athletic award and his certificate of completion for elementary school. So much progress for our boy!

The high schoolers had their own ceremony in the morning. I barely had time to get settled in my seat when they started receiving accolades! I spent the next hour laughing and crying like a fool. The kids love it when I embarrass them by behaving like a proud mama...well, at least they didn't pretend not to know me.

Our Kate took home 3 awards this year, one for Significant Academic Achievement (think "Dean's List"), the 10th. grade English award (it's her 3rd year running to receive her grade's English award), and the 10th grade Science award. Kate's my one and only bio child so I can safely say she gets her love of literature from me. The science brain, however, clearly comes from her father. I should also mention that this girl is my baby, my diva, my drama queen, the only child who not only wanted siblings but much prefers her crazy life as one of 5 kids. How could I not get teary eyed as I watched my baby, now a beautiful young woman, confidently sashay up to claim her awards and enter her junior year of high school? And yes, dear, as one of your classmates said, you did look dope in that dress!!

Our Madiyar has been with us since 2009. When he first arrived in the US at age 13, he had a complete disdain for all things educational. He told me school was boring and he would never like it. He was far behind academically and was overwhelmed by the expectations of his grade level. His behavior was disruptive and his social skills were weak. As a result, he had to be removed from regular classes and taught one-on-one initially. Fast forward to this past week...our very proud young man took home an Academic Achievement Award (think Honor Roll), the Significant Academic Progress award (voted on by all the faculty), and the 9th. grade Fine Arts award. How could I not sniffle through that one?
My new 11th and 10th graders with their awards

The afternoon ceremony was for the lower school, grades 6 & 7, so I was back in my seat with my camera in hand for my two middle schoolers. It was another time of smiles and sniffles and memories for me.

Our Tanya has been with our family the longest of our KZ kids; she came to us at age 6 so she's had all of her education here in the US. Tanya has always loved school but due to her prenatal exposure to alcohol, learning and memorizing is difficult for her. This academic year was especially tough for Tanya. Even though she worked very hard, she was failing most of her classes for the first two trimesters. In the last trimester, with incredible support from her teachers and a monumental effort from our girl, Tanya's grades rose dramatically in all classes. Not only did she pass everything, she actually got an academic achievement award (again, think Honor Roll)! She also received a REACH award, a high honor at her school; she was nominated for this award by her Ancient Civilizations teacher who had been a witness to Tanya's improvements. (Her first trimester grade in Ancient Civ was 11%; she finished the year at 71%. For a child with memory issues in a class that's all about memorization and comprehension, this is akin to a small miracle.) There I was bawling like a baby...so proud.
Tanya and friend...look at that award winning smile!

Our Max came to us at age 8; he started school in the US in first grade so he's had most of his education here. He's inquisitive and a quick learner; he's been in our family long enough to feel secure and he was pretty stable through elementary school. However, he still struggles with anxiety disorder, PTSD, and abuse and abandonment issues. When he's anxious, he's angry...and this year, he's been anxious a lot of the time. He's also very disorganized and lacks focus; he has a diagnosis of ADHD. This was his first year of middle school, lots of changes and transitions...and change is tough for my boy. Then there's puberty...and so the year's been a bit of a wild ride...but he ended 6th grade on a very positive note, earning an Academic Achievement Award (Honor Roll, remember?) and receiving the 6th grade Science award for his scientific curiosity and "thinking outside of the box"! There I was, crying again as I watched my "I hate school, it's so lame, I'm just gonna fail anyway" boy proudly accept his recognition. Oh, my...I went through a lot of tissues...especially when he told me that he was  proud of himself!  It just doesn't get any better than that.

My proud new 8th and 7th graders

Moving on...that's what these kids are doing. They're all faced firmly forward and moving into a bright new future. They're dreaming big dreams of the places they'll go and the adventures they'll have along the way. I'm so glad I get to be a part of their journey!


Kelly and Sne said...

Thanks so much for the success stories. I find myself worrying about the future of my daughter given her pre-natal challenges, but this gives me hope. It is also a good reminder that life is a journey and we should relish every step of the way.

farmbeachgal said...

You're not the only one in need of tissues. Give all your extremely special, special kids a hug from me. I'm so proud of them all!!!!!!

Elisa LaSota said...

Oh My! I can still feel the touch of the little hands of
Kate, Tanya, and Max! It's been a wrinkle in time...
I am so proud of the little girl who once wore cowgirl
boots, the little girl that loved to rearrange papers
hanging on the board and the boy that made "squirrel
faces" when he wasn't very pleased with me! I also can
fondly remember the day at Forest River when you and I sat and talked about a sister for Kate! Yes, it seems
just like I blinked and they grew up! Thanks for sharing
this special day!


Allison said...

Congratulations to all of the childeren on their amazing accomplishments! How could you not burst with pride over that group :) I hope they enjoy a fun summer after their hard work. And mom too!

Best wishes,

Miss Marissa said...

Ok, do ALL your entries have to make me cry!? you have got some AMAZING kids!! congratulations to them all, especially my bffl, Madiyar. He has left an imprint on my heart that will never fade.