Sunday, August 7, 2011

And so it begins...

August is here and the calendar is already full. I'm attending a meeting next week that will focus on school board elections. A group I'm becoming part of called Golden Beads supports public Montessori, and I'm excited to be part of it. I think we're going to host candidate forums for school board candidates.

We've also got a meeting coming up for our joint Site Councils. I'm glad we started the process of collaboration with the other public Montessori school in the district. I hope this is going to be the start of a strong relationship with them.

I haven't been there yet, but I hear the materials have been moved to the temporary school and are ready to be arranged on the shelves. Everything will be moved to this new location, and we expect to be there for the 2011-12 school year while our new school is under construction on our site. It is very exciting to see this happen.

In the meantime we're moving in to a new home, and I'm trying to deal with all of the necessary things that go along with my job as executive editor of the newspaper. My life is a schedule of meetings.  I'm so glad we had a nice vacation in June, and that July was pretty laid back and easy. We had almost a week without kids in the house.

With this move I'll be selling some of our Primary (Children's House) and Lower El materials. I'm hoping to post the list soon on Montessori Swap.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Still going

I realized it had been a very long time since I posted anything on this blog. We are still Montessorians, and still in the public Montessori school. We got our letter from the district saying Sean is accepted, since we live out of district.

As the end of the school year approached things got ramped up quite a bit. Our site council meetings were focused on end of the year stuff, including a new logo, and the question of whether the school board would approve our new building.

Just as school was ending the board met and approved the construction to begin this summer. We will be moving temporarily to another school building that is currently empty. It is close by, so it won't be far to go. We are really happy that we get the building that was designed for our site. We had already chosen colors, etc. and it was designed by a guy who has a Master's Degree in Montessori school design. The idea of scrapping it and moving to a new site with a mega building was not appealing to any of us.

Our summer has begun, and we started with a bang. We took a long 10-day road trip. We drove to Nevada through Idaho, and we camped all along the way. On our return trip we took a different route and came back through a little bit of California and into Oregon. It was so much fun.

We saw all kinds of interesting things along the way. We spent a day at Silverwood theme park and water park and had a great time there.

Chuck and Sean had fun on this ride.

As we made our way through Idaho we stopped at a visitor center in Grangeville and learned about the Tolo Lake Mammoth. We saw fields of yellow and it turns out they make canola oil from that plant.

We had never spent time in Idaho, so it was all new to us. We followed a winding road and stayed off the main highways. It was so beautiful.
Idaho is gorgeous.

Our map indicated small towns along the way through Nevada, but most of them were ghost towns. They consisted of one or two buildings that were either boarded up, had closed signs on them or were just abandoned.
I won't go into too much detail because I have blogged about the trip  here on my other blog site.
It was so much fun!

We're enjoying the summer break. It's nice to have some time off from all of the responsibilities and meetings. I'm sure by the time school starts I'll be ready to jump back into it.

Sean is off on another vacation with his dad, and when he gets back we have a full July schedule with Vacation Bible School, and other events. August is already filling up, too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

CASA Project wraps up

Monday was our last meeting for the CASA Project for the school district. We started out with several groups reading books and forming book clubs. We met three times and gave suggestions for ways the district can close the achievement gap based on the books we read. The fourth meeting was centered around an action plan, and specific ways to change what is happening in the district to better serve at-risk students.

I have learned a lot, and enjoyed sitting in those rooms with so many interesting, passionate, dedicated and intelligent people. My hope is that the work we did will make a difference in the lives of educators, administrators, and especially the children and youth who are struggling to achieve success.

I came away with a lot of insight and also some questions. I really believe we have to help students now who are having a hard time feeling a part of the school structure, and are not successful in school. But I also wonder if it's time to revisit who sets the standard for achievement and how it is measured.
Who decides what achievement is? Is the definition, which clearly is high test scores and good grades on a report card, still working for our children?

As a Montessori mom, and one who used the materials to homeschool, I have a different view of success and achievement. I really don't think a test score or report card is a true measure of a child's knowledge.
One of our suggestions for closing the achievement gap was to allow schools to make their own decisions about their needs. Districts want to make the most of the dollars they have, and I get that, but our children need a different approach from the cookie cutter mentality.

What works well for one school, such as an extended day, may not work at all for another school across town where the demographics are completely different. A recurring suggestion was student voice. It was one that came out early, and so the fourth meeting included students from a nearby high school. One of them sat in on my group the last night of the project.

I suggested that giving students a voice needs to happen early. It is already happening in Montessori schools, but the climate of the traditional classroom needs to change to be more of a collaboration between the teacher and the student, so the students feel empowered and responsible for their own education.

Another recommendation was to genuinely care about and accept each child. Everyone in a school must have a real interest in each child's background, culture, needs and abilities.
It's what I would hope for every child who walks into a school building. Unfortunately, I don't think it happens often enough.

There are so many things that can be done to right this wrong--students who are failing and dropping out. If I had to sum it up into a few words I'd say this: Always come from a position of love. When we come from a position of love into any situation the transformation that occurs is amazing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Island Hop

So on Friday we took off for Vashon Island to see the bicycle in the tree.
We've been wanting to see this for a while. We've been reading a book by Berkeley Breathed, "Red Ranger Came Calling," for a few years. You can read about it and other Berkeley Breathed books here. 
I've blogged about this before, and our excursion to Seattle to see the play based on the book put on by Book-It Theatre. (Lots of fun!!)
You can read more about Book-It Repertory Theatre here.
Since reading the book and seeing the play this Christmas we've talked about exploring Vashon to find the bicycle. Last week Chuck was off, I had a little bit of time, and Lilly was here for a few extra days. It was the perfect time to go.
The weather was awesome! We've had a lot of rain, but Friday was beautiful.
If you ever get to Vashon and want to see the bicycle, go to the left as you exit the ferry and keep going until you come to a stop sign. Stop at the little store on the left side of the road for directions.
We pulled into the parking lot of an old broken down building and the bicycle was in the forest behind that building.
Here's a little tour in pictures:
Almost ready to dock on Vashon Island.

A tiny creek, or wet area, you must pass over to get to the tree with the bike.
There it is. Real. And old.

Lunch break.

We went to see the lighthouse on Maury Island.
It was closed until May. We did enjoy the beach.
Sean loves it. He'd rather be on the beach than anywhere, I think.
He found some friends.
Lilly found some ladybugs.
I found this really cool log to photograph.
This container ship passed by and created big waves.
The kids played in the surf and got completely soaked and filthy.
Lilly opted out of that kind of fun.
We had a great day. We left the car below and went up on deck
to enjoy some scenery.
The ferry ride was short and a bit breezy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

School business

Sean's teacher mentioned she was attending a seminar on children and trauma, and I was anxious to hear how it went. She sent a newsletter home with information about it, and asked for anyone who could teach the children stretching exercises. She said she learned in the seminar that it helps the children come back into their bodies.
So I suggested to Sean that he could teach some Yoga because he had it at his previous school. He wanted us to teach them together. So I cleared it with the teacher and we did an hour or so of Yoga with small groups last week. Some of them were more receptive than others.
I want to continue to do it as long as they are interested. I believe it is beneficial in so many ways.

We reached a crescendo last week so I was really ready for Spring Break.
We've been unsure of the status of the new school. We were scheduled to break ground on the new building on our site this month. Now there is talk of other alternatives, and it has everyone really stressed and concerned about where our kids will be attending school, and whether the public Montessori program will fail.
I really don't think it will fail, but I'm also concerned about too many moves for teachers and students.
As chair of the site council I invited another school's site council to join us for a joint meeting, and also invited the superintendent of the school district to come talk with us about dreams for Montessori in the district.
Both meetings went well, and I hope we can begin to collaborate more with the other Montessori public school. I also hope to invite the superintendent to more discussions as well. He is very approachable, open to suggestions and willing to explore new ideas.
It looks as if we will probably move to another school for a year, then hopefully move back to our site and into a new building.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"The Trouble with Black Boys"

When I first read that title I was shocked. It brought up a bit of defensiveness within me, but it also intrigued me. I decided it would be a good fit. It's the book my boyfriend and I are reading as part of a project within the school district Sean attends. Community Awareness for Student Achievement is designed to bring together community members to study the impact of poverty and race on student learning.

I wanted to be part of it for a variety of reasons. First, I'm a white mom raising a biracial boy. I invited Chuck to do this with me because he has become a big part of Sean's life. He really is helping me raise him and I think it's important for both of us to know more about the issues facing biracial boys these days.
I'm also very passionate about education and believe we should all be doing more to figure out why these boys, especially, are falling through the cracks.

Last night was our first meeting at a high school in the city. We were served dinner, received our books and were put into book club groups. Child care was even provided by the YMCA.

There are nine in our group. We met our facilitator and went to a classroom and got to know a little bit about each other. We then decided to divide the book into chapters, with a couple of people taking each chapter as a focus. Our next meeting will focus on the first half of the book. We will meet one more time to finish up the book.

These nine people are from different ethnic and professional backgrounds. I think we all have a unique perspective and it's exciting to be part of this project. Our facilitator was in high school during desegregation in the South. There are two biracial participants, one is a teacher and the other works with at-risk youth ages 16 to 24. There's a woman from Cambodia who works with at-risk students, an Asian principal of an elementary school, a white principal, a white nutritionist who visits elementary schools to teach nutrition, Chuck who grew up in a diverse environment with friends of all colors, and sees all types of family situations as a firefighter,  and myself.

We will read this book as other groups read other titles: "Teaching with Poverty in Mind," "Can We Talk About Race," "The Global Achievement Gap," "Lessons from High Performing Hispanic Schools," and "Whatever it Takes."

Each group will share how new ideas from these books can be incorporated into the way the district educates students.

This district does seem to be very forward thinking and willing to embrace new ways of teaching. There is a renowned psychologist and doctor who is talking tonight about the differences between girls and boys and how best to educate them, and this idea has been implemented at one school in the district.
I won't be able to attend, but I'm hoping to hear from either a parent or teacher who is going.

Maybe it's a coincidence, but it does seem to me the movie, "Waiting for Superman," has gotten the attention of educators and parents. This district, at least, is trying to look at ways to improve.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A glimpse into a Montessori Classroom

Every week Sean's teacher sends home a newsletter of what they've been doing in class that week.
It's really amazing. I've shared my amazement before and liken it to a Christmas letter every week. I always feel like I've been there when I read these newsletters.
So here's a little taste of what's been happening in Sean's class:
To officially start our Africa unit we danced to South African music. I was so happy when I saw a large group of students grab hands and dance in a circle together. They did this without my prompting. This pleased me to see the high level of cooperation. Caleb also wanted to model to us some Ehtiopia dance moves and many I remembered from my travels. We mirrored what he taught us with big smiles of joy spread on our faces.
We started by looking at a piece of fabric I bought while vacationing in Accra, Ghana. As we passed it around we took time to smell, touch and examine it. 
Later in the week we combined our counselor topics of needs and wants with our African study. After reading part of a book and talking about the deserts in Africa we brainstormed which kind of needs and wants they would have.
We got some great penpal letters in the mail from Nigeria and separated in the class to silently read them and cherish the words we read. Afterward we talked about what type of needs they might have. Jayla suggested an envelope because they sent their letters in our envelope that Rowan had decorated.

She always includes something on each subject, and provided a lot of information on what she has presented for math.
Most of the children have not had Montessori before, so she is teaching small group lessons about the geometric solids. She also introduced fractions.
They worked on poetry, sentence structure, wrote letters to their penpals and did a lot of work with water through a science program and played in the snow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What we don't say can still hurt

I've been loosely following the story of the teacher Natalie Munroe who posted negative comments about her students on her blog. I've read posts about it on Facebook, followed some comment threads and watched a blurb from Good Morning America where she defended her actions.
She claims she has never said any of those things to her students.
I was disturbed by her attitude, but equally so by some of the comments on those posts from other teachers defending her.
One of Natalie Munroe's comments was, "There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid."
I read over the comments people left and began to think, OK, maybe they have a point. I'm not a teacher and don't know what it's like to do it on a daily basis.
So today I talked to Sean's teacher and asked her if she was following this story. She hadn't heard about it. I didn't give her specific comments because Sean was there as we talked, but told her the comments were very negative.
I asked what she thought, because I don't know what it's like to be in a classroom every day. And I know she has been struggling to maintain order in the classroom lately.
She was saddened by what I was telling her and said this woman should not be a teacher.
We talked about how facial expressions, body language, everything is conveyed to the children and they know even without you saying it.

I've been praying for her this week. She was having a hard time with one student and I have spent time in the classroom and know the struggles that child is having, and bringing into the room. She was frustrated and not sure what to do. Everything she had tried was not working. We talked about how there had to be an unmet need there, and she was trying to figure out what it could be.
Today she said they have had a great week and he is working on a behavior plan. He makes a goal for himself and when he reaches that goal he gets to choose what he would like to do, such as go to a special place and read a book. She said it is working, and she is pleased.
God Bless all the teachers who take the job seriously and try their best every day to be the best they can be to every child in their classroom.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Working with a young author and an illustrator

Last month I dropped Sean off at his classroom door and a couple of boys in his class asked if I would help them by editing their book. They said they were writing a book, and they want to get it published. They knew I was an editor, and wondered if I could take a look.
I promised to come back the following Monday and do just that.

These boys are in second grade. They collaborated on this book, compromised, and came up with a story. One is the author, the other the illustrator. The illustrations were images he found of clip art and photographs, but he had to do the work to search for those illustrations that would best convey the meaning of the words on each page.

They met with me after I had a chance to look at it, and I went over each page and why I made my marks. It was amazing to listen to them talk about their book and how serious they are about publishing it. They also bickered over the content, and the illustrator commented that if he were writing it he would have worded some things differently. The author said, "Yeah, but you're always asking how to spell, and that's why you're the illustrator."

They both asked me if I knew of a publisher who would publish it for them. I explained that newspapers are a little different from book publishing, and publishing can be quite expensive. I offered alternatives, like using regular copy paper and binding it with a notebook type cover, but they weren't going for it. They wanted a hard bound copy with a spine.

Then they decided they needed an agent. They asked if I knew any agents that would be their agent. I didn't, but encouraged them to keep going with their idea. They plan to make a pretty big book, and talked about how they have to finish it this year because the illustrator is moving in the summer and won't be returning to the school.

As I left they were planning the next chapter and talking about how to find a publisher.
I just love the freedom of Montessori. These boys are free to explore their passion and spend time learning and working on something they love to do. I see so many lessons in what they were doing, not the least of which is collaboration and compromise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Test Anxiety

Wow, I really didn't see this one coming.
Everything I've read about Montessori is non-testing, but there is some kind of district-wide testing this week. I know it isn't unique to the public Montessori, because one of the parents of a first grade student at the the private school Sean attended told me there were timed math tests for the Lower El.
I'm not a fan of testing. I won't go into all of the reasons because I think I'd be preaching to the choir. I also don't like grades, and I've made that more than clear during our site council meetings and in talking with teachers at the school.

So I knew these tests were coming, but it didn't occur to me that they would be a big deal to Sean. Boy, was I wrong. I forgot they were this week, and he was out of school Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and also on Tuesday for a teacher work day.

Yesterday he had tumbling at 8 a.m., so the day started an hour earlier than normal. I picked him up from school and he mentioned that he had tests and several times said his teacher said she couldn't repeat, so they had to get it on the first time.

We came home and he played with his friend. Chuck came for dinner before he had to go to a meeting and we all ate dinner together. Sean's friend stayed late and I was working and kept thinking someone would come over to get him soon. I looked up and it was 8 p.m. Wow. So I made the friend go home and quickly shuffled Sean off to bed. We read some poetry together from Shel Silverstein's "Falling Up" and then I tucked him in. He was restless. I sat with him for a while and then said goodnight.

Chuck came back after his meeting and Sean was still restless. He was in and out of bed many times before Chuck arrived, and said he couldn't sleep. "I hate tests!" he yelled. I tried to talk to him about the test and encourage him to just do his best and not worry about it. After several times of putting him back to bed and attempting to calm him, Chuck took over. He is so patient and kind and gentle. He's a Godsend.

Chuck came out of Sean's room and told me he tried to explain that sometimes tests are the way teachers figure out what they are supposed to teach. He wasn't sure it helped. It probably did a little, but Sean was wound up.

I think it was probably 11 or later when he finally fell asleep.

I walked in with Sean to class this morning so I could talk to his teacher and let her know this is a big problem for him. She is great too, and asked him what they could do to make it easier for him to get through the testing. I think just having her validate his feelings about the test, and her willingness to help him find a way to calm down did wonders.

When I picked him up this afternoon she said they put a Star Wars book beside him while he took the test so he could look at something that made him feel happy if he got too anxious or worried during the test. She said he also seemed to realize he was very prepared for the test and it wasn't as big of a deal as he originally thought.

 When I asked about it on the way to the car he said it wasn't bad, and some of it was really easy. He admitted some words he just didn't get so he drew whatever he thought should be there.

He hasn't mentioned it since we've been home, but he usually opens up with his feelings at bath or bedtime.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Godly Play: The Holy Family

When we change colors in the church we tell the story of the Holy Family in Godly Play.
This Sunday was the Sunday to tell this story because we were off from Sunday school the first Sunday after Christmas.

Unfortunately the donkey and cow are MIA, but for the first time I had no children in my class on Sunday. I don't know what the later service Sunday school teachers did for the cow and donkey. I hope we can find them soon. There were  a few things amiss when I came into the room, so I tried to put things back the way they were, but I'm really still learning where things go myself.

There was a major mishap a couple months ago in the late class. The desert box has residual stuff left over from that day. Styrofoam. Our whale that goes with the story of Jonah has something in the belly, and I can't remember what the teacher said got stuffed in there.

I am so thankful that my class has been very calm and the kids have been great. One Sunday I had 12 kids and one of those was special needs. I have a few who show up with various special needs, and I'm glad I always have at least one door keeper to help.

Here is where we are in our church year: The star at the top is Christmas. We're heading for Lent!
I love teaching Godly Play. It is such a treat to journey with them as they explore their faith. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The art of compromise

In the spring construction will begin on the new Montessori school building. The architects brought in some samples of color schemes for the site council to look over and decide upon on Thursday afternoon, and then that information was given to the PTSA later that evening.

At first it looked like we were evenly split on the choices. The two boards were displayed and explained, and I took issue with the use of the color red in the first choice, but the second choice was way too gray and cold to me.

We live in a part of the country that is gray for most of the school year, so I felt that the school needed some warmth and color. I stuck with the first choice, even though I didn't want the red. I've seen research that suggests that red is not a good color for ADD and ADHD kids, and in general I think it is a distracting color in a learning environment. We tried to make it a deeper rust, but the swatches didn't have that as an option.
Then one of the architects who was clearly facilitating asked if we could make suggestions of how to improve the second choice. I couldn't think of anything, I just wanted the first color scheme without the red.

But another parent asked if we could change the gray of the second choice to brown used in the first one, and use the warmer wood tone and outside colors from the first one. Suddenly one of the other architects pulled some pieces off of the first board and made those changes and it made all the difference. We all compromised.

I haven't heard how the PTSA meeting went, but hopefully they were all as pleased with it as we were. It was painless and I think everyone got a little bit of what they wanted. No matter what, that school is going to be BEAUTIFUL. The architect has some special degree in Montessori school design, and he incorporated the trinomial cube into the entry and the lighting. It is going to be soooo cool. There will be lots of wood and wood accents, and even the lockers will be wood. I'm so excited about this new building.

BTW, the school now has a waiting list for K, 1, 2 for next year. The only new students accepted in the Montessori classes will be Children's House and 3rd graders for next year. There will be 6 new lower elementary classrooms next year to accommodate all of the current Kindergarten students who will move up to first grade, and there will be some kids shifting classrooms to make sure the 3-year age groups are balanced. So many people want Montessori education for their children. I can't wait to see how the district responds to this clear preference by parents both in the district and outside.
Oh, and we're still waiting to hear about our math waiver. I'll post about that when we get the word.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tour of the firehouse

Before we left on vacation my boyfriend invited us to tour the fire station. He is a division chief, and Sean has always loved everything about fire stations. Sean toured one when he was really little and in preschool, but I don't think he remembers a lot about it. We also stopped by a fire station not long ago and took a little walk through in Tacoma, but it was a really old station and we didn't get to see much of the equipment.
So when Chuck invited us we said yes, and I asked if we could bring Sean's friend along.
I don't think Kyle had ever toured a station and he was super excited.
Here's a little story in photos:
Asking questions and listening intently inside the Medic One unit.

Exploring the big truck.
Some of the gear.
This fireman was super nice and helped the kids try on some of the fire gear.
They had a blast and we stayed for well over an hour. They explored every truck and even got to see the jaws of life and some other heavy equipment used for rescue. Then we went inside to the workout room to look around.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A tour of the Miocene age

We spent Christmas in Tennessee with family and we had a blast! While we were there we were busy doing all sorts of activities, and we squeezed in an educational opportunity.
In Gray, Tenn. there is a fossil site. It was discovered by accident when a major highway was under construction and some dirt was moved, and someone found bones.

Here's the guy that started it all. Without this skull the highway construction likely would have moved forward.
A paleontologist was called from East Tennessee State University to come over and take a look. At first they thought the bones were from the ice age, but it turns out they found the bones of an alligator, and date to the Miocene age. That put a halt to all construction and scientists descended on the site to dig for more clues.
They found all sorts of bones and one of them was a camel!

There is a saber toothed tiger, and pot bellied rhino, and they recently found a red panda and badger. You can read more about the site and the museum here:
It isn't a very large museum, but I'm sure it will expand and grow. They are already planning an expansion for more classrooms.
One of our favorite parts of the tour was a dig for bones. We had a tray of various sea creature bones, tweezers and a magnifying glass and a control chart. Jewel found five shark teeth (tiny) and I found one. Sean found some things too, but I can't remember what they were. Something from a Manta Ray.
They are still digging on the site and find new things all the time. So neat.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Including the outsiders

As parents we all have to make decisions for the welfare of our children. In some cases I know it is truly better for some children to be homeschooled, but I just read the book, "Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful," and it validated my decision to send Sean back into a Montessori classroom.

Before reading this book I didn't see the positive side of having eccentric children in the classroom. By eccentric I mean those who fall way outside the lines of "normal" behavior. I was focused on the academics and believed it would be detrimental to the academic flow to have disruption in the room. Those who couldn't assimilate quickly would sort of mess it up for the others is what I thought.

I even spoke with Sean's teacher about one child and how long the school could tolerate the behavior. I suggested maybe this education model wasn't working for that child.
She admitted maybe it wasn't working, and that a move to a traditional classroom could be the solution, but said the children have rallied around that child and have said, "She just needs more time, and she's a lot better than she was when the year started."
That spoke to me, and I loosened a little on my belief that she didn't belong there. If anything, I've learned that children are profound and much better at assessing a situation than adults in a lot of cases.
And she said she had been reading the book, and offered to loan it to me when she was finished. I read it over the Christmas break.

Now I see that a big part of a Montessori education is learning how to function in a society filled with all types of people, and how to communicate with total honesty. I knew that, but for some reason it didn't resonate that the best way to learn how to do that is by being surrounded by all types of people. By bringing them into the fold, speaking out loud about the struggles of each and including everyone in the environment to help each other with those struggles, I can see that the veil of shame is pulled away and children feel empowered and safe to grow at their own pace both emotionally and intellectually.

Donna Bryant Goertz illustrates chapter after chapter how the classroom can become a training ground for every child to realize their potential and gain an understanding of how to fully function in society. By including the "problem" children, all of the children learn to recognize their own struggles and each one plays an important role in helping one another.

In Sean's class there are several children who have extreme struggles. Each has a different struggle for different reasons. One girl is very aggressive and uses language that is rude and abrasive. She strikes before she is struck type of thing.

One boy is struggling with some anger and aggression that is directed both outward and toward himself. He destroys his papers, tries to stab himself with pencils, and hits and kicks other children.
I think both of these children have also stolen things and were sent home for that.

The beauty is that Sean's teacher is so in tune with Montessori principals and so eager to be the best she can possibly be. The book has an example of a Montessori guide who really didn't seem to embrace the ideas. I'm happy Sean has a teacher who strives to be her best.

I can see that it has been good for Sean to be with these children, crazy as that may sound to some parents. In a traditional classroom it wouldn't be good for any of them. The "problem" child would be excluded, ridiculed, called out, sent to special classes, medicated and seen as the outsider. The "normal" children would feel superior and would not effectively deal with and process their own struggles. In Sean's room they are all included, and their struggles are just that, struggles. And every child has struggles.

Here's an example of how I know this is working for Sean:
A week ago his friend across the street who attends the local school came over to play. (BTW, he has quite a few struggles, and they are different from Sean's.) He was talking about some kids at school, and he asked Sean, "Wouldn't you want to get them back if they did that to you?" Sean said, "Oh, I don't know." The boy said, "If they said that kind of stuff to you wouldn't you want to say it back to them? I'd want to get them back good, even worse than they did to me." Sean said, "Well, I don't like to hurt people. I might want to teach them a lesson, but I wouldn't want to hurt them."
And I smiled, knowing that for Sean those words "teach them a lesson" really mean teaching them a lesson in how to get along, not some kind of vindictive action.