Thursday, February 19, 2009


In Oregon we have a very cool thing called Outdoor School. For one week, sixth graders get a week-long field trip with their teacher, adults and high school counselors, and a life-changing experience.

Outdoor School is not new - both STM and I went when we were in 6th grade - and for thousands of kids it's their favorite week of their entire grade school experience.

Sleeping bags, bunk beds, campfire, songs, communal meals, occasional showers, and some big time bonding, are all highlights of Outdoor School, and for those kids that fidget and endure year after year of sitting at a desk, for one week they are free, free, gloriously free.

For some kids this week away is full of firsts - first sleepover, first time away from home, first camping trip, first taste of well-supervised independence.

For some kids therapy is required first to ready the child for all those firsts that hit at the very same time.

For some kids it's taken in stride and parents simply drop their kids off at the bus stop on Sunday and pick them back up on Friday (Woohoo, for example).

And then there's Rojo.

Certainly Outdoor School has been accommodated to meet the needs of thousands of special needs students through the years, but those are other people's children. Not. Mine.

In his 12+ years of life he has never slept anywhere other than our house, or a grandparent's house.

He doesn't shower - he bathes, with a lot of help, in about 3 inches of water and only after he's been 6 rooms away from the sound of the running water.

He doesn't eat "regular" food, at regular times. Right now he pretty much only eats Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal at 5:00 AM and 5:00 PM. That might actually work, since who can't be talked into pouring him a bowl of cereal and splashing on some milk? But Outdoor School isn't until April, and by then he could be back on garlic toast, which is labor-intensive and very, very stinky.

He has certain TV shows, which watching is imperative to his state of well-being. "Nanny 911" on Tuesdays at 4:00 - we nearly get a speeding ticket each week making it back from getting Woohoo, in time for that one. And what about "Drake & Josh," "Praise the Lord," and "iCarly?" Huh? What about those? Do they show THOSE at Outdoor School? No. I don't think so.

So clearly, this won't work.

But each day he comes home a little more excited about Outdoor School, with a little bit more information, and a little bit more buy in.

And each day my heart breaks a little bit more.

My greatest fear has always been that he will never live independently.

Now it's that he might.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Aww, friend. Need me some Kleenex now.

She said...

Like I said, "I love that boy!"

kario said...

And then there are some parents who require weeks of intensive therapy to ready themselves for the 'firsts' that will occur while their children are away for a week.

I am so pleased that Rojo is gradually becoming ready for it and I can't wait to hear what his experience is. Ahh, Outdoor School - I need to get me some of that!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story, simply beautiful.


Terry said...

Well told, my friend.

marge said...

Yes a tissue will do.

Go Mama said...

He's an awesome boy. I think he'll go for it! And, i think it'll be a breakthrough for both of you!

Wanda said...

Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

deb said...

I didn't cope so well with Outdoor school in grade six, although looking back, it was good for me. I have a lot of food issues, like Rojo, which work fine in your own home but don't in the real world. I still remember on the last night we had a cookout and we roasted our own hotdogs. I ate three hotdogs, I've never eaten so many hotdogs, either before or after but I was hungry after a week of weird food.

I found out that Katie could cope with far more than I thought she could, when she moved out last year.

Anonymous said...

this made me cry. in a good way.

i love the way you write.

Deb Shucka said...

Having been with kids at Outdoor School for years, I know how beautifully life-changing and heart-expanding it can be, for everyone involved. So glad the Rojo is getting excited about it. Sending you love and hugs and trust that this experience will be exactly what you both need.

Drama Mama said...

We're ready for him. The world. We're ready.