Friday, October 25, 2019


A few weeks ago Michael and I dropped the kids off at AWANAS and went out on a date to Trappers Sushi. It was so yummy! After enjoying our dinner we drove up to the church to wait for AWANAS to let out. While we were waiting we started chatting about what every parent always ends up talking about...our kids. Our conversation focused more on Ella at this particular time. 

If you remember our sweet Ella Grace was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus at 18 months old after falling from a slide and fracturing her skull. She ultimately had brain surgery the following month at 19 months to put in a VP Shunt. She still has her original Shunt to this day Praise The LORD!!! 

Due to her Hydrocephalus Ella has had some speech delays. She's been in speech therapy for years now. First at Children's Therapy Center when she was 4 years old and now at school where she has an IEP for Math, Reading, Writing and Speech. 

Ella has made huge strides academically in the last few years, but her reading is where she struggles the most. It's almost painful to watch and listen to her struggle through a book. Even simple sight words can be hard for her. I know that her short term memory has improved over the years, but I do see that there are certain areas in her life that it is still a factor. 

I will say honestly that Michael and I have probably not helped her as much as we could have in regards to working with her at home. That's hard for me to say, but at the same time I have 4 kids. Life is crazy busy and to take the time to sit down with each one of them is just a logistical nightmare especially when you factor everything else in that is required to run a home/family. Also we are safe for Ella and her home is her safe space. What I mean by this is she will work so hard for her teachers and never complain, but she's safe with us and she knows she can pull at our heartstrings so she uses that. She gets emotional and frustrated and then so do we which is not a health environment that encourages learning. Also school is a place where she has to act tough and keep it together, but home is where she can let her guard down and wear her emotions on her sleeve. I remember when she was a toddler and we were going to MOPS we would get home usually after noon when she would normally be napping by this point if we had been home. She would be fine in the van and then the moment...I do mean the moment she crossed the threshold from the garage into the house she would melt into a pile of emotional mess. She would LOSE it! She would be inconsolable! There was no way I could even get her to eat lunch...she would just go straight to bed and that was the only way for her to deal with her exhaustion. With this knowledge of how she is emotionally it made it very hard for Michael and I to push her to work harder. 

I will say Ella's reading has improved, but she is drastically behind where other 3rd graders are. This school year she has actually showed interest in having me read books to her. I love to read books to the kids, but that has never really been something that Ella has enjoyed. Reading to her is great, but she also needs to be doing the reading as well and that's where we've struggled the most. She did a Fancy Nancy book at the beginning of the school year and it took her an hour to do it. We were SO proud of her and she was proud of herself, but it was so mentally exhausting for her. 

So back to Michael and I sitting in the van...Michael mentioned that we needed to get her a tutor. He said money doesn't matter right now we need to help her learn to read because it's the foundation for everything. God has blessed Michael with a great job and this is too important for her and her future. So right then and there I used my phone and typed in 'tutoring in my area' and up popped Varsity Tutors. They had an online form you could fill out and the very next day I spoke on the phone with a very nice lady and we got Ella set up with a plan for her to have 50 tutoring our home!!!! I can't even tell you how amazing that is. With 4 kids life can be crazy and we don't even do sports! I don't even understand how families with each of their kids in a sport even do thank you! The thought of having to take Ella to a tutoring center was not fun one, but I would have if it was necessary. This though was such a blessing!!!! 

The person I first spoke to on the phone asked me all sorts of questions about Ella. It was actually really fun to talk about my girl and her progress and then areas she needs help on. I did learn from her that 3rd grade is the last grade they teach reading. After that they assume you know the basics and will pick up more words by learning vocabulary words, but they won't actually be teaching reading in the classroom anymore. Now I know with Ella's IEP she would still be getting that resource, but this did confirm to me that she really truly needed this assistance. With all the information I gave her about Ella she said we would be matched with a tutor that would be perfect for her. I was concerned because I know there can be times when teachers and students don't necessarily work well together and she said if that ever happened we could request a new tutor right from the app and they would reevaluate, pick a new tutor and even credit us a tutoring session. A couple days later I got a notice that Ella was placed with April. She is a retired teacher...she taught for 27 years and she has loads of experience. I called her and after talking about Ella for a bit we set up Ella's first tutoring session for Monday October 7th at 4pm. The timing is really perfect since the kids get home at 3:30...Ella gets a chance to have a snack, but doesn't really get to change over to full on playing mode. She knows Ms. April is coming so she still has her learning hat on per se. 

Ms. April is WONDERFUL! She is older as I expected since she is retired. She has arthritis in her knees so she walks with two cane and is slow going, but she is amazing with Ella. I warned her that Ella can be a charmer with her teachers and she is definitely charmed by Ella. She is so patient with Ella and she laughs at her stories. She has all sorts of tricks up her sleeve too and made sure to let Ella know that if she needs a break or doesn't like something that's okay. She really wants this learning time to be positive for Ella. I have been so impressed...honestly I feel like she is part of our family. Her and Ella sit at the dining room table working and usually I'm in the kitchen prepping dinner and it just feels normal. So far Ella has had 3 sessions. Ms. April comes every Monday and then she will also come 1 or 2 Saturdays a month. The 50 / 1hr sessions that we paid for will most likely take Ella all the way through the school year if not a little bit into the summer due to skipping certain weeks for holidays and such. 

As for the wasn't cheap! They had a special going on when we signed up so I believe the price per hour was $46. Sylvan Learning Center's price starts at $47 per hour and it goes up depending on what kind of tutoring you need. Plus you have to go to one of the actual Sylvan Learning Center locations. Being able to have Ella home in her comfort zone I think has made her tutoring that much more successful. She is used to her surroundings, she's used to her brothers making noise and she knows that people that love her are right here if she needs us. She doesn't have to get used to being at strange facility and everything that goes along with that.  

If you have a kiddo that has a tutoring need I would highly recommend Varsity Tutors. You do not have to buy a package that has 50 sessions that's just what we chose for Ella because of how much she needs to learn. They did give me a referral link that gets you 3 tutoring sessions for free. I have honestly been so impressed and I'm so happy that we are getting the help our little girl needs!