Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014 -- Update on Hope in School

. . . and now for an update on how Hope is doing in school!!!  It has been amazing watching how far God has brought Hope since school started!  We literally had no idea that she was going to take off like she did!  She has continued to surprise and delight us throughout this first semester.  We just received her first progress report and honestly, it is nothing short of a miracle that she is being able to complete work at par with the other Grade 6 students.  I'll maybe break this update into subjects to start with and then share some general information. . .

Okay, I started writing this update in November and it is now April as I finally complete it!  Hope continues to encourage us with how she enjoys and excels at school!  I'm sorry this is so late in coming, but we sure are excited to share it with you, as God deserves ALL the glory and praise for the great things He continues to do in Hope's life!!!

If you ask Hope what her favourite three subjects are, she would quickly say, with a BIG grin, MATH, SCIENCE, and ART!!!  So I'll start with those, of course!  : )

MATH:  Hope had missed 1 1/2 years of math curriculum.  Being a building type of curriculum, we knew that she would need to back up and start further back.  As well, due to Hope's severe brain injury, many of her necessary abilities to do math had been hugely affected!  Computing, sequencing, and long term memory and recall of math facts, for example, had all been greatly affected and made even simple math difficult.  However in the face of these challenges, we noticed small bits of improvement here and there and so we hoped for a simple math program that would slowly start to rebuild Hope's math abilities to at the very least give her a basic understanding of foundational math concepts and problem solving, for her to be able to apply to every day living.  After a quick assessment, it was decided to start Hope at a Grade 2 level in her workbook and on the I-pad math program.  Hope is currently continuing to work through her Grade 2 workbook (this is considered a treat to do when her other more difficult work is done!), and she is at a Grade 3 level on the I-pad math program now!  So her math abilities are improving and she is re-learning what she once knew.  She is able to apply the math to skills at home, which is fantastic. . . for example, one of Hope's favorite games to play is Yahtzee, and Hope does the math in her head as well as understanding general math concepts so that she has excellent Yahtzee strategy. . . she wins almost EVERY time!!!  Some of the challenges in this area that you could be praying for Hope are her ability to memorize the multitude of math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). . . she understands the concepts well, but the memory work can be very confusing and also depends on her ability to quickly recall what she has memorized. Another challenge would be her inability to see. . . this greatly affects her ability to do various math problems, graph problems, etc. . . . she has to do everything in her head or with verbal description.  It takes a lot of time as well as can be quite confusing.  We are thankful for how is she able to apply her grasp of math concepts to her daily living and general understanding of things. . . this is a great start and we hope she will be able to continue to build off of this!  Because of the adapted curriculum for Hope's math, she does not have a grade in math.

SCIENCE:  Hope LOVES science!  She loves being involved in experiments and the teachers have been so creative to find ways to provide tactile experiences for Hope in science, whether it's a stuffed owl especially for Hope while they do their unit on owls and aerodynamics of flight, or an experiment that she can feel, hear and smell!  Hope is doing Grade 6 level science and except for the odd assignment, she is doing the same work as her classmates.  Hope does some of her science tests at home, so she has a bit more concentrated study time and then can take her test out loud. . . we read the questions to her, and she dictates her answers.  Hope currently has an overall grade of 86% in science!

ART:  Hope LOVES art!  Again the teachers have been so great to find creative ways to engage Hope where she is at with her limited motor skills and sight.  They have worked hard to find ways to increase Hope's independence in her art projects, so it is HER work and not someone simply doing it for her.  She can see some colours and so that has been helpful as well!  Here are a couple pictures of some of her art projects that have come home. . .

A Beautiful Sunset 
Hope loved crushing the coloured tissue paper to glue on and create this sunset picture!

A Starry Night 
Hope loved doing all the painting of the black sky and then the drawing with the coloured pencils for the stars in the sky!  Hope paints with her fingers.

Again Hope did the painting here. . . it doesn't show up well in the picture, but you can sorta see that the black background was finger painted and then she also finger painted each of the coloured layers and then cut (with assistance) and glued the pieces on to create the picture.  She finished it with some buttons for the centre of the three-layered poppy flowers.

BIBLE and BIBLE MEMORY WORK:  Hope loves God's Word and with all the struggles that she can have with memorizing math facts at times, it is amazing to me how God has enabled her to commit His Word to memory, and even more important, to take His Word to heart, grasping the rich life-changing truths found in every verse!  Hope is a regular kid still, and can struggle with willingness to do the work of memorization, but when we discuss the meaning and application of these precious verses, Hope's heart is engaged and she will quickly get on board to do the work, by God's grace and enabling power!  She is one of only two students in her class that have a PERFECT mark (100%) in their Bible Memory work for this year!  Hope is memorizing all the same passages as her classmates.  Praise the Lord, for He is indeed mighty!!!  I'll attach another video of Hope reciting another one of her memory verse passages. . .

Hope recently memorized Romans 12:1-2.  She memorizes one passage (typically 2-3 verses) every other week.  We were discussing the meaning of this passage just yesterday and had such a great time breaking down the first verse and understanding what it means to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, along with how we are able to do that (by God's great grace and mercy), and why we must do this, out of worship to our worthy King, Creator and Saviour!  Hope also participated in her class' presentations for chapel in February!  We were thrilled to see how far God has brought her to be willing to be a part of a presentation in front of the entire elementary school!  Her teachers/teacher's aide have been wonderful in helping her work towards this by starting with simple presentations in front of a couple students, to then in front of the whole class, to now in front of the entire elementary school!  Hope will tell you that she prefers doing presentations in front of the whole elementary school, but still struggles with being afraid in front of her class of 16 students.  She is going to do a presentation tomorrow on her study of the planet Mars, which she is quite nervous about.  You can pray for Hope that she will continue to grow in her ability and courage to speak in front of people.  God's strengthening and enabling work is precious and far beyond our abilities on our own!  It is a treasure to see God using her and speaking through her, even as she continue to grow in this area.  I'll share a few photos so you can enjoy a small snippet of some of these presentations that were done for their chapel . . .

Hope was the Mad Scientist's assistant in the skit for chapel!  She even had a speaking line in this part and was also handing the Mad Scientist his props throughout the skit and then held a sign at the end!  She did great and loved every minute of getting into this character!  Hope's fab-tac-cu-lar hair was courtesy of her wonderful TA, Mrs. Kornelson!

Here Hope was one of the disciples in the boat crossing the stormy sea!  Hope's wheelchair also did a double-duty of holding up the boat prop as it was tied to her wheelchair!  Although Hope also held onto the boat and even helped it do some rocking in the stormy waves!  : )

Please keep Hope in prayer as her TA was just sharing with us recently that Hope is still really struggling with doing presentations or even answering questions in front of her peers/class, especially impromptu ones.  She gets so nervous and just kinda freezes, refusing to answer with her TA even whispering the answers in her ear, to make sure it's not double-taxing her brain in doing both recall and speech.  She is still building confidence in her ability to communicate, and the hardest is with her peers.  So please pray that Hope will not stress about what anyone thinks, but rather keep remembering how far God has brought her and deeply desire to share His miraculous works in her life with others, being bold by putting her trust in God even when it's a scary thing! 

HEALTH:  Hope will tell you this is not her favorite class, but she sure is doing well with her 100% marks on both the tests she has taken. . . one was on the brain--8 different areas of the brain and what each does and how we can problem-solve and make wise and God-pleasing choices because of how God has made our brains to work (this is how Hope understood and applied the information as the study materials were simply an Alberta Education curriculum, taught by someone outside of the school, that did not mention God at all. . . so thankful that she gives Him His rightful place in her life and application of knowledge!).  This was also a very interesting unit because it helped Hope to better understand her own brain injury.  Throughout studying the areas of the brain and what they are responsible for doing, she would ask questions about her own brain damage and make comments as to how that related to or was reflected in her past and current condition.  At one point, she got quiet and teary, so I asked her if it was very painful to study this information because of her struggles with her brain injury.  Her response was precious. . . "Sorta. . . when I listen to this, it makes me think that I might not walk again or see again and I lose hope, but I believe that I will, because Jesus could come back tomorrow, and then I will see and walk again for sure!"  She is such a living testimony to me of Romans 15:13. . . how it convicts my own heart and challenges my feeble faith. . . "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

SOCIAL STUDIES:  Another subject that Hope would say is not her favorite, but you should hear her dear Teacher's Assistant (TA), precious Mrs. Kornelson, talk about how she laughs and lights up as her very creative and passionate teacher makes history come alive!  She can tell you about the lives of young boys and girls in Ancient Greece in great detail, and she is currently learning all about the history of the Iroquois (Update. . . she took the test on this unit last month and received so many bonus marks on top of a perfect score that her end mark on the exam was 120%!!!  I thought she was pulling my leg when she first told me her mark, but her teacher confirmed it later!).  She has studied the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and wrote the most passionate and thorough argument as the defense lawyer for a client who had all his rights and freedoms violated. . . she was particularly stirred up when she heard that her client had been subjected to bright lights shined in his eyes for 72 hours straight. . . Hope does not like bright light due to her cortical visual impairment, and so it induced a very dramatic response in his defense!  Her teacher gave her 12/10 because he was so impressed!

Hope's current mark in Social Studies is 98%!  Amazing how the Lord has gifted her in remembering details!

READING AND WRITING:  I honestly don't know too much about these subjects and what Hope is doing in them at school.  But I can tell you how much Hope is absolutely soaking up and LOVING being read to, as well as listening to audio books and radio theatre!  She also comprehends the stories and vocabulary very well and is participating in the literary circles with her own assigned roles just as her classmates.  She loves to write stories, and continues to do that at home as a fun activity when she has someone who is willing to write away her dictated creativity!  Her current mark in Reading is 94% and in Writing is 90%.

SPELLING:  Hope has been doing spelling since the first week of school, when she blew our socks off that she learned how to spell AERODYNAMICS!  In June of last year as the previous school year ended, Hope could barely spell a four letter word because her brain injury made keeping her place very difficult.  She knew how to spell the word but by the time she said two or three letters, she had forgotten where she was and would have to start over and would rarely actually get to the end.  It was a very frustrating thing for her.  It was the same with counting and numbers.  She would also flip letters. . . it was like they were all swimming around in her mind and it was so hard to pull out the right ones when she needed them.  But September brought an amazing difference and suddenly she was able to spell, without any pauses or breaks, a word as long as AERODYNAMICS!  Those letters weren't swimming anymore!  She said she could see the words in her mind and that helped her to spell them now.  And she has done just wonderful with spelling.  It is not as easy as it once was before her brain injury, but we are so thankful and super amazed at what she is able to do and how she is holding her own in her current grade level.  Her mark in Spelling is 90%.  I'll share a set of her recent sentences that she wrote for her spelling words. . . it will give you a great picture of Hope's grammar abilities, as well as her creativity and humor (can you tell that she loves to tease her daddio)!  Here they are (from last month). . .

The squirrel tried to SCROUNGE around to look for his nuts that had been strewn around.

The squirrel that lost his nuts was GAWKING at the squirrel who stole his nuts.

The squirrel took a GLIMPSE of his nuts, then quickly looked away before anger and the thought of cooking the squirrel who took his nuts, came into his mind.

The poor squirrel who lost his nuts SEIZED the nuts quickly and ran into the black forest.

The elephant was SCRUTINIZING the farm looking for clues to help his buddy out.

Hope couldn't COMPREHEND what her father was saying.

I ACHEIEVED all my tasks at my Grandma Meese's farm.

I APPROACHED the squirrel as he was eating nuts and I stole one and it bit me.

Tarzan was APPREHENDED by the police man.

The squirrel SCUTTLED quickly to find food.

GENERAL INFORMATION:  So Hope is not doing French, Fine Arts or Physical Education as she was too far behind after missing 1.5 years of school to continue in French, and the others are impossible for her to do with her current motor function.  So Hope's TA uses these time slots to get caught up on other work, to book in therapy (vision and speech occasionally), to work on special projects, and to read. . . Hope LOVES to read!  Hope is currently reading through the Mandie series. . . she is on book 4 of about a 40 book series and absolutely loving it!  We are also reading through the Narnia series at home currently.  And Hope listens to another of her favorites, Little House on the Prairie, on audio books at home, as well.

Some of the new things that Hope has recently begun is to start to learn Braille and to use an abacus for math (a tactile math manipulative that can take the place of a pen and paper!).  She also received a bunch of tactile resources from the REACH vision therapist, such as tactile books and puzzles that she will start to use to increase her abilities to work around her blindness.  We are also continuing to work towards finding a computer program that would accommodate both Hope's motor limitations as well as her blindness. . . this has proved very difficult and expensive.  We currently do not have anything that is meeting Hope's needs, so the search continues.  Hope is using switch access to computers very well and her fine motor use of her right index finger is increasing as well, which will be helpful with using an I-pad.  She is still completely dependent on someone assisting her in using any computer though, at present.

Well, dear ones. . . there is probably more that I could still say, but I think I've given you quite a bit to start with, so I will conclude with just a massive thank you to our awesome God for how He has surprised us with Hope's academic abilities this year as He continues to move her along in her recovery, as well as her continued growth in speech and interaction with others!  We also are so very thankful to all the amazing and loving staff at Bearspaw Christian school for how they daily pour into our girlie and make it such a wonderful place for her to be. . . she loves it!  And along with the staff, are the terrific students and classmates at BCS that are very supportive and encouraging to Hope. . . she is so loved at this school and it is a tremendous blessing for her to be in this caring environment as she continues to recover and grow!  Hope and Gabi love being able to go to school together as in the past, and it is a blessing that we do not take for granted. . . God has far surpassed our hopes for this school year already, and we are excited about what He will yet do in Hope's recovery and growth!

Thank you for your prayers, dear ones!  It has been hard on Trev and I to make the time to help Hope with her schoolwork and studies as it takes a lot of time and effort to work around her limitations (no reading/writing) and her brain injury frustrations. . . but God always equips us for the things He lays before us (even when we're feeling less than effective).  Please do keep us in prayer for wisdom in how to find balance in all the things that we desire to do with Hope.  We have found that Hope's therapy focus has fallen behind since our move and Hope's progress at school.  So, we are hoping to continue to strive to find ways to fit in all the pieces of Hope's steps to recovery that would benefit her, and yet leave it all in the loving and perfect will and plan that God has for her. . . so thankful we can work hard, and then rest and trust that God will produce the fruit He desires!  



  1. Such a blessing to have this update on how Hope is doing! Loved watching the video and hearing Hope's voice. She has come so far and I love seeing her personality shine through. Miss her. Big hugs to you Hope.

  2. She is an amazing workmanship of God and I am blessed to pray for her!