Diving In

UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 12: Girls of the Excelsior Club diving in for the start of their club championship race at Kenwood Pond on Sunday, where many swimmers enjoyed the sunshine in the water.' (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

UNITED KINGDOM – APRIL 12: Girls of the Excelsior Club diving in for the start of their club championship race at Kenwood Pond on Sunday, where many swimmers enjoyed the sunshine in the water.’ (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

Ten years ago, when Megan was three years old, I took her tiny hand in mine and together we walked into her new preschool.  We had recently moved to Southern California from Boston.  Megan had just graduated, if you will, from her early intervention program in New England.  As soon as we moved into our new home, Meg was ready to transition to preschool.  I was super excited for her to go to school just like her big brother.  I loved getting her darling Back to School outfit together and picking out a backpack. Oh her backpack.  Of course I bought her the smallest, cutest one I could find.  Getting Megan ready for preschool on that March morning in 2005 was truly special.  That is, until I opened the door to Megan’s classroom.  What I saw blew my mind and broke my heart. No one told me what class they had enrolled Megan in or why they had placed her there.  The children in the classroom where medically fragile students.  Many strapped into their chairs at kidney bean shaped tables.  Aids working with them on various goal-focused activities.  The teacher, smiling, greeted Megan with a warm hello.  Then she guided Megan to a chair at the table and proceeded to strap Megan in. I froze inside. My heart crumpled into a million pieces and my mind began to race. I was confused and hurt. These thoughts raced through my mind, “Why? Why are they strapping my perfectly capable child into a chair? She sits at the dinner table fine in a big girl chair.  She doesn’t need to be belted in! What is going on in here?!?!” I was so upset, I had no idea what to do or say.  So I stood there looking around the room dumbfounded. I tried calming the screaming fit going on in my head and the turmoil in my heart with a bit of reason, “Okay Lisa, these are professionals. They know what they are doing. They know what is best for these students.”  And with Megan happily doing her work at that kidney bean shaped table, strapped into her chair, I kissed her goodbye, reluctantly walked toward the door, turned and waved at my princess.  The walk back to my car was an excruciatingly painful one. With a lump in my throat the size of Texas, I must’ve choked back a thousand tears. As soon as I was in the safety of my car, I broke down. Sobbing hard, I called my husband and told him the story.  His response, “Go back and pick her up. Just homeschool her!”

That’s when the war began. The Special Ed War of 2005. This battle waged on for ten, agonizing years.  I wanted so badly to follow my intelligent husband’s advice. But I also wanted what I thought was best for Megan. I gave teachers countless opportunities to prove themselves. For some crazy reason, I got it in my head that these Special Education educators, the School District’s Program Specialists, and therapists were all on Megan’s side and wanted what was best for her. As a result, I didn’t  want to throw the towel in and give up so fast. Then IEPs came into the picture. A whole new aspect to this war.  Quickly, we found ourselves having to fight for Megan in a whole new way.  The District always wanting to give just the minimum. Over and over again we heard things like, “We feel Megan doesn’t need any more speech therapy, so we are going to phase that out.”  Say what? Phase speech therapy out for a student with Down syndrome? That’s like the number one therapeutic service she will need throughout her life.  Then it was “Oh, Megan doesn’t qualify for Occupational Therapy.” Yet every IEP assessment showed her lacking severely in that area. The war intensified. We brought in back up “troops” and hired an Educational Advocate.  His presence, professionalism and knowledge gave us the IEP edge. We started seeing positive results–Megan was getting the services she needed and for once I began to think we were winning the war!  In reality, it was far from over.  We fought for her to get the best teacher.  We fought for mainstreaming. We kept fighting for everything.  After ten years battling non-stop, that wise advice my husband gave me a decade earlier, echoed loudly in my heart and soul, “just homeschool Megan”.

Why did I let the war go on for so long, you ask?  I wanted so badly for Megan to have a good education, ride the school bus, and have experiences like her siblings and typical peers.  Ultimately, I didn’t want her to miss out on anything. From class parties and field trips to occupational and speech therapy {two critical and very necessary elements–both of which we won’t lose homeschooling}.

When Megan started preschool, I had only been a special needs parent for three short years.  I assumed educators knew more than me.  After all they were the “professionals” and had been at it a lot longer.  Never assume such a thing!  BIG MISTAKE on my part!  Also, times were far different back in 2005.  There were very few parenting blogs, Facebook was less than a year old, and Smartphones didn’t exist {heck I was the proud owner of a pink metallic flip phone}. iPads were a thing of the future, Instagram and Twitter–all social media–were nonexistent. So hearing what other parents were doing and getting the necessary support was quite limited. Today it’s a whole new ballgame.  One that inspired me to take the homeschool leap.

Looking back, I can’t help myself from thinking of all the things I should have done differently for Megan on her academic journey. Sadly, I regret a lot and in the end she suffered.  Often I am asked, “What would you change if you could go back and do it over?” First, I would have never placed Megan in a public school special education preschool program. Rather, I would have found Megan a preschool program where she could be with her typical peers. As soon as it was time for her to enter Kindergarten, I would’ve pushed harder for inclusion. Inclusion is next to impossible once you are in the special education system {at least in our school district}, leaving us stuck. Stuck in classrooms and special education programs that weren’t the perfect fit for our daughter and her academic needs.  Finding alternative programs and options were next to impossible.

My solution: Homeschool.  I know how my daughter learns best.  We are diving into a sea of at home learning in the just three and a half weeks.

Aileen Riggin LOC

You know what? I am beyond excited for this adventure. I have fought with the idea of homeschooling for ten years.  The reality is, I have known deep down inside for a very long time my husband was right–this was the best solution for our girl. Finally, I am ready. I know there will be difficult days.  There will also be incredible days filled with breakthroughs and visible progress. Progress I get to witness first hand.  Not progress someone else tells me about from across a conference room table.

When Megan was in school, every morning I’d drop her off wondering and worrying.  What would she learn? Would her teachers pay attention to her? Would fellow students be nice to her? Would she have friends to play with on the playground? Will her teachers call me later in the day with a “problem” and need me to pick her up? Countless thoughts like these flooded my mind daily. On the flip side, when I dropped Megan’s older brother and little sister off at school, I was excited for them. I couldn’t wait to pick them up at the end of the day, always eager to hear how it went. Homeschooling eliminates the wonder and worry I dealt with on a daily basis.  I’ve taken the teaching reigns and am driving Megan in the direction she needs to go. At long last.

Please join me on this journey.  I will be sharing our homeschooling experiences and breakthroughs here.

[Sidenote: I don’t want you, my readers, thinking that this article is aimed at the school district we are in, the teachers or administrators we have worked with. In no way am I bashing the school district we live in or those working for it.  The Special Education Program in the US is very broken. There is no consistency from school to school, district to district or state to state. I know that our public school experiences are not unique. Over the past ten years, I have heard story after story which mirrors Megan’s. There is a serious need for Special Education reform.]

Photo Credits: Google Images

Writers Block….


I feel like I have drawn a blank. Writers block, I guess. I think the best remedy for that is to just dive in and see where my thoughts take me.  So here it goes. This post may make zero sense. Or complete sense. Let’s see. Perhaps the music I’m listening to on Spotify will help get me into a groove.  Last night before I crashed, I watched the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in bed with my husband–fully reclined in our Sleep Number bed. Here we are in our prime and acting like old farts. But damn that thing is comfortable and one of our best investments to date.  It takes relaxing at the end of a busy day to a whole new level.  So–if you have ever thought about buying a Sleep Number bed, just do it.  Worth every penny.  Back to Jimmy Fallon. The episode we were watching was the one with Adam Levine from Maroon 5 as his guest promoting their new album, V.  So, in case you were wondering, that’s what I’m listening to right now.  Taking this new music for a test drive.  I love music and the louder, the better. Especially in the car,  because then it just feels like one big concert.  You know you listen to your music too loud when your children say, “Geesh Mom!  That’s way too loud! Turn it down!”  It probably should be the other way around.  Me telling them that.

I’ll pretty much listen to anything.  But I certainly have my favorites.  Muse, for me, NEVER gets old. I could listen to them night and day. My favorite Muse album is Live at Rome Olympic Stadium. It takes me back to the first concert I went to of theirs.  Such truly talented musicians and performers. What an amazing show they put on for their fans.



I can’t wait for them to release a new album so we can see them on tour again.  Once upon a time, we kidnapped our own children and took them to a Muse concert in Arizona.  We rushed into their bedrooms early one March Saturday morning and told them they were being kidnapped.  They had to follow our directions without asking any questions. We had them hop in the car–completely unaware of where we were headed.  Funny thing is, they kept saying, “this better be worth it!” My husband and I would glance at each other and just silently laugh to ourselves.  We reassured the kids that it’d be “more than worth it!”  Along with the promise that it was something they would never forget.

031613_8303 031613_8307As soon as we reached a stretch of deserted desert, we pulled off the freeway.  We’d tortured them long enough and it was time for the BIG reveal.   The kids were told to get out of the car. While the song, Unsustainable was blaring away, we presented each of our children with an envelope holding their concert ticket and a gift bag with a Muse concert t-shirt {I had bought ahead of time online}.


That moment will go down in Bluemel history as pretty freak’n epic.  They were stunned, shocked and Katie cried because she was so excited.  After all, this was our girls’ first concert, ever.  Gary and I wanted to make sure that when we took our two little ladies to their first concert, it’d be one they’d never forget. This was it! Rocking out to Muse with the kids was more fun than going to Disneyland, and I love the happiest place on earth. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be at every concert of theirs from here on out!

I’m thankful to have a husband who is an audio-file and has taught me all that I know about various artists and genres of music.  My appreciation for good music runs much deeper now because of him. It’s such a powerful force in our home and lives. I loved it this morning when I heard Katie’s alarm go off to wake her up for school and it was a song from Frozen.  Our eyes flicker open to start a new day with the help of some killer beats boosting us out of bed. It puts us in good spirits and is truly the perfect way to start the day.  I find I’m far more productive when I have music playing in the background. Last night while I was cleaning up the kitchen, I asked Eric to be my DJ.  He has such good music taste for his age. Yes, I even love listening to my teenagers music.

This morning on my way home from dropping the kids off at school, I saw a man walking down the sidewalk toward the bus stop with his headphones on and singing along.  He didn’t care if he was a good singer or if people saw him rock’n out in public.  He was in his happy place. That’s what music is for. To take you on a journey to your happy place.

Plato once said,  “I would teach children music, physicas and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”  His philosophy was right on the money.  It’s been proven that listening to classical music can help students achieve higher test scores. I’ll never forget the nerdy math teacher I had in high school.  He taught our algebra lessons with classical music playing at a low volume.  Then when we were testing, he’d play that same classical music.  Guess what?  The girl {me} who got C’s and D’s in math–suddenly started getting A’s!  No. JOKE!  It really does work!  I even have report cards to prove it!

Music serves a variety of needs in our daily lives.


There’s even music therapy, which is recognized as an established health profession. As a therapeutic tool, it’s been proven scientifically to:

  • Lessen the effects of dementia
  • Aid with pain management
  • Improve speech in individuals living with Special Needs like Autism and Down syndrome
  • Improve sleep patterns and weight gain in premature babies
  • Improve motor function in those living with Parkinson’s Disease
  • And much, much more….

Simply put, music heals people. It soothes the soul.  Music can make a bad day better or a great day even greater.


I see people singing in their cars all the time–making the horrific traffic we have here in Southern California a bit more bearable.  Everyone who walks and runs around the park closest to our home, are plugged into their favorite exercise playlists. And I never tire of hearing our gardeners singing along to their spanish music blasting from small boom boxes while working on our yard.

Music is everywhere.  It puts life into our days. What are you listening to?

Here are some favorites from my Spotify playlists.  Songs that, more often than not, end up on repeat.

  • Amy Winehouse:  Back to Black and Love is a Losing Game
  • Robert Cray: Hold On
  • Trey Anatasio: Clint Eastwood and Architect
  • Capital Cities: Safe and Sound
  • Neal Casal: White Fence Round House
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band: It’s So Heavy
  • Apollo:  Timekeeper
  • John Legend:  All of Me
  • Zakk Wylde:  The Color Green
  • JJ Grey I Mofro: The Truth
  • Muse: Starlight, Hysteria, Survival, Explorers {my all time favorite}
  • Eminem: The Monster
  • Zedd:  Stay the Night, Clarity 
  • The Black Keys: Lonely Boy
  • Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Neil Young:  Heart of Gold
  • Incubus:  Drive
  • Kansas:  Carry on Wayward Son
  • Extreme:  More than Words
  • Pearl Jam:  Even Flow
  • Eric Clapton:  Blue Eyes Blue, Tears in Heaven, {I} Get Lost, Somewhere Over the Rainbow {all his songs}
  • Adele:  Turning Tables
  • Hardwell: Spaceman-
  • Lupe Fiasco: Battle Scars
  • Carrie Underwood:  Mama’s Song   
  • Indy Musician Mindy Gledhill

Clearly I’m not picky and I’ll listen to everything from rock to country. I love it all. I recently came across this great quote–I really hope this is true….


Music.  It’s the soundtrack of your life.


{And just like that, my case of writers block is unblocked–and wouldn’t you know it–through the power of music!}









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