Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Matthew's School Choice

Here in Ohio, our latest Governor is attempting to take away our current school choice options. It is his opinion that the money that is being given to Charter Schools, including the voucher system and e-schools, is what is causing public brick and mortar schools to fail. Since his campaign was funded by teacher unions, it seems he's all about not admitting that the school system has had issues for many years, LONG before school choice existed here in Ohio. But I won't go in to the politics of it all.

Today, tomorrow and Thursday, parents are being offered the opportunity to testify before the education subcommittee. Matthew's school is taking their entire staff down for the day on Wednesday and several of them will be testifying. Here's the letter I sent for them to read on my behalf:

Dear Representatives,

I’m writing to you today to let you know that it is critical to continue to fund school choice without restrictions not imposed upon brick and mortar schools. Charter schools provide an opportunity for students whose needs are not being met at the local school to find success elsewhere. They also give us an opportunity to teach our children the values and traditions we believe are important for them to grow into productive, contributing citizens.

The Governor has said that all children ‘deserve’ a public school education. Indeed, all children deserve an education, the best we as parents can provide. It is also true that not all children need to be schooled in a building in their neighborhood to be enrolled in the public school system to get the best. Charter schools give us as parents the opportunity to place our children in the best environment for them. Our children are not all cut from the same mold and respecting differences is a foundation of our country. We must continue to be given the opportunity to make the best choices for our individual children. Do not take Ohio backwards. Continue to be a leader in funding opportunities that help make our children all that they can be.

My family’s story is not unique. Many parents here today, and across the State, have a story very similar to mine. However, I think it is important for you to hear it to remind you of the lives you hold in your hands, the futures you can impact, and the families you touch with the stroke of a pen.

Nine years ago our family was in a time of transition. We were moving to a new area and knew that my son would be starting school that fall. Because my children’s success is so very important to us, we chose where to purchase our home by comparing school districts as well as other community assets. After narrowing down our city to Strongsville, we began visiting the local elementary schools, interviewing staff and observing classrooms. We then purchased our home in the neighborhood that was served by what we determined to be the best school for our family.

Happily we sent them off for several years to good teachers who taught them well. As our family situation changed allowing me to be a stay at home mom, I used my experience as a former teacher and school administrator to help the school in any way I could. As a member of the PTA and as a classroom volunteer, I had good relationships with the teachers as well as the Principals. Our boys were successful and achieving. Then things began to change. My oldest son began coming home hating school. He was starting to fail in classes that he’d been very successful in previously. His teacher had no explanation for it and we didn’t either.

The following year found him begging me to homeschool him. Each day he’d come home emotionally drained and feeling very defeated. Not because the academics were too hard, but because he was being quietly bullied by those who knew how to do it without staff members seeing it. Then it began to trickle in the neighborhood after school as well. My once active, friendly child was being lost before our eyes. The Principal said nothing was happening at school. His teachers never noticed anything, even when he told them what happened. Then our quiet, little elementary school was dealing with kids who brought knives to school and a suspected predator attempted to talk a child in to getting in his car. I promptly made the decision to homeschool him.

While I was researching curricula, I discovered that Ohio had a wonderful program where we would still be accountable to the public education program and have assistance when we needed it. I embraced the E-School concept and enrolled my son. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Enrolling in BOSS has changed him from the inside out. In the past two years he has gone from being a silent, sullen child who felt like he no longer belonged anywhere to one of the leaders in his circle of friends. He no longer is failing any classes, and is, in fact, making straight A’s. He is no longer bullied on a daily basis. His is a happy, interested young man who is living life again. He loves the interaction he has with his teachers and friends in the ‘virtual’ classroom, and he is self-motivated in completing his assignments. If something interests him, he often researches above and beyond what he’d ever have done previously like building Mayan ruins to scale in intricate detail, making satellites from Legos and other building materials, and writing about them.

His academic skills have grown tremendously as he’s able to further investigate things that interest him. This year he’s becoming quite proficient in several subjects including WWII, the Vietnam War, and tracking our involvement in the Iraq War and how it impacts us as Americans in a Global sense, and the mechanics of flight, early airplanes and early engines. No, these things aren’t in his curriculum. They are extra things he’s chosen to learn on his own. Many conversations happen daily in our home where he shares what he’s learned, asks questions to help him figure out more about what he doesn’t know and figures out what resources he can use to find answers to his questions. Weekly trips to the library are the norm for us now. He often interacts with the librarians as they help him find what he needs and teaches him how to find it later on his own. He is even keeping a journal of his discoveries. And he reads books on his own. Large chapter books that would previously have been discarded are carried into the car as we run errands, or go to appointments, and are read each night before he turns out his light.

He does all of this because he is schooled at home. Because he has the support and help of the teachers and staff at BOSS where he’s encourage to excel, to meet both their goals and his own. Because staff members take the time to see that he is successful and working at his own ability level. My once average son who had no ability to see a successful future, now desires to be a part of the PSEO program when he’s in High School. He now sees a future that includes college because he knows he can be successful. He will be successful because he’s had the extraordinary opportunity to learn at home under the guidance of qualified teachers, at our dining room table.

BOSS not only gave my son the opportunity to grow in to a young man without having to deal with the constant emotional baggage of public middle schools, but they’ve allowed him to grow and achieve in ways he’d never have dreamed before. I can’t even begin to imagine what his life would be like if BOSS weren’t there for us. I encourage all of you to realize that different children need different options, and virtual schooling is an option that MUST be funded in order for our children to continue to succeed in life.


It is my hope that we indeed make a difference. I know it has made a difference for my son.

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