We love hearing from families about how school choice has changed their lives. Renee's son is now taking college courses thanks to it, and he’s thriving. Read more about Renee and her son’s school choice story in her own words below.
School choice sent my son to Disneyland---The Happiest Place on Earth---several times since his early years in school. This past year, as a college student, he took his best trip there ever, proving that there is hope for any child who struggles. Believe me, the most appropriate school for a child can send any child to a happy place like Disneyland. This is the story of how school choice enhanced my own child’s journey. But let me back up to the beginning.
My son excelled in preschool, but struggled in kindergarten and beyond. Falling behind more and more each year, we withdrew him from our local school district and enrolled him in the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA; an online school) in third grade. OHVA brought his curiosity and love of learning back. His highly qualified, state-certified teacher oversaw his progress via phone conferences, email, and face-to-face classroom activities and field trips. OHVA offered our son the tutoring denied to him in the public school and eventually offered him the IEP that was denied to him, too. The personalized curriculum met my son where his challenges began (below grade level) and took him above grade level by the end of that first year. By fifth grade, OHVA paid professionals to test him. They diagnosed him with Asperger’s and offered him occupational and speech therapies that we had always paid for. OHVA took him to such a happy place, but the next trip to “Disney” would come to us by surprise.
At the beginning of sixth grade, he was offered a waitlisted spot in Oakstone Community School. Best yet, the online school worked and shared information with Oakstone to develop the ideal IEP for his new school. He could now go to therapy at school and be free to participate in extracurricular activities. He felt challenged, supported, and welcomed, and he had peers again (the last thing an Aspie needs is isolation from the world). I joked to Oakstone that I was now driving him to Disneyland instead of working with him every day at home. Oakstone took him to his happiest place on Earth; it also lifted my burdens of worry and took me to my own “Disneyland.”
Oakstone’s unique program pairs children on the spectrum with peer models. The teachers are state-certified, highly qualified, motivated, and committed. Because the school is designed for the learning/socially challenged, there is a natural tolerance for differences and uniqueness that is celebrated there. Best yet, so many extracurricular activities and sports are woven into the Oakstone experience, as are social opportunities to interact daily. It is a unique school where the curriculum includes leadership, responsibility, morals, and stewardship. Oakstone transformed my son from a boy to a man. He developed strong academics, work ethic, and responsibility there. My son had a social graduation ceremony last year but was able to stay there through his IEP this year to have a bridge year. In doing so, he is a College Credit Plus Student. He takes Central Ohio Technical College courses there in the morning and attends Columbus State Community College in the afternoon. Because of the teacher and staff’s support during this bridge year, he carries a full-time college load and is excelling.
My son is now a confident, achieving young man. He will be a productive member of society---an outcome that may have been so different without school choice. As a mom of that kindergarten boy, I had such despair. As a mom of that same college freshman, I am in awe of the outcome. These wonderful school choice programs all helped send my son to his own personal Disneyland. His happiness comes from success in school, and his confidence comes from achievement. And my joy comes from having watched the journey.