For many years, I wanted to homeschool Em. She was a free spirit caught up in the twists and turns of struggles. Early on, it was the teachers who didn’t have the patience to encourage her through her struggles. It was easier to “throw her away” and ask her to leave and go to a public school. In a place where she should have been embraced and loved, she found contempt for who she was and her challenges that she presented.
It was a blessing in disguise. At the time, I was hurt and angry for her. She was so young and couldn’t understand what she did wrong. She didn’t do anything wrong and that’s the hardest part to explain to a young child who struggles with understanding communication. I was still seeking answers and getting told that I was looking at the “symptoms” wrong. Yet, I knew in my heart what I was dealing with.
So enter the teachers that forever set her up to succeed. Those three teacher NEVER gave up on her. No matter how difficult it was for her, they kept fighting for her. Pushing her for her best. Those teachers she still remembers fondly. For two years, they pushed her out of her comfort zone and accepted nothing less than her best and believing she was fully capable. Encouraging her peers to interact with her. Encouraging acceptance of the unknown. Fostering inclusion. Shutting the bullying down before it became an issue. Fostering friendships between peers.
Then we moved. She got her proper diagnosis and forward we moved. It was a struggle but we kept fighting and advocating for her. Accepting nothing less than what she deserved. Reminding those in charge exactly what was expected. Yet, there was something missing. The empowerment factor. For several years, we tried to empower her. Yet, it seemed like something was off.
She could advocate for herself. She could defend her peers. Yet, when it came right down to it, the system failed her. Off and on over the last five years, I’ve looked for ways to make her life better. Not necessarily easier, but better. To help her LOVE learning again. Only to give into that idea, I can’t give her what she needs and it’s best to leave it to the professionals. The very same professionals, who took her label so seriously they didn’t take HER seriously about interactions with peers. Bullying was brushed off as misunderstandings and her being “overly sensitive”. Negation from the ones who claim a zero tolerance policy for someone struggling.
That led down a very dangerous path for the last year and a half. We empowered her as much as we could but the negation from the school led to a cancellation effect. She spiraled into self harm and suicidal thoughts. Anger and frustration kept building up and she even had some suicidal “attempts”. She had thought and planned out her :attempts” but only acted on to a point and cancelled at the very last minute and then calling for “help”. We got her “stable” but she still needed more. School was the furthest thing from my priorities for her. Keeping her alive was my priority.
I was in IEP meetings weekly. Discussing what she NEEDED. Never ever feeling like progress was being made and Em’s anxiety mounting due to the idea that she had no voice in that environment. She had lost all control of everything in that environment and the powers that be, intentional or not, made her feel like they never believed her and that she was “manipulating” the situation to get out of being in school. When the bullying was so bad she was having debilitating panic attacks that mimicked seizures.
Something had to change. That was the only thing we could agree on. So, we found her an online program to earn her High School Diploma that was accredited. We found a way to give her back her life and her voice. We took and unenrolled her from public school. We found a way to homeschool her with a nationally accredited program. While it was money we don’t have, it was a necessary component to empowering her. Showing her that WE believed her. That WE acknowledged since the situation wasn’t being taken seriously as the issue by others, WE did. So WE changed a direction for her.
Going into the program, she needed 22 classes to graduate. They credited her for 2 classes. Leaving 20 classes at the beginning. In almost 3 weeks since starting the program, she has eliminated another 3 classes. Leaving just 17 classes. Even if she slows down a bit, she still will have her High School Diploma by her 17th birthday. A full 2 years before she was slated to graduate.
Empowering her has given her confidence we haven’t seen in years. It’s given her direction. Just even a few weeks ago, she NEVER wanted to continue on past High School. Now she’s rethinking that. She’s looking at getting an online associate or bachelor’s degree. She’s considering other options. She is able to relax and breathe now. She’s finding herself. She using her voice to be active in advocating for herself. Best part, the anxiety and depression has lessened to a more “normal teen” level.
Empowerment can do wonders. She’s THRIVING. She’s succeeding and her grades are reflecting that. She’s carrying roughly an 89% average on tests/exams. She’s overall enjoying learning, even though it’s overwhelming. She’s getting out and do more. She’s TRYING to be more, do more. She’s realizing that right now, she’s her own obstacle if she allows herself to be.