Like I mentioned in my previous post about virtual schools, it just wasn’t an option that was ever on our radar. My husband and I both work full time and neither of us had any significant challenges in the public school system so we just assumed that our kids would attend as well. Ah the assumptions we make before we become special needs parents…
My daughter attended preschool and kindergarten publicly. Honestly she missed a lot because of her frequent illnesses but the school fairly easily accommodated her and she was a fast learner so she didn’t seem to be negatively impacted (at least academically). She started first grade with a teacher we weren’t particularly thrilled over but we were committed to making the best of the year.
Ryley developed an ear infection in her right ear; nothing new there as she had several a month anyway due to her immune deficiency. The pediatrician genuinely felt he could handle this infection and we spent several months going back and forth trying to get the infection cleared. He even had us see a local ENT during that time who believed it was just being stubborn but would eventually clear up. I should note this was still early in our special needs career and we didn’t know us much as we do now about her condition or listening to mommy instinct over doctors’ opinions from time to time. Eventually we requested to be sent to her primary ENT at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
The ear infections had caused her PE tube in her ear to turn and the combination had blown out her eardrum. The eardrum had been trying to repair itself but would then burst again in a vicious cycle. Most of the eardrum was gone and even more significantly so was a good portion of her hearing. Some investigative work and a very helpful school principal helped us figure out that the trigger was something environmental at her school and we needed to figure out another schooling option immediately.
We immediately convened an IEP meeting and the school quickly agreed upon homebound instruction; essentially her teacher would tutor her several times a week. Sounded like a great plan and we left the school ready to make it work. Then the teacher started canceling every session or expected us to bring Ry to the same school we were trying to environmentally avoid. When she would meet with Ry it was to do some worksheets that really weren’t forwarding her education at all.
We moved to Plan B which was to look at interdistrict transfer. Several schools in the district were at capacity so they were immediately eliminated. We had high hopes for the last school on the list but when we met with the principal for a tour he immediately informed us she would be placed in the deaf classroom. The classroom was amazing as was the teacher but Ryley used a hearing aid and knew nothing about sign language. He wasn’t open to any discussion and we were too tired from the ongoing medical drama with her ear and the previous tutoring situation to want to fight it.
My husband and I went home ready to research homeschool. Having no idea where or how to start, I went online. Somehow in my search I came across Public Virtual Schools. The idea was intriguing; as I mentioned before they would provide all of the materials, lessons, and even a licensed teacher. The classroom though would become our home. We looked into state testing scores and parent/student satisfaction surveys and realized that this was a viable option for our family.
With a lot of anxiety we moved forward with the enrollment process and within a few days of being enrolled we fell in love with the program and the flexibility that it offered us. It was only a temporary plan for us though and she did return to traditional public school the next year. In 3rd grade we ran into a similar medical situation and immediately re-enrolled in the Virtual School, again pleased with the program and its availability. Fast forward to early fall of 7th grade, and my daughter realized that her medical conditions don’t allow her to be at her best early in the morning, frequently missing school was a source of social anxiety for her, and she has a different learning style preference then the public school could cater to (she absolutely hates changing subjects just because the bell rings when she is really into a lesson). She asked us to order the Virtual School materials for her to look over and then approached us to discuss enrolling again. At this point in her academic career, we want to make these decisions with her and she once again chose to enroll for 8th grade. Maybe most telling of her love for the program—she voluntarily enrolled in a summer math class last year! For us it is definitely a year by year decision but we have found it is possible to juggle full time jobs and school at home for both children. It isn’t always easy but then again few things are when you live a special needs life. The rewards though have definitely made our decision to go the Public Virtual School route completely worth it.
Another day I will talk to you about how this schooling option has worked when the special need is Autism.