Day 10 – Dream Come True #30dreamdays

7 Sep
Faith's photo posted today with this message: She Turns Her Mind, To Countless Things, Then Back Again, To Where It Begins, This Restless Erge, And All It Brings, To Someone, To Be Something.

Faith’s photo posted today with this message: She Turns Her Mind, To Countless Things, Then Back Again, To Where It Begins, This Restless Erge, And All It Brings, To Someone, To Be Something.

Today my youngest daughter has a new beginning. It was her first official day as a student of Three Rivers Middle College High School (TRMC).

This is a dream come true not just for Faith but for our whole family!  In all my 30 dream days, nothing will top this!!!

Without the back story, that might not seem as monumental as it truly is.  So I will share this back story as a reminder to Faith of what she has overcome to get to this point.   And for me,  the story just reminds me how good God is and how He answers our prayers.  For you, I hope you will find something in here to connect with whether you are a parent of a struggling child or a teenager like Faith trying to set herself free or just someone who appreciates a good Underdog story.

For me the story starts when I married my husband who was a single dad raising 3 kids aged 5, 6 & 7.   I felt unprepared for instant motherhood and the challenges that Faith would face academically and emotionally.

Faith’s school struggles started early.  Within the first 2 weeks of first grade I could see that she had a hard time staying focused on her homework.  She would put her head on the table and start rolling it around.  She would put her back on the chair and hang.   She was obviously bright and was a happy, loving child but something was making it hard for her to focus.

We started her on medication for ADHD in first grade.  We didn’t know any better.  Her doctor prescribed it and it made some difference in her focus early on but not enough so we stopped.  We still hadn’t figured anything out.

By the end of first grade she wasn’t behind much but since we could all see the early signs, the school recommended that she spend another year in first grade.  My husband and I were against it because we wanted her to stay with her friends and not be “that kid” and the school didn’t really explain any studies to us or attempt to be persuasive.  I am not blaming them for this but there is significant research that suggests that this really would have positioned Faith better for long term success and we just didn’t know that at the time.  It was positioned more as an option rather than an exhortation. Their recommendation was non-chalant and they just tried to normalize it like “she’ll never know the difference”.   And we believed she would have known the difference and that it would have negatively affected her.   Knowing what I now know, I would have chosen to have her do another year.

Grade 2 was similar but she had such awesome teachers those first 2 years that she was still doing well and only struggling a bit.

Then there was 3rd grade.  That was by far the worst year for her.  She was poorly matched to her teacher who retired shortly thereafter and she lost ground, significant ground   I later learned this is the year that most kids who struggle in school will start to really struggle.

Fourth grade was a lot of the same.   The daily struggle to do the homework after school was getting worse for both Faith & I.   I kept trying to find people who had answers who could help figure out what she needed as again it was obvious that she was bright and so what was getting in the way?

In the second half of 5th grade I got a call from the school psychologist.  I’ll never forget as I had taken my first real time away from the family to visit my sister in Florida.  With no work and no kids I bought a bunch of books about ADHD (as that still was the best diagnosis we had) and things called “The Organized Student”.  I immersed myself in trying to find any answer that might be hidden in those pages.  I had just read an article about Executive Functions in CHADD magazine and things started to click.  I felt like I had found the primary description of what I was witnessing.

While I was in Florida, I got a call from the school psychologist.  He wanted to ask me if there was anything going on at home as Faith wrote on the blackboard that day “I hate myself”.   I lost it!  I couldn’t believe that they spent more hours watching this child struggle and immediately assumed it was something at home.  I told him that she is in 5th grade and has struggled since first grade.  She is tired of it and she now can see the difference between what she can do and what the other students can do.    She feels like a failure and nobody knows how to help her.  Who’s failing here?

We convened a PPT meeting upon my return and for the first time, I had what I considered to be the first real advocate for my daughter’s education other than me and my husband.  This school psychologist pushed back on the special education director who was focused on the testing done in 3rd grade that showed Faith had no learning disabilities.   He used the ADHD diagnosis and said they could classify as “Other Health Impaired” and that she should start getting special education services in 6th grade and that was approved and we developed her first IEP.

I can’t say this felt like “a win”.   No parent sets out hoping to label their child “Special Education”, at least not given the stigma that existed and still does.   But I had hope that with the extra help and individualized plan that she would finally be able to succeed in school.  And I would stop at nothing to ensure her long term success.    She continued to struggle despite the extra help and she experienced mean teachers and students throughout middle school and her brightness was completed dulled and her happiness turned to what could only be called depression.

It was during these Middle School years that I really felt we lost Faith.   She was defeated, depressed and started to change in a way that was heart-breaking.  She was being bullied and even when she wasn’t, she was abusing herself by comparing herself to others and losing herself bit by bit.

When the time came to pick a high school she chose Ellis Tech and after doing well in the exploratory round, chose Hairdressing.   The school year started off well at Ellis but while they had a special education director and we were revising an IEP, they really couldn’t help Faith.  They were not equipped for it.   By February of her freshmen year, she was unraveling.   The team at Ellis, myself and Faith pushed through and she got most of the credits for her classes but would not return next year.

That left us having to find a place for her and because she was still scarred from the bullying at Griswold Middle School, she wanted no part of Griswold High School.  She also learns better in a less distracting physical environment (noise, activity etc) and working in smaller groups.  So the only program that Griswold had to offer was the Griswold Alternative School.

The educators and staff at Griswold Alternative School are talented and really tried to make that work for Faith but by its nature, it had more kids who had either emotional, behavioral, drug, self-harm/depression and attendance challenges and that environment over time really got to Faith.  She dreaded going there.   By May of last year she told me she didn’t want to go back.

Over the summer I considered Unschooling her.   I love the concept and was encouraged by other parents that I was capable of it and could do it and that it sounded like it would be awesome for Faith but I had to be honest and acknowledge my own limits.  We are a completely self-employed family currently running 3 businesses and with my oldest daughter heading off to college this Fall, there was no way I could take on adequately educating Faith.

So with no other choice, we sent Faith back to the Alternative School on 8/28/13.  The good news was that Griswold has a new Special Education Director who has been honored as an innovator in special education.  She would also serve as the principal of the Alternative School and so with a new Positive Behavioral Supports program in place at the Alternative School, we tried to tell ourselves that this year could be different.

We had put in an application at the Three Rivers Middle College which is a magnet school for 11th & 12th graders that operates inside Three Rivers Community College but there were no openings.  I got the call on 9/4/13 that there was an opening at TRMC and we did a tour after school.  She shadowed there yesterday and I awoke to this post by her this morning:

“In My 11 Years Of Being In School Or Whatever, I’ve Never Woken Up Lookin Foward To Go To School”

In my 11 years of prayer for Faith and her education, I have never woken up so hopeful.  I always knew that she was smart and talented and never stopped telling her that but her daily experience did not line up with that and it has been heartbreaking to watch her struggle.

My husband & I have been praying for Faith her entire life.  We have waited on God and we believe in His perfect timing.   This result is not something that any of us could have imagined a year ago as TRMC is only starting its 2nd year of existence and this is the first year that Faith could attend as a Junior.

So to wrap this up I want to remind Faith that all of this struggle and the black cloud that has hung over your life has lifted.  It is a new day!  You have chosen to push yourself and go after your future with a fierce determination to write your own story and we will be here to support you every step of the way.   You need to hold your head high and remember as you take on the challenge that lay ahead that…

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. – Randy Pausch

It’s not going to be easy.  And you are going to get frustrated and may even have days where you feel like you don’t belong on a college campus but there are few girls your age who have overcome their circumstances and plenty of adults who whined about their cards and folded before their vicotry…you will not be one of them.  You’ve already proven that to me and your dad and I think you have finally proved it to yourself.  You are even inspiring some of your friends to pursue their futures with new found passion.  I am so glad I have a front row seat for the story you are about to write and perform.

And so like a beautiful butterfly who has struggled to break the cocoon, little girl you just got your wings.  Now FLY!!!


3 Responses to “Day 10 – Dream Come True #30dreamdays”

  1. Lauren March 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    What an uplifting story, Nicole. God always answers prayer and perseverance!


  1. Day 26 – Lifelong Learning #30dreamdays | 30 Dream Days - September 22, 2013

    […] written about my daughter’s own struggles that drew me into this research.  I’ve written about how mainstream education is outdated and not built to produce United […]

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