It was 2005 when Destiny was adopted by Rob and Jessica Ward. At 7 years old, they were her fourth “permanent” family.
At last she had come under the care of loving parents. Jessica and Rob were committed to helping her grow into a thriving child and a successful young woman.
First three years: Traditional Public School
But Destiny had many learning needs. After joining the Ward family, she entered first grade for the second time. At that point she had never completed a single school year in one school. She couldn’t spell her name or count to five on her fingers.
Rob and Jessica enrolled Destiny in the local public school where they struggled to make things work for three years. Destiny’s learning needs were very difficult for the school to accommodate.
“Needless to say, school didn’t feel like a safe place to Destiny,” Jessica said “She felt constantly criticized, rejected and examined. The hyper-stimulating classroom environment left her always on alert and she came home exhausted. She learned, but slowly.”
Jessica doesn’t blame the school for this. She recognized the entire class couldn’t stop just because one student didn’t understand a concept in the allotted time.
“Our neighborhood elementary school did a wonderful job working with her learning disabilities but still couldn’t accommodate the low-stress environment that she needed to truly relax and enjoy the learning process. Also, her anxieties caused classroom management and behavior problems that detracted from other students’ learning experience.”
Jessica and Rob saw their daughter wasn’t catching up to her peers at the speed they knew was possible.
“Destiny is very bright,” Jessica told us. “She has a very high IQ which means she doesn’t qualify for special ed. But she doesn’t qualify for gifted programs either.”
Jessica started researching homeschooling options. Having been homeschooled herself, she was comfortable with the idea but still preferred to have the support of a structured program, especially in light of Destiny’s special needs.
That’s when the Wards discovered online public school—and things began to change.
A New Chapter
Online public school has been the perfect fit for Destiny’s unique learning needs.
The Wards explained that, “it’s like Christmas when the school boxes arrive!” In fall 2009, eight boxes were dropped off with everything needed for a rigorous fifth grade year.
Last year Destiny completely caught up to her grade level. This year, she entered sixth grade ready to go.
According to Jessica, online learning is “a match made in heaven for Destiny and school.”
With online public school, Destiny has the benefits of quality materials, interaction with classmates and teacher support without the behavioral challenges her special needs produce. Jessica explained how every call from Destiny’s school was about behavioral issues, how messy Destiny’s desk was, etc. She wasn’t able to focus on learning. Now she can. She also pointed out that students in the traditional classroom will be able to focus better without some of the distractions Destiny’s needs naturally caused.
Not only is the focus more on academics, the Wards can supplement the curriculum with activities that help Destiny to learn. For example, she loves to cook—which happens to be a great way to learn fractions, Jessica explained.
Jessica is grateful for the support Destiny’s online public school provides. “Especially with her special needs, I wanted to be able to talk with teachers and get help when she has problems with a concept. I can call her teacher and get suggestions, and sometimes the teacher will talk directly to Destiny and help her.”
Not only has Destiny caught up with her age group, she has more time each day to do the things she loves: cook, volunteer, play, etc. Her family puts together grocery bags for food banks and elderly neighbors. Destiny likes to make the deliveries.
Sometimes it’s the little things
Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference. Destiny’s ADHD makes it difficult for her to sit still and focus. That’s where King Arthur comes in. King Arthur is the family cat, a beloved member of the family, and a constant companion for Destiny. He spends most of his time sitting on Destiny’s lap at the kitchen table where she does her school work. “It’s hard to get up when there’s a cat on your lap!” Jessica laughs.
Meanwhile, Jessica isn’t far away. She sits at a desk across the room from Destiny and runs two small businesses from their home.
Jessica explained that she doesn’t have anything against traditional public schools or traditional homeschooling. She simply found that online public school works best for her daughter and believes it is absolutely essential for families to have choices.
“Before we worried about getting her through high school,” Jessica explained. Today, “she asked what she needs to learn/add or do in order to be ready and to make up her academic deficits to succeed at college early.”
Destiny has a bright future ahead. Rather than “languishing in a classroom where she didn’t fit in,” as her mom puts it, she is thriving academically, doing the things she loves and dreaming big for the years ahead.