Note of Introduction from Course Creator

I was an accidental homeschooler. 

The call came from my daughter Cass’s speech therapist. Cass was born tongue-tied, had surgery at age three, and was wrapping up her speech therapy in first grade. The therapist informed me that Cass had been put into a special education reading program, and the therapist was correct in suspecting that I hadn’t even been notified, let alone consulted.

“I don’t think she belongs there,” the therapist said.

I agreed. More than agreed, I worried. I saw what happened when kids were tracked into resource and similar education programs. 

And I felt guilty. I was helping other people’s kids get “off track” to reach full potential. How could my own kid now be there? What did I fail to do as a parent? 

I also felt betrayed. This was my school district, and I worked hard for them. I now had the parent perspective of being blindsided and somehow dismissed in major decisions regarding my child.

So why was Cass in there? Cass had been labeled ADHD and dyslexic by her teacher. Yes, Cass did have a high energy level, making rapid connections from one topic to another. And yes, let’s just say she is “visually gifted.” To top it off, sometimes she “talked funny” and speech therapy takes time. However, the reading class was doing nothing to address these traits. It was just a place to put her.

I had been enjoying the success of designing personalized learning programs for students and watching them grow – both academically and emotionally. I had just been trained in reading recovery methods, and I combined that with my personalized learning methods research in an effort to help Cass.

I had two weeks.

Over winter break, I taught Cass to read using methods that worked for her. It required taking over the living room. We needed space and textured carpet for the whole body and tactile-touch approaches. Textured paper and medium point pens, writing with eyes closed. Elephant-nose letter writing in the air. Feeling the sounds as they were spoken by her, then by me.

It worked. After only two weeks, Cass was retested and transferred out of the special education reading class. We were then approached about having her tested for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE). Seriously.

She was tested the following year, scoring 99% on the assessment. By third grade she was reading at a college level. By fourth grade she was being homeschooled 100% of the time. She then started college at age 14.

A remarkable young woman, she gives me many reasons to be proud. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been empowered to help her. How differently might her path have been? 

In addition to homeschooling both of my daughters, I started helping other parents do the same. I also worked on programs within the public school system; helped modify or even create new school programs - both public and private; and coached fellow educators who were enthusiastic about student-centered learning approaches. 

I began to look for ways I could best serve to help the most people. I could start one more school, or I could help several people start several schools. I could have my own classroom, or I could help many teachers in serving their many students. And then I thought, now that my children are grown, what if I put more of my energy toward empowering other parents? 

And so here we are. I put together the quickstart guide I wish I had years ago (as a parent and as a teacher), and I hope it makes your own path that much easier. Perhaps even more joyful!

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