Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From Bullying to Healing Our Education Journey

Several years ago, my son was the victim of bullying. He was physically assaulted on the playground of his brick and mortar school where teacher's were suppose to be keeping vigil. He was only in 1st grade. As I listened to our young neighbor tell me what he had witnessed, my mother's heart ached for what my son had endured. The neighbor told me that five 2nd graders knocked my son to the ground and proceeded to kick him in the stomach over and over again until our neighbor was able to summon help. The bruises on my boy's stomach proved the brutality he had suffered in a place where he was suppose to be kept safe. When I went to the school the next day, the principal was not in and no one else would help me. I was perplexed and outraged at their lack of empathy and professionalism. When they did finally address the issue, they made my son feel as though he had caused the bullying incident. They merely had the bullies write apology notes, which were copied from the blackboard. My son who has ADHD was restricted from recess on days when he couldn't sit still. He didn't understand why he had his recess taken away while these bullies were still free to play every day. My son didn't feel safe there any longer. His performance on his school work began to decrease. He became more socially withdrawn. I knew it was time to look at our education alternatives.

Thus began our search for the best schooling option that fit my son's needs and my family's schedule. Where did I even start? It all seemed so overwhelming at first. A myriad options were available but I didn't want to make a poor choice. I researched numerous homeschool curricula, charter schools, and cyberschools. I was always drawn back to Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA). I have Lupus, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Migraines and deal with pain and fatigue on a daily basis. Therefore, I truly needed curriculum that would already have the lesson plans mapped out and would manage the daily paperwork required by the state. Through CCA, I have access to all of the lessons and daily lesson plans as well as tips for each lesson. I record attendance each day while the teacher maintains all of the remaining paperwork.

The lesson schedule CCA offers is very flexible, which not only works well for me with my health issues but also for my son who needs frequent breaks throughout the day. I also appreciate that CCA's system helps me maintain accountability for the hours of work my child  accomplishes daily. We have phone contacts with his teacher biweekly, which allows us to discuss any problem areas, get clarifications on lessons, and ask whatever questions any of us may have. If a problem arises in-between our scheduled call times, we can always call the teacher or send her an email to which the teachers are very good about responding to in a timely manner.

I wanted curriculum that was diverse and substantial as well as accurate. CCA utilizes both textbooks and online programs and tools that engage children and make learning fun. They also work diligently to improve upon their curriculum on an ongoing basis. They also encourage student and parent feedback on lessons through a rating and comment system built in to every lesson. They also conduct surveys each year in which students and parents are asked to provide feedback and asked to comment on how CCA can improve their programs and quality of care.

I was very impressed with the wide variety of electives, clubs, and field trips CCA has to offer. CCA offers all students from elementary to middle school to high school the opportunity to engage in elective classes ranging from music courses designed by Julliard to language courses in Spanish, French, German, Latin, Chinese, and Japanese, to Anatomy Physiology, Business Law, Criminal Investigation, Astronomy, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education,  Medical Terminology, Finance, and Principles of Marketing. Students have the opportunity to explore their interests as well as have fun while learning about new topics in innovative ways. CCA also offers a multitude of clubs for students to choose from including Chess Club, Robotics Club, Academic Clubs, Literary and Art Clubs, and Volunteer and Service Clubs. What educational experience would be complete without field trips? CCA hosts numerous field trips at various locations throughout the state. The trips are planned and implemented by Community Coordinators and attended by various CCA teachers and staff members. These field trips count towards school hours and your child will enjoy being able to learn through hands-on activities. Field trips take place at historical sites, cultural events, ecological environments, community outings, government excursions, and learning adventures in science, math, language arts, music, art, physical education and history.

When we started with CCA three years ago, my son was placed in the Gifted and Talented Program for Language Arts and Science. My son enjoyed the extra reading projects through "Great Books" and learned the proper way to write various Language Arts papers. His vocabulary grew exponentially as did his comprehension. In Science, he has continued to excel. The Gifted and Talented Program taught him the proper steps necessary for hypothesizing and scientific theories. He continues to build upon his strengths in both subjects.

After my son was with CCA, we noticed that he was struggling with Math and with getting his thoughts down on paper.  When I expressed my concerns to his teacher and inquired about having him tested for Learning Disabilities in addition to the ADHD he had been diagnosed with the year before, CCA immediately started the evaluation process. Once the testing was complete and it was deemed that my son did indeed have Learning Disabilities, the school assigned a Learning Support or Special Education Teacher and drafted an IEP. This year, when I expressed additional concerns, further evaluations were scheduled, changes were made to his IEP, and services were added to his IEP accordingly. He now receives Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy in-home.

This is the type of personal care and sincere interest I have come to expect from Commonwealth Connections Academy. Everyone I have ever dealt with from enrollment and tech support to teachers and administrators have been professional, courteous, caring, and knowledgeable. Not once have I regretted my decision to enroll my son in CCA. He has come out of his shell and found a place where he feels comfortable being his unique self. All of the students are kind and help one another. They share a special bond. Furthermore, my son is doing well academically because he feels safe. I know what he's learning, that he is safe from any form of bullying or violence, and that he is getting the supports and help he needs. To me, the healing he has experienced is priceless.

If you have questions about Connections Academy, check out their website, events page, contact a parent page, blog, facebook, twitter, google+ and pinterest pages.

Please also consider attending one of their information sessions or parent meetings, which can be found on the events page or stop by the facebook page and ask for parent feedback as several veteran parents are always willing to share their experiences and answer any questions you may have. You can also send me an email or leave a comment and I will do my best to help you in any way I can.
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