Jane first heard about ECOT more than a decade ago, when one of her sons was halfway through his junior year of high school.
“He had a problem with authority, and he was not scoring well in any of his classes,” she says. “So I asked a friend of mine, who was a member of a school board, for help. We couldn’t afford private school, and we lived in the country so there were no private schools close by – what were my options?”
When her friend explained ECOT’s online curriculum, Jane was willing to try. She pulled her son out of school and enrolled him.
“I’m sure he never would have graduated if he stayed in traditional school. He barely graduated from ECOT,” Jane says of her son, now 28.
His younger brother started ECOT at the same time, as a sixth grader. In eighth grade, he asked to go back to public school after earning student of the year in both math and science through ECOT. But after just a few days of returning to school to be bullied by classmates, he quickly changed his mind and begged to stay in ECOT.
Raising a grandson
Unfortunately, Jane’s son continued down a bad path. He had his own son, Dax, in 2007, and often left the baby in Jane’s care. By the time Dax was 15 months old, a judge gave Jane and her husband full legal custody without court-ordered visitation. They continue to raise Dax, allowing his parents regular visitation.
“Dax is energetic, curious and extremely social,” Jane says. “He’s been through more in his short little life than most people have, so I know he has a worried mind. I know he has trouble staying focused. I know he’s very excitable.”
Dax’s kindergarten teacher praised his imaginative, excitable personality. His first grade teacher tolerated it, noting that he had trouble staying focused, though he performed well in class.
Second grade seemed off to a fine start. Dax brought home daily behavior grades based on colors, ranging from red (good) to green (average) to purple (bad). He usually had green days, sometimes swaying up or down – typical for a second grader, Jane thought.
During the second week of second grade, Jane saw the first red flag (and not the kind that marked “good” behavior).
In Dax’s classroom for parent-teacher conferences, she asked him to point out his desk. He pointed past the pods of desks grouped together in the center of the room, toward a lone desk pushed up against the chalkboard in the corner.
Jane spoke with his teacher (and eventually the principal) about the situation, asking why Dax couldn’t rejoin the rest of the class. “‘We're not going to move him back until he proves himself,’ they told me,” Jane says, but she wondered how he’d be able to prove himself as part of the group if he was isolated from everyone else.
The school’s proposed solution
Upset to see her grandson isolated, Jane met with Dax’s teacher, principal, and school psychologist to discuss a solution.
“The psychologist decided he was ADHD and required medication,” Jane says. “They explained that if we took him to the doctor, had him diagnosed and put on medication, they could provide an Individualized Education Program for him, so he wouldn’t be required to take the third grade assessment – because there was no way he could ever sit still through that test, they said.”
“We did a lot of research,” says Jane, who works at the local hospital. “Medicating him is not an option for us, under any circumstance, because he doesn’t have a medical illness that requires treatment. We know he has trouble sitting still; we know it’s a problem – but not one that we’re willing to medicate.
Our family doctor even said, ‘You do not have a problem with your child. You have a problem with your school.’
He said, ‘Even if Dax did have an ADHD problem, (which he did not diagnose), it is not healthy to isolate him.’”
The final straw came later that winter, on an especially cold morning before school. “Great,” Dax said sarcastically. “Now I’ll have to sit in the hall for recess again.”
“Why?” Jane asked him. “What did you do wrong?”
“Nothing,” Dax said. “The teacher said she can’t trust me, so if it’s indoor recess, I have to sit in the hall.”
Jane confirmed it with his teacher: After “too many incidences of inappropriate behavior” at indoor recess (when the rest of the class got to watch movies), Dax had been moved into the hallway to play quietly with toys and sometimes, if he was good, a friend.
After “hitting the brick wall with the teacher and principal,” Jane contacted the school superintendent, who diverted back to the teacher. That day, after speaking with the superintendent and still feeling no support from the school, Jane enrolled Dax in ECOT.
Turning a new page
Dax was accepted into ECOT in on March 4, 2015. The day he got home from school and found the ECOT materials waiting, he started his first class immediately – and didn’t go back to public school.
He took his third grade assessment test last fall – the one his second grade teacher said he couldn’t possibly sit through – and passed on the first try. He made student of the month during the first quarter of third grade in ECOT, and made principal’s honor roll the first two quarters of the year.
“We weren’t looking for him to be coddled. We weren’t looking for him to be treated like he’s the only kid they have. We’re just looking for him to be treated fairly. He needed some compassion and empathy, not isolation.
In that sense, the ECOT teachers have been fantastic. If you email them or leave a voicemail, you hear back within the hour. If he’s having trouble with one of his classes, he can get extra help.”
Jane was able to arrange a flexible schedule at the hospital, where she works two 12-hour shifts during the week, and every other weekend, giving her three weekdays at home with Dax.
“It’s not that homeschooling hasn’t had its challenges,” Jane says, citing her rural location on a 93-acre farm in Orwell as a major obstacle to participating in group events or socializing with friends. “Dax still has trouble focusing, and we have to redirect him hundreds of times a day with lots of little breaks and recesses. But because of ECOT, his days can be much more flexible. He feels safe, he feels respected, and he feels like he has help available to him.”
“If I had anything to say to any parents, or even grandparents, considering ECOT, if their child is having issues at school and they’re not sure if this would work – it’s not nearly as hard as you think it is, and it’s much more rewarding than you think it will be,” Jane says. “ECOT makes it so much easier. Dax gets opportunities to work on problems with other children in his class, and he loves the opportunity to get called on during his live sessions and take his turn answering questions or reading aloud. Most importantly, we don’t have to wonder if our grandson is in a safe environment, learning good life lessons.”
Original post date 2/16/16 - Updated 12/2/16
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