Abigail Kaufman found out she was pregnant near the end of her junior year in high school. While her family supported her decision to keep the baby, the school was much less approving. As bullying intensified, Abigail tried to figure out how to finish the last two classes she needed to graduate, while raising a newborn baby.
To find a way to balance school and family during a challenging time in her life, Abigail had to look beyond the traditional public school system. She found a solution in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which allowed her to pursue her education at home, on her baby’s schedule. But when she first enrolled, Abigail had no idea how the experience would change her perspective and impact her life goals.
This is Abigail’s story, in her own words:
I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter right before junior year was over. My school was not flexible when they found out I was pregnant, and they did not support my decision to keep my baby. I was often bullied, and girls said all sorts of horrible things about me and my baby. But when I went to the principal’s office, the administration claimed that I lied about being bullied. I felt judged and casted out because of it.
Heading into senior year, I had all the credits I needed to graduate except for fourth-year math and English. So I talked to the administrators and said, ‘I only need these two classes to graduate. Is there any way I could just take these two classes, even if you want to add more homework, so I can get home to my baby?’ They told me, ‘No, absolutely not.’ They wanted me to stay in school from 7:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon, when I only needed two classes. They would rather me be in study hall than be with my daughter. They made me feel guilty because I wanted to be there for her.
My mom and I decided that homeschooling would be the best thing for me. We heard nothing but good things about ECOT, so my mom made the call and I enrolled in ECOT for my senior year. ECOT was so much more flexible and supportive of me being a mom at a young age.
My daughter was born on November 25th, the week of Thanksgiving. I didn’t have to miss much school, because I was able to stay home with her as I was taking class. I took a week or two off and then went right back in. They even told me I could take a 5-week maternity leave, but I didn’t want to fall behind. I wanted to graduate.
I was able to coordinate my schedule around Annabelle, and I could even feed her while I was in class.
The teachers were very supportive and encouraging. They’d say, ‘I’m really happy for you. I’m so proud of you. If you need to move anything around or attend class at a different time, we can do that.’ They told me they didn’t care if they got notifications in the middle of the night, if that’s when I was doing homework because I was up with the baby. They’d say, ‘Feel free to shoot me an email in the middle of the night, and when I wake up, I’ll get back to you.’
If I missed a class or two, they would always accommodate my schedule and set up a study session or a one-on-one tutoring time. It was great, because I didn’t have to get Annabelle all dressed up to go anywhere; I just had to log into my computer, email my teachers, and they were always available to me.
I hated school until I started ECOT. I felt like I had to be in school because the state was telling me I had to, but I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t study because I didn’t care. At my school, if you weren’t an athletic star, you didn’t matter. Plus, with all of the bullying, I was ready to give up.
But ECOT completely changed my life. Once I got to ECOT, I felt important. I took my education a lot more seriously because I was comfortable asking questions. I really cared about my grades, so my teachers challenged me with college courses like calculus and psychology. That was when I realized that school can be enjoyable, and that I actually enjoyed school! ECOT made education more meaningful.
ECOT helped me become more positive about myself. My self-esteem was extremely low at that public school, but ECOT improved my self-esteem. I feel more confident in my schoolwork and in myself. I even received the Eagle Pride award four times recognizing my academic achievements. I felt really proud of myself. It made me think, ‘If I can do this, then I can go to college and be successful.’
A lot of people say that online schools aren’t that great academically, but don’t tell me that taking that college-level calculus test online was easy! I hate how people doubt online school curriculum, because you really do get challenged. I took challenging college classes at ECOT, and I was able to overcome obstacles to be successful. I learned some study habits that prepared me for college, and now I’m doing really good at college, even with a little one running around.
I’ll graduate college in the spring of 2018 with a degree to be a radiologic technologist. ECOT made me feel that it’s really important to do this for my baby.
It breaks my heart that Ohio legislators are attacking ECOT, because if I did not have ECOT, my daughter would have been raised by my mom and grandma. I wouldn’t have been able to spend time with her, and there was no way I was going to miss my child’s life. ECOT supports young mothers like me to achieve their goals of graduating and staying home with their babies. If they didn’t have ECOT, what would they do? I know it’s all about tax money, that’s all the legislators are looking at, but they’ve got to realize that ECOT does change lives. Kids need ECOT.”
Original story published 9.8.16 - Updated 2.16.17
ECOT is currently involved in a legal action with the Ohio Department of Education. The department is attempting to limit school choice by ripping funding away from ECOT and other eschools based on selective and retroactive enforcement of absurd attendance rules.
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