Here in North Carolina, we have a menu of public school options that service our diverse group of students. As a mom who has taken advantage of these options, I cannot say enough great things about school choice.
My husband Richard and I adopted three beautiful girls. Like many foster care children, they were neglected, abused, abandoned and scared. We enrolled them in our local brick-and-mortar school, but their teachers did not have the capacity to deal with their daily struggles. Our daughters suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other disciplinary issues, which simply could not be managed in the traditional classroom setting.
From receiving weekly phone calls from our girls upset and sitting in the principal’s office, to crying uncontrollably when their names were called, to running off the bus in tears, we were in desperate need of a change. My heart ached for my girls. How could I help them?
I shared our struggles with a friend who told me about virtual schools. At the time, they were not available in North Carolina, but I was interested in this option and requested information. Last spring, I received a call with life-changing news: North Carolina Virtual Academy was opening that fall, and we could enroll our girls. My husband and I were hopeful this would be the answer.
For our family, virtual school has been life changing – a true blessing.
Our oldest daughter, Ashlyn, is now thriving in school. Because it takes Ashlyn longer than most students to complete a task or assignment, virtual school allows her to work at her own pace while still completing every task assigned to her. Ashlyn has the flexibility to go back to previous lessons if she’s struggling, and she can regularly meet with teachers to receive further instruction and help. And the frequent meltdowns Ashlyn previously experienced rarely occur.
Savannah, our middle daughter, is bright and bubbly. And though she was loved by her fellow students in the traditional school, she struggled to read. With virtual school we were able to get back to the basics and focus on the fundamentals without the usual distractions. Now, with attentive teachers who check on Savannah daily, her progress is amazing. This option allows us to keep track of her progress and figure out what adjustments need to be made so she can excel that much more in her education.
Our youngest, Abigail, was born with a muscle disorder. Before enrolling in virtual school, she suffered at the hands of bullies and was regularly harassed by her classmates. As a parent, this is perhaps the worst feeling in the world – unable to protect your child and their precious feelings. Abigail is now working ahead and thriving in a virtual school setting.
Our family’s situation may not be that of every other family. But what we do have in common is that every family deserves a choice as they pick the school that best fits their children’s needs. For my family, virtual school was a blessing. For another family, home school or a charter school might be the answer. Whatever the case, I urge our lawmakers and policymakers to trust parents to choose the educational option that works best for their family.
Tammy Thompson of Benson is a parent leader with the North Carolina Chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org.