By the way I sat crying in the school Administrators Office, you would’ve thought my child had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. As hope drained from my heart, the words I had just heard bounced mercilessly in my head: ‘I’m afraid your son is dyslexic and we don’t have the resources to support him.’
‘This can’t be,’ I thought. ‘Dyslexia? If you don’t have the resources and we don’t have the resources, then where do we go from here?!’ We had worked so hard for so long to get to this point, building and exhausting our budget and expertise in order to support our children educationally, only to hit another road block. It felt so hopeless.
Allow me to rewind.
Like many newlyweds, my husband Micah and I had begun our parenting journey quite optimistic and very naive. We had read the ‘right’ books, done the ‘right’ things, noted ‘those other parents’ we vowed never to be like, and were ready to take on the world with our 5 kids (and now a 6th on the way!) I was the product of the Massachusetts school system, where I got straight A’s, served as President of almost every club, and won a full scholarship to college though America’s Junior Miss. Smooth sailing.
Micah, however, had a different educational experience. With undiagnosed dyslexia and incredible athletic ability, he often felt (or was told) he was dumb and that sports were his only hope. It would take decades, several attempts at higher education, and a military deployment to Iraq before he tapped into his potential, eventually earning an MBA from Georgia Tech and building a successful career serving our country as a Data Scientist and Artificial Intelligence Engineer- all while building our family, relocating again and again across the East Coast, and finally laying down roots in Georgia.
Our children began their education as homeschoolers. How hard could it be? Our firstborn took to it effortlessly, further convincing us that we had the right formula. Then came our second. And third. And fourth. And fifth. And it was unbearably difficult. They were unable to learn to read, math was unendingly confusing, phonics were a nightmare, books sat on shelves untouched, collecting dust and mocking us. My strong, gritty children were growing increasingly defeated and downcast and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong as their teacher. The only thing that seemed clear was this: they needed more than I was able to give.
So we did what any parents committed to their children would do-we didn’t quit! We believed in our children and knew that eventually we’d find the right soil in which they could grow. Turns out, that particular soil is rather expensive and so we built a second business centered on serving our community, which financially allowed us to explore various educational options, skilled tutors, and family support. We started and hosted support groups for other families like ours and began sharing our experiences and resources on various platforms.
We also hired an author and leading researcher of nuerodivergent learners to live with us and evaluate our children. What an honor! On his last day with us, with my pen in hand, eager to write out his best advice that would no doubt save my children, he simply and with much conviction said, ‘Your children are going to be just fine. They are incredibly intelligent. Brilliant even! They simply don’t fit into the traditional educational model. But I can tell you this: at the right time, they will learn everything they need to learn in order to be successful adults. But they only get one shot at childhood. So your job is to protect and nurture their self-confidence and love of learning so that they can continue to grow into the amazing humans they were created to be.’
As I write this, my oldest son is thriving in a private classical school. He loves Latin and Psychology and wakes hours before school in order to complete an extensive course-of his own accord-to become one of the youngest full-stack software engineers in the world! Our second oldest is working hard in a homeschool coop, finally reading and unendingly curious, all while showing up as a leader and very talented athlete on his baseball team. We’re still looking for an optimal school setting for him, one that will help build his character in and out of the classroom, and have recently found a promising private school option. Our 11-yr old daughter is also currently homeschooled and supported by an in-home tutor. She’s astonishingly artistic and has been accepted into a high school level advanced art class. She spends her days writing books ‘for kids like me’, she says, hoping to help solve the literature void for older dyslexic children. It is her dream to attend ‘a real school.’ Our youngest two children are also enrolled in a private school and being supported by a dyslexia tutor during school hours. They are happy and eager to learn, show incredible work ethic and have convinced me that dyslexia is not a disadvantage as much as it is a super power!
I’d be lying if I said, however, that this hasn’t put a financial strain on our family. We do not qualify for significant financial aid and currently invest well over $40,000 yearly into our children’s education- all taxable dollars. My husband and I are entirely convinced it is worth every penny and it is an honor to work hard and make sacrifices in order to support our children in this way. We tell them often how important they are to us and to the world, and they don’t take that lightly. They have big, generous, admirable dreams and the courage to make them a reality.
To know a scholarship opportunity exists that honors qualities like effort and service and not just financial need has restored so much hope for families like ours. To receive a gift like the one provided by Learning to Serve would allow us to contribute more significantly through financial giving and acts of service to others in need. What a blessing to be able to give and receive in this way!