Submitted by an Academus Student’s Parent.
I get up every morning at 7am and prepare breakfast for my lovely teenage daughter. Our home is calm, peaceful and happy. Just a year ago, it was nothing like this.
I made a very tough decision, 23rd February 2010 to give up my full time job, and start teaching my daughter from home. After a meeting with her THEN school, and learning that her tutor for the past two years never even knew her name, I was shocked. Every single day my quiet, soft spoken child would get home and cry. She’s been bullied by the same person for nearly two years. I’ve written letters, I’ve spoken to the head of the school, I’ve threatened her tutor. And still, that day I learned that something as simple as my child’s name – was not known!
So I signed up with Oxford home schooling, bought her coursework and we knuckled down. Slowly but surely my daughter’s confidence started showing and we made great progress. It was in this time that the official diagnoses came through as well. “Your daughter is rather high on the HFA Scale”. High Functioning Autism is not a terribly painful diagnosis – in fact we’ve suspected this from the time she was about 3 years old. We saw strong Asperger’s syndrome signs too, and taught her the best we can how to deal with life and living. We even informed her schools, who seemed ill equipped to deal with the matter.
What we didn’t count on, was that our lovely daughter would have a very keen interest in very specific subjects. I realised I was so far out of my depth, and needed help. Desperate I sat down at my PC and started searching.
I don’t remember how, but I found the Academus Learning website. It is a online virtual school that gives ‘live’ classes! Gobsmacked I sat and stared at my screen, until eventually, I managed to find a number and made a call. I did not even know at the time that this was an option. Virtual schooling? Sure I’ve heard of distanced learning, and yes, I have done a few online courses myself; but honestly.. ONLINE SCHOOLING for our children? GCSE’s and Sixth form? Is this possible?!
It just so happened that I ended right on a “morning drive” with Mr Alex Mirza, the head teacher of the school. He was on his way to giving a class, and I had millions of questions. He is a patient man – answered them all without a hint of dismissal.
There were other concerns about our daughter’s safety due to a serious physical attack on her by a stranger. We had to make sure that our child will never be ‘found’ vulnerable, exposed or ostracised. Alex quickly calmed my frail nerves down, invited our daughter to a free week in the classroom and said “Every child should have the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure environment. We can’t monitor their every move, but we do our best with the tools we have to ensure that!” He meant it when he said ‘state of the art’. I still smile sometimes when I see the way the school operate and how technology is at the forefront of the educational system here; and yet it is such a close and personal environment.
I believed him. Our daughter joined Academus’ classroom a few days later, and has not left since. Her grades are amazing, her teachers are fantastic, and her confidence in herself and her abilities are overwhelming!
A typical day for us is no different to that of a normal, mainstream school. We get up, dress up, eat and drink – the difference is that we do it rather jovially at the moment!
No dredging through the cold and rain. No worries about bullies or unwelcome attention. No judgemental attitudes over physical and mental limitations.
School starts for our kid now at 8:50. She has regular breaks, and often I can hear her laugh during lessons. Often I hear her speaking to her teachers and interacting. Two days of the week she finishes at 2:30pm and the other days at 12:30pm. There are no arguments over homework that needs doing. She is excited, enthusiastic and very keen on getting it done! While in the mainstream school she did her homework, it usually ended with both of us in tears of frustration.
She’s slept terribly because of panic and fear of what the next school day will bring before.
NOW, I can’t seem to get her away from her schoolwork and her sleep patterns are just right for her! She’s relaxed and happy when she lies down, and EXCITED for the new day to begin.
On top of that, she’s made friends!
Many parents worry tremendously about the social aspect of virtual schooling. IT was something I felt concerned about too. I needn’t have worried. With small, intimate classes, the kids take to each other rather well. The teachers encourage interaction and group work through clear, direct guidance and a keen enthusiasm of their own.
Outside of school they communicate via Skype, MSN and Facebook. These are things that most teenagers do and use on a regular basis. It is the modern way of growing up.
While of course I keep a keen eye on everything – I am happy to see that my girl now tend to spend time with friends. Before Academus, she would rather separate herself from the crowds. Asperger’s can be partially blamed, bullying can be blamed – for most part she did it to try and keep herself safe and sane. She never even bothered with the social media websites because “I’m just a freak Mom, they don’t understand me.”
It is no wonder that I sit here gleaming while writing this then! Academus gave her wings, and now she’s soaring in all aspects of her life.
This was the best decision I have ever made. Not only to remove her from mainstream schools, but also to sign her up at Acedemus Learning. I have my daughter back, and there is nothing better in the world I can give her other than love, support and a good education. Academus is helping her learn how to get the rest of it for herself!
If you are a parent, who are at your wit’s end, please, contact this wonderful virtual school, or even contact ME directly. Like you – I just wanted someone to talk to…. And now, I just want to ‘pay it forward’ while my child TRULY learns without barriers!
Contact Details – http://www.academus.org.uk/
Academus Learning Ltd
43 West Hill
Telephone: +44 (0)208 385 1798