RITES Learning Specialist and Home-school Coordinator Debra Nassau, M.A., reflects on the unique rewards of working with home-schooled students.
When we become educators, we do so for various reasons, but a common thread throughout is undoubtedly the desire to make a difference – to make an impact in a child’s life and to lead them to that “lightbulb” moment. It can happen in a traditional classroom, no doubt, but for the really tough cases, for the ones who fall through the cracks or who just seem hopeless, it often has to happen in a much more unusual way. The road is tougher and often bumpy, but the journey is that much sweeter, for both the student and the teacher.
After many years of working in a standard classroom and as a Reading Specialist working with many grades in one school, I have begun a rewarding new chapter in my education career. Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of working one-to-one with two students who are part of the RITES home-schooling/alternative placement program. This opportunity to work individually with each student enriches the experience, both for the student and for me as his teacher.
I am able to tailor each lesson to fit the student’s individual learning profile and really concentrate on providing the elements of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), if applicable, as well as address Common Core standards. The students have the opportunity to grow and take risks, and still participate in a challenging curriculum, while proving their ability to learn without the same pressures of a traditional school setting. Nothing helps build self-esteem and confidence better.
These students come to RITES as an alternative to their public schools, which, for different reasons, were not meeting their particular learning needs. One student attends RITES three days a week for several hours, while the other comes to us Monday through Friday for multiple-hour blocks. We have designed a unique program for each child that is tailored to meet his academic needs, as well as his personal interests. This way, each student is able to engage fully in the tasks set, building on individual strengths, while addressing learning weaknesses, and making progress, all of which still aligns with Common Core standards.
One of my students loves the outdoors, so as part of his Language Arts program, he has read the novels My Side of the Mountain and A Week in the Woods. These stories have captured his attention while he has worked on strengthening his reading comprehension skills. This student is a creative, “hands-on“ learner who has enjoyed designing and constructing models and making a video to demonstrate his understanding of books he has read – multisensory instruction at its best!
My other alternative placement student has been working on math skills that are aligned with the Common Core standards at his grade level. Through using concrete math materials, this boy has gained an understanding of basic math concepts and improved his computation skills. He has been able to work at his own pace, and it has been very rewarding for me, and for him, to track his progress. When this student came to us, his testing scores indicated his potential to learn was limited, but with our carefully constructed curriculum and safe, supportive learning environment, he has defied that assumption spectacularly!
Home-schooling/alternative placement at RITES is a great option for students who need something entirely different. Working with these two students has been challenging and fulfilling for me. I have enjoyed getting to know them, and there is nothing more rewarding than helping them develop both their skills and their confidence as learners.
Most of all, these are two boys with different learning profiles and challenges, but a shared, common problem: at middle-school age, they had all but given up and were running out of options. Their parents were at their wits’ end and the schools had gone through all their resources. When we talk about “saving our kids,” this is perhaps one of the most essential salvation operations we can offer. Every day, we see how each boy has reinvested himself in his own learning. Hearing praise and feeling success has led to a “yes I can” attitude that breeds further success, allowing each boy to defy the odds and truly learn.
To find out more about the RITES home-schooling program, call us at (401) 723-4459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more about the social side of home-schooling, click here.
For more ideas about developing a healthy home-school environment, click here.
For a listing of local Rhode Island home-school community groups, click here.