Friday, January 11, 2008

You gave me questions. Now you've got answers! Part 2.

The story of what led me to home schooling is a very complicated one, but I think I need to start with it so the answers make sense. This ones a bit long and slightly tragic.

Let’s start with my 8th grade year. It’s safe to say that I always had a plan for what my high school years would look like. From the moment my sister began her 9th grade year at Roosevelt, I knew that it was the place I wanted to be. I wanted to make the memories that she had, have amazing friends, and success. I was about 7 at the time and what did I know?

So when 8th grade came along it was a no brainer that I would follow in her foot steps, and join my friends at the school that everyone wanted to be at. Seriously everyone, people use fake addresses to go to this school. I tested into the same rigorous science and technology program, with a higher score than many of my other classmates. The guidance counselors from my middle school and from the high school painted a beautiful picture of the next 4 years. I was sold and I couldn’t wait for 8th grade to over.

Then August rolled around. I went to orientation, and felt so small in this school built for 3,000. On that day I found out my schedule was wrong. I had a Spanish 1 class that had been my 3rd choice, after Latin 2 as a first choice and some other language. You see I’d been a Latin girl since 4th grade, and Spanish was just not going to work. So I came straight home and had my mom call the school.

It took 3 weeks for my class transfer to even take place. In that time I came down with a weird stomach illness, which we would find out later was anxiety. After scattered absences and the schedule debacle my Latin teacher thought it was in my best interest to become her student aide instead of trying to catch up almost a months worth of advanced Latin work. I wasn’t happy with it but I tried to soldier on. Only the stomach thing continued to be a problem. I spent weeks out of school curled up on the couch in pain, throwing up on the way to school, and being miserable. I’m sure the combination of the physical pain, how being in pain made me feel emotionally, the traumatic event that led to my father’s bipolar diagnosis, and hating my new school that went on within a period of 2-3 months led to the next part. But let’s just say I made a trip to the psychiatric wing of Children’s National Medical Center, for an attempted suicide. I didn’t want to go to school but I couldn’t explain a reason why.

Eventually I was put in the Home and Hospital Program, which assigned me with one tutor who quit after a day with me. This program allowed me to attend school with a new tutor in the morning for some subjects and make up work, while I did my afternoon classes on my own. The only thing was I didn’t need a “tutor” she was more of a baby sitter. This caused more harm than it was worth, as I started getting anxious about meeting with her. I even had a teacher who failed me because I told her I was going to be back in school for good, but the anxiety did not allow this to be true. (The class was Crafts, and anyone who knows me knows I should have had an A. I even worked with the tutor on make up projects.) I finished the year with the anxiety related stomach thing still there, grades I was less than proud of, and I was seeing a therapist. The plan was to return for my sophomore year as a clean slate, starting the Latin thing again and working as the stellar student I knew I could be.

I continued to see this insane therapist guy who asked me if I did street drugs all the time, through out the summer. I kept telling him that, “no I did not do street drugs, because the problem was I didn’t want to leave my house,” among other issues.

After a summer of relaxation and hanging out with my wonderful friends, I returned for round two. To make a long story short the cycle began again. I was unhappy with school, I didn’t want to be there, some days I would even make plans about just walking out, I stayed home some days, I felt out of place. All of these things didn’t really seem to have much reason behind them. I had a new therapist, I had good friends, a decent schedule, only home wasn’t great.

I went back on Home and Hospital this time outside of school and only for 6 hours a week because I couldn’t even handle more. I stalled and had panic attacks, I didn’t want to go. I would refuse to do work for the tutor, I hated her. She quit on me. I got another tutor and things started looking up, but then I realized I didn’t want to keep doing this. The school suggested an IEP and placing me at “special school”. I didn’t need a special school for kids with behavior issues. I didn’t have those, but that’s all they could offer. So my parents and I decided to discontinue the sessions with the tutor, I was in no place to attempt to do quality work. My parents proceeded with the IEP process until we could find a better option. There was talk of the GED, returning to my boundary school, repeating my sophomore year. None of these options were right, and we waited while the school worked on the whole IEP thing. In the meantime I started researching home school programs, against the advice of the school. I found one I liked, but could not enroll until I was not enrolled in public school. Summer came and the IEP process was at kind of a dead end. We made a plan to un-enroll when I turned 16 in September of 2007. So I started 2 online home school classes in July (2007) to see if this school was a fit. I liked it. So we waited and waited, until I turned 16. It turned out the school system had already un-enrolled me, but never informed us. I took on more classes in October, and am technically still a sophomore. So this is the story of how home schooling came into my life.

Now to the questions.

I'm curious about how you feel about home schooling? I know a number of families that home school their children, but I've never asked them personally about the experience. - Laura

I feel that home schooling was really the only option in my case. With all of the things that happened to me and my issues with anxiety, traditional school was not an option any longer. I needed to take the time to work with my therapist and find out how to deal with my life and a lot of family issues. I could never have done this in regular school. I also love that with this program I have freedom and flexibility. I do have to work on being more accountable for my work. I have more freedom of choice in my courses, whereas at my public high school I had to follow a specific curriculum based in science something I’m not all that fond of. It’s not traditional in the sense of my mother teaching me from a text book at our kitchen table. It’s all online; the teachers prepare “lesson viewers” which are basically more sophisticated power point presentations for every lesson, all the tests and assignments are submitted through, some of the courses even offer the text books on CD.

I do have to say we considered a more traditional route for home schooling, and visited a friend would taught more than just her children in a classroom in her house. I didn’t like the idea of the Christian based curriculum, and while I know that many people do not use religious based studies, that was all she talked about. I like the idea that I can be here in the comfort of my home, do my work, go take pictures outside, eat when I need to, and take a day off if I’m sick all without so much pressure.

How do you think homeschooling has influenced your teen years? Do you miss traditional high school or is it a huge relief to be free of it all? - Amylia

Since I have only been doing this for a short time, I’m not sure it has influenced me in many ways. Though I can say the events leading to home schooling had a significant influence on the person I am today. I’ve learned a lot about myself through all of this.

The second part of that question is a toss up. I’m not sure that anyone would miss everything I went through in traditional high school. I don’t think my experience was typical, sometimes I wish I was 14 again and could do it over. I do however miss my friends a lot. I don’t see them very often, because they are technically a year ahead of me. They are preparing for college, taking AP courses, and working hard in a program that asks a lot from them. It is however a relief to not feel sick every morning because I don’t want to go to school. I’m much happier now, than I think I would have been at this stage if I had had the opportunity to continue with traditional school.

*Edit 1/12/08* I can't believe I wrote this entire thing without mentioning what all of this did to my diabetes management. While it's safe to say 2 years ago I was definitely not doing as much as I am now in terms of control. For me depression + anxiety + type 1 diabetes = high morning blood sugars when I was panicking about school, bad eating habits, and major blood sugar swings.

Next: Amylia's diabetes related questions, if you have any d-questions or topics to add feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks for all the participation, it's been fun!


Anonymous said...

This is weird, but I am going through anxiety and panic attacks when it comes to school as well. It is my Junior year, I went the first day, and havent been back since. I am working with a therapist, and trying to get back. I had to be put on prozac because my panic attacks were so bad. I also have type 1 diabetes. I hope I can get back soon. I want to go to med school after high school, but without a diploma, I dont see myself getting there. So when i read this, my heart sank. It's hard for people to understand what it's like to be so scared of something. But reading this lets me know that I am not alone, in anything. I just want to say, I know how you feel, and I want to thank you for sharing this story.

Colleen said...

Jillian, I've said it before but, one more time. You impress me as an extremely intelligent young lady. I think you'll go far in life and do something special. Just my two cents...

Donna said...

Oh Jillian,
As I read your story, I could feel your pain. I honestly understand how you feel regarding the anxiety & panic attacks. While mine started when I was in school, they didn't get really serious until I was in my thirties. Now I have a difficult time going to work, shopping, etc. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. I'm sorry you had to go through this type of thing, too.

I apologize if I missed this somewhere in your story, but do you take medication to help you? Does it really help? You can email me at if you want to talk.

Thanks for sharing your story. I know it must have been difficult for you. But believe me when I tell you that you are not alone.

Jillian said...

Anonymous, if you ever happen to stumble back here please feel free to email me.
I know how difficult it can be not having people understand what you are going through. I'm glad that because of this you know that you are not alone. It will get better, it takes time and a lot of hard work.

Colleen, once again I'll say thank you. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Donna, I think this is why we connect so well. You have been somewhat open about your struggles, and reading about them has helped me. I'll send you an email right away. Sharing my story was difficult, but I think sharing it can help lessen the stima of mental illness.

Bad Decision Maker said...

thanks for sharing your story (like you said, i think its so important/awesome to be open about issues, mental illness, etc. to lessen the stigma). by the way you are good at writing to convey your experiences.

my sister (who isn't diabetic) had anxiety and depression issues and had a lot of trouble at our big public school (sounds like a similar situation - high pressure academics, thousands of people to get lost among). she ended up transferring to a small school that involved 3+ hours on the train a day, which at the time i didn't understand (although i supported her decision), and it turned out to be right for her. even though it was ok for me, i realize those kinds of traditional high school settings just really don't work for some people and they aren't very good at accomodating different issues, ways of learning and being, etc.

i have been struggling with depression this year, minor, but it makes it soo hard to go to work, get things done, get my blood sugars where i want/need them to be.

in search of balance said...

Jillian, what a scary thing to have happen. I'm so glad that you have a plan now that works for you, and that you're doing great and making good progress.

I agree with all those who posted before me... you're such an inspirational young woman, and the value of you sharing your experience online for those who are in a similar situation or who need support in getting through highschool themselves is incredible.

Thanks for another wonderful post.