One of my favorite shows is “Fixer Upper”…. a home makeover show. You know the show….. a family purchases a neglected or dated homes that’s in desperate need of improvement. The family has pre-conceived ideas about what they want it to look like, but no idea how to make that vision a reality. That’s when they call in the experts…. Chip & Joanna Gaines to the rescue! Where the client sees wreckage, the Gaines see potential. The family puts their complete trust into the hands of Chip & Joanna, in hopes that their dreams can come to fruition. Amazingly, after a few short months, the once run-down house is transformed into a magazine-worthy home that exceeds the homeowners’ expectations. The show ends there, but I would imagine after the camera stops rolling and lives resume to normalcy, the family feels relief. Their dreams becam reality. They must feel overwhelmed with gratitude when they think about what this house will mean for their family & their future. family has had our own “Before & After” journey. A year ago, we just had dreams. And now those dreams are our reality…… here’s our update.
One of my favorite shows is “Fixer Upper”…. a home makeover show. You know the show….. a family purchases a neglected or dated homes that’s in desperate need of improvement. The family has pre-conceived ideas about what they want it to look like, but no idea how to make that vision a reality. That’s when they call in the experts…. Chip & Joanna Gaines to the rescue! Where the client sees wreckage, the Gaines see potential. The family puts their complete trust into the hands of Chip & Joanna, in hopes that their dreams can come to fruition. Amazingly, after a few short months, the once run-down house is transformed into a magazine-worthy home that exceeds the homeowners’ expectations. The show ends there, but I would imagine after the camera stops rolling and lives resume to normalcy, the family feels relief. Their dreams became reality. They must feel overwhelmed with gratitude when they think about what this house will mean for their family & their future.
Our family has our own “Before & After” story. A year ago, we only had dreams. Now those dreams are our reality. Here’s our story…
CANNON- MAY 2020
Cannon’s academic struggles didn’t stand out. His dyslexia could have easily been overlooked (and was for a long time). On paper, you wouldn’t have concerns. I’ve even had educators question why we would take such an “extreme step” to get him intervention in another state. His dyslexia isn’t that bad, is it? People would say, “well he had good grades before.” True. He did. But the letter grade doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t tell you how much extra work it took outside of that school building to get those grades. Unless you saw it all first-hand, you can’t understand just how hard he had to work and how that effort affected him mentally, physically & emotionally. You see, to perform well in school, Cannon didn’t just go to school, listen to his teachers, participate in class & do his assignments. When the last bell rang at 3:00, his school day wasn’t over. He still had the 4th quarter to go. Like most kids, he enjoyed after-school activities & sports practices…..2-3 nights a week. It was a therapeutic release after a full day of school. By dinner, most kids are ready for some down-time. Unfortunately for Cannon, there was still work to do. Evenings were spent finishing assignments, reading and studying for tests. It was the last thing he wanted to be doing before bedtime, but he’s a disciplined kid that wanted to succeed, so persevered. Day after day, week after week, year after year, this was his norm. By the end of 6th grade, he was reaching a breaking point. He was in a negative place mentally….tired of school, tired of tutoring, tired of reading intervention programs. He lived for the weekends but by Sunday afternoon, his anxiety would shoot through the roof as he began dreading the start of another week. It was a grind and he was not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. School was just getting harder. As fatigue set in, he was reaching the point where he didn’t want to try anymore. In a resigned tone, He would say, “I’m just not one of the smart kids. I won’t ever be.” It’s a pretty hopeless feeling as a parent to hear your child say he’s ready to give up, when he’s only half-way to graduation. And what about college? How are we going to make it? Something has to change.
CANNON- MAY 2021 (one year later)
We left Ocala with a different kid. Well, maybe not a different kid, but certainly a kid with a different outlook. He was excited to get home to his family, friends & football. What he wasn’t too thrilled about however, was the fact that he would roll right into another school year within a few days of returning home (remember, these kids completed an entire school year and immediately began at The Morris Center, without a summer break). No rest for the weary. I knew the first week would be no problem, but I was concerned about how he would do once the “new” wore off. We were expecting the negativity and heightened anxiety to resume. We waited. And we waited. But surprisingly, it didn’t come. Now, I won’t lie and say he never had a bad day. He certainly did, like we all do. He also faced some physical injuries that kept him on the sidelines during football season & delayed his baseball season. That was more adversity that we could have done without (I mean, come on…..hasn’t he had enough this year?!). But from an education/school standpoint, he’s a different kid. I’m not saying he loves school & loves to read after TMC, but his perspective has changed. In the past, a week wouldn’t go by that he wouldn’t say the following: “I hate school. The teachers give us too much work. I need a break. Can you just read this for me and write my answers so I can get my homework done faster? I’m tired of doing extra tutoring and missing enrichment.”
We’ve been home for 9 months and I haven’t heard any of those statements (okay, maybe “I’m so tired of school. I’m ready for summer”). The constant negativity is gone. The long nights of schoolwork are now few and far between. He rarely asks for help with homework. His anxiety is so low that his need for medication may be eliminated. More than once, I’ve heard him make these comments: “literacy isn’t really hard. I got all my work done at school. 7th grade is easy. It’s so nice to not have to go to tutoring.” Someone recently asked him about his time at TMC. His response was, “it was worth it. It’s made learning easier and I can remember what I read a lot more. School is a lot easier now.” He even said to me, “man, I feel bad for my friends that are having to do tutoring for dyslexia at school. They’ve been doing it for as long as me and they’re still doing it. I wish they could go to Florida.” Me too, buddy. Me too. Before this past summer, if you asked Cannon what he wants to be when he grows up, he would completely dodge the question or say he had no clue. Now he will tell you he wants to be an orthodontist. And he just might be one.
As for those grades…. They are still good grades. They are just a lot easier to achieve now. Throughout our time in Florida, Dr. Conway repeatedly said to Cannon, “You’re going to work less and learn more.” Thanks, Dr. Conway. You were right!
AVERY…. MAY 2020
A year ago, my girl was at her breaking point too. Avery is the girl that gets along with everyone, works hard at everything, and wants to please. She fears making mistakes, and when she does, she’s very hard on herself. These “perfectionism traits” can do a real number on her self-esteem. Avery took on 3rd grade, and 3rd grade won. The work and the pace were difficult. She had more “red marks” on her assignments than ever before. The stack of pencils with missing erasers were a result of her writing words or sentences incorrectly, then erasing everything and starting over (for Christmas she asked for a whole box of erasers to keep in her bag). She was embarrassed to go to the library because her friends selected books from a higher reading level section and she had to stay in the “baby books.” There were tears going to school almost every day (a few times it took the sweet principal taking her hand and helping her out of the car). We saw fewer smiles and declining confidence. My easy going, school-loving girl was sad. Her light was beginning to flicker. One tearful night at bedtime she said, “Mama, I just can’t do it. It’s all too much and too hard. I hate my brain and having dyslexia. I feel stupid. Please don’t make me go to school anymore.” It brings tears to my eyes right now just remembering that conversation and the look of hopelessness in her eyes. We felt helpless and unsure what our next step should be.
AVERY- MAY 2021 (One year later)
Our girl is back! She returned in September with her head held high and a smile on her face. You could see how proud she was of herself. Within the first month of school, we saw her confidence soar. I’ll never forget her coming home from school one day this Fall and telling me about her day. “Do you know what Mr. LaSalle calls me now? He said I’m the literacy expert. We’ve been talking about words and why they’re spelled the way they are, why they sound the way they do, and where they come from. I know all the answers and when nobody knows the answer he says, ‘let’s ask the literacy expert….Avery?’ It’s funny. Kids were even asking me, ‘what do you think, Avery?’ I can’t believe it.” Talk about a milestone. This was the moment she fully understood that her hard work this past summer has changed her life forever.
Our school does MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing three times a year to track individual academic progress. I’m not a fan of standardized testing so I’ve paid close attention to this test instead, and used it as a good measure of growth for Avery. In simple terms, I’m hoping to see her number score increase and for her growth to be comparable to others her age.
Here’s her progress by Grade Levels…..
End of 1st – Beginning of 2nd: dropped 16 points (below the national average by 11 points)
Begnning of 2nd – End of 2nd Grade- 3 point growth (still below the national average by 7 points)
Beginning of 3rd – End of 3rd: 8 point growth
End of 3rd – Beginning of 4th (after the summer at The Morris Center): 7 point growth in one summer
Beginning of 4th – End of 4th: 10 point growth
The bottom line…..
Since attending The Morris Center, Avery’s score shows a growth of 17 points!!! This is real proof that she not only grew while at TMC, she has continued to grow back home throughout the entire school year. The sky is the limit for this girl!
So there it is… Our Before and After.
What a difference a year can make. To say we are proud of Cannon and Avery is an understatement. Their academic growth is validation that we made the best decision for their futures by taking them to The Morris Center. But even more important to us is seeing their personal growth. There’s been struggle & adversity. There’s been hard work and sacrifice. And now there is confidence & empowerment; success & celebration.
After 22 consecutive months of school and intervention, we are ready for summer and a well-deserved break. The Summer of 2020 may have taken away vacation, lake days and free time, but it gave us a pathway to the future and a better outlook on life. #worthit