One Family’s Journey from Struggle to Success
By STEPHANIE KELLAM, Parent
Walking into The Joy School in late March 2022, we were desperate. During second grade, our son Hudson changed from a happy, talkative, and loving child to a withdrawn, anxious, and overly negative one. He was still reading at a Kindergarten level and had recently expressed the desire to be no longer alive. After attending multiple schools without finding the best “fit” for him, we pulled Hudson out and started daily dyslexia intervention and weekly therapy in a last-ditch attempt to save him. Wondering if changing to a private school might help, we applied to several in early December 2021. After multiple rejection letters, it was suggested we consider other specialized learning environments such as The Joy School.
While Dad was eager to look at the Joy School, I (Mom) was more hesitant, but by March 2022, we were both looking for a miracle. I knew as I walked into The Joy School a miracle had appeared. Entering the brightly lit, colorful building with innovation screaming from the walls and hope beaming from the ceilings, I opened to the idea. In the first five minutes of the tour, I finally felt seen, and this came out in tears of hope. It felt like The Joy School was made for Hudson.
We quickly filled out the application, waiting to see if we would be getting our miracle. As I nervously dropped Hudson off for his all-day classroom visit as part of the admissions process, thoughts raced through my head. Would he behave appropriately? Would he like it? What would we do if it was a disaster, and he had nowhere to go? I waited for a phone call from the school that day saying “sorry, but please come pick up your child, as this is not a good fit.” But I never received that phone call. In fact, when I picked up Hudson in carpool line that afternoon, he got into the car with a smile on his face and said, “Mom, I love it here!”
Within a few weeks, Hudson was extended an offer for admissions, and we were a new Joy School family! He spent the summer asking to start school early, and when the day finally came, he walked off proudly as we held our breaths. Would it be the miracle we were hoping for? Could he possibly continue down the path of loving school this much? Would he do okay academically? And most importantly, would we finally get our child back?
But, he continues loving it to this day. Our child who used to hate school, now enjoys going. He has friends, he is learning, and he is no longer an angry, frustrated, unseen child. Reading is still a challenge; however, he is receiving wonderful support, and the relationships with his teachers have allowed him to gain the self-confidence and decide for himself reading might not be so bad after all. He shares that his new friends are flexible, understanding, and fun to be around. He describes what he calls a “judgment free zone” where kids can make mistakes and are taught how to fix them. He explains how to choose a book that is both on his reading level and interesting to him. He celebrates that at The Joy School it is ok to hug your teacher and eagerly anticipates his daily hugs from Ms. Christou and Ms. Kosley.
It wasn’t until a sunny afternoon in January I realized the greatest Joy School miracle had just happened. On the way home from school, Hudson pulled out a chapter book, and excitedly said he needed to find out what happens next- right now! Never in a million years would I have dreamed this child who was bullied for not being able to read, who had attended endless dyslexia intervention sessions, and who used to cry and give up when he tried to read, would pull out a book voluntarily after a day of school and joyfully read it!
Since then, we continue to find Hudson willingly reading and eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next book in “The Kingdom of Wrenly” book series. On a few occasions he even devoured an entire chapter book in a couple days. Our lives are so much better in so many ways now that Hudson has found a supportive environment to learn and grow where teachers have instilled in him self-awareness and confidence. We really do have our child back!
I am so grateful for the kindness, support, and dedication Hudson’s teachers display daily. They have built an environment where all children, including Hudson, feel safe, supported, understood, and loved. It is a magical place that has saved our family, and we are forever grateful for The Joy School.
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