This is What Freedom Looks Like

The padded chairs in the conference room aren't that comfortable. They've never been comfortable. It's the fourth time I've sat in those chairs this year, and as I sat leafing through the Individual Education Plan in front of me, I realized that this could very well be the last time.

It's surreal, really.

No more sitting in conference rooms discussing IEPs, arguing that my child diagnosed with a physical disability should have class notes provided for him, no demanding that bullies be told to leave him alone, or trying to explain yet again to people who don't understand dyspraxia why he needs a computer.

Those days that I peeled him out of the car and then left the school sobbing, hoping for some kind of normal school experience, seem so long ago. One might think that the choice we've made as a family is giving up-and maybe it is. However at some point this year, after a particularly stressful situation that involved peers and wild accusations, we sat around the table in the kitchen and collectively decided we were done.

Kevin sits across from me, his bangs hanging in his eyes, this almost man who for the first time, looks like a bird about to be set free. As the meeting drones on, he begins to fidget. Finally, the moment comes.

"So I hear that you are thinking about doing online schooling next year? I asked around and was told to set you up with the District alternative online program. You might want to contact them about that."

"Actually we are going to register him with this really great online school we heard of that is in Vanderhoof. He won't be in this district at all."

Cue the startled look. This wasn't expected, obviously, but we're not finished.

"I want to do grade 11, and probably grade 12, online," Kevin flicks his bangs out of his eyes casually. "I can't get the courses I want or need here, and you know, after this year, I'm done."

He's done. He made this decision, really. The child who once feared school, then wanted to be rid of it forever, has taken charge of what he wants to do with his life and has decided that damn the system, the mediocrity, the people who want to stick him in a box. Damn the adult who told him that it doesn't get better or the the kids who bully him in the halls. Damn those who always put him down because he can't physically write like they do, and who may be good at school but are truly stupid when it comes to actually using concepts rather than repeating them from the textbook.

He's better than this place, he said. He can move on, reach higher, and be greater than they ever thought possible. He's already part way there, anyway. All he needs is a little more freedom, and he'll leave them in a cloud of dust.

"So, he won't be coming back, " I continue. "Not next year, and if all goes well, not the year after that either." He's flying, I want to shout. We're setting him free, finally. You have no idea how monumental this is, how I've lain awake at night wishing for this moment, thinking it will never come. I imagine leaping onto the large table and dancing a jig, whooping loudly to show my sheer joy at the very prospect that all of this complicated, messy, rule bound garbage is finished.

School, for the past 11 years, has been something to be survived. For all of us.

We walk out of the building into the sun; this time not mulling over next moves or what needs to be done, but rather with a sense of relief.

Kevin turns to me, his blue eyes shining with excitement, and breaks into a grin.


I resist the urge to grab his tall, skinny, frame in my arms and tell him how proud I am of him. How advocating for him has profoundly changed who I am and while it was hard, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. How much I admire his drive, determination, and know that he is going to kick online school's butt.

Instead, our hands meet mid-air in a high five right outside the doors, in full view of the office.

We're done.

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