Message to Parents
My name is Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy. I’m a career educator who has studied and worked in educational leadership for more than 25 years. I’m also the mom of two wonderful unique adult daughters, who each grew up with very different educational needs.
As a mom, let me be honest with you–I’m frustrated with the education system in this country. And maybe you’re frustrated, too. Maybe your kid is a little bit different, and doesn’t fit into the “normal” or “average” box. My kids certainly didn’t. One of my daughters has a chromosomal variation with a diagnosis of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and my other daughter is considered academically “gifted.” I raised both girls in international schools as I traveled around the world as an overseas school administrator. When I brought them back to the US as teenagers, it was difficult to find a school that worked well for either of them. We found ourselves piecing together a patchwork of alternative education, Catholic schools, all-girls schools, homeschooling, online education, dual enrollment with college, and International Baccalaureate.
Trying to find the right kind of education was exhausting. Every option for high school seemed inhumane and outdated. These schools weren’t preparing my children for the world. They were just a painful purgatory of assembly-line learning that made my children feel invisible and turned them away from the joys of learning.
Many children are rendered invisible or damaged by the conventional school system. When I see other kids set on this trajectory of pain and despair, and I choose to say no. It is not acceptable for these children to be ignored or traumatized by their education. This determination was the catalyst for me to start LEADPrep, an innovative micro-school in Seattle. Drawing on my experience at other micro-schools, international school administration, and advanced degrees in alternative learning and school systems, LEADPrep became the school I wish my daughters could have attended. Each child–regardless of their diagnosis, or test scores, or grade level–is unique. Children are deserving of a school that sees them, values them, and supports them.
If your kid is a little bit different, and is struggling with school, I hope this book gives you support and empowerment. Conventional schools are an option that works for some children, but not all. As new research emerges on how teen brains work and learn and grow, we need to stand up for the implementation of new education models. We need to question the rigid tenants of school models created in the 1800s, and demand a flexible, humane school system that is relevant to today’s youth. We love our kids, with all their quirks and differences. If you’re feeling frustrated, that’s good! Frustration can be turned into passion and action. The LEADPrep model and the Micro-School Coalition can be a resource for your advocacy. I invite you to learn from our journey and be inspired to take practical, real-life steps today.
Our challenge, as caring adults, is to become the change we wish to see in the world. Every school year, kids are waiting, giving up, and being lost. There is an urgency here…let’s start now!
Your ally in supporting our colorful, mismatched kids,
Maureen O’Shaughnessy, Ed. D
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