Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.
January 2016 was a different time in our lives.
It was filled with anxiety and frustration from our experiences with Brooklyn’s education and it was a tipping point for me as an entrepreneur. It was a time that we defined as the beginning of a new lifestyle and now, as we sit smack in the middle of January 2017, we can see how far we have grown as a homeschool family.
When my husband, Jaime, and I made the ultimate decision to withdraw Brooklyn from Worcester Public Schools, we did so with little knowledge of how to implement a homeschool curriculum, structure our day or remain the best versions of ourselves for Brooklyn and our younger daughter, Evian.
It was a critical moment, and while we had no idea what to expect from Brooklyn, or ourselves, we were resolved to never look back.
Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The resolution revolution, or scroll down to explore more of her story
We felt restricted by the standard school system rules in place with WPS, and were seeking more creative freedom to address Brook’s ADHD and how it affected her learning. We looked for ways to enhance engagement with new learning tools and sought to explore subjects that pique her interests.
Through our homeschool discovery, not to mention our Learning Hub work, we have explored various teaching methods for children who struggle to learn in more traditional ways. We know that all the work we have done, no matter how chaotic it was, has led us to a good platform for us as a family and for Brooklyn as a student.
Over the past year, we have read books on best practices for children with ADHD. We learned about creating a habit of learning. These practices not only helped with Brooklyn, but they also opened the doors to new curriculums for The Learning Hub.
We have learned many different teaching methods, each one focusing on the individual student. But now as Evian has started kindergarten, and Jaime and I shift our focus from one student to two, we’ve had to determine the best method to speak to both children without singling one out.
The Universal Design for Learning is the platform that inspired our curriculum shift at home and for the library lessons and tutoring we offer at the Hub.
It gave us a full understanding that, though we may learn differently, we can all still learn the same things. This is allowing us to educate Brooklyn and Evian in subject matters that cater to them collectively, but also speak to them on an individual learning basis.
For example, while Evian focuses on developing reading and basic math skills, Brooklyn spends her time on polygons and angle measurements — but they’re both working on art, science and history together, and learning and collaborating on ideas or thoughts for projects.
This form of learning has helped Brooklyn grow from an insecure third-grader to a confident fourth-grader.
The Learning Hub has benefited just as much, as these individual learning techniques mix well with our STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math] curriculum. Many return students to our Worcester Public Library program, who felt insignificant in the beginning of our classes, are now the bright stars of our program.
The UDL model has created a new world for our family and our mission with The Learning Hub, and now we believe to have the tools to make a difference at home and at work. Public school may not be for everyone but for those who feel they don’t have a choice, we’re proof that there’s an answer out there.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: