Matt's mom, Christine, 2007
Matthew began his sophomore year of high school in September of 2004 already looking defeated and burned out. Matthew had NEVER looked defeated or burned out. Regardless of his challenges, Matt has always considered his cup half full. After three days of meeting with his special education team, hearing about his learning deficits, and understanding the lowered expectations of his academic performance, Matt called me at work and stated, “Get me out of here!”
The following week, Matt followed his older brother Ian, who had been attending North Star for the previous two years, into self-directed learning. He never looked back. Because of Ian’s experience and subsequently our experiences of watching our older child reclaim his life, both Matt’s father and I were delighted that Matt was willing to embark on the North Star path. From the very beginning at North Star, Matt began to find himself again, and to trust again in his own abilities, his challenges, and his right to define and create learning that is meaningful and consistent with his own sense of accountability and personal ethics.
Now, in April of 2007, Matt has met a number of his personal goals; he successfully tested for his driver’s license; he studied for and met the testing requirements for his GED which he earned in December of 2006; he is completing his first course at GCC (an expository writing class, something he was told he was not capable of doing while he was at high school); he is excelling in his music studies. Matt attended an intensive week-long percussion workshop at Berklee College of Music in Boston last summer. He continues to take drum lessons on a weekly basis in Northampton. He spent almost a year studying guitar and is now wanting to study piano, believing that piano is the universal language of music. He has goals of learning to play saxophone as his facial nerves continue to heal from brain surgery he underwent in May of 2004. He is looking forward to returning to Berklee this summer for another percussion workshop. He is considering the classes he wants to register for this coming fall. Matt understands that he is not only academically capable, but that he is excited about learning. He hasn’t felt this excitement about learning since he was a very young grammar school student.
Matt understands that there are economic considerations to all he is wants to do. He accepted support from his brother to get a job working part time at a deli in downtown Northampton where he was initially responsible for dishwashing. His sense of responsibility, and his ability to learn and take direction and to think critically, quickly advanced him into learning many of the workings of a professional kitchen. Matt has since left that job. He has been fearful that they would not stay in business after a sell out by the original owners. He was able to secure another job in another restaurant in Northampton with additional responsibilities and additional pay.
Matthew has truly rediscovered the amazing human being he has always been. As his parents, we are so thankful that he had the opportunity of North Star. I know that both Chris and I, as Matt’s parents, had to challenge ourselves to move beyond our own personal prejudices about homeschooling. Thank goodness we were able to open our eyes and recognize the power that self-directed learning has had in both our boys’ lives.