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How I Landed in A Reading and Literacy Graduate Program (And The University I Chose)

I decided it was time to go back to school for something. Yes, I have enough knowledge of marketing and business and every way to make money on the internet to write 1000 books, but I am tired. Someone suggested that I take a class or course instead of going back to college and “spending so much money,” but it was about so much more than that for me. I’ll get into what that “something” is here in a minute.

What it came down to – I’m tired of doing what I am good at, but not doing what feeds my soul. After over a decade of a marketing agency and a decade of products and e-commerce, something was missing.

A friend sent me a lead for a person who wanted to have a paint party. I had a laser and was tossing around the idea of opening a paint shop in a nearby (very busy, touristy) town. I cut everything for the paint party on my laser and showed up with a custom-printed tee that I had made for myself on my car-sized printer and 12 bags of custom-cut houses that they could all paint and take home.

It was a horrible experience. I was standing in a stranger’s kitchen listening to two women constantly (literally for two hours) laugh at me. They had no idea who I was, that I had businesses that made five figures a month at one point. They asked what I did for a living – well, this. They asked about my equipment – well, they are as big as your minivan, a laser, and a garment printer. They would ask if I did okay for myself – um, did you see my Denali? They were rude and it was at that moment I realized that I wasn’t proud of what I was building. Even if I did open a shop in town, I’m not sure if I would be proud to say that I owned it. I asked myself what response would make me proud. If I had the chance again to respond to someone asking me what I did for a living, what would fill me with so much pride, I’d damn near burst?

Living on the homestead made me dislike my situation even more. When you’re so close to nature, you realize that everything has a purpose. When you realize that you haven’t found your purpose and you’ve spent 20 years frantically looking for it by building businesses nonstop, it hits like a brick.

In my heart, I knew it was time to walk away from everything that I didn’t feel was in my purpose. I didn’t walk. I ran. I sold my apparel company after slowly shedding everything else I had been working on over the years. I sold my laser.

The Purpose of (My) Life

Some people would suggest that I am a homeschool mom and that is my purpose, but as the kids have slowly gotten old enough (two of the four) to work on their own without much input from me, I realized that I might have another 5-10 years tops of being a “homeschool mom.” What then?

For a minute I thought maybe my purpose was in natural medicine. I had been making salves, and tinctures and harvesting herbs and other goodies in the woods. My bedroom closet was full of jars of homemade salves, oils, beeswax, and a double boiler. While I could have very easily made and sold salves and tinctures online, I felt like there were people who knew more about it than I ever could that should be in that position. It is simply something I enjoy, but it’s not the business for me.

I considered going to college to be a homeopath, but quickly realized I would need a third bachelor’s degree before I could begin training. It would take about 8 years from start to finish. Not only would I be approaching 50, but I would also have to take math and science classes that just aren’t in my wheelhouse.

I began to do what I had started to do so many times in September of 2022 – write children’s books.

We sold our farm in December of 2022 to head out on the road for an epic road trip. No way to make and ship stuff now, I was fully freed from that side of my business.

Remember the rude women that asked what I did for a living? If I could have answered something that would have made me proud, it would have been that I am a children’s book author.

For another twist, there was a point in my life when my late father-in-law suggested that I become a children’s book author. He passed away not long after telling me that.

So here I am writing children’s books, but I feel like there’s something I am missing. How can I make my children’s books serve a purpose beyond entertaining?

Mother Advocate

One of our sons is dyslexic and despite having schools that insisted they would get him reading, it never happened.

Over the years I had viciously advocated for him in schools. When we pulled them all out in 2017, I worked with him one on one most of the time but was missing something. In 2019 the boys decided they wanted to try public school again. Again the school swore they would figure it out. They wouldn’t test him for dyslexia. Two days before ended abruptly in March 2020, we had an IEP meeting where they once again told me they had made great progress (there was literally no progress made) and that he didn’t need dyslexia testing. I was told by one of the teachers a month later that they would have never tested him for dyslexia because they would have had to bring on a specialist and they just wouldn’t do that.

When we pulled them out of their workbook “classes” (the school wouldn’t do zoom classes and literally sent home packets of worksheets) that they were professing was education during the pandemic and found a private tutor that assessed him for dyslexia, we slowly watched the light come on like someone had their finger on the dimmer switch and was slowly and quietly filling the room with light.

Every mother I knew with a child who was struggling heard this testimony.

Sitting in Texas in January of 2023 writing children’s books I realized that my son wouldn’t have been able to read any of them just two years ago at the age of 11.

Going Back to School

While in Ohio we experienced something strange. If you were a homeschool parent with a bachelor’s degree, you could homeschool your children by creating what they called an 08 school. It meant that you didn’t have to subject your children to assessments at the end of the year. The downside was that your address was made public. If you didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, you could only traditionally homeschool which meant you had to file paperwork with the local school district and complete assessments at the end of the year. Either way, it wasn’t homeschool freedom.

I had decided to open a school where I could advocate for homeschool rights by offering an umbrella school and a curriculum for those students. I was going to create study units and offer everything to homeschooling parents that I felt was missing.

I decided a Master’s degree in education was what I needed in order to give those families everything they needed to homeschool without fear.

Choosing a University

My first application was sent to the University of Phoenix. They had a curriculum and instruction degree that I felt would fit what I was looking for. I could write and develop curriculum for homeschoolers. Something felt off about it. The whole program was about choosing a curriculum, not WRITING it. I started looking at other programs and realized that Texas A&M also had a program for curriculum and instruction. Then I saw it – the reading and literacy program.

Without hesitation I also applied to Texas A&M for their MEd – Reading and Literacy program.

The acceptance letter from University of Phoenix rolled in within a week. For Texas A&M, it took almost a month to get accepted. I was so eager to get started that I began researching their curriculum and adding books to my Amazon cart so I could read them before classes were set to start on March 15th.

And then it hit me.

Every one of their “reading and literacy” classes sidestepped teaching kids how to read and focused on anything and everything BUT the science of reading. While I was working my way through their outline and adding books to my cart on Amazon, I found myself growing angry and sad that we weren’t studying the good stuff.

I started reading blogs by people like This Reading Mama, who posted her Structured Literacy must-read book list. I moved all of the TAM class books to save for later and instead pulled my dusty copy of “Uncovering the Logic of English” from the shelf. I had owned it since 2021 and hadn’t gotten around to reading it.

Sitting by the pool somewhere in southern Texas, I dug in. With every page, I grew angrier and angrier.

Why wasn’t TAM teaching THIS? Why wasn’t I taught this in elementary school?!

WHY weren’t my kids taught this before we pulled them?

As the mother of a child who is dyslexic. As someone who paid a private tutor trained in Orton Gillingham to help my child for over a year. Well, let’s just say I had a mini meltdown. Some of that you might have witnessed that on my FB.

Realizing I wouldn’t be taught the OG method, any level that is based on the science of reading, structured literacy or anything to do with actually TEACHING kids how to read, I jumped into an IMSE training class. My thought process was I’d have the MSEd with a reading and literacy specialty and I could supplement their junk classes with outside sources – like IMSE which teaches structured literacy.

I jumped into an IMSE class. The cost of an entire semester in a TAM class. I was prepared to continue beyond their training and go for their associate program – basically 6-9 months of additional course work. I was going to try to pull off getting a MEd from TAM while working through the associate level of IMSE for an accurate reading and literacy program.

Sometime between realizing I was disappointed in TAMs classes, researching IMSE for Orton-Gillingham training and joining FB Groups for OG, I read a post about Bay Path University.

Bay Path University is one of only a handful of schools that offers a reading and literacy program based on the science of reading and structured literacy. They’re accredited by the International Dyslexia Association and the Orton-Gillingham Academy grants students an associate-level OG certification once they complete the practicum.

I logged in to watch a replay of Bay Path University’s introduction to their reading and literacy program and the “Sold a Story” podcast name was front and center. As soon as she started talking about the science of reading, I knew I had found a university worth attending.

I applied to Bay Path and had an interview over zoom after asking two friends to submit recommendations. I also had to write a letter as to why I wanted to attend.

Well, Denise Eide, the author of Uncovering the Logic of English told me that I needed to write controlled readers. Ha!

Anyway, I ditched both UoP and TAM and will be attending Bay Path University this Summer.

Instead of being able to whip out a Master’s in 16 months, it’s going to be more like 22 months. When I graduate from Bay Path I will have my MSEd Reading and Literacy and be an Orton Gillingham Associate Level Instructor.

At the moment, I am both a children’s book author and trained in Orton-Gillingham. <3

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