How the Common Core Curriculum saved my son


My son used to be a happy, easygoing kid. During the course of eighth grade, his demeanor started to change. He became quiet and withdrawn. When I asked him what was wrong, he couldn’t put it into words.

Then the physical symptoms set in. He began to have mysterious stomach aches. It seemed like a series of quick viruses, though no one else in the family ever got sick. We tried limiting dairy, suspecting a food allergy, to no avail. Things spiraled downhill, and each day that he made it to school seemed like a major victory. I was often called by the school nurse to pick him up early due to stomach problems. By the end of the school year, he was spending his days in the nurse’s office. His teachers would send his classwork to him, he would complete it in the nurse’s office, and she would return the assignments to his teachers. He even took his final exams in her office.

During this horrific last month of the school year, I was on the phone with the school nurse, the guidance counselor, the pediatrician, the psychologist. I explained that my son would have physical symptoms in the mornings before school, in the car on the way to school, and during school. At home each evening, his symptoms subsided. Someone floated the idea of trying anti-anxiety medication. I didn’t want to go that route if we could find another way.

I talked to my son, gently trying to coax his feelings to the surface. He shared with me that math class made him feel stupid. That was the word he used: stupid. My son felt stupid. He felt like a failure. He felt hopeless. And all because he couldn’t understand Common Core Math.

What had started as Common Core Math anxiety had spread into a generalized academic anxiety, making it impossible for him to enter a classroom, or even contemplate entering a classroom, without severe stomach symptoms ensuing.

During one of my many conversations with his pediatrician, she suggested that we do some testing to see if there might be an underlying medical problem that was being aggravated by his anxiety. After X-rays, blood work, and a biopsy, my son was officially diagnosed with celiac disease. I was in shock. How could he have shown no symptoms of this disease until his academic anxiety reached epic proportions? His doctor explained that anxiety often brings celiac disease to the surface. In a way, this was a good thing. Now that we knew what we were dealing with, we could do something proactive.

We spent the summer learning about celiac disease and transitioning my son off of gluten. As ninth grade began, we were hopeful that he would be back on track to have a good school year.

After one day back in school, my son’s symptoms flared up again. His small intestine, which had been damaged by the celiac disease pre-diagnosis, had not yet healed. Throwing himself back into a high-stress situation (namely, dealing with the Common Core Curriculum) caused an immediate exacerbation of his underlying medical condition.

We decided that the best thing for our son would be to homeschool him, at least until his small intestine has healed and his celiac disease is under control. I consulted some excellent resources and was able to put a homeschool plan into effect almost overnight. It was the best thing I ever did.

My son now spends his school days learning instead of worrying. He is healthy and at peace. He spends his free time with family and friends, rather than curled in a ball in his darkened room. I have my happy boy back.

Thank you, New York State, for the way in which you implemented the Common Core Curriculum. Without the extreme stress and anxiety that it caused my son, his celiac disease could have remained undiagnosed for many years, and the damage to his small intestine could have been much worse.


About HFBrainerd

Published novelist and Disney World fanatic. Thanks for coming along on this wild ride!
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13 Responses to How the Common Core Curriculum saved my son

  1. J.Q. Rose says:

    Sounds like he is doing much better. Happy you got to the reason for all of his illness and anxiety. I hope he continues to feel better and learn. What great support he has from his mom and family. Best wishes for continued success!

    • HFBrainerd says:

      Thank you, Janet. We’re having so much fun together! I can’t believe what a blessing in disguise this whole situation turned out to be. I do, however, feel very bad for my friends whose kids are suffering similar Common Core anxiety – and there’s nothing they can do about it. We were fortunate enough to have a viable alternative, for which I feel blessed.

  2. Mary Waibel says:

    Glad to hear he’s doing better, Heather. I can see where this was a blessing in disguise, although it makes me sad (and a bit angry) that he was made to feel so much stress due to the new curriculum standards.

  3. Well, that’s certainly a twist on the Common Core. I was eager to read your article, given what I know about the Common Core, which I believe to be majorly ill-conceived. Glad to hear your son is doing better.

    • HFBrainerd says:

      Thank you, Margaret. I have no problem with the concept of academic standards, but do think that their implementation has been woefully mismanaged in our state. Kids should not be made to feel hopeless and stupid. When parents ask the school for support, we should not be told, “but he’s testing at an acceptable level.”

  4. Heather, I’m so glad that your son is happy and relaxed learning at home with the help of your teaching.

    How you must have worried. I can just imagine, having gone through a different illness with my son in high school. It sounds like all is going well now with everyone. Thank goodness.

    Thank you for sharing this story with all of us.

  5. Laura says:

    This really was a blessing in disguise, and a blessing that you can now share this with others who are going through similar difficulties. Maybe this article will help someone who is contemplating homeschooling, which I can totally agree would be the best at this point, for many. We went through a similar situation last year with Benjamin – stomach aches and headaches all the time, and a lot of anxiety about school. It was painful to watch him go through it. Our schools strong advice to us – counseling for depression and ADHD medication. I am glad we didn’t go through with it, because it was completely unneccessary. Thank you Heather – if you don’t mind I will share this on my wall.

  6. I’m so sorry for all the anxiety your son has been through, Heather. Schools are often an incredibly stressful experience here in the UK, too. It’s fantastic that you’re able to offer your son the option of home-schooling. I hope he continues to thrive, and all best wishes to you both

    • HFBrainerd says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Helena. I’m sorry to hear that school can be stressful in the UK. School wasn’t stressful for my son until the Common Core was implemented. It was kind of like playing a competitive sport where the rules were completely changed about 2/3 of the way through the game, and even those in charge of implementing the new rules didn’t understand them.

  7. Pingback: Disney for Two: the sequel | Disney for Five+

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