In a maroon-colored sweater, Dominic smiles for the camera as he holds a podium microphone at the California State Capitol.

Student Spotlight: A Space For Every Learner

Ten-year-old Dominic D. loves showing off his baseball swing, his bowling form and his dance moves. In the car on the way to his speech therapy appointments, he listens to Meghan Trainor. If he’s not doing his schoolwork, he’s performing in The Nutcracker, throwing the first pitch at the Sacramento River Cats game, or flying airplanes. In Dominic’s world, there truly are no limits.

As a child with Down syndrome, Dominic has always had a unique learning experience. He began in public school as a kindergartener, where he was learning alongside general ed students. Despite having access to special education services, Dominic lacked the opportunity to learn about topics that interested him, and it was made clear by the school that there was no room for differentiated learning.

“Dominic has always been such a smart and curious person. He just loves to learn!” says Dominic’s mom, Keiri. “Although he had access to special ed services, he did not have access to the topics he enjoyed learning. We were told he was ‘behind’ on his sight words, but he wasn’t recognized for his knowledge of our founding fathers. He didn’t identify letter sounds appropriately 100% of the times that he was assessed, but he could correctly identify the politicians trying to run for president in 2020. There was a very clear message sent to us that watching the news and learning American history as a kindergartener was not going to prepare Dominic for 1st grade.”

Of course, in the back of Keiri’s mind were thoughts like: “Why couldn’t he learn his sight words WHILE he’s learning about the history of our country? Why couldn’t he practice letter sounds WHILE he was repeating what he saw on the news?” Keiri knew that there was a middle ground between getting a high-quality education and exploring Dominic’s gifts and interests, and that’s what brought them to Visions.

A New Way to Educate

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Keiri got to experience a taste of homeschooling. Dominic’s school had shut down, and while the districts were trying to figure out how to make distance learning successful, Keiri was already practicing educating Dominic in their home.

“We read books, created arts and crafts, watched science and history videos, used workbooks, and he and I retained a lot of information. No two days looked the same, and we were accomplishing so much more than he was accomplishing in a classroom and with distance learning,” says Keiri.

By the time they were accepted into the Home School Academy at Visions in 2020, Keiri and Dominic were used to the experience of educating and learning at home. Now four years later, they are continuing to explore all the ways that the flexibility and personalization of homeschooling can significantly shape a child’s learning experience.

“The ultimate goal for me was to make sure Dominic has access to every single thing he wants to learn,” says Keiri. “Dominic would not be where he is now if he wasn’t homeschooled with VisionsWe have the freedom to deep dive into specific topics, to switch gears, to take breaks, to not take breaks, to change our minds and go to a museum instead of completing a lesson at home. Visions helps me by bridging any gaps before I even see them.”

Academically, Socially, and Emotionally Supported

Dominic and Keiri have many support systems here at Visions, including Dominc’s credentialed teacher, Ferrin Cowan, his Special Education teacher, Lexi Fahr, and his Occupational Therapist, Kelly Martinez. Meetings with Ferrin are spent swapping stories and hearing about all of Dominic’s adventures, and more often than not, they run a little longer than scheduled.

“I absolutely cannot live without our CT, Ferrin Cowan! She meets us where we are, supports us, encourages us, and literally shows up for us. One of Dominic’s dreams was to dance in The Nutcracker, and he danced in The Nutcracker in December. Ferrin attended that performance, and so did Lexi, as well as Kelly.”

“I loved being able to see Dominic on stage performing in The Nutcracker. He is always smiling and is always happy to perform his new skills!” shares Ferrin. “His family is dedicated and passionate about learning, which shines through in Dominic. I look forward to seeing him achieve his dreams!”

“Homeschooling is liberating.”

With the freedom and flexibility of Visions’ Home School Academy, Dominic is now able to take drum and keyboard lessons with Visions vendor School of Rock, attend dance classes, and even meet with local politicians. In March, Dominic and his family were invited to the State Capitol for the proclamation of Down Syndrome Day in California. There, he was presented with a Certificate of Recognition from Assemblyman Joe Patterson and got to connect with other local kids and families. This is one of the many reasons Keiri loves homeschooling at Visions – seeing her son change lives everywhere he goes.

“In September 2022, the author, actor, activist, motivational speaker and my friend, Tyler Merritt, created a video featuring him and Dominic, which garnered a lot of attention on social media,” Keiri shares. “Tyler had just written a children’s book called A Door Made for Me based on his own experience with racism and discrimination when he was a child. Dominic cracked that book open, read it out loud cover to cover, and I sent the video of Dominic reading the book to Tyler. Within a few hours, Tyler created a video with excerpts of Dominic reading his book and Tyler’s own revelation that his story, his message, was reaching so many more children than he had imagined.”

After four years of experiencing the benefits of Visions, Keiri is grateful that she made the switch for Dominic when she did. Instead of focusing on all of the things Dominic can’t do, Visions nurtures and expands all of the things he can do, and is redefining what education can look like outside of a traditional classroom setting.

“Homeschooling with Visions is liberating, eye opening, and it opens up opportunities I never knew existed. Once you start homeschooling, you’ll see how much can be accomplished in a few hours; there’s time to learn more, play more, do more, explore more,” says Keiri. “Visions provides access to the resources every student needs to succeed and to excel. To anyone who has a child with special needs, a disability, a learning difference, Visions In Education will make your jaw drop and you’ll think, ‘Wait…my kid has choices? IEP meetings are easy, supportive, and are all about making sure your kids are getting what they need in order to grow, learn, thrive, and succeed?’ To anyone who has a kid who is overwhelmed by the brick and mortar school environment, homeschooling with Visions is the place where they will learn and succeed.”

All About Dominic

What’s your favorite subject? Studies Weekly is my favorite! And math…and science…and history…and California history.

What’s your favorite part about being homeschooled? Learn what I want.

What do you like to do outside of school? Go to museums and stadiums, play sports, School of Rock, and dance classes.