”Mom, can I go to ‘real’ school?” I made it through 15 years of homeschooling and graduated two of my kids before I had to confront that dreaded question. And then it came. My extremely social fourteen-year-old practically begged me to put her in public school, private school, hybrid school, any school other than homeschool. How could I respond to that?
My first instinct was to ask myself what I’m doing wrong. Am I somehow short-changing my daughter, cheating her out of an important aspect of her education, her life? Next, I started asking like-minded moms about class options. Finally, almost as an aside, I prayed about it. Oops. I flipped that process upside down from what it should have been.
God is faithful to answer my prayers and direct me—even when, in my humanness, I forget to seek Him first. He showed me in no uncertain terms that I was to continue homeschooling my daughter this school year. I agreed to add just one outside class—I signed myself and the girls up for Community Bible Study. This gave her an opportunity to gather with other kids her age, participate in a kind of class, and delve deep into God’s Word. It was a great move, but was it enough?
Eight months after my daughter’s initial inquiry, she was still asking about “going to school.” Prayerfully, I explored various options. One evening, I gathered with some other homeschool moms at a local coffee shop to brainstorm possibilities and get advice.
It was both exciting and intimidating to take in all of the suggestions the ladies made. Some gave glowing reports of one program, while another told the story of her negative experience with it. At the end of the evening, I brought home a list of programs offering classes for homeschoolers near our home in Cobb County, Georgia.
A popular pick for many moms in our area is Timothy Ministry, which meets on Tuesdays at First Baptist Woodstock. A few of my friends teach there, and many families I know have enrolled their children in Timothy classes. Students can take one class or many. Upper high school offerings are somewhat sparse since many students take advantage of dual enrollment at local colleges.
One friend related her children’s experience. The science class her daughter took at Timothy progressed much more slowly than she had expected. The easy pace accommodated younger children who were also enrolled but failed to challenge her. Even so, she learned some valuable skills—meeting deadlines, giving an oral presentation, and working together to complete experiments. My friend’s son was disappointed in an elective class when he discovered he knew more about the topic than the teacher. She recommended using Timothy Ministry classes to help with subjects a student is weak in.
Those who live closer to West Cobb may find that Inspire Homeschool Academy meets their needs. Their a la carte classes meet one day a week as well. One of the moms in our group recommended their drama classes.
Mary Hood, a well-known homeschool speaker and author, currently offers classes in the Canton area. I have heard rumors that she may be teaching in Marietta next year. Students can take individual classes, and Mary uses the relaxed homeschooling model. While this appeals to me, one of the moms in our group cautioned that it may be too relaxed for some.
Several of my friends have enrolled their children at Arrows Academy, which meets all day Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Wildwood Baptist in Acworth. Two of my friends teach there. Arrows Academy provides a complete academic program but allows the flexibility to opt out of a particular class. Affordable tuition and proximity to home make this option very appealing.
My daughter sat in on a day of classes there and enjoyed it. While it seems like a great program, I am not thrilled with the curriculum. My daughter previously turned her nose up at Bob Jones Social Studies and Apologia Science which form the basis of Arrows’ high school level history and science. I’m not a fan of the Bob Jones math curriculum they use.
Kings Academy in Woodstock also provides classes two days a week. At twice the price of Arrows, it is less affordable but provides a wider variety of instruction with the added benefit of extracurricular activities.
While I have never seriously considered Classical Conversations (CC), many of my homeschool friends are active in it. As the name suggests, CC follows a classical education model. Wouldn’t it be hard to transfer in halfway through high school? One mom suggested that I may be able to enroll my daughter in individual classes. Still, it is more expensive than other options I am considering.
Local colleges allow high school students to enroll in college classes, which are funded by the state. While earning college credit, students also earn credit toward a high school diploma. The secular nature of these local schools is a concern, but three of the moms in our group have had positive experiences with online dual enrollment at Truett McConnell. Another mom mentioned that Cherokee Christian School, a private school in the area, offers dual enrollment classes on-site through Toccoa Falls College.
When one of my friends mentioned speech and debate, my ears perked up. My daughter might enjoy honing her public speaking skills. I poked around on the NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association) website and located a nearby club.
One of my friends also mentioned that Metro Academic Studies, near the Perimeter, offers speech and debate classes.
Seven years ago, my daughter began taking private music lessons at the Harmony House in Kennesaw. When I discovered that they also offered a full arts enrichment program for homeschoolers (HEArts) on Fridays, I immediately enrolled my oldest daughter. Since then, all four of my girls have enjoyed 2-3 years of arts enrichment at HEArts.
The girls honed their piano skills, learned to sing in a chorus, and were part of a praise band. They developed their acting skills in short skits and full theatrical productions. Completing a variety of art projects, they learned new ways of expressing themselves.
HEArts is a valuable program for homeschoolers from kindergarten through early high school. I recommended this economical option to a friend who is considering arts enrichment for her middle schooler.
One of my friends is active with her children in a local theatre group that she loves. When she told me that the ladies in charge are retiring, I shared her disappointment. She is searching for a similar group to join next year and praying about the possibility of partnering with like-minded mamas to start a new one. Her favorite aspect of the group? All ages participate together, providing opportunities for friendships which span the age gap. Rather than paying a premium price per month, the drama group only charges $175 per year for each student. What a deal!
My friend encouraged me to attend their final show to get an idea of what kind of program they want to recreate. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens May 3, 2019, at 7PM, with an encore matinee performance May 4 at 3PM at Family Worship Center in Dallas, GA. In lieu of selling tickets, they will collect donations at the door for the hosting church.
My friend Becky raves about the Homeschool PE classes at the YMCA in Canton. Her boys have participated ever since they moved to the area. Meeting two days a week, homeschool kids of all ages build physical fitness together while moms connect with one another.
I can’t improve upon what Becky shared with me: “The program is a real community of home educators… A genuine hands-on support system that goes beyond the one hour spent in that gym. It is a fantastic place to go to establish lasting friendships and is Christ-centered… The instructors are both Christians, and the head instructor has homeschooled for 25 years.” Doesn’t that make you want to go check it out?
If it weren’t a 25-minute drive from our house, I might have joined last year. Each six-week session costs $80 for the first child. Additional children receive a $10 discount, and Y members enjoy even lower rates. The class kicks off in September, completing the fifth and final session in May, but students can join at any time.
While discussing options for supplemental classes, my friends poured out a wealth of wise advice. In addition to the list of schools and classes, I brought home a list important considerations and questions.
- Seek God’s wisdom first and continually through prayer.
- How will the classes affect family dynamics?
- Does the approach line up with your homeschool goals and philosophy?
- Discuss pros & cons together with your student.
- What kind of influence will the students and teachers in the class(es) have on your student?
- How might having someone else dictate the curriculum and deadlines affect you and your student?
- Listen to other family’s experiences, but be aware that an incredible program for some may be a nightmare for others.
- A la carte classes may be most helpful in a child’s weaker areas.
- Keep in mind that you can homeschool all the way through high school without any outside classes.
- Remember that you, not your student, are the best judge of whether an option is appropriate.
My friends gave me so much to think about. The list of options seemed overwhelming, but the issues they urged me to consider will help us make a wise decision.
Does your homeschool student attend outside classes, or do you teach everything at home?