It’s never too late to pull your children from public school – even in December and beyond.
That’s what Angie Hoffman, founder of The Hearth Room Schoolhouse in Kansas City, Missouri, says to families who may feel overwhelmed about a mid-year withdrawal. Her Christian Montessori school has part-time and full-time enrollment options, and she says most of her students are homeschooled and attend part time.
“Even if you’re in a traditional setting, if you’re wanting to get out of it, it’s probably because you’re seeing something detrimental to your child,” she said.
Jennifer Richey, area representative for the Classical Conversations homeschool program in the state of Kansas, says parents should feel empowered to make the educational decisions they think best for their family, even if that means starting in the winter or spring.
“We have been consistently adding new families throughout the year,” she said, adding that before the COVID-19 pandemic most of their enrollment had ended by the fall. “It wasn’t a consistent addition of people like it has been for the last 18 months, 2 years here. That has definitely been something new.”
At the child’s pace
Parents thinking about mid-year school withdrawals often assume that alternatives to public schools will not open enrollment until the spring or summer. However, that’s not always the case.
Classical Conversations will enroll families at any point in the school year. Meanwhile, Hoffman’s school has at least one family scheduled to start in the spring, and it has no wait list – families can enroll at any time.
Hoffman said unlike public schools, her school can proceed at each child’s learning pace.
“Say you have a second-grader, but they’re behind in math and really strong in language,” she said. “They can take more time they need in whatever area they’re weaker, and not worry about the rest of the class … or they can zoom ahead in the area where they’re really strong.”
Hoffman said parents also appreciate the screen-free learning with an emphasis on nature.
“We spend a lot of time outside,” she said, adding that even her full-time students have a relatively short school day from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“If you’re a family that likes to sleep in a little bit and then wake up and have breakfast together,” she said, “you’re not rushing.”
For parents who fear their child could fall behind academically with a school withdrawal, Hoffman said her experience has been the opposite.
“In a traditional setting, you don’t have the luxury of taking extra time. You just have to keep going forward, because the whole class is moving ahead at a scheduled pace,” she said.
In her school, Hoffman says, educators can work with the child to take control of their own schedule.
“When the child’s really excited about math, we try to sit down and give a math lesson right then if we can,” she said. “Even when you have a traditional setting where they’re on their schedule, they keep moving forward even if the child missed it. That’s not really serving them.”
Empowering parents to teach
Parents who want to homeschool sometimes wonder whether their students will miss out on group activities. However, a program like Classical Conversations provides many opportunities for children to meet and socialize.
In middle school and high school, students can participate in science fairs, mock trials, team policy debates, and advanced classes where they can earn college credit.
“We’re helping to teach parents the classical method so they can go home and feel equipped in homeschooling,” Richey said. “We provide weekly classroom environments, but really the basis of meeting weekly is to meet that need that many homeschoolers feel so that they’re not feeling isolated.”
Richey said families often choose Classical Conversations because of its Christian focus.
“Many people appreciate our Christ-centered worldview,” she said, adding the curriculum introduces many different cultures and religions through the program’s “Timeline” that covers an overview of historical events up to present day. “People just appreciate being able to tackle maybe more complex, or harder, deeper issues, but from a biblical worldview, knowing that the leadership that we have in place is coming from that stance as well.”
No more school anxiety
Hoffman said she hears from families who credit her with taking away their child’s former school anxiety, as a record number of students are reporting anxiety and other mental health issues after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The parents are like, ‘Oh my goodness, my kids love to be here. They used to have school anxiety. Now they don’t,’” she said.
If parents are considering a school withdrawal but aren’t sure where to start, Richey encourages them to find a local Classical Conversations community. They can also check out the program’s Everyday Educator podcast or attend online information meetings occurring at various times during the week.
“A misconception about a classical education is that it is more focused on languages or writing and reading,” she said. “However, it’s really about learning how to learn, and anything that you want to learn, we’re providing you with the tools to learn it.”
Hoffman said tuition should not be an issue for most families, as her school offers financial assistance for qualifying students. Tuition rates are listed on her website.
“We’ve got a lot of volunteer opportunities where you could almost get a free tuition, volunteering a little bit,” she said, adding that 10 hours a week covered 50% of full-time enrollment tuition. “Someone could come in and clean at the end of the day and reduce their tuition by almost $5,000 without even applying for financial aid.”
Hoffman said she also hears from families who are attending part time, but their children are enjoying it so much that they want to attend every day of the week.
“That was our goal – to bring these kids to enjoy a life of excellent service to the Lord, to make disciples who are really joy-filled,” she said. “I’m thrilled that that one part is really happening.”