When I tell new acquaintances that we homeschool, one of the first assumptions is that I am with my kids at home all day long, everyday. While that may be true of some families, it is not the case for mine or for many other homeschooling families in our area. There is a dizzying array of out-of-the-house activities in the Midlands specifically designed for homeschool students – at the zoo, the local library, the YMCA, children’s museums, co-ops, MOPS and Mommy Next groups, churches and more. If we took advantage of all of them, we would never be home to do school!
There are also four such programs in the Midlands that offer year-long classes for homeschooling students. These are not co-ops, in which parent leaders decide on the classes and band together to teach them for relatively little financial cost. Rather, they are programs with paid tutors or instructors that charge tuition and other fees.
The Benefits of Choice Programs
Why would a homeschooling family want to consider something like this? Isn’t the whole goal of homeschooling independence and nontraditional educational settings?
Well, not necessarily. People homeschool for all kinds of reasons, most of which are not in opposition to taking some classes outside the home. Programs like the ones listed below offer many benefits to homeschooling families — the chance for both students and parents to build supportive friendships with peers, to explore academic and extracurricular areas that a parent may not feel confident to teach, to pool resources and ideas for courses that may be too expensive for a family to pursue alone, and — truly! — to allow a homeschooling parent to have a break from being “on” all the time.
The programs below are all very different from one another, but they all offer these benefits. All are also in the season of sharing information and taking registrations for the 2016-2017 academic year, so it is a great time to check them out! (All information has been taken from official websites.)
Programs Available to Homeschoolers in the Midlands
Mission: Arrows Academy Core program was developed to hold classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that would cover a variety of subjects. While students complete weekly assignments at home under their parents’ supervision three days a week, Arrows days are similar to days spent at other Christian schools. Their name comes from Psalm 127:4, and partnering with parents to raise children to love and serve the Lord is at the heart of this homeschool school.
Locations: There will be three Arrows Academy locations in 2016 – 2017:
- Christian Life on Bush River Road (Preschool through high school)
- Lexington, SC (new for 2016 – 2017 – K5 through grade 4)
- Kennesaw, GA (new for 2016 – 2017 – K5 through grade 8)
Day and time: Tuesdays and Wednesdays; preschool is from 8:30 a.m. – noon; 5K and up are from 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Content: All content areas for 5th & up; subjects taught in 4th & below vary according to grade
Cost: Ranges from $1075 – $1750 depending on age
Parental involvement: Parents are partners. They drop students off in the morning and pick them up after classes. Some parents work at the school as teachers or assistants. All are encouraged to be involved as volunteers. Arrows Academy is also a third option accountability group.
Mission: “Classical Conversations supports homeschooling parents by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families. We believe there are three keys to a great education: classical, Christian, and Community.”
Overseeing body: Classical Conversations, Inc.
Location: There are nine licensed CC communities in the greater Columbia area. You can look here to find one that is near you.
Ages: Age 4 through high school
Day and time: The day for each community varies, but each community meets one day a week; Foundations programs generally meet from 9 a.m. – noon, Essentials (ages 9 – 11) from 1 – 3 p.m.; Challenge (ages 12 and up) programs go for a full day, often from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Content: Foundations: memory work in history, science, math, English grammar, geography and Latin, science experiments, fine arts, student presentations; Essentials: English grammar and structure, writing, and mathematics; Challenge: a full college prep program.
Cost: Tuition and fees (registration, facility, and supplies) come to a little more than $500 for the year for each of the Foundations and Essentials programs (24 weeks), and about $1500 per year (30 weeks) for Challenge.
Parental involvement: Foundations and Essentials (ages 4 through grade 6) are not drop-off programs. Parents attend classes with their children, and tutors (who are also parents) model ways to practice memory work at home. Challenge programs (ages 12 and up) are drop-off programs as students are encouraged to be more independent, but parents are always recognized as the primary homeschool teachers of their children. Parents also receive free training at annual Parent Practicums and through webinars and other events offered throughout the year. Classical Conversations communities are NOT third option accountability groups.
Mission: “Excelsior is a family-oriented Christian resource used in tandem with homeschooling. We are privileged to assist home schooling families in the Midlands as they direct the education of their students.”
Location: Classes meet at First Baptist Church of West Columbia
Ages: Age 4 through high school
Day: Tuesdays and Thursdays, from August to April
Content: “The Academy classes, ages 4-13, will develop an effective Christian worldview as they study history, literature, foreign language, art, and optional electives. Academy students will be involved in monthly field trips and a service project each semester. All of our High School offerings are college-preparatory classes with honors options which must be declared at the beginning of the school year.”
Cost: Fees range from $60 – $125; Academy core tuition for elementary and middle school tuition is $540; elective classes are $300 each; high school classes range from $390 to $480 per class depending on whether it meets once or twice a week.
Parental involvement: Parents drop students off for classes. Parents are expected to be the primary teachers for their children, and must oversee their homework and ensure that they understand their assignments. Excelsior is NOT a third option accountability group.
Mission: “The Principia Center exists to impart knowledge to students in a manner that equips them to live confidently as Christians, able to articulate their own world view and to understand the views of the world around them.”
Location: Classes meet at Northeast Presbyterian Church
Ages: Grades 7 – 12
Day and time: Mondays, for 32 weeks during the academic year
Content: English, math, science, social studies, and world languages, among other classes
Cost: Up to $250 in fees; classes are $275 each for middle school and $375 each for high school
Parental involvement: Parents drop students off for classes. They are encouraged to volunteer with the community. The Principia Center is NOT a third option accountability group.