In recent years some have begun proposing other alternatives for providing K-12 Christian education by blending the best features of both campus Christian schooling and Christian home schooling. If a local church cannot start a traditional campus Christian school due to limited resources, it might be able to provide the space for a University Model School.
This model appeals to parents who feel that they need the structure of a traditional school or that they are unable to provide specific needs for their children through home schooling. A local church can provide space for co-ops to be formed and for individual classes to be taught. Members of the church who can tutor can connect with parents in the local church who need help teaching certain academic courses. Churches facilities can be available for extra-curricular activities and service-related learning projects for students.
The University Model School
This type of school utilizes some of the best aspects from traditional schools and home schools. The goal is to give students in elementary grades through high school a highly rewarding, college-preparatory education set in a Christian environment. The key is professional classroom instruction partnered with directive parenting at home. Generally, elementary students receive professional instruction at school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then study for their classes at home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays under a parent’s guidance. Students in middle school grades through high school attend teacher-led classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and then study at home under a parent’s supervision on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The National Association of University Model Schools is the organization that oversees these schools and provides a variety of services. For more information, visit their website at www.naums.net.
A myriad of co-ops range from those that have a very structured organization, to others that are less formally organized. Co-ops may be formed for the purpose of providing academic courses for students that may be a challenge for parents to teach at home, such as lab sciences or advanced math and language courses; others are formed for the purpose of providing enrichment activities, such as music, journalism, debate, PE, home economics and art. The purpose of a co-op also may be to provide supervised social interaction or to provide ministry opportunities.
Some co-ops are formed through national organizations like First Class and Classical Conversations; others are formed by groups of parents with similar needs and approaches to education. The two features that all co-ops have in common are 1) the pooling of parent resources and 2) structured weekly activities or classes. The form that the co-op takes depends on the needs and abilities of the families involved and the resources available to them through a local church or churches. Various types of co-ops include the following:
- First Class Homeschool Ministries: This national organization provides the framework, tools, training and support for parents to develop and run a church sponsored co-op. For more information, visit their website at www.fchm.org.
- Classical Conversations: This academic program provides a Christian structure, training and support for those parents who wish to use a classical approach to learning. It emphasizes life-long learning skills and developing a biblical worldview. For more information, visit their website at www.classicalconversations.com.
- Local Home School Co-ops: These include any co-ops not affiliated with a national organization or ministry and may fall between structured and informal. Usually, these are local co-ops started by a group of parents in a local church or in a local home school support group. For them to be successful and helpful to the parents, the students involved should be able to follow directions and have some level of independence in their studies.
Academic co-ops, those which provide mainly academic classes, may meet only one day per week and generally serve younger children, or they may meet two to three times a week for older students. Every co-op is different in structure because each one is determined by the needs of the parents and students, the age of the children, and the resources available to them. Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out by Carol Topp is a helpful tool if starting your own co-op.
On occasion a small group of three to four parents with children of similar ages and/or grade levels may wish to share the responsibility for teaching their children together. In one situation, each of the parents may teach one of several courses or subjects to all of their students. For example, one parent teaches the math, another teaches the history, and another the language arts.
In another situation, the parents may share the teaching responsibilities for one course, taking turns preparing and teaching the course materials. Another option is for the parents to divide up the teacher’s responsibilities for a course. For example, in a science course, one parent may teach the material from the text while another supervises the labs or hands-on activities, and another grades the papers and lab notebooks.
Stand-alone classes are usually taught by an expert in a particular field of study. The instructor may be a parent of a student in the class, a career professional, a trained teacher or a retired teacher. The instructor may teach the class for a nominal fee, may charge tutorial fees or may be a volunteer who asks only that the cost of materials be covered. Frequently, parents are involved in activities to help the class run smoothly. They can assist in organizational needs or they may even assist with academic needs in the class. The instructor may give a final grade, or the parents may give the final grade, or in some situations no grade may be given at all. The instructor may teach an entire course, such as an entire biology course with the labs, or the instructor may teach only part of a course like composition, while the rest of language-arts program is taught by the parent at home.
In this model, one teacher, with the help of the parents, teaches a small group of students in more than one grade level. Parental involvement is very important in this type of arrangement. For this to work smoothly, older students should be able to work well independently. They may also need to assist the teacher with teaching the younger students at times. This approach may not meet educational regulations in all states, but in those states where it is acceptable, it is a way to increase the effectiveness of one teacher with a small group of children in many grades.
In subjects like science, history and electives, all or several of the grade levels may be able to use the same text or resources; in this situation more in-depth work, such as reading, writing and research, would be expected of the older students than of the younger. Essentially, this is the approach that many families with more than three or four school-aged children take when home schooling.
The Christian One-Room Schoolhouse: A Superior Alternative to Government Schools
By Dr. Bruce Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools
Christian parents and churches are becoming increasingly aware of the harm inflicted on children by government schooling. Paradoxically, many Christian parents would like to remove their children from government schools, but don’t. Similarly, many churches would like to offer an alternative to government schools, but don’t. Why?