Our classrooms at NEXT Education are meant to feel like an extension of the home. We are trying to re-create the comforting family atmosphere, where parents know the children and interact lovingly, where there is laughter and joy present during learning, and where the children are able to communicate well so that they can learn life’s lessons through their interaction with each other (as siblings do).
On a practical level, here is what to expect:
- Parents are allowed to sit in the classroom to observe at any time. While they are there they should not use personal electronics, should not be distracting in any way, and should be willing to help the tutor. Observing parents should do what the tutor asks them to do, but if they have an additional idea of a way they could help, they should check with the tutor first. Observing parents should respect the tutor’s authority and demonstrate respectful and cooperative behavior for students to copy.
- Tutors are encouraged to add fun to lesson plans — for example, it is permitted to replace a lengthy reading at home with a discussion format in class, as long as the same issues are raised in the students’ minds. It is encouraged to present review material as a game and to encourage friendly (emphasis on friendly) competition if it is relevant in the context of the game.
- Tutors are encouraged to let students be comfortable if it doesn’t interfere with the class. Tutors are encouraged to allow breaks and to plan active learning activities. If classes can be conducted outside on a nice day, that is also encouraged.
- Tutors and parents are encouraged to talk with children during lunch break and any other breaks. Let’s be friendly at all times! Tutors and parents are also encouraged to talk with each other when they have time.
- Tutors are encouraged to include Christian devotional material during the rhythm of classwork, and to instruct children in matters of the Christian faith when it comes up in classroom material, all while respecting areas of difference between Christian faiths. In particular, Catholic beliefs will be discussed in material presented by Homeschool Connections and respectful discussion is encouraged. Students should be encouraged to talk with their parents for guidance about what to believe in matters of difference. Tutors will be respectful of differences in family beliefs but will not descend into relativism, or in other words the belief that all beliefs are equal. Tutors will continually encourage children to search for truth, with the belief that truth can be found.
- Small children may be present in the classroom occasionally, although every effort will be made to avoid distractions because of this policy. Tutors (and parent observers) are encouraged to have small children present less than 10 percent of the time in classes that require concentration, and less than 25 percent of the time in classes that have so much interaction that they feel like a party (for example, games or crafts are the main activity). These percentages are of the year — for example, having a small child present 1 out of 10 class sessions for the entire class time, or for half of the class during 2 out of 10 class sessions, would be 10 percent. Small children who cannot be quiet and undistracting should not be present at all. An exception to the time limit is babies, who need their mothers and will be permitted in classrooms at all times they are reasonably non-distracting. (Nursing mothers are asked to use covers.)
- Tutors are encouraged to attend class whenever they are able (for example, mild cold symptoms are okay if controlled), since each class is conducted only once a week. Substitute tutors will be used when necessary, but it is acknowledged that a consistent tutor is important when a class has meetings this far apart. Parent observers who regularly attend a particular class (if there are any) will be considered ideal substitutes if they are willing and able, since they are familiar with classroom routines and expectations.
- Grading will be kept to a minimum. During elementary school, there will be no grades of any kind given. During middle school, there will be very occasional assignments that will receive specific scores that can be converted to grades on a standard 100-point scale. During high school, there will be specific scores given for many assignments (using the standard 100-point scale), which can be converted to a grade by the parents if desired. We believe that specific scores can be best interpreted by parents to determine a grade (parents understand their children’s ability and giftings), but parents are free to ask a tutor’s opinion if they do not know how to properly determine a grade. (For example, teachers in schools usually have a “participation” part of the grade that weighs in, etc.) Tutors will work to find a happy medium in which parents are in the loop, but grading doesn’t become an unnecessary burden. Parents need to remember that, in the end, they are the ones to issue a diploma for homeschool graduation in the state of Ohio. This has its privileges, and its responsibilities, too! We are glad to be able to support parents, but we believe parents are the final earthly authority in their children’s lives.
- Parents provide the majority of the supplies. Although we make an effort to predict what children will need before the school year begins, we may sometimes need to ask for something during the year. Also, parents are asked to help where they can by volunteering to help with supplies and preparation. Our tutors are paid for their in-class time but their class preparation is done as a labor of love. Plus, this is how all the best communities operate: with love in the hearts of all who are involved.
- Parents need to understand that we are not equipped to diagnose, treat, or accommodate changes for any special needs, including medical conditions and also learning challenges and emotional challenges. Children at NEXT Education need to be able to follow tutor instructions and complete age-appropriate work in order to participate in our group learning experiences. Parents bear the burden of adequate research to be sure that this is an appropriate place for their children, and we cannot give refunds based on parents withdrawing students from our service because of lack of good fit between child and environment. We commit funds to hire teachers and our costs do not change if a student leaves. To be clear: NEXT Education is not a school, does not have a school nurse, does not have a staff of professionally trained teachers, and does not have the experts found in schools. If you need this kind of care, there are a number of wonderful schools in our community that would be a better fit for your child.
- Children at NEXT Education are not monitored to the same degree found in schools (for example, they can use restrooms without supervision and are allowed to be outside in an area that is not fenced). They are treated more like small adults. The reason for this is that homeschooled children develop self-control and autonomy at a younger age than children who are in school. Our community is based on the standards with which homeschooled children feel comfortable. Homeschooled children typically expect to be able to move from room to room, and attend to their own needs, as long as they are behaving responsibly. This doesn’t mean children are allowed to wander around instead of attending classes. It means we expect them to know better, and to attend classes without having to be told.
- Children at NEXT Education aren’t expected to “already know” behavior standards. We understand this might be the first time that children must time their eating and bathroom visits around group needs, and that this takes practice. It might be the first time they will be told they can’t whistle or jump during group study sessions. We simply explain what is needed, and why it’s needed. We are simple and frank. Then we expect them to change their behavior so everyone can learn together in peace. Group behavior standards exist for a reason, and they do need to be learned and practiced.