Parents Creating Immense Change in Their Own Communities

August 21, 2023 | By: Sharon Sedlar

Last year, I asked a homeschool Facebook group for stories of their experiences – why and how they homeschool – as an assist to other parents who may be hesitant to engage in such a huge transformation of their child’s education.  And never having homeschooled myself, but always open to new options, I was curious for my own family with a soon to be high school junior and 8th grader in the ranks.

Stephanie Offord told me about her education journey.  Her son was a homeschooler, but he was also enrolled in a “hybrid school”, to which she traveled 40 minutes each way two days every week.  Stephanie’s story in her own words can be found on our website.

My curiosity grew and was further fed by my attendance at the National Hybrid Schools Project Conference held in Atlanta Georgia, where I met education entrepreneurs, teachers, non-profit advisors, micro schooling centers, and other education providers from across the country.  I was struck by the similarities and differences, and even met a few of my own fellow Pennsylvanians as well. Providence Hybrid Academy’s amazing success has received attention from Colleen Hroncich of the Cato Institute and National School Choice Week – because when something’s as good as this, news spreads fast!

In recent months, I have spoken with PA parents questioning their current education model, and upon mentioning PHA’s work, they expressed interest in learning more.  In response, we were fortunate to partner with PHA for a May event hosted in their Coopersburg location called “The Possibilities are Endless”.  A few teachers, parents and potential educational entrepreneurs from other areas also participated.

PHA children learn in a bright, clean, and open space.  Smiling teachers really seemed to enjoy the presence of the children – smiles returned by the animated children themselves.  I couldn’t help but notice that contrary to what I had seen in my own traditional area school, steps were light – skipping, even.  Parents conversed in the parking lot, staying well after dismissal to talk – a close familial group with obvious ties that went beyond “school” walls. Many of the school board directors themselves were picking up their own children – a true testament to their personal commitment to, in close involvement in, the model.

I listened to stories and testimonials from Executive Director (Angie Wakeman), two board members, a parent, and 7 students.  Angie spoke of how she and co-founder Rebecca Foley would tell each other “If we build it, they will come” – and “they” did!  Twenty students five years ago have turned into 140 this year, with a waitlist and two locations.  A few grades have turned into nine (K-8), and they are adding 9th grade next year, hoping to offer a full high school schedule as soon as they can secure the space and funding to support it.

Student speeches sang PHA, Ms. Wakeman, and Ms. Foley’s praises for their work.  Some students pointed to the ability to satisfy their cravings for independence, autonomy or just plain fun:

“One thing I love about homeschooling is that you basically decide when you learn, what you learn, and how you learn. That’s really important to me because, as somebody who went to public school their whole life until Covid and never really got the hang of it, it gives me some more flexibility. I’ve been able to do more things I like, like writing books and playing sports with my friends…”

“Learning should be fun…the more fun learning is, the more you get from it…”

“As with any schooling system, hybrid homeschooling isn’t perfect. However…I’ve found that giving my brain a break and getting a chance to move around improves my productivity and focus.”

“Hybrid homeschooling gives me a balance of flexibility and consistency in my schedule. I have the freedom to complete my studies on my own time while also attending school regularly…Overall, I have had a positive experience with PHA and the hybrid model, and I’m grateful to participate in both.”

The most striking statement came as a challenge from one student: 

“Some people [think]…that homeschool kids…don’t know how to make friends or have social lives. Let them stop by PHA sometime- their opinion may change…”

Portions of the PHA speeches are available for view on our website, where you can hear for yourself this story of success.

Parents and education professionals are creating immense and positive change in their own communities.  They’re reducing bureaucracy, returning focus to the children, respecting parent authority, and taking back education on their terms. We’re here for it!

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