Sylvia Duarte

With so much uncertainty about what will be taught in school, from the founding of our nation to gender and race, parents throughout the country are searching for educational options that reflect their values and a daytime calendar that works for them and their families.

For us, that has meant a new and emerging trend in education — particularly since the pandemic – a growing model called hybrid schools. These schools are the best of both worlds for our family, offering the flexibility, creativity and individuality of homeschooling combined with the community and classroom opportunities of a traditional school.

With a hybrid school, our children spend two to three days a week at home and the rest of the week in a classroom. When my husband and I first experimented with the concept, we thought there would be time for lots of field trips. But hybrid schools offer the opportunity for so much more.

Our children attend St. John Bosco Academy just north of Atlanta in Cumming, Georgia, which grew from the vision of two sisters who decided to share teaching responsibilities after feeling overwhelmed by the demands of homeschooling. In 10 years, the school went from operating at their kitchen tables, to a rented church basement, to the beautiful permanent building our children and over 500 other students enjoy today.

Our elementary and middle school daughters attend classes there two days each week, with a third day of optional art and choir classes on Friday, while our high school freshman and junior boys get to know a bit of what a college schedule is like, spending three days at the school.

Our first draw to the program, honestly, was cost. The local private school’s yearly increases in tuition quickly put the school out of reach for our growing family. It didn’t take much, however, to get excited about the possibilities that could grow from as much as three days at home.

Before the COVID pandemic, we took multiple field trips each month, from hands-on 3-D printing demos at Atlanta’s Museum of Design, to “Lawyer for a Day” at the Georgia State Bar, to behind-the-scenes tours of everything from the Centers for Disease Control to a chocolate factory. These days, my middle school daughter and I spend every Thursday morning volunteering at a horse ranch that helps kids with special needs. She wants to own her own ranch someday, and this weekly, weekday experience gives her an intimate look at what it takes.

On days at home, we follow the school curriculum, downloading and printing out lesson plans from the school website. We can adjust the amount of help the kids need in an area depending on their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, a boisterous child just needs to learn his multiplication tables to the timing of a trampoline. Mostly, my kids and I are getting to know each other better, developing the connections parents and children should have with one another.

Our kids also enjoy the classroom days they have with others, stimulated by working in groups or by class presentations. Our kindergartener was thrilled to have me come in and read a story to her class, and she loves show and tell. Our middle school daughter read her original poetry in the school cafeteria turned “coffee house.” Our high-school boys debate current affairs with classmates. In addition, our children participate in basketball, volleyball, soccer, and tennis, and my high schoolers will be going to prom soon.

Most importantly, our school is a place animated by community. Every hybrid we’re sure has its own flavor. For us, Saint John Bosco Academy is a fun place where the coach brings in his puppy and teachers pass around their babies. Even the delivery man was impressed, he stumbled on a group of dads having a faith-based men’s meeting, and said we “should tell everyone about this place.”

Our lively little hybrid school is an example of education reimagined. It is an accredited program offering parents accountability. Ours is based on classical education, a frequently misunderstood term which ultimately boils down to an emphasis on the building of character. It’s a place where teachers and parents want students to be virtuous and happy, not just smart and employable. We work together with the aim of developing young people who appreciate beauty, goodness, and truth. This can and has translated into ivy league acceptances, but that’s not the focus.

We believe this is a trend that’s here to stay, and it may well be the future of education.

The first national conference on hybrid schooling in late April at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta will be a testimony to the exponential growth and popularity of this concept we have come to love. With the number of new start-up hybrid schools more than doubling over the past decades, we believe this concept is a personalized education model for parents to hold on to for years to come.

Duarte and her husband Daniel live in Cumming, Ga. Their children have been enrolled in a hybrid school since 2015.


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