Starting a Learning Center
Starting a Learning Center
This type of learning structure is becoming more attractive as an educational outreach for churches. The following discussion is based on a collaboration with Homeschool New England, and is intended to assist churches and parents in North America...
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SOLUTION FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
Churches that seek to facilitate opportunities for K-12 cooperative learning, but that do not desire to establish a school may start a learning center. Churches that want to open a school in the future, but need a temporary solution to bridge the gap between the present and the time the school can open, might consider initially opening a learning center.
COLLABORATION OF FAMILIES MINISTRERING TO FAMILIES
Learning centers are collaborations of families who are enrolled in virtual or in-person homeschool-based learning programs and are hosted in a local church. The church doesn't function as a private school and does not prescribe or assign curriculum. Learning centers can provide opportunities for families that require support during daytime hours in order to provide their children with a Christian education.
ESTABLISH A CHRIST-CENTERED FRAMEWORK
Establish a Biblical worldview, a set of core values, for a framework that guides the activities in your learning center. This allows for evangelistic efforts and protects the integrity of the discipleship process. Building a like-minded community is very important for parents. For a model framework, see Shiloh Learning’s Framework for Creating Reformational Education Environments.
ENLIST CHRISTIAN ACADEMIC COACHES
The learning center will need qualified adults to assist students in their education through one-on-one discipleship and to provide oversight and motivation for academic progress. Parents are always the primary academic coaches. Parents partner with the learning center facilitators to ensure students are staying on track with their assignments, but the parents are ultimately responsible for their students' educational success. Basic requirements for academic coaches include a good reputation within/without the church, a clean background check, a proper temperament for working with youth, and the ability to maintain a schedule and an orderly environment in the learning center.
ENSURE FAMILIES ARE REGISTERED HOMESCHOOLERS
All families participating in the learning center should be registered and have a completed education plan approved by their local school district superintendent's office. Visit Homeschool Legal Defense Association for details on individual state requirements for writing letters of intent and education plans. If someone from the learning center will be providing instruction in a course/class, parents should include the names of the facilitators/teachers on their education plan. Encourage families to become members of Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
REALIZE THE POTENTIAL OF YOUR FACILITIES
Understand what you can and can't do without state approval. Educational co-ops can freely operate for students of compulsory schooling age (6+). Preschools are highly regulated by the state. Maintain or supply the following: health and safety inspection certificates, adequate liability insurance, WIFI and high-speed internet, rooms designated for use, tables/desks and chairs, janitorial services and/or cleaning routines, safe practices, and a church policy/statement regarding the use of the building by church members or outside groups.
ADMINISTRATE POLICIES, SCHEDULES, AND ENHANCEMENTS
Create child safety and abuse prevention policies that include rules, implementation, and oversight. Most church insurance companies will have guidance for this.
Set the schedule for building availability. Determine the learning center schedule and how many days per week it will be open.
Determine the fee schedule or dues if applicable. Fees might include building use and maintenance, paid staff versus volunteer services, and material fees for any extracurricular activities.
Determine what supplemental educational options will be available, such as Bible classes, chapel services, field trips, extracurricular activities such as art, music, or athletics.
Although it is not entirely necessary, the more the learning center functions as a school or other educational support business, with facilities, staff, regular days/hours, and tuition, separately incorporating the activity as a nonprofit learning center can be an important step.
As a church ministry, the learning center is a function of a church. As a church ministry, ordained ministers can be trained as overseers and tutors within the learning center. Parents, volunteers, and donations can supplement or cover the costs of providing staff and supplies, lowering the financial burden for parents. As a church, freedom of religion is more assured in the teachings and practices of the learning center. Thus, the learning center becomes a Christ-centered outreach to families in the church and in the community.