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Homeschooling Evolves

by Jesse Phelps

Are you on the lookout for a better curriculum? Do you love homeschooling but desire help from trained teachers? Do you want your kids to use the computer less for games and more for schoolwork?

Families today have a wealth of educational opportunities and many are discovering that computers are more than just a word-processing tool. While fledgling programs such as K12 envision a future of distance-learning education provided via the Internet, a few pioneers have used home computers as textbooks for years. Via the World Wide Web, these online programs provide students with access to world-famous libraries, museums, and universities. Through online education, students learn from the best minds in the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Laurel Springs School, founded and directed by Marilyn Mosley, developed one of the first online curricula. Laurel Springs began as a small private independent study program, based on the theory that all kids embody brilliance in their own ways and that school should be a place where individual needs are met and talents fostered. Marilyn had homeschooled all of her own children, and she knew part of the solution was taking education out of the classroom. Another important piece of her educational vision was the freedom to customize curricula to meet the needs, interests, and learning styles of individual children. Still, there was something missing. As Marilyn relates, "What made the difference for Laurel Springs School was in 1994, when we began the first Web-based program. It’s just catapulted, and once we had the opportunity to communicate with students quickly and directly, we opened up the whole world."

The founder of Laurel Springs had suddenly discovered the seed of a movement within a movement. At that time, though the creation of educational Web sites had already begun, most people simply did not realize the potential of the Internet as an academic resource. Today, few question its validity. As public and private institutions throughout America struggle to get their online programs up and running as fast as possible, Laurel Springs finds itself facing competition from an increasing number of companies providing a distance learning education via the Internet. While Laurel Springs School is no longer the only online educational option, Marilyn feels her program offers a superior learning environment. “It’s the quality of instruction,” she says, “that’s at the heart of Laurel Springs, that ultimately sets us apart.”

Marilyn considers the nurturing support of qualified teachers to be a cornerstone of the program. Unlike other online schools, which tend to offer a multiple choice curriculum and minimal grading services, Laurel Springs features varying levels of teacher service for families with very different educational needs. From experienced homeschoolers to those making a first venture into independent study, Laurel Springs families receive the teacher support and feedback needed to experience academic and personal success.

Laurel Springs employs nearly 100 instructors trained to guide students through infinitely customizable lessons according to the strengths and inspiration of each child.

Working with a Learning Styles Profile, a unique learning tool developed by the authors of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style (both Laurel Springs instructors) the teachers measure individual students’ talents, interests, disposition, ideal environment, and learning modalities. “Results have been extremely positive,” says Marilyn. “Colleges recruit our graduating seniors because of their positive attitudes, innovative thinking and independent study habits.”

The profile has dramatically improved the academic success of many Laurel Springs students and Marilyn has been busy of late, working with its creators to make it available online for public use. The Self-Portrait™ Online is self-scoring, easy to take, and remains an important tool for children and adults alike. It features an improved summary page including the scored profile and suggestions for projects, activities, and instruction.

>Attempting to stop a rising tide of drop-outs, Japanese programs are looking at Learning Styles and the Laurel Springs online curriculum as potential solutions to their educational crisis. Laurel Springs recently formed partnerships with two Japanese independent study programs, providing online courses and teacher services to their students. For these pioneer schools, the profile—indeed, the entire concept of distance learning—has been a breath of fresh air. As international interest in online educational alternatives continues to grow, Laurel Springs has responded to the demand, and is intensively developing English Prep, a series of online courses for students learning English as a Second Language. The creators of the English Prep program have designed each course to embody a blend of traditional and direct language instruction with colorful graphics, fun games, and audio.

Throughout the years, the Internet has expanded, access to resources has increased, and new dynamics have come into play. The Laurel Springs online program has kept pace and now features over 60 online classes for grades four through twelve, including a complete offering of core high school requirements and a host of electives. All online courses feature a variety of questions and essay topics designed to bring out the critical thinker in every student. All courses make use of fun, colorful Web sites, correlate to California and Ohio State learning standards, and can be further customized to meet the demands of students, states, and educational bodies. Many of the courses have received UC approval.

The already popular Laurel Springs online program should only be improved with the advent of “Version 5”, a brand new, totally unique Web-based software program. With a new graphic interface and automatic lesson submission and tracking, the days of minor e-mail problems will become a thing of the past. The program clearly shows families and teachers which lessons for a given student are in process, complete, graded, or yet to be started. With the new interface, it will be easier than ever for students to track their own progress. At the same time, teachers and students will retain the level of one-on-one interaction that has been a strength of the Laurel Springs program since its inception.

For more information about courses, tuition and program options, visit the Laurel Springs School Web site: http://www.laurelsprings.com

For more information about A Self-Portrait™ Online Learning Styles Profile, contact Sara: (800) 324-3390 or sara@laurelsprings.com

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media