January is a big month for those of us in Cheverly who have children. Why? Most schools start accepting applications for the 2015-16 school year. It’s decision time and that is why I thought I’d highlight some of the school options we have available in Cheverly. Today we will look at Cheverly STEM. I didn’t know much about this homeschooling option and they are having an informational meeting on Jan 10th from 10-12 on the 4th floor of Cheverly United Methodist Church. That is why I asked the founder Ann Caldwell to tell me more.
Ann said, “This venture started purely by accident! I never thought of myself as a homeschooler. When we started having kids, I assumed that we’d go the traditional route for schooling. But it turns out that by the time my oldest was in third grade – I was watching my kids progress in school and I wasn’t pleased. The math was rote, the social studies seemed obtuse and the language arts – I didn’t even get the rationale. I kept trying to igore the problem, but it didn’t resolve or go away. I figured that I could do better. And, in the back of my mind, I knew that we could try homeschooling for a while and see what we thought. If it didn’t work, we could always go back.
Long story short – homeschooling turned out to be the best thing for me and my family. I’m willing to admit that no schooling situation is perfect. But when you stack up the pros and the cons – homeschooling, especially in the DC area – totally, easily and hands-down beats all other schooling options. The increased family time tops the list, but when you also get to remove all the idiocrisy that the school system and school schedule provide, you find that there’s so much more you can do. Teaching my kids at home allows me to pitch to the strike zone every time. And, this close to DC, there’s so much to do. Museums here are second-to-none and free. We are hardly “at home” schooling most days. I guess that was one of my biggest fears – how do you fill the time. Turns out – there’s so much to do, so many cool experiences, so much learning all the time – who has time for going to school.
But if you want to know how the STEM program started…
Also by accident! I had been homeschooling my kids for 5 years at the time. I was talking to a dear friend and mentor mom Jeanne Robinson – also a long time homeschooling mom – and saying that I felt I needed to teach more science to my kids. Which is kinda funny – I’m a science educator by training and felt I wasn’t doing enough for my own kids. I had started my career teaching high school chemistry. That led to a master’s in education and work at AAAS – Project 2061 – a national level think tank for research and reform in science education. That led to me nearly completing a PhD in science education at UMD. Yet, I wasn’t really teaching science to my own kids. To me, to really teach science, you need a group of kids to bounce ideas around with and test things out. Like a PE class – its hard to teach to one student – you just need a group:) So I was talking to Jeanne and explaining that I needed to do better – I need to get a co-op going. She loved the idea. And, as a civil engineer, she offered to teach some engineering. Then the idea got bigger – what if we post these classes on the a few homeschooling list serves? Homeschoolers are remarkably connected and always sharing cool ideas – courses, museum exhibits, field trip on list serves. So we advertised, got rooms at Cheverly United Methodist Church and started last year with 2 classes and about 20 kids. By the end of that year, we had over 70 in five different classes. Starting this year we have two days of classes – 17 classes in total. We hire a small handful of creative and cool teachers for the classes we can’t, don’t teach – like art, journalism, and chess.”
Does that make you want to homeschool or what?! From what I can gather from their website, this option is for children in grades 5-10. The parent would be at home teaching 3 days a week and then they would bring them to our local church for school 2 days a week from 10-3. I’m not a homeschooler, but that sounds interesting to me. What a great option for parents in Cheverly! Founded, taught, and led by Cheverly parents and local children- more reasons to love our community. STEM has a Facebook page if you would like to check out some photos. And of course the website www.cheverlystem.com has more information. I’ve learned something new today–I hope you have as well. Thanks Ann and Cheverly Stem!