2017-08-13 / Insight

Heading into fourth year ...

Lapeer Homeschool Partnership keeps growing
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com

Michon Periso, director, Lapeer Homeschool Partnership, shows some of the artwork students did last year. The program is heading into its fourth year. 
Photo byAndrew Dietderich Michon Periso, director, Lapeer Homeschool Partnership, shows some of the artwork students did last year. The program is heading into its fourth year. Photo byAndrew Dietderich LAPEER — As the number of homeschoolers continues growing in the Lapeer area, Michon Periso becomes more and more busy.

That’s because, as director of the Lapeer Homeschool Partnership (LHSP), Periso said the program has grown 50 percent annually since it began three years ago. More than 100 children are currently enrolled to begin the new school year.

Periso attributes the growth to the supportive, tightknit group of homeschoolers in the area, and the number of available resources, many through LHSP as part of Lapeer Community Schools.

“There are actually more families moving to the area now because they know this is such a highly populated homeschool area,” she said.

LHSP draws from the estimated 1,000 or so homeschoolers in the Lapeer area, as well as those who are allowed to participate in the program from counties contiguous with Lapeer County: Sanilac, St. Clair, Macomb, Oakland, Genesee, and Tuscola.

Periso said, among other things, homeschoolers value the freedom of choice, and LHSP strives to stay consistent with that line of thought. Continued growth, she said, tells her the program is doing things right.

“We have repeat families, and they bring more families,” Periso said. “We have not had many families leave and every year, we’ve grown …I look at those numbers as success.”

According to its website, “The Lapeer Homeschool Partnership was developed to provide tuition-free academics and extra-curricular options to the homeschool community. Together, we believe that education is vitally important to the future of our community. We believe that parents should determine and select the educational opportunities that best meet their children’s needs.”

“We believe in supporting parents and student by providing curricular and extra-curricular opportunities that meet the needs of ALL students,” the website also states.

LHSP is part of a multitude of academic and extra-curricular options LCS offers for homeschool students, including:

• Physical education, visual arts, music, and other enrichment courses that will be housed at the LHSP building.

• College on campus that allows students to earn up to 10 tuition-free college credits during the day at Mott Community College-Lapeer Campus and the Center for Innovation (CFI)-West Campus.

• Advanced placement courses and dual enrollment.

Further, the district offers homeschoolers a diverse style of instruction that could include virtual, project based learning, blended learning, independent study, and seated courses. Classes may be one or a combination of delivery of methods.

“Some families choose to stay home and do all of their homeschooling at home,” said Kenneth Janczarek, director of innovation at LCS. “But we want to give them the opportunity to make the choice if they want to do something different.”

It’s hard to say what a “typical” homeschooling week is because learning is customized by each family.

Some students might participate in virtual learning via computer on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Wednesdays are when enrichment classes (art, physical education, music, etc.) are held at the LHSP building at 1220 Lake Nepessing Road in Elba Township.

“This is a huge blessing to have this building,” she said. “We’ve really been able to build a community here.”

The building — constructed in 1969 as a public elementary school as part of the Lapeer Community Schools District — consists of eight classrooms, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and an area for parents and/or guardians to hang out while their kids participate in classes.

On Thursdays and Fridays, students might do virtual learning and/or another type of homeschooling.

For enrichment courses, LHSP doesn’t use certified teachers, but “mentors” and “community experts.”

For example, Jim Bach, from Lapeer’s School of Bach, teaches music to LHSP students. A chef from Metamora’s White Horse Inn teaches a culinary class.

They are the kind of experts homeschoolers would typically seek out anyway, Periso said, but LHSP brings them to the students.

“We really want the enrichment to be high caliber,” she said. “We don’t just hire anybody because we want to have a program. We’d rather not offer something than just put a body in it.”

So why does Lapeer Community Schools support the program?

“Really, we’re here to support the families,” Janczarek said. “And that could be multiple avenues, from electives to offering additional resources leaving maybe the homeschool side of it and going more virtual.”

An economic upside exists, too.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, “Families who participate in these programs receive financial assistance for certain classes or educational materials, while schools can count participating homeschool students as at least partly enrolled. This results in increased state funding to the school district; and the difference then helps fund the school district’s total operations.”

Janczarek further explained that the “financial assistance” is in form of state funding to cover program costs, including paying mentors and buying materials.

“If a student comes into the partnership and takes two classes, because we’re able to offer them curriculum to support it, a mentor teacher of record, we can then collect … a portion of that FTE,” he said. An FTE refers to “full-time equivalent” — the term given to students who attend what would be considered traditional schools and is used to determine how much state funding a district receives per pupil.

From the state’s perspective, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has published a chapter in its Pupil Accounting Manual “5-E: nonpublic and home-schooled pupils.” It establishes state criteria for allowing nonpublic school students, including homeschooled students, to enroll on a part-time basis in “nonessential elective courses provided by a public-school district.” At LHSP, students can take up to five elective courses.

“It’s a win-win for the homeschoolers and the district,” Periso added.

More information about the Lapeer Homeschool Partnership can be found at lapeerhomeschoolpartnership.org.

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