Inside schooling decisions

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Get a glimpse into the lives of local families who are navigating through the many educational choices available today, and forging a path that fits their families.

The Hide family

HOMESCHOOL

Meet Longfellow resident Julianne Hide, parent of Landon (age 10), Holden (7), and Isla (3). She’s married to Phil.
Why did you select this school?
We began homeschooling when my eldest started to suffer with anxiety at school. We did our best to address the issue, but he was not happy at school. After looking into options for other schools we decided to give homeschool a try. We’re into our third year now. It’s so much fun to learn together.
What do you appreciate most?
We greet each day with the idea of doing what feels right. Sometimes we stick with the plan, sometimes we grab an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the weather. We go to nature center programs, theaters and museums. The kids are able to pursue their area of interest in long sessions uninterrupted. Play is part of everyday. We attend a homeschool group each week and have made many friends.
What are the challenges?
The challenges have come in the form of being willing to accept that each homeschool day looks different depending on the mood of the kids. Sometimes we have to change the plan. Our daily rhythm also has to adapt to the needs of the kids as they change. As long as I’m willing to keep going with the flow I know everything will be fine!
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
I think the skills needed for 2020 revolve around getting people to work together to solve problems. Creative thinking. Good communication skills. The strength to believe in yourself.
Share your school hacks or tips.
I think the best ‘hack’ I’ve come across is actually just really talking with him my kids and letting them help guide our learning. Anytime I let them lead they blow me away with their willingness to work.

 

COMMUNITY SCHOOL:
Northrop Elementary

Meet Gina Brusseau, PTA President at Northrop Elementary School, a K-5 school at 4315 S. 31st Ave. She is mom to Finnegan (grade 2) and Stella, who will be a kindergartner in fall 2020. Rounding out the family is her step-daughter Becca and husband Karl.
Why did you select this school?
We chose Northrop because it was our neighborhood school, had an environmental STEM focus, and had a great reputation in the neighborhood. Big factor: late start.
What do you appreciate most?
We love the community, the entire staff is awesome, and the teachers are dedicated.
What are the challenges?
Diversity – as it is declining based on the demographics of the neighborhood. We wish we had more diversity representing an urban school.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
Social emotional learning, environmental, STEM, working hard, teamwork, individuality, respect, and caring for others.
Share your school hacks or tips.
Be involved with your kids education, be involved with your PTA, volunteer when you can, and connect with other families.

CHARTER SCHOOL:
Career Pathways

Meet Kelina Morgan, whose daughter Nasi is in ninth grade at Career Pathways, one of the Minnesota Transitions Charter School options.
Why did you select this school?
I chose Career Pathways for her because it was close to my employer, and it offered a non-traditional way of learning, with small class sizes.
What do you appreciate most?
Career Pathways also is a welcoming place with diversity of race, culture, religion, and sexual orientation. It’s a place where my daughter feels a sense of belonging. We’ve lived in various cities, including Vadnais Heights and Somerset, Wis. It was important to me that she attended a school where the staff and students welcome diversity.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
I believe that acceptance and appreciation for differences is a valuable skill to learn, as well as life skills needed to find and maintain a career if college is not the choice.
Share your school hacks or tips.
Because education is important to us and can open many doors, our family hacks on how to help kids learn are 1) read to kids early and daily, 2) require they read at least 20 minutes five days a week, and 3) purchase workbooks for their next grade level that they complete over the summer breaks to continue learning.

 

IMMERSION SCHOOL:
Yinghua Academy

Meet South Minneapolis resident Starr Eggen Lim, who is married to Albert. Her daughter Lily is now in 11th grade at Highland Park High School, and daughter Magdalena is currently a ninth grader at Highland Park High School. They are at Highland because Yinghua Academy has an agreement that kids can continue their Chinese education at an appropriate level at Highland Park in St. Paul.
Why did you select this school?
I chose Yinghua Academy because it is a total immersion school meaning that the entire school is focused on Chinese and not just one area or several classrooms. Being that our children are Asian and adopted, it was a good fit as they would learn much about their birth culture as well as having Asian role models and influence. Many kids at that time who were attending the school were also adopted from China, so I felt it would help normalize their experience as kids and adolescents. I had read many books about some of the difficulties Korean adoptees had in the 1970s who grew up in rural areas with little acknowledgement about their birth countries or even issues being racially different than most of their peers. I really wanted to find a school that would allow my kids the opportunity to be around many other Asian kids and many who also had similar birth stories.
What do you appreciate most?
Having my kids learn to read, write and speak Mandarin has so many advantages. If they ever chose to search for their birth parents, or even wanted to live or experience their birth country, having the language and cultural understanding would help to cross over so many barriers that could inhibit that from happening. I also wanted to give them the opportunity to feel at ease around other kids in college who may be international students from their birth country, whereby they could understand and feel a part of that community. I had read that some kids who were never given these opportunities would sometimes go to college and didn’t feel like they fit in with the Caucasian population (even though these kids had grown up in “white” culture), so were initially not accepted into those circles… And even though they looked like the Asian international students, they did not fit in there because they did not understand the culture, so were not initally accepted there either.
Yinghua Academy not only provided this backdrop for my kids, but also having a second language like Mandarin allows so many doors to be opened for them. When learning a second language at the tender age of five, kids absorb things so much easier. Having the ability to read, write and speak can open potential careers opportunities, as well. The school’s academic expectations are quite rigorous and kids have adapted well into all kinds of high school experiences. I liked that the school uses Singapore math, allows for different levels of learning in math and Chinese, and provides many extra curricular activities after school. They also put on a dynamic Chinese New Year program every year which is held at Bethel University, and is almost always sold out. As adoption from China has slowed, Yinghua Academy continues to grow as many kids from all sorts of backgrounds attend the school.
What are the challenges?
Chinese Immersion is not for everyone. Yinghua does have some expectations for kids to do quite a bit of learning in a more traditional style and hasn’t, at least in my experience, allowed for a lot of diversity in teaching styles or methods. Parents need to be in tune to what their specific child’s needs are and how best to meet those, but Yinghua has worked well for our family.
What skills do you think are most important for schools to teach kids in 2020?
As far as the most important skills for kids to learn, I would think preparing them to be global citizens is a priority. Language immersion does help to accomplish this. Critical thinking is probably one of the most important skills for kids to learn as our current administration (in my opinion) has become so harsh on scientific research, facts, and the media in general. Learning how to decipher facts from fiction and how to ask questions is critical to our society’s survival as a democracy.