By Mary Faulds, AFA Journal staff writer
February 2009 – Dr. James Dobson has called for parents in California to pull their children out of the public school system. For the past few years, the Southern Baptist Convention has debated whether to call their members to abandon public schools. Growing dissatisfaction with public schools leaves concerned parents with preschool-age children and even couples planning to have children with the difficult decision of whether or not to home school.
The reasons for and against home schooling can be deeply personal, but sometimes it is simply fear that keeps a family who desires to home school from taking the plunge. Fear of teaching, fear of developing lesson plans, fear of finding a good, solid curriculum, fear of the time commitment involved.
Jay Spencer, executive associate for online programs at Liberty University, said the university has a solution to that dilemma. “We have many families every year who move to Lynchburg for the purpose of enrolling their children in Liberty Christian Academy,” said Spencer. “Dr. Falwell believed that, like our online program in Liberty University, students across the world would enjoy a Liberty education in the elementary, middle and high school level.”
Thus, in 2007, Liberty University Online Academy (LUOA) was born. LUOA provides a flexible yet structured program customized to meet the needs of each student. The academy’s certified teachers, counselors and support staff are available to help in providing a quality education for each student.
Advanced technology has enabled the parent-teacher partnership to flourish from a distance. Spencer said the academy uses a host of technological tools, such as fiber optics, video cams, Internet connections and phone lines as ways to accommodate the partnership.
One mother found that the ability to access lessons at any time was a boon to her family. “When we enrolled Maddie in Liberty Online Academy it was mainly to save some time for me,” said Denise Logan. “As a mother of four small children with two in school, I was driving back and forth to our private school sometimes several times a day. It was not unusual for me to spend more than two hours a day in the Suburban, since the school was 25 miles away. The freedom of the school schedule and time traveling back and forth has really been a lifesaver for our family.”
Currently, LUOA offers grades 3-12, but plans are in the works for kindergarten, first and second grades to be offered in the next two years. Spencer said they have been encouraged by LUOA’s growth. “We enrolled 70 students in our first year,” he said. “This [past] fall we enrolled over 350 students from many states as well as U.S. citizens living in countries like France, Italy, Israel, Mexico, Romania, Guam, Australia, China, Pakistan and India. These are either missionary children or military children. We have a rolling enrollment which means students can enroll at any time of the year with LUOA.”
Once a student enrolls in the school, placement tests and the judgment of experienced educators guide the placement decisions so that students are accepted and provided with a program appropriate for their current skill level. Once this “baseline” skill level has been established, regular assessment provides the data needed to evaluate each student’s academic progress.
The LUOA curriculum and course materials teach the basic belief that we live in a created universe where all truth emanates from God. The materials are intended to support instruction that establishes Christian truth as a guide for life. They teach that knowledge is both discovered and revealed, and the Bible is presented as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
One father said the reinforcement of Christian beliefs has been a benefit of home schooling. “We do not have good options in our area for private school education and have become more aware of just how inferior the academic and spiritual education in the public school environment is for our children,” said Pastor Steve Owenby. “For parents like myself, I am so grateful for LUOA.”
At first, Owenby was concerned the curriculum might be too easy for his son. However, now he believes Josh is being challenged and is receiving an excellent education in addition to how the child’s Christian worldview is being reinforced.
Interested parents will find more information about Liberty’s online academy, including a curriculum demo, at www.libertyonlineacademy.com.