Since its inception almost two years ago, the Family Partnership Program has grown quickly while meeting the needs of the diverse homeschool community in Whatcom County.
The program, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, started in spring 2015 with 16 students and two classes taught by FPP principal Kate Baehr. These initial classes on Rube Goldberg machines and gardening, and many of the classes since, were intended to give homeschoolers learning experiences that work well in a group.
The program has grown to 182 students, five certificated teachers and dozens of classes four days a week. At the request of parents, FPP added core classes, including “U.S. history,” “loving literacy” and “fun with science.” The program also offers world languages (including Mandarin), guitar, cooking, dance and choir.
The program, based in the former Larrabee Elementary School building (1409 18th Street), doesn’t replace or even really resemble a traditional school. “Our program is more about learning than schooling,” Baehr said.
“We are here to support home learning,” she said. “Not a single student here has the exact same learning plan as anyone else.”
Homeschooling caught on in the 1980s, led by religious groups seeking an alternative to public education. Today, homeschooling is practiced by a diverse population for a variety of reasons.
“We have families from all types of backgrounds and configurations. It is fun building a community that at the heart is all about diversity, choice, flexibility and learning,” Baehr said.
To better understand the philosophy behind homeschooling, Ms. Baehr recommended a TEDx talk in which a homeschool student speaks about the virtues of his particular learning path.
“Much of education is oriented, for better or worse, toward making a living rather than making a life,” 13-year-old Logan LaPlante said in the TEDx talk, given at the University of Nevada. “Creativity is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
One way the teachers at FPP help homeschool families is by working with them to find lessons in everyday activities.
“Learning happens in everything that you’re doing,” Baehr said, from sorting socks to buying groceries.
Parents have always played an essential role in developing the Family Partnership Program and will continue to do so, as FPP looks to add classes for high-school students as early as this fall. The ultimate goal is to serve 300 to 350 students, Baehr said.
For more information about Bellingham Public Schools’ Family Partnership Program, visit the program’s website or call 360-676-6424.
What do I need to know before homeschooling my child in Washington state?
While homeschooling is a personal decision for each family, parents should know that Washington state puts certain requirements on homeschoolers. Forms need to be filled out, and student progress must be evaluated every year by an education professional. The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has information for families who are considering homeschooling, including a summary of the relevant state laws and a list of standardized tests parents may opt to give their students.