Thank you for your questions! We keep discovering more ways to clarify what we are doing, and we are learning as well!
1My 8th grade student takes classes at OSA, and doesn’t want to return to public school next year. What do you offer for 9th graders?
Homeschool and independent study students 9th grade and older may join for select courses and study sessions. Homeschool students in 6th-12th grade can take any CRPD class held at the Teen Center during our instructional time. Although our priority for core instructional courses remains with 6th-8th grade students, we are building our high school base as the need arises. High school age students have taken classes such as Algebra 1, Math At Your Level, Food Fascination, Geography, history classes, and more. Dr. Steve Yoshinaga (via the CRPD) teaches comprehensive science courses, with labs, in Physical Science and Chemistry geared especially for homeschool students in 8th-11th grades. With enough interest we might add more advanced math courses.
2Your sessions are each 8 weeks on average, but some subject matter appears to be planned for the year. Is it assumed that a family will take the class for all 4 sessions, or is each course condensed to cover more material?
Courses such as ELA (English Language Arts), Pre-Algebra and Algebra, and advanced science courses are planned with nearly a year’s worth of lessons in mind. But, breaking our year into four sessions provides more opportunities to re-evaluate the needs of our growing community, and add courses as needed. As educators, we do see the value in offering courses that build upon each other, so a homeschool student who registers for a course like ELA all year will get what equates to an “almost” full-year curriculum in that subject. Most courses, however, are planned for a single session.
3Are you an approved vendor for public charter schools?
Yes, we are an approved vendor with Golden Valley Charter School and Inspire Charter Schools. Golden Valley will allow their students to take any classes at One Spark Academy, but will not provide for lunch or field trips. If at GVCS, your student’s EF (education facilitator) must approve the classes and send us a PO prior to the requested class starting. Additionally, our Teen Center enrichment courses are run by the CRPD (Conejo Recreation and Park District), an approved vendor for GVCS. Our agreement with Inspire Charter School is similar (and they have approved the CRPD as a vendor); however, enrichment certificates must be received and paid BEFORE students being their classes at OSA.
4Do families have to file a PSA or will you be acting as the private school yourself and keeping records?
Families need to either sign up with a public homeschool charter, or file a PSA (private school affidavit). We are not a school, nor do we focus on advising families about their homeschool options and requirements. Records of grades, state testing and transcripts are up to the family or homeschool provider (such as a charter school). It is important to note that parents can easily create transcripts for their children, keep portfolios, and so forth, making the transition to public high school in 9th grade (if that is the goal) an easy one.
5What is Circle?
This is a special time for our participants and staff members on site to discuss what matters to them, while learning effective communication skills. It’s a time for problem solving, group think, and sharing. Circle is held daily, M-Th, from 10:30-10:45. Conflict resolution strategies help create a better space for collaborative learning. Collaboration, effective communication and the development of social skills contribute to the wellness of the whole child, and are integral to our philosophy.
6Why are you not a school?
Quite simply, we don’t want to be an accredited school. Whether public or private, schools as they stand today are bound by numerous regulatory constraints that often get in the way of creative planning and authentic learning. Most schools follow a similar path that doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, we provide the quality instruction families may need to support a very individualized homeschool plan for their children. Depending on the family, that may be a lot or a little in terms of OSA courses. Each child’s plan can be very flexible and individualized, whereas schools are bound by many regulations that make them less flexible and create a lot of extra work for teachers and administrators. Students who are taking courses with us exclusively may consider us their school, while enjoying the feel of calm “classroom learning.” Our instructors also understand how to differentiate to meet the needs of various learners. While each session offers the basics (math, reading, writing, social sciences, science courses, and other important subjects to choose from), participants can also spend some of their time onsite working independently on their homeschool curriculum. Homeschool families are free to experiment with a variety of scheduling to serve the needs of their children. We have students who come for one class, one day, or all week, and then might change schedules the following session. Since parents are responsible for their child’s overall curriculum (either on their own or with a homeschool supervisor), or even whether their children take state tests, the instructors at One Spark are freed up to just focus on sharing our passion for the subjects we teach, and teaching your children well! This flexibility and freedom is not common in public or private schools.
7 Why only 32 weeks, when the traditional school year is 38 weeks?
We are a learning center that offers both core instruction (by trained educators) and enrichment courses (by experts in their field), but no mandated curriculum or required course of study. Homeschool families can also use those extra weeks for whichever learning activities they see fit. Additionally, our space at the Teen Center is available only during non-operational hours, which is when the local district is in session. Thus, that’s when we use it, but just with longer breaks to better meet the needs of our homeschool community. Plus there’s this: in a school, there are typically 180 days and 54,000 minutes of instruction. Do you know of a student who spends all that time at school and doesn’t complete much quality work? Hopefully, in 32 weeks, participants in our courses will produce a tremendous amount of quality work because they are excited about learning.
8What do the fees cover?
Rent, our instructors, materials, food, and business services (like insurance). We have asked for the least amount of money to support what we do, although it’s important for families to know that our registration fees alone do not cover all our expenses. Since we are a non-profit, we hope to secure private donations and grants so we can do more of what we envision. (You can help by becoming a Friend of One Spark!) It’s important to note that the registration fees for classes are reduced if taking more than one class, or if combined in a “flex plan” package, offered each session.
9Why is enrollment so limited?
We want to keep our classes small and provide a quality service. No point in growing otherwise. Our current location provides us 4 small classrooms fitting about 8-15 kids each (and we want small classes!), a wonderful gym, a prep kitchen, bathrooms and lockers for participants to keep their things. Our enrollment will cap at about 50 students for our current location, although we may get creative and use additional space if needed.
Do you have more questions? Let us know!