The philosophy of One Spark Academy is based on the belief that children and teens should be actively involved in their education, and that the process of education can only be successful if the needs of the whole child are addressed. A lot has been said about whole child education, and more schools are embracing its methodologies. What does it mean? Quite simply, it means that a child’s growth is about more than academics. It means a learning environment should be a safe place in which to take risks, ask questions, be playful and active, and engage with others. And, it means that social and emotional needs are considered daily. Think about this: can you concentrate when you are upset? Can you enjoy taking risks when you are afraid of what others think? And, how can one get to a place of self-confidence without authentic interactions in which to trust?
If we as adults cannot do such things, imagine how academically stunted children may be if faced with emotional and social roadblocks on a daily basis. Thus, in a whole child environment, safety, nurturing, humor and enthusiasm create the fundamental foundation for academic excellence, enthusiasm for learning, and creative thinking. Communication skills are modeled and, in some courses, explicitly taught. And, health and wellness are necessary daily goals, for everyone. A whole child education must ensure that the environment truly promotes good health (please see the blog on Healthy Lunch). We also know the classroom and the home must share common values in order for the educational process to be highly rewarding, which is why we hope our partnerships with homeschool families will be symbiotic.
We are not out to sell a product or provide a guarantee of specific outcomes; we are here to provide educational support for families who homeschool (and who do so for myriad reasons), or whose child is on independent study, or whose child is not successful in traditional middle school, yet wants to be successful and happy in his or her learning! For families who choose such a route, but also want teacher and “classroom” support for some, most, or all of their child’s education, One Spark Academy might be a perfect fit. We are invested in finding what works best for each learner. And we will be honest… about what we can offer, and what we can’t.
On a daily basis we model what we believe, which is that everyone learns best when actively engaged in an inviting and supportive environment. When teachers (and parents) consider a child’s learning style, interests, and passions while planning a meaningful and balanced course of study, motivation is increased and a child is ready to challenge themself, and improve in areas ripe for growth. The impact of positive interpersonal relationships amongst peers and adults in the learning environment cannot be understated. It is through positive, collaborative and respectful interactions that children learn best.
When children are active participants in their learning, what they learn becomes more relevant. Making learning relevant to the world around us is vital, as is providing a context-driven course of study. Context-driven lessons and activities allow students to recall and utilize what they know already, and apply that prior knowledge to new experiences. Thus, the learning and practice of basic, fundamental skills become part of the process, not the goal itself. As children and teens mature, they work toward the goal of being confident, participatory, socially responsible, and independent life-long learners.
We also believe that we truly learn about ourselves when faced with conflict. Conflict and struggle, both external and internal, are not experiences to be avoided (unless, of course, the conflict is a matter of physical or psychological safety, or is harming one’s emotional health), but rather embraced. Moving forward is a “two steps forward, one step back” process. If we are constantly moving forward at a steady pace, without slips, setbacks, and disappointments, it is unlikely that any true learning and growth has occurred. Students should be encouraged to search for the lesson when faced with conflict; to communicate effectively through the conflict; to reflect upon their place in the conflict; and to absorb the opportunity that now exists for growth. Each time an obstacle is successfully overcome, the learner grows internally stronger, more flexible in thinking and ability, and more adept to face both positive and negative experiences in the real world with humility, confidence, optimism, and integrity. Granted, the teenage experience is not an easy one. That is why space and understanding need to be provided, rather than a default punitive model (as found in many schools), as teens encounter conflicts with others and face internal struggles.
One Spark Academy provides an inclusive, flexible educational experience that combines current educational research, common sense, and attention to various needs and learning styles in order to move each child forward. Our educators incorporate the latest educational resources to find what works best for each learner, while using as much or as little of a child’s homeschool course of study as each family desires. And, because such a dynamic, responsive learning environment is only possible when the student to adult ratio is dramatically lowered, our small classroom size ranges from 5 to 16 participants, dependent on the subject and the needs of our participants in each class.
Parents– you are an integral part of the planning for your child; we are eager to communicate with you about your child’s goals and needs. Additionally, your support and positive feedback regarding our efforts to keep our learning center cost-effective, inclusive and uplifting are always appreciated. After all, we are invested in more than just whole child education. We are inspired by the idea of whole selves, whole families and, perhaps one day, a “whole” world.
July 2011 (updated October, 2019)