Written by Founder and Director of SOCHH, Natalie Hustad.
If you had told me 15 years ago that I would homeschool my kids, I would have laughed. In preschool my son was charismatic, charming, and a friend to all, though had zero interest in letters, numbers or sitting still to listen. He could brilliantly take apart anything mechanical and put it back together. He could talk and comprehend at levels far beyond his age. His gifts, however, were not a standardized measure in any traditional school, nor did they help him check any of the boxes needed to be “kindergarten ready”, thus our homeschool journey began. It was always my intention to get him caught up so he could transition back into public school.
I started a co-op with like minded families and I began to discover there were more families homeschooling that were like ours. People we call unintentional or accidental homeschoolers, who keep waiting to catch their kids up to put them into public. My middle child went to public kindergarten and had a WONDERful experience, but she is the opposite of my son; she is leaps and bounds beyond her age and grade. Her public kindergarten teacher taught for 30 years and said “if you can homeschool them both through these little years why wouldn’t you?” She inspired the idea of a curated education for my kids.
I always valued the idea of my kids learning from a teacher and learning to work in a peer to peer collaborative environment. I wanted cohesiveness in what they were studying, intention and purpose to it. I wanted them to master their basics before they moved on to more complex content (something you can do as a homeschooled student).
Over time, the growth of that tiny co-op laid the foundation for what SOCHH is today- a nonprofit organization that serves families for whom the public school was not a fit for them. The public school program is wonderful for 60% of the population and I do think most people will be fine there. But I also think classes are too large these days, teachers are overworked and underpaid and that, in general, there is not enough flexibility for teachers to move kids were they need to be because of the rigid structure that forces all the kids to move at the same pace. If you are any bit of an advocate for education and learning, you have to want more than this cookie cutter format.
SOCHH aims to work with kids that are struggling in the traditional classroom setting. We work with intention to give them the academic confidence they need, and fill in foundational gaps while taking into account any cognitive weaknesses they might have such as recall, organization, executive functioning skills, etc. Most of these kids do not qualify for for IEP or 504 services in the system but will continue to fall further and further behind if they are not allowed to slow down a bit to get rooted in the essentials before moving on. I intensely believe that students who are in small classes of less than 20 have a leg up in their ability to learn, and that teachers can create a relationship with them and truly understand what their needs are and meet those needs.
At the heart of SOCHH is our a two and a half day hybrid CORE program that provides Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies instruction. Because we are a learning center and NOT a public or private school, many homeschooled students who are working below or above grade level, or tend to get lost in the dynamics of a public school program, have found a safe but challenging place to thrive. While this is not every student in our program, the ones who find the most value and success in our program are students and families looking for a lighter, more flexible version of a traditional school environment. That said, we indeed feel and act more like a micro version of a traditional school program, so unlike other homeschool programs and co-ops who have a wide array of pick and choose classes where a large number of students are coming and going, we are a small community of staff and students working towards like-minded goals. Our classes are composed of around 12-16 students, depending on the academic and emotional make up of the class. Most classes are combo classes and students work at their present levels with movement taking place during learning blocks. Our goal at SOCHH is to place the emphasis on small group learning. This allows our teachers to work with kiddos at their level, moving them up and down in groups as needed and according to skill rather than age or grade.