What's a ‘hybrid’ home school? Inman has one

The students working on their Suzuki Piano lessons. The Suzuki Piano class is an elective, held on Tuesdays by Fenette Beresford. Photo/Special.

The biggest oak tree starts out with a small seed, creating roots and limbs that continue to reach and grow. The Inman Hybrid Home School program began with a simple idea: To create a learning environment that allows the uniqueness of the child to grow while education and social interaction takes root.

Holly Longino planted that seed in January of 2011, and just over one year later, a thriving hybrid home school environment is running out of the Inman United Methodist Youth House in Inman every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 to 3.
 
Having grown up in Inman, a quaint, unincorporated town just south of Fayetteville on Ga. Highway 92, Holly has deep roots in the community.
 
After graduating from Fayette County High School in 1996, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Education with a degree in Health Promotion and Behavior from the University of Georgia, earning the American Association for Health Education’s 2001 Health Education Major of the Year Award for UGA.
 
Holly taught at Carver Middle School until the birth of her twin boys, Asa and Addison. After staying home with her four children, she never went back. Holly wanted more for her kids than traditional schooling, or traditional home schooling, allowed.
 
While there are other programs that allow kids to interact, they did not have the consistent structure or true peer relationships that she envisioned.
 
She had considered a tutor-led hybrid home school, but wanteda consistent group of children to learn together throughout the day, and from week to week. Holly wanted to nurture the social aspect of a hybrid home school, as well as advanced learning. She was looking for a semester-long commitment.
 
Armed with her teaching certificate, determination, and a large helping of creativity, Holly set out to make this vision into a reality.
Initially, the idea was to create a drop-off type class at her home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where the kids would come in the morning and Holly would tutor them through the subjects. Then, she would assign homework for the off days, for the parents to oversee at home.
 
Her idea was to have enough time to get in all of the core subjects, eat lunch together, and have some free time to play, explore, and be creative.
 
While the kids would learn together, this would not be a school, but a tutor-led group of homeschooled students. The responsibility for submitting the home school paperwork, including home school compliance, attendance reports, testing and record keeping would still be the responsibility of the parents.
 
The class of students would all study the same topics at home, participating in correlating experiments, lectures, lessons and projects in class with a group of homeschooled peers. But Holly couldn’t help but wonder if she could do more.
 
Growing up next door to and attending Inman United Methodist Church her entire life, Holly knew about their Youth House, a place she where she spent many childhood Wednesday and Sunday nights. Now that she moved her family back to Inman, she knew that the building was not used on weekdays.
 
Instead of having the class of students at her home, maybe she would be able to have the home school class there, creating a more structured home school environment.
 
Holly contacted the church and they were able to come up with an agreement on using the Youth House. This just opened the flood gates of ideas.
If she had this “school house,” why couldn’t she have more teachers? Having grown up in the area, she was able to reach out to her friends and former teachers from school. She began contacting them, explaining her idea and how she hoped that they could be a part of it.
 
Joanne Minter of Minter Farms was one of the first to come on board as a Spanish teacher. In addition, Joanne would help Holly with the agricultural education that is integrated throughout the year.
 
Joanne was soon followed by Nancy Campbell, former art educator for Fayette Intermediate, Dennis Hudgins, who recently retired from teaching History in Fulton County, and Fenette Beresford, who teaches Suzuki piano.
 
All told, there is almost a 1 on 1 student-teacher ratio, where kids are encouraged to learn, have fun and make lasting friendships.
 
The Inman Hybrid Home School group that started out as an idea of a mom helping her kids grow by tutoring out of her home has grown into a home school parent’s dream. It’s a place where their children are challenged by professional educators who relish the chance to teach children who want to learn. The days are structured, but open for change.
 
As the Young Farmer Committee chairperson for Fayette County, Holly incorporates agriculture into class, regularly. If a chicken is going to hatch at the farm, an impromptu field trip takes place and the children learn about biology first hand.
 
History is interactive with Dennis Hudgins entering his “time portal” doubling as a storage closet, and returning as Abraham Lincoln.
 
Spanish is hands on, with the children learning the origins of the language and traditions through activities, food and fun.
 
This simple idea to help her kids learn has grown into a unique education environment that allows children to excel academically, spiritually and socially.
 
The school’s inaugural class consists of 5 students, with 4 boys and one girl, but has already grown to 9 students for the 2012-13 school year. Along with next year’s 4th grade class, registration has now opened for a new 1st grade class, which will begin in August. Currently, there are only 4 openings available.
 
In addition to the core hybrid class, the program offers electives, such as Suzuki piano, drama, and early elementary Spanish. Workshops, which are open to the community, are also held periodically throughout the year.
 
Currently, 16 students are attending a 4-week agricultural education workshop. Topics include chicken reproduction and embryology by Holly Longino, seed germination and gardening by the Farm Bureau’s Women’s Committee, and beekeeping with Tom Bonnell, President of the Henry County Beekeepers Club.
 
The roots that have been planted at the Inman Hybrid Homeschool Program have taken hold, allowing for branches of bountiful fruit which will continue to flourish as these children become young adults. No doubt, the students of this program will have a world of opportunity open up to them because of this unique educational experience.
 
For more information, visit Inman Hybrid Homeschool Program’s website at www.inmanhybridschool.blogspot.com or find them on Facebook.
 
— By Chris Roosen, Special to The Citizen

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