Village Home offers alternative for Salem students

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Village Home offers alternative for Salem students

8:36 a.m. PST January 11, 2016

Brysen Donily has a hard time in traditional schools.

With his type 1 diabetes and attached insulin pump, the 7-year-old needs special care to make sure he is healthy and stable.

As a solution, his mother Summer Donily has always home-schooled him. Worried he might not be socialized enough, however, Summer sought supplementary classes for Brysen.

She decided to enroll him in three Village Home classes at the new Salem site,197 Hrubetz Road S.

Village Home is an alternative to conventional schooling. Though not a school itself, Village Home provides classes for children who are predominantly home-schooled.

The program recently opened its new Salem location, with its first day of class on Friday.

Summer saw Village Home as a great way to socialize Brysen, while also being able to stay involved and help monitor his health concerns.

She said Village Home has been helpful and accommodating. When she told the staff Brysen has diabetes, they were happy to do whatever was needed to help him.

This can be difficult in traditional schools since the teachers, in many cases, are dealing with dozens of students.

Village Home classes average 5-12 students, depending on the location, with a 10:1 student-teacher ratio at the Portland location.

Lori Walker, founder and executive director of Village Home, said these smaller classes allow for more personalized learning and the chance for students to learn more from their peers.

The new Salem site has an average of five students per class. The largest class as of Friday was nine students, though enrollment has not yet closed for the term.

“Every location has its own personality and reflects on the local community, but each has the same values and principles at its core,” Walker said.

Village Home’s approach is “the belief that learning is a natural and inherently enjoyable process when learners are empowered to make education choices with their families.”

“The kids have to want to be there,” Walker said. “If not, the process of learning becomes less genuine.”

The program offers classes for children of all ages from pre-school through high school.

Village Home provides supplementary classes for subjects that parents may not feel comfortable teaching or for topics outside of traditional classes.

For instance, Brysen is in three classes this term: an art class, a science class and a theater class. His theater class is called “Folk and Fairy Tale Theater.” It is a class for children ages 5 to 7, taught by Lucas Hill.

Another class previously taught with Village Home was “History with Doctor Who.”

In Brysen’s theater class, the four children gathered around Hill on Friday as he told them a story and introduced them to the subject. The children were allowed to hold their toys and stuffed animals as they listened and were encouraged to think critically about the topic.

Village Home began in 2002 when a group of homeschooling parents, led by Walker, wanted to create a learning community for their children. They wanted “more community spirit for the children, more affordable group learning opportunities, more places to meet that belong to the whole community, and more free time with our children,” according to the website.

Walker confirmed, saying, “We wanted an opportunity for students to belong to something greater than themselves.”

As the Portland and Beaverton programs began to grow, and program organizers realized a lot of family were driving up each week from Salem, they decided to open a Salem location.

Walker said there are countless reasons parents enroll with Village Homes.

For instance, Walker home-schooled her daughters, but didn’t want to isolate them. Programs like Village Home allow students to interact with other students and instructors besides their parents and siblings.

The program also allows for flexible schedules and flexible accommodations, such as Brysen’s health needs.

Tuition is $105 for a 10-week course.

The program does have a few things about it that may be particularly different for some.

The students, for example, learn in mixed-aged classrooms. All of the students learn with students of different ages under the program’s philosophy that “peer-to-peer learning is a natural part of the rhythm of the classroom.”

The school also has a “grade-free learning environment,” which program leaders said allows students to focus on learning and not on testing.

The program has more than 440 students in the Portland area. The numbers for the new Salem location have not been finalized yet as children can still enroll for the current term.

For more information, contact the Salem location at (503) 400-7854 or email salemoffice@villagehome.org.

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745 or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate or http://www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist

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