Catholic, ‘Hybrid’ Homeschooling Centers Expand Nationwide
Kari Beckman, a Catholic mother in Atlanta, Georgia, decided the home education she had designed for her children was not fulfilling her family’s needs.
Beckman wanted more accountability and diverse educators to guide her children in their lessons, while maintaining a strictly Catholic, classical home education. What she wanted wasn’t available, so Beckman crafted something entirely new, and Regina Caeli Academy (RCA)—the first hybrid academy (meaning students learn part-time at home and in a formal classroom) for homeschoolers in the Catholic, classical tradition—was born.
Since 2003, RCA has grown to 10 centers in 10 cities and serves more than 1,000 students in grades pre-K through 12th grade. Expansion of the centers is ongoing nationwide.
Hybrid, Classical Education
At Regina Caeli, intellectual growth is just one of many overarching goals. Students are meant to grow spiritually, discern vocations, and learn to articulate their faith fluently. Strict adherence to Catholic doctrine, taught in a formal group setting, provides a cornerstone for homeschoolers who long for Catholic community and an established system of accountability for their children’s education.
Regina Caeli is a tutoring center that meets two days per week and is fully accredited as a private school. Transcripts, standardized test scores, and college-level entrance-exam preparation provide an extra layer of documentation and accountability for students. Tuition for the program is just over $3,000 per student per year.
RCA students wear uniforms. On Mondays and Thursdays, they attend traditionally spaced classes, with breaks for lunch and extracurricular activities woven into the day.
“We’re very structured while we’re here,” Beckman said. “We come together, we pray, then first period starts, then second, then third, so there’s a definite schedule to the day that looks very much like what you would consider to be a private school.”
Beckman based her curriculum on Laura Berquist’s book Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. Berquist’s Mother of Divine Grace curriculum is the foundation for learning at all RCA academies, providing a structured week for students when they are not at the center. Center teachers, called “tutors,” are available throughout the week to help students with the schoolwork they do at home.
Motivated by Dissatisfaction
Beckman says she wanted an authentic Catholic education experience for her children, which her local Catholic school was not providing.
“The staff wasn’t Catholic,” Beckman said. “The school wasn’t Catholic. We didn’t want to put [my son] into a school that wasn’t following the traditions of the Church, from a philosophical standpoint. At the time, my spiritual director was very in favor of homeschooling. It was great. First grade was easy. Second grade was easy. Third grade [was] harder, and by 4th grade, I wanted to just have a couple of days when I wasn’t that primary interface. I loved that time we had together, and I didn’t want to send him back to school.”
Parents Leading by Example
Fr. Augustine Tran, RCA’s cofounder, chaplain, and I.T. administrator, says parent involvement is central to children’s faith development.
“According to the Church, parents are the primary educators of their children,” Tran said. “When the parents also educate them about reading, writing, and arithmetic, then they are able to incorporate their faith into those subjects. I think the example the parents give is extremely important for helping the child to integrate his faith into every aspect of his life. Working at a Catholic high school, I have seen that parents can do that with their own children much better than teachers can do with a classroom full of students.”
Tran says RCA parents collaborate to ensure students have all the necessary resources.
“RCA gives parents the support that they need when it comes to subjects that they may find difficult to teach,” Tran said. “No one knows everything about every subject, especially when it comes to the high school subjects. RCA can help to fill in the gaps for the parents. RCA is also accredited, so parents do not have to go through that process themselves when it comes time for their children to go to college.”
RCA Program ‘Very Powerful’
Over the past 12 years, Melanie Levergood has added several children to her family and to the Atlanta RCA community, which Levergood says provides a good balance between home and campus.
“It’s helped with the homeschooling, providing the structure and accountability with their tutors, but still allows for the parent to be the primary teacher,” Levergood said. “As I’ve had more children, we’ve been able to incorporate more kids into the family and schooling. Catholic education as a homeschool parent has been very powerful. The curriculum is a thorough education but is planned to allow for more time if there are other subjects I’d like to add in, and if there’s something [my child] is really interested in, we can explore that.”
Demand for Expansion
The Atlanta RCA center is currently the largest, with approximately 200 students. Four other centers are currently in development. Beckman says families are calling for additional RCA locations.
“Homeschoolers, by their nature, are very independent, so getting everyone to agree and move in the same direction can be very difficult, and we were able to do it here successfully,” Beckman said. “People want to have us come and do that for them. We have never sought [to open another] location.”
Ashley Bateman (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.