VANCOUVER, Wash. — Clark County residents Jay and Heidi St. John have done much to encourage home school families across North America. Together, they have founded more than 60 homeschool cooperatives throughout the U.S. and Canada. Heidi also has written six books on Christian parenting and conducts seminars.
But now, right in their home territory, they have taken a big step to encourage local homeschoolers by launching the Firmly Planted Homeschool Resource Center.
Part of their nonprofit organization Firmly Planted Family, the center opened late last month in the previous US Digital Building at 11000 N.E. 34th Circle in Orchards. It is open five days per week and offers a variety of programs for homeschooling families.
The 17,000 square-foot building was donated by Vancouver businessman David Madore for the St. Johns to develop into the center. It has 15 large offices to serve as classrooms and curriculum resource rooms, as well as a large warehouse area.
The center will be open to use for all families, but its main focus will be to help Christian parents educate their children. The center will feature classes on a wide range of topics, with a special emphasis on the arts and music. But the St. Johns say the center will best be described as a consortium rather than an established school. Tutors are not employed by the center but are instead independent subcontractors.
Three levels of education, primary, intermediate, and high- school, will be offered through the center. A special feature at the high school level will be apprenticeship programs allowing students to shadow professionals in the work environment.
For the younger children not yet at school age, the center will offer a “Seedlings” program focusing on the needs of preschoolers.
For parents, there will be workshops, transcript help, counseling and more.
On the firmlyplantedfamily.org website, the St. Johns outline why such a center is needed:
“Homeschooling in our area is growing rapidly. We have been active in starting homeschool co-ops throughout the area, but as the culture changes, the vision must change with it. Be-cause of changes in the culture, the landscape of homeschooling is changing. Instead of being simply drawn to homeschooling because of the benefits it offers, many of today’s parents are running from a system that is no longer working for them. We want to give them something to run to.
“Today’s homeschooling parents are looking for more than access to homeschool co-ops that meet once a week. Clark County does not have a bookstore for homeschool families. We’ve observed the need for a full-time homeschool resource center to assist parents. Homeschooling is a wonderful commitment — and it requires parents who possess two things: dedication to the educational success of their children and access to the tools they need to be successful.”
Married since 1989, the St. Johns have seven children — ranging in age from elementary school to adult — and two grandsons. They have homeschooled the kids all the way through high school.
The St. Johns did not originally intend to get involved years ago into homeschooling. It happened because a daughter missed the cutoff for public school kindergarten. Looking for an alternative, Heidi went to a homeschool supply store.
She and her husband soon found that they greatly enjoyed the homeschool format and wanted to help other parents who were similarly inclined.
The St. Johns do not say that homeschooling is the only option open to Christians, and acknowledge that some families may opt for public school or private schools. But they do strongly believe in the value of homeschooling and ask that families get involved with the new resource center if they feel led.
For more information, go to www.firmlyplantedfamily.org