A New Approach to Innovative EducationJan 01, 2016 ● By Minnie Payne
The National Association of University-Model Schools (NAUMS), the governing body that oversees the unique means of education throughout the world, was established in 2005, and is headquartered in Midlothian, Texas. NAUMS is a nationally accredited, Christian-lead corporation that helps people start unified model schools. Once those schools are open, the organization supports them in a variety of ways. Currently, there are 78 schools in 20 different states. There are eight of these schools in North Texas alone, and each one strives to produce college worthy, character-driven students who are disciples of Jesus Christ. Each school is its own entity and can choose its own educational philosophy.
Barbara Freeman, the executive director of NAUMS, explains that the University-Model School is a certified educational model that blends the best attributes of a Christian traditional education with home schooling. It is not a home school cooperative. Everything is done under the supervision of the school. “Basically, we take the attributes of the instructional program and the Christian aspect of a five-day Christian school and blend it with the gift of time that is provided by the home-schooling model,” she says. “It means that parents obviously spend more time with their children in the home when they are home schooled. As you look at a college schedule, there is no college that stays in school five days a week.”
Students enrolled in University-Model Schools follow college-inspired schedules by attending classes at a school for two to three days every week and then they study and learn from home on “off days.” Parents follow University-Model School certified, teacher-prepared lesson plans from home to prepare their children to become college worthy students. This provides a flexible schedule, an affordable tuition price and encourages academic excellence and character development. Studies show that parental involvement is the greatest indicator of academic success, and University-Model Schools partner effectively with parents by emphasizing the big role parents play in their children’s education.
According to Ms. Freeman, parents are guaranteed that their children will be involved in a quality educational program. They will have the time they need to develop a strong relationship with their children. “There is no rebellion when children grow up, and they have a beautiful relationship with their parents,” she says.
Students are provided with professional training, all types of resources, consultant services, materials, products, a national conference and free training webinars (through a membership fee). Colleges are surveyed, and students have to live up to the college’s standards. Support is readily available to help keep students accountable.
When asked if all of the teachers are certified, Ms. Freeman states that the majority of them are either certified or degreed in the area in which they teach. “Well over 95 percent need to be certified or degreed,” she informs. “We have the quality instructional program required by universities and we recommend that our schools make certain that teachers who are not quite finished with degrees have a plan for achieving that goal as soon as possible.”
University-Model Schools are not for everyone. When both parents work or when a single parent has to work, this model of education is not feasible. “When students are at home, a parent has to be with them, and some parents are not able to make that sacrifice,” Ms. Freeman points out.
Tuition varies at each school. Typically, tuition is a third to a half of the cost of a five-day Christian school. University-Model Schools offer a full program of sports and extracurricular activities, depending on the size of the school. Some schools require uniforms and some do not.
Jeff Guleserian, the headmaster of Cornerstone Christian Academy in McKinney, says that he and his staff view the whole model school enterprise as academic discipleship done in collaboration with parents and families. Many of Cornerstone Christian Academy’s students and families come from outside of McKinney, from Frisco, Allen, Prosper, Plano, Richardson and Sherman.
“I feel that University-Model Schools influence the whole area,” Mr. Guleserian notes. “Students enjoy high academic success and the school supports families in such a way as to make them strong and functional. It gives parents the gift of time with their children that lasts a lifetime, and it helps protect our culture against negative influences.” He compares the school to being more like a Christian boot camp rather than a summer camp. He agrees with Ms. Freeman, saying that University-Model Schools are not for everyone because they value parental involvement.
“University-Model Schools, especially Cornerstone Christian Academy, are safe places for children to grow up strong,” Mr. Guleserian says. “I have noticed that University-Model Schools are filled with staff members who thoroughly love children and nurture them, so that they become everything God intends them to be.” He feels that when a student first starts, there is usually about a six-week adjustment period.
Presently, tuition at Cornerstone Christian Academy for a full year of enrollment is in the $3,655-$5,430 range. There are some fees, which will vary according to what a student wants. A full sports program exists, which includes football, volleyball, basketball, golf, track, archery, fencing and baseball. A drama program, robotics and extra summer emersion classes that feature a two to four week trip to Costa Rica are also available.
A typical day at Cornerstone Christian Academy starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:25 p.m. For junior high and high school students, there are seven one-hour periods every day, with one period for lunch. Five minutes are allowed for students to get from one class to another. “Students feel like they are going to college,” Mr. Guleserian adds.
All of the teachers at Cornerstone Christian Academy are certified or degreed in the area in which they teach, and the school is authorized by Colorado Christian University to teach college courses and receive college credit. The school utilizes a progressive style program, wherein teaching is based on the latest neurological research that informs the staff how students learn best.
Frisco’s Grace Covenant Academy is under the direction of the dean of administration, Joshua Stewart, who feels that University-Model Schooling is an innovative model that tries to prepare college worthy students who are committed to love God and become disciples. “One of the great things about this school is that it incorporates parents very intentionally in the learning process by preparing them to help their children be ready for college,” he shares. “In college, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are usually spent in classes. Other days are ‘off’ days. We take that same format and integrate it into our school.”
Mr. Stewart believes that University-Model Schools have a big impact on Christian families in Texas by equipping them to be disciples of Jesus Christ and a good influence on the world. He encourages the community to check out Grace Covenant Academy and believes that God created the church and family as the primary institution of life. “We do not want to replace either of those in the life of the student. For a family that may not be familiar with our school, we have a community of Christian families that is committed to helping students become disciples through education. At Grace Covenant Academy, we believe that parents are called to be the primary disciple makers in the student’s life. Some parents will be called to the public school, some parents will be called to the five-day Christian school and some to Grace Covenant Academy,” he says. There are three big questions to ask when the staff is hiring new faculty members: Is this person qualified and gifted to teach quality material? Does this person believe in Jesus? Does he or she have a passion for developing students?
Tuition at Grace Covenant Academy varies by grade level. For 2015-16 full-time students, kindergarten through fourth grade tuition is $4,315, fifth and sixth grade tuition is $4,420, seventh and eighth grade tuition is $4,630 and high school tuition is $6,030. An official athletic program is in the process of being built, and basketball for boys and girls is being offered this year. Plans are to increase athletic opportunities as the school grows. Orchestra is offered for high school and middle school students, and Grace Notes exists for elementary students. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, parents begin their child’s day by dropping them off between 8-8:15 a.m. Teachers escort students inside, and they start classes at 8:30 a.m. Classes fluctuate, depending on the teacher. Teachers start the day with prayer, a Bible reading and guidance in glorifying God. Language Arts are taught during the first half of the day, and the second-half of the day is directed by teachers who specialize in music, art, science or history.
Frisco offers a variety of educational experiences for young minds. Making an informed decision about your child’s education ensures that the entire family can learn and grow together. For more information about University-Model Schooling, go to naums.net.