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Approaching Education Differently Leaves People Surprised.

Since many people tend to think that all schools are basically the same, when something is not done the way that "everybody else" does them, it can be a head-scratcher. American culture has produced a population that prizes "out of the box" thinking, but the reality is that we often stay pretty close to the cube in many ways. This should be predictable, actually, since the vast majority of Amercans have been educated in public schools and all of them have been educated in the past 120 years. The modern, public school -- and the teaching colleges that produced it, and the private schools that have sought to mimic it -- is what we know best, and we have a tough time imagining something not similar to it.

In seeking to return to classical approaches and content that have been long discounted and jettisoned by the modern public school, and in seeking to include discipleship-encouraging courses and approaches that the modern academic-only school would not consider, Lake Pointe's operation includes a few surprises. Add to that LPA's desire to equip and to encourage students as emerging adults, and the goals, choices, and outcomes can be different.

Below are some of the surprises expressed by families inside and outside the LPA community:

Other ways this question is asked include:

  • Where is "shop class?" I remember building a table and a bird house and I really benefitted.  
  • Why doesn't Lake Pointe offer "fun" electives? Students need a break from the "academic classes."
  • Why can't I choose what I want to take?

Lake Pointe is a college-preparatory academy.
We make no apology for wanting and expecting students to engage a rigorous, worthwhile academic curriculum. Led by public schools who, by mission and compulsary education law, must cater to a mass audience's range of values and inclinations, schools have actually diluted the academic quality of a K-12 education. Emphasis now in the modern school is upon experience, excitement, and electronic technology. Emphasis is often upon fun, self-esteem, and social engineering. To cater to the mass audience, schools are declaring themselves in their very mission to be "student centered" rather than being "curriculum-centered," as were learning institutions before the recent decades. Customization and tailoring are the watchwords.

That said, here are some points to note:

  • LPA's desire is to create an atmosphere in which learning is enjoyable -- for those students who really want an education.
     
  • Courses that may seem "dry" or "difficult" to an outsider, are actually quite enjoyable and rewarding. We've been trained to think that "academic" is a bad word and something to be avoided.
     
  • Working with one's hands and learning practical skills are worthy endeavors. LPA's University Model Schedule allows a student who wants to develop shop, mechanical, or other practical skills to do so in the flexible time they spend away from classes. In high school, one student logged hundreds of hours assisting a diesel mechanic, learning vital parts of that trade, while studying western civilization and world literature at the honors level at Lake Pointe.
     
  • LPA students are equipped in a variety of practical and personal-development ways within the academy's programs, but outside of formal classes. Opportunities to direct, to operate equipment, and to plan and execute projects offers a variety of hands-on practical experience.

Amercians have been trained that being absent from classes is no big deal. But these attitudes and assumptions are not as applicable or helpful in the University Model program. Below are explanations of some related parent and student expectations.

First, however, let it be understood that some absences are expected. In fact, one leader of the academy has said, "If a student is present everyday during the year, he or she is probably missing some life events and opportunities." For this reason, LPA doesn't offer a perfect attendance award. Plus, as a family ministry, Lake Pointe staff members want students to feel the freedom to attend important weddings, funerals, major birthdays for grandparents, and reunions. But these absences must be calculated carefully, because an absent student does not contribute to the learning of others, and he can easily fall behind.

  • Hey, what's a dozen days missed out of 180?
    When states required 180 days attendance, schools complied with the longer year, and the value of any one day diminished.  Lake Pointe is not bound to 180 days and so the academic calendar is much shorter. Consequently, the pacing is faster, and days do count.  

    For another thing, students are only on campus two to three days per week, so missing an on-campus day is really more like missing two or three days. The elementary student who is out Tuesday and Thursday has missed a whole week!
     
  • If it's excused, the absence doesn't count
    We're trained to think of doctor and dentist visits as an "excused absence." After all, since students are in classes five days per week, when else can appointments be made? At Lake Pointe, whether excused or unexcused, the miss is still an absence. Families quickly learn to make appointments on non-campus days whenever possible, because that's where work can be made up with family flexibility.
     
  • I'll pull her out of school for a little break
    Since school is thought of as drudgery, parents often get to play the benevolent saviour by pulling them out of classes. Some opt out of classes for their student's birthday or to go shopping. This goes back to the 180 days mentality, that days are expendable.
     
  • The teacher will catch him up
    Experience has led us to believe that it's the teacher's responsibility to "catch up" a student who is absent. In the University Model, it is the responsibility of the parent and the student to make up missed learning.
     
  • They're going to have a substitute anyway
    It is a surprise to students and parents that Lake Pointe goes to great lengths to place one of its own qualified school instructors in the classroom when the normal teacher is not present. Lake Pointe makes great effort to have each class session to be helpful and necessary, and the pacing keeps right on marching forward, whether or not a teacher -- or a student -- is absent.

 Don't you have to do the "Christian thing" and give good grades?

That's a question often asked or implied by surprised parents and students, who discover the opposite reality.

No academic assessment is perfect, and Lake Pointe seeks to have assessment that is both a fair and reasonably accurate indicator of engagement and learning. By those aims, the grade awarded is what the student earns. If the student does not give appropriate seriousness and effort, the scores will indicate that. And yes, unfortunately, Lake Pointe records D's and F's.

  • Some families believe that paying private school tuition entitles them to passing grades -- or even high ones
     
  • Others believe that since LPA is college-preparatory, it should give (unearned) high grades to help students get into universities or to earn scholarship money.
     
  • And, sadly, some think that rewarding shoddy effort is what honors Christ.

We believe that students should be educated, equipped, and encouraged to reach a high bar of expectation, and not to lower the bar to cast appearances of success. Ultimately, the student will experience achievement when he or she knows it has been earned.

 

Well meaning adults who seek to do all the work, take all the risks, and seek the easy route over the development of young people's responsibility are crippling our nation's youth.

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