by James A. Bacon
The homeschooling movement is a seething pool of innovation, and the most unlikely of people are driving the change. For example, Nasiyah Isra-Ul, a Liberty University sophomore, has launched a venture to provide customized courses, interactive lessons, and consulting services to homeschooling families.
Isra-ul was homeschooled, and when her mother began working full time, she developed personalized learning plans for her younger brother. She was just 15 years old. Then she developed plans for other families in their homeschool group. Now, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the National Society of High School Scholars, she has launched Canary Academy, writes The Virginia Star.
“What we want to do is leave it up to the parents to make the final decision as to how they want to homeschool,” she said. “Our goal is to help parents homeschool better, but not to take control.”
The Star describes how she based the business upon her experience helping her brother:
“When I started to help [my mom] with homeschooling my younger brother, I realized how difficult it was, especially with the different types of curriculum you have to choose from, planning out the entire week and then the entire month and then the entire school year, calculating grades, handling records, and making sure you align with state requirements for homeschooling as well. And I realized there had to be an easier way to be able to do this.”
Isra-Ul’s brother was constantly bouncing from curriculum to curriculum, and Isra-Ul started developing courses uniquely for his learning needs. “I developed a course for him out of what I saw were his strengths and turned that course into an online program for him.”
Her brother asked her to develop another course for him the following year. So Isra-Ul developed a course compiling resources from the internet and textbooks.
“I was making it more fun. I was doing videos, animation. And it wasn’t so much quiz based as it was project-learning based,” Isra-Ul said. That strategy helped her brother enact with the course content more effectively.
“That’s where he really is. I’m a reader and I love to read books, so for me it wasn’t that big of a deal, but for my brother, he needed something that was more hands-on,” Isra-Ul said.
The Canary Academy describes a major peril of homeschooling, finding courses that work, while also pointing out a great advantage, the ability to customize programs to students’ individual learning styles. As an example, states the Canary Academy website:
Beverly struggles with math and science, but she excels in history and English. She loves filmmaking, but she struggles to find courses that can help her within her family’s price range. Her parents have been through five different programs and curricula options, and none of them worked on their own for Beverly. So, they come to us. We ask them a series of questions and we do the same with Beverly. After our advisor(s) refers to our database, within 48-72 hours, we email Beverly’s parents a password protected link to their daughter’s custom plan. This custom plan includes the group Beverly fell into within our database (helping us pinpoint her struggles), the custom course(s) she needs from us to help her improve, and the courses, books, and resources that can help Beverly stay challenged in her core subjects and pursue her interest in filmmaking.
The standard regimented education model — which applies to public schools and most private schools alike — compels all children of a particular age cohort to master the same subjects at the same time, and at the same pace. If they fall behind, they are often left behind. Homeschooling avoids those pitfalls. “Student oriented learning is simply a learning system that follows students’ learning patterns and [adapts] the learning experience in order to fit the way they learn,” says Canary Academy.
Homeschooling is especially attractive to families that don’t feel comfortable with the increasingly doctrinaire nature of public education. Isra-ul belongs to a Messianic Hebrew congregation. “We see a world where biblically inspired online education becomes the norm,” says the website. “Canary Academy believes in the parent’s right to educate their children in their fashion in accordance with state laws.”