A Hybrid Approach to Education

By Sonia Zeringue Cruz
Published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, June 2013 

We are swiftly becoming a hybrid society. We have hybrid families, and hybrid cars, buses, and garbage trucks. We can even follow the latest in hybrid aircraft projects by Boeing and NASA. So, I’ve been thinking, how many families know about hybrid education? 

Some families love traditional education, some hate it, and some don’t know of any other option. My children have predominately experienced traditional public education and some of them had a segment of Montessori or a segment of private Christian education. Of course, each child is different and educating them individually is a challenging prospect for parents. I thought about what worked in the past or at present, and more often about what was not working. As a result, I was not sure how to make adjustments that would meet our family’s ability to educate our children and so, I just stayed with the program. It was not until my eldest son wrote a position paper for his Honors English course, did I even consider the thought of homeschooling. 

Let me be honest, I had NO interest in this form of education because it was completely foreign to me and my background. I’m not sure that my teenage son had much interest in our perception of homeschooling either. But it was clear that the public education model that he was performing so well at was burning him out at a very young age. He held a 4.0 GPA, played several sports, participated in a community service organization and enjoyed the musical challenges of band, and he was at school a lot! When he was home, he was simply eating, doing homework, practicing his instrument, studying, or - at long last - sleeping. I saw his spirit dying amidst exhaustion and deadlines. Missing the chitchats of his younger years and witnessing a young managing far too early, I was willing to do whatever it took to change that. And he was certain he did not want another year of getting on a bus at 6:30 a.m. and getting home after 5:00 p.m. 

After some research, we found a model that we thought we could try together – a Charter Home School Program. Moving into a new area and school district as a result of employment really opened the doors of opportunity to explore another approach to education. Luckily, we found a high school charter located on the local high school campus of our school district. The foreign concepts of this Charter Home School raised many, many questions that were quite thoroughly answered by the Supervising Lead Teacher. A plethora of options include on-site classroom courses, online courses, courses at the traditional high school and community college, courses through occupational programs on-site or off-site as well as independent studies and/or contracted learning models. After much discussion, we decided program participation would provide an opportunity to decompress and to explore some areas of interest that were not available through traditional programs. And so, it was the birth of our hybrid approach to education. 

Our model includes one part “traditional high school classroom”, two parts “charter classroom”, one part “adventure classroom”, three parts “homeschool classroom”, two parts “sports” and all of it Charter! With a supervising teacher working closely with us to ensure graduation requirements are met and university preparations are satisfied, we are pleased with our hybrid model. As with anything new, it is not without its challenges, but overall this year has provided so much for our family. With the demands of an out of state move, an out of the country mission trip, and some tough family losses, this school year was successful only because of the flexibility a charter homeschool provides. My son was able to connect his mission trip experiences to his Geography and Cultures courses in a very personal way. He was able to start his Associates Degree by concurrently enrolling in college math courses at the community college, and imagine my joy in witnessing his inner light shining brightly while he explored a hands-on science course through the Regional Occupational Program. Through the charter, we experienced smaller class size, individual attention, exploration of interests, external activities, and educational variety in a smaller learning community. Our hybrid model provided a path where my son still challenged himself academically, enjoyed high school sports athletically, and reignited his passion for life and experiences by allowing him to breathe and to be refreshed because of the time he had at home. 

Such a hybrid approach to education is truly customized to fit any family. Without question, our family will continue exploring the charter options and various models for our other children. Who knows, maybe one of them will explore aviation and offer Boeing or NASA some tips on hybrid models!
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