Salina's Haven Academy uses hybrid homeschool model to reach young students

A new hybrid school in Salina is aiming to offer the “best of both worlds” when it comes to in-class learning and homeschool instruction.

Some students and their parents prefer a public school model, while others prefer a private or homeschool education.

There’s a variety of reasons parents may prefer one over the other, like more time at home with family or a more structured daily pattern.

Meet Haven Academy

Haven Academy of Salina is a hybrid school, classified by the state as a non-accredited private school, which offers a unique class structure.

Co-founders Emily Irvin and Nicole Ball began the school after recognizing there were elements their families enjoyed about both public school and homeschooling. An idea emerged about how to combine the two.

Haven Academy's Gina Lee teaches art class on Wednesday.
Haven Academy's Gina Lee teaches art class on Wednesday.

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“Emily came to me; she had this idea brewing for a while. Me and my husband and son were always part of the public school, and we love it, but her family were homeschoolers,” Ball said. “We were looking for something that was kind of a mix … a little more flexible, so we could prioritize family time at home and also have great education.”

Thus, Haven was born.

Unique structure

Mondays and Tuesdays are scheduled as traditional classroom setting school days, with students studying under organized instruction from hired educators.

Wednesdays are made up of optional in-classroom electives that focus heavily on the arts, STEM, home economics, language learning and theater.

On Thursdays and Fridays, Haven functions under a traditional home-based setting, providing opportunity for family involvement and tailored learning possibilities for students with their parents. Weekly detailed curriculum packets are provided by their in-person teachers for these at-home days.

Kindergarten through third grade meet in the hybrid school on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Kindergarten through sixth grades meet in person on Wednesdays.

The school is not the only of its kind, but it is unique in the Salina area. Housed in First Southern Baptist Church, the school is founded on Christian beliefs and traditional values.

“The goal is to pull the best of all the educational models between homeschooling and the traditional classroom to create a hybrid school,” Ball said. “And we kind of use the flexibility of homeschooling while being able to also incorporate in the structure of the classroom setting. Putting that all together has just turned out to be a really cool blend.”

Haven also offers a homeschool electives program. Irvin said she wanted to find a way to offer classes for students who primarily utilize homeschooling but wish to be part of a social environment and dive deeper into subjects.

Dr. Bradley Irvin, of Salina, shows Haven Academy students how to create solar ovens in a solar power unit during science class.
Dr. Bradley Irvin, of Salina, shows Haven Academy students how to create solar ovens in a solar power unit during science class.

On Wednesdays, about 27 homeschool children participate in the elective classes.

“Wednesday offers a variety of different elective classes that are a lot more tactile, more hands-on for the kids,” Ball said. “It also offers parents the ability to have their kids in more of a social setting where they can have fun with friends and kind of explore the arts a little bit more.”

Homeschooling in Kansas

All “homeschools” are classified as non-accredited private schools by the state of Kansas. The state doesn’t specifically authorize “home instruction” or “homeschooling” by state statute; however, the state does recognize non-accredited private schools.

These schools are required to register their name and address to the Kansas State Board of Education.

Non-accredited private schools are not required to employ teachers licensed by the state, but their courses must be taught by “competent instructors.”

Planning to grow

Haven officially opened its doors this fall after receiving a grant for start-up costs. Irvin said the school and its leaders are inspired by a model of learning that helps students grow not just academically, but socially, emotionally and spiritually.

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“Really just seeing the excitement the kids are getting for learning has really been the most rewarding part for me because it was just so much work over the summer, but then to just see how it’s really making so many kids happy makes me glad,” Irvin said.

Irvin grew up in the state of Washington and moved to Hutchinson to study in a hybrid school as a child. Her experience in hybrid learning at an early age helped prepare her to take this step, she said.

“We really keep saying it’s just the best of both worlds,” Irvin said.

Homeschooling allows Irvin and Ball more time with their families at home, given their busy schedules. It’s a form of schooling they recognize might not work for every family, but the benefits have helped theirs thrive, they said.

In the coming years, Irvin said she hopes to extend the hybrid in-person class offerings through sixth grade, but this being their first year, they are working with where the most interest has been. If there were enough families interested, Haven’s long-term goal would be to offer instruction through high school.

Ball said there was a lot of planning and praying that went into starting Haven Academy and that she is glad the staff’s dedication and trusting the process has paid off.

“It had to be a God thing, or it would not be happening,” Ball said.

This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: Hybrid school in Salina combines homeschool, traditional classes