Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, February 22, 1999

Lighthouse Educational Ministries: a school for home-schoolers

By Luis Puga

At 9:59 a.m., the room is quiet. Rows of students sit concentrating on their assignments.

At times, a flag perched at the side of a desk indicates that a student has a question. A volunteer monitor moves toward the student, and the two confer quietly over the problem.

At 10:00, the room at Lighthouse Educational Ministries is a very different scene. The students are up and about for their 20-minute break.

Some students quickly man the ping pong table. Others go out to the hall to see what the weather is like for going outside.

Today, it is too cold. Still others presumably make their way to a bathroom or a sack lunch.

While the above may sound like a typical school, it is not.

Lighthouse is a school for home-schoolers to attend for up to three -and-a-half days to get the "social" aspect of classes.

Dave Behrens, one of three paid staff members at the school, said it is a school for parents seeking a "quiet environment, with good order, loving discipline," and a "very Christian character."

The school, from its inception in 1990, has expanded twice in its Winsted location on Fairlawn Avenue under the dentist's office.

Two large rooms, lined with desks facing the wall and separated like cubicles, are what make up the majority of the space. There is also a small kitchen, and a group/library room. The office space is minimal, but Behrens shows off the school with pride.

The question is whether Behrens would like to have a full school, with facilities and full days.

He hesitates, but seems to say no. He is proud of the good academics that he can offer through a series of workbooks. The kids get a dose of phy ed here, and splash of music there. Often, a parent will come and make a presentation to the students.

Behrens said his school is designed for home schooling. If parents want something more structured with facilities and teams, they should probably consider other options.

But Behrens feels Lighthouse offers a number of advantages. His students get flexibility. The curriculum, like the math course, for example, is not set in stone and can be changed.

Moreover, Lighthouse's work is intended as a supplement, not the staple. The parents are home schooling their children at the same time.

The core of the work centers around workbooks, or paces, which the students have for different topics, such as math or social studies. The lessons are set out on a schedule and end with a test. The students then take the test, and grade it themselves.

A monitor will look over the work and sign off on the students' completion of it.

The process leaves a lot of responsibility to the student. In the center of one of the classrooms is a slanted table with red pens.

Every once in a while, a student rises to the board with a workbook. He or she begins correcting his or her work.

Behrens said this process calls for a self-starter. The student has to set his or her own pace and his or her own goals.

Extracurriculars

Another added bonus for the home-schooler comes in the form of extracurriculars. In part, this is done through the cooperation of schools in the area.

Behrens is thankful for their support, particularly that of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Holy Trinity.

Students have gone to other districts for language training, participating in musicals, in band, or in sports.

Another source for these activities is a yearly convention of these type of schools. Behrens said there are many such schools all over the U.S. They congregate in once a year regional and national conventions. The next one is in April.

The convention, called the Accelerated Christian Education Convention, is held by the School of Tomorrow that originated the concept of the school in 1970.

This year's convention will be in Buffalo. There, students will be able to participate in volleyball, basketball, choirs, and more. The students can compete with each other in academics, sports, arts, crafts, music, dramatics, and speech.

Measuring stick

With a strong academic program, flexibility, and a track record of good ACT and SAT scores, Lighthouse appears attractive to at least 19 families in the community.

The school pulls 33 students from Winsted, Howard Lake, Lester Prairie, Cokato, Watertown, and even as far away as Wayzata.

However, is Lighthouse and home-schooling in general a measuring stick as to how parents feel about public schools?

Behrens sees problems such as a lack of basics and a weak moral climate in schools today.

However, he doesn't believe Lighthouse is a quick fix. The parents need to be involved in the students' lives and the children must be self-starters. He calls it a team effort.

Overall, Behrens thinks Minnesota has a good climate for home-schooling. He said that more and more districts are looking at options in education.

This includes working with home-schoolers or setting up work study programs or sharing materials.

Whatever it means, Behrens and Lighthouse will be there to provide an option for home-schooled students.


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