Michael McCormic, Jr.
VANCOUVER – Homeschool families in Clark County and the surrounding areas are about to have a much-needed resource center at their disposal, thanks to a community effort by local individuals who recognized and fulfilled the need.
The Firmly Planted Homeschool Resource Center, part of the nonprofit organization Firmly Planted Family, is the brainchild of Jay and Heidi St. John, who have also founded over 60 homeschool cooperatives throughout the United States and Canada. Ironically, the St. Johns did not always intend on homeschooling their children, in fact, their oldest daughter, Savannah, was enrolled in public school for the first couple years of her education. Rather, the practice came about in their family as the result of a simple accident.
“We really fell into homeschooling accidentally because Sierra, our 23 year old, missed the cutoff for the public school for kindergarten where Savannah was already attending,” Heidi explains. “Just for kicks, because she was bored, I went to a homeschool supply store.”
The rest, according to the St. Johns, is history. With three of their seven children now grown, the St. John’s have seen firsthand the success of homeschooling. They fell in love with the flexibility and practicality of homeschooling their seven children, and wanted to help other parents interested in doing the same. The resource center will be open to use for all families, regardless of their religious convictions. However, as a faith-based organization, Firmly Planted Family’s main focus is to help Christian parents educate their children in a way that is aligned with the parents’ beliefs.
“We are a Christian organization, we want to teach our kids the Bible,” says Jay St. John. “It’s one of the foundations of what we’ve always been; helping families know God’s word and knowing who they are in the Lord.”
The resource center is set to open this fall in the previous US Digital Building in Orchards, which was donated by Vancouver businessman David Madore for the St. Johns to use as the physical venue for the center.
In recent years, the number of local families looking to homeschool their children has increased dramatically. While parents have a plethora of reasons why they choose homeschooling over public or private institutions, much of the recent spike in homeschooling is due to the politically charged social agenda present in the Washington public school system, an agenda which many do not support or want their children exposed to. At the same time, homeschooling one child or many children can be a daunting task for even the most capable of parents.
Recognizing the need for an establishment that aides those who choose to homeschool, the St. Johns and many other families in the area began to formulate a plan for the new homeschool resource center, which will feature classes in nearly all areas of education, with a special emphasis on the arts and music. In addition to that, a coffee shop, and consignment bookstore are tentatively planned features to be added in the future.
The St. Johns are careful to distinguish this institution from what others might label a “school.” The idea behind the resource center is to help families homeschool their children. To be a resource for homeschooling families. As such, instructors are considered to be “tutors” in the subject of their teaching, as the parents are still considered the “teachers” who are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the students are learning the presented materials.
Instead of a school, Firmly Planted Family’s website (www.firmlyplantedfamily.org) distinguishes the resource center as a consortium. In their own words, it is “an association of individuals who come together with the objective of pooling their resources to achieve a common goal.”
Tutors, therefore, will not be employed by the center, but are instead independent subcontractors who will offer classes that include, amongst many others, music, art, drama, foreign language, science, theology, film photography, and law and justice. There is also a plan to promote the trades, including woodworking and mechanics.
For the younger children not old enough to enroll in classes, the resource center will be offering the “Seedlings” program, tailored specifically to the needs of preschool ages.
Three levels of youth education, primary, intermediate, and high-school, will be offered through the center. One unique characteristic of the high-school level is the creation of apprenticeship programs. This program will allow students to shadow professionals in the work environment to better understand how a specific professional field functions.
“Picture a ‘one-stop’ shopping center for home education” Heidi says. “The Center will be a place where parents can get information, encouragement, curriculum, training and find dozens of educational opportunities for their children. It’s everything I wish I had access to for our own family twenty years ago.”
According to Jay St. John, the importance of the Firmly Planted Homeschool Resource Center lies in where they, as Christians, feel called to serve the community.
“As Christians, we want to do what God wants us to do,” Jay explains. “Whether that’s to put our kids in public school, or private school, or homeschool. We do not believe that homeschooling is the only way to educate your children. We simply believe that it is a very good way, and if God asks you to do it, we would like to help you at the resource center.”