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More Families Choosing Orcutt Independent Study Option for School

Students get one-on-one education with options for straight home study, blended programs or dual enrollment

When Michelle Slocum’s family moved to Orcutt last year, she was on a mission to find a school at which her children could get individual attention and hands-on learning without the price point of private education.

Perusing local charter schools led her to an answer: the Orcutt Academy Independent Study program.

Now Slocum’s 8-year-old son, Noah, is loving the third grade, and she is looking forward to teaching all four of her children in the program, which offers parents the option of combining traditional home schooling with classroom instruction.

Slocum is among a steadily growing group of parents interested in the K-8 Independent Study program, which was created as part of the Orcutt Academy Charter in 2008 and offers three different education options.

In grades one through six, parents and students can choose straight home study or a blended program that offers classroom instruction in addition to home study. Parents of seventh- and eighth-graders who live in Orcutt Union School District boundaries have the additional option of dual enrollment, which entails taking one or two classes at a local junior high school and home study.

Seventy students are enrolled this year in the K-8 program, which allows students to learn at their own pace. Joe Dana, director of charter programs, said there are still some openings for the next school year.

“All these options follow Orcutt district curriculum,” Dana told Noozhawk. “All require a lot of family involvement. It takes certain ingredients to make it happen. The Independent Study program just gives more options to families.”

Independent Study program teacher Susan Degner leads her kindergartners in a farm-themed song before they dig into dishes prepared by their parents for a recent Farm Festival at Pioneer Park in Santa Maria. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Independent Study program teacher Susan Degner leads her kindergartners in a farm-themed song before they dig into dishes prepared by their parents for a recent Farm Festival at Pioneer Park in Santa Maria. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

On a recent morning, 10 kindergartners in teacher Susan Degner’s blended class gathered with their families and siblings for a Farm Festival at Pioneer Park in Santa Maria.

Slocum and her husband, Ben, were on hand to help entertain the excited youth, which included their son, Noah, their 5-year-old kindergartner, Aubrey, and two nonschool-age children, Eden, 3, and Elsie, 20 months.

“I actually really wanted to be with my kids more,” said Slocum, who home schools her two oldest children when they aren’t in class three or four mornings a week. “They provide all of your curriculum for you. I’ve actually always wanted to be a teacher. You don’t feel overwhelmed.

“My kids love this program,” she continued. “Aubrey is reading. She loves school. It’s a really good blend. It’s a good group of parents.”

Far from going it alone, parents in the Independent Study program meet regularly and help plan field trips and events.

Degner said she “can’t say enough good” about her students’ parents, who are giving their children “the best of both worlds” with the blended program.

“The parents are very involved,” Degner said. “The children get to work one-on-one with their parent. Then they also are able to work together. It’s really nice for them to get that peer encouragement.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the blended program can visit Degner’s classroom website here. For spring enrollment information, call Dana at 805.938.8934.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Kindergartners in the Orcutt Academy Independent Study program participate in milk bottle bowling on a recent morning at Pioneer Park in Santa Maria. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Kindergartners in the Orcutt Academy Independent Study program participate in milk bottle bowling on a recent morning at Pioneer Park in Santa Maria. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

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