9 Mile Family Partnership creates collaborative approach to home-based education

By Lisa Tyson

The 9 Mile Family Partnership is a collaborative connection between home and school, with the Nine Mile Falls School District offering families an opportunity to provide primary academic instruction to children at home while still maintaining a connection with their local school district. The platform is currently designed for elementary students in grades K-6, with plans to expand to 7th and 8th grade.

9 Mile Family Partnership offers a semi-structured learning environment with two part-time teachers, Melissa Fuller and Ellie Lochhead. The program and curriculum is designed for families looking for school-district-provided support, experiences, and resources – combined with home-based learning. Partnership families have access to fun and interesting resources, such as archeology and cultural books, and even a classroom incubator where students place chicken eggs and wait for the humidity and warmth to complete the hatching process.

The partnership allows the teachers to get to know the whole family. Students and parents alike rave about the collaborative method and are glad the program provides support and resources along with teacher feedback. Kelly Enfield, one of the Family Partnership parents shared, “My son enjoys getting the experience of what a school day is like. He loves it! He loves to read, and the teachers really tailor to his reading strength. He enjoys visiting the library and the whole classroom experience. We get our choice of the curriculum, and the partnership is a perfect fit to our chosen program.”

During the two days a week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) that students attend the program, they participate in core classes including science, technology, engineering, math, social studies, and fine arts. During social studies and science, students engage in focused projects and hands-on experiences; and assessments are sent home where appropriate. The Family Partnership provides a social aspect to education through the use of teamwork and project-based activities that require decision-making and analyzing, providing a well-rounded approach. The program provides students access to all after-school activities offered by the school district, including sports and assemblies.

This collaborative approach is well-received by students who had plenty of insights to share. “I like writing Weekend News with everyone together each morning,” said Gracin; “I like my classmates and teachers,” said Mia; “I like getting to see friends,” said Keegan; “I like learning about line and shape in art.” said Sadie; “I really like the history we’ve been learning,” said Liam M.; “There are nice people here,” said Jaxson; “I like STEM!” said Luna; “I like playing soccer!” said Uriah; “I love the art we do!” said Makenna, Sofi & Evie; “I like the playground,” said Eva; “I love art and being a special helper at recess,” said Joshua.

When a family joins the 9 Mile Family Partnership, they work with a certified mentor teacher to create a student learning plan set up in six subject areas. Students are provided placement tests, and families have the option of utilizing their own curriculums or using district provided language arts and math curriculums. The home-based instruction involves progress notes generated between parents and mentor teachers. Parents evaluate their child’s learning progress at home and share relevant work samples during these meetings. This platform also allows parents to seek advice, ideas, or resources they may need throughout the academic year. The ultimate goal is to achieve a minimum of 70% mastery in learning, and corrections to coursework are addressed in real-time during the instruction process. The school district administers MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests thrice annually, and the SBA (Smarter Balance Assessment) commences from the third grade level.

Each month, teachers meet individually with families to provide support and offer consultation on curriculums, monitor progress notes, brainstorm solutions for new concerns, and celebrate accomplishments.

Every Partnership Family is unique in their reasons for choosing home-based learning. Some families may follow a style similar to a traditional homeschooling, while others may be in a position where the regular public school classroom does not work well with their child’s learning needs. Some families may simply want to try something different, while others may choose home instruction to have more freedom and flexibility in their schedules, especially in cases of travel or medical needs.

Space is currently available in the 9 Mile Family Partnership program and the current plan is to expand to seventh grade in the fall and eighth grade the following school year. A waiting list will be started when they reach capacity. For more information, visit 9mile.org under “Our schools” or contact 509-340-4010.