Our Executive Director, Charlotte Dungan, stands in front of our new entryway with her Dimensions Family School jacket in school colors!  See you on 9th Street!

What is a Family School?

July 2016

The best way to answer the question, “what is a family school?” is to go out into the community and ask parents and children what they want in their educational experiences. The answers provided guide and shape the family school concept, from design to day-to-day learning. As you can imagine, there are as many answers to the question as there are people, giving the family school idea many dimensions. Indeed, we call the school we’re opening this fall in Durham Dimensions Family School.

The best way to think about a family school is to begin with the challenges homeschooling families have. Being homeschoolers, we know that these encompass many aspects of our children’s education: building community; nurturing emotional needs; managing time and resources; and supporting our own needs as adult educators. These are just a few challenges among many that a great family school addresses.

How does all of that work? In a word: participation. Dimensions Family School is in the early stages of creation with the involvement of as many people as possible. We’ve been spending time in the community to listen and build support for the family school. Here’s what we’re hearing about what Dimensions needs to be to meet your and your students’ needs:

  • A community-based social learning environment
  • A safe place for exploration
  • A diverse environment that welcomes everyone
  • A resource for parents to learn and grow as educators
  • A source of academic rigor and emotional support
  • An opportunity for structured learning, and creative, collaborative problem solving

That’s just a glimpse of what we’re building. We’re also working on a sample schedule so you have a more concrete view of how this may play out in your daily work. Thanks to you and your participation in the process, we’re making a new kind of school — a family school — that we can all benefit from so that we and our students’ grow through life-long learning.

Questions and Answers from Drop-In Help Sessions

August 2016

Q: I have a five year old.  Should I sign him up for Discovery or Foundations?
Q: I have a six year old.  Is she too old for Discovery? 

A: The Discovery program is designed to incorporate preschool and kindergarten concepts.  In general, five year olds should do Discovery instead of Foundations, even if they are advanced academically.  The Discovery program provides a consistent schedule and regular peer interactions.  It allows your child to form their first strong friendships and navigate peer conflict in a safe space.  It allows them to develop literacy, numeracy, and scientific concepts in a purely hands-on fashion, which are critical to formal learning in later years. Discovery students explore academic content in a play-based setting, which is a different vibe than the more classroom-like feel of a Foundations class.  In addition, many Foundations classes require students to have manual dexterity that is still developing in the 4-5-6 child.  As for the 2016-2017 year, we have a large group of 5 year olds, as well as two six year olds, so your student will not feel out of place. Most of our Foundations kids are 7 and up, this year.  In addition, if your child is starting to feel that Foundations will be a good fit, they can do a Discovery program (for all of the reasons listed above) and dabble with a Foundations class or two – bridging between the levels as they begin their older learning journey.  The ability to stay in a safe setting while dabbling in the older world is a unique strength of the Family School model.

Q: If we try a certain level (i.e. Discovery or Foundations) and it isn’t the right fit, can we switch?
A.  While we will try to place your child into the right level the first time, if we have tried several strategies and it just isn’t the right fit, of course we will do what is best for the child/family in correcting the placement.

Q: I spoke with a friend who is under the impression that she can sign up her 6 year old for Program Membership and then drop her off at Dimensions as much as she wants. So essentially pay just $80/month + the required volunteer hours for as much childcare during the week as she wants. Is she right about that?
A: We have a stipulation that if you are using DFS as you describe (more than 2 full days per week) that you must be a full time member.  We do have high school students that are planning to use DFS primarily as a safe place to study while they are enrolled in online school programs (and they pay full member rates), but a six year old will likely not thrive in that type of situation and should either be enrolled in classes or supervised by an adult during open hours and club times.  We also reserve the right to ask a student to leave by calling the parent if they are left unsupervised and cannot manage themselves.  If it is repeatedly a problem, we can ask a family to unenroll.  We are not a daycare, not a childcare center, and while kids may be in the facility without a parent, in general the intent is that they are either old enough to be left "home alone" (typically our Explorations and Launch Pad students) or the parents have come together where one is watching someone else's kid - i.e. if you sent your children to play at the museum with their friends and the other family drove to the museum they would be there without a parent, but they would still have someone watching out for them. Also, the intent is to create a community, and no one should feel "used" in that type of relationship – other parents are not randomly going to watch strangers any more than you would expect other adults at the museum to keep your 6 year old safe.  If you read our "policies" page you'll see that unless a child is enrolled in a class, they are subject to our open door policy - they are not formally supervised and can LEAVE THE BUILDING at will.  It's the same policy that the Boys and Girls Club uses. So just like you wouldn't dump your 6 year old at Notasium, you can't just randomly dump kids off at DFS either, without some sort of plan in place.

Q: On my registration, who is the Head of Household?
A:  Please list the primary homeschooling parent FIRST; they will get all of our communications.  A second parent may be included on all emails or choose to opt out, depending on the needs of the family.  The head of household is not related to your income or taxes, nor is it related to the gender of the parent.  It is simply the way that we designate the first contact in the household for account or class questions.

Q: Can you please list the steps to getting signed up?
Complete a background check for the primary parent (or both parents if the second parent will work with children).  Then choose your monthly membership and sign up – this will be billed monthly Sept-June.  Choose your classes!  And if you want to teach, be sure to write a class proposal.

Q: Should I sign up as a Program Member or a Full Member?
A: In general, if you have multiple children or are coming one full day (or more) with a single child, you will save money by being a Full Member.  You can switch your membership type; the best time this fall would be at the end of October, before the start of second quarter.

More questions?  We have answers!  Contact us.

Dimensions Family School Blog