I keep having people ask me why I choose to have my two Jr. High children go to Lumen School Institute and it’s really hard to explain it all in a simple reply, so I thought I would take a few minutes and type it all out so I don’t have to repeat myself. I start with a little background. You may not care about this and can skip it if you want.
My Son’s Background
To give you a little background – I have a son who has struggled in school for years. We have tried and tried to find the right fit for him and he has ended up switching schools every year or two his entire life. Here are the main things he struggles with:
- A math learning disability called dyscalculia. It’s similar to dyslexia for reading. Math is VERY hard for him. He cannot memorize math facts. This has been hard for most of his teachers to accept. They think of he just does his math facts a few hundred more times then he will memorize them. Nope. Unfortunately, we didn’t get this diagnosis until the 5th grade and hours and hours of trying and trying to do the same math and over and over again. What a relief when we learned it just will never happen and he should just be allowed to use a calculator and move on to more advanced math concepts. We also discovered over the years that he learns best by using manipulatives and going at his own pace. Unfortunately, because so much time was wasted trying to make him memorize math he is now in grade 4 math but starting grade 8 in everything else.
- He has Type I Diabetes and misses school a lot due to illness and just not feeling well. I think he missed school at least 20 times last year.
- He has ADHD and has a really hard time sitting still thru a traditional class, turning in assignments, completing homework, etc.
- He has social anxiety somewhat. He functions fine in public and people don’t know he has a problem but then when he gets home, the stress of it all catches up to him and I just know there is no way he would be able to handle a huge, mainstream Jr. High.
So the solution up until now has been to put him in various private schools, financed in part by a half Carson Smith Scholarship because of his learning disability. It worked well at first, but I could see an increasing need for him to move at his own pace and for him to be at home more where I can watch his Diabetes and keep him feeling better, where he can eat healthier, where he doesn’t get exposed to so many germs and where he doesn’t have to be somewhere every morning at a set time. Plus, I was tired of paying for school he was missing so much and tired of driving him so far every day and I could see how much better the homeschool curriculum was and how good homeschool could be for him.
So we decided to give homeschool a try. We took him out of private school a few weeks early and gave homeschool a try for part of May and the summer. I wanted to test out homeschooling with just math and writing during the summer with lower pressure and work out the kinks before hitting it hard in the fall. I’m really glad I did. Here’s what worked and didn’t work:
The Good –
- We tried Math U See and I LOVE it. All of a sudden math is so easy for my son. He does two lessons in like 10 minutes. Yes. we probably went back a little further than we needed to, but he has a lot of gaps to fill and about half of what he is learning is new. I’ve always suspected that if he could just go at his own pace and be taught the correct way and in a low-pressure environment, then he would excel. This is because in a regular classroom setting they would teach concept A, he wouldn’t get it, they would move on to concept B and then he was lost the rest of the year. But when I work with him and we go at our own pace, I make sure he understands concept A because I teach it to him until I know he understands it, then we go on to concept B. Because we don’t waste time sitting through boring lectures and I just teach him what he needs to know, he’s actually spending way less time on math and understanding it way more.
The Bad –
- Well, it wasn’t totally fair to do it in the summer because I have three other children at home and busy summer activities and I work basically full-time from home. So I would find myself busily doing something and it wasn’t until like 2pm I would realize we hadn’t started homeschool yet. It was actually usually my son that would remind me more often than not, since he doesn’t get access to electronics until he’s done with his chores and homeschool. But if we were doing full-time homeschool and didn’t start until 2pm, that would be a bit of a problem.
- It was way too easy for me to say, “I don’t feel like doing school today” or “I don’t have time to do school today.”
- I was having to do all picking out of lessons, the teaching of lessons, grading, etc. It’s time-consuming and hard to teach. It’s one thing to be able to do a math concept yourself but quite another thing to be able to teach the concept to a child who has a learning disability and who doesn’t want to be there in the first place. I still haven’t been able to properly teach him what the word “average” means so I know he understands what it means. Sure, he learned how to calculate it in the short term but he didn’t really understand the concept and I know he won’t remember how to do it in a few weeks.
- It is REALLY hard, expensive and time consuming to pick out homeschool curriculum.
- My son doesn’t always respect me as a teacher (not a surprise).
- There are some types of classes that are pretty much impossible to do homeschooling.
- I know a lot of homeschoolers don’t worry about getting a diploma because they just take the GED or the ACT, etc. Well, when you have a son who struggles as much as my son, I’m really worried about him passing tests like that. And he’s saying he doesn’t want to go to college. I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to even talk him into taking the GED. And it won’t work to just write my own transcript if he’s taking Math 4 in the 8th grade. I really want him to at least have a high school diploma to show for all his hard work.
So I set out to find a school that would allow him to have a homeschool-type environment yet give both him and I some accountability, free up some of my time, help him properly learn concepts and subjects I would never be able to teach him with my abilities and time and help him actually graduate with a diploma.
I think/hope I found this with Lumen Scholar Institute.
My Lumen Review
I’ll tell you one of Lumen’s biggest weaknesses right off the bat and it’s their website. It says hardly anything about their school and what it’s all about and why you would want to go there. A lot of it says it’s coming soon and they have been a school for two years. I even found it difficult to get information when calling them and talking to them in person. I think this is partly because they have had to change a lot of things this year because of a recent audit with the State and everyone is learning the new system.
But I heard so many good things about them in the Utah Valley Homeschools Facebook Group I’m in so I decided I better spend some more time looking at them. Besides, I’ve already looked at and eliminated pretty much every other private and charter school in Utah.
We haven’t really started school yet and I’m still learning about Lumen, but here is my understanding so far of how the Jr. High works. I don’t know much about the Elementary or High School programs.
It is a charter school, which means it is a state-funded public school, so it is free to attend. You don’t have to live in a certain geographical boundary but there is an enrollment cap. Once the enrollment cap is reached, new students are accepted based on a lottery system.
Choose Your Classes
To start with, for each of your four cores, you choose if you would like it to be Lumen/LIL or Guided Instruction aka Homeschool. You may choose a different option for every subject (see all options here). Guided Instruction students work at home just like homeschool but are given all curriculum and materials needed. They can also attend small group instruction if they want, get help from tutors and teachers, choose from the electives and attend Learning Labs.
All students are able to check out a Chromebook or Laptop for school use and all materials needed for a class, such as software, art supplies or a DSLR camera for their digital photography class.
8th graders must take one semester of Computer Tech (Guided Instruction) and 9th graders must take one semester of Health 9 and Computer Lit 9 (both Guided Instruction).
Each student must take at least 6 credits, so that leaves 2 credits for 7th, 1.5 for 8th and 1 for 9th. You may take more if you want. All electives are Guided Instruction with teacher support. You can see descriptions of the electives here. We love how there are so many art electives! It’s going to be interesting to see how a drawing class works that’s all online . . .
They also have a distance learning option but I don’t totally understand it so I’m not going to post about it. Basically, it’s the same from what I can see but instead of going to the school once a week, you watch it online twice a week.
If you have Guided Instruction, you will probably be working at home in Canvas most of the time except Fridays when you are attending Learning Labs. Here is a sample schedule for those who choose the Lumen Classes option:
Monday Morning from 9:15 to 12:05
Those in Orem or South – small group instruction online (LIL) at set times for their four cores – Math, Science, English, Social Studies
Those North of Orem – small group instruction at the school at set times for their four cores – Math, Science, English, Social Studies. This is mandatory but if they miss it, it is recorded so they can watch it later and catch up.
Those in Orem or South – Independent work from home prep time in Canvas (this means you work on your “homework” for your cores and watch videos and read lessons, etc. for your Guided Instruction classes. I’ve been told that if you are diligent and do your work during normal school hours then you should be able to complete it by 3pm or so and not have “homework” during normal homework time)
Those North of Orem – If you have Choir, Musical Theater, ASL, Mock Trial, STEM or need extra help from a teacher, etc. then you will have lunch and stay for class. If not, you will go home and have independent work from home prep time in Canvas.
Independent work from home prep time in Canvas
Wednesday Morning from 9:15 to 12:05
Those North of Orem – small group instruction online (LIL) at set times for their four cores – Math, Science, English, Social Studies
Those in Orem or South – small group instruction at the school at set times for their four cores – Math, Science, English, Social Studies. This is mandatory but if they miss it, it is recorded so they can watch it later and catch up.
Those North of Orem – Independent work from home prep time in Canvas
Those in Orem or South – If you have Choir, Musical Theater, ASL, Mock Trial, STEM or need extra help from a teacher, etc. then you will have lunch and stay for class. If not, you will go home and have independent work from home prep time in Canvas.
Independent work from home prep time in Canvas
In person Learning Labs –
There are six school-wide events, 4 Jr. High Socials and each of the four cores has 4-6 learning labs. So I would say about 2.5 Fridays out of the month there is an activity or Learning Lab. I am told they are sometimes on campus in Orem, sometimes off campus and you meet there, sometimes off campus and you meet at the school and a bus takes the students there. Sometimes they are all day and sometimes just a few hours. I don’t know how much notice you get. I was given a calendar with rough dates. Some examples of Learning Labs are:
CLAS ropes course, Rowley’s Red Barn, Cove Fort, Utah State Capitol, History Challenge, Olympic Events, Pi Day, Wax Museum, Living Planet Aquarium, Chemical Reaction Day, Writer’s Workshop and Hale Center Theater.
They are mandatory, but if you need to miss one there is always something you can do to make it up.
Then if you have any art class or PE class, there are Learning Labs. My children have both of those and I put all their Learning Labs on the calendar and there are only about three Fridays in the year when we don’t have a Lab.
Thoughts About My Children
I’m excited about the flexibility Lumen seems to offer. I’ve heard great things about their concurrent enrollment program in High School. As for my son, we talked with Bill Brothers, the Jr. High math teacher and he seems fantastic. My children really liked him. He says there are only about 15 math problems a week he hand picks that he knows if his students can complete them then they know the concept and they don’t need to do a bunch of busy work.
He also thinks my son should do fine with 7th-grade math and is fine letting him use a calculator. He has lots of experience with struggling math students and I feel like since my son will be at home, I can help him with his math in a low-stress environment or he can get help from the teacher or from the tutors. I love that there are only 35 students per grade and feel like my children won’t get lost in the shuffle. The best part? If he can’t handle the 7th-grade math? We have the option of switching him back to Math U See and doing it Guided Instruction with teacher support, getting an IEP and he can still graduate even though he won’t be at grade level.
I also have another 8th grader and she’s been frustrated at mainstream Jr. High with how large it is, how no one respects or listens to the teachers, how boring and long classes are, how there is only one art class, how the student swear and are obsessed with boys and are just rude. So when she heard me telling my son about Lumen, she begged me to let her try. With her, our biggest concern was orchestra.
She loves playing the cello but just started in 7th grade. We thought about staying in her Jr. High orchestra but we thought it wouldn’t work with her schedule. Now we found out it could, but she’s already excited about trying out for the American Heritage orchestras next week and trying to get into one of the two lowest orchestras. It’s a better fit for her schedule because they only meet once a week on Wednesday afternoons. Trying to keep track of an A/B schedule at her Jr. High would be a pain, but if she doesn’t get in the American Heritage orchestra we’ll have to deal with it until she gets a little better.
Anyway, if you made it this far in the article and are still interested in Lumen, I’m pretty sure they are still accepting students. If you have any questions, please comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them!