When Janet Edwards couldn’t find the right school for her daughter, she started her own.
Edwards brought together two alternative education formats into one rarely-seen combination — an alternative school with a Christian foundation — called Abounding Hope Christian School.
“Our goal straight out is to show them that God created them perfectly, and in the way he wanted,” Edwards said. “They have a purpose in life and we’re there to help them learn and know what that purpose is.”
The school, in operation since 2011, is led by co-administrators Edwards and Tracy Price, along with three other teachers. The organization was built to serve students with a range of learning, behavioral or emotional challenges with a Christ-centered focus.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids with autism, bipolar disorder, severe ADHD or other medical issues like migrants that prevented students from thriving in Christian education,” Edwards explained. “Our room is set up in a way that kids have a calm down space, or if they don’t feel well, they can lay down for a bit and head back to school. We had some kids who were missing days at a time because they’d feel sick and they’d go home and then feel fine. Here, they can lay down for a bit and get back to class.”
About 10 students are served by Abounding Hope Christian School, which is located at and partners with Elyria Christian School for the second year.
“We’re sharing buildings and we can share students back and forth, which is a plus for students. They can come in for just math or English and do mainstream in other subjects, or they can be with us the whole time,” Edwards said. “Our curriculum is defined by each student. What works for one student won’t work for another, so we choose what’s best for them at their level.”
Edwards previously taught at Elyria Christian School for 21 years and hoped her daughter, Anna, could attend as well, but Anna’s bipolar disorder prevented her from flourishing in a standard classroom.
“Resources are highly focused in small schools and classroom teachers are terribly busy. With our small numbers, we’re able to do a lot more,” Edwards said. “Our school did not benefit Anna because she’d finished school by then, but it’s benefited others since then. She went to college and got her para-education degree and is teaching with us. It’s really great because the kids immediately bond with her because she understands what they’re going through.”
To get Abounding Hope Christian School going, Edwards opened her home, literally, to students.
“We started out in two rooms of my house that were separate from the rest of the house, then we moved to Free Methodist Church and they let us use classroom space and the gym,” Edwards said. “At the church, we had the challenge of putting things away over the weekend, as churches go, but now we have our own space at Elyria. They asked if we would join them at their location and we can share students easily.”
The Christian focus aids the school’s alternative format in giving teachers the love and empathy needed to come alongside students and encourage them through challenges.
“If you meet them where they are and build the curriculum around them, it all benefits their learning. Our Christ-centered focus gives the basis you need to do that,” Edwards said. “Through our classroom and some different teaching techniques and modifications, we can free students up to learn. We’re a very safe environment, and they learn better once they feel that safety. With that focus, we see these behaviors go down and learning increases.”
For more information or to enroll, call 620-755-6214.
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.