SPARK Hybrid Education Center began in 2015 with a group of four homeschool families who were looking to create something new which combined stimulating classes with a licensed teacher while still allowing the flexibility and parental influence that homeschooling offered. We sat down together and worked out a 3-day a week schedule which offered the four core classes of math, science, language arts, and social studies because the students were already involved in their own individual fine arts and sports activities.
It was originally named CrossRoads Learning Center because we rented rooms from a church called CrossRoads and we didn’t want to call it a school so we described it as a learning center. However, in 2017, we decided we needed to rebrand our name to more accurately reflect what we were. People thought we were a church group since it was named after the church we rented from and the term learning center gave people the impression we were a tutoring service for struggling students. So I asked the students to help come up with a new name and SPARK Hybrid Education Center was decided on. Spark was selected because it means “to ignite, trigger, stimulate, initiate, or excite” and hybrid because it means “a thing made by combining two different elements of mixed character; a composite.” I suggested that SPARK should be an acronym which further describes who we are and what we do so the parents got involved and came up with “Students Pursuing Advanced Reasoning & Knowledge.” Adding the SPARK logo further reflected our desire to provide stimulating hands on learning experiences.
We started with offering classes for students ages 10-14, but in 2017, we added a program for ages 5-9 due to parents’ requests for classes for younger siblings. Over time, the Sparkles program was developed and continues to this day. What started out with four students has now grown to 60 students and our first 8th grade graduates are now all in college!
What is SPARK?
SPARK (Students Pursuing Advanced Reasoning & Knowledge) is a hybrid education center providing classes in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies for home educated students ages 10-14 in Naples, Florida. Our mission: To equip students with the knowledge, problem-solving skills, and work habits that instill a sense of responsibility for their education and a passion for lifelong learning. Our teaching practices: Students are assessed and grouped according to their ability, classes are multi-age, instruction is differentiated for varying abilities and interests, and lessons are a combination of instruction, discussion and hands-on projects. Our primary requirements are “Be kind and do your work” with an emphasis on a love and joy for learning.
SPARK Hybrid Education Center is registered as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) with Darlene Thiele listed as Director. It is not a school. Parents who register their children at SPARK need to first register with their county’s public school system stating they intend to “establish and maintain a Home Education Program” and are “responsible for maintaining their child’s complete portfolio and learning log as well as submitting results of an annual evaluation.”
Parents are responsible for their children’s education. SPARK provides support to home educated families by providing classes in the core subjects. Teachers are hired as independent contractors. Students are the clients and parents are the stakeholders. Students take ownership of their education and are an integral part of creating the culture at SPARK. The more people feel a sense of responsibility and power to shape something, the more invested they will be in its success.
SPARK provides an alternative to traditional education, but it was not created to meet the needs of students with severe learning and behavioral disabilities. Our goal is for students to be working at or above their grade level in the core subjects, but that does not eliminate the need for parents to provide whatever else they believe their children need for a well-rounded education. We have classes three days a week, so there needs to be reasonable expectations for what can be accomplished in that time. SPARK has 105 teaching days compared to 180 days at public schools; however, by focusing on core subjects and having two days a week at home to do academic work, students are able to accomplish a great deal. SPARK provides semester reports for each student and proctors a nationally normed standardized test at the end of the year; these can be sent for school records if transferring to another school. In addition, a Florida licensed teacher will sign off on the Home Education Evaluation Form at the end of the school year.