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Friday Feature: The Grove Christian Co-Op

Colleen Hroncich

Like many education entrepreneurs, Nicolette Siebert is a mom who was a classroom teacher before she created her own learning community. Her son started out attending a homeschool co‐​op, but it was a long drive from their home and became too much for them. So she moved him to public school for a time. It was a combination of not liking some of what she saw in schools as well as wanting a Biblical worldview for her son that led her to open The Grove Christian Co‐​Op just south of Jacksonville, FL.

I toured The Grove earlier this year and was impressed to see how engaged the children were in their learning—and how smoothly it functioned despite being in its first year. Nicolette explained that the founder of the co‐​op her son initially attended provided a lot of support as she got The Grove up and running. While the organizations aren’t officially linked, she used the other one as a starting point and built from there.

Math groups

Math small group at The Grove.

According to Nicolette, the homeschool co‐​ops in their area all have a different feel to them. The Grove has developed into a very academic program based on Nicolette’s natural approach and the wants of the families. Nicolette described the curriculum as pretty classical, noting they use resources like Abeka, Saxon Math, Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), Notgrass History, Apologia Science, and Shurley Grammar. For math, students can move around so they’re in the class that matches their level of knowledge.

The Grove serves children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Classes are held in person Monday through Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday are work‐​at‐​home days. On Wednesday afternoons, they offer electives where they bring in outside experts to lead various classes. Options for electives can include cooking, music, art, coding, and nature club.

4th grade market day

Fourth grade market day: students plan, create, and advertise a product to sell to their classmates who earn class money throughout the year.

As homeschoolers, the parents are the teachers and are ultimately responsible for their children’s education. At The Grove, tutors deliver instruction in the classroom and assign lessons for the at‐​home days. Parental involvement is very important to the model, so parents are invited to volunteer at the co-op—for example, helping with lunch or serving as a substitute teacher.

The Grove isn’t currently a provider to receive funds from Florida’s school choice programs. However, Nicolette can provide receipts that they can submit for reimbursement. There’s no guarantee that the reimbursement will be approved, but, so far, parents have been successful.

While Nicolette initially planned to have quarterly informational meetings, she hasn’t been holding them this year because her waitlist is already so big, especially in some grades. She prefers to have 10–12 students per class, and there were already more than 30 kids on the kindergarten waitlist when I toured.

How to measure success is a frequent question when it comes to education, and for many parents a big part of the answer comes down to “is my child happy?” At The Grove, the answer to that question seems to be yes based on the kids that I saw. And Nicolette’s son and his friends have indicated as much—telling her how much they like co‐​op even as they work to help her set up classrooms each week.

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