Finding the right educational experience for your child can really be a challenge. This is my child s second year at Big Sur Charter School, Monterey campus. I am grateful to have found a program that meets my family s needs. While my daughter is attending classes at Big Sur, I am confident that her teacher is looking out for her, and her peer s, academic and emotional well being. I am grateful for the monthly one-on-one meetings with my daughter s classroom educator. It is a time to review my daughter s academic progress, to strategize for her success and delight in her achievements. I have found that the school encourages parent involvement and welcomes parent s input. Numerous monthly meetings are aimed at creating open communication among the parent community and with school administration. I find it reassuring that the school board, teachers and administration reevaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum and the community partners, making adjustments as necessary to better meet the needs of the student body and the goals of the school.
The school has gone through some swift changes the last 2 years. What was once strictly an enrichment program with parent led teaching is now trying to re-brand itself as a part-time school focused on academics with teachers leading the way. The execution of those changes has been the challenge.
I've been where you are...looking for the "right" educational environment for your child(ren). I have two children attending Big Sur (Monterey). We have lived in several states over the years and I have never been a homeschooling parent. Big Sur is a gift to our family. The school's mission and design empowers the parent(s) to be effective educators, while allowing the freedom to explore various curricula. Educational materials are provided (free of charge). Access to computer based math and language arts programs to supplement the existing text material are provided. Staff are approachable & supportive. There are plenty of opportunities to have your voice heard at monthly meetings. I consider Big Sur a hybrid program...balancing traditional homeschooling with traditional education. Parents' views on education varies...and that's okay! What might be good for one kid, may not be good for yours...and that's okay! Call the school, speak with the administration, and make an educated decision about what works for you and your family. At the end of the day my kids LOVE Big Sur and they are learning so much.
BSCS has the POTENTIAL for greatness, but, sadly, falls short. We had high hopes when we left a traditional school env t & joined BSCS. We thought the "hybrid homeschooling" structure they advertise was a perfect way to begin our new journey..."the best of both worlds." Unfortunately, the learning opportunities offered through community partners (which were a huge draw for us) come & go with little to no notice & are often scheduled at times & on days more convenient to the school staff than our families. Also, after many meetings & surveys over multiple school years asking us which community partners & programs would best benefit our students, that input has been ignored. The teachers are very nice, but seriously lack the lesson planning & classroom mgmt skills to make the small amount of class time they have with our students at the Learning Center worth attending -- my kids learn little, get bored & are discouraged by the chaotic env t. Parents have learned through experience to not ask questions or express concerns, though, in fear of scorn or retaliation from the Director. In conclusion, they talk a good game, but currently do not fulfill their mission & turnover is high.
When my child began BSCS it had only been in the Monterey location for a year. I had looked at many options. Every school could be improved, but the unique thing about BSCS is that the involvement and opportunities parents/students have in shaping education is unlike any other school. It matters how much parents get involved, but the opportunity is there. We have the unique ability to create an individual, full, fun, and quality education for our children. We all have different techniques for teaching/learning, and it is welcomed. There is a lot of support. I believe that this kind of education, where it is about each individual student, the community, giving a well rounded education experience, and parent involvement is where education should be going. It is a flexible program that highly focuses on learning in a unique, individual, and successful way. That is so valuable to me. Children learn more and enjoy it and care and become a part of their communities in a positive way. It is someplace at least as a parent I have an opportunity to have a voice and even more important my child has a voice.
The idea of Big Sur Charter School is fantastic! Unfortunately, the administration lacks the leadership and organizational skills to fulfill the school's mission. The ineffective director is the governed by a weak board with little oversight by the Big Sur School District. Parents with questions or concerns are quickly blacklisted by the leadership and most leave within a semester or two. My experience with the school has been one whereby each semester is different than the semester before. Flexibility on the part of the parent educators is demanded and changes are made to curriculum and schedules oftentimes with little or no notice. As home educators, this arrangement is demeaning and fosters negative learning environment at the campus for our children when they are in attendance at the school. Turnover among students, teachers and community learning partners is high. This school is an adequate parking space for families searching for a school program on the Monterey Peninsula but not a long term answer for most. UPDATE: It has come to my attention that the school is soliciting reviews from parents in response to this original post on 1/27/15
We are starting our fourth semester with BSCS. Overall we have had a good experience and bring two of our children to the Monterey campus between 4 and 8 hours per week for instruction at the school provided by their teachers and community learning partners. There is an additional 1 to 2 hours of community learning partner instruction per week on top of that. The biggest challenge for our family is making sure that our children receive enough time home learning since we are driving to and from the campus, community learning partners and home every day of the week. This can be tricky for many families, but works for us. The key to being a BSCS family is flexibility. I also think BSCS does a phenomenal job addressing the needs of special needs students as well as those that just need a little extra attention, something that is not done well in other public schools. While we do not take advantage of those services, it is nice to see them offered.
We have been with the Big Sur Charter School for 3 years. We have a child with special needs and two typical who attend. The local public schools were not meeting my their needs, so we searched for a place that gave us support while still giving choices. My kids still have a classroom to make friends but then we can focus on home learning our way, sometimes with a learning day at the beach). We found what we needed here. We can volunteer time and talents in classroom, field trips and clubs. Enrichment classes (Aikido, music, tennis, nature programs and others) are offered based on attendance with community resources. We receive curriculum and academic support. (SUPPORT because I am the homeschool teacher) We have had ups and downs as the school struggled to define its mission. But balancing demanding parents and strict California regulations (for funding) is not an easy task. Each year (and sometimes semester) had been unique because of changing needs of families but the teachers and administration work hard to accommodate individual needs if they can. They do care about your family. Update: Thanks to Big Sur for giving me a chance to review a school I love.
My daughter has been enrolled almost 2 years and we both love this school. In every aspect where traditional public schools are failing, the Big Sur Charter is succeeding. I knew I wanted to homeschool my children but didn't know if I could do it on my own. The director and the teachers I've had the pleasure of working with have been so helpful, ensuring our success. On top of all that, my daughter absolutely loves going. We've attended both the Big Sur and Monterey chapters and I love them both. While the two have many differences, the quality of learning stays the same. Since this education model requires parents and teachers to work closely together and both parties are responsible for teaching the child, it may not be right for everyone. For our family, however, I can't imagine doing it any other way. I have every intention of enrolling my younger daughter next year for kindergarten and she's just as eager to begin as my other child is to continue.