Catholic education center offers ‘hybrid’ homeschool, classroom model

Sixth-grade students at Regina Caeli Detroit, a hybrid Catholic homeschool and classroom program based in Sterling Heights, perform an experiment during science class.

Regina Caeli Detroit gives students best of both worlds in classical education

Sterling Heights — As any parent who’s seriously considered homeschooling knows, there are pros and cons to both home-based education and traditional schools.

So, five years ago, a local Catholic educational initiative decided to take the best from both and combine them into a new, hybrid model of Catholic education. Thus was born Regina Caeli Detroit, a private, independent education center that combines homeschooling three days per week with a structured two-day-a-week academy for preschool through 12th grade students.

According to Regina Caeli’s website, the center “is a response to the need for affordable, authentic, classical education taught in the light of the Catholic tradition.”

The growing group of 122 students spends two days a week in the classroom and three days studying at home with their families. Located inside Hope Community Baptist Church in Sterling Heights, the facility has a nursery for younger children and classrooms for all ages plus a gymnasium/lunchroom. The nursery is staffed by parents so the whole family can spend the day together at the center.

Regina Caeli Detroit is one of 13 such centers around the country, said Janet Pogasic, campus coordinator of education and a parent of Regina Caeli students.

“We all want the same thing: to form their mind, but above all, to form their soul. We’re all on board with that mission,” Pogasic said. “We’re forming them to know the faith and also to be able to express eloquently why they follow the faith.”

Students wear uniforms and move from class to class as they would in a traditional school. The day is structured around prayer, beginning with a morning offering and including Catholic prayers such as the Angelus. Instead of being called teachers, the adults who lead the class are referenced as “tutors.” Most tutors are parents of students with backgrounds and education in the area they teach.

“It’s so interesting to see how God always provides what you need,” Pogasic said. “We’re all using our gifts. Some of us are former educators, chemical engineers, nurses. The instruction is excellent.”

On the three days when students are at home, parents are given a plan for what their children should read or complete independently. The classrooms are largely discussion-based, making independent work important to be prepared for the next day at the center.

“We still consider parents the primary educators of their children,” Pogasic said. “Tutors prepare ahead of time by reading, preparing questions for class, reading student papers and providing feedback.  Tutors also make themselves available for office hours for those students who need help.”

Kari Beckman, executive director and founder of the first Regina Caeli in Atlanta in 2003, saw a need for classical homeschool education that utilized the best practices of classroom instruction.

“Classical education goes beyond the bounds of an education to become how we live our lives. In the classical world, we believe that everything is a teaching moment,” Beckman said. “We ask the ‘why’ in a more substantive way to learn about God’s creation.”

Art, music, drama and physical education classes are integrated into the curriculum. Regina Caeli is accredited by the state of Michigan, and all students receive a diploma as they would at any high school.

Sarah Scarchilli, a rising senior, started at Regina Caeli in eighth grade when the Detroit center opened.  She enjoys the small classes and the opportunity to get to know her fellow students. Her older sister was part of the first graduating class at the school.

“I really love it here. I still get to do homework at home, but we have classes with our friends,” Scarchilli said. “Homeschooling this way helps me take charge of my own work and still gives me a chance to get feedback on papers and have interesting discussions in class. And I like how they incorporate prayer throughout the day because it keeps the focus on why we’re here.”

Many parents tell Pogasic that Regina Caeli is the “perfect balance” they were seeking, to be home several days each week but also have the structure and support of the group.

Regina Caeli Detroit

To learn more about Regina Caeli Detroit’s program, visit www.rcahybrid.org. For information on Regina Caeli Detroit’s upcoming “Fabulous Fathers Priest Talent Show” fundraiser and gala on Oct. 26, email Annalisa Agustin at [email protected] Fr. Leo Pathalinghug from Plating Grace will emcee the event.