Annie Leatherbarrow, M.S.Ed.
Co-Director Go & Grow Education Services, LLC
We are living in an interesting and exciting time for education! With the discussion of school choice on the rise, many parents are starting to investigate alternative education settings that fit their children’s unique spirits…. And needs! Although this list is far from comprehensive on why Go & Grow does things different, I narrowed it down to the top 5 I think set us apart.
1. We involve parents
We started Go & Grow with the mission of keeping kids at the heart of what we wanted to achieve. We poured over low reading and math scores, IDEA law, and poorly written IEPs with the fire to improve their learning abilities. We believe so strongly in proper and quality education since the kids of today are the leaders of the future. What we didn’t anticipate was how much we were also benefitting the parents. Through both IEP advocacy, after-school tutoring, and our homeschool program, we have been told multiple times how parents felt like “they got their lives back.” By eliminating the worry about getting yet another phone call from the school or having to sit through another IEP meeting feeling patronized and clueless, while knowing that their child is actually making progress in their learning, our parents can sleep again. Seeing that their children’s behavior even improved at home and has created happier memories will always be a reason for us to keep fighting. By getting parents on the same page, together we can make happier lives!
2. We focus on written expression
Both Kevin and I have B.A. degrees in English and primarily taught in English classrooms before starting Go & Grow, so it’s no surprise that we think writing is EVERYTHING! In the past, we have created cross-curricular programs to include writing in every subject and we also set up summer programs to help students write better to prepare them for the next year. Our homeschool program is no different. We incorporate writing into all subjects at every grade level. Our program spans the basics of legible handwriting to proper essay citation. So, why is writing outside of English class so important? Written expression is THE best way to demonstrate your understanding of a topic – including themselves! It is also one of the best ways to DOCUMENT understanding (hello, work samples!)
3. We allow POLITE debate
If you’ve ever met a teenager, you probably figured out pretty quickly that they have strong opinions. Now, if you get multiple teens in a room together, you’ll find they all have strong AND different opinions. And, by the way, as an adult your opinion is automatically wrong. So, what do you do with a bull pen of hormonal know-it-alls? You let them debate each other. That’s right. With so much information out there (good or bad) and living in a time where just about anything can be turned into controversy, knowing how and why they “feel” something is crucial to developing their critical thinking skills in the future. Debate is great for a couple reasons (if you do it right). One – it is a great time to teach them how to disagree politely. Two – they cannot say anything without having a source behind it. “Prove it” is a mantra. This means they have to read A LOT! The hope is that these skills fold over to home and it eventually limits the overly emotional arguing over superficial stuff. Hey, sometimes it works!
4. We make them do it over…. And over…
This concept is why parents pay us the “big bucks” – ha! Since we don’t have to adhere to the more rigid schedule of a public or private school, and because we meet kids where they are at in their learning abilities, we make mastery a priority. One of the biggest concerns we hear from parents is that their child has just been “passed through.” When they are passed through for a few years in a row, we have major gaps in their learning habits. This is why “do it again” is another commonly used phrase at Go & Grow. We are about setting solid habits, not about cranking through curriculum in a certain amount of time while worrying about test dates. If it’s not the student’s best, they know they’ll have to DO IT AGAIN. The first time hurts…. We keep the tissues close… we brace ourselves for meltdowns. But, after that, they usually realize they don’t want to “do it again” and try much harder the next time. They learn the faster they master a skill, the faster they get to move on to learn about the really cool stuff!
5.We embrace their struggles
The final reason why Go & Grow is different (and the one that really sets us apart, I think) is that we embrace the kids on their darkest, hardest days. We push them to be real with us. We guide them through their frustration and remind them they can still be frustrated while also being respectful – and then they will learn success.
In summary, at Go & Grow we strive for excellence. Oftentimes, that process can be messy. But in the end, it’s beautiful. Like any other educational facility, public or otherwise, we love kids. We can learn so much from them. We’re enthralled by their sense of wonder and uninhibited passion for quirky things. We want them to explore their interests to the fullest while underscoring the importance of demonstrating their skills. We hope for harmony in their homes. Our approach and belief in effective education is what makes us the best in Great Falls.
What would you like to see more of in your child’s education?