The Academy at the PARC wraps up inaugural year

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SEBRING, FL — Tucked away in the woods, the Academy at the Parc is wrapping up its inaugural year. Students showed off their artistic skills on a recent Saturday afternoon with an end-of-year exhibit.

The students have learned to use all types of materials to incorporate into their art. In addition to the natural reclaimed materials, the students have tried their hands at blacksmithing and leather working.

The Academy is a hybrid-type of learning center. It offers classes for adults and the Learning Pod hosts the youngsters’ educational adventures.

“We’re not really a school,” Founder and Head of Education Colleen Paul-Hus said. “We’re an educational center that offers practical arts classes and we support home-school family. So, if your child is registered as a home-school child, we support the parents in education.”

The Academy at the Parc started with about seven kids and now has 11. The learning center will be expanding to take up to 30 students this fall, up to age 15, according to Director of Education Gabriele Beland. She feels that eventually the Academy will integrate high school ages.

Kids can attend half days or whole days.

“You can do this with three options. There’s full time, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or you can do part time in the morning or part time afternoon,” Beland said. “The mornings is when we do more of the academics, which are normal subjects that you would find in school. In the afternoons, we do the practical arts; that’s more hands on projects.”

Beland said it used to be all or nothing with home-schooling and someone, usually the mother, would have to give up her career to stay home.

“I think, just in the last two years in Florida, it’s gone up 33% of the amount of kids that are home-schooled now,” she said. “So, it’s not this marginal thing on the side anymore; it’s really starting to become a viable option. There’s a lot more resources because of that.”

The age groups are divided into three groups and attention is paid to how each pupil learns.

“That’s what we’re offering is kind of, a little bit like school, because you drop off your kid,” Beland said. “Then you pick them up, and you can still work so that no parent has to really sacrifice their work. But we’re using a home-school curriculum, and we’re teaching it kind of family style, if you will, where we have kids of different ages in the same class.”

The mornings start with circle time and a chore, like feeding the chickens. The lucky kids get to do lessons in tiny cob/adobe houses by craftsmen Miguel Elliott. The classrooms look like something a hobbit would live in from “Lord of the Rings” by R.R. Tolkien.

Geli Alvarez is the head instructor, art coordinator and nature survivalist educator. Classes in cooking, fermentation and many others are offered to adults.

The Academy at the Parc can be found on FaceBook. They can be reached at 863-226-1977, ext. 1.

Published in the Highlands News-Sun on May 29 2022, updated July 8 2022 by Kim Moody, Staff Writer.