Homeschooling, Together

Shine in Ada’s definition of homeschooling involves learning outside the home and beyond just traditional school subjects. This definition led four moms in Ada, Oklahoma to push for more. Kailey Wellington, Ashley Hampton, Christina Thetford, and Jessica King, Shine’s founding members, were fueled by their belief in community, education, lifelong learning, and relationship.

“Homeschoolers are anything but home,” Wellington said. “When people think of homeschooling, they think weird, antisocial, or weird Christians,” or “I could never do that because my kids are too social, or I’m not patient enough, but a lot of us are just looking for something different. The classroom is more than just 4 walls. School can be so much more.”

Three of the four co-founders of Shine in Ada.

The co-founders, all homeschooling mothers in their native Oklahoma, are big fans of homeschool cooperatives, so much so that when the pandemic led many more families to explore homeschooling, they co-founded a co-op of her own in her native Ada, population 17,000. 

The women started Shine in Ada in late July 2020 while sitting around a kitchen table. The group had no funding but believed that their mission would be successful. While on a family trip, Wellington missed a connecting flight and had a three-hour layover. To pass the time, she applied for a VELA Micro grant while sitting at the airport, and weeks later the group received $10,000.

Ada, OK, February, 2022. Photography by Nick Oxford

With that seed funding, Shine in Ada was able to start offering a slew of in-person classes on Tuesdays for students in preK through 7th-grade. In 2020-21, about 30 students attended Shine classes. In 2021-22, the number soared to 54. 

In the morning, parents teach a worldview class, which focuses on lessons in the Bible and from other cultures, with an overall goal of exchanging viewpoints in a civil and constructive manner. There are also art, history, public speaking, writing, and science classes. Every family must participate in teaching a course. Many of the parents who teach the classes have previous teaching experience, either in K-12 or at the collegiate level. Others are experts in various fields in the community and span a wide range of homeschooling experience, with many being first-year homeschoolers.

Ada, OK, February, 2022. Photography by Nick Oxford

Electives are offered in the afternoon, including sports like tennis and activities like foreign language, drama, cotillion, and robotics club. Past learning experiences have included visits to the botanical gardens, the Chickasaw cultural center, the local fire station to learn about fire safety and community helpers, and a flight with a Shine dad to learn about aviation. In addition, students learned about World War II by having a FaceTime call with a veteran who lives in Hawaii.

For parents, Shine pairs novice homeschool moms with veteran homeschool moms to help make sure the newcomers feel supported as they grow accustomed.

Many homeschooling parents are juggling full-time jobs, home education, and teaching Shine courses. It’s a lot to juggle, but the students’ enthusiasm for the co-op’s offerings make it all worthwhile. When it’s not Tuesday, Wellington said her fellow parents hear a common refrain from students.

“Is it Shine yet? Is it Shine yet?”

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