Hybrid school: K-12 curriculum led by a teacher instead of a parent

I recently read about a new hybrid school in Stone Mountain. I believe it’s in its second year and it started back this week. The curriculum is from the online K-12 program, which is generally taught at home. Usually, the child has his lessons on the computer with the parent as the guide.

With this new program, the kids are at a church in a mixed-age classroom. The kids are still on the computer but the teacher leads them through their lessons instead of their parents. (Although the school’s website says the parents are still the main educator.– “We do have similarities to a homeschooling co-op in that parents are individually responsible for our children’s education, and we pool our resources together to create a community learning center.”)

Here is from the Smoke Rise Prep’s website:

“Smoke Rise Prep is located  in Smoke Rise Baptist Church on Hugh Howell Road.  We offer onsite certified teachers who guide our children through the nationally acclaimed K-12 Curriculum.  Our children are registered students at the Georgia Cyber Academy, a public charter school. For the 2012-13 school year, our center is open to 1st – 6th grade students in Georgia.”

Here’s more explanation from the Tucker Patch:

“Although teachers assist students with their daily work at Smoke Rise Prep, parents are ultimately responsible for their child’s education.  Parents work directly with Georgia Cyber Academy, which provides all textbooks and instructional materials for the curriculum, as well as opportunities for numerous field trips. Parents provide additional supplies, including a laptop computer and headphones. There is a $250 nonrefundable deposit to reserve a spot at Smoke Rise Prep, and a $250 per month membership fee which helps cover the cost of teachers and facility rental. Parents must volunteer 10 hours per month either in the classroom or behind the scenes raising funds and grant writing.”

Last year the school served about 40 children.

But I’m not clear on the point of the program. Is it to have a much smaller school? Is it for parents who aren’t sure about doing the actual teaching or who would like to homeschool but work? Is it a way for the kids to be with other kids?

Have you heard of other programs similar to this one? What do you make of it?

29 comments Add your comment


August 14th, 2012
1:07 am

I have a friend whose parents did that. They became accredited to run a small school, mainly older students. They didn’t offer every class but brought in teachers to teach higher math, science, etc. When their youngest 2 graduated, several years ago, there was talk of closing it. I don’t remember the name of it or the parents. It wears mainly for parents who felt they couldn’t handle the higher classes in high school.

GCA parent

August 14th, 2012
6:07 am

Georgia Cyber Academy has ~12,000 students this year. (Talk about people being unhappy with their schools!) I think most students are taught at home by their own parents / grandparents / family, but there are certainly many situations where they are taught by a friend or a co-op (for pay).

Either way, the GEORGIA CERTIFIED TEACHERS assigned to each child are the ones who guide the student through the materials and Georgia Performance Standards. The teachers conduct weekly classes in all of the core subjects. (2x/wk lower elem, up to 8-11x/wk upper elem). The teachers submit all paperwork; the teachers administer all of the state-mandated tests (CRCT, DIBELS, etc.).

In the younger grades, the at-home person plays a larger role in the day-to-day teaching. However, by middle and high school, it becomes the student’s responsibility to manage his own work day and the Learning Coach provides guidance. In any case, if the Learning Coach / student needs help, the teachers are certainly there to teach, just like regular school.

For us, we have the opportunity to work ahead of grade level and also avoid the negative social influences of our (extremely underperforming) local school. The schedule is flexible so we can tend to our small business. Plus, we go on a *ton* of field trips. This is our 4th year, and it seems to be working well for us :)

no great choice

August 14th, 2012
7:06 am

In this case, I believe this school was born of frustration because of issues at the local DeKalb County School. Not everyone who is frustrated with their public school can afford private school or has a child who is a good candidate for homeschooling.

Another GCA Parent

August 14th, 2012
7:39 am

Many people do not realize that GA Cyber Academy provides the entire curriculum at no cost to the family. Everything is shipped to you & that includes a computer with an allowance for internet access if needed. As a taxpayer, I consider this a slight return on the money the government forcibly takes from me each week.

We are in our 3rd year with the program and overall, it’s been a far better alternative than the brick and mortar system. You get out of it what you put into it. My children enjoy the flexibility and options available to them as advanced learners in an environment where expectations are high. As the previous GCA parent posted, kids are allowed to advance at their own pace. When my child finished 7th grade math coursework last February, the books were returned and 8th grade curriculum was shipped to us for continuing studies. That would never happen in the county system.

It isn’t for everybody, but parents do have an alternative to private school if they are willing to give up some of life’s luxuries in order to be their child’s learning coach at home. Apparently, the parents of 12,000+ students in the State of Georgia agree.

Additional information may be found at their website:



August 14th, 2012
8:42 am

If I were able, I would send mine to cyber school


August 14th, 2012
9:18 am

This is brilliant. 1) K-12 is an awesome curriculum. 2) the “school” doesn’t have to pay for any of the curriculum 3) the parents don’t have to pay for any curriculum 4) the kids get the “social” aspect of being with other kids. 5) kids get additional insights from teachers/tudors etc. that they might miss by being schooled by just Mom.
They have just combined the online charter option with the hybrid model. I think it’s brilliant.
250 dollars a month is about what the hybrids I know of charge for two days of class. They did not say how often the kids go to school.
My niece did the k-12 cyber academy in 8th grade. In one year she caught up on all of the subjects she was behind in and had a total attitude change once she was not in the social atmosphere of public middle school. She entered 9th grade with a good attitude and a lot of confidence.


August 14th, 2012
9:47 am

I really wanted my kids to go to Smoke Rise Prep, but applied too late. I think it is fantastic model – love the hybrid between homeschool and regular school. The small class size is a plus in my book. Hopefully we will be able to get in next year…..


August 14th, 2012
10:19 am

This is great. The more opportunities there are for alternative education, the more students there will be who can attain a good education in a manner that suits them. Not all students learn and exceed the same way… which means this isn’t going to work for all kids but I’m definitely happy that there are alternatives.

Anyone know what the stats are on the number of children home schooled in GA and what the increase has been in the last 10 years? I was talking to a couple of parents in our son’s Scout Troop about the increase in kids who are in private schools and home schooled; out of 31 boys in the troop, 9 go to private school and 6 are home schooled. Now I do think you’re getting a bit of a different flavor of boys in Scouts than the general population but I was still amazed to think that nearly half the boys do not go to public school. One of the parents is a public high school teacher and he expressed a lot of disappointment in the trend b/c the kids who are being pulled out are the ones who have involved, caring parents (not that there aren’t involved, caring parents of public school kids but rather most of the parents who pull their kids out are the ones who he doesn’t want to lose). There are some who pull their kids out b/c they are failing and they don’t want to learn but for the most part, the kids who are leaving are not the problem children.

Tonya C.

August 14th, 2012
10:30 am

I think it is a fantastic idea. I have a friend who works their and LOVES it. She was a talented teacher who left the public school system after two years because the behavior issues and bureaucracy. She is thriving in the environment and couldn’t be happier. The kids WANT to be there and it shows.


I am seeing the same trend. In the past, many of those who home-schooled were doing so to shelter their children for religious reasons. Although that is still the case for many, there are many more who are just fed up with the public school system for educational reasons. I have always considered home-schooling an option for my kids, and as a black person felt I was on the fringes for that line of thinking. What I am seeing more and more is more minorities signing up to home-school as well, and it is many of the people the parent you talked to described. These aren’t religious fanatics, they are parents who truly want the best for their children and will give anything to get them the education they need and deserve.


August 14th, 2012
10:37 am

The hybrid model seems like a really good fit for a lot of families, but I’m not quite ready to go that route. Does anyone know of some resources for students who are in public schools but would like to supplement the curriculum with organized field trips and other activities? I would love to find (or even create) an organization that pulls students together on weekends to do guided tours of museums or parks etc It would by organized by grade-level to supplement their curriculum. My daughter is a hands-on learner and learns so much at field trips but they just don’t seem to have many any more due to budget cuts. I make an effort to build in activities around town but I think it would be an even better experience for her if we did it with an organized group with a designated guide. Any ideas?


August 14th, 2012
10:38 am

Interesting. This is the church I grew up in, and my mom is still a deacon at it, and I had no idea this was there.


August 14th, 2012
10:39 am

I have one son in traditional public high school and one son in his second year of the Georgia Cyber Academy. I have heard of GCA families getting together to school their children. I love parents having options.

In my small neighborhood (28 homes) I know of 3 families (9 kids) with children attending GCA. I think we only have 7 or 8 families with school age children to begin with so roughly half are at home.

And, we live in a county that has very good public schools.

I guess that says something about how people are feeling about public school in Georgia.


August 14th, 2012
10:46 am

I texted my mom, and low and behold, she was on the committee that approved the school.

My mom is a retired middle school teacher (TWG, she spent 20 of her 30 years at Trickum), and is generally against homeschooling, so the fact that she calls this “a great thing” says a lot (to me at least).

K's Mom

August 14th, 2012
12:45 pm

One of the reasons we left Atlanta was the problems we saw with the public school system in all of the counties with “great” schools. I feel so fortunate to be in a smaller place where I have not heard one negative thing about the public schools here. I guess moving to a college town where there is an education mentality helps to create a good learning environment and leads to high parental involvement.

I am glad this type of forum exists for parents who are fed up, but want to put their tax dollars to good use!

Smoke Rise Mom

August 14th, 2012
1:03 pm

Theresa, the point is these parents who started it refused to send their children back into the toxic environment that Smoke Rise Elementary has become. What was born out of frustration with DeKalb County schools is becoming the model for the future. There has been another wave this year of parents of mostly (but not all) gifted & high achieving students pull out of Smoke Rise Elementary and opt for private, homeschool, or join Smoke Rise Prep. It’s amazing what can happen when parents get fed up.

Some seem to have the impression this school is affiliated with the church, I think they only rent space there. I know there is an excellent pre-school run by the church, but the prep school isn’t associated with it.


August 14th, 2012
1:05 pm

K’s Mom, are you in Georgia? Because I wouldn’t put my kids in public school in any of the counties that house our universities.

Another GCA Parent

August 14th, 2012
1:31 pm

Smoke Rise Mom hit the nail on the head. The brick & mortars are toxic. I have a good friend who is an elementary teacher in the public system. She politely but firmly told one of her young charges this morning where to place his/her belongings. Instead of following directions, the seven year old refused and then told her, “You are the worst teacher ever!”

Not all children are pulled out of the public system because of religious reasons or because they are gifted. Many of us parents don’t accept poor behavior from our children and are tired of seeing teachers struggle to maintain discipline in the classroom. We have limited their ability to do so. The kids are willing to learn. It’s our responsibility to provide the proper environment. The Smoke Rise program seems like a winning combination to me.

K's Mom

August 14th, 2012
1:53 pm

@jarvis, we are not in Georgia. My husband and I would have loved to have moved to Athens, but the public schools there are awful. We moved to Auburn, AL. I was very skeptical about whether the schools here would be good, but we did our research and the high school is ranked nationally and has an outstanding IB program and the elementary schools are tied in with the college of education and perform well. Again, we researched for about 2 years before deciding this is where we wanted to move and fortunately a fabulous job became available for my husband and we were able to pull the trigger.


August 14th, 2012
4:25 pm

We love it! We are in our second year at Smoke Rise Prep and it has been AMAZING! The k12 curriculum is wonderful and our prep teachers are great. Smaller class sizes are a huge bonus (there are 37 kids in the 5th grade classrooms where my child went to school before SR PREP) I love the smaller class sizes and smaller school. We are in control of her education and get to develop a very personal relationship with not only her classmates but also her teacher. There are wonderful volunteer opportunities for me, and since our school work comes from GCA if we go on vacation, or just need a day with Mom we can still do “school” and keep up.
I also like the fact that I have an exceptional teacher in her classroom to work with her online teacher. No “mom guessing’ and it gives me amazing resources when and if she struggles with a subject.
We rent space in Smoke Rise Baptist but not a part of the church. Smoke Rise Baptist Church has been a wonderful home for our prep school and they have been very gererous with us. It is part of their commitment to family and the community.

Go Owls!

August 14th, 2012
4:51 pm

I am ELATED by what Smoke Rise Prep has become. What began last (school) year with aprox 23 students has now become a school with nearly 70 students – in only 1 year of existence. This kind of progress speaks volumes about how we all feel about our neighborhood public schools. We also have families who commute to our school from other school districts. So, it wasn’t only Smoke Rise Elem that we were fed up with.

For a very affordable fee our kids go to school every day at 8:30 and are dismissed at 2:30 – Monday through Friday. We aren’t affiliated with the church that houses us – although we appreciate them so much for all they do for us and our children. There are classrooms – by grade. Each class has a certified teacher, desks, art on the walls, books, cubby holes – you name it! The kids have a lunchroom, recess and they wear uniforms. They study every subject both online and with the in-class teacher’s instruction. They don’t spend the entire school sitting at a computer by any means. GCA has been so wonderful to coordinate with Smoke Rise Prep to make sure that it’s a smooth experience for all parties.

It’s the most peaceful, sweet, happy environment at Smoke Rise Prep. The kids also have the most fantastic art classes as part of the cirriculum, too – taught by artists who are also our parents. Add that we have a gardening club, chess club and robotics club – SRP has everything that a young mind needs.

To be able to offer affordable and quality education in our community is something that will help raise our property values while helping us raise fantastic, well rounded children. I encourage parents in ALL COMMUNITIES to try to put something like this together. If you feel like you’re held captive by your local public schools – think again.

Come take a tour sometime. You’ll love what you see!

Once Again

August 14th, 2012
5:03 pm

This is but one example of the literally limitless possibilities that could and would be available to everyone if we eliminated the government’s involvement in education. Whatever the purpose for having licensed teachers (state approval to do a job is another topic for another day), these folks have seen a need and are addressing it – the way the free market does. They are delivering a relatively low cost, high quality alternative to the current mess and they have willing customers who not only are democratically voting with their dollars, but who can cast a different vote anytime they wish to take those dollars and leave.

We marvel at the blessings of what the free market delivers us every day for most everything else we buy. Isn’t it high time to see what wonderful things the free market could deliver in education??

Pro Prep

August 14th, 2012
5:11 pm

Smoke Rise Prep is definitely meeting some needs the local schools are not able to meet We are able to empower our teachers to actually teach. There are no useless committees or mountains of paperwork so they come each day energized to help the students learn. It is the parents that make it so great too. In order to do this, you have to be willing to partner with the teacher and education must be valued in your home. So from a group of caring parents and taleneted teachers, we are excited to offer this alternative at an affordable rate. We have a few openings, so if this sounds like a good fit for your family, come join us.

No skin in this particular game

August 14th, 2012
8:29 pm

“This is but one example of the literally limitless possibilities that could and would be available to everyone if we eliminated the government’s involvement in education.” Eliminate the government’s involvement in education? A rather draconian statement, to say the least. In many areas of the country (Primarily within blue states, I hate to tell you), the government’s involvement in education serves the population quite well, indeed. However, like everything else, quality costs. You get what you pay for, and you pay for what you get – and by that, I am referring to school taxes. When people balk at paying school taxes at a viable rate, this is what you get. Certainly, there are demographic issues involved that come into play in this state as well, but to make a statement like that (within the context of the state of Georgia, in particular) seems a bit disconnected and unrealistic.

Class of 1990

August 14th, 2012
9:17 pm

Just really, really dull…. Theresa, you can do better


August 14th, 2012
11:04 pm

We went there for ITBS testing last year, but didn’t know that the kids at the school were also part of GCA (which makes sense as they also tested in the same rooms). The kids definitely appeared more (let me choose my adjectives carefully here because I mean to say only positive things) aware and orderly than our rowdy bunch – but many kids might behave a bit more orderly if they spent their time in the hushed environs of a church all day. I could see some of their (amazing) artwork on display, as well as observe that they were lovingly supervised by the adults who directed and encouraged them throughout the testing period. The phrase “in the world, but not of the world” comes to mind when I think back to how well behaved those kids were, but still just regular little kids.

Our motley band of has some GCA, some unschoolers, Eagle’s nest and public schoolers (because charter schools and homeschools aren’t for every kid in every family). We organize (or share information about) PE, art, world languages, music, academic competitions – anything that interest the kids that parents wish to pay for. The difference being that our group is free and the kids definitely don’t see each other as frequently as daily – which the more social ones definitely miss at times.

Kudos to the parents, administrators, facilitators, volunteers, supporters and students of Smoke Rise. I look forward to seeing you around ITBS time again this year.

Once Again

August 15th, 2012
11:31 am

No skin in this particular game – After 100 years of abject failure, a statement like “get government completely out of education” seems pretty sane and certainly not draconian. Education will be provided and the free market is the best mechanism to make it happen in a quality manner that serves everyone’s needs the best. Government does not exist to serve customers. It only exists to justify its own existence.


August 17th, 2012
5:37 pm

According to an email I recently received regarding the new attendance documentation laws for homeschoolers in GA, there are around 25,000 homeschool families in GA. From what I understand, that does Not count those who use GA Cyber Academy which is an alternative school and so is actually part of the public school system as far as attendance reporting goes. I could easily see the number of families who are, in effect, homeschooling being well over 30,000 families when you add in those who are doing GCA at home. By the way, notice that is ‘families’. So the number of children is significantly higher than that. (For example, our family has 3 kids being homeschooled.)

SRP parent

August 17th, 2012
11:45 pm

Theresa, thanks so much for asking! As one of the co-founding parents of Smoke Rise Prep, I can answer that the “point” of the program is different for almost every family who joins. Our mission statement tells why we founded SRP. To develop students who think critically and act responsibly… by providing a unique and dynamic approach to education that stimulates minds while developing the values of responsible citizenship and respect for others. These are the things the founders felt our kids weren’t getting elsewhere. For me, discipline problems in public schools are at an unacceptable level, and with administrations’ hands tied, i dont see any immediate improvements on the horizon. I wanted to put my kids in an environment where everyone is not only expected to treat each other respectfully, but is also taught the skills to know what it looks and feels like to do so. I wanted to be able to stay in our community so my kids were not riding across town to private schools half of the day, and I wanted to remain part of the public school system. Others wanted their gifted children to be challenged more, and still others were looking for smaller, more intimate class sizes, or the opportunity to be more involved in their child’s education. Some of us were working parents who liked the GCA model but couldn’t be home enough to lead it ourselves, some were work-at-home moms who had babies at home or didn’t feel motivated or qualified to teach our own kids, others were already homeschooling and joined SRP for the socialization.

People often think that we are “running away” from something, and perhaps that was the case for some in the beginning. But whatever the”point” of anyone’s joining SRP, we are staying for the same reasons. Our children are happy. They are socialized but not bullied. They are learning and enjoying it. Their CRCT scores are far above average, with everyone meeting or exceeding state standards, and most exceeding. They feel safe. As parents, we have the flexibility to be at their school every day all day, or drop them off at 8:30 and pick them up at 2:30. Either way, we always know what they’re working on and can jump in anytime. If we want to take our family to Fiji for a month, our kids just need their laptops and an internet conection to attend school every day while we are there. We are staying because it is working. And when we run into something that doesn’t work? There’s no mile long list of bureaucracy to go through… We just change it to something that does! We are so grateful for the opportunity that GCA has provided us to create this environment for our families! Thanks for sharing our model with others out there who may be looking for options in their community. If we can do it, anyone can!

SRP parent

August 17th, 2012
11:58 pm

Class of 1990…I challenge you to come spend a day with me at SRP and leave with the same opinion!