Clonlara School Review

Do you know that there is an online/distance school that embraces  homeschooling values, and has fought for your rights to homeschool? And do you know, this school has done so for DECADES! Yes, DECADES! Read on to learn more about our Clonlara School Review.

Clonlara has been an advocate of homeschooling for DECADES (and that’s why I’m thrilled to do this review):

First, a little history.  (You’ll want to read this because it’s really interesting!)

Clonlara School was founded in 1967 by Pat Montgomery. The Clonlara School philosophy was (and still is) – a school must empower students to participate purposefully and eagerly in their own education (sounds a lot like homeschooling, doesn’t it?).

And there’s more similarities!  The Clonlara philosophy includes the following (which all sound like homeschooling to me!):

  • Learning begins with curiosity and children learn best when their interests guide their activities.
  • The world is the classroom and the learning environment is integral to the learning process. Academic learning and the mastery of skills are not limited by the location in which they are sought
  • Parents have the right and ability to educate their own children.
  • Education’s major goal is to instill a lifelong love of learning.

Clonlara’s off-campus program (more on this program below) was first called the Home Based Education Program.  It began in 1979, after a family asked Pat to help them teach their 9-year-old at home using the same methods she used at Clonlara School.  Pat’s vision for the Home Based Education Program was to foster students’ independence and self-confidence by encouraging them to embrace responsibility for their own education.

So, you can see, Clonlara has always been a homeschool advocate.

Then, in the 1980’s, Pat filed a lawsuit on behalf of Clonlara School and home educating families against the Michigan State Board of Education (Clonlara, Inc. v. State Board of Education). Clonlara contended that the school officials were enforcing public school policies against parents educating their children at home as if those policies were law. Clonlara won its case at the first level, the Michigan Circuit Court. The state appealed. Clonlara won once again in the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the state appealed again. Finally, in 1993, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Clonlara’s claim was correct: the State Board of Education was attempting to enforce laws that did not exist.

The decision rendered by the Michigan Supreme Court in Clonlara’s favor set legal precedent, and was a coup for homeschooling families across the nation.  WOW!

Need MORE reasons to appreciate Clonlara?

How about this? Clonlara uses brain-based education methods.

From Executive Director Chandra Montgomery Nicol (Pat’s daughter): “Current research on the brain and learning has illuminated what Clonlara staff and families have known through intuition for generations—the value of putting students at the center of the learning process and letting their interests guide their educational experience. We have taken that knowledge and systematized our practices into a model called Full Circle Learning, which builds a true foundation for learning.” 

FYI, Brain-Based Education Embraces the Following:

1. Curiosity Primes the Brain for Learning
Studies in the field of neuroscience have shown that being curious about what we are learning activates the portions of the brain responsible for experiencing reward and pleasure, as well as creating memories. Thus, not only are curious students more apt to enjoy the learning process, which in turn drives them to take initiative and work harder along the way, they are also more likely to remember what they have learned about topics that spark their curiosity.

That’s why Clonlara crafts an educational plan around their students’ unique interests and goals.

2. “Thinking About Thinking” (or metacognition) Enables Students to Become More Independent Learners

Metacognition—thinking about one’s thinking—enables students to adjust their learning process when necessary to overcome obstacles or to experience a deeper understanding of what they are learning. Research shows that students who use metacognitive strategies experience increased independence and learning success throughout their schooling.

Metacognition is integral to Clonlara’s Full Circle Learning Method.

3. Movement Boosts Learning, Memory, and More

Studies have shown that physical activity brings about both chemical and structural changes within the brain, and as a result improves memory, increases attention, reduces stress, promotes a positive outlook, and boosts creativity.

Clonlara students are not confined to studying at a desk or even in a classroom. They are encouraged to freely engage in play and projects that connect to their academic interests, and they actively participate in decisions about when, where, and how they will achieve their learning goals—incorporating field trips and other physical activity into their daily schedules

Clonlara offers TWO homeschooling programs that might be of interest – an off-campus program and an online program.

In both, students can enroll full time, for a semester or take individual courses.

So, what’s the difference?

Clonlara School Review

Clonlara’s off-campus program does not have a pre-set curriculum and students are not locked into a specific textbook or online course.  Instead, it is a student- and family-led learning program.

The student and the family work closely with a Clonlara advisor to design an educational plan that fits the student’s unique needs.  Students and parents share info regarding the child’s interests, learning style, talents, and goals. The advisor then gives input regarding subjects, ways to approach learning, educational materials, resources, etc. Once subjects and curriculum have been chosen, the parents oversee their child’s learning and submit two progress reports each year.

For grades K-8, report cards can be issued upon request. For high school students,  parents and students complete a credit request form for each course the student completes, which the advisor reviews prior to issuing high school credit. Students receive an accredited private school diploma upon completion of the graduation requirements.

High school students who are enrolled in Clonlara’s off-campus program can take individual courses from the Clonlara School online program.  You can check out the high school course catalog (pdf) for course descriptions.

So, who does this work well for? The off-campus program serves homeschoolers, athletes, artists, dancers, musicians, gifted students, students with learning differences, adventurers, inventors, free-spirits, those needing flexible schedules, and many more.

What do we like about the off-campus program?

  • The introductory/beginning resources are good – each family receives an Education Guide that contains an overview of how the program works, learning styles, types of educational resources, approaches to schooling, and a quick step guide to getting started. This is especially helpful for new homeschoolers that might not be aware that there are different types of learning styles.
  • The initial consultation process is exceptional. During this time, parents and students complete questionnaires about the student’s curiosities, strengths, interests, talents, learning style, needs, and goals. These questionnaires help the Clonlara advisor individualize the educational plan for the student. Again, this is especially beneficial for new homeschoolers.
  • Clonlara provides customized recommendations.  After the consultation, advisors send customized recommendations for learning tools and resources  – based on the student’s learning style, goals, and interests.
  • Students are required to design a course of their choosing – pretty cool!
  • The student/family/advisor interaction is nice – students and parents can contact advisors whenever they feel the need; and advisors check in a couple times each semester to see how things are going.
  • There’s a dual enrollment program so any student in grades K-12 can concurrently enroll in the off-campus program and in another school (and the student can take Clonlara online courses too). Clonlara can grant credit and have the credit transferred to the other school, or they can accept credits toward a Clonlara diploma from other accredited schools. This works really great with dual-credit opportunities (junior college courses in high school).
  • Clonlara is fully accredited –accredited by the following organizations: Accreditation International (Ai), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA-CESS), and the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA). This doesn’t matter to a lot of homeschoolers, but to others, it does.  Again, a new homeschooler might find great comfort in this.
  • Elementary students receive report cards, and high school students receive transcripts and a diploma upon graduation. The school registrar puts approved credits on the student’s transcript and maintains records. This again, might not matter to seasoned homeschoolers – but it’s certainly valuable to newbies.
  • Students are considered private school students and can transfer easily to other public/private schools.
  • Clonlara offers standardized testing, but doesn’t require it.  A plus for any homeschooler (newbie or seasoned) – since parents have the choice.

Clonlara School Review

The Clonlara School’s online program is an educational option for students who are looking for ready-to-go courses.  Clonlara offers a wide variety of self-paced, flexible, teacher supported online courses for students in grades 5 – 12.  In fact, there are 26 middle school courses  and 82 high school level courses.

Full time middle school students choose 4 courses from the Online Program Course Catalog (pdf) for the year. Each middle student also gets:

  • Access 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a full year to the program’s Teacher Supported Online Learning Curriculum Courses.
  • Access to a teacher for each individual course.  Teacher support includes lesson review, grading, teacher comments and answers to individual questions.
  • Full enrollment in the Clonlara School off-campus program including educational guidance and support from a Clonlara advisor.  The advisor will help the student determine his/her learning style, set educational goals, support and monitor the student’s progress, and assist in the design of a course that will be student will create herself.
  • Official private school records and documentation.

Full time high school students choose 5 courses for the year, from this catalog. They also have:

  • Access 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a full year to the program’s Teacher Supported Online Learning Curriculum Courses.
  • Access to a teacher for each individual course.  Teacher support includes lesson review, grading, teacher comments, and answers to individual questions.
  • Full enrollment in the Clonlara School off-campus program including educational guidance and support from a Clonlara advisor. Students create their own one full credit or two half credit courses to fulfill one credit of self-designed coursework.  I think this is very cool.
  • Official private school records, documentation and transcripts.
  • Accredited diploma upon completion of Clonlara’s graduation requirements.
  • Access to the Clonlara Commons — a web portal which contains online forms and enables high school students to view their transcripts.

What do we like about the online program?

Pretty much everything we’ve already stated!

If you have questions, just click on the graphic below for more information.

Clonlara School Review

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