Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed President and CEO of Bridgeway Academy Jessica Parnell to the newsmakers line to discuss her company’s 31 years in successful homeschooling options for parents and their children.
Leahy: And on our newsmaker line Jessica Parnell with The Homeschool Academy. I guess it’s called Bridgeway Academy. Doing some great stuff in the field of education. Jessica, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.
Parnell: Thank you. Michael. It’s great to be here.
Leahy: Tell us about the home school academy and I guess it’s called your company’s called what Edovate and Bridgeway is the over program that is involved in this? Tell us about this.
Parnell: Sure. Edovate learning program is our parent company. And under that we have actually three different divisions that serve homeschoolers. Bridgeway Academy is one. And then we also have Elephango.com, which is a fantastic online resource for parents to help provide education in a different way for their students. and then we have curriculum Express which is a curriculum warehouse where parents or schools can order curriculum directly delivered to their home and homeschool independently.
Leahy: Now, you’ve been in business for how long?
Parnell: We have been in business for 31 years.
Leahy: No kidding. That’s a long time to be in this space. If somebody’s homeschooling. How does this work? What would they do to take advantage of what your offerings are?
Parnell: Sure. I think the first step that a parent needs to make when they consider homeschooling is to just ensure that they’re willing to be involved in the education process. The reason we see such success in home education is because the parents are engaged and they’re working with their children. So if they’re interested and want to know more about home education they can certainly give us a call here at Bridgeway Academy. They can check out our blog post with all sorts of articles and how to’s on getting started.
But first again commit to the time involved. And then you want to get to know your child because the beauty of homeschooling is you are tailoring education to your child and what works for them. There is no one-size-fits-all in home education. And that’s the number one reason why home way homeschoolers just do so well.
Leahy: Now online I’m looking at homeschoolacademy.com is that the official Bridgeway website?
Parnell: Yes it is.
Leahy: Now what is the cost of this program? If any homeschoolers out there are interested in doing this, how much does it cost?
Parnell: Well, that’s a tough question because we have so many different programs with Bridgeway Academy. Parents can choose to homeschool independently and there in Tennessee there are local organizations that can help them. So some parents that choose to do independently and they simply purchase their curriculum from us or they purchase our customized placement process, which is where we test the students learning style.
We get to know their personality style. We look at the ideal environment. We talked with parents and we understand the Dynamics of that home. And then we design a home education program that meets all of those factors as well as what the student wants to do as they look into the future. And then they can do that. They can take that package and work independently or with a local organization.
And that complete kit with all of that consulting and the curriculum for the school year runs at about $900. Now a parent can also choose to enroll fully with Bridgeway Academy where we support them all year long. They have a personal go-to person a one-on-one person that works with them all year long, keeps their records for them, and helps them when a student doesn’t understand something.
And they have that support all year long. And that varies by grade level. But on our website, as you said you can type in Bridgeway Academy, or you can type in homeschoolacademy.com there on that website and Just select the Bridgeway Academy program and you can get a look at all of the options as well as the pricing.
Leahy: And now is your curriculum delivered just sort of it online in sort of a PDF format or is it YouTube? How is it delivered?
Parnell: It’s delivered again in variety. There are some families who don’t want any online education. And so we provide them with a full textbook program. We have families who want everything online and in which case it is a variety of media support for those programs. The learning is online. And then we have families who want live online so they can actually have their students jump on with teachers and students from around the world and take it. And once a week, they meet once a week or once or twice a week depending on the grade level and then they work independently offline for the remainder of the week.
Leahy: Now since the pandemic have you seen an increase in participation in your program?
Parnell: We sure have yes. We’ve had many families just looking for an option. Some because they just didn’t even want to consider school. Some because they were unhappy because in the spring semester when they started to see what was being taught in the school whether that was they didn’t think it was enough for they were concerned about the agenda underneath the lessons. Or they just thought their kid was either behind or ahead of what was being taught. They were looking for another option. So we did see a big bump going into this new school year.
Leahy: So online schooling in public schools has been widely panned as being ineffective. I don’t think anybody that I’ve seen has praised the public school online experience. And yet it looks like your online experience has been increasingly well-received. What are the main differences?
Parnell: Well, I think first it is the experience. So we’ve been doing this for so many years that the pandemic wasn’t a surprise to us. And we have public school teachers that are extremely excellent teachers that just want the best for their kids but are thrown into something that’s brand new to them and they’re doing what they can but it was new and it was something they’re still trying to navigate whereas with Bridgeway Academy we’ve been doing this for 31 years. We’ve been in online education since the really early 2000s. And we’ve learned a thing or two along the way and have been able to really tailor that online experience to what works in this home education setting.
Leahy: Now how many students do you serve around the country in K-12?
Parnell: Complete total numbers were close to 10,000 students that are fully enrolled in Bridgeway Academy where we are supporting them every step of the way. We are just about at 3,000.
Leahy: And now you have a K-12 program. what has been the college entry experience of graduates of Bridgeway Academy? Also online at homeschool academy.com.
Parnell: I’m glad you asked. Our students are very well-received. We’ve had them into the Ivy League schools to State schools to private schools and actually recruited by many schools for their academic achievements. As well as many of them because of the freedom of homeschooling have an opportunity to do some amazing things while they’re still in high school.
We’ve had individuals start special chapters of organizations. We’ve had one actually discovered from a new and I don’t know chemistry well, but some new chemical formula, and she was heavily recruited by other schools. And they have the ability to pursue their personal excellence while they’re in high school. And it really helps really hone them as they look to the future as well.
Leahy: Now you’re based in Pennsylvania, but this is available nationally correct? Every state including Tennessee?
Parnell: Every state including Tennessee and around the world.
Leahy: Interesting. What is the impact on charter school students? What relationship do you have with students in charter schools?
Parnell: Well we actually have a few partnerships with some charter schools that were looking for assistance with this home education model. So we actually provide some live classes for several charter schools. We also provide a curriculum for them with that home education focus. And we have one public school that actually also takes care of their homeschooling through us so that they can have that very homeschool focus.
Leahy: Very interesting. Carol Swain is a former professor at Vanderbilt and leader in education Innovation. She’s in studio with us. Carol you have any questions for Jessica?
Swain: I’m a proponent of homeschooling and I think every parent engages in homeschooling when they interact with their children. It can be positive or negative. And I’m I see the upswing or interest in homeschooling as one of the positives that have come out of the pandemic
Parnell: Yes, I would definitely agree. And I think you were the individual who said earlier that we need people that stand on principle. We have many that do it for that reason. So it’s exciting to see parents saying, you know I can do this better and I’m going to commit my energies to my children to make sure that their future is wide open.
Leahy: Jessica Parnell, CEO of Edovate and Bridgeway Academy on the web at homeschoolacademy.com. Thanks for joining us and we hope you come back sometime.
Parnell: Thank you and it was good to be here.
Listen to the third hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Jessica Parnell” by Bridgeway.