In 1992, a group of Christian homeschooling parents who desired to remain active in their children’s lives but also ensure their academic college readiness designed a new way of schooling: the University-Model (UM). The first UM school, Grace Preparatory Academy, opened its doors in Arlington, Texas, in the fall of 1993, offering the new concept that combined educators’ expertise and parents’ presence, stewarding both voices in a child’s education. University-Model schools cannot exist without parent partnerships. Educators and parents collaborate with and rely on one another to ensure students’ success. The outcome? Extremely engaged learners.
In this article, I will discuss three areas where parent partnerships are carried out in exceptional ways in University-Model schools: discipleship, self-regulation, and communication. While this model is unique in educator-parent collaboration, I will include implications for how traditional schools can also raise parent engagement in each of the three areas. To remain unbiased, due to my own family’s University-Model school experiences, I asked a few UM participants—two moms and four students—to share their experiences as well.
In a 2017 Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) report, Multiple Choice: How Parents Sort Education Options in a Changing Market, 68 percent of parents chose “strong principles and values” as their primary goal of education. In order to nurture these strong principles and values by partnering with a Christian school in the discipling of their children, University-Model parents are committed to investing time and finances.
School hours in traditional schools are generally from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Although in-person days in a University-Model school are the same hours, students only physically attend school two or three days a week. Primary and elementary students (K–6) attend school in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while secondary students (7–12) attend campus on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. On those days, highly qualified educators teach new content to students, who then go home and practice learned content on their own with the help of their co-teacher (parent) on satellite days (at-home school days). This increased time with their children during the academic years provides parents extended opportunities for discipleship in everyday moments.
Because this type of learning is different from a traditional school, a family interview is conducted prior to acceptance where this commitment (and gift!) of time is thoroughly discussed. School leaders continually challenge families to use the gift of time particular to a UM school to instill strong values and point their children to Jesus during pivotal developmental years. Satellite days provide parents a unique opportunity to influence their children’s academic, social, emotional, and spiritual development.
UM schools are Christian private schools with fees resembling traditional Christian schools. In addition to that fee, however, is the necessity of a parent’s presence during satellite days. In previous research where I interviewed seven UM parents to find the leading factors for choosing a UM school, I learned there are varieties of ways families make this piece work (Cagle). For example, in one family, the mom worked part time and only on the days her child was at school, while the dad worked full time. In another family, the couple scheduled their work around one another. The husband worked on the days his wife was off, and vice versa. Of the seven interviewed parents, only two participants were stay-at-home parents. These findings are evidence of the flexibility families can have during their children’s academic years.
Parents are willing to make these financial commitments because they recognize the importance of a Christian education and also desire the gift of time to disciple their children throughout their academic years. With this unique design, parents and educators must align biblically in principles and values, as both have ample discipleship opportunities in the student’s life.
The second area where UM parents partner with educators to further develop their children’s learning is through self-regulation. Unlike skills children develop on their own, like walking and talking, self-regulation skills must be taught by parents. According to Dale Schunk and Barry Zimmerman (2008), “Self-regulated learning (or self-regulation) refers to the process by which learners personally activate and sustain cognitions, affects, and behaviors that are systematically oriented toward the attainment of learning goals” (vii). In other words, it is when individuals take charge of their own learning journey. Although additional areas are studied, Zimmerman (1998) lists the following self-regulation skills as the most popular: a) goal setting, b) task strategies, c) imagery, d) self-instruction, e) time management, f) self-monitoring, g) self-evaluation, h) self-consequences, i) environmental structuring, and j) help seeking.
Self-regulation in these areas is tremendously evident in UM students, primarily because parents play an integral part in their learning, comprehension, and development processes. This is an abridged version of this article. To read more, subscribe to the print or digital edition of Christian Educators Journal.
Barna Group. Multiple Choice: How Parents Sort Education Options in a Changing Market.
Association of Christian Schools International, 2017.
Cagle, Kelly S. “COVID-19 Lessons from a Mother’s Perspective.” Christian Educators Journal,
vol. 61, no. 1, October 2021, pp. 32–36.
Cagle, Kelly S. “School Choice and University-Model Schools: A Phenomenological
Study.” Journal of Research on Christian Education, vol. 30, 21 June 2021, pp. 144–59.
Schunk, Dale H., and Barry Zimmerman. Motivation and Self-Regulated Learning: Theory,
Research, and Applications. Taylor & Francis Group, 2008.
Zimmerman, Barry J. “Academic Studying and the Development of Personal Skill: A
Self-Regulatory Perspective.” Educational Psychologist, vol. 33, 1998, pp. 73–86.
Personal interviews with UM mothers occurred on August 4, 2023.
Personal interviews with UM students occurred on September 12–13, 2023.
Dr. Kelly Cagle equips parents during their child’s academic years to bring learning to everyday moments and raise lifelong learners. Find her services at drkellycagle.com; follow her work on Instagram @drkellycagle; and subscribe to her podcast, Parenting IQ.