Columbia Gorge HomeLink proposal continues to gain community support

Group organizer says about 114 students are ‘very interested’

After learning that River HomeLink in Camas would be moving back to Brush Prairie, within the Battle Ground School District a group of parents got together to see what could be done about it.

The result of this meeting was the concept for Columbia Gorge HomeLink, a similar program, which would be located somewhere in the Camas or Washougal area.

Local couple Janelle and David Stanton are spearheading the effort to start a new program.

River HomeLink was classified as an “alternative learning experience,” by the state. While it was under the umbrella of the Battle Ground School District, there was also heavy parental support. This is described as a “parent-public school partnership.” Program supporters said it offers the best of both worlds.

“You have a student-teacher ratio that is unattainable in a public school, while still having the choice to home school your children at the same time,” David Stanton said. “They can attend as many or as few classes as they want to. For example, I wouldn’t want to teach my kid math. That’s where they really benefit from a certified teacher who is an expert in the subject. Also, as they get older, the kids have educational consultants who make sure they are on the right track to graduate. It adds accountability to a home-based program.”

Janelle Stanton said that although she is a certified teacher, it is nice to have someone else for her children to receive feedback.

“It’s good for my kids to learn they also have accountability to others,” she said.

The Stantons have three children: Abraham, 17, Daniel, 13, and Annie, 12.

David Stanton said that the opportunity to attend River HomeLink was a “Godsend” for their children, particularly Abraham, who has severe physical and cognitive disabilities and has been in the hospital 40 times.

“He sometimes is hospitalized for weeks or months at a time, and he can still learn at his own pace,” he said. “When Abraham goes back to school, he isn’t playing catch up.”

Madeleine Bowman is another parent who supports the concept. After her son Eli was bullied in public school, she began to home school him, then enrolled him at River HomeLink.

“The mindset of the kids there is very different than a traditional public school,” she said. “Plus, parental support is very strong, so kids don’t get away with the things they would in another setting. It’s really a pretty joyous experience.”

April Boneski has three children, Anna, 16, Richard, 14, and Samuel, 12, all of whom attended River HomeLink. She taught writing to the middle school classes this past year.

“The kids really became a great team of learners and encouraged each other,” she said. “The environment just makes it a great, safe place to learn. I have precious friends who have wonderful kids in public school. I think people have this impression that we think public education is bad, and that’s not the case. We just want to offer more choices for parents.”

David Stanton agreed.

“It’s not competing with public schools,” he said. “It’s a complimentary program.”

So far, the group has approached the Skamania and Mount Pleasant school boards to see about the possibility of a HomeLink program, and have done a presentation to the Education Service District 112 in Vancouver. The Washougal School Board is also on their list.

There is nothing certain yet, but group organizers are hopeful to have a building by fall 2012, preferably at low or no cost.

“This is too good of a program to have it go away,” Janelle Stanton said.

Columbia Gorge Home- Link will have a booth set up at Camas Days this Friday and Saturday for those who are interested in learning more about the program.

For more information, call 852-4649 or e-mail columbiagorgehomelink@wildblue.net.