What do Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood, Olympic ice dancer Tanith Belbin, and American Idol singer Jordin Sparks have in common? They were all homeschooled! And interestingly, each of these famous young people homeschooled through Laurel Springs School.
When it comes to education, all parents want the best for their children, which is one reason why so many families choose homeschooling. For others, it is also a necessity. Child actors, performers, and athletes following their dreams must obtain their education through alternate means. Homeschooling gives them the flexibility to reach for their goals while they are still “going to school.” In this case, the student’s place of study may be in their home or in another location that suits their needs and lifestyle.
Some homeschoolers decide to use a distance learning or correspondence program. This way, not only will the children benefit from receiving a quality education, the parents also benefit from the ready-to-use format of the school’s curriculum. Distance learning has always been a popular option for students pursuing sports or acting careers, gifted and talented students, special needs or homebound kids, families living abroad, military families, homeschoolers looking for extra support, and anyone who prefers an alternative to traditional schools.
Founded in 1991, Laurel Springs School www.laurelsprings.com is an accredited K-12 college prep distance learning school based in Ojai, California, providing a standards-based private school education at home to thousands of students across the country and around the world.
Laurel Springs is often called the “School of the Stars” because of its famous alumni, yet their students come from many different backgrounds. The school views all of its students as “stars” in their own right, each with his or her own special talents. Laurel Springs offers a personalized approach to education by honoring each student’s unique learning style, adapting their teaching methods to meet students’ needs, and creating a customized curriculum program that that nurtures students’ academic and extracurricular goals.
In 1994, Laurel Springs earned the distinction of becoming one of the first schools in the United States to successfully develop an online curriculum. In 1996, on NBC Television’s Today Show, Bryant Gumbel dubbed Laurel Springs the educational “wave of the future.”
Their web-based 5th-12th grade core online courses combine the dynamic interactivity of the Internet with online as well as off-line assignments. For more traditional learners, they also offer a comprehensive text-based program for students in grades 4th-12th. In addition, Laurel Springs has a project-based curriculum for K – 8th grades, which is ideal for students who want options and variety in their learning assignments.
Students may receive elective credit for research, tutorials, workshops, seminars, conferences, private classes, religious studies, and community service. Students need to document these courses or activities and complete a certain number of hours in order to receive credit for them. The school provides portfolios with instructions, forms, and a journal for students to document their work.
With traditional homeschooling, the primary teacher is usually the parent who has to build a curriculum, keep records, and create transcripts. Enrolling in Laurel Springs, on the other hand, is like having your own private school at home. Laurel Springs provides all of the basics such as accreditation, books, study guides, records, transcripts, diplomas, one-to-one teachers, and support. Nevertheless, a parent or guardian’s committed participation is essential to making the child’s experience a success.
The parent helps the student organize and structure his or her life, establishes a proper working environment, sets up a schedule, ensures that the student has the necessary tools and materials, verifies that the course work is being submitted in a satisfactory manner (including correcting a child’s math assignments), monitors student progress, and acts as the student’s learning companion and advocate.
Laurel Springs‘ curriculum is designed to be easy to use for parents who are teaching their children, and can be a learning experience for the entire family. It is also designed to be more and more self-taught as the student progresses. With the strong base provided by homeschoolingthrough Laurel Springs, students are effectively equipped to branch out into independent learning experiences in high school.
Laurel Springs also offers the opportunity to become part of a thriving community. Kids can join the school’s Pen Pal program and develop a friendship with one or more fellow students. This enables them to learn how and why other kids their age are learning at home. Or, they may want to write to someone older and develop a mentor/mentee relationship. Middle school and high school students can join virtual online clubs such as astronomy, book club, creative writing, debate, French, music, technology, and more, to connect with peers who have similar interests.
The Laurel Springs Mission Statement reads: “We believe that each child is a unique human being, and a recognizable learning style. We know that children receive optimum benefit from an educational process that values them as individuals and provides a personalized approach to learning. We work to encourage their natural curiosity, their innate enthusiasm for learning and their dreams. Laurel Springs School believes in and encourages lifelong learning and the enthusiasm for fulfilling lifetime dreams.”
Laurel Springs proudly names the following students and alumni as a living example of the success of that mission:
Ben Agosto – 2006 Olympic silver medalist ice dancer and participant in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics with partner Tanith Belbin.
Maria Anisimova – tennis player
Tanith Belbin – 2006 Olympic silver medalist ice dancer and participant in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics with partner Ben Agosto.
Julia Boserup – junior tennis player, 2008 Orange Bowl Champion
Gail Brodsky – teen tennis champion
Julia Cohen – selected as Rookie of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association
Chad Compton – Top Junior Surfer in the U.S.
Jordan Cox – professional tennis player
Kellen Damico – Wimbledon Junior Doubles Champion
Alanna & Gennelle Dedek – identical twin sisters, two-times National Dance Champions in tap
Kellen Domico – tennis player; he and Nathaniel Schnugg won the junior boys doubles title at Wimbledon in 2006
Amanda Fink – tennis player who won a Pac-10 Team Championship, Pac-10 Singles Championship, and Pac-10 Doubles Championship all in the same year (2009)
Alexa Glatch – professional American tennis player
Chelsey Gullickson – one of the top American junior tennis players
Steele Johnson – diver, US National Team, 10 time Jr. National Champion, 4 time Jr. Pan Am Champion, highest ranking US junior platform diver
Madison and Kiefer Hubbell – sibling ice dancers
Austin Krajicek – Texas A&M tennis star
Asia Muhammed – junior tennis player
Katie Orscher – award-winning figure skater who competed as a single skater and pair skater
Dane Reynolds – professional surfer known for his acrobatic free-surf style punctuated by cartoonish twists, turns, and aerial maneuvers
Nathaniel Schnugg – tennis player; he and Kellen Domico won the junior boys doubles title at Wimbledon in 2006
Carla Tamborini – International Junior Singles and Doubles Tennis Champion
Kaitlyn Weaver – American-Canadian ice dancer; winner of the 2010 Four Continents Figure Skating Championship
Isabella Acres – young actress who discovered her love for acting in children’s theater.
Taylor Atelian – teen actress trained in tap, ballet and jazz
Thora Birch – actress who appeared in one of the “classic” California raisin commercials in 1986 (at age 4), as well as other commercials including Quaker Oats.
Bow Wow – rapper and actor formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow
Abigail Breslin – Academy Award nominated actress
Spencer Breslin – teen actor and musician
Chris Brown – singer
Adam Cagley – American actor on “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”
Aaron Carter – Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter
Dean Collins – young actor and singer
Scout Taylor Compton – actress and singer
Rachael Leigh Cook – model and actress who starred in a “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” public-service television advertisement in which she smashes everything in her kitchen with a frying pan.
Miranda Cosgrove – actress and pop rock recording artist
Dakota Fanning – actress who played Fern in “Charlotte’s Web”
Brianna Haynes – singer
Toby Hemingway – British actor known for his role as Reid Garwin in “The Covenant”
Jennifer Love Hewitt – actress and singer
Miko Hughes – best known on film for his dramatic portrayal of an autistic boy in Mercury Rising
Josh Hutcherson – won a Young Artist Award for Leading Young Actor for his role in Bridge to Terabithia
Nicole Jung – member of Korean girl group KARA
Lindsay Lohan – actress and singer
Monet – singer
Chloe Grace Moretz – three-time winner of the Young Artist Award, presented to talented young people in television and movies who might otherwise be overshadowed by their older co-stars.
Trevor Morgan – American actor
Diandra Newlin – actress, singer, and model
Emily Osment – actress, singer/songwriter who gained fame for role as Gerti Giggles in Spy Kids 2 and Spy Kids 3-D
Hayden Panettiere – young actress; one of her first roles was the voice of “Dot” in A Bug’s Life (1998).
Jewel and Blaire Restaneo – sister singers
Emma Roberts – as a child, she spent a lot of time on the sets of the films in which her father Eric Roberts and aunt Julia Roberts were starring. These experiences sparked a desire in Emma, from the age of five, to follow her father and aunt into the film industry.
MacKenzee Rosman – young actress and singer
Erin Sanders – first started acting at the age of 9, after being discovered by an agent while selling Girl Scout cookies!
Lindsey Shaw – American actress known for her role as Jennifer Mosely on “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”
Jordin Sparks – singer, actress, model and American Idol winner.
Cole and Dylan Sprouse – these two brothers have been acting ever since they were babies.
Kristen Stewart – actress, quoted as saying “I’m not going to school because I can’t take the structure of it, but I’m not going to stop learning…I don’t know a lot of stuff, and I really want to. I figure that traveling is a good way to start if you want knowledge. Like, if you don’t know something about a country, then go and check it out. That’s what I did.”
Kyle Swann – best known for his role in “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”
Raven-Symoné – actress and singer best known for her role on That’s So Raven
Ashlee Tisdale – actress and singer
Najarra Townsend – dancer, singer and performer on stage and in film
Wolfgang Van Halen – bass player for the rock band Van Halen
Sofia Vassilieva – American actress of Russian descent
Devon Werkheiser – American actor known for the role Ned Bigby on “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”
Elijah Wood – actor best known as Frodo in the The Lord of the Rings
Evan Rachel Wood – stage and film actress and singer