Hybrid academy provides “a Benedict-like option” faithful to Church teachings
An interview with Kari Beckman, executive director of the Regina Caeli Academy (RCA), which now has 16 centers in 11 states serving nearly 1,800 students.
THE CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT
Kari Beckman is executive director of the Regina Caeli Academy (RCA), a hybrid homeschool model in the Catholic tradition which blends three days of homeschool education with two days of classroom instruction by experts in different academic subjects. She is a Catholic convert (read the story of her conversion in Donna Steichen’s book Chosen: How Christ Sent Twenty-three Surprised Converts to Replant His Vineyard) and a mother of eight who previously worked with the Department of Education in Georgia and Arizona.
She founded RCA in 2003, which has since grown from a single entity to 16 centers in 11 states serving nearly 1,800 students. In 2019, the RCA opened its first international affiliate, located in Bedfordshire, England, with talks underway to open up a second such center in the United Kingdom.
She lives in Canton, Georgia, with Rich, her husband of 28 years, who is also a convert. She is also active in the pro-life movement, and recently joined with 175 RCA participants from across the country for the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
With 20 years of homeschooling experience, she is a champion of the home education method and considers it her passion to share the good news of homeschooling. She has been regularly featured in both secular and Catholic media outlets.
On the occasion of National Catholic Schools Week, January 26-February 1, 2020, she shared about the work of the Academy.
CWR: Why did you start Regina Caeli Academy?
Kari Beckman: When Rich and I discovered, through the Magisterial teachings of the Church, that our life was to be ordered to the education of our eight children, we re-evaluated the choices and goals we had set for them. In light of this discovery, we began seeking God’s will and assistance through prayer and discernment, which led to the creation of Regina Caeli Academy as an answer to the great responsibility given to Catholic parents.
Regina Caeli has become a Benedict-like option for couples who are living out their vows fully and completely according to the law of Christ. We exist to support parents as they take on the responsibility to direct and execute the education of their children. These heroic men and women, in response to God’s call, have ordered their married lives, careers, and personal desires to bringing up the next generation of faithful Catholics.
CWR: What were some of your concerns about the Catholic parochial schools available to you?
Beckman: Many of the teachers in the Catholic schools available to us were not Catholic. I wanted my children to be mentored by like-minded Catholics. The curriculum used by these schools was not a Catholic curriculum. And, as our culture is becoming increasingly secular, I was concerned that my children would be going to school with children of families who were not like-minded. I was worried about what Sally sitting to the left of my child, and Johnny sitting to the right were going to impart on my children.
Additionally, the Church calls us to be open to the amount of children with which God wants to bless the family. However, many Catholic schools charge a significant amount of money for an individual education, and I had to provide for eight children in my case.
CWR: Have the bishops and dioceses been supportive of the Academy?
Beckman: Some have been. John Francis Donoghue (1928-2011), my former archbishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, was very supportive. He saw us as filling a need for larger families.
CWR: How does RCA work?
Beckman: We are a hybrid academy. Prospective families must discern if they wish to home-educate their children. We provide a two-day a week, brick and mortar center where children are mentored in the challenging aspects of the curriculum so that a parent doesn’t have to teach a high level math or science curriculum. We make the center a beautiful Catholic environment, with a beautiful prayer life, in which Christ is the center. And, the curriculum we provide has Catholicism woven throughout.
The remaining three days a week, the child learns with the parent at home.
CWR: In order for one’s child to be enrolled in RCA, you must live near an RCA center. What if you don’t?
Beckman: The way it works is that a local person, a volunteer that we call a city coordinator, contacts us and we provide them with materials about RCA. They raise the funds necessary to bring me and another representative to the area where we make a presentation to interested families. We come when there are at least 25 confirmed families who have an interest. While we start with 25, we hope to grow to at least 40.
The second phase involves RCA looking into the costs of leasing space and other issues related to operating within that state. Once we have this information, we discuss the idea with the board, and if it is approved, RCA takes on the risk and opens and manages the center. We hire and train staff. We assess students and put them in proper level classes. The new center becomes part of our network.
Visit our website to see a list of potential cities into which we may expand and upcoming information sessions. For additional information, contact Janet Pogasic at (678) 878-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CWR: Are all of the families Catholic?
Beckman: We do have a few non-Catholic families. However, the RCA model is specifically centered on the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. During the admissions process, families are interviewed and are made aware of this model and asked to fully participate.
All of our instructors are Catholic, and must sign an oath of fidelity to the Catholic Church, and profess and live according to the tenets of the Catholic faith.
CWR: Who would be a good fit for your program?
Beckman: Those who want to educate their children in a Christ-centered environment. Those who want their children to have a solid classical education, surrounded by a community that is supportive of living the mission of the Church in the culture.
CWR: Do students graduate from RCA with a high school degree?
Beckman: Yes, students who graduate RCA received an accredited high school diploma.
CWR: Why do you think RCA is growing so quickly?
Beckman: Catholic families have a great need for what we offer at RCA. They are excited to form a community around common values and feel supported as they educate their children in the Catholic tradition. We receive 10 to 15 inquires per month from families who want RCA in their cities and towns and expect to continue growing at a quick pace in order to serve more families. And, our average family enrollment growth per year is an astounding 38%.
CWR: Does RCA have their own sports and academic teams that compete against other schools?
Beckman: We do not. However, we do offer the St. Edith Stein Honor Society for our students. Like its secular counterparts, the St. Edith Stein Honor Society exists to promote excellence in scholarship and service; unlike its secular counterparts, the St. Edith Stein Honor Society encourages students in Christian leadership and the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Membership in the honor society is available to high school students at centers where there is an active adviser. Members participate in one group service project per academic year; this project involves at least one corporal and one spiritual work of mercy. Each member will also complete six service hours in service projects of their own design or choosing. In those six hours, the students will practice at least three additional works of mercy.
CWR: What is the tuition for RCA?
Beckman: The cost is:
- $2,884.00 per year per student Kindergarten – half day
- $3,347.50 per year per student K – 6th grade – full day
- $3,862.50 per year per student 7th-8th grades
- $4,120.00 per year per student 9th-12th grades
Parents are also asked to fundraise an additional $680 per year per family and purchase tickets to the annual Priest Talent Show gala at a reduced rate.
CWR: How are parents encouraged to be involved in the school community?
Beckman: They are asked to volunteer hours each year at the school and fundraise for their local RCA to help offset costs. They naturally form a tight-knit community with other parents because they are all homeschooling their children and have opted to participate together in the Catholic homeschool hybrid program we have. They often have a lot in common and form close friendships.
CWR: Why is the number of children being homeschooled on the rise?
Beckman: Because parents want more control over what their children are being taught in schools and have put a higher priority on that decision. More and more, families in the United States are recognizing the benefits of homeschooling. Once an obscure and fringe decision, the choice to homeschool has become mainstream for a variety of reasons. During the late 1970s, there were only about 13,000 students who homeschooled. By 1999, the number had risen to 850,000 (1.7% of the population). Since then, the number has more than doubled to 1.8 million and 3.4% of the population in 2012. Moreover, the available data from the last few years indicates that the growth in homeschooling is not slowing down but speeding up. Further, the positive results are telling: homeschooled students tend to score high on standardized tests, they tend to be well-rounded and capable learners, and they tend to uphold the highest values of their parents (the ones who should steer their children’s course with the most authority) most strongly in practice.
We recognize the utmost importance of the impact that parents have on their children and support homeschooling for the good of children, families and the broader culture.
CWR: Explain RCA’s modesty policy and media policy.
Beckman: Two hallmark policies set us apart from other educational institutions. First, our modesty policy mandates that all students and faculty wear uniforms. Moreover, shoulders to knees and everything in between must be covered when visiting the center and attending an RCA event. The modesty policy frees us to respect each other as human beings, in the image and likeness of God, with a common purpose and inherent dignity.
Our media policy has two components. All electronic devices, including cell phones and computers, are prohibited while on campus. Additionally, no discussion of secular media, including video games and television shows, is allowed at the center. The media policy encourages Socratic discussions to remain focused on the educational content and keeps the focus on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
CWR: What successes have you seen with RCA?
Beckman: There have been many. Our students contemplate using their unique gifts for the greater good in the world, serving Christ and His Church. They begin to ask the question, “How can I bring Christ into the world?”
CWR: What are your future plans for RCA?
Beckman: I’m asked this question a lot, and the simple answer is, “I don’t know.” I would not have foreseen years ago where we are today. I would not have dreamed, for example, that we’d be international, with a center in the UK.
I see Jesus Christ as the true founder of RCA, and He is my CEO. He is extremely successful and driven, but lives outside of space and time. All I can do is follow where He leads, and hang on for the ride. The sky’s the limit.
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About Jim Graves 176 ArticlesJim Graves is a Catholic writer living in Newport Beach, California.