The Chapel in Mango, the site for the Charis Homeschool Cooperative.

By Bob Zoellner

Homeschooling has seen a steady rise in proponents throughout the years, and the reasons for a nontraditional approach to education have grown as well. According to the Florida Department of Education’s statistics, over 106,000 students were homeschooled in the state for the 2019-20 school year. That’s a 25 percent jump in just five years.

Many school districts nationwide went to some form of distanced learning last year, with hybrid models continuing this school year because of COVID-19 protocols. That has surely swelled the ranks of students learning at home, joining those traditional homeschoolers who have opted out of their local school systems.

For 12 families in the Brandon, Seffner and Mango areas, this includes being a part of the Charis Homeschool Cooperative, a ministry of Bay Life Church of Brandon. The co-op focuses on a classical model of education, which highlights learning in language, literature, history and memorization. Charis meets at The Chapel, a campus of Bay Life on Broadway Ave. in Mango. Charis simply means grace, or loving kindness in Greek.

“This is the first year for our co-op to exist,” said Brittany Drury, director of the co-op, who is in her seventh year of homeschooling her kids. She and her husband, Shane, a pastor at Bay Life, have four children: Silas, Simeon, Lieren and Blaise.

“I have been so blessed to be part of the team that dreamed and prayed and has gotten to see the birth of this group,” Drury added. “A year ago it was just a lot of hopes and plans written on paper with two families committed. Since then, the Lord has been faithful to bring together an amazing group of moms who serve one another and our children with joy and humility. Every single mom serves a vital role in the life and function of Charis.”

Similar in structure to Classical Conversations, Charis works on an all-volunteer basis as moms serve in administration, teaching, the nursery and as room helpers.

The group gathers for 14-week stretches on Tuesdays in the spring and fall, most recently starting up again after the holidays. For the rest of the week, families concentrate on material shared at the co-op and their own curriculum, including trips and outings.

“We started homeschooling with a desire to disciple our own children,” Drury said. “We love being together. We love getting to choose where we focus in terms of each child’s education.”

For more information on homeschooling and Charis, Drury can be reached at chc@baylife.org.