We’re Lizette Sweiven & Kara Tupy, and we run the RISE program at The Cottonwood School. As past and present homeschooling moms, we wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts on homeschooling in community through the teen years. Below we share some reflections on the junior high and high school years specifically born out of our experience with our own kids.

From Kara (Junior High RISE)

When I first began homeschooling my children, they were 4, 6, and 9. We were learning to read over pancakes in the morning, exploring the world through field trips, and joining co-ops to ease the burden of prep time for me (the overextended homeschooling mama) and to give the kids a sense of community as we studied the phases of the moon or embarked on the adventure of learning to write a paragraph. Now my kids are 10, 12, and nearly 15. We’re in a different phase. Thankfully, the community of homeschooling parents and teachers around me helped prepare me for the changing needs of tweens and teens. My older two crave community in a way I didn’t anticipate. It’s hard to admit, but sometimes, they really do hear what other adults say better than when I say it. Not all the time; we still have plenty of amazing conversations around the dinner table, and they know they’re accountable to both me and their dad for getting their work done. But enrolling my kids in classes where someone besides me teaches them has been beneficial. There…I said it! Two years ago, it was hard for me to admit this might be the case. We started with one class, then added one more the following semester. Through virtual classes, my kids began developing their own relationships with peers. They’ve learned how to ask their teachers for help when they need it. Participating in programs such as RISE has been a platform for me to teach my kids new skills they haven’t had the opportunity to learn elsewhere.

That’s why as a mom and an educator, when offered the opportunity to start Junior High RISE at Cottonwood, I jumped at the chance. JH RISE is a bridge for Cottonwood students between the homeschool-around-the-kitchen-table experience many of our students are used to and the rigors of high school. We’re intentional about every aspect of Junior High RISE. We staffed Junior High RISE with our very own Cottonwood HSTs because they understand the ins and outs of homeschooling as much as the needs of students in a virtual classroom. Next year, we have so many plans to enhance community among our students, including in-person meet-ups, field trips, and RISE events. We can’t wait for you to hear all of the details at our upcoming Parent Information Session on May 5th.

From Lizette (High School RISE)

Homeschooling a high schooler is an exciting time for parents as we experience and watch our children grow into young adults. When I reflect on my time as a homeschool parent of high schoolers, I most appreciate the social and academic enhancements that a program much like RISE offers. Through discussions, labs, clubs, and group activities, peer interaction greatly enriched my own children’s homeschool experiences. As a parent, I appreciated the offerings and expertise of subject-specific teachers and the positive social interaction and collaborations in the classroom. Can I just say how relieved I was not to have to teach Chemistry and Algebra 2?! My oldest is now in her second year of law school. Still, she looks back on her homeschool experience with gratitude and thankfulness as the community connections gave her confidence and support while thoroughly preparing her for college and beyond.

Building community and being college and/or career ready are key features for students at Cottonwood. RISE offers college prep courses with subject-matter teachers committed to quality instruction and support. Our Flex courses are college prep, NCAA approved, and flexible. Students can set their schedules while still being paced out and assisted by the RISE teachers. Connect courses offer live, virtual instruction, and in those classes, students connect with the teacher, the content, and other students. Both options will support students and prepare them for their post-high school goals and offer opportunities for community connections throughout their high school experience. For the 2022-2023 school year, building community inside and outside the classroom will be a vital component of the RISE program. Through RISE, teens will be encouraged to learn, thrive, and build community.


Kara Tupy and Lizette Sweiven