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The Best of Both Academic Worlds: A Mom's Take on University-Model Schools

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
August 28, 2023 10:10 am

The Best of Both Academic Worlds: A Mom's Take on University-Model Schools

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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August 28, 2023 10:10 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Georgeanna Weist, founder of Heritage Leadership Academy in North Carolina, to discuss how University-Model schools have the benefits of both private schools and homeschools.

This episode is part of a series highlighting the school choice movement across North Carolina. Tune in each week to learn more!

Kingdom Pursuits
Robby Dilmore
Rob West and Steve Moore

Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. You are equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. And now here is our host of Family Policy Matters, Tracy Devitt-Griggs.

Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. We're continuing our back-to-school series of interviews looking at the many faces of education here in North Carolina, which is considered a school choice leader in the nation. Well, today we're joined by Georgiana Wiest, a North Carolina wife and mother of five who founded a unique school in her own community. Heritage Leadership Academy is a revolutionary university model home and classroom hybrid school serving pre-K to 12th grade students in four locations around the Triangle area. Georgiana Wiest, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

Thank you so much for having me. Tell us about this hybrid model. How does that work where you're doing both home school and in-person education? The university model is a unique hybrid school model because it is recognized as a full-time program. So it means we can register with the state as a private school. And because of that, we must meet all the standards and requirements that any other private school would have to meet.

But it is different in structure in that it maximizes the benefits of both the private and home school model. So kids are on campus two to three days a week, depending on their grade, pre-K through sixth grade or two days a week, seventh and up are three days a week. And they complete their remaining school days at home, which is referred to the satellite classroom.

And all lesson plans are created and implemented by experienced classroom teachers. And the parents who you would hear referred to as the co-teacher in the model is responsible for carrying out those lesson plans on the satellite days. What is also unique is that on those satellite days, our classroom teachers are available to the parents as a resource if they have questions or need any help.

So it is really the best of both worlds. And as the child ages, the role of the parent changes. So you'll find that early on, the parents are very hands-on as the kids are learning to read and write and do all of those things. And in this model in particular, especially if they start in this model, you'll see very early on, I mean, these kids are almost completely independent.

You know, checking their lesson plans, doing their work, even reaching out to their teachers for help. So it not only gives the gift of time back to the family, it also allows the children to learn the skill of time management and individual ownership and responsibility, which I believe prepares them for anything that God has for them in the future. Well, that sounds wonderful. So tell us, how did this happen? How did you come up with this idea? Tell us about your educational journey and what motivated you to begin the Heritage Leadership Academy. My degree is actually in nursing. So I graduated in 2006 and went straight into working full-time as a nurse. So I had lots of babies in that time.

Those seven years went to part-time. We ended up adopting our daughter, Emmy, from Taiwan. And when we got home with her, we realized that she was very sick and I would need to quit my job to be home full-time with her. At that point, I was homeschooling our oldest and had two other little ones. And I didn't really have any long-term plans of what I was going to do.

I just knew we were traveling to Taiwan and we were bringing home this child and integrating her into our family. And I felt that Jenna needed to be home. And it was kindergarten. You know, I could I could manage that.

I could manage that a couple hours a day and still work. So that is kind of where the decision to homeschool came at first. And then each year we just reevaluated our situation based on who our kids were, what they needed. And every year it just seemed like homeschooling was the best option given the choices that we had in our area. And then Emmy actually went to a public preschool and then went on to a public elementary school.

So my motivation for starting HLA really came from that. And I was never truly content with our choice to homeschool. I was also not at peace with all of my children being gone five days a week. And, you know, also the price of private school really limited us and having that as an option for our family. So I just kept homeschooling year after year. That was what I did with my other kids.

And Emmy, based on just her needs, she would not have been served well at home full time. But I struggled with a lot of insecurity of was I teaching them the right things? Was I choosing the right curriculum?

Was I giving them everything that they needed? And then on top of that, you know, I'm trying to schedule all the things with all the people so that my kids are getting out of the house and having these social experiences that I was worried they were missing by being home. By the time my third was about to start kindergarten, I was desperate for something different for them. And I started doing research on part time schools thinking, surely there's something. Surely this is not just me who wants to be able to choose something different for my kids. And there are plenty of homeschool co-ops that are hybrids.

But I was looking for something that provided the educational standards of an accredited institution without having to give up all the flexibility that I loved about homeschooling. So through a series of divine appointments, I learned about the university model. And the more I learned about it, the more I felt this calling on my heart that I needed to stop waiting for someone to do this and start walking forward. So I just kind of started putting one foot in front of the other, got open the doors.

And, you know, he has been faithful to equip me to carry out that calling each step of the way. So basically, you could not find a school situation that fit your kids needs. And so you just went out and started your own.

Good for you. Yeah. Tell us how that works. So do you have buildings? I mean, do the kids have sports?

How does that work? We have grown a lot. We started we opened our doors with one hundred and three kids in 2017, which was honestly more than three times what we expected, because at the time, the university model school's average starting roster was about twenty five kids. So to open with one of three was obviously we were meeting a need that we didn't really even know existed. And so we kind of really skated through.

We didn't really have a honeymoon phase of growth like it just kind of blew up immediately. Right now, we are mobile and all of our campuses. So we have four different campuses across the triangle and we are planning on opening another one next year. But they're all mobile. They're all in churches. So we are renting facilities from churches at this point, which is limiting in space and just availability.

But they do have a full load. So we are required, just like any other private schools, to offer a full load of options for these children. And we are also accredited by Cognia, which is known worldwide for its standards and academic excellence. It's actually not just accrediting agency for private Christian schools, which a lot of schools are accredited through those. But it also accredits many public schools.

And even in this area, several of the public schools are accredited by Cognia. So we have those academic standards that we must meet. And we do.

And we first met them. And then now, as we're growing, you know, we definitely have the electives. We have art options. We have theater options.

We have music options. And we're now getting into sports. A couple of years ago, we had our first track team, cross country. We won the championship.

It was amazing. And then I think now we're adding, we had a basketball team last year. And so we're slowly adding as we have people that come and want to help us make it happen. And we have the numbers of kids that can make these extracurricular things a reality.

Right. So you said you started with 103. How many children do you have now? We've maxed out at 525 kids across the four campuses. And we're only limited, really, by our facilities.

The people are there waiting. We just don't, we don't have the spaces to meet the need right now. Right. So you said you'll have five locations. And I'm sure, I don't think we've said yet where exactly in the state we are.

So people listening are probably wondering and hoping you're in their backyard. But where are these campuses? We have two campuses in Apex.

One is a K-6 and one is a 7-12. We have a K-6 in North Raleigh and one in Durham. And then we will be opening one in Southern Wake County that will hopefully grow to a full K-12.

But we have to do that slowly and wisely in what the demographics are for the location. But those are our locations right now with another one coming next year. If you want to look on the website, it's the National Association of University Model Schools. So it's N-A-U-M-S,, has a list of all the university model schools in the whole world. And we are one, if you count our four as one, we're one of only 11 in the state.

But they do cross the whole state. Okay. So if somebody hears this and they want to know if there's a similar university model school in their hometown, they can go to this website. Tell us the address again. It's N-A-U-M-S,

So it stands for National Association of University Model Schools. Okay. So talk about why you were able to do this. We've heard so many things about how North Carolina is very friendly to different school models of different school choices. Was it unique, do you think, to North Carolina that you were able to just get this up and going as quickly as you did?

I honestly don't know. I think that we are, like you said, a leader in school choice definitely helped me. But honestly, the ease in which we were able to open schools had more to do with the municipalities that we were in than it did the state in general. So because we're a private school and not a co-op, we have to jump through all the hoops of building code and zoning and traffic and all the things that any school would have to do. So that is probably one of the most challenging parts of operating.

I mean, really, you look like a part-time school because you're only physically at school half the time, but you're treated like a full-time school, which has its benefits. But in those situations when it comes to all the red tape that comes into play, it can be difficult. But God has provided and we have, I think as these cities and towns have seen that we're meeting a need, it has become easier, much easier to go in and share our story and start a new campus.

Right, I can imagine. So you said that the municipalities played a role in the acceptance of this model. And what do you mean by that? It's more of a facilities issue just with the zoning and the building code and things that limit who can be in what buildings and how that affects traffic. It just depends on how much that town or city is willing to work with you to make it happen, because we are not building our own buildings with all the things that come along with that and people knowing that we are meeting standards, we're building the code, but we're having to walk into a facility and then kind of change what it's used for and make it work, and that's difficult. Do you have a vision for what you think it could be? I'm already so blown away. I think the sky's the limit because I think we've just hit the iceberg when it comes to the opportunities we have to meet the needs of the community and serve the families of North Carolina and even beyond.

But I'm a dreamer, so that's like my job. It's been my dream from the beginning that we would be able to offer an affordable Christian option, not only for kids from all backgrounds and socioeconomic situations, but also children with significant special needs. So, you know, there were very limited options for kids like our daughter, Emmy, who had Down syndrome and a lot of other delays outside of the public school system. And I'd love to see children of all abilities to have the same option as everybody else. We would all benefit from that.

Everybody would. And I hope that through what HLA is doing that we will start to see a more overall diversity in the private school sector. Do you think that you're an example that is encouraging to parents and grandparents as they look at our schooling situation these days?

You know, I hope so. But I also would encourage these parents who maybe feel overwhelmed or very concerned about, especially the public school situation, is that fear of man in the world is not of the Lord. God gives us not a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and sound judgment. And I think a lot of times the voices that we're listening to are seeking fear in the name of truth.

The Bible is full of absolute truth. It is not full of prescriptions for your child's education. And I think there's a lot of very strong opinions and personal convictions out there that are fine. But I think it's very individualized from child to child and family to family. And I would just encourage these parents who are feeling that heaviness of this decision or feeling trapped in a certain situation.

And to not let fear be the driving force behind our decisions and to understand concern is healthy. But we should truly examine the root of our discontent in whatever school situation we find ourselves in. And I would also tell everyone as they're navigating the school situation that each child is different. And I think we do our kids a disservice by not looking at them as individuals with unique needs and purposes. I mean, even in my own family, we've done homeschool. We've sent our kids to private school. We've had a child in public school.

So we have had our feet in all of areas. They've all been the best choice for a kid at a different season in life. And so I want to also encourage parents in that and looking at their children as individuals and not comparing them to others and to also remind them that no decision is permanent. You are not signing a blood oath when you sign your kid up for a program that says that they have to attend from pre-K to 12th grade in the same program.

So I think we just need to give that decision the weight it deserves, but not too much, and not let ourselves get overwhelmed by fear and making the wrong choice. Resting in our God-ordained role as the primary authority and discipler of our children, but then trusting him to lead us where he wants them to be. Before we go, Georgiana Weist, founder of Heritage Leadership Academy, tell us again where our listeners can go to learn more about your fine schools. Our website is, where you can find all the information. We have interest meetings monthly at our different campuses where you can go and tour and ask questions and really hear the heart of the school and what we're about. You can also keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram, and our name on there is Heritage Leadership Academy. OK. Georgiana Weist, thank you for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to this show online and to learn more about NC Family's work to inform, encourage, and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at That's Thanks again for listening, and may God bless you and your family.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-28 12:14:08 / 2023-08-28 12:20:42 / 7

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