Archive for March, 2010


Laurel Springs Notable Students and Alumni

March 1, 2010

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 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

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 Birchactress 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

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


Bryn Athyn College

March 1, 2010

Bryn Athyn College

Bryn Athyn is a small, private, coeducational, Christian liberal arts college dedicated to helping students prepare for lives of meaningful service. Experiential education is integral to the Bryn Athyn academic experience. Since it is a required part of the Core Program, all students at Bryn Athyn will have at least one service learning or internship experience based on their field of interest during their time on campus.

Local service opportunities include coaching, choir, volunteering at the campus museum, editing the student newspaper, community clean-ups, and longer service trips over weekends or breaks. Many students choose to participate in multiple experiential learning opportunities, which may also include study abroad. In the past, students have studied, served, and worked in England, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa, Nepal, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ghana, and more.

Bryn Athyn students are inquisitive and engaged learners. The academic programs at Bryn Athyn can be easily tailored to meet students’ needs since the school’s educational methods are personal, focused on each student’s unique learning style and special talents. All courses are taught by professors, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1 and an average class size of 9 students. The College values homeschooled applicants because their diverse backgrounds and individualized approach to learning is a perfect fit for Bryn Athyn.

Bryn Athyn’s Core Program has a strong emphasis on skills and perspectives. Skills courses include instruction in information literacy; language, mathematics, or programming; public presentation; quantitative analysis; service learning and internships; and writing. Perspectives-focused courses address spiritual, moral, and civil issues including instruction in aesthetics, history and the social sciences, physical health, sciences, and world views.

The College offers majors in Biology, Education, English, History, Religion, and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Interdisciplinary Studies program allows students to combine two curricular areas into a single area of study. Interdisciplinary areas of study include: Art/Art History, Biology, Business Management, English, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion.

Bryn Athyn is affiliated with the General Church of the New Jerusalem, also known as the New Church, a branch of Christianity based on the Bible and the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Bryn Athyn’s global perspective reflects the service-oriented Christianity taught in Swedenborg’s theological writings. Education at Bryn Athyn emphasizes the practical application of truth to life and encourages students to connect their spiritual beliefs to both their studies and their daily lives. The ultimate purpose of this education is to contribute to human welfare.

Bryn Athyn College has been educating undergraduates since its incorporation under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1877. Then known as the Academy of the New Church, its original purpose was (like most institutions of higher learning in those days) to train ministers. In 1890 the Academy established a separate organization: the General Church of the New Jerusalem. A generous endowment from John Pitcairn and others enabled the Academy of the New Church to expand from a seminary into a high school and a two-year college. In 1914 it became a four-year college and by 1922, the College was conferring both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. In 1997, the Academy of the New Church College adopted a new name: Bryn Athyn College.

The Bryn Athyn campus is located 20 miles northeast of downtown Philadelphia in the borough of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, a National Historic Landmark District. The College’s original campus and surrounding community of Bryn Athyn were designed in 1893 by Charles Eliot of the firm Olmstead, Olmstead, and Eliot – the renowned architects responsible for the design of Central Park in New York City. Historic buildings on campus include the Glencairn Museum, which houses the school’s medieval and religious art; Cairnwood Mansion, now used as a special events facility; and Bryn Athyn Cathedral.

Bryn Athyn Cathedral is the center of an active New Church community and serves as a religious center for Bryn Athyn College students. Construction on the Gothic revivalist architecture began in 1913, and continued until the late 1920s. Bryn Athyn Cathedral is unique in that there are no right angles or straight lines. The walls of the building are skewed against each other, bowing out in the middle only to return at the opposite wall. The medieval-style stained glass windows of Bryn Athyn Cathedral are also worthy of note. Bryn Athyn students regularly attend Sunday worship services, stroll through the gardens, and attend the student-organized vespers services on Sunday evenings.

Today, Bryn Athyn College is growing rapidly. In August 2008 the College opened several new family-style student residence cottages. Recent constructions on campus include a state-of-the-art LEED certified science building / research center and a new admissions / student life building, both of which were completed in September 2009.

Much of the College’s 130-acre campus is undeveloped open land, and the nearby Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust supplements the natural surroundings with eight miles of trails following a creek through woods and fields. In conjunction with the nearby Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, the College is conducting a Deer Study to track white-tailed deer in the area. Beginning in 2006, the team has been following deer tagged with GPS/GSM radio collars to investigate deer management strategies, habitat restoration, and genetics.

Extracurricular arts opportunities at Bryn Athyn College include studio arts (painting, ceramics, metals, photography), music, and theater. Students with any level of experience can participate in the College’s annual winter production, a main-stage play or musical with students serving as cast and crew members, costume and set designers. Performances take place at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center, a newly renovated theater on campus.

The Bryn Athyn Orchestra and College Chorale are the primary opportunities for student musicians. Students can audition to be a part of the Orchestra, and anyone can sing in the chorus. Some students join other community members in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral Choir. In addition, special choirs are formed to present the Bach Magnificat at Christmastime and Faure Requiem on Good Friday.

Bryn Athyn’s sports teams participate in several Northeast athletic leagues. Intercollegiate and club teams at Bryn Athyn include: Softball, Volleyball, Soccer, Lacrosse, Ice Hockey, Badminton, Ultimate Frisbee Club, Dance Ensemble, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Bryn Athyn student life is largely student-run. Student Government and an active Social Committee plan regular activities both on and off campus. Student conduct policies are guided by moral principles, with a particular emphasis on acting honestly, respectfully, charitably, and living a life of useful service.

Bryn Athyn College operates on a trimester system. Fall Term begins in late August and continues until Thanksgiving break. Winter Term runs from after Thanksgiving until March (with a break over the Christmas holiday). Spring Term runs from late March until the end of May. Bryn Athyn College has a rolling admissions policy, in which applications are accepted throughout the year.

The academic standards expected of applicants for admission are: 4 years of English (including Composition and Literature); 3 years of Mathematics (including Algebra I & II and Geometry); 3 years of History/Social Science; 3 years of Natural Science; and 2 years of a Foreign Language (all one language); TOEFL score of at least: 520 (paper), 190 (computer-based), 70 (internet-based); and minimum IELTS score: 5.5.

The Admissions Committee selects those candidates for admission who it feels are best suited for personal and academic success at Bryn Athyn College, while taking a holistic approach to evaluating applications. In addition to secondary school transcripts and standardized test scores, they use essays, recommendations, and personal interviews to determine if applicants are qualified and would be a good fit for the College. Candidates for admission not only need to have solid academic backgrounds but will also have to contribute positively to the moral and religious life of the College.

Application requirements for homeschooled applicants include: completed application form or completed online application; homeschool transcript(s) with course descriptions; SAT and/or ACT scores; as well as a Teacher Recommendation as available. (A teacher will state how long he or she has known the student, which courses he or she has taught the student, and rate the student in regard to creativity/original thought, motivation, independence/initiative, intellect, written communication, work ethic, and character.) For more information, visit