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Hurst creates county cover school

Raven Hurst isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill principal, but that’s what she is in a sense as the administrator.

In five short years, Hurst has gone from being a home schooling mom to the administrator of the home schooling cover school, Shiloh Academy.

Hurst of Opp said she felt a calling from the Lord to home school her six children, who range in age from ninth grade to 18 months.

“Two of my children were students at Fleeta, but I felt a calling from the Lord to do this, and it’s been huge blessing, although it was a scary step,” she said. “It’s hard to go against the norm.”

Five years later, she was instrumental in beginning the county’s first open cover school under Shiloh Ministries.

Hurst said that under Alabama law, home-schooled families must operate under a cover school, which must be affiliated with a church or ministry.

Hurst said prior to this year, her children were under the Higher Ground Academy cover school, which is a part of Mills Chapel Church of God outside of Rutledge in Crenshaw County.

This meant that in order to have the required socialization home schoolers need, they had to travel outside of the county once a month.

“I thought that with so many (other home schoolers) coming from this area, it would be good for us to have our own cover school,” she said. “Once a month we get together and have a play day, where they students socialize and do fun things.

“People always say a lot about socialization, but we make sure they have socialization with play dates and church,” she said.

Hurst said one activity the children recently participated in consisted of each family researching a country.

“At our play day, we all got to visit the different countries and learn a little bit about the country, and we even go to try some of the country’s food,” she said.

Hurst said there are currently seven families under the Shiloh Academy cover school, but said she has received a lot of inquiries for the upcoming school year.

“There is a process that they have to go through,” she said. “We do a phone interview and them they have to complete an enrollment form with the board of education.”

Hurst said she requires families to keep up the daily attendance and grades, which they are required to submit.

Although, it is not a requirement for Shiloh Academy, Hurst said she requires her children to take standardized tests for her own records to make sure they are on course and to see what improvements need to be made.

“We do require the ACT for graduation, and we have students enrolled from grade kindergarten through 12th grade,” she said.

Hurst said one of the biggest advantages of home schooling is that the curriculum can be tailored to the child.

“If something isn’t working, you can try something else,” Hurst said. “It’s geared toward independent learning. Of course, the younger ones it’s more hands on because they are learning to read.”

Hurst said an individualized curriculum is especially beneficial for those who have children with disabilities, because there are no pressures for competition with other students.

“One-on-one attention gets the best results,” she said. “That’s the best help.”

Hurst said colleges are becoming a lot more home school friendly.

“The ACT is required, so there are no questions (on admissions),” she said. “We want to enable people to home school their children, but we do not want to enable them to neglect their children. This is an awesome responsibility.”

Raven Hurst helps her son, Noah, with school work. Hurst has been instrumental in setting up a home school cover school in the County called Shiloh Academy. | Kendra Bolling/ Star-News