Learning Center targets homeschooled students

Noah Bruland checks out his pet Tokay geckos, Sticky and Dragon, who hang out at the Learning Center. - Betty Freeman
Noah Bruland checks out his pet Tokay geckos, Sticky and Dragon, who hang out at the Learning Center.
— image credit: Betty Freeman

There’s a lot of learning going on in a very small space in downtown Coupeville. Educator Patrick Shanahan opened Coupeville Learning Center at the beginning of September at 6 N.W. Coveland St. in the former Whidbey Examiner office, offering a variety of learning experiences for students, whether they are enrolled in public school or are being home-schooled.

Shanahan, who has been teaching since 1979, has been a photography instructor with Cedar School in Coupeville and a community-based instructor for Skagit Valley College and the Orcas Island School District. He specializes in math, science, photography and music instruction.

“When Cedar School closed last year, the teachers and students didn’t go away,”  Shanahan said. “The need for support for homeschoolers and tutoring outside regular school hours continues, and we’re hoping several of the former Cedar School teachers will come on board here.”

Coupeville Learning Center offers small group and individual instruction, with home-schooling cooperatives using the space during the day, and public-school students coming after school for tutoring in core subjects such as math, science and English.

Shanahan teaches students to use different study styles for different topics.

“We build explicit habits of study here with technique-based instruction,” he said. “First, I teach students how to learn, and how to read a textbook. Then we move on to learning how to use the text, teacher notes and experience to master a subject.”

“I also believe in ‘mastery teaching,’ which requires students to be able to work most if not all of the exercises before going on to something else,” he said.

He is hoping to expand the after-school program to three days a week, and use Mondays and Fridays for one-on-one tutoring.

Each homeschooler enrolled has an iPad, and Shanahan hopes to provide after-school students with the same equipment through grants or scholarships.

One recent morning at the Center the children of three families, ranging in age from 5 to 14, were studying the history, of Great Britain.

Three boys were crafting cardboard and tinfoil battle axes. Two girls were drawing medieval warriors, while others set up a battle strategy game.

Moms Angela Ohme and Amber Wolfkill interacted with them, weaving in historical facts or offering encouragement. All the kids were engaged and involved in the subject matter in an age-appropriate way.

Another homeschool project at the school is the terrarium with two Tokay geckos. Noah Bruland, who loves science and nature, is especially interested in lizards. Because he is the “expert” in this subject area, he learns by teaching other children how to care for and interact with his geckos.

“It’s great to see Noah’s confidence grow,” said his mom, Patty Bruland, adding that her older sons, Benjamin and Patrick, get a lot from after-school tutoring.

“School is so much easier for them now they’ve learned explicit study techniques,”  Bruland said. “Clarity of expectations is freeing for them.”

“Our students work very hard here,” Shanahan said. “Though we offer private instruction, we want the public schools to succeed, and we’re here to empower all students.”

To learn more, call 360-672-2313.


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