Oak Street Christian School in Brainerd, Minnesota, has developed an outreach program that fills its building every other Friday. The Adventist school partners with a home school organization known as Christian Kids Fellowship. Together, they present classes that include music, STEM (sciene, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and physical education.

During the last meeting of the school year, the two groups enjoyed a field day together. With 11 students from Oak Street and another 30-40 home schoolers, there was a crowd.

CKF began during the 2008-2009 school year. At that time, Sara Hiner was the teacher for the Oak Street school. She met with two home school parents, Michelle Bernatsky and Susan Amick, and the program was born.

“Our original goal was to provide a place to get together and do the things that were hard to do as home schoolers,” Hiner says. “You can’t really play kickball with one child and one parent.”

The program grew quickly, from 12-14 students in the first year to 30-40 kids. The three founders focused on a low-cost program that provided a valuable service.

“It was amazing,” Hiner says. “I remember one year I had six students in my regular classroom, but then there would be 45-50 students on Fridays.”

Hiner, who currently teaches grades 1-4 at Capital City Adventist Christian School in St. Paul, Minnesota, also experienced the program as a parent.

“In my last year in Brainerd, my four-year-old daughter Emily was part of CKF,” she says.

Christal Hernandez is the current teacher at Oak Street. She appreciates what the interaction with CKF brings to her classroom. “It offers a lot of opportunities to our students,” she says. “One CKF parent is a pilot. We toured the local airport and he taught us a lesson on aerodynamics. If you look at our school student body, it is six families. With CKF, there are another 20 families.”

The home schoolers pay $35 for a day of lessons, and there are eight lessons in a semester. The parents stay at the school and help if discipline issues arise. Also, the parents go through the Verified Volunteers background check program.

As the outreach has grown, the classes have moved from volunteer teachers to paid teachers. The music class is taught by a certified teacher who retired from the public school system, and an instructor from the YMCA teaches the PE class. Hernandez, who is from Hawaii, teaches the students to play the ukulele. CKF students often take part in Oak Street science fairs or history projects as well.

Hernandez has seen the home school students grow in their interactions with others. “We had one student who didn’t want his mom out of the room, but later he branched out,” she says. “Soon he had more self-confidence and he was spending a half day at our school.”

Hernandez estimates half her current Oak Street students started visiting the school with CKF. The home school program also led to one home school parent being baptized and the family joining the Brainerd Church.

“My favorite thing is the fact that [the program] is still going after all these years,” says Sara Hiner.

John Bedell, former education superintendent for the Minnesota Conference, is now principal at Maplewood Academy.