Natalie Mack, president of the Belvoir Home Educators, speaks with students and parent volunteers at an open house at Markham School Age Center. A new agreement allows homeschoolers to use the center when it's idle during normal school hours.

Paul Lara / InsideNoVa

Fort Belvoir homeschoolers get gym, class space on post

An agreement signed between Belvoir Home Educators and the installation’s Child Youth Services has opened a door – and a gym for the installation’s homeschooled students, said Kristen Acquah, Fort Belvoir’s school liaison officer. Acquah said the agreement, set to begin in January, is a bridge between the homeschool community and CYS.

The agreement allows homeschool educators to use the Markham School-Age Center on base for physical fitness activities or as a designated space for science, technology, engineering and math instruction or research, Acquah said. The homeschoolers can use it during the regular school day, when it’s otherwise idle.

“We’re trying to build that relationship with them,” Acquah said.

Natalie Mack, president of the home educator’s co-op, speaking to InsideNoVa during an ice cream social to bring the students and parents into the center for the first time, said the idea sprouted from a conversation she had with Acquah. Mack mentioned a similar arrangement when her family was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base (now Joint Base Andrews) in Maryland.

“We participated in that program at Andrews, so I had that experience of how this could really work well. As we discussed this further, Kristen said she ran that program at Andrews, but we didn’t know each other then,” Mack said. “Kristen was excited about the idea, and asked, ‘What can we do?’ I suggested we start with art and STEM classes, and she said, ‘Yes.’”

Mack said the agreement will take some time to execute, because every parent that is part of the co-op must undergo a background check to receive regular access to the center, and a representative from CYS was on hand to help parents complete the forms. Mack said facility access will be a tremendous benefit to students.

“This relationship with CYS just provides us extra support,” Mack said. “P.E., as a homeschooler, you can have your kids run around, do jumping jacks and do walks every day as a family. But many times, kids prefer P.E. in a group format with other kids where they can do dodgeball, kickball team activities.”

Likewise with art, she said, outside assistance can be helpful. “You could have a student who loves art, but maybe you don’t have that experience.”

Paul Lara