Think distance learning and, chances are, you imagine a course designed for adults with lots of heavy books, solitary time and precious little social interaction. But education is changing and children can now avail of a distance learning program with one crucial twist: it combines home study with a learning camp.
Le Sallay International Academy is a pioneering school that offers a unique learning experience for children aged 10-14. As well as providing a world-class distance learning program, Le Sallay will also host a three-week learning camp at the beginning and end of each term in a 16th-century French château where the students will get to meet their classmates and soak up European culture and history. Altogether a third of the education takes place in study camps while two thirds is conducted through distance learning.
Photo: Le Sallay
Before the academy officially opens, Le Sallay has organised a seven-week pilot period in early 2019 so that both parents and children can get a taste of what to expect.
Read on to find out the benefits of the school's new take on distance learning.
Get the best of both worlds
Many expat parents face the dilemma of whether to send their child to boarding school. For some parents, who move frequently due to work commitments, there is often no alternative. Le Sallay provides a solution to this parental predicament.
“We see the school as a hybrid model that combines distance learning and a learning camp. Separation anxiety and even abandonment issues are problems for many children who attend boarding school,” says Dr. Matthew McConnell, who is heading up Le Sallay's humanities department.
He adds that with Le Sallay's mixed model, children get to be at home more but they also become more independent and get the socialization associated with school by going abroad to meet their classmates.
The best teachers
Unencumbered by a specific location, Le Sallay is able to attract the best teachers to be part of their distance learning team.
“We are going to be able to hire teachers from a broad pool of applicants from all over the world. In most cases, we intend to have teachers with a PhD. We are confident that we can provide an educational experience that is unlike anything else,” enthuses Dr. McConnell.
They will form a close alliance with their pupils during the live classroom sessions, which will be enhanced in the personal contact established in the three-week study camps during the semester.
Yan Rauch. Photo: Le Sallay
Students will also get the chance to be taught by visiting lecturers who wouldn't usually teach in a school or boarding school. Famous writers, scientists and professors from large universities are among the guest lecturers who will be invited to spend a week conducting lessons and talking to the students about their work. Already signed up are award-winning Vietnamese-American writer and journalist Andrew Lam, History of Science PhD Michael Barany and Digital Media guru Elizabeth Osder, among others.
Distance learning provides the opportunity for a truly tailored education that suits your child. Students learn about time management when it comes to doing their lessons and how to handle online and offline work.
It's also a balance that is particularly suited to science and mathematics education, explains Yan Rauch, who is Head of Maths and Science at Le Sallay.
“It suits my method well. I need the camps to create a human relationship and for the children to develop relationships among themselves. Once that basis is there, it doesn't really matter if we proceed to solve puzzles online or offline.”
He adds that the heart of science doesn't lie in the lab or in expensive equipment, but in teaching children how to look at the world with curiosity -- a key element in all his classes.
"Anyone can buy an oscilloscope, but it takes some teaching talent to help your pupils discover what's fascinating about, say, water dripping from a tap."
What's more, it's an approach that is suited to children from all backgrounds and all learning styles.
“Each task involves different possible depth levels so that the best-prepared children don't get bored and those with no mathematical training don't suffer,” says Yan.
All students, including twice exceptional (2E) children with various learning disabilities, can flourish at Le Sallay, as McConnell explains. The school employs staff who specialise in working with 2E students, offering an individualized approach along with the concerted efforts of psychologists to support socialization.
The academy's promise to cater for all children is among the reasons there has already been a great deal of parental interest.
“There isn't anything else out there like Le Sallay. Our mixed model fixes some of the problems that are endemic with boarding school, such as bullying,” he says.
McConnell adds that even students who are neurotypical sometimes struggle in international schools but those pupils will get more personalized attention at Le Sallay. There will also be a dedicated psychologist for children with learning disabilities as well as an individualized approach to their education.
Photo: Le Sallay
Putting middle school in focus
Le Sallay intends to provide quality combined education for children aged 10-14. It's a time in adolescent development that is vital but often forgotten about, says McConnell.
“There are lots of good elementary and high schools out there for international pupils but middle school can be a bit forgotten about. We really want to focus on those years (10-14) as they are transitional years that are crucial. Our plan is to take those years and make them productive for all of the pupils at Le Sallay.”
History…not just in the classroom
All the traditional school subjects like Mathematics, English, History, and Science are covered at Le Sallay, but the environment itself is just as educational.
Le Sallay's learning camp will be hosted in a 16th-century château, which is situated in a private park of four hectares, and just two hours away from Paris. The location makes it ideal for sports and field trips, offering children a totally immersive learning experience.
McConnell explains that there will be lots of structure for children but, importantly, the chance to have fun too. There will also be guest speakers that you wouldn't normally get in regular schools.
“We will be organizing field trips so they can learn about European culture and history. It is a chance to send your child on an adventure!”
Photo: Le Sallay
More time with your children
Saying goodbye to your child before they depart for boarding school can be heartbreaking for parents. Le Sallay's mixed model ensures that children continue to have strong family ties while also getting the chance to socialize with classmates at the learning camp, meet children from different backgrounds whilst getting a quality education.
“You get to have your children around! They will be at home more but will also get that independence by going to the learning camps and being on their own while getting the socialization that is part of the school experience,” concludes McConnell.
Le Sallay's first classes will launch in September 2019. A fee discount is offered to gifted children. Find out more about the academy and fill in an admission form on Le Sallay's website.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Le Sallay.