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Editor's Pick

Friday Feature: Leading Little Arrows

Colleen Hroncich

When her two‐​year old daughter taught herself to read, Amber Okolo‐​Ebube knew she had to ensure she had a good education. She started doing research online and discovered homeschooling. She fell in love with the idea but didn’t think she’d be able to persuade her husband. She was shocked when he agreed—which he recently admitted was because it was less expensive than the other options she’d been considering.

Amber didn’t just love the idea of homeschooling; she loved the reality of it. Eventually, she began looking for a homeschool co‐​op that would fit her family. “I looked around for one that would be multicultural, which means different intellectual abilities, different economic backgrounds, different races,” she explains. “I’m American and my husband’s Nigerian. We have different cultures, and I didn’t want my kids to just be in one little tiny bubble. And I didn’t find that. So I created Leading Little Arrows. And as I started putting it out there, families started flocking.”

Leading Little Arrows learners

Founded in Arlington, TX, Leading Little Arrows offers two complimentary programs. The hybrid school meets Tuesdays and Thursdays. At the beginning of the year, they test the children to see where they are academically and build a learning plan from that. In December, they do another evaluation where they discuss their strengths, where they need to improve, and goals. The kids have group learning with students at similar levels and breakaway time for one‐​on‐​one support. Parents receive a letter with activities that they can do with their children at home to reinforce what they’re learning at school.

On Fridays, there’s a tutorial program that helps kids learn through STEM, art, and nature studies. Classes are led by paid teachers, but a parent must stay on‐​site. Amber has a hospitality host who makes the parents breakfast and coffee to give them a break from the busyness of life. “They talk to the other families, and they learn so much from each other. It’s just a good relaxing time for them so they can kick off the weekend and start Monday strong,” she says. “If we notice that one family is consistently late, our hospitality host will alert me, and then I reach out to them to see what’s going on. Because if you’re consistently late, something’s happening before you get there.” Once she finds out if there’s a problem, the community pitches in with things like meals or babysitting to help them catch their breath.

Despite—or perhaps because of—the small size, children with special needs are thriving. Amber says around 85 percent of her students have some type of neurodivergence or emotional disturbance. Initially, Amber put her daughter who has autism and some other special needs in the public school system because she didn’t have confidence in herself. While her daughter had phenomenal teachers, Amber kept running into red tape trying to get her the services she needed. “My viewpoint on homeschooling was always if we can do better than what the public school system can do, then we will keep them at home,” says Amber. “And it came to a point where I could do better for her at home than what the school system did.”

Kids at Leading Little Arrows

“I felt that my daughter was a square and they were trying to put her in a round hole. Instead of just trying to jam her to fit in it, they were trying to shave the sides off to make her a circle. And that just wasn’t who she was,” Amber recalls. “Thankfully, I didn’t have to have teachers that kind of talked down to me, but I’ve seen that. I’ve seen where parents in the school system kind of lose their power and lose their voice. And I have to remind the families that are coming out of the school system, ‘Hey, these are your kids, and you are allowed to advocate for them even in the public school system.’ And I think that what we’re seeing with this wave of grassroots microschools and homeschools is that parents are starting to realize, ‘Wait a minute. I have a voice and I don’t have to just bow down to what a district says. I know my child best.’”

Leading Little Arrows is in the process of moving from Arlington to Irving. The Friday tutorial recently made the switch and the hybrid school will move in the fall. Because things are, as Amber puts it, a “well‐​oiled machine,” she’s also opening a brand new campus in the fall. The new one will be in Fort Worth, which is about an hour from her home.

For parents or teachers who are considering starting their own learning centers, Amber is very encouraging. “I always tell people to start small. But not small thinking. Just look at what you have in your hands. What do you have around you?” she says. “If you’re thinking about doing it, just start. Even if it’s just a play date once a week. Even if it’s just you partnering with your local library to do a program once a month. That’s more than doing nothing.”

Leading Little Arrows was recently a quarterfinalist for the Yass Prize, which included a $100,000 award, and was previously a VELA Education Fund recipient. Amber says she couldn’t have predicted this when she started and doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. But she’s looking forward to the journey.

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