One of the most amazing things about small learning communities is Universality… in how we choose to pursue a “Small School” style of education. Within this Universality, the Small Schools Coalition celebrates the cultures and curricula that make each and every small school the world over unique.

In this spirit, we excitedly shine our member spotlight on our newest member, from the Great State of Texas, the Elim Christian School in Houston!

Get to know Elim Christian School!

We at the Small Schools Coalition have been very privileged to talk with Elim School’s Principal and Teacher Dianne Hornor. Among other things, Principal Hornor shares a bit of what makes Elim so special in general, and what makes it stand out from the many other “special” schools in the Houston area…

The mission of Elim School is to provide a biblically based, Christ-centered education for students of all academic abilities, developing their full potential and inspiring them to live for the glory of God. Our mission is displayed in our culture, which itself is unique for a couple of reasons.

First of all, we presently have 14 students from ages 8-22 (grades 2-11), so we really feel more like a big family than a school in some ways. When we engage in Problem Based Learning, we often do so in multi-age and ability groupings, which brings a sense of unity among the students, and helps them learn to communicate and collaborate with others unlike themselves – an incredibly important skill for the present world.

In this context, we definitely don’t fit the mold for Houston, TX. Though there are many “special schools” in this city of 7 million (the region), most are larger and only 2 others are Christian. Public schools can be very large, and even many of the Christian schools have classes of 17 – 25. We are committed to 7:1.

Secondly, we are a Christian school, and there really aren’t too many small, Christian schools  expressly for students with learning differences. We are intentional about providing times for a Bible class, and showing the love of Jesus through restorational discipline. 

A “Special School” for Special Learners

elim christian school students working on laptops

When asked to go more in depth about what makes Elim Christian School so unique in the world of students with special learning challenges, Principal Hornor elaborates by saying…

Our school is unique in that, at present, it could be considered a “special” school for students with learning differences, although our goal is to be a school for students of all academic abilities.

As such, all our students have one or more of the following: ADD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Anxiety, OCD, physical challenges (heart, motor skills, hearing impaired). As far as we know, we are the only K-12 Christian school for students with learning differences.

We are also trying to implement the concept of a school-within-a-school. Basically, we are looking for a small school that would like to “adopt” us, a place where we can be on campus with neurotypical students for both enrichment and academic purposes.

In fact and to that point, we’ve been working on becoming accredited, and since we are one of the few Christian schools of our kind, our accrediting agency isn’t quite sure what to do with us!

It’s also been a slow process somewhat because this is only our sixth year of existence, and we only have 4 teachers to work through all the paperwork necessary for accreditation.

Giving Special Students a Special Place to Belong

a student working on his computer at Elim Christian School

As we encounter time and again with our members and friends, being special can be pretty frightening sometimes. This goes as much for schools as students… and in the spirit that we think everyone is special in their own fantastic ways!

But for a school like Elim, the vastness of the educational, and even “small school” landscape, can easily appear overwhelming to process at times. Principal Hornor acknowledges this when she says…

One of our largest challenges is trying to find ways to let families know that we exist, that we are here and can help their special learners get the education they deserve! Another is finding ways to specifically engage high school students who might expect things like prom, homecoming, football, marching band, etc.

Regardless, Principal Hornor knows that Elim provides a valuable necessary service to her community’s faith and works alilke. Or, as she put it…

Our greatest success has been providing a place for students who feel like they have been the round pegs being hammered into square holes in previous schools. They find a place at Elim where they are accepted for who they are, and although we teach social skills informally, we also allow them as much as possible to be who they are, with their gifts, their passions, their desires…not what their peers or the culture as a whole wants them to be.

At this point, and we are only in our 6th year, we have had four graduates. One went to a community college, one to a state university, and two to a program called Non Pareil – for young people with Autism.

The fact that Principal Hornor and the Elim School have already accomplished so much in the lives of its students in such a relatively short amount of time, we are excited to see things unfold for them in the future… and we ask you to join us in welcoming them to the Small Schools Coalition!

Join the Small Schools Movement!

Would you like your small learning community showcased in our member spotlight? If you are not yet a member of the Small Schools Coalition, we welcome you to join us totally free-of-charge.

If you are already a member, contact us to discuss how we can provide you with the complimentary platform to show the entire world what makes your small school special!

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