Connie Pillsbury is an independent opinion columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at conniepillsbury22@gmail.com.

While parents and local school boards bicker over curriculum, masks, and mandates, a quiet and profound educational pivot is occurring behind the scenes in San Luis Obispo County. “Necessity is the mother of invention” applies here, as exponential numbers of parents are generating new and novel educational programs outside of the public school system.

Just a few of the expanding options on the leading edge of this shift are the county-wide Heartland Charter School, Almond Acres Charter Academy in Paso Robles, Learn Academy in Atascadero, Christ Classical School, and SLO Classical School in San Luis Obispo.

Heartland Charter School is a tuition-free, public independent study charter school serving kindergarten through 12th grade in nine California counties. The Heartland community is composed of homeschooling families under the guidance and direction of credentialed Heartland teachers. Its unique educational funds make it a popular choice for local parents. Each student has funds which can be applied to various local approved ‘vendors’ in the areas of fine arts, music, educational and physical activities. There are over twenty vendors just in North County, including horseback, swim, martial arts, and dance lessons along with sewing, piano, art, guitar, and tutoring.

In Paso Robles, the brand new and beautiful Almond Acres Charter School, made possible through the vision and support of its founders and local parents and donors, is open on Niblick Lane for full classroom learning for K-8 students. Focused on complementary academic instruction across all grade levels, math, science and technology focus, leadership, and fine arts, Almond Acres’s goal is to “incite a passion and desire to learn.”

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Project: Learn LLC in Atascadero meets two days a week at the Community Church in Atascadero. They offer a rich schoolroom experience for homeschool students, focusing on Project Based Learning, cross-curricular classes, field trips, nature study adventures, and more. Project Learn is also a Vendor for Heartland Charter School.

The Christ Classical School, opened in 2016 on the campus of the former Laureate school, is both a Christian and classical school based on the ‘trivium’ structure, which means the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic along with Latin instruction. With a rigorous academic program based on a Christian worldview, this option appeals to parents who desire a strong and traditional classroom approach.

San Luis Obispo Classical Academy on Grand Avenue presents a hybrid model for learning through part-time in-classroom on campus and part-time learning at home. With programs from infant and toddler care all the way through high school, the challenging and stimulating curriculum leads students through world history at their own level in a period of four school years. Students are on campus for two-four days/week and taught at home by parents under the guidance of the teacher’s syllabus and recommended literature.

Now that you’ve read the story, you can do the math. When you add these five schools to the list of private schools in North County: Children’s House Montessori, North County Christian, Saint Rose, Santa Lucia School, Trinity Lutheran School, and Trivium Charter School at Dove Creek, plus all the independent homeschoolers and homeschool Pods, the number is well into the thousands. Yes, it’s true, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”