Cornerstone Christian Academy: Orchestrating an Oasis of Opportunity

by | Mar 2024

MARY BESSE craved opportunities for her four home-schooled children to delve deeper into a wider variety of subjects that interested them. Ten years ago, she founded the home-school tutorial Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA), which offers weekly classes at The Journey Church. Although she appreciated their previous home-school cooperative program, where parents divided up the teaching responsibilities, she instead chose to follow the model of a tutorial program where qualified teachers get compensated for their time. 

“When we were involved in the co-op, I wished I could sign my early elementary kids up for more specific classes that offered a stronger academic foundation,” explained Besse. “Upon searching for such a program, I realized one did not exist at that time. I love thinking outside the box and creating new things. Coming up with new ideas to meet a need that isn’t being met is my idea of a fun time.” 

A lot was happening in Besse’s family during that time, including the declining health of her father and the international adoption of her then 5-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who didn’t speak English. 

With so much on her plate, Besse took solace in having a co-director for CCA, and the location where the group would meet was secured. Registration of new families exceeded her expectations, and 74 students signed up. But then, something tragic happened. The co-director and the venue canceled, leaving CCA homeless and Besse scrounging for another location. All the while, the deadline for the first day of class loomed over her. 

“At the time, my husband, John, was out of town. I was going to call him that evening to fill him in when I felt like the Lord wanted me to sit with Him in prayer for a bit. So I thought to myself, ‘What specifically am I asking the Lord for?’ The answer came to me in a word — ‘rooms.’ I didn’t need anything fancy or even a huge building. 

“I just needed a building with seven empty rooms in which we could hold the classes we had planned. So, I asked the Lord to give us seven rooms somewhere in Lebanon. Before I picked up my phone to call John, I opened my Bible, and it literally fell open to John 14:2-3, which read, ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms.’” 

One week later, Besse received a call from a local church that wanted to host the group, answering her prayer. The group has since grown to an enrollment of over 400. 

“The root of CCA is a sense of family and community anchored in the love of Jesus. We offer opportunities that our students can’t do at home, like archery, Taekwondo, dance, art with mixed media, STEM, and super science classes. We also offer lots of hands-on learning and experiments, theatre classes, crafting, sewing, and a variety of Bible classes, plus literature classes where students can discuss literary works with their peers. Some of our more unique class offerings are meteorology, marine biology, learning to build, music classes, and classes on all the possible career paths students may be interested in when they are older. 

For junior high and high school, we offer many of the same enrichment classes, but we add some age-appropriate options like cooking, life skills and home maintenance, hobby farming and gardening, sewing, typing, how to create documents and spreadsheets, website design, and woodworking. For older grades, we also offer core classes like algebra, geometry, biology and chemistry, English, research and writing, American history, and world history. Aside from academics, our students get the joy of participating in holiday parties, grade-level social gatherings outside of school, planned educational field trips, student council, out-of-town trips, and we offer a prom for our high school students.” 

Besse now has 15 years of home-schooling under her belt, three of her children have graduated, and Rebecca is a thriving high school student. Besse’s oldest son, Aaron, obtained a business degree from Cumberland University. Her daughter, Sara, is a freshman at Union University. Her son, Jacob, serves in the U.S. Navy. 

“We teach our children to think outside the box, to do different things, and to see all the endless possibilities. Life is not formulaic. Our goal is to help our children pave their own way to their goals in life, not to look for a path that’s already paved; I feel that home-schooling has helped them to do that.” GN 

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