Frequently Asked Questions
How are St. Raphael School courses different from other online courses?
Our courses seek to provide “restful learning” following a liturgical pattern. We do think learning can be free of frenzy and anxiety without sacrificing academic excellence. We train our teachers to impart virtue to students, wedding truth to beauty and seeking to nurture souls while also training minds. St. Raphael School seeks to teach holistically, therefore leading students to engage truth, goodness, and beauty in every art and discipline, while seeking wisdom and mastery. For a detailed description of our learning philosophy and pedagogy, please see the scholé learning philosophy section of our Student-Parent Handbook.
What courses do you offer, and which ones will you add in the future?
Currently we offer online courses in four strategic areas where there exists the greatest need for distinctly Orthodox resources:
- Catechism: spiritual formation, church history, and theology
- Foreign Languages: Greek, Russian, and Arabic (in development)
- Sacred Arts: Orthodox Church music and iconography
- Liberal Arts: K-12 integrated humanities program
We have hired talented teachers, most of whom have written their own curriculum, to develop and offer these courses. Other courses, like mathematics and science, are available directly through our parent program, Scholé Academy, or can be supplemented through other means. Classical Academic Press, parent company of Scholé Academy and St. Raphael School, publishes a complete classical curriculum, guides, and training materials. In practice, most homeschooling families mix and match curricula to suit the needs and preferences of their children. While we heartily recommend the CAP curriculum as a comprehensive solution, SRS courses are independent of it and can be used alongside other curriculum plans.
Is St. Raphael School an Orthodox Christian school?
Yes. Instructors are required to be Orthodox Christians who regularly attend and are in good standing with their local parish. Moreover, our courses content and selections will be made to create an environment which nurtures and supports the Orthodox faith of our students. Our faith commitment is summarized in the Nicene Creed.
Does St. Raphael School take off classes for all major feast days?
While we do take off Holy Week and add an additional week to Christmas Break for Old Calendar Nativity, we do not take off for every major feast day. In an Orthodox parish school setting, it would be quite natural to excuse all students from class to attend the festal liturgy and then return to classes. The reality of our situation is much more complex—we have homeschooling families who observe Old and New Calendars; we have families who have services across several times zones; and there are different local and jurisdictional practices (evening vs. morning services). After polling families and considering various options, we’ve discovered that there isn’t a way to make a general policy that will satisfy everyone. Even if we were to cancel a few classes or a whole day of school, it is unlikely that the majority of the students would benefit.
Thus, we remind our teachers and strongly encourage families to give preference to religious observance when it conflicts with class. We record all of our classes, and teachers will excuse students who miss for these reasons. Students may simply watch the recording after the liturgy and they will be prepared for the next day of class.
Is St. Raphael School open to families who are not Orthodox Christians?
Yes, we are open to any family who wants to participate. Since we also understand that some Orthodox practices may be unfamiliar to Christians from other traditions (e.g. use of iconography, veneration of the saints, the celebration of feasts, and observance of fasts) we welcome any questions about how faith is integrated into our courses. It is important for families to understand, however, that all students will be expected to participate in each aspect of the course. For questions, please contact the Principal of St. Raphael School, Adam Lockridge.
What texts or materials will I need for taking SRS courses?
All the materials you will need to take a St. Raphael School course are listed on the course page under “Course Materials.”
Are required texts included in the purchase of the course?
No, course materials are sold separately.
How can I be sure my student is ready for a particular course?
Please pay careful attention to the course descriptions, target grade level, and any prerequisites listed. Entry-level courses (e.g., Greek Alphabet Primer) don’t have specific academic requirements other than age and on-level reading and learning ability. You can find a detailed description of student placement guidelines in Section III.2 in our Student-Parent Handbook.
May I register a student who falls outside of the listed grade range for the course?
If you have any questions about placement, or if you plan to enroll a student who is outside of the listed grade range for the course, please contact us before you begin the registration process, and we will be happy to help you determine the best placement for your student.
Do you accommodate students with learning challenges and/or disabilities?
At St. Raphael School, we understand the honor and responsibility we have to partner with parents as they navigate the road of academic development for their child. To best enable us to meet your student’s needs while maintaining high standards for our courses, we would like to invite you to dialogue with us if you think your child might demonstrate a developmental difference that could limit his or her ability to fully engage with the course and its standard requirements. Our instructors are not equipped or trained to serve students with learning disabilities. However, in many cases, students with learning challenges are able to participate fully in our courses with outside assistance.
- Before you enroll a child with learning challenges and/or disabilities: To ensure that we can serve your student well, we ask that you please contact us prior to registration if your student has any unique learning challenges or has been diagnosed with any learning disabilities. If you have questions about the placement of your child in one of our classes, please contact us, and we would be glad to discuss possibilities for accommodation. In some cases, we may request that the student and/or parent meet with the course instructor to determine the best course of action.
- Provisional enrollments for students with learning challenges and/or disabilities: Students with learning disabilities who are accepted into St. Raphael School courses are enrolled on a provisional basis. Within the first 3 weeks of classes, the parent or teacher may determine that the course is not the proper fit for the student, and a refund will be issued. To the best of our ability, we seek to ensure proper placement before the start of the school year. However, in the occasion that an issue becomes apparent within the first 3 weeks of classes, the parent or teacher may request that the student withdraw for a full refund.
Please note that St. Raphael School, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to deny admission to a student for any reason.
What technology do you use for teaching SRS classes online?
We use a cloud-based virtual classroom called Zoom for teaching all of our SRS courses, live in “real time.” Zoom is very easy to use and reliable over many kinds of networks, connections, browsers, and computers. With Zoom, students can see and hear their teacher and their classmates, creating a “face-to-face” experience and collaborative classroom atmosphere. In addition, teachers are able to share a whiteboard (that students can type or write on) as well as PDF displays of actual book pages, PowerPoint slides, videos, audio—virtually anything available on the teacher’s computer. Standard features such a chat box and “hand raising” are also available. To learn more about Zoom and the technological requirements for using it successfully, see the classroom technology section of our Student-Parent Handbook.
What are the hardware and software requirements?
This is an important question since we want to ensure that everyone has a smooth, positive experience online. The specific requirements are detailed in each course listing under the technical requirements tab and can also be found in the classroom technology section of our Student-Parent Handbook.
Do students need to participate with their video turned on?
Yes. It is expected that students will engage in the live classes with their videos turned on. Parents and guardians will encourage their students to respectfully participate in the courses, as the instructors have designed them to include class discussions, projects, peer evaluations, exchange of ideas, homework submissions, and shared class resources. Parents and guardians will ensure that suitable computer equipment (see hardware and software requirements in the classroom technology section) is available and working so that students can access the online courses and use them well.
What is your grading policy?
While St. Raphael School courses will be “restful,” we also recognize the need to provide grades for students who will be using this course as part of their prepared college transcript. It’s a delicate balance to achieve both restful learning and excellent academic performance. Earning a specific grade should not overshadow achievement goals for mastery of this discipline. Often, for disciplines in classical education, learning the concepts introduced will be a necessary and significant component of future success in upper-level classical education. In that sense, attaining mastery is its own reward.
Teachers will often assign the following grades based on students’ level of achievement: magna cum laude (with great praise), cum laude (with praise), satis (sufficient, satisfactory), and non satis (not sufficient). Ideally, every average student working diligently should do praiseworthy work (cum laude). Those who excel beyond this expectation will be the magna cum laude Students who do adequate but not praiseworthy work should be designated satis. Non satis means lacking sufficiency or adequacy. These assessments are not mere grading instruments but ways for both the student and the instructor to assess mastery. If students need to complete a college transcript with either a numeric or letter grade, they will need to notify the teacher so that he or she can provide a traditional grade accordingly upon request at the end of the course.
Raphael School serves homeschoolers by providing online instruction, but we do not replace parents as the administrators of homeschools. As such, the ultimate authority on a student’s grade is his or her parent. If a parent feels the need to modify the teacher’s assessment in his or her own records, as the administrator, he or she should feel free to do so. However, only students who complete the required work for a given class at a level deemed satisfactory by the instructor will receive a completion certificate from St. Raphael School.
Is attendance required? Can my student watch a recording of the course instead of attending the live session?
Our classes are live and highly interactive, with students regularly interacting with their instructor and peers and participating in class discussion. Students are expected to attend classes with their videos turned on and to function as a full participant in each class, contributing to the class dynamic and success of the entire cohort. There are, of course, circumstances, both planned and unplanned, in which students must miss a class. In such circumstances, we provide students with a recording of the live class session so that they may play back the session they missed. Whenever possible, we ask that students alert their instructor of their absence before missing class.
While recordings of live sessions are a helpful tool for occasional absences, they are not a sufficient replacement for class participation in the long term. With this in mind:
- We allow a maximum of 12 absences for yearlong courses that meet 4 times per week.
- We allow a maximum of 9 absences for yearlong courses that meet 3 times per week.
- We allow a maximum of 6 absences for yearlong courses that meet 2 times per week.
- We allow a maximum of 3 absences for one-semester courses that meet 2 times per week.
- During the summer term, absence permissions are handled by the course instructor on a case-by-case basis.
Please note: Though we will endeavor to have recordings for each and every class, we can’t guarantee that we will have recordings 100 percent of the time (e.g., occasionally we run into technical difficulties). Our teachers are available to their students in class, via Schoology messaging, and during office hours. If your student has to miss a class, anything you can do to minimize the extra work required of the teacher would be greatly appreciated. As you might expect, teachers can’t reteach the material via email. However, our teachers are accessible to their students and provide assistance as needed.
Our students live all over the world, and there are occasionally natural events that prevent a family from being able to attend their scheduled classes. Please make your instructor aware of any extensive damage or displacement due to natural disasters. We are happy to accommodate families in these cases.
What happens if my student will be absent more than the maximum number of days allowed for his class?
The absence policy is intended to curtail chronic absences that would inhibit the maturation of the class dynamic and the student’s success or create a burden for the instructor. However, if you have planned absences which will exceed the maximum number of days allowed for a class, please let the instructor and registrar know before the time of purchase. In some cases (and at the approval of the instructor), exceptions can be made to accommodate preplanned absences for mission trips, family moves, etc. In other cases, students are required to adhere to the absence policy to maintain their enrollment in the course.
When will I be charged for the tuition for an SRS course?
Payment for courses may be made online on the St. Raphael School website or by calling the office at 866-730-0711. Tuition for each course is listed on the course page and also at checkout. St. Raphael School has partnered with Affirm, a financing alternative to credit cards and other credit payment products. Affirm offers instant financing for online purchases to be paid in fixed monthly installments.*
Questions about the details of the payment plans and your eligibility should be directed toward Affirm—the St. Raphael School administration does not have access to your Affirm account information. Learn more about how it works here.
*Subject to eligibility. Payment options through Affirm are provided by these lending partners: affirm.com/lenders.
If a course is full, can I get on a waiting list?
If a given course is designated “Full with waiting list,” parents may contact us to indicate their interest. If a seat becomes available, we will notify students on the waiting list in the order in which they requested to be put on the list. In some cases, St. Raphael School may offer an additional section of a course if a course fills up quickly. In these cases, we will notify those on the wait list of the new section when it becomes available for registration.
What is your withdrawal/refund policy?
There is a $75 deposit built into the cost of each course.
- If a placement evaluation has not been administered, withdrawals requested before May 1 are granted a full refund, including the full $75 deposit. After May 1, withdrawals are granted a full course refund, less the $75 deposit. Students may withdraw from a course through the second week of classes. After the second week of classes, no refund is given.
- If a placement evaluation has been administered: Withdrawals requested before May 1 are granted a full refund, including $40 of the original $75 deposit. The remaining $35 of the original deposit is paid to the instructor for the placement evaluation. After May 1, withdrawals are granted a full course refund, less the $75 deposit. Students may withdraw from a course through the second week of classes. After the second week of classes, no refund is given.
Will I receive confirmation that my student is assured a seat for a given SRS course?
Yes, you will receive a confirmation email as soon as we process your order. The purchase of the course secures your student’s seat in the course; the student information provided at checkout enables us to contact you and help prepare you for the course. In any case, where SRS determines that your student might not be ready for a course, we will issue a complete and immediate refund.
Can I switch to a different course after purchasing a SRS course?
Yes, switching courses is permitted through the second week of classes. If you would like to switch courses, please contact us. If the course that you wish to switch to is full, then we will not be able to accommodate a switch request. For some courses, placement evaluations are required to be completed and confirmed before a student may enroll. A registration is not complete without the instructor’s final approval.
How do I learn about the qualifications of SRS teachers?
We include biographies of our teachers on the Our People page. SRS recruits and hires experienced, Orthodox Christian teachers who are equipped and trained to teach according to our scholé approach.
Are your high school courses accredited?
Our high school courses are not accredited, but we do post the recommended credit amount to be given for each course below the course description. St. Raphael School partners with homeschooling families by offering live, online courses which help provide additional teaching, curriculum structure, accountability, and community to students.
At the end of the year we offer completion certificates to students which can help validate their coursework in some cases.
Parents should take care to ensure compliance with state laws and keep records of study for student transcripts. The best place to begin in researching local laws and transcript preparation for colleges is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
If you are new to homeschooling and considering it as an option, here is a great place to begin learning.
If I enroll 2 students in the same course, is tuition charged for each?
Yes. Just as in a traditional classroom setting, students enrolled in our courses participate in interactive live class sessions as well as receive personal feedback on their work. Siblings enrolled in the same class will participate as individual students, so tuition applies to each. We strongly recommend that siblings join the live class sessions from separate computers so that they can participate fully in class discussions, breakout sessions, etc.
Can adults enroll in or audit student classes?
Adults are not permitted to enroll in or audit student classes. We have occasionally created adult versions of some of our courses. If you are interested in an adult course, please contact us and let us know.
Why don’t you open enrollment as early as other online academies?
At St. Raphael School, we take “restful” very seriously. And we try to apply this balanced approach of rest and rigor not only to the courses your children enjoy, but also to general management of our organization. For example, many of those in our community have expressed appreciation for our more relaxed withdrawal and refund policy, one of the many distinctively scholé characteristics you see evident in our organization.
Each year the enrollment season seems to open earlier and earlier, thus putting more pressure on our instructors to look into the future and know their availability and schedules almost a year in advance. There is an unfortunate tension between the urgency to post our courses as early as possible and our desire to give our instructors an opportunity to consider their family schedules and busy lives outside of school.
We want to slow things down a bit, not be reactionary and feel a compulsion to adopt the frenetic pacing which seems to drive the online enrollment process. Additionally, we seek to find the best classically trained Orthodox Christian instructors, who are also the most qualified and passionate, to fulfill our scholé approach. We offer courses once we have found the right instructor to host those courses. We put quality before urgency.
Each year in early December, our admin team begins building course lists and polling our current instructors. After Christmas, we begin the interview process to fill open positions. By early April we have made final course decisions and solidified our staff schedules, allowing us to open enrollments to our community.
The result is a highly qualified team of educators who are prepared to teach the wide range of courses we offer.
I’m new to homeschooling. Can you give me some guidance on getting started?
St. Raphael School exists to serve families who have already made the decision to home educate their children. These families are looking for the structure and direction that live, online classes provide; they seek the help of a knowledgeable teacher who understands their faith commitments; and they want their children to have more experience interacting and discussing with other students.
Making the decision to homeschool will elicit many questions: What curriculum will we use? What does my 7th grader really need to know? Will my kids be able to go to college? Is homeschooling legal in my state? (Yes, it is, but requirements vary.) What are our educational goals?
Our online courses may be able to help you reach your goals for your family, but they are not a replacement for your direct involvement in answering these types of questions. Before enrolling in our courses, please take care to consider all that is involved with homeschooling so that you will better understand how online courses can assist in your family educational goals.
Before you begin homeschooling, it is important to educate yourself about it. You probably won’t find a better place to start than the free online resources available from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Far from being a mere legal resource, they have helpful articles and videos which provide information on most topics related to homeschooling.
Here are some other places to get started:
- If you are brand new to homeschooling and have kids in Elementary or Middle School, see in particular the HSLDA getting-ready-to-homeschool checklist
- If you are researching homeschooling in high school, see this page: https://www.hslda.org/highschool/
- “Why Orthodox Christian families homeschool their children,” interview with Adam Lockridge by Presvytera Vassi Haros