The team at Pathways Home Education shows how student intervention and parent partnerships can chart a course for successful homeschooling.
Maricela Luna is a woman on a mission. The former teacher and high school counselor has dedicated her career to helping students and families realize their potential through comprehensive services that include social-emotional support and post-secondary planning. As Executive Director of Pathways Home Education in San Antonio, Luna uses her professional experience and passion for education to help drive student success via homeschooling.
Becoming a Teacher and Counselor
Born in Weslaco, Texas, and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Luna remembers the challenges of gaining an education while navigating two distinct countries and cultures.
“It was a tough journey. My primary language was Spanish, but in school, we were not allowed to speak anything but English,” she recalls. “I didn’t have great teachers or connections with any of them except one, Ms. Lucio, in fifth grade. She was empowering. She said when we faced challenges in life to keep going, and I remembered her words.”
After graduating high school, Luna commuted nearly two hours from the Rio Grande Valley to Kingsville, Texas. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in political science and Spanish from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. During her college history courses, she began to consider education a viable career path.
“I fell in love with history and became a teacher at a charter school in the Rio Grande Valley,” she says. “The experience taught me how important it is to build relationships. No matter what goal you set for the student, if you don’t build relationships with parents, families, students, with your team—there’s no winning. It takes a community.”
“As an educator, I want to feel supported, and I want that for students and their families,” she adds.
After receiving a master’s degree in education and working as a high school counselor in San Antonio, Luna stayed true to her passion for challenging students to succeed and consider post-secondary planning.
“As a counselor, you wear many hats. You deal with academics and crises. You’re a mentor, a social worker, and a mom sometimes,” she says. “My passion remained the same—focusing on post-secondary education, but after COVID, I saw a sharp decline among students leaving school and looking for work. I took it personally. I wanted them to stay in school and see it through.”
Homeschooling as Problem Solving
While on leave from work for a short period, Luna began researching laws regarding homeschooling. Luna says she felt empowered to look for ways to help students who needed options to finish their education and support families who needed guidance and partnership to accomplish this goal. Then, the idea for Pathways Home Education was born, prompting Luna to dedicate her focus and efforts to her passion project full-time.
Pathways Home Education has become a registered 501(c)(3) organization in just under two years. It provides homeschool services for families and students in San Antonio who need guidance, support, and resources, including consultations, on-site assistance, and post-secondary planning.
Luna says every initial consultation with families is an opportunity to address challenges beginning with a social-emotional perspective. She often refers families back to their school to work through issues at school involving disagreements or bullying.
“Sometimes it’s that simple. I am not discouraging homeschooling, but sometimes things can be worked out,” Luna explains. “We look at all options. Maybe the student would learn best at a charter school, or homeschooling is the best option. The goal is to understand the student and their needs and develop a personalized action plan in partnership with the family.”
She is a staunch opponent of some school districts’ fear-based interventions, like threatening to take families to court for truancy.
“They put a lot of fear in parents, and sometimes they feel like the only solution is homeschooling, but that decision should not be based on fear. There are options,” she says.
“The goal isn’t just a high school diploma. The goal is to understand how your child learns best and ensure they are prepared for success beyond high school,” she continues. “It is important to find what works for each student.”
Instead of feeling intimidated, Luna says parents should feel empowered to actively participate in their child’s education and seek support from Pathways Home Education if they don’t know where to start.
“We are actively working to give students the right foundation to make sure they’re as successful as possible in school and throughout life,” says Luna. “Through conversations, planning, and regular touchpoints with the student, we are proactive about keeping them on track no matter their long-term goals.”
Support for Home Education
When a family decides on homeschooling with Pathways Home Education, Luna and her team provide comprehensive support, including incorporating Google Classroom, student check-ins, and strong communication with parents via Remind texts and newsletters. The team also works to engage students in community service projects, and developing and building a resume is also a requirement for older students.
There is also a strong emphasis on goal setting and achievement. Students in the program work to achieve goals every two weeks, and check-ins are used to troubleshoot challenges and discuss progress and align on solutions.
Luna recalls an instance where a parent came to Pathways regarding her son, and after consulting with the student, she discovered he loved boxing. She informed the mother that boxing was a physical education credit for homeschooling. The flexibility in building a program that spoke to the student’s interests has improved his accountability and academic performance. In fact, Luna proudly attended his first boxing match recently.
“This is not a cookie-cutter plan for every student. We care about academics and what they’re doing outside of the classroom, and we work to modify learning,” she says.
Connecting with Pathways Home Education
Pathways has also expanded its reach with community partnerships and six convenient locations across the city to serve families better. Services include support for kindergarten through 12th-grade students and consultations in person and virtually.
As she looks to the future, Luna is most proud of the network of families, schools, and community partners who have played a part in the organization’s success.
“When everyone is committed to students’ success, we all win,” she says emphatically.
For more information on Pathways Home Education or to inquire about a consultation, please visit phesa.org.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Maricela Luna, Executive Director, Marilyn Danae, President, and Chelsea Polanco, Community Outreach, all with Pathways Home Education, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on May 25, 2023 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Maricela Luna is the Executive Director of Pathways Home Education. She was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Started her teaching career with IDEA Public Schools and transitioned to McAllen ISD before moving to San Antonio, Texas. She started working as a professional high school counselor with Edgewood ISD where she found a personal drive and dedication towards post-secondary success with a no excuses, goal-driven mindset for every student regardless of socioeconomic status or background. This same passion and support is now applied towards the underserved homeschool community she now serves.
Marilyn Danae is the President of Pathways Home Education, having joined the team in 2022. An aspiring Masters of Public Administration in Nonprofit Management student, and sociology major, with an ardor for identifying and providing solutions for today’s unique issues facing education and social-emotional learning. She aims to provide mentorship and partnership with every family she works with. Her hope is for equity in education and opportunities each student receives, with the assistance of the community and local leaders. Her vision is to build a safe space for students that would nurture the aspirations of each student while still bringing them together to build a sense of belonging and purpose.
Chelsea Polanco manages Community Outreach for Pathways Home Education. She was an elementary School Teacher for a charter school in San Antonio, Texas, for three years after her military service in the Army for eight years in San Diego, California. She has a passion for alternative learning methods and learned the deep understanding of alternative learning after seeing her own children struggle in traditional schooling. Always learning and always willing to learn is her motto.
Read More About Home Education
- “Exploring Life & Business with Maricela Luna of Pathways HomeEd,” Voyage San Antonio, August 10, 2022
- “Students of Service (SOS) Helps Teens Engage Through Volunteering,” San Antonio Charter Moms, May 27, 2022
- “Online Schools in Texas,” San Antonio Charter Moms, February 2, 2022
- “Choosing Online Private Schools,” San Antonio Charter Moms, May 13, 2021
- “Keep Calm and Parent On: Advice for Accidental Homeschoolers,” Caitlyn Baker and Shannon Ruddell, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 3, 2020