Staff Conference Reflection

TLA staff had a wonderful time learning and working together on Monday and Tuesday last week. We focused on supporting TLA families and each other as a staff through themes of communication, consistency, and community. As you likely are aware, we have an unusual work environment as a Distributed Learning school. Our office staff are on site every day, but our teaching staff is quite “distributed”, working all around the province in various locations: home, libraries, and cafes are likely the three most popular spots. Home and LSS teachers are often out on home visits and meetings, Online teachers work remotely and often at late hours, and Blended teaches strike a balance between classroom teaching and connecting with the home. We have diverse working styles and needs, which suits the diversity of TLA families, as no two families are alike in their educational path.

The passion for service and the focused desire to examine and improve practices that our staff demonstrated at our conference last week was inspiring and energizing. Be assured that we are always striving for excellence with integrity in all of our efforts to honour your choice of TLA Online as your family’s distributed learning school.

Autumn Greeting

Well, here we are in late October, and our focus has been on communicating “internally” through our school forum system, rather than here in the blogs on our public website. The school year at TLA Online is off to a flying start. The first four to six weeks of the year is a busy time for every school, ours included, but around this time of year parents, students, and staff tend to have settled in to the realities of a new school year, and “onward and upward” we all go.

Our office and facilities are closed on October 22 and 23 for our twice annual staff conference. We’ll be focusing on three primary themes of communication, consistency, and community…all through the overarching lens of our vision of Strong Families and Lifelong Learners. Over eighty TLA Online staff members from around British Columbia will come together to collaborate, discuss, and learn together. It’s a special time for all of us, as we work together closely in online environments but only get a chance to physically see the totality of our staff twice each year. We will be focusing on the the aforementioned themes, as we work to examine and enhance our service to TLA families this year and into the future.

We accept year-round “continuous enrolment” at all grade levels as well as cross-enrolment in grades 10-12. Contact us any time if you are curious as to whether distributed learning through TLA Online is a good fit for your family.


Thinking Big Thoughts

Think Big Thoughts

I recently returned from a school trip to Rome and Greece. Should you ever get a chance to go on one of these larger school trips, I highly recommend doing so. Start saving up now because they can be costly, but are well worth every penny.

In Greece, I was struck by the thought that some people in the past thought big thoughts. This picture to the left is of Agamemnon’s fortified city’s entrance way. This imposing structure likely served the purpose of impressing and intimidating visitors while similarly reassuring citizens of their own safety and esteemed position in their world.

The partially reconstructed Parthenon to the right similarly impresses even today with its mathematical exactness and beauty. Dedicated to Zeus and Athena (Greek gods of antiquity), the Parthenon seems like man’s attempt to impress the gods with human devotion and skill. Considering the thought that the gods were divine, immortal, and possessing power and knowledge far in excess of humanity, this human attempt seems to me all the more surprising and impressive.
The Theatre at Epidaurus, still used today, contains seating for 17000 and enables the spectators in the uppermost seats to clearly hear keys jingling and paper being crumpled and ripped at center stage. Such marvelous acoustics without tech impressed students and adults alike. What wasn’t so impressive was that we weren’t allowed to sing O Canada as a group. Oh well, we did lay plans for one day having Canada join the Greek empire.

Finally, not quite 200 years ago, the Greeks thought to improve shipping in the region and to do this, they cut their country in half at Corinth. The Corinth Canal joins the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf. The ancients attempted to cut through the isthmus at or near Corinth, and the task was completed by Greek nation about 50 years after its liberation from the Ottomans in 1830.
Aside from sharing a few snippets of the trip with you, my intent again is to encourage each of us to think big thoughts – not necessarily to erect huge fortified cities, build massive worship centers, construct architectural wonders or cut landmasses in half – but to dream and to strive for something beyond our current status.
Ambition rightly held can be a powerful force. Wrongly held, ambition can lead to arrogance and selfishness. But rightly held, ambition can help each of us to realize a better future if not for ourselves, then for others. I would encourage each of us to ambitiously seek for greater joy, greater health and happiness, greater opportunity for all, greater knowledge and wisdom, and greater faith. And of course, I would encourage you to also make it your ambition to participate on those school field trips – where to next? Jerusalem? Northern Greece? Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England? Europe? Asia?

Ancient Ruins and the Legacies They Reflect

Ancient Ruins and the Legacies They Reflect

Steve Borley has recently written an excellent blog post urging us to Think Big Thoughts, a reflection from the recent TLA high school trip to Italy and Greece. It was a privilege for me also to be with our students during the tour, and I have a reflection to share. As I had expected, we walked almost continually among or around ancient ruins of buildings and streets. Previous civilizations in Italy and Greece rose and declined, and gradually new cities and roads were built on top of the old. I knew this from previous study, but I was still astounded at the extent of the ruins which are still being excavated in both countries. For a history major such as myself, it was like a text book come to life! Occasionally, I dropped back behind the group for a few minutes and engaged in some quiet reflection. Now that I am home, the following thoughts have stayed with me, and it speaks to the work we do as educators and parents.

On the first day of the trip we walked through the Roman forum, once spectacular and the central place in Rome for government, commerce, triumphal processions, and public debates.

Now it lies in ruins and silence, much of it carried away centuries ago as scavengers took pieces to construct other buildings, or to sell. Western Civilization has roots here, in the early Roman republic, the meeting of the Senate, and the concepts of free speech and individual votes. Still, Rome deteriorated, floundered and finally fell, as had civilizations before and others that would follow. The Forum was where Julius Caesar was assassinated and cremated, our tour guide pointing out the place where those events took place. (Who among us does not remember high school days of wrangling our way through Shakespeare’s most famous work?)

When I think of Julius Caesar, what comes to mind? He excelled as a military leader, was known for brutality in war, the enslavement of the people his armies conquered, participation in political manipulations and murders, and eventual consolidation of power to rule as a dictator. His legacy is not one to be recommended. His internal priorities and values were clear in the way he lived his life.

On the last day of our tour we walked through the ancient site of Corinth, in Greece. This once thriving center of trade with two sea ports was wealthy and influential. Apostle Paul lived, worked, and preached in Corinth, and founded a church there which continued through the centuries as the city suffered invasions, earthquakes, and economic upheavals. The BEMA, where Paul preached, has been excavated and still stands. It is a high, prominent stone platform where public discussions, debates, and trials were held. I took a walk up to the top of the BEMA and found a small carving that had been erected with a quotation from Paul’s writings.

When I think of Paul, what comes to mind? He pursued God with his entire being. He endured adversity of all kinds, yet did not abandon his faith. He invested his energy, money, and time in the places to which he traveled and preached. He did not seek honor or power. Rather, you could say he gave his life away for the benefit of others. His legacy continues into our own time, still influencing and leading others. His internal priorities and values were clear in the way he lived his life.

Two sets of ruins to bookend the tour. Two legacies intertwined in the cities where they lived and had influence. The ruins were a striking reminder to me that nothing material endures forever. Empires collapse; buildings fall into ruin; cities and all their goods end up buried in dust and sediment. It is the values lived out through our lives and the influences we exert upon our families and communities, for ill or for good, that endure. And in our teaching, the most enduring work we do will be in the values were convey to our students through the ways in which we live our lives.

Family First at TLA

Dear TLA Families,

In past newsletters, we’ve expanded on TLA’s vision statement of Strong Families, Lifelong Learners. Another overarching statement that had guided our school since its inception is the motto of “Family First”. Families choose distributed learning and homeschooling options for many different reasons, but perhaps the most common reason is the desire of parents to be intimately involved in the education of their children, thus deepening, strengthening, and enjoying the bonds of family. As staff members and teachers we are proud to partner with parents in supporting strong families, the most essential building blocks of healthy societies.

In my personal history with TLA, going back to 2004, TLA’s “family first” philosophy has never had as much of an impact on me as it has during this past few weeks. A family emergency caused me to return early from a TLA field trip abroad. There was important school-related work still to be done (including our semi-annual staff conference), but TLA’s staff and administration stepped up and supported me and my family overwhelmingly and unconditionally, with prayers, notes, and practical support in work-related tasks. Thank you to the TLA staff for the love and support you’ve shown over the past few weeks, you have truly exemplified our family first philosophy, and it has been moving, humbling, and inspiring to be the recipient of your generosity.

Steve Borley’s recent blog post encourages us to think big thoughts, and I’ll take the flip side of that excellent advice and encourage you to enjoy the small and simple things. Take joy in every day of learning with your family, and find wonder and excitement in every bit of God’s creation. In our everyday lives, there is an unending supply of things to be curious about and learn about, and what a joy to learn as an adult about these things along with your children. As the weather gets nicer, the opportunities multiply – studying and classifying insects in the backyard, learning about plants through gardening, classifying and understanding cloud formations – and hey, doesn’t that one look like an elephant? Rocks are a limitless source of fascination. Making a graph comparing how many cars drive past your home at different hours or days, while learning about basic business concepts through setting up a lemonade stand. You’re only limited by your curiosity and imagination.

I hope and pray that you find enjoyment and fulfillment in every day of learning with your family – both in big thoughts, and in small, simple things.

Some of my nieces and nephews, past and future TLA students among them, examining rocks and tidepools:

2018/19 Admission Page is Open!

Hello TLA Families,

As mentioned in the last TLA Times newsletter, enrolment/registration for the 2018-19 school year is now open. Please find the link by clicking “admissions” on the main page of the school website at

Please be sure to click 2018-19 Admissions to re-enrol for next year.

We encourage you to re-enrol early. Sometimes teachers and programs do fill up, particularly in our Home, Blended, and Learning Support Services programs. Early enrolment helps us to plan for teacher and program needs for the coming year.

If you are wondering if your enrolment was received: if you receive an email that says “Thank you for submitting an application to TLA!” and you click the link to verify your information, your enrolment has been received and there is no need to call to check. 

If you aren’t sure and want to check: simply go back and click the re-enrolment link and you will see a blue star by the children you have successfully re-enrolled. 

What’s new in 2018-19:

-a new Two Day Blended grade 9/10 program taught by Mrs. Hahn

-K-12 Outdoor Education program including options for grade 10-12 graduation credits.

-in a decision based on parent feedback, our One Day Blended options in Cloverdale will be consolidated into a One Day Blended grade 3-6 program with a focus on STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math).

-a grade 8-12 Choir program led by Mrs. McEwan at our Hawthorne location.

-online Forensics 11

-any other new courses or programs will be announced to the whole community when they are put in place.

Who to contact:

For questions regarding K-9, contact Steve Borley at sborley@

For questions regarding grade 10-12, contact Mary-Anne VanderHorst at mvanderhorst@

For questions regarding Learning Support Services and special education, contact Virginia Hooper at vhooper@

Thank you, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve your family again in the 2018-19 school year.


Gabe Linder

Upcoming Events and Activities

Hello Families,

A few notes on some upcoming TLA events and activities:

  • K-9 Vice Principal Steve Borley and I will be visiting families in Prince George and the Vanderhoof area on February 22 and 23. We’d love to connect with as many TLA families as possible while we’re up there.
  • We plan to open enrolment for 2018/19 on March 1. There are no changes to the process from last year, so if you’re re-enrolling there should be no surprises.
  • Students can click here to sign up for TLATalks. TLATalks is an opportunity for students in K-12 to practice public speaking and presentation skills in an online video chat. Depending on the age and quantity of sign-ups, we will determine when and how many sessions we will have. The general idea for the first round is for students to talk for up to three minutes on a topic of their choosing, with or without visual aids. Other spectators and speakers would be invited to log in to form an audience. To start, the audience will only be there for positive feedback, not for questions or criticism. The TLATalks will be moderated by TLA teachers. Link to the sign-up form is here.
  • TLA teacher Melissa Friesen is leading a visit to Telus World of Science on March 12. All students are welcome. Entry is $10, with an option for an Omnimax movie for an additional $5. More details and sign-up form here.

Here’s a photo of the Linder family while in Mexico visiting family over Christmas. The picture is taken at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, a beautiful and impressive archeological site:

TLA at Missions Fest Round-Up

TLA’s leadership team spent some quality time together at Missions Fest in Vancouver a few weeks ago. The three days there were well spent in reaching out to BC families in order to raise awareness of families’ educational options in BC and at TLA in particular. Our message of supporting strong families and lifelong learners definitely resonated with many parents who we spoke with. Scores of children enjoyed the Keva blocks and Rubik’s cubes that we brought, and passers-by sometimes dipped in for just a candy, and that’s fine too. I was inspired by the passion and energy that our leadership team demonstrated (and the teachers who helped – Suzanne Uher and Peggy Smart); I was pleased that so many people wanted to know more about TLA; and felt particularly blessed to connect with a great many current TLA families and alumni who stopped by to say hello.

Seeing current families and alumni at Missions Fest was a great reminder that while we support strong families, TLA becomes for many families and staff a form of extended family in itself. In fact we heard words to that affect in some of the many testimonials that generously came in after I sent out a request for you feedback. Feel free to have a look at some of those testimonials on our website here: What I think you’ll find evident in these testimonials is an appreciation for the partnership between school and family marked by kindness and love that is the hallmark of TLA.

Mary-Anne, Gabe, and Steve on day 1 at Missions Fest

Gabe, Steve, and Virginia hearing surprising news on their banana phones

Screenagers Film

I’d like to draw your attention to a timely and important documentary called Screenagers ( that addresses one of the most difficult parenting issues of our time – the intense attraction, overuse, and misuse of “screens”. The film is a little over an hour long, and provides great food for discussion with your family. TLA is exploring the possibility of hosting a screening, but if you’re interested there are two other screenings in the Vancouver area coming up:

Nov 30, 2017 at Charles Tupper Secondary School, Vancouver
Dec 5, 2017 at Justice Institute of BC, New Westminster

Here are some tips on device use and control for parents from the makers of the movie:

Having weekly, short, calm conversations with your family about tech is so important. Tech Talk Tuesday (TTT), our weekly blog, offers you tools and tips for discussions. Families tell us it’s making a huge difference. Visit our website to try one. It’s never too late to start a conversation about technology but often doing it in baby steps is more effective. —Delaney Ruston, MD, filmmaker of Screenagers

4 Basic rules to consider— (go to to find ways to enforce rules)

1. No screens in bedrooms when kids and teens go to sleep (for younger kids keep screens out completely). Fact: 75% teens get inadequate sleep. The presence of devices disrupts sleep cycles.

2. Set time goals for studying without multitasking and then, also, take tech breaks. Fact: Multitasking is linked to less retention and poorer academic outcomes.

3. Eat family meals without devices. Fact: Face-to-face conversations improve mood and empathy.

4. Put phones and devices away in the car. Fact: More than half of kids report seeing their parents text while driving.

3 Tips to help your child build self-control

1. Science shows that positive rewards work better than punishment. For example, if you observe your child focused while doing their homework without their device, praise them.

2. Build times when tech is out of sight. Self-control is hard, so decrease temptations.

3. Use TTT to let your kids share with you about the reasons they like tech in their lives—the more they feel understood, the more they’ll work with you on tech limits.

Discussion questions

● How much time do you think kids spend looking at screens? (Kids spend an average of 6.5 hours a day on screens, not including classroom or homework.)

● How much time do you think you spend each week on screen-related activities?

● The film featured a study in which baby mice exposed to screen time developed fewer cells in the areas of learning and memory than non-exposed mice. Do you think this is true for humans too?

● Do you think violent video games desensitize people to violence?

● What are some popular games that don’t involve violence?

● Have you experienced people using screens to avoid face-to-face interactions? Do you ever make comments online that you wouldn’t make in person?

Resources at

● Screen Time Contracts—Tips and screen time contracts templates, including Tessa’s contract

● Parenting Apps—Tools that automatically turn off tech at certain times

● Digital Citizenship—Links to help teach this at home and in schools

● Parenting Tips—Ongoing practical advice from our blog, TTT and more

TLA Italy and Greece Field Trip – April 2018!

TLA invites students in grades 8-12 to explore Italy and Greece with a focus on Rome and Athens!

TLA has a long history of offering exciting experiences in educational travel, including amazing trips to England, Guatemala, Northeast USA, Ottawa/Montreal, Hawaii, and more.  We’ve waited until now to announce this year’s big trip so that new and returning students have an equal shot at signing up, and to give us time to interview various tour companies. In the end, we have decided on a local company called STS Tours, who have an excellent reputation and have worked with many Christian and Independent schools.  

Click here for draft itinerary.

Click here to express interest in the tour, and to ask questions.

We need to move somewhat quickly in order to secure the tickets and price. Please enter your expression of interest by October 24. If we have 20 or more students sign up, we will be able to run the trip. Once we have enough people committed, we’ll need to secure initial deposits to make the booking.

  • Total cost will be approximately $4000. Price includes airfare, hotels, any entry fees, taxes, and almost all meals. See the last page of the itinerary for more details.
  • Travel will be for 10 days, leaving April 3 or 4.
  • We will set up a payment schedule over the next five-six months so you don’t need to deal with a lump sum payment.
  • TLA will provide students with fundraising options that can be done as a group or individually. In the past, motivated students have been able to earn hundreds of dollars through fundraising.
  • As this is a learning adventure, students will need to complete pre-travel learning activities and will receive graduation program credits.
  • TLA staff will act as chaperones on the trip. STS Tours will provide tour guides.
  • We do not customarily invite parents on the major school trips, but given the unique opportunity to visit Rome and Athens, we are open to the possibility. If you are interested in traveling with your child or children, please enter a comment in the “questions” box of the expression of interest form linked above. As the price is based on quad room occupancy, the price for a parent with double occupancy (room with just a parent and child) will be a bit more expensive.
  • Students younger than grade 8 age will be considered but will need to be traveling with a parent or an older sibling.
  • Non-TLA students are welcome, as any student who signs up will need to cross-enrol with TLA for the course credit.