Homeschooling: One family tells why they chose it
Source: The Times
By: Jerrilyn Zavada
February 20, 2012
Doug and Nicole Sass of Streator are part of a growing number of parents choosing to educate their children at home.
The family are members of Streator Area Home Educators, a nondenominational Christian-based group of families who homeschool and meet regularly for support. The group, which has met for 16 years, has 31 families as members.
According to a home-schooling survey in 2007 by the federal government's National Center For Education Statistics — the most recent data available — an estimated 1.5 million students were homeschooled in the United States in the spring of 2007. This represents an increase from the estimated 1.1 million students who were homeschooled in the spring of 2003. The percentage of the school-age population that was homeschooled increased from 2.2 percent in 2003 to 2.9 percent in 2007.
The Sasses have two children, Kaylee, 10, and Wyatt, 6. Kaylee attended Woodland School through third grade, when Doug and Nicole decided to educate her at home. Wyatt has always been schooled at home.
For the Sasses, the decision was based on religious convictions and concerns about the quality of education Kaylee was receiving.
"My wife and I are born-again believers. We noticed when Kaylee came home we had to purge a lot of poisons — not only teachings, but actions of other students," Doug Sass said. "We were very involved in the school system, as parents should be. We realized that the school system has changed even since I went there. It changed from how to think and think critically to teaching kids what to think."
Initially, Doug was convinced to homeschool before Nicole. The family prayed about the situation and made the decision after Kaylee was sick for a week and the school sent a week's worth of homework home.
"Her science book was teaching about evolution and big bang theories — which I don't have a problem with if they want to put theories out there," Sass said. "If they do not put creation out there, than that's indoctrination. What's happened over the years is it's become indoctrination, a system of socialism."
The family initiated their own school, Veracity Academy, with a motto of "Everything we do, we strive to be true."
"It really doesn't matter what anyone believes," Sass said. "Is what we teach true? We put all points of view out there, and let them make educated decisions. We teach our kids to think critically. We teach them to prove us wrong."
While Sass says the most important element to his children's education is a Biblical world view, he says he and Nicole teach a world view as well, so their children can make educated decisions.
The Sasses have encountered mixed reactions from family and friends. One of the biggest misconceptions people have, Sass said, is that homeschooled kids are not socialized properly.
"In the school system, the ones that are training kids are kids," he said. "They're teaching them bad habits rather than teaching them integrity and honor."
"It wasn't that she couldn't get along with others," Nicole added. "Negative influences break her heart."
Now that Kaylee is educated at home, her parents say they've noticed the anxiety she felt about going to school is gone. Having a self-paced curriculum helps. They say they can spend more time on areas where she needs help and get through stronger areas quicker.
"She'd be at school for eight hours," Doug said. "Now we're able to go through the curriculum and get everything done. If we buckle down, we can get studies done in 3 to 3 1/2 hours."
The Sasses say individual attention to their children's educational needs is key. Doug said Kaylee and Wyatt were both at different levels and learned differently when they were each 5 years old.
"All kids learn differently," he said. "If they are in one class it is hard for one to teacher to interact and see what their needs are. This allows us one-on-one time with our children and to be able to know your children because you know them the best."
Streator Area Home Educators going strong after 16 years
Renee Carter is a former public school teacher. Sixteen years ago, she decided to educate her children at home.
Carter met with four other families, including Sandy and John Gutz, and the Streator Area Home Educators was born. Today, there are 31 families in the group. Students can be homeschooled from preschool through high school. Once a year, the group hosts a graduation ceremony for kindergarten, eighth grade and high school.
"The public schools were changing and the main thing was I just wanted to stay home with my child," Carter said "I had seen it work with other people and I was interested in the whole home school movement."
Carter's two older daughters were homeschooled through grade 12. The oldest is studying for her master's degree in library science and her middle child is studying at Illinois Valley Community College. Her youngest daughter is currently being schooled at home. Transitioning from home school to a public college was seamless, Carter said.
"Because she wasn't burned out from public school learning, (my oldest daughter) just went in there and loved it and got straight A's and got along with her teachers and other students," Carter said. "It was more than I could dream of."
The Streator Area Home Educators use the California Achievement Test to measure students' progress.
"It's geared more to what kids learn as opposed to comparing them to everyone else," Carter said.
The group has a two-fold purpose: Allow parents to get support from one another and for the children to socialize, although Carter says socialization doesn't seem to be a problem for many of the children. The group also organizes co-op classes.
The group meets quarterly during the school year, typically on the second Monday of the month.
The Gutzes homeschool their children through fifth grade and then send them to public school.
"In our mind, we knew we didn't want to do it all 12 years," Sandy Gutz said. "Many do and do a wonderful job. At junior high, they would just be one of many new kids. Everybody's making the transition. We take it one year at a time and see what's best for our child. Each child is an individual."
Sandy has a general education teaching degree and formerly taught in a parochial school.
"What I really liked is that I was able to tailor the education to each of them," she said. "All three have different learning styles. I would gear their lessons and homework to their best learning style."
Transitioning from a home school environment to a public school has not been a problem for the Gutz children.
"They did very well," Sandy said. "Teachers always had very positive feedback. The (children) didn't have any preconceived ideas."
Gutz acknowledged a basic truth of homeschooling for all the families.
"It's a big time commitment," she said. "You have to make it a priority in your day-to-day schedule and sometimes that can be challenging."