A personal choice
Parents choosing homeschooling over traditional education
Source: The Cullman Times
By: Loretta Gillespie
March 12, 2012
Ever thought about homeschooling your children? It’s a decision not to be made lightly. For Laura Willingham Walker, a Cullman High School student from the class of 1995, it was something she’d been thinking about for a while. Walker, a local artist, says that when she was in high school there was no such thing as taking college courses. Ahead in her classes, she had to drop out of high school in her senior year in order to attend college. She received a full scholarship to Florida College, where she got her bachelor of arts degree in biblical studies and minored in Greek.
Walker has been teaching art in Cullman for 11 years. Her paintings have been shown in galleries in North Carolina and Alabama. She has illustrated six books and has her work on Etsy. She also does portraits and runs her business, Shop Around The Corner.
She also has an extended daycare program, and if that wasn’t enough, this year she decided to homeschool her three children.
“I always tutored children and taught art, so I thought that I could do it,” she said.
According to Patricia M. Lines, author of “Homeschooling Comes of Age,” “The rise of homeschooling is one of the most significant social trends of the past half century. This reemergence of what is in fact an old practice has occurred for a distinctly modern reason: a desire to wrest control from the education bureaucrats and reestablish the family as central to a child's learning.”
Charity Freeman also home schools her children. “We school at home because we feel better suited/qualified to do so. These are our children and we have a plethora of information at our fingertips with which to educate them,” she said. “I have a two-year degree and my husband, Chuck, is a chemical engineer with the Department Of Defense.”
“Not everyone has a degree and I don't think they have to, to be able to educate at home. They just need determination,” Freeman added.
The Freemans have schooled their two children, Micah and Charis, from the time they thought the children could comprehend. They are now in seventh grade. They share their teaching duties. “Chuck does the math and some science and outdoor activities, I usually do English, writing, reading, history and Bible,” she said. For Walker, the desire to be home with her children and to give them a chance to learn at their own pace was important.
“This is my first year,” she said. “My oldest children were so stressed last year in school, the behaviors of the more aggressive children were troubling them, so we are trying it, and it’s working well so far. I just don’t think that it has to take seven hours of school per day, plus homework to teach children,” Walker said firmly. “There were no issues when I took them out of school. There are so many people homeschooling now that the board is familiar with this and has been helpful.”
Walker says she will put them back in school if it doesn’t work out, but so far the children, Jude, 6, Tekoa, 8, and Shiloh, 11, are thriving under her careful tutelage.
“They are happy now, so much more relaxed, they are learning well, and they’ve been healthier,” said Walker.
The pros far outweigh the cons, but there are cons — mainly that Walker hasn’t left herself much breathing room between all the things she has on her itinerary. “Sometimes at the end of the day I just have to lock myself in the bathroom just to have a few minutes alone,” she laughed.
“There are support groups for homeschooling mothers,” she said, although she hasn’t joined one as of yet.
The Walker children have no lack of extra-curricular activities. Shiloh and Tekoa take piano lessons. Shiloh has enrolled in a leather-making class as well as being a Nifty Knitter at the public library. Tekoa and Jude take karate, and they all try to run at least twice per week at the Aquatic Center.
“Socialization has never been an issue,” said Freeman. “We fellowship with the congregations we've been a part of and a field trip/activity/project group for outside of the home fellowship. They are well rounded, family-oriented, politically involved, community aware and Godly children,” said Freeman. “I think it should be the parents’ decision to school at home and not the government’s. We school under a local covering, the Fellowship Christian Academy.”
As for breaks, Walker likes to follow the school schedule as much as possible. Vacations are sans-lessons, though, at least there is no bookwork, says Walker. “Of course we talk about sea life and things like that, but we all need a break.”
Getting them to do their work is no problem for her. “They know that if they don’t work hard for me, they will be working hard for a teacher next year,” she said.
Walker isn’t worried about them missing out on social skills, either. “The idea that school is a good social environment is not correct,” she said. “I would rather they learn to talk to older people, play with babies, and interact with young people on a regular, normal basis than for them to sit at a desk for seven hours each day. It’s not my goal to get them to fit in with everyone. I want to keep the love of learning alive in my children,” she said thoughtfully. “Doing school work for seven hours each day seems to stifle that love of learning.”
To keep the children focused and interested, Walker varies her curriculum and what the children study from day to day. Recently they created an organic garden, giving them hands-on experience with the sciences of botany, horticulture and biology.
She will be the first to say that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. “I have to tell you that it isn't always smooth with no problems. Some days the kids are cranky and just can't seem to concentrate. Some days I am cranky and just can't seem to concentrate."
"It’s a personal choice,” she stressed. “It’s not about the ‘Super Mama’ thing,” she laughed. “It’s mainly because having my own business allows me to homeschool them, and its something I wanted to do.”
“We don't think we can shelter our children from the world, we want to prepare them spiritually and physically and mentally and pray it all comes together according to God's will,” added Freeman. “We believe it our responsibility to teach our children what they need or want to know. Also for spiritual reasons, they are ours to guide and train and that falls only to us, not to someone else.”
Some parents might find the task daunting, but both Walker and Freeman seem to take it in their stride. They both feel that the time they spend with her children at this age is priceless.