Parent's Take Hands-On Role In Homeschooling
April 24, 2005
by Bonny C. Millard
of The Daily Times Staff
MARYVILLE, TN - A parent's decision to homeschool children is based on a variety of reasons, and it is no longer the road less traveled.
The Blount Home Education Association has doubled over the last three years from 90 families to 180 families, parent Sarah Small said.
The BHEA, which has annual dues, is an voluntary organization that families who home school can join.
"We've seen an increase every year," she said. "Homeschooling is just another educational choice. It's just becoming an accepted form of education here in Blount County."
Small homeschools her three children, Jesse, 12, Laurel, 7, and Duncan, 4. Small's decision was based on several reasons.
Her oldest child went to public school for the first two years, but she didn't feel like he was getting what he needed.
"One of them (the reasons) was definitely flexibility -- not to have to be tied down to the traditional school schedule. Homeschooling is really just a lifestyle. For us, it was also academic."
Homeschooling allows her to teach to her children's style of learning. They love to read, and working together at home allows Small to gear her teaching to that.
"Homeschooling is your life -- school and family are so intertwined," she said. "Most parents don't think of it as `This is my job, this is work.' Everyone is aware that this is an educational choice we make."
Parent Julie Griesen, a former kindergarten teacher, sent her first child to kindergarten at a private school and then decided to homeschool him after that.
She was no longer teaching, but in her work experience in public education, her largest kindergarten class was 23 students. Griesen said her son was speech delayed, shy and didn't do well in larger groups. She felt homeschooling would be better suited for him and has continued with it. Micaiah is now in the fourth grade.
Griesen also homeschools her middle child, Katriel, who is in third grade, and also has a 3-year-old daughter, Janayah.
Parent Laurie Leslie had already left the work force long before she decided to homeschool her children. She left her career after Tristan, 9, was born. Tristan attended a county elementary school for the first two years, and she was happy with the school.
On the road again
What made Leslie and her husband decide to homeschool their children was her husband's work schedule. He works from home but is required to travel a lot, which meant that the Tristan and Grant, 6, didn't get to spend much time with their father.
"Our life is very complicated by my husband's travel," Leslie said. "This makes a lot of sense for us. We are able to travel with him. We're able to take the books with us, and there's always something to explore in another place."
That exploration took them to Rome and Pompeii last fall.
"They really had a chance to explore," Leslie said. "It has made an impact on their interest in history. It's funny the things kids pick up on in a place."
The children were fascinated by Pompeii, she said. When the volcano erupted in 79 A.D., the ash fell so fast that it left a solid casing around the bodies, she said. When the bodies decayed, a perfect body cast was left behind and those are on display.
While in Rome, they visited the Colosseum and the Vatican. Because of the places they've visited, Tristan and Grant keep up with current events, Leslie said.
"They're avid news watchers," she said. "It gives us some unique opportunities. We got to drive through the Alps."
Ironically, Leslie's father, William "Booty" Miller, is on the Blount County Board of Education. Miller understands her situation and is supportive of her efforts, she said.
"It would be a shame to miss these opportunities and their dad, too," Leslie said.
Leslie has set up a special place for the educational part of the day.
"We have a classroom in the house," she said. "It's a room we have set aside for that purpose."
The room has a white board for doing math problems, bookshelves with books for class work and cabinets for storing different subject matter.
Coming up with the curriculum is the hardest part, she said, but a wealth of material exists including canned curriculum, she said.
Members of the BHEA are also helpful. The group has an e-mail loop, and parents can post questions about an issue and usually receive five to six responses from different parents.
"I think I pictured I'd be going it alone," she said.
Leslie gets a list of subject areas students are expected to know by the end of the school year from the county school system. She also downloads a TCAP test, a state-mandated test for public school students, to make sure her children's education needs are being met.
Parents have to agree they will provide their children with four hours a day, 180 days a year of educational instruction. Students have to be registered with the school system in their area and must turn in attendance sheets.
Although students at public schools have a longer day, time is spent away from the classroom with recess, lunch, changing classes and other activities, she said.
One of the advantages of homeschooling is that the school day doesn't have to start at a certain time. To get the day going, Leslie lets her children choose a classical music composer and plays that music while reading to them.
"We aren't structured about our starting time, but we are structured about getting our four hours in," Leslie said.