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No Shortage of Activities for Homeschool Communities

Source: Bristol Herald Courier
May 18, 2005

Bristol, VA -- A group of Boy Scouts from Troop 108 crowded around a table to plan an upcoming cycling trip.

While they tried to figure out who would bring hot dogs and what they would eat for breakfast, the teenagers made jokes and whispered secrets.

The eight boys, along with the other 20 members of their troop, have formed close friendships and often hang out on the weekends.

Some take classes together, while others play on sports teams.

Theyíre among the areaís homeschooled, who participate in all the usual activities of youth without ever interacting with traditionally schooled students.

Public and private schools have sports teams, chess clubs, 4-H clubs, music lessons and yearbook staffs, and so does the regionís homeschool communities.

"There are so many choices available for outside-the-home activities," said Charlotte Canter, a homeschool mother who helped start Cub Scout Pack 108 in Bristol about 10 years ago. "We can get overwhelmed with activities."

She got her children involved at a young age. Their schedule can get so hectic that she has to schedule class time between activities, she said.

"I have always liked to be involved and be busy doing things," Canter said. "I didnít want them to be at home with us all the time."

Canter helped start cooperative classes at Calvary Baptist Church in Bristol Tennessee this year. Private and often state-certified teachers lead more than 50 students in classes in subjects such as art, Latin, English and classical history.

Cooperative classes like the ones in Bristol can be found around the region at churches and through homeschool support groups.

Some parents donít feel comfortable teaching upper-level courses, while others donít have time to teach subjects as thoroughly as needed, Canter said. Cooperative classes help remedy that, she said.

Canter also helped start a yearbook for Bristol homeschoolers about six years ago. Previously, homeschoolers from Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City combined to make a yearbook.

The yearbook looks like those of any other school. Theyíre heavy with photos of students studying, playing sports and competing in academics.

One of the only differences is that studentsí photos are accompanied by those of their parents rather than of teachers and classrooms.

Each of the area homeschool associations hosts a number of activities, including academic fairs, science fairs, geography bees and art exhibits.

A Web search of regional activities for those who homeschool produces a number of results.

Abingdon homeschoolers have their own 4-H group and sports league, Abingdon Christian Team Sports. The league, which had five basketball teams with about 50 players total, plans to expand into more sports, including softball and volleyball, next year.

This past season, the students played their games at Abingdon Bible and Pilgrim Baptist churches.

"Our goal was to provide a social outlet for our kids," said Pam Woodward, a homeschool parent who co-founded the sports league. "We wanted sports for our middle and high school-aged kids."

Even the Wellness Center in Bristol Tennessee offers a physical education class for homeschoolers.

"I feel like me and my children have made lifelong friends through this," Canter said.

At a Bristol Homeschool Support Group meeting in April, a crowd of more than 20 homeschool mothers packed into a Victory Baptist Church activity room.

After discussing some items from a four-page agenda, Laura Narney, a homeschool mother, gave a presentation on lapbooking, which compiles key points from lessons into a refolded file folder.

The subjects of the meetings vary, ranging from curriculum planning to getting children to understand a difficult math unit, said Elisabeth McRae, a homeschool mother who helped organize the Bristol groupís meetings.

"Itís mostly to encourage parents who are homeschooling," she said. "Itís more of an encouragement time for the mothers."

At least 20 other support groups similar to Bristolís exist in the region, according to www.tricitieshomeschool.org.

Such groups have helped homeschool parents and students find others like themselves.

For 17-year-old Jake Canter, a member of the homeschooled Boy Scout group, those activities have provided an integral social outlet.

"Most of my friends are homeschooled," he said. "I donít have one best friend, but those guys in Boy Scouts are my best friends."



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