Home schoolers feel they have more to offer their kids
Richelle Johnson, 9, woke up Wednesday morning at 6, as always, got dressed and read her Bible. At 8 a.m. she started school – in her dining room.
“I like home school because I get out at like 10 in the morning,” Richelle said. “I get to play after that.”
In a small room off of the kitchen, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and a list of Biblical passages on the wall, Richelle and her brother Mikal, 5, sat at the table to begin their school day.
They started with math studies. Their mother, Diana Johnson, explained remaining fractions to Richelle, often drawing examples on the small dry-erase board. Johnson then reviewed the numbers 80-100 with Mikal.
Johnson said it makes it easier that the two are learning at different levels.
“It’s easier because she can read and understand and I can go help Mikal,” she said. “It’s easier sometimes to do the older guys than the younger guys.”
After math, they moved on to science where they conducted an experiment with balloons to test the weight of air.
They ended with assignments in reading and phonics.
Richelle and Mikal are two of 88 students in the Carson City School District to be taught at home instead of in the traditional public or private school system.
“We felt that’s what the Lord directed us to do,” Johnson said. “We felt we had more to offer our kids by home schooling them.”
Although religious beliefs propel some to teach their children at home, others are unhappy with the school system.
Deedee Foremaster enrolled her daughter in a private school for two years and said that traditional teaching methods did not work. She said her daughter became withdrawn and anxiety-ridden at school.
“My child is very creative and outgoing, she sings constantly,” Foremaster said. “When I put her in the structured school system, she fell apart at the seams.”
Regardless of the reasons that compelled them to enroll in home schooling, parents say they have seen great benefits.
“The relationship I have with my children is much stronger,” said Lois Ward, who home teaches her three sons. “We don’t have to deal with some of the peer pressures.”
She said they also have the freedom to learn at their own pace.
Tia Gonzales, home school parent, said the freedom home school offers is what helps to make it a success.
“My 9-year-old half sits and half stands when he does his work,” she said. “If I make him sit down, he won’t focus.”
Although school is held in each individual home, parents form groups to network and support one another.
“It’s like tag-team home schooling,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales runs a group called “Discovering Fun” with seven other families.
The group meets at least once a week for a field trip or other activity.
They also schedule a “mom’s night out” once a month, when mothers go out, eat pizza and discuss teaching methods.
Foremaster said talking to other home school parents helps her be a better teacher.
“I received an education degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, so sometimes I take a very structured approach,” she said. “It helps to get perspective from the other parents.”
Not only are they involved in the various home school groups, but other programs are available as well.
“My kids are more involved now than they would be if they were in public schools,” Johnson said. Both of her children participate in AYSO soccer.
Carson City School District recently adopted a new program in which home school students can take some classes from the school, such as band or drama.
“They can’t do sports, but we’d like to eventually see them do that, too,” Gonzales said.
The museum also offers a program every second and fourth Tuesday of each month in which home school students participate in various activities.
In fact, parents said one of the biggest challenges for home schooling is finding enough time for it all.
“You could go hog wild in trying to get your kids everything and miss out on the good home stuff,” Gonzales said.
Each parent is free to choose from a plethora of curriculum guides.
Parents have the option to choose a correspondence program that is approved by the district or to plan their own curriculum, which must be approved by the school district.
Johnson plans her own curriculum and orders her textbooks from a catalog produced by Bob Jones University Press.
“I pick what I feel is best and what will best suit the kids,” she said.
Standardized testing is available to home school students but is not mandatory.
“It’s more or less left to the parents,” said Marsha Nichols, who is in charge of the home school program as the assistant to the associate superintendent.
She said parents sign a form taking full responsibility for the education of their children upon applying for home school.
Gonzales said the most important thing all parents can do is educate in the home, whether they home school their children or not.
“I don’t feel that in this day and age there is enough support for parents either home school or otherwise,” Gonzales wrote in her January newsletter. “Not everybody can home school, but everybody can home educate.”
Despite the location, school is school.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Mikal complained during his math assignment.
“I know,” his mom answered. “But you have to do it anyway.”