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The homeschooling option

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By Nathan L. McBroom

The heavy snow and ice this week didn't stop Serena Thomas from going to school. In fact, it kept her there.

Serena, 15, said one of the only drawbacks of being homeschooled is not having the possibility of an occasional snow day. Everything else, she said, is ideal.

"It's not like I can't go to school when class is right outside my bedroom," she said.

Serena, who is one of the 249 students in the county that are currently being homeschooled, said she is not surprised that homeschooling is a growing local and national trend. She said being able to have concentrated study in subjects of interest and being able to be near her mother throughout the day are a few of the benefits of homeschooling.

"I think I have a bond with my parents that children who are at school can't have," she said. "The older I get the more I realize how smart my parents were to (homeschool) me."

Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the number of students being homeschooled has grown rapidly in recent years, especially in rural and suburban areas.

He said because of the success of those who have been homeschooled, he does not expect the trend to slow down anytime soon.

Slatter said the top two reasons parent decide to homeschool their children is a perceived negative peer environment in public schools and the ability to teach their children from a religious perspective.

Beth Thomas, Serena's mother, said one of the major reasons she educated each of her four children through homeschooling was so that they would be taught Christian values and ideals.

She said homeschooling her children has also allowed her to be more involved in their lives and educational development.

Beth said while it is necessary for students to be exposed to controversial subjects such as evolution, parents should take responsibility for what their children are leaning in schools.

"It's not the state's responsibility to educate my child," she said. "Even if I put my child in public school their education is still my responsibility."

Higher scores

Marcia Aranda, a homeschool mother of two, agreed.

Until a year and a half ago, Aranda was teaching students in the public school system.

While writing her thesis paper on homeschooling for her Master's degree, Aranda found that students who have been homeschooled have higher ACT and SAT scores and are increasingly sought after by college and universities.

She said this research led her to the conviction that she would homeschool her children.

Maranda said she prefers the homeschooling option for her children because she gets to select her children's curriculum based on their individual needs.

"I have the freedom to choose the curriculum my children will use, to change if it is not working for them. I have the freedom to move at the pace of my child either slow down, or review, or move ahead if they have the concepts. I am able to better meet the needs of my special needs child," she said.

The materials that Aranda uses are an eclectic mix of different materials. Some are materials she used as supplemental in teaching public school and others are ones she found through the homeschooling community. Still others are materials developed by homeschoolers.

Aranda said the boys' school work is flexible but always includes lessons in the Bible, phonics instruction, spelling, reading, math, and writing in the mornings. They also study science two days per week and history and social studies three days per week. She said the boys finish up their days with home skills such as cooking, cleaning, crafts such as knitting, sewing and woodworking.

Aranda, who has named their homeschool the Aranda Academy of Excellence, said she treasures being a part of her children's education.

"I love being the one that is able to help them explore the world around them with wide-eyed wonder. It is truly a great joy" she said.

How they do it

In order for a student to legally be withdrawn from the public school system, parents must write a letter to the district's superintendent stating that the child will be educated at home that year.

Parents are then fully responsible for the education of their child.

Beth said when she and her husband began considering the homeschooling option, she felt overwhelmed with the weight of the responsibility.

But as she observed parents who were doing it and began to read up on the subject her fears were eased.

Currently there is a wide range of resources for parents who want to educate their children from home. From correspondence courses and video classrooms to faith-based material, local parents are using a wide variety of materials to educate their children.

For more information on homeschooling visit, www.hslda.org.