Home school provides alternatives | ParkRecord.com

Home school provides alternatives

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

Where in Utah could a parent find a school with as little as a one-on-one student to teacher ratio, a plethora of educational trips and experiences that coincide with parents’ schedules, and kids participating in extracurricular activities? These are the goals home schooling aspires to.

But not all see the alternative education as a panacea. The most common argument against home schooling is that children miss out on early socialization skills.

Home schoolers claim their kids get plentiful contact with other kids of all ages and backgrounds. They also add that homeschooled children may take classes and join extracurricular activities such as athletics and music at public schools. But is that enough?

Wednesday, June 20, home schoolers and those interested in home schooling, got together at the Park City Library to talk about what home schooling is and what it isn’t.

Karen Murray, the Northern Summit County director Utah Home Education Association who organized the event, said, "I could never replicate what they do in school," but she also made the point that is not her goal. "Home schooling is as individual as your family," she said.

The reasons families home school and their philosophies are across the board. But several commonalities link many home schoolers.

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A parent, in most instances the mother, must have the time to home school, and the patience and willingness to teach her child all hours of the day.

Murray said the State requires the same number of teaching hours in the same subject areas, otherwise home schoolers have a lot of latitude.

Many home schoolers buy programs and textbooks distributed by home schooling consultants that detail age-specific curricula. Home schoolers also talk among themselves to better gauge what they are teaching, and share ideas. School districts often have websites detailing what kids are expected to accomplish in each grade level.

Realizing that social contact with other children is essential, many home schoolers band together, participating in joint activities, as well as regularly scheduled events.

But Martha Crook, principal of Trailside Elementary School is still concerned about a lack of socialization of home-schooled children. "It is difficult to replicate the special socialized setting you have in a school. It’s so important."

Anna Burrus, who homeschools her kids age 10, seven and four, said that kids in the group interact with kids of all ages, "from two months to 13-years-old. They also interact with different socioeconomic levels."

Crook sees importance of kids learning to deal with kids of all ages, but says it is important for kids to spend time with kids their own ages, so they can "learn age-appropriate socialization."

Homeschooled children can take classes in public school and take part in athletics and clubs. But Crook argues that structured activities don’t take the place of basic interaction. She remembers as a child simply playing with other kids. "Sometimes we got our feelings hurt," but she thinks kids figuring out social interaction is important.

Murray said the more time kids spend with their peers the greater influence their peers have on them. But peers may not be the best influence. She said of her relationship with her two children, "We’re so open with our kids we’ll talk about anything."

She wants to build confidence in her children so they will be self reliant. "Kids who can listen to choices from within will be comfortable making their own choices."

Burrus started home schooling her kids when the family moved from Salt Lake to Heber in the middle of the school year. "There is a lot less stress in our lives. We do all kinds of extracurricular activities. In bad weather, when it’s raining or snowing, we can stay home. The kids know they have to help out around home. But we also do all kinds of extracurricular activities." She doesn’t know how long she will home school. "We take it year by year, she said."

Jessica Jencks has taught school, now she teaches her daughter Grace Lily, 7. "Everything in our approach of teaching the curriculum is, it should be fun."

Murray agrees. She does not believe in "the carrot and stick approach. Learning need not seem like learning and can be fun. She believes that kids should learn at a speed right for them, and that often they are stronger in some subjects than others, and may not yet be ready for the subjects they struggle with.

Margaret, Karen Murray’s 9-year-old daughter, made another point: "You do have a lot more flexibility not having to switch teachers."

Emily Kilguss came to the presentation with her daughter Hannah. "I think public schools are fine," she said, adding, "but I can’t find one thing wrong with home schooling."

Murray hopes to home school her kids through high school. She said Ivy League schools are "excited about home schoolers, and consider ACT and SAT scores for admission. Murray said, "Home schooling is about living life not about being in a school environment."

For more information about home schooling, visit http://www.uhea.org,